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Babe Ruth - Amar Caballero CD (album) cover

AMAR CABALLERO

Babe Ruth

 

Heavy Prog

2.58 | 27 ratings

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2 stars In days of old, when Knights were bold...

The first thing I noticed about this album the first time I heard it (and I've yet to hear Babe Ruth's debut) was that both the production and musicianship were impressive.

Unfortunately, the payback decreases with every subsequent listen - the Wow factor quickly rubs off, and leaves the listener feeling a bit short-changed. So this is a good album for a couple of listens - and well worth hearing.

Listening is another matter - as soon as you start digging deep, you realise that it's all surface.

That doesn't mean there's nothing to like - it's a reasonable album, with a strong line-up of songs and some very interesting touches in the arrangements. All of which turn out to be colour by numbers, not particularly heavy, and definitely not Prog in any sense of the term - so don't come in looking for Heavy Prog - it's barely Prog-Related. It's 1970s rock music with some interesting and different twists:

The thing that jumps out of the opener, Lady, is the uncanny similarity to music you'd normally hear on those Library compilations, such as those on the famous KPM label, featuring such unsung maestros as Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield (although, sadly, without the Hammond).

The energetic yet laid-back reggae puts me in mind of the Police (specifically, Walking on the Moon), each instrument in the arrangement precisely in place - a bit too precisely for rock and roll, especially the finger-clicks, and the orchestral arrangements perfect to a t. The modulation for the chorus and flute melody interlude are drop-dead gorgeous, but still there's that suspicion of artificiality, and the guitar solo simply imitates the melody without developing it before going off onna light jazz tip noodle. There's plenty of evidence of good musicianship - but not of the musical development that is a feature of Prog.

Broken Cloud continues in this KPM vein - if you're not familiar with that label, then check out KPM 1044, The Big Beat, KPM 1123 (Friendly Faces) and KPM 1131 (The Trendsetters), but this one *sounds* a lot more proggy, with an orchestral arrangement that would be superb, if it wasn't so thin- sounding generally.

Gimme Some Leg is a slow groove rock number, again, too utterly precise to truly rock, and, at this tempo, somewhat lugubrious. The song construction is so obvious that this is a good one to skip over unless you like drawn-out pentatonic scales, of which there are two extended portions. Neat and without fries.

Baby Pride starts with a nice jazzy guitar flurry and again, sounds a little proggy, Janita Haan attempting to extend her rather limited vocal range down into uncomfortable singing ranges. Some might perceive the breathiness as quite sexy, I find it a bit constipated. The progression gets rather repetitive by about halfway through, but there are some nice details in the arrangement - again, inserted at precisely the right times, emphasising the by numbers feeling.

The cover of Cool Jerk annoys the crap out of me, so I won't cover it in any depth - the precision thing is way overplayed - the thing that makes this track work is looseness and funkiness, and this roadkill has neither.

We Are Holding on continues the alternation of up-tempo and down-tempo pieces, and is a sonic feast - it sounds absolutely fabulous. But musically, with everything slotting perfectly into place just like an MFI kitchen unit, it's functionally perfect, but very boring. Well worth a second listen, but not a third.

Up goes the tempo, predictably, for Doctor Love (another possible interpretation of this album's title). This quirky funky track could be really cool if the funk lived in it. But it doesn't. Back to the KPM albums.

The 3-part title track, then, is the biggest nod towards Prog Rock. But who wrote those lyrics? Nasty! The quasi-Spanish guitar works reasonably to paint the portrait of the knight in the court of Queen Isabella - but what a dreary sod he must've been! I prefer the Guitar bloke that follows, lifting the tempo in a merry dance in the loosest (and hence strongest) piece so far on the album, continuing the Spanish flavours, and grooving strongly - but maybe overdoing it a bit, stringing it out for a good couple of minutes longer than it needs to be with nothing new to say or any interesting developments in the music. The applause is really overdoing it.

El Testament De Amelia is a relief when it comes, then - but really a kind of slower restatement of El Caballero De La Reina Isabella.

So this promising 9-minuter is, in fact, 3 separate pieces, linked by the Spanish feel of the acoustic guitar, not a logical (or even illogical) progression, and the album as a whole has no coherent concept.

As I said, definitely one to hear - indeed, one to hear more than once - but not really a keeper in any Prog collection, as it loses its patina pretty quickly, like the chewing gum on the bedpost overnight.

File under Sort-of Prog Related.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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