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Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial CD (album) cover


Pavlov's Dog


Crossover Prog

4.07 | 365 ratings

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4 stars In spite of Pavlov's Dog being an American band - as a matter of fact, one of the few US prog bands that achieved some fame in the Seventies - "Pampered Menial" is a very European-sounding album, sophisticated and richly melodic, dominated by David Surkamp's Edith Piaf-influenced vocals. As to its prog quotient, here we are on very different territory from the classic bands that were active in the UK and continental Europe at the same time. There are no epics on this album - none of the tracks is longer than 5 minutes, and the song structures are fairly simple, especially if compared to what the likes of Yes or Genesis were putting out in those years. However, what we have here is no easy-listening masquerading as prog, but a hauntingly romantic, beautiful album that will provide a welcome respite from more aurally demanding fare. Contrary to what many people may think, it takes both skill and talent to write music that is at the same time pleasing to the ear, and valid from a compositional point of view.

Most prog fans are aware that David Surkamp's voice is definitely an acquired taste. Often compared to Geddy Lee, his vocals are not as aggressive as the Rush singer's at the beginning of their career, but rather poignant and emotionally vulnerable. The closest he comes to sounding like a more 'traditional' rock singer is on the album's rockiest track, the powerful, piano-driven "Natchez Trace". On other songs, Surkamp takes on the role of a lovelorn minstrel - notably on album opener "Julia", a gorgeous, romantic ballad drenched in piano and acoustic guitar, or the melancholy "Late November", whose title perfectly describes the record's muted, autumnal atmosphere.

On a purely musical level, "Pampered Menial" is an absolute feast for those who like their prog richly slathered with mellotron, flute, violin, and other 'romantic' instruments. The album's elegant, dreamy soundscapes are light years away from King Crimson's jagged, cerebral compositions, or ELP's out-and-out bombast. In addition, Pavlov's Dog sound distinctly different from the epic sweep and clear country influences of the other 'big' American prog band of the Seventies, Kansas. Surkamp and his crew are not so much concerned with creating epics, but rather with bridging the gap between prog and conventional song structures. Even if "Pampered Menial" may not be the most demanding of listens, it is an album full of individuality and genuinely beautiful music, and as such it is highly recommended indeed.

Raff | 4/5 |


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