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Morgan - Nova Solis CD (album) cover

NOVA SOLIS

Morgan

 

Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 31 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends (Alphonse de Lamartine)

Smarkhand the Golden - For those scholarly and academic types out there (of which I am neither) this 8 minute epic may be based on a poem by James Elroy Flecker called The Golden Journey to Samarkand written circa 1913 (just after he puts the kids to bed) But no, I don't have a clue what Mr Flecker or Morgan are babbling on about, except that Samarkhand just might stand as a (lazy) metaphor for exoticism and wise up, this type of stupefied romanticism was ripe for those woolly heads sliced into the prog basket by revolting punks. (n'est pas?) The piece is very well arranged with good and judicious use of competing meters, dynamic contrasts/timbre and pace together with some mouth watering synth work from Morgan Fisher, who appears to have sold himself rather short with his subsequent stint in the decent but undistinguished Mott the Hoople ? (Everyone has to the pay the rent after all)

I was quite astonished at just how technically accomplished and advanced Mr F's playing and writing is, and those of you with a fondness for analogue synth weirdness, gritty Hammond organ and Usain Bolt piano may well be in hog heaven with this album. (Must dig out my long abandoned Mott the Hoople LP to see if I can catch a glimpse of this turncoat progger)

Unfortunately, this one man jury is still out on the vocals of Tim Staffel, which irritate and delight in equal measure, with his delivery alternating between egomaniacal showmanship and quirky excitability. Yep, our Tim is one of those vocalists blessed with an admirable range, but he cannot bear to let the listener ever forget this for a second. I like his voice very much in the lower to mid range area, but unlike most of the dogs in our neighbourhood, do not care for his tonsilry in the upper registers. At times he comes across as a jollier version of Robert Smith or Kevin Rowland selling fish at Billingsgate Market.

Alone - Vaguely reminiscent of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as if played over different chords, but a very strong song delivered with some restraint by the previously histrionic Staffel, who dispenses with his irritating falsetto conceits as heard on the opening track. The band sensibly douse their fiery bombast on this one, and let a very strong vocal track breathe by accentuating the melody and not overpowering the delicate fingerpicked guitar accompaniment.

War Games - Inside every progger there is a peace emissary just bursting to get out it would seem. Ah, the futility of war (most of which are waged to allow us the right to condemn their stupidity) Lovely dislocated jazzy piano on this one replete with another strong tune before a very skilful transition of pace into the Tonight we ride on Bethlehem section which employs a sloping and languid groove in perfect empathy with Staffel's warbling melody. Thereafter, we encounter a bewildering array of start/stop section writing but Morgan carry off this tricky compositional device admirably. If overdone, this technique can condemn the music to incoherence or sounding contrived, but the band exercise just enough suitable restraint in this area. Lovely snaky bass from Sapsed and I particularly like his tone throughout this record. Gutsy, but neither distorted or flat and woolly (see the 1st two Crimson albums)

Nova Solis - In keeping with symphonic prog's time honoured recipe, this 20 minute monster opens with a suitably bombastic adaptation of a classical piece, re the Planets Suite by Holst. Great fun all round, with synth pyrotechnics flying left, right and centre and buried distantly way back in the bowels of the mix, the sound of the inconsolable sobbing of the composer. At it's conclusion we meet the eerie morse code distress signal as tapped out on a Moog in homage to the latter's Mars, the Bringer of War. Yet more dizzying piano from Fisher which provides some welcome relief from Staffel's affected and wearying bonhomie during the sung section. Even through a ring modulator (as they attempt here) his voice still cannot be cajoled into anything other than mildly annoying. The noodling bass departure and spacey sound collage that follows is entertaining, but strictly atmospheric filler. Strummed acoustic guitar chords introduce a very robust song section, ah this is better lads, please keep it up. This is shaping up to be the highlight of the album and even Timmy boy is a delight on this part. Some very brisk ostinato passages follow which are reminiscent of the instrumental portions of 'Tarkus' and Morgan even preface the Latin flavoured live improv of Aquatarkus as heard on Welcome Back My Friends. However, these are merely reference points, and although the influence is palpable the music is not merely a slavish reproduction, so let's not get too picky here. Perhaps the comparisons to ELP crop up simply because there is no electric guitar on this record ? (or they both have an irritating singer, Go figure)

All the ingredients that go to baking a yummy prog puddy are here in abundance, with liberal garnishes of ELP, Argent, Greenslade, Yes and all the other celebrity chefs you can shake a ribbon controller at. Although many of the compositional structures and instrumentation employed do ape the gatefold masterpieces of yore, the music itself is very accomplished and certainly on a par with much of the output from that golden age of caped young men in tight pants.

There is a prevailing tendency to appraise Nova Solis as though it were a rather cold and calculated foray into the then burgeoning prog marketplace by some unscrupulous musos and record executives, but I can honestly say that such skulduggery cannot be deduced from the very fine music that is contained therein

(They mean it man, so who cares)

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |

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