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Beduínos a Gasóleo - Beduínos a Gasóleo CD (album) cover


Beduínos a Gasóleo


Crossover Prog

3.00 | 4 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars A very Portuguese prog album

First off, there is no mistake in the title of this review. It is not a bad case of broken English. I actually meant to say very and not something in the line of very good. And I meant it that way because I really believe very few albums have ever been so rich in "Portugality": Beduínos a Gasóleo synthesizes much of the Portuguese spirit, way of life and manner of thought - and it does so both intentionally and unintentionally.

First, the intentional part. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to note the allusion to Portugal's epic poem Os Lusíadas in the first track, Canto IV. If you did miss it, it is clearly stated in the booklet, along with the explanation as to why the band decided to produce a song based loosely on Camões' work. Clocking in at just over 26 minutes, the song is as epic as the poem it's based on. Yet somehow it does not convey the exciting feeling you should get from a prog epic. The reason? Simple. It's not powerful enough - it's just a long interchange of slower and faster paced sections, but without any actual crescendo and no real climax. Let's see: Part 1 - Death of the Handsome King opens the song and the album (as it opened the respective Canto IV in the book) with a little guitar riff followed by a delicate saxophone and trombone. Synths add to the mellow athmosphere. Acoustic guitar and keyboards make the transition to Part 2 - John of Fond Memory, opened by the a-cappella female vocals of singer Petra, soon accompanied by the guitar and flute, as the events leading to the dawn of a new ruling dinasty unfold. A small keyboard solo makes the almost unnoticed transition towards Part 3 - Aljubarrota, a section a bit more exciting and moving than the previous two. Having heard this band live at GAR2008, and being excited after hearing this song with all the power that playing live conveys, I immediately sensed, after these first sections, that I had got something a little different from what I aimed to get. So far, and quite unlike the live version, the sound of the instruments seemed a bit muffled; Petra's voice not as clear and perhaps a bit more plain; and the general playing doesn't sound as fluid (a couple of the transitions sounded quite forced). From Part 4 - Ceuta this was no different. This section opens with the sound of drums followed by a synth background, and Petra in the foreground singing the approach of the Armada. Occasional electric guitar gives it a bit more punch in-between the spacey atmosphere (musically speaking, obviously - the action is set on the sea). A great bass line opens the next section, Part 5 - Saint Prince, which also features a touch of genius with the inclusion of the male vocals of Janita Salomé - his arab-like chant provides colour and excitement to this section, probably one of the best in the entire suite. Another quick transition to Part 6 - Tangiers on the third try, featuring Janita's vocals only. The band this times injects some electricity into the formula and try to make it a bit more heavy. Yet it is not enough, as if they were afraid to go too far. Part 7 - Bojador is an instrumental section, dominated by trumpet, flute and the omnipresent synth background, to which a delicate electric guitar solo is added, before a bigger keyboards one enters the scene. A fade away into Part 8 - Navigator leads into the vocals, again courtesy of Petra. It is another delicate section dominated by the sound of flute. It seems the band does not have sufficient energy in them to keep a heavier sonority for too long. Part 9 - Toro, Part 10 - The Perfect Prince and Part 11 - Stone Cross Africa are all instrumentals, and quite hard to point out where each begins and ends. Together, and along with the (this time sung) Part 12 - Over Land (brilliantly done by both Petra and Janita Salomé), the sections are the most fluid, tight and powerful of ones of the song. All instruments are present here, but the classic rock formation of guitar, bass and drums really take the cake for this one. Part 13 - Over Seas and Part 14 - Egg Man are assumingly very short instrumental section in the vein of the previous, ending abruptly in the form of one of those "forced" inter-section transitions. Part 15 - Tordesillas opens thus seemingly out of nowhere, without any apparent concern for the flowing of the music. And, unsurprisingly, is yet another mellower section after the more powerful ones that came before. It is opened by the early Gentle Giant-like keyboards (a notable influence throughout the album), and while it is a delicate and pretty section, well sung by Petra, by this time, so close to the end, we would expect a more emotional crescendo. Instead, we get another unnatural sounding transition into Part 16 - The Fortunate, which is even more mellow than the previous, with its lullaby feel (I know, I know, it is supposed to deal with the dreamy epiphany of King Manuel - so I guess we should blame Camões for this one). The ending is drowsy, almost hypnotic, until a sudden electric guitar lick and a quickening in the pace of the music opens Part 17 - Departure. It's only lyric, "Vã Glória" (Vain glory), is repeatedly sung by Petra and Janita Salomé, as if challenging each other to see who can sing the loudest. Janita obviously wins this one, with the last emotional cry of "Vã Glória" before the band begins a jam with all the instruments slowly fading towards the end, where only the faint trumpets are heard, as if they were distant battle horns.

