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Castle Canyon - Gods Of 1973 CD (album) cover

GODS OF 1973

Castle Canyon

 

Crossover Prog

3.54 | 15 ratings

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TenYearsAfter
3 stars "FIRST REVIEW OF THIS ALBUM"

Castle Canyon is the story of two high school kids in Portland, Oregon in 1973-75 who wrote a lot of great music that almost nobody ever heard back then, good time but wrong place! But end good, all good because the present (around 2009) had given trio Castle Canyon the opportunity to find each other again and record their songs and publish them. The band was very happy to have been able to do this and were also extremely gratified at the great response to the album Gods of 1973. Almost all of the tracks were recorded during their first 'Reunited' episode, when a window of opportunity connected the past band with the present. Most of the music was written in 1972- 76, with a couple of new pieces put together by the band when they were reunited in the present.

About the band members. Bass guitar player Fred Chalenor worked with Fred Frith, the Walkabouts, Hugh Hopper (in the band Hughscore) and in the present with the Slow Music Project including Robert Fripp. Keyboard player Erik Ian Walker stuck his ear against the speaker and said "whatever the fuck that was, I'm getting one" when he heard the Moog synthesizer solo at the end of Lucky Man by ELP for the first time. In '76 he studied electronic music and composition and his career has included collaborations in modern dance, experimental theater, drag/androgyny performance and odd movies. Rock/blues keyboards mixed with Gothic classicism, and austere, sensuous 'soundtrack' settings mixed with natural world sounds are his specialties. And drummer Paul Elias met Erik in the 1980's, Erik lost track of him but found him again, it has been the absolute foundation and reason this band has re- emerged. They finally found their drummer. On Castle Canyon's website I also read about the influences in their sound, these range from Gentle Giant, Stravinsky, Spike Jones, Frank Zappa, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and PFM to Bartok, blues, Led Zeppelin, Morton Subotnick, Arvo Part, The Residents, Captain Beefheart, Beethoven and even the element "psychoactive things"! Pretty varied, to say the least, so how about Gods Of 1973 their music, finally released on CD in 2009?

Listening to the nine compositions (ranging from 22 seconds to almost 13 minutes) Gods Of 1973 is making an adventurous keyboard-oriented travel, in the realm of symphonic rock with surprising excursions to other territories. The main influence seems to be early ELP but the way Castle Canyon blends elements of jazz, rock, psychedelia, electronic and avant-garde sounds very interesting, in the true meaning of the word progressive. To be honest, I needed a few listening sessions to get into their music but gradually I started to appreciate their daring music, performed by very skilled musicians.

The one moment you are listening to fluent rhythms with Emersonian keyboard work like The Mighty Arp: spectacular synthesizer flights on the Arp synthesizer, exciting Grand piano and subtle use of the Mellotron.

The other moment it's a very varied keyboard sound in the alternating Gods Of 1973 : great Hammond organ sound, sparkling Grand piano and fine interplay between piano and Mellotron (along a short and funny "lalala" interlude in the vein of German prog legend Grobschnitt).

Or take the final track The Last Song Ever : swirling Grand piano and sensational distorted electric guitar sound.

Four good examples of Castle Canyon their surprising compositorial skills are the tracks Fjordic Njord and Random Gates (both short but intricate electronic sound scapes), Bombs Away (sparkling Emersonian Grand piano runs, accompanied by a fat, distorted bass guitar and propulsive drums) and Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs - Cantabile Semplice (written by Gorecki): a slow rhythm featuring wailing violin play by Michele Walther and beautiful Grand piano.

My highlights are two longer compositions that showcase Castle Canyon at its best. First Canoeing On The River Styx: after a spacey, a bit ominous intro, a wonderful build-up follows with excellent work on Hammond, synthesizers and piano (interrupted by an experimental part), culminating in a bombastic grand finale with glorious keyboards. Finally Triskaidekaphobia: lots of shifting moods with a wonderful vintage keyboard sound (from ARP synthesizers and Hohner clavinet to Hammond organ), a 'soundscape' interlude (with razor sharp Fripperian guitar runs and powerful Wetton-like bass work) and a compelling solo with a slightly distorted Hammond organ, reminding me of the overlooked keyboard maestro Dave Greenslade.

If you love keyboard driven trio's like ELP, Trace, Quill and Triumvirat and you have no problems with 'some experimental ideas', this is a band to discover, check out their website for samples.

TenYearsAfter | 3/5 |

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