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Satin Whale - Lost Mankind CD (album) cover

LOST MANKIND

Satin Whale

 

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3.74 | 38 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars It's hard to tell exactly what happened between this album from German proggers Satin Whale and their knockout first LP `Desert Places' only a year before in 1974. Their powerful Brain label debut was always very accessible but had a tough and constantly heavy bluesy guitar sound to its lengthy jazz-rock compositions, but here, whilst still delivering a very strong album (one that is often considered their best, in fact), `Lost Mankind' mostly sounds like a completely different band altogether. Satin Whale perform in a prouder symphonic style on this one with a streamlined melodic approach and polished production to its more varied, sophisticated and ambitious material, as well as offering much tidier vocals from an American singer no doubt brought in at the time to make the group more appealing to international audiences.

Right from the energetic and groovy opener `Six O'Clock', the change in sound from the debut is instantly noticeable. The pumping sax and trickles of Hammond organ that darted around `Desert Places' are still there, but the piece is far more compact and instantly tuneful backed up by a chorus of female chorus singers, and the lead vocals of Ken Traylor offer crisp English in stark contrast to guitarist/saxophonist/flautist Dieter Roesberg's heavily accented rasp on the debut. The title track `Lost Mankind' is a lightly playful symphonic piece with serene Mellotron, whimsical flute and humming organ that reminds a little in moments of a track like `In the Mountains' from Earth and Fire's second album `Song of the Marching Children', and `Reverie' is a pretty piano and organ interlude. Then it's all guns blazing for the eleven minute tour-de-force `Go Ahead', jammed with honking infectious sax blasts, jazzy darting flute, red-hot blazing guitar wailing and the Hammond organ out in full-blast, all woven to clever reprising themes. There's so much variety delivered with exemplary skill throughout this one, and it also serves as a fine showcase for new drummer Wolfgang Hieronymi.

The flip side's `Trace Of Sadness' is a relentless and boisterous Hammond-drenched rocker, `Midnight Stone' perhaps resembles a swooning E.L.P-like ballad where Ken's vocals almost remind of John Wetton of King Crimson, and breezy flute flits in and out of soft rocker `Song For 'Thesy' with jazz overtones and organ-driven regal bombast that echoes Focus, M. Efekt and Jethro Tull. Closer `Beyond The Horizon' again comes close to the first album with its extended instrumental stretches of snappy drumming, waves of break-neck frantic Hammond organ runs, joyous flute and bluesy swagger-drenched electric guitar wrangling, and the subtle and skilfully executed tempo-change sprints reveal again what a talented bunch of musicians these guys were.

`Lost Mankind would prove to be a real one-off from the group, with both the heavy Hammond-dominated rocking of the debut and grander symphonic fancy of this one largely removed by their more straight-forward and frequently AOR next album `As a Keepsake' in 1976, and so too singer Traylor as the proper band themselves resumed the vocals from then on (it would actually be very interesting to learn the circumstances as to how he came to be involved with the band in the first place!). The punchy debut might be their real special one, but `Lost Mankind' has stronger playing, ardent ambition and energy to spare, and if you're new to this superb German band, this would be a fine place to start.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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