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Trace - Birds CD (album) cover

BIRDS

Trace

 

Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 87 ratings

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Vibrationbaby
5 stars From its sublime cover by Rens Benerink depicting a pair of birds of prey swooping down on to a distorted lanscape against a burning solar flare to it`s multiple musical themes which paint themselves brilliantly into one another, Trace`s 1975 album is a magnificent display of modern artistic virtuosity.

Often compared to ELP because of it`s similar instrumentation with the late Rick van der Linden on every keyboard known to mankind, Jaap van Eik ( formerly of Cuby & The Bizaars ) on bass, e-guitar and vocals, and future Marillion stickman, Ian Mosley on drums, the ELP comparisons , although with some foundation, are largely unfair. Van der Linden was certainly influenced to a certain degree after witnessing a Keith Emerson & The Nice gig in the late 60`s, but he blazed his own musical trail with his band Ekseption in the late sixties up to 1974 when the 3 piece Trace was formed. His classical/jazz/pop concoction had more musical depth and was markedly less bombastic than Keith Emerson `s ( the two met on sevral occasions ) as evidenced on the album in question here, Birds. Overshadowed by ELP who were at the peak of their powers at the time, Birds nevertheless went gold in Trace`s native Holland and firmly established them as the next Dutch supergroup next to Focus whom they were closer to than ELP having a distinct European sound. Van der Linden`s softer multi-themed approach here employed a vast array of keyboards including a grand piano, harpsichord synth string ensemble, Hammond organ, mellotron and ARP synth to mention a few while Jaap van Eik`s superior lyrical bass playing and Mosley`s impeccable precision percussive attacks completed this game, set & match.

Ghosts of everyone from Bix Beiderbecke, Vivaldi and most notably J.S. Bach make appearances throughout this delightful musical frankenstein but it`s the rate of the occurance of thematic changes that are the most stunning aspects of the work, moving from jazz to pop to classical at lightspeed without getting muddled. The largely instrumental work ( and this is another big difference between Trace & ELP ), the work contains some zany vocalizations in the form of monkey emanations ( yes monkey emanations ) by a sound technician on the JS Bach ripoff Boureé ( not to be confused with Jethro Tull, a completely different bird, this one ). A rather pretty vocal section sung by bassist Van Eik also appears in the centerpiece King Bird at the the beginning and is repeated at the conclusion that reflects the essence of the work which praises our feathered friends, the Birds. Other highlights include the track simply entitled Snuff an upbeat track where Bach even manages to show up again. Another showpiece entitled Opus 1065, another composition that Bach also could have easily penned had he been alive in 1975. The piece is introduced by an unaccompanied ragtime Bix Beiderbecke piano cover! Synth effects, harpsichords also colour the piece and a Vivaldi-like violin section ( courtesy of Darryl Way of Curved Air ) work their way in here as well. Of particular interest is another later section which features Way`s violin with a Jaap van Eik bass line which foreshadows Jean- Luc Ponty`s late 70s material on albums like Cosmic Messenger and Enigmatic Ocean.

You get the idea. Shear brilliance on every track.

With such uncompromising musical prowess one cannot accord this work enough accolades. It is a record which can be listened to from beginning to end, full of contrast and surprise and discovery with each subsequent listen. The only caution is to throw those ELP allusions out the window and sit down with the headphones for a truly enjoyable listen to an oft overlooked and truly progressive record from 1975 when prog was not quite dead. Easy 5 stars here.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |

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