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Fantasy - Paint A Picture CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.38 | 123 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sounds Good...

This debut offering from Fantasy is impressive.

The first things that grab you are the production and the pristine execution - which is exactly what strikes me first with the genre of Progressive Metal and much modern "Prog".

Actually, the very first thing that grabs you is typical Prog-style keyboards, layered with panned auto-wah guitars, creating an atmosphere not unlike that on Pink Floyd's opus of the next year, "Wish You Were Here". There are other similarities to Floyd, in the chord progressions mainly - the vocals leap out at you like some kind of "Aladdin Sane" Bowie clone, even down to the harmonisation style.

Unlike either Floyd or Bowie, however, there is something missing from the music that's difficult to put your finger on - at first, you think it might be the melodies. However, these are strong and accessible - just not particularly catchy. Then you think it could be the harmonies, as little unconvincing details appear with increasing frequency - but there's nothing that the other notables didn't do.

There are wafts of Mellotron, tempo changes, dynamic lights and shades and a symphonic feel - verging on the Barclay James Harvest and Genesis - but somehow it all feels artificial.

There are some stunning sounds here, though.

Underlying it all is what you might call a pop sensibility - yet there are no individual devices or compositional methods that are purely pop - in fact, there are many that are off the wall, and should sit together nicely to create a great Prog Rock album. The opening tracks, "Paint a Picture" and the first part of "Circus" are in no way as derivative as many other reviews would have you believe - the surface textures are all familiar and staples of Prog Rock, but the compositions - the way all the bits and pieces hang together and flow one from another - are deeply individual pieces.

The guitar solo lets "Circus" down very badly, though - it's a horrible pentatonic mess, which is followed quickly by an unredeeming dirge and faked applause, and the second half of this piece is quite terrible, using all kinds of classic references in a vain attempt to save itself, from the Beatles (Helter Skelter) to the Angular, Gabriel influenced vocal melodies - all buried under a sudden mush in the production.

"The Award" conjures up images of early Genesis - much more strongly than Marillion ever did - and again starts to sound like a David Bowie song - very similarly to "Paint a Picture". There are interesting little details that jump out that belong in neither camp, however - but not enough to make the song itself interesting.

"Politely Insane" is a much more uptempo pop/rocker, with 1970s style wacka-wacka rhythm guitar, and a chord progression and melody line that is "interesting", although not in the literal sense. Even though there are quirky changes and unusual constructions in here, the song washes past like arual wallpaper with the occasional "No!!!" moment, but an odd feeling that this should be a good song. Even though it isn't.

"Window" is a slower, balladic sort of song, with acoustic guitar and cello providing an unusual backdrop to the vocals, which here take on flavours of Roy Harper. The piano joins, providing rich textures - but the instrumentalists seem to ignore what each other are playing for an almighty harmonic splat - which seems all the more bizarre given the return to "pure" diatonic harmony for the rest of the piece (give or take the odd nasty).

Icy River begins like some epic Prog piece, then fizzles out into an unremarkable early Pink Floyd-derived song with blingy textures. Notable features include the keyboard being unaware of when the vocals are using major or minor harmonies, and providing nasty clashes of the minor and major third simultaneously. While it's possible to superimpose major and minor tonalities, here one gets the strongest impression that this is unintentional here - in the context of the rest of the harmonic work, at least, and we end up with moments of uncomfortable messiness that make this song hard to listen to as a whole. Pity, as it has interesting formal constructions.

"Thank Christ" kicks off like a combination of early Floyd, Yes and Genesis, with a pedal bass, trippy keyboard and vocal harmonies. I find this a peculiarly uninteresting and overly repetitive song.

The next three songs are similarly unremarkable, finishing off a collection of well thought out but ultimately flawed pop/rock songs with more than a nod and wink towards the Progressive Rock "movement". Strong flavours of the Moody Blues ring out, the Bowie/Floyd link is underlined with the "Gnome Song", but overall, a perfect illustration of how esimply putting all the ingredients together does not make Progressive Rock - even despite the Mellotrons!


Re-categorise as "Prog-Related", because it's not the real thing - even though it does *sound" like it could be. The overall homogeneity of the songs is the giveaway here - point me to a homogenous-sounding pre-1980s Genesis album!

I wouldn't listen to this again (4 times is quite enough to realise it doesn't offer anything on repeated listens), and would personally award this one star, as I think it very poor. However, it's probably worth two listens - one to enjoy the sonic marvels of the production and thee generally excellent execution and think "Hey, this isn't bad" - and the second to realise that you've heard most of it before, and actually, it's nowhere near as good as you thought it was on first listen.

Therefore, Good - but not essential by any stretch of the imagination.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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