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Babylon - Babylon CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.96 | 107 ratings

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5 stars The state of Florida isn't what you call a hotbed of prog rock. Usually when you think of that state's rock scene, you think of some of the southern rock bands that resided there, amongst them, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, .38 SPECIAL, BLACKFOOT, and MOLLY HATCHET. But coming out of St. Petersburgh came BABYLON. The band consisted of:

Rick Leonard: bass, voice, bass pedals / Doroccus: Lead voice, synthesizers, electric piano, Orchestron, Omni / Rodney Best: drums, percussives / J. David Boyko: guitars, muted variations thereof / G.W. Chambers: synthesizers, acoustic and electric piano, orchestron, Omni, voice

Of course the Omni refers to the ARP Omni, a combination string synth/polyphonic synth (that's basically an ARP String Ensemble with the very basic features of the Odyssey). The electric piano in this case is the RMI Electric Piano/Harpsichord, as what Tony BANKS used on "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and Rick WAKEMAN used while with YES and on "The Six Wives of Henry the VIII".

Far from trying to sound like SKYNYRD, like many bands of the time in that region often did, they much preferred the sounds of early, GABRIEL-led GENESIS and of YES. BABYLON released their one and only album in 1978, locally on the U.S. Artists label (it also says "Mehum Music" on the label, as well, but only on side one of the LP). In 1989, a small, up and coming prog label out of California owned by Greg Walker called Syn-Phonic released two albums of live archival material, "Night over Never" and "Better Conditions" for the DEAD.

Anyway the music of BABYLON is very influenced by GENESIS, with some YES thrown in, so originality isn't on their side. Doroccus oddly sounds more like MARILLION's FISH than of Peter GABRIEL (although there's a section of "The Mote in God's Eye" where he sounds like SUPERTRAMP's Roger Hodgson), so the MARILLION comparison does often surface, although this is from 1978, five years before "Script of a Jester's Tear". And if you dread MARILLION, don't worry, as it sticks in the classic prog vein, with lots of great HACKETT-like guitars, great use of Moog and string synths, and lots of lengthy and complex passage for those diehard-in-the-wool progheads who straightforward three minute long songs won't do. That means if you fear a proto-neo-prog album, rest easy. Certainly the vocals need a little getting used to, because it's more dramatic than GABRIEL (or even FISH), and there is more that "modern" feel that isn't the most appealing to me. The album has only four lengthy cuts, so the proghead who want lengthy epics won't be disappointed. Another album this reminds me of is a little of CATHEDRAL's "Stained Glass Stories", except without the KING CRIMSON and proto-─NGLAGARD sound (and with more the emphasis on the GENESIS style).

And for all you UFO and alien abduction buffs who own the CD reissue wonder why the Grey alien on the cover looks exactly like the one featured on the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion, when you know for a fact in the 1970s, the Greys were never portrayed as looking like that in the 1970s, well, here's what happened: When Syn-Phonic reissued this on CD, they wanted to update the artwork. So the alien now ended up looking like Strieber's alien, with the dark, black, slanted eyes, and the "Babylon" logo was now color, as opposed to black and white like on the old LP. The original LP (which I own) features the alien with more human looking eyes (not unlike the aliens that abducted Betty and Barney Hill in 1961). So the reissue portrays the Grey as in the 1980s and 1990s version of it, while the original portrays the Grey as the 1960s, 1970s, and probably early 1980s version of it.

Well, back on the subject of the music, basically if you don't mind the sound of a prog rock band obviously influenced by GENESIS (but not an outright clone), and you don't mind some of the "modern-ish" sounding vocals, then I can highly recommend this album.

Proghead | 5/5 |


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