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THE ALCHEMIST

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Eclectic Prog

3.54 | 34 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars The art of making gold

"The Alchemist" was Home's third and final album. It was also by far their best and most progressive. While the line up is ostensibly unchanged from their previous offerings, two important changes are made. Firstly, David Skillin, who had co-written one track on the previous album, writes all the lyrics here. Secondly, guest musician Jimmy Anderson is brought in to play a variety of keyboards, including synth and mellotron (or Melotrone as it is referred to on the sleeve).

Skillen and Mick Stubbs came up with the concept after Stubbs had read a book which explored the spiritual side of alchemy. Jointly they wrote with the story which forms the album's concept, the band then setting Skillin's lyrics to music. The tale is set in Cornwall, UK in the early 20th century, revolving around a young boy who is befriended by a old man. As the old man dies, the young boy inherits his supernatural powers, which he subsequently uses to save the town from a mysterious natural disaster. In the process of doing so, he ages rapidly, and is unable to save the town when the disaster returns. For this he is reviled, and killed by a lynch mob from the town. The tale is played out over the 12 constituent parts of the album, which together form a magnificent whole.

While Home's first two albums are highly competent and entertaining, they did not bear any suggestion of the masterpiece of a concept album the band would produce here. The album flows seamlessly from beginning to end as the story unfolds. Wisefield contributes some of his most striking guitar work ever, while Stubbs vocal performance is simply outstanding. It is all but impossible to find reference points for the music here. To call it a blending of NEKTAR, KANSAS, THE MOODY BLUES, and WISHBONE ASH might give a vague indication, but the truth is the album is unique.

The music builds from the early soft scene setting tracks to the first "Disaster", a powerful, menacing, keyboards driven crescendo. This segues into "The sun's revenge" where Wisefield offers some of his hardest guitar playing. "The disaster returns" presents an even greater cacophony of sound, leading to a striking unaccompanied electric guitar chord introducing "The death of the Alchemist". The guitar work at this point is supremely atmospheric, not in terms of a solo, but as a dramatic interlude. The story concludes with a disintegration of the music and peeling bells before a final guitar chord lays the Alchemist to rest.

If that was it, we would be revering one of the finest prog albums of its time. The masterstroke though is a separate coda simply titled "The alchemist". This passionately atmospheric ballad acts as the most effective counterpoint to an album I have come across. The songs stand proud in its own right, but here it is quite majestic.

A truly awesome album which stands as a forgotten gem of prog. Nice sleeve to, with illustrations of the story-line.

Easy Livin | 5/5 |

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