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Gerard - Gerard CD (album) cover





3.41 | 36 ratings

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4 stars 'Outstanding Heavy Prog debut album from Japanese Gerard'

Back to 1984, in the year that Yes conquers the world with the smooth progressive pop single Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Marillion rules with the Neo-prog from Fugazi, Rush embraces electronics on Grace Under Pressure and Dutch keyboard hero Ton Scherpenzeel shines on Stationary Traveller by Camel. On the other side of the world Japanese formation Gerard is scouting the borders between harder-edged symphonic rock and Heavy Prog, in a pretty exciting way on their eponymous debut album.

Their story started when keyboard player Toshio Egawa (his mother was a piano teacher) decided to leave the popular Japanese Heavy Prog band Novela and found his own formation Gerard, including guitarist/singer Yukihiro Fujimura. The name is derived from a clothes store in Tokyo. After their highy acclaimed eponymous debut CD (1984) and successor Empty Lie, Empty Dream (1985) Yukihiro Fujimura left Gerard in order to found his own band Vienna. These first two Gerard albums are pretty original Heavy Prog, but then the music gradually turned into more and more ELP and UK influenced. During the years Gerard suffered from multiple line-up changes, with only prime mover Toshio Gerard as the constant factor. Between 1991 and 2011 Gerard has released 11 studio albums, the CD Live In Marseille (1999), the live DVD Chaos Live (2000) and the limited edition compilation box Meridian (1998). Their latest effort is entitled Visionary Dream, from 2011, according to Toshio Egawa (August 2018) the band Gerard is no longer active and nowadays he plays in other bands. During the years Toshio Egawa has been a very prolific musician and also joined Earthshaker (once Don Airey was a member ), Sheherazade and Fromage. And he contributed to the Bohemian Symphony Project (with former fellow Novela musician Terutsugu Hirayama) and Keyboard's Triangle I and II (the first edition with Ars Nova).

Listening to the first Gerard album is an overwhelming musical experience: what an awesome blend of hardrock guitar and 'symphonic rock keyboards', what a tension between the mellow and bombastic parts, and what a dynamic interplay between the musicians! Prime mover Toshio Egawa turns out to be a Japanese answer to the legendary keyboard wizards from the UK: he has the the elegant virtuosity from Rick Wakeman, the ultra-bombastic approach from Keith Emerson and the androgyn looks from Eddie Jobson,

1. Meridian (2:57) : An intro with church bells, then an increasing sound of a powerful guitar riff, followed by cheerful synthesizer flights and a bombastic eruption with dazzling synthesizer runs. Then a slow rhythm featuring howling electric guitar leads and finally again those sensational 'presto and vivace' synthesizer runs, supported by a powerhouse rhythm-section. This instrumental track clocks only 3 minutes but so much happens, a very exciting start.

2. Orpheus: (8:51) I) I cry for help II) Decision III) Elysium : This long composition delivers lots of changing climates: from dreamy with strong interplay between piano and guitar to a mid-tempo with pleasant native vocals and bombastic outbursts with lush Hammond and fat synthesizer flights. Halfway a captivating break featuring an ominous climate, led by powerful guitar runs, first slow and then fiery. Strong points are also the variety, interplay and tension between the mellow and bombastis part. Like in final part, with first a bombastic eruption, then an accellaration and finally dreamy piano and vocals, Gerard takes you to every mood in the galaxy.

3. Incantation (9.09) : This other long composition contains a cascade of shifting moods and again a huge tension between the mellow and bombastic parts. Toshio Egawa shines with his fat synthesizer flights and majestic Mellotron violins. Halfway a strong build-up with powerful electric guitar and sparkling piano and a very dynamic rhythm-section. This culminates in a compelling and sumptuous grand finale with lush synthesizers, mighty Mellotron, Moog Taurus bass pedals and fiery electric guitar, it sounds like a heavy version of W&W Genesis, goose bumps!

4.Lasting Memory (5:13) : After a beautiful intro with classical piano arpeggio's the music alternates between dreamy and bombastic. The one moment a buzzing fretless bass and mellow piano work, the other moment sumptuous outbursts with Mellotron and bass pedals. The final part features glorious Mellotron violins, slowly fading away, again goose bumps.

5. Revenge (3:35) : This track is mostly inspired by Toshio Egawa his former band Novela, with an un-tempo beat and dazzling synthesizer flights, then a short part with propulsive drum beats and Mellotron violins. In the second part a spectucular duel between a biting electric guitar and flashy synthesizer work, Gerard their version of Lord and Blackmore, but made in Japan.

6. Melting Time (9:37) : This is one of the highlights on this album, what a varied and elaborate composition. It starts dreamy with wonderful native vocals, topped with subtle strings and piano. Then a slow rhythm, gradually the music turns into more lush, culminating in a spectacular break with powerful organ waves, sensational synthesizer flights and biting electric guitar runs.To me it sounds like 'Steve Vai meets UK', very exciting. The final part is breathtaking, after sumptuous eruptions the music slowly fades away, but then a crescendo and a final outburst with heavy guitar, bombastic keyboards and an excellent rhythm-section. Like a long and intense, extended 'eargasm', wow!

7. Visionary Dream (4:24) : A strongly build-up ballad with lots of delicate musical ideas. First dreamy with warm native vocals and piano, then a slow rhythm with passionate vocals, gradually turning into a mid-tempo with fiery electric guitar, flashy synthesizers and powerful drums. The final part sounds very subtle with soft twanging electric guitar, a wonderful conclusion.

8. Midnight dreamer (4.27) : This final track is a blend of melodic ' and symphonic rock featuring mainly native vocals but the title is sung in English. The structure is pretty simple but the colouring adds an extra dimension: a heavy guitar solo and bombastic eruptions with fat synthesizer flights and deep Moog Taurus bass pedals. A crafted song but to me it sounds a bit commercial, like an attempt to make a single. I had rather seen one of the other compositions as the final track.

What a debut, it's so exciting, varied, dynamic and elaborate. And Egawa delivers floods of virtuosic keyboard work, topped with Fujimura his excellent powerful guitar play, in perfect balance.The pleasant Japanese vocals are a special flavour. Highly recommended to the fans of Heavy Prog (like Journey and Angel in their early years), harder- edged symphonic rock(like Kansas and Eighties Eloy) or keyboard extravaganza like ELP, Trace and UK.

TenYearsAfter | 4/5 |


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