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Magellan - Hour Of Restoration CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.39 | 110 ratings

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3 stars After the dismal and bleak 1980s, progressive rock started making a small, but significant comeback. It would be slow throughout the 1990s, only picking up steam in the latter half of that decade. In the early 1990s, one of the first labels to focus completely on prog rock was Magna Carta. If it wasn't for the tribute albums Magna Carta had successfully marketed back then, I might not have rediscovered prog rock for quite a few more years. Through listening to their tribute albums, I soon started purchasing CDs directly from Magna Carta of the bands that appeared on their tribute albums. This included the likes of Cairo, Shadow Gallery, Enchant, World Trade, and Magellan. With Magellan, I started with Hour of Restoration, their debut album, and their sophomore release, Impending Ascension.

I was extremely excited to hear this music, and although I knew it wasn't exactly comparable to the greats from the 1970s, I was so very eager to overlook any negatives. It was prog rock and it was new (new being the key word). But now that I've had about 15 years to digest Magellan's debut, and have digested a horde of fabulous new progressive rock releases since then, Hour of Restoration seems more of a quaint album and quite a bit less significant, even though it was so pivotal in my returning to prog rock. Still, it blew away the prog rock that was available to me at the time (like Asia and a pre-Brave Marillion).

The core of Magellan consists of the Gardner brothers, Trent (keys and vocals) and Wayne (guitars). In addition, they were accompanied by Hal Stringfellow Imbrie on bass (he would depart after Impending Ascension). Drums and percussion were credited to "Magellan," but after listening to this you could tell almost right away that all of the drums were programmed. It wasn't like the awful programmed drums Phil Collins was incorporating into Genesis and his solo music at the time, nor was it like the crap that was being used in the dance music of that era. It was programmed exactly like what one would expect a progressive rock artist to create. Time signature changes, drum rolls, complicated rhythm patterns. True, it was awkward sounding, but it was in a way groundbreaking for a genre that had almost completely disappeared.

In addition to the weird programmed drums, we find that Trent Gardner is quite a skilled keyboardist. No, not on the level of an Emerson or a Wakeman, but maybe a level under these guys. His brother Wayne is quite diverse in his guitar playing styles, ranging from soft, to complicated, to downright metal. Trent's vocals take a little getting used to. He kind of has a whiny sounding voice, but at times sometimes seems similar in delivery to Ian Anderson. This vocal delivery would become more prevalent in future Magellan albums. The music itself seems like a mix of Kansas, a little bit of Rush, a little bit of Yes (mostly from the harmonized vocals), maybe some Asia (maybe because some of it has an AOR feel), and a good dose of weird. Time signature changes come suddenly. This becomes more pronounced on future albums. Transitions between sections are not real cohesive. It's like slamming on the brakes while your foot is still on the gas. That took some time for me to get used to, but now I enjoy this charming aspect of Magellan's music. Some have labeled early Magellan as neo-prog. I don't know about that. Eclectic seems more fitting to me. Magellan would incorporate more metal in future releases and eventually abandon whatever you want to call their style on this album and Impending Ascension.

Trent Gardner tends to write about historical subjects. On Hour of Restoration, he tackles the Magna Carta (the document from 1215 and not the same record label that released this--interesting coincidences aside), the Falkland Islands War (on Union Jack), and the civil rights movement of the 1960s (Another Burning). Clearly the best songs on this album are Magna Carta and Union Jack, the two longest pieces. The rest of the material feels incomplete, like an afterthought or just ideas that didn't quite get developed enough, but were put on the album to make it long enough to be released. That's about the only unfortunate thing about this album. If these songs had been properly developed into longer and more sophisticated structures, this debut would not have been just pivotal, but significant to the genre's development in the early 1990s.

Even though this is far from being a perfect release, I still have a place in my heart for it and fond memories of the joy it gave to me that yes, there was still hope for progressive rock. It's an interesting release for historical purposes and definitely worthy for Magellan fans for understanding the development of this band since this sounds nothing like later Magellan releases. I can only give it three stars because much better stuff was coming down the pipeline in the years following this release, including the next Magellan album, Impending Ascension.

progaeopteryx | 3/5 |


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