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Island - Pictures CD (album) cover

PICTURES

Island

 

Eclectic Prog

4.19 | 170 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars How this exquisite and very theatric album from 1977 has flown under the radar for all these years is mystifying to me as I find here all of the elements that make prog epics by Peter Gabriel-era GENESIS and Ian Anderson-led JETHRO TULL present and polished in spades! Plus, the sound engineering and mix is among the best I've heard from 1970s releases--on a level with late-in-the--decade releases by National Health, Bruford, and UK. Drummer Güge Jürg Meier seems to be styling himself after contemporary BILL BRUFORD--sounding a lot like BRUFORD/UK-era Bruford. His playing is a definite and consistent highlight of the album. Keyboard player Peter Scherer is quite dominant with his array--with a skill level and variety comparable to RICK WAKEMAN and KERRY MINNEAR. The music and soundscapes are constructed more like those of Peter Gabriel-era GENESIS with a darkness that feels akin to that of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR with a little Crimsonian bent thrown in there for good measure. The bass duties are handled quite ably by the same Mr. Scherer--on his keyboards and with bass pedals! What makes this feat more exceptional is the fact that the bass lines often come across feeling like BRUFORD bass master JEFF BERLIN! This means that the band had no bass player! But more: it did not have a guitarist, either! Amazing! Vocalist Benjamin Jäger is gifted with great tone, range, and control as well as a theatrical acumen not unlike that of Peter Gabriel, Ian Anderson, and early Phil Collins.

The two complex, sophisticated, and dynamic instrumentals that open Side One evoke such promise that we are a bit surprised when the 17-minute epic "Pictures" opens with such spaciousness and with such a slow tempo. But it changes--and develops beautifully. In fact, this song is, thus far, the best "new" epic from 1970s albums that I've only recently discovered. The album feels as if it is trying to tell a story--a story that is, unfortunately, at times more domineering than the music--which is disappointing in that these musicians and their compositions are so strong on their own. This story-leading-the-music tendency is especially evident with Side Two's two epics, "Herold and King / Dloreh" and the several sections of "Here and Now." They both feel weakened by the fact that the music takes a back seat to the singing/story--a story that often meanders and drags on mystifyingly despite the wonderful and theatric voice of lead vocalist Benjamin Jäger.

1. "Introduction" (1:28) a delightfully ominous beginning. (5/5)

2. "Zero" (6:13) such a dynamic and intricately constructed song! Keys (including bass!), drums, and sax! Gentle Giant meets National Health and King Crimson! (10/10)

3. "Pictures" (16:51) as I said, one of the best constructed, designed, performed, and sounding prog epics from the 1970s that I have heard! Vocalist Benjamin Jäger's voice fit in like another virtuosic instrument! (10/10)

4. "Herold And King / Dloreh" (12:13) opening with two-and-a-half minutes of awesome classically-oriented solo piano, this one starts out on a super high, but the successive organ and sporadic percussion and sax founded "nightmare" sequence is far more story-oriented, far less a display of full-scale tapestry than that of a sparse Edgar Allan Poe poetry reading. The performances are all virtuosic, all theatric, all immaculate in the way they assist in the definition of the dark subject matter. The story--and its support music--may be a little too drawn out or too negligent to ever develop out of the deep abyss of the mid-section. Still, this one could very well have come off of a late 70s BRUFORD or UK album. (9/10)

5. "Here And Now" (12:15) seems to open up right where "Dloreh" left off--though the music is a little fuller and more dynamic from the get-go. I have to admit that the performances of all four musicians--and especially vocalist Benjamin Jäger and saxophonist René Fisch--reach pinnacle proportions on this one. There are few songs in Prog World on which the vocal achievements are so rarefied as on this one. The flaw to this song, in my opinion, is the unbefitting doldrums of the far-too-long middle section. The final three minutes of the song may contain the most dramatic points of the album, but it seems almost a little too little too late. (8.5/10)

Pictures is an extraordinary album of creativity commensurate of those of many of the all-time great "masterpieces" of prog history.

Five stars; an unquestioned masterpiece of progressive rock music.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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