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BABYLON

Babylon

 

Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 77 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Much better than just good yet not being absolutely excellent, the fact is that Babylon's only eponymous effort is one of the most amazing lost gems of America's symphonic prog scene back in the 70's. Recorded in late 1977 and released one year later, it is a pity that this album had to be unnoticed by the mainstream, but apparently the band had a loyal cult following, who probably were akin to the quintet's visual environemtns on stage. The band wear their main influences upon their sleeves: quartet-era Genesis (with the extra penchant for costumes that were archetypical of Gabriel-era), Yes, some Gentle Giant and also some Van der Graaf Generator (regarding the lead singer's impetuous vocalizations), bearing soem density in a large number of main melodies, but all in all, providing a light dynamic to the full instrumentation all the way through the shifts of melody, ambience and tempo. The dialogues between the guitar and synth are the most prominent features in the instrumentation, with the rhythm section setting a firm frame for them, while the keyboard orchestrations and adornments on string synth, piano and Birotron set a sheer orchestral mood that proves efficient for the most explicitly dramatic passages of the songs. The album kicks off with the anti-Nazi 'The Mote in God's Eye', a very effective number that fluidly combines the tow main motifs in 4/4 and 7/8, respectively, although the arrangements are not spectacular. It is from track 2 onwards that the band begins to show and develop its real symphonic potential: 'Before the Fall' is not as cohesive as its predecessor, but it sure protrays a slighly somber mood that provides an interesting musical landscape to the main musical ideas. The most accomplished tracks in the album have to be the last two, which continue with the epic structure of track 2 but bear a more cohesive feel. Although I hypothetically imagine that these songs should have profited from somewhat longer expansions, they are really good symphonic epics. 'Dreamfish' is a funny and ironic tale of Apocalypse in which the fish take their ultimate revenge on humankind, while 'Cathedral of the Mary Ruin' returns to the anti- Nazi subject. These tracks are also the ones that contain the most inventive lyrics (by lead singer-additional keyboardist Doroccus), as well as the most inspired melodies and contrasts. I only wish that the sections in which the lyrics are sung really fast had been arranged as multi-vocal sections, since I feel that Doroccus's need to overdo Gabriel's deliveries of 'Epping Forest' is not that well done: the parts in which he relatively emulates Jon Anderson's sense of spiritual grandeur are where he performes his best vocal deliveries. Boyko's merits on creating floating guitar lines and precise complementations to the synth solos deserve a special positive mention. All in all, it would be fair to say that Babylon procures carefully to work as an ensemble. I rate this album somewhere between 3 and 4 stars: "Babylon" is a lost USA prog classic that collectors should check out and appreciate.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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