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The Greatest Show On Earth - Horizons CD (album) cover

HORIZONS

The Greatest Show On Earth

 

Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 82 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars When thinking of English brass rock, one usually thinks directly of If in the role of the Chicago Transit Authority, but if you want to think of BS&T, you'd have to look at The Greatest Show On Earth; which was probably not a good idea for a name especially when it isn't. That should be it for the hits below the belts, especially when the protagonist probably didn't have any to put up on the charts. Oops!! But seriously their brand of brassy RnB mi Ex with some of prog's traits does remind the ultra-commercial US combo. This octet - the usual prog quartet (including founding pair of Watt-Roy brothers plus a three-man brass/horns/wings section (you choose) and bandleader singer/flauter Colin Horton- Jennings - released two albums the same year on the adventurous EMI-label called Harvest and disappeared quickly from the scene.

The debut has a striking Hipgnosis Eye gatefold artwork, but one can only be a tad unimpressed as the pair of eyes staring at you back its inside gatefold artwork and the standard track format, bar the showpiece. Indeed after a very promising Hammond- drenched Sunflower Morning (which might have inspired a certain July Morning, until its chorus anyway), it turns out that TGSOE fails right away to confirm (or keep the pace) with commercial stinker Angelina (the track, not the girl, unless it's the one from Golden Earring ;-), the uneventful Fought For Love and the light hearted Skylight Man. But with Day Of The Lady (with its dumb bar roll-out-the-barrel intro and slightly Gabriel/Brooker vocal delivery) and the semi-classic Real Cool World (a hit in some Continental countries) where the band shows a great potential, they managed to pull it through the net of discerning fans of Brass-rock.

Coming to the title track, it is a bit of clumsy affair, that starts out well enough with classical hints, but sinks into the almost-obligatory drum solo (one of the era's unfortunate flaws) but when the track dies pick-up again the prog elements are stronger, the W-R brothers fuzz guitar and bass giving them a very exhilarating string attack over an Hensley organ. This was certainly meant to be the track where the musicians could unleash in their concerts, but it is only half convincing in its studio version. Closing off the album was the single's B-side Again And Again, which another strong track that would resurface on a different single much later in the decade.

One of their distinctive traits is that the horn section did contribute to all kinds of percussion during the lengthy breaks, but failed to really be adventurous in that department, at best making them sound like a poor man's Santana. One of the problems is that outside the lenghty title track, the album is made of standard verse chorus track that allowed too few interplay and just sounded a bit too formulaic. TGSOE 's debut shows some promise, but unfortunately it was riding the closing years of the genre's peak period and they certainly did not have their US counterpart's talents in songwriting or were "prog" enough to match the nationals of If.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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