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Earthrise - Earthrise CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.72 | 24 ratings

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4 stars There are few prog bands that I know that are as obscure as this New Jersey trio Earthrise. Maybe Burning Candle from Germany and Albatross from Rockford, Illinois. I first heard of Earthrise in 1996 through a prog rock mail order catalog that described them as "Amazing band that plays four long cuts somewhat in the vein of another American band: Babylon. Fantastic keyboard work. Just try and find a copy of this" and sold it for the outrageous price of $1200 (I just made an edit, because I found that old catalog, and what I originally typed was from faulty memory). To be fair it was still sealed, but even unsealed copies are not cheap. And while that catalog challenged everyone to "just try and find a copy of this", I did (thank Discogs for that), but it was a rather thrashed copy (luckily the disc was playable, a few scratches, no skips), the cover was in beat shape (looked like it was sitting in an leaking attic; therefore water damaged cover). Luckily I didn't spend anywhere close to $1200 for that reason. Yes, I could have waited for another copy (in better shape), but that might be a long wait, so I bought the thrashed copy because it's the classic case of "Extremely difficult to find in any condition". This was a private release, released on the Arceden Music label, which is really just the band's label, as it was named after two of the songs on this album, "Arcturus" and "Eden's Child". The sound quality isn't the greatest, the production and mixing does seem a bit amateurish, but I'm not going to totally knock on them for this (they were unhappy with the mix), they didn't appear to be functioning on a large budget, but they really put their heart and soul into this and that's what really matters. Like Norway's Akasha, not the kind of album I'd recommend for perfectionists or audiophiles.

This album features stunning artwork from Dennis Orlando, although I'm not 100% certain, appears to be the same guy from eastern Pennsylvania who does fine art. If so, this is way different from his usual fine arts, as this is a wonderful trippy sci-fi surrealistic artwork. This album is certainly one of my all-time favorite prog rock album covers (with competition from the likes of Roger Dean's work on those Yes albums and Blim's works on those Ozric Tentacles covers), but since Earthrise is little-known, it's no wonder this never makes the list of "Best prog rock album covers".

The group consisted of keyboardist/vocalist Bill Drobile, bassist/guitarist/vocalist Ken Pierog, and drummer Greg DiDonato. Musically, I'm not entirely certainly about the comparison to Babylon. I own their 1978 self-entitled album, so I'm very familiar with them. It seems more like ELP meets Camel is more like it for Earthrise, perhaps a bit of Ethos. Some fusion elements, especially Bill Drobile's use of electric piano (he also used Hammond organ, Mini Moog, and string synths). Drobile's vocals seem to be very much in that Midwestern style, especially the vocals of Ethos, so if I didn't know any better, I'd swear Earthrise came from the Midwest like Illlnois (OK, so I realize Ethos came from Indiana), not New Jersey. "Eden's Child" shows what this band is made of, Midwestern style prog (yes, I know they're from NJ) with those Midwestern vocals, lots of nice spacy synths and organ. "Arcturus" starts off sounding like lite fusion, but don't let that fool you, it's back to full-on symphonic prog. I particularly dig those organ passages. The rest of the album is all instrumental, "Earthrise" is another typical Earthrise number, not sure how to describe it. "New Clear Dawn" is cleverly titled, probably due to the Cold War of the time and the nuclear threat (after all in 1977 the US and Soviet Union were not exactly friends). It's all instrumental, a rather energetic piece, although Greg DiDonato threw in a drum solo, which shows he's a fully capable drummer, although you wished the drums were mixed better (actually the whole album could benefit from better mixing, but as I stated, they probably weren't on a large budget). One thing I'm really happy about Earthrise, just like Cathedral, is how they completely avoid any AOR or commercial rock trappings, which too frequently a habit with American prog band, Kansas and Styx being most guilty. While Kansas and Styx racked up tons of FM hits, Earthrise was obviously not looking for that, and probably just noticed in the local New Jersey area they hail from. On the other hand, I could have easily imagined Earthrise recording for Passport Records, as another New Jersey band Fireballet did. Had they recorded for Passport, their album would have had a much better production, and the album would not be ungodly rare, but found on the cheap (as most titles on Passport are).

There are certain other obscure American prog bands that get more notice: Babylon, Yezda Urfa, Cathedral, Mirthrandir, mainly because they've been reissued on CD, making it more accessible for the average proghead. Earthrise deserves to be alongside those groups, but unfortunately they didn't so that means if you want it on a solid format, you'd have to find the LP, that is, if you can find a copy, if you can afford a copy if one does show up.

So if you get a chance to hear it, do so, it's well worth it.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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