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Gandalf - Journey To An Imaginary Land CD (album) cover

JOURNEY TO AN IMAGINARY LAND

Gandalf

 

Crossover Prog

3.42 | 31 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Gandalf is the alias for Austrian multi-instrumentalist Heinz Stobel, and on his much admired 1980 debut `Journey to an Imaginary Land', the composer blends a mix of predominantly acoustic and electronic instrumental passages, with elements of folk, world and ambient music, as well as just a pinch of lightly symphonic prog-rock. In some ways comparable to the early works of Deuter and Kitaro, the crossover fusion of styles of Mike Oldfield and even Tangerine Dream and Manuel `Ashra' Göttsching's more calming moments, it's a charming and sweetly spiritual soundtrack of great heart and embracing warmth.

`Departure' welcomes to listener with joyful trilling Moog melodies and confident prominent bass over sparkling Jean-Michel Jarre-like smooth fizzing synth washes, making for a spirited opener that offers inviting comfort. Acoustic guitars throughout the near-nine minute `Foreign Landscape' jangle with finesse, while the electric guitars are reaching and reflective in the manner of Manuel Göttsching, and the electronics move between lighter ambient pools, purposeful rises and stirring upfront reprising themes. `The Peaceful Village' holds a definite Deuter-like joyful contentedness, its rambunctious acoustic guitars and peppy hand percussion weaving around whimsical whirling synth soloing that together work up into a frantic jig-like dance to close out the first side.

Unsurprisingly with its title, `March Across Endless Plain' finally offers some carefully more dramatic and carefully darker textures based around strident acoustic guitars and exotic percussion, and some of the grander guitar theatrics and gentle Eastern-flecked moments over spacey synths call to mind the Far East Family Band. The runaway Moog dashes of `The Fruitful Gardens' remind of `A Trick of the Tail/Wind and Wuthering'-era Genesis, and some of the symphonic fanfares and spectral organ crescendos could easily have appeared on their ex-guitarist Steve Hackett's first couple of solo albums. Slow to unfold and unhurried ambient closer `Sunset At The Crystal Lake' crosses the shimmering synth expanses of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze with placid twinkling Moog ripples and tender Kitaro-like Eastern flavours.

Some will likely find `Journey to an Imaginary Land' both a little bit too pretty and/or a touch repetitive in spots, but it's made with truly good intentions and genuine love that it's hard not to be won over by its placid atmospheres and fragile honesty. Easily accessible without being commercial and delivered with impeccable instrumental skill, more forgiving ambient/electronic/New Age fans should find plenty of tasteful music here to appreciate, and the album proves to be a sublime undemanding background escape from the stresses of our busy lives.

Three and a half stars (and the CD booklet in the 2017 Esoteric Recordings remaster is a lovely bonus).

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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