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Trace - The White Ladies CD (album) cover

THE WHITE LADIES

Trace

 

Symphonic Prog

3.61 | 74 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Lost, elaborate conceptual gem

I was flabbergasted to see that not a single Collab had written about this symphonic gem yet. This is a charming and very ambitious storybook prog album that is immaculately assembled with great sound and superb performances. Nineteen short tracks tell the story of the "White Ladies" with a rich grandiosity that classic European symphonic was famous for, and yet it embraces good melody and appropriate storytelling rather than going for bombast of ELP. The closest comparison might be something like Triumvirat's "Sparticus" album. The emphasis is on the music, the story, and a certain amount of folksy charm comes through because of the approach. Oh there's still plenty of complexity and hot playing but rarely at the expense of the album's mission. Trace had lost key members after the previous album and Rick van Der Linden was eager for a change, to bring in more musicians and shift the direction to a more nuanced blend of rock, jazz, and classical. He ended up picking up past members of Ekseption and even a second keyboardist so that he could experiment with "multiple musical exchanges, sounds, and themes." With a great new line-up in place he was walking alone on a foggy night when he thought of an old folk tale about the White Ladies from the Dutch province of Gelderland in the middle ages. The story is about a farmer's wife who is tricked by spirit figures from the hills to leave her family and live the carefree gypsy-like lifestyle and his attempt to get her back.

This music is intentionally slower and more serene than previous Trace albums, which was not well received by all of their fans, many of whom preferred the flashy keyboard whiz Rick instead. This album almost seems to aim more for fans of painstakingly crafted smoothness like "The Snow Goose" where romantic themes recur and take their time. There are some vocals and narration and yet the album is still largely instrumental. Rick uses moog, piano, other synths and the clavinet with total control. Dekker and Leeuwe present an equally disciplined rhythm section but the bass especially is often quite up front and enjoyable. "Back Home" even throws in some outstanding saxophone work courtesy of Dick Remelink. There is very little guitar which is a bit disappointing to me as I think it could have added even more to the mix. So should you check out the White Ladies? Well think of it like this. If you need a harder edge to your prog you can pass on this one. However, if you love something like The Snow Goose, and can envision it with less lead guitar and more prominent flowery keyboards, they you definitely need to check this one out. It just might deliver that slightly mystical and whimsical classical prog experience from the heart of the '70s. Personally, I very much enjoy and appreciate this charming, well-made album but not quite enough to award the big 4th star. The Musea reissue features good sound quality and an excellent bio of the time period. 7/10

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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