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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Odyssey - The Greatest Tale CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

4.25 | 87 ratings

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5 stars ODYSSEY "The Greatest Tale" a 3CD prog epic commissioned by the collaborative team from Finland's Colossus Magazine group and France's MUSEA Records. This is, in my humble opinion, THE greatest album of progressive rock music from the Naughties. In case you are not familiar with the way Colossus/Musea approach these albums, let me explain. The magazine proposes that Musea invite porgressive rock artists from around the world to contribute songs to concept album projects that they have gathered around "the greatest universal themes"--many of which use famous works of classical literature for title, organization and inspiration. The only limiations/restrictions placed upon the bands is that their submissions use no drumboxes,that the only instruments allowed are those of the mighty Seventies, the same as would have been available for the musical inspiration of the "Classic era" of progressive rock music--that is, they must use instrumentation from the pre-digital days. Some artists even choose to record on analog equipment. Odyssey: The Greatest Tale is unique among the Colossus/Musea commissioned concept albums in that the story is told in its entirety, chronologically with only nine artists contributing to each of the nine chapters. The result is also unique in that none of the chapter pieces comes in at less than 21 and a half minutes in length with four playing for over 25 minutes! Truly an epic of epic proportions!

Favorite discs: 1, 3, 2.


1. Canada's NATHAN MAHL. "Of Longings, Suitors, Deities and Quests..." (24:07) Instrumental with excellent sound and dynamics. really enjoy the piano and electric guitar 'dance' during the softer parts. Great seering guitar soli towards the end. Just a little too modern in effects and stylings for me--and not enough changes and variations in tempo and instrumentation. (7/10)

2. Argentina's NEXUS. "El Regreso" (27:50) This keyboard-dominated piece feels mostly instrumental as it begins with a seven minute organ and drum-dominated "Tarkus"-like section, thanks to the leadership of some the best organ/keyboard play I've ever heard from organ/keyboardist Lalo Huber and the awesome drum work of Luis Nakamura. This section throughout is filled with many engaging tempo and sound/mood changes, amazingly, each as engaging and melodic as the one before. From 7:00 to 15:00 the vocal parts are sung over a very quiet, peaceful section by the very pleasant voice of Lito Marcello. Eventually, around the 17-minute mark, the song turns to a jazzier section with Roye Albrighton-esque guitar intro turning CAMEL/Latimer-esque before reverting to more ELP-like sounds. The final ten minutes see the use of effects on vocals in imitation of Greg Lake's on "21st Century Schizoid Man" and some very entertaining theatrical stylizations a la Peter Gabriel at the end. So many shifts and changes all so surprising and delightful. My third favorite epic from this album. LP Prog at its absolute finest. (10/10)

3. USA's GLASS HAMMER. "At the Court of Alkinoos" (21:33) A very polished, Broadway-like production and one of my two favorite songs on this album, my favorite song ever from Glass Hammer, and one of my Top Five Prog Epics of the 21st Century. I love the use and interplay of the five vocalists. Outstanding harmonies. The opening section with piano and two female vocals is breathtaking before breaking into a "Watcher of the Skies" organ, pulsing bass and rhythm section a la "Apocalypse in 9/8." The use of electronic effects on Steve Babb's voice as Ulysses/Odysseus certainly distinguishes him and presents the anger and frustrations of his struggles. Absolutely beautiful ending dialogue & choruses before a magical instrumental fadeout with guitar solo searing away. Were it not for Matt Mendians' tendency to pulse the kick drum in a ProgMetal fashion, this would be one of the better jobs of trying to recreate a 70s drum sound. Overall excellent KANSAS/ELP keyboards. And, still, an awesome job of putting a true theatric epic feel to the epic that begat all epics. (10/10)


4. France's XII ALFONSO. "From Ismarus To The Land Of Death" (26:01) A very interesting instrumental which IMO pays homage more to the space-psychedelic beginning with an unusual yet enticing choral intro over Latin percussion. This stops to allow a spacey CAMEL/NEKTAR-ish section to develop before a bluesy organ is introduced to play over the psychedlia and waves which is then followed by a gorgeous MIKE OLDFIELD-like acoustic guitar serenade then moving into an OLDFIELD/VANGELIS-like section complete with Tibetan gutteral chanting and industrial keyboard effects and some great Oldfield-ish electric guitar work. Everything stops to introduce what sounds like some kind of theme music from a Tim Burton movie, over which the Oldfield guitar work continues. Once Simba and the Oompa-Loompas depart, we a re treated to a pretty piano section reminiscent of ERIK SATIE, before the rock opera kicks it up into outerspace hyperdrive with a longsome pure CAMEL key and axe interchanges. Great, haunting finale and exit sections. Overall: Theatric with perhaps a bit too much ADIEMUS meets Mike Oldfield for my taste; love the space music and still very good prog. (7/10)

