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Grace - Poppy CD (album) cover

POPPY

Grace

 

Neo-Prog

2.73 | 8 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Poppy prog

I have to confess to being extremely impressed with this 1996 album by British band Grace. At time of writing, "Poppy" is their fourth and latest studio album, the band having been around since 1979. I should say straightaway that this is more of a prog related album than a bona fide neo-prog album as such, but the music here is written and performed with an assured confidence which questions why Grace as not far better known than they appear to actually be. Anyone familiar with the band Dare will be pleased with what they find here. There are also distinct influences of bands such as Marillion and perhaps more specifically Fish, along with residual nuances of their early influence, Jethro Tull.

The six man line up commands an instrumental array which offers a diverse range of sounds including sax and flute in addition to the ubiquitous guitars and keyboards. The style is generally from the pop prog end of the spectrum, drawing in sound of bands such as Supertramp, It Bites and Stackridge. The opening "Burglars" is particularly reminiscent of the latter, being an upbeat, bouncy affair with whimsical lyrics.

"Sing something simple" takes us back to the pre Radio gaga days, the song sounding a bit like a hybrid of the Fish and Hogarth era Marillion. Mac Austin's vocal style varies considerably from track to track, but here he sounds rather like Pendragon's Nick Barrett.

These opening tracks set the scene for a succession of highly enjoyable sophisticated pop songs which are developed well through instrumental breaks and embellished arrangements. While the album is generally upbeat, occasionally the band will take on something more serious. "Oklahoma" sensitively examines the impact of the bombing there, especially in light of the "it could never happen here" attitude which prevails in most of us.

At a shade under 8 minutes, "Secret garden" is the longest track. Its length is in part due to a pleasant acoustic guitar intro which stands apart from the rest of the track. The actual song is an acoustic number with strong flute, which develops through an anthemic chorus, the song celebrating the joys of parenthood.

"The wolf" and "Emily" seem to move the band more towards Roxy Music/ Bryan Ferry/ David Sylvian territories, the former featuring saxes and a quivering vocal, while the latter is a much moodier piece in the sparse style of Sylvian. "Rich men singing" is a mildly amusing rant about the use of lottery funds to underwrite the cultured arts such as Opera. "Hearing Italian without any rhyme sung by unpronounceable figures, but they're sure that they're having a wonderful time while the rich men behind them just snigger", says it all really.

In all, a very enjoyable album but one where the enjoyment mainly comes on the first listen. The arrangements are good, the songs are well written, and the performances are of a high standard, but there is perhaps a lack of underlying depth to the album as a whole. Worth a go though.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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