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Looking-Glass Lantern - Candlelight And Empire CD (album) cover


Looking-Glass Lantern



3.89 | 37 ratings

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4 stars I think, to fully appreciate the music of Graham Dunnington, (aka: Looking Glass Lantern), you need a penchant for concept prog, and a liking for a good story. Unlike the two previous LGL albums, this is not a re-telling of existing stories although, once again, Victorian England is the setting. Holmes and Watson are notable by their absence.

'Empire' refers to The British Empire but also to a fairly-wealthy Victorian home, the family who live within, and their servants. The storyteller is the maid, who asks for the listener's consent to describe her life and those of the other occupants of 'The Empire'. Thus, the first six tracks which comprise Part 1, introduce us to the maid, the cook, the governess, the master, and so on. Part 2 is a single 30 minute track entitled 'An Evening Soiree,' and how many self-respecting prog-heads could possibly resist a 30 minute epic. There is, if you read the notes, a further, rather unexpected element to the story. No spoilers though.

So, we begin with the maid who, like most below stairs, is a sad, unfulfilled creature. Going into service at a very young age, working her hands to the bone for long hours. She doesn't resent her role in the empire, the alternative of the workhouse being unthinkable, but she feels invisible ? nobody notices her or knows anything about her. The cook deals with the tradesmen at their back door entrance whilst preparing luncheon for the other world upstairs. She reflects on how different life would have been had she married. At the same time, the governess reminisces about the admirer who promised her the world then, without a word, left her. The Mistress of the house also has an inner turmoil ? she feels powerless and considers herself to be like a caged bird. All perform their duties with care and diligence, and keep their sadness to themselves.

In musical terms, these early tracks are varied, always strong, attractive melodies, never heavy. 'The maid' is accompanied by a tinkling piano as befits her solitary existence. All instruments burst in on the second track giving it a warm feel despite the melancholy lyric. 'The Cook' has an irresistible 'hook' and the track goes through many musical changes before returning to the original theme. The melody to a track like 'The Angel of the home' is strong enough to stand alone as an instrumental, a direction I'd like to see LGL go in the future. Generally, I feel that this album is musically stronger than 'The Hound' as the restriction of telling a long and complex mystery has been taken away.

An so to "An Evening Soiree"(30:03)

Like all good epics, An Evening Soiree has recurring themes, and enough varied ideas and pace- changes to justify a half hour track and to keep the listener interested. On the notes, Soiree is divided into 6 sections. I have to say that I don't like this practice as it implies that you are listening to a series of short tracks strung together. There are, however, no obvious breaks in the piece and you never lose sight of the fact that you are listening to a single work. The music follows the narrative; well behaved and welcoming at the outset, less fluffy and polite as the dinner guests reveal their differences. As I indicated, the music of LGL is never heavy and if prog metal is your thing, look elsewhere. Such styles would hardly compliment this tale.

Ok, so? the guests ? the vicar, the business partner and timid wife, arrive. The ever-present maid takes hats and coats, unnoticed and unappreciated as ever. This is Victorian England ? A portrait of the Queen, a roaring fire, the monarch of the glen, a stuffed bird in a glass case. Talk is polite and the vicar says grace? the queen is toasted. Then the business partner toasts the march of progress? and the awkwardness begins. He is the loudmouth of the group ? boastful and dominating of the conversation, he arrogantly speaks for everyone when he praises the glorious British Empire, our system of government, the march of progress and technology, and our humane treatment of the natives. There is much silent seething; the vicar preys silently in frustration at the man's superiority and overconfidence. The women talk of the weather and holidays, and the host's wife fumes inwardly about the minor role they must play in the whole charade. The maid flits in and out, invisible and ignored. And so it goes on, the vicar tries to raise his concerns about the poor but this is treated with polite condescension by the host and business partner.

In conclusion, this is a masterful and hugely entertaining piece of musical storytelling. It isn't a musical and isn't, (thank god,) a prog rock opera, (Lloyd-Webber vomit). It also, ISN'T neo-prog with all its doom and gloom, this is an uplifting and engrossing album that doesn't really fit the accepted prog genres. What stands out most is that the music revolves around the narrative, which some may find difficult on the ear? initially. All I say is, persevere ? it grows on you.

'And so the guests prepare to leave the empire'. Several years too late I fear.

Progaholic2 | 4/5 |


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