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Black Bonzo - Lady of the Light CD (album) cover


Black Bonzo


Heavy Prog

3.84 | 113 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Echoes of Prog Giants

ExittheLemming's review of this album has provided, in an amusingly sarcastic fashion, a clear indication of what is to be expected from Lady of the Light - classic prog revisionism. Yet unlike my fellow reviewer I don't think this is bad at all. Scandinavia has been an excellent breeding ground for the modern incarnation of progressive rock, and retro-prog is not, in any way, a lesser genre. What greater homage could these young men, born in the age of punk, metal and grunge, pay the prog giants of the past other than revamping their sound for modern audiences, while keeping the flame of days long gone? As far as I'm concerned, let the adoration begin!

An phantasmagorical keyboard intro, straight out of a 70's horror B-movie, opens the album's first track, Lady of the Light - it is soon hijacked by a Nice-ish Hammond solo accompanied by guitar, soon followed by a cavalcade of guitar, drums, and Mellotron very reminiscent of Uriah Heep's song Easy Livin'. Majestic vocals kick in, while the music proceeds in its lightning-fast pace. Great Hammond work (hello Mr. Emerson) and backing vocals. After the second repeat of the chorus the song skips to a quieter, spacey section dominated by the keyboards, with piano, Hammond and Mellotron in the spotlight, and softer, warmer vocals that give way into a melody that will certainly bring Echoes to your mind or, even better, ALW's Phantom of the Opera. Soon the initial faster-paced section reprises, proceeding into the drum solo that brings the song to a close. Brave Young Soldier follows immediately, again opened by an eerie keyboard atmosphere. A funky line slowly makes its way to centre stage. Vocals kick in, softly accompanied by some rich sounding Hammond in the background. A delicate acoustic guitar provides an interlude between these calmer first sections, which end in a great keyboard drenched section, which suddenly bursts into another faster-paced section where the guitar really shows off. Great drumming as well. This isn't just cold emulation, you can feel the emotion in the air. The quieter opening section returns to bring the song to an end. We get another Hammond opening a la Keith Emerson and the Nice with the next track, These Are Days of Sorrow. It's a more upbeat track than the previous two, with the whole band in good form, but again with a seemingly predominance of the keyboards over the guitar, used solely for rhythm purposes. Here we go: another keyboards solo, with just a few guitar licks accompanying it. An entertaining track, indeed, but that seems to just drag for a bit too log. New Day follows, opened by some great vocals and the omnipresent keyboard soundscape. It's another up-tempo track, featuring some more keyboard soloing and a great chorus to sing along to. Intermission is a small guitar driven instrumental collated to New Day that just serves as an interlude to the album. Although by no means bad, it does appear superfluous. Fantasy World follows, nicely opened by a guitar solo (I honestly don't see the Brian May comparison). It is indeed one of the most guitar driven songs on this album, but once more its function is more rhythmical - we still get some good riffs and some pleasant, if unimpressive soloing. Vocals are once more very good, especially in the emotional final chorus. If I didn't see the Brian May comparison in this track, you can really hear Freddie on the following one, Freedom, itself reminiscent of early Queen, with a simple classic rock structure, great piano and heavy guitar work (and a bit of that Phantom of the Opera melody in the riffs). There is no point in denying it - Sirens sounds like a track King Crimson could have used on one of their first two albums, instead of Epitaph or In the Wake of Poseidon. The clue here is the rich, heavy sound of the dominating Mellotron, and the languorous vocals. Still, the faster drumming gives it some more punch than those two KC classics. Some interesting acoustic guitar work and a good Hammond solo contribute to add some Black Bonzo flavour to it in order to disguise the dominance of the Crimson mood. Jailbait is an excellent hard-rock track that sees the band entering Deep Purple territory here - it's one of those fast paced rockin' tracks that serves so well as an encore to an exciting live performance, with its great line "Rock and Roll/Saved my soul!" (so true) that will have you jumping around and banging your head like a maniac. A church organ solo makes the transition from this upbeat, fast-paced track to the initially slower and more sad Leave Your Burdens - but that only last until the chorus, where the song acquires some emotional majesty with some great hard riffin', heavy keyboards and a martial beat. It features another of the rare guitar solos ending this grandiose chorus. The initial structure then repeats (to our great pleasure), this time followed by a keyboard solo accompanied by some great heavy riffs, that bring the song to a sudden end. Where the River Meets the Sea ensues, the only true ballad of the album, and one of its highlights. Beginning much too slowly and quietly, with some soft and warm vocals and keyboards, it soon gives way to an outstanding chorus, featuring a beautiful choir. A delicate piano solo marks its middle section before the magnificent reprise of the chorus. A Mellotron in heard in the background, accompanied by some delicate guitar licks, as the music fades slowly into a keyboard-created wall of sound giving way to Lady of the Light Revisited, a slow tempo piano and vocals reprise of the opener's chorus, that thus brings the album to its end.

Overall, a very good album that I believe most fans of 70's classic heavy prog rock will cherish deeply. Sometimes the songs may drag for a bit longer than they should, which ultimately makes this album a bit longer than ideal. I would also have liked to have heard a bit more from the guitar, but the keyboard work is simply impressive. Vocals and drumming are also top notch. One thing one should all bear in mind is that, regardless of the obvious inspiration and emulation of the sweet sound of the 70's, these are still all original compositions, and good ones too. To call this music plagiarism is a bit unfair - good works get plagiarized, great works inspire - and this was the case. If it is true that Black Bonzo may have had a bit to much to drink from the fountain of classic Prog, the fact is I don't see anything wrong about it. If this was made in the 70's it would be an outstanding record - 30 years later, I don't really see how it can cease to be so. Flawed but still extremely satisfying.

Kotro | 4/5 |


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