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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Excalibur IV - The Dark Age of the Dragon CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.26 | 8 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I have rated the middle part of the Excalibur trilogy with three stars. I think this one's notably better, but since it's still not exactly pure progressive rock or "excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" , I'll round my 3 stars downwards. We're dealing with a new chapter in the ambitious Celtic saga, or "rock opera" as some call it, that the Breton-Celtic musician Alan Simon has created over the years. His manager had suggested a new tour in 2015 and Simon felt it would feel right only with new material. He worked more than a year on this project and feels very pleased at the results. The preceding parts were released in 1999, 2007 and 2012 respectively. If you're unfamiliar with them, that's no problem at all in getting to know this album, which one can simply take as an individual, loosely conceptual collection of songs with various vocalists and various moods. The partly orchestrated music could be labeled as Crossover Prog or Celtic rock.

If you look at the song list on the CD's back cover, especially the words "from JETHRO TULL" and "from SUPERTRAMP" appear ridiculously often, just because Martin Barre, Jesse Siebenberg or John Halliwell happen to play on most tracks. There could have been a wiser way to mark the performers, but that's not a big deal. Otherwise the well-known guests on this album are vocalists - or singing players such as Alan Stivell and the mentioned Siebenberg. Michael Sadler (SAGA) and Moya Brennan (CLANNAD) sing two songs each, Bernie Shaw (URIAH HEEP) and Sonja Kristina (CURVED AIR) one song each. Roberto Tiranti is another heavy- style vocalist (on two tracks), while Siobhan Owen (on 'The Last Lament of a Fairy' and achingly delicate 'There Is someone') brings more of the ethereal Celtic romanticism with her beautiful voice and Celtic harp.

The only purely instrumental track is the energetic 'The Fifth Season' starring Martin Barre's electric guitar, and, to a smaller degree, John Halliwell's saxophone. The final 19th track 'Dun Angus II' is among the most pompous ones, featuring the operatic soprano of Maite Itoiz (from Elfenthal, which neither I nor ProgArchives know). It is indeed the exhausting grandiosity, or the fearful possibility of the music to feel exactly like a rock opera, that is the biggest thread to concept albums like this. But in the end this really is primarily a well produced and executed set of songs, some of them rather average and some very enjoyable. Hardly this will approach my list of prog favourites from 2017, but a pretty positive surprise this was anyway.

Matti | 3/5 |


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