So, what has this near-half an hour epic offered? A pretty story, some very good musical moments, awesome vocals by Janita Salomé, competent performances from the rest of the band. So what has failed? For starters, it's lack of ambition. Sure, composing a near half-hour suite is ambitious, but it kind of misses the point when the music is not powerful enough to keep the listeners attention for too long. The musical highlights are very good, but they are also very few, and they get easily lost in the mammoth suite. Interesting at first, it can get tiresome after a few listens.

Biodiesel was the only song from the album which I had not heard previously played live - as such, and unlike the others, it was a good surprise. The beginning reminds me a lot of French band Asia Minor, but it soon follows other patterns. Soon after this beginning we get a Floyd-influenced spacey bit, complemented by a riff similar to PF's Dogs mixed with the synth of SOYCD. Then a spacey guitar solo brings this part to a close before the sound of a flute opens the next one in a merrier tone. This band seems to enjoy wind instruments a lot, as the presence of the saxophone and trumpet is heard once more. Nearing 5 minutes into the song, they decide to rock out a little bit, with the guitar once more having centre stage, interrupted for a few minutes by a quirky interlude of saxophone and keyboards. 7 minutes gone and we are returned to a calmer, mellower bit, with the return of the flute, delivering a warm solo, again reminiscent of Asia Minor (especially their album Between Flesh and Divine). Towards the final couple of minutes, we get an eerie bit delivered by the guitar, that soon burst into the more rockier tone of the song, accompanied by the keyboards (very Uriah Heep-like) before ending. A solid piece, yet perhaps a bit to long for full enjoyment.

Desculpa Lá is another long piece, nearing on 20 minutes. It's a bit heavier than the previous songs, and is also the song with the best sound treatment (even though it has its flaws); the instrumentation is clearer, and the composition and transition between section sounds a lot better than on Canto IV. Vocals are delivered by Petra, and unidentified male backing vocals (I'm not sure if it is José Carlos Fialho, as noted in the booklet - in the live version there was a guest singer. Rui Teles?). The formula is similar to the opening epic - a constant interchange between mellow and faster- paced sections and between darker and merrier passages - however it has a lot more punch in general than Canto IV. Its length provides space for some soloing delivered by the electric guitar and keyboards (both quite good, but not outstanding). Again, there is the feel that this track could have worked a lot better if it was smaller.

Bonus tracks. The only one worth mentioning is the song Convergir, since the other two are cut-outs from Canto IV. This small song is (apparently) a re-recording of an original song the band composed for a Gentle Giant tribute compilation, Giant For An Hour. It has much of the GG feel to it, and it sounds like a tribute song should: not a copy, but truly an influenced original composition. Most of the trademark sound of GG is here, the variety of instrumentation, the quirky keyboards, the powerful electric guitar, all but their unique vocals - this because Convergir is instrumental.

Overall, this album is very classical prog-sounding. The abovementioned influences of bands like Gentle Giant, Uriah Heep, or Floyd can easily be found, as well as elements of Genesis and our own Banda do Casaco. It is dominated by the symphonic keyboards, with the remaining instruments serving as accompaniment to juice it up a bit - a notable exception were the wind instruments, flute, saxophone and trumpets. There is creativity in the composition, not just a retro-feel. It's a good, solid album, but it has many flaws. The biggest one, I believe, is the fact tha this album is marred by poor sound production and stifled instrumentation (especially the electric guitar) - one can only assume the reason for this is the low budget. The same issues pointed out to Canto IV echo throughout the album. Unconsciously, the band has reproduced some of the typical characteristics of the Portuguese: ambition without resources (epics for the sake of it); the feeling that there is no need to do more than necessary (the constant break down of any exciting musical parts before reaching any real climax); the belief that all will work out well in the end. While that stream of thought has worked fine in the last 900 years, sometimes it just not enough. Especially in the real world of progressive rock.

Kotro | 3/5 |


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