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Unitopia - The Garden CD (album) cover

THE GARDEN

Unitopia

 

Crossover Prog

3.51 | 127 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars An interesting retro-prog band from down under, UNITOPIA'S second studio effort is an ambitious concept double-album filled with references to YES, PINK FLOYD and, most obviously, GENESIS. A whopping one-hour-and-forty-minutes in length, spread over 15 tracks, this is unashamedly full-blown progressive rock with bells on, featuring colourful epics, slow, maudlin ballads and up-tempo, fist-pumping rock numbers by the bucket-full. The album tells the somewhat convoluted tale of a group of travellers stumbling across the Garden of Eden, and the various adventures they have in this overwhelming land of beauty, each side starting with a thunderous, 15-minute-plus epic that sets the tone for the ensuing, shorter pieces. A five-man, one-woman line-up, Unitopia are led by Mark Truack(vocals), and augmented by Sean Timms(keys), Matt Williams(guitar), Shireen Khemlani(bass), Monty Ruggiero(drums) and Tim Irrgang(percussion). 'The Garden' also features three guest musicians, with Mike Stewart(saxophone), Amanda Timms(flute) and Kiki Cekarik (vocals) all adding their instrumental/vocal expertise to the mix, whilst The Amicus String quartet are also called in to add classical textures ? in an atypical prog fashion ? to the retro-based but fairly modern-sounding material. In truth, many of today's retro-prog acts just don't have the budget to achieve the grand, epic compositions and albums released by the likes of YES or GENESIS, and their reliance on computer-programmes such as Q-Bass or such-like to produce or enhance various instrumental sounds(such as the organ, mellotron or moog) renders the overall feel a tad too sharp and clean, lacking the murky, gritty authenticity of the 1970's forefathers sound. However, THE GARDEN is an enjoyable and inventive affair, with side 2 in particular impressing with it's grandiose, five-part opener JOURNEY'S FRIEND, the album's most complete piece. Lead-vocalist Mark Truack's deep, baritone-