5. Sweden's SIMON SAYS. These guys seem a bit too derivative to me; originality is lacking and the vocals (Daniel Fäldt) are just not 'tuned' (on pitch), engaging or emotionally believable. (Nor are the female harmonies, for that matter.) I always love their instrumentation choices and their skill is unquestioned, they just don't have enough 'new' to say, IMHO. The Andrew Tillison- and Tony Banks-like "Maelstrom" and "Mother of All Monsters" instrumental parts are pretty awesome, with interesting drum play and Hackett- then Latimer-like guitar, and the band/composition and even vocals capture the chaos and energy of the Scylla-Charybdis encounter very well. (8/10)

6. Italy's C.A.P. "Sulle Ali Del Sogno Odissea: Libri XIV, XV, XVI" (28:16) Excellent representatives of PRI. Another truly winning theatric composition and performance "Primo Movimento" has one big message: These guys can sing! I'm listening to The Phantom or Les Mis!! "Secondo Movimento" is more instrument based though no less emotion-packed. "Terzo Movimento" begins with a TANGERINE DREAM feel (except for live drums) turning into a NEKTAR-like driving rhythm for fuzz guitar and key solos. Solo piano bridges into the organ backed interplay of the voices of Athena, minimoog, and Odysseus. "Quatro Movimento" portrays the emotional reunion of Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, with wonderful drama and force (thanks to some powerful LED ZEPPELIN rhythms). Wonderful piece. My fourth favorite piece from the album. (9/10)


7. Venezuela's TEMPANO. "Chapter VII" (24:14) Begins with quirky, often KING CRIMSON-esque rhythms and instrumental coloration with tragic-comic voices (Odysseus as the Beggar) before moving into an excellent slowed-down FLOYDian section with strong English male vocals (Pedro Castillo). Then back to Bruford-era Crimson music complete with treated vocals. A bluesy-vaudvillian ZAPPA-like section hangs on for a long time before breaking for a more KANSAS-like final section in which acoustic guitar strumming backs some more strong English vocals. Very interesting piece worthy of repeated listening. (8/10)

8. France's MINIMUM VITAL. "Étranger en sa demeure" (22:22) Everything I read about this group refers to the MIKE OLDFIELD electric guitar sound. That's for sure! While many musical styles and interesting things are going on in the rhythm and keyboard sections, every guitar solo renders one into Oldfield's Incantations album, which is too bad because these musicians are excellent and have a very interesting, rather-jazzy composition style. Scaled down "Third Movement [Penelope's Lament]" with its acoustic and electric guitar interplay is the song's highlight. "Fourth Movement [to string the bow]" just doesn't capture the drama of this scene, fades without conveying the tension of the moment before battle. (6/10)

9. Brazil's AETHER. "Chapter IX" (21:32) Wow! Now that's a beginning to accompany a fight! Great composition with wonderfully engaging sounds and melodies. Amazingly rich and balanced mix of all of the instruments--no one is too dominant or too drowned out. One of my two favorite songs from this album and Top Five Prog Epics from the 21st Century. If only the Aether sound was more in keeping with the theme of 70s instrumentation and effects. Still, they have a GREAT sound and a very powerful presence. Definitely a band I'll be seeking out now that I've heard them here. A wonderful finale to an amazing music collection (even though the vocals could be stronger). (10/10) OVERALL APPEAL:

Will listen to over and over: Nexus Aether C.A.P. Glass Hammer

Worth repeated listening: Tempano XII Alfonso

Still good Prog: Simon Says Nathan Mahl Minimum Vital


Glass Hammer--The Broadway-quality interplay of five vocalists is awesome. C.A.P.--Like I said: these guys can sing! Kudos aeternal to Italia! Nexus--Lito Marcello is excellent singing in Spanish Tempano--interesting and unusual. More surreal than perhaps appropriate for The Odyssey, but fitting for their style of music. Aether--good but nothing extraordinary. Simon Says--Daniel Fäldt just doesn't hit the notes and is a bit too pretentious-as are so many Neo-Prog and Metal vocalists, IMO. Like other reviewers, I wish singers would sing in their own (beautiful) languages. Minimum Vital-too dominated by instrumentation and Canterbury/Fusion structures.

HOW WELL CAPTURES 70s SOUND: Why are today's drummers, engineers, and producers so adverse to recording drums without the gating effects, letting the hits decay naturally? (Or how bout some Stomu Yamashtu or Narada Michael Walden flanged drums?!!)

C.A.P.--by far the best restraint in the use of purley 70s instruments and sounds (including the drums!) Tempano--definitely mixing up a wide variety of 70s sounds and styles in interesting and not-too derivative a way. Nexus--excellent Emerson-like keys, song structures, 'feel;' drums too NeoProg. Glass Hammer--excellent keyboards, though a bit more American in feel than the Euro Prog that truly defined the genre. Aether--Compositionally flawless. A bit too much use of modern sound and technology. Minimum Vital--flashes of 70s brilliance but more NeoProg, 80s Oldfield-Canterbury-fusion Simon Says--uses all the NeoProg tricks and twists but not 70s enough, lacking their own distinctive sound. XII Alfonso--not sure what era this one fits into. Defies categorization, IMO. Nathan Mahl--too modern, ProgMetal

As above: AN ESSENTIAL ADDITION TO ANY PROG LOVER'S COLLECTION! One of my Top Ten Albums of the Naughties.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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