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Solaris - Martian Chronicles Live CD (album) cover

MARTIAN CHRONICLES LIVE

Solaris

 

Symphonic Prog

4.64 | 13 ratings

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TenYearsAfter
5 stars "Top notch 'rock meets classical' prog from Hungary"

Hungarian formation Solaris is one of my favourite bands from the Post Classic Prog Era (1967-1979), what an exciting musical encounter between rock and classical! I am still delighted about their studio-albums Martian Chronicles (1984) and (2-LP) 1990, and the Live In Los Angeles CD release. I have discovered Solaris in the early Nineties in the Syn-Phonic catalogue, in those days a kind of pocket version of the Bible for progheads.

The Hungarian formation Solaris was originally founded by some school friends in 1980. The band's name was derived from the title of book by SF writer Stanislaw Lem. After they made impression on a talent contest at The Budai Park for a massive crowd (mainly youth), the band was offered an opportunity to make a record. In '80 Solaris released their first single entitled Rock Hullam (actually this was a split single, Solaris got the B-side). They released the second single Eden/Counterpoint in '81. In '84 Solaris released their first album The Martian Chronicles, it sold almost 40.000 copies. In those days progrock was popular in Hungary: Omega had crowds of 100.000 spectators! In '90 the controlled Hungarian record company was finally willing to release early Solaris recordings entitled 1990 (a 2-LP). Then the members of Solaris went their own way and joined or founded new bands.

In 1995 Solaris was invited as the headliner of the Progfest Festival in Los Angeles by Greg Walker, mastermind behind the USA progrock label-mailorder service Syn-Phonic. He succeeded in persuading the band for a reunion concert (recorded on a 2-CD and partly on a video with other progrock bands Ars Nova and White Willow). The band got a standing ovation by a bunch of progheads! A year later Solaris performed on the Rio Art Rock Festival, organized by the Brasilian proghead Leonardo Nahoum.

On December 27th 1998 guitarplayer Cziglan died of an incurable illness. One year later Solaris released their third studio-album entitled Nostradamus, featuring work from the late guitarist Cziglan. And in 2014 Solaris stunned the world of prog with a new studio-album entitled Martian Chronicles II, in 2015 followed by a live CD and a live DVD/CD set, entitled Martian Chronicles Live. This review is about that set.

The concert was recorded in Hungary in 2014, in a wonderful and cosy theatre, with full house. Solaris start with a JM Jarre inspired electronic intro (Martian Chronicles Part 1) featuring sensational Moog Voyager synthesizer flights, with subtle use of the pitchbend button, and very pulsating arpeggiator notes, it sounds evenmore impressive and lush than on the 1984 album. Then gradually the other members enter the stage and we can enjoy Solaris their awesome blend of rock and classical, including delicate work on the flute traverse. An impressive solo piece on the piano (from tender to sparkling) emphasizes the strong influence of the classical education of all members. Solaris continue with playing Chronicles Part 3-6: an outstanding and dynamic rhythm-section, great interplay, spectacular soli on synthesizer, guitar and flute and, last but not least, Solaris their trademark featuring The Holy Trinity of keyboards, flute and electric guitar, wow! The music varies from up-tempo beats and bombastic outbursts to slow downs, accelarations and dreamy atmospheres, very dynamic and compelling, performed by excellent musicians. One of the highlights is Mars Poetica: two keyboards players and two guitarists delivers outstanding interplay and soli, and again we can enjoy The Holy Trinity as multi-instrumentalist and band leader Attila Kollar switches from electric guitar to the flute travers, what an amazing musician. This track is followed by a mid-long and inventive drum solo.

The concert features also a tribute to the late guitar player Istvan Cziglan (cancer). First a wonderful duet entitled Duo between the flute and acoustic guitar. Then an emotional and very impressive piece featuring screen projections and a mime actor, he does a very good job by expressing the pain, anger, despair, illness, fighting back and finally the death, supported by great music on tape by Solaris, including guitar by Czigi. The composition Counterpoint is another tribute, now to drummer Vilmos Toth (who recently passed away) with images from Vilmos and the exciting Holy Trinity. This is followed by the piece Solaris, it starts dreamy with flute, then a slow rhythm with a moving guitar solo, finally with a wah-wah sound (by Tamas, the son of keyboard player Robert Erdesz).

The most interesting part of this concert is the first live performance of their Martain Chronicles II album from 2014. The music is in the vein of trademark Solaris but more adventurous and varied. It features a classically trained female singer and a saxophone player, the music sounds very dynamic with a bombastic conclusion featuring powerful saxophone work and wah-wah guitar. Part Two contains tender classical piano and jazzy acoustic guitar, gradually a more lush sound and in the end sparkling piano and expressive female vocals. Although this new music is not always my cup of tea I am impressed by Solaris their skills and musical ideas, what ahigh level! The official concert is concluded with three more tracks from Martain Chronicles I, my highlight is the sensational up-tempo track Apocalypse featuring a very dynamic rhtyhm-section and again exciting interplay between the Moog, flute traverse and propulsive electric guitar riffs, goose bumps, this is trademark Solaris in its full splendour! The concert ends with two encores. First E-Moll Concerto Allegro Con Molto: a longer version, ranging from tender flute and piano to heavy guitar work and a lush Hammond sound, awesome 'rock meets classical'. Finally Micky Mouse, an up-tempo track with sensational Moog flights, sparkling flute and propulsive guir riffs, finally supported by pleasant Hammond waves.

During this (mainly instrumental) two hour concert Hungarian formation Solaris showcase that they are one of the best progrock bands in the Post Classic Prog Era. So highly recommended, especially to the fans of Camel, Jethro Tull, Focus, Yes and early Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

P.s.: The CD version of this concert is the same as the DVD, except 3 deleted tracks: the drum solo and Duo and Beyond.

TenYearsAfter | 5/5 |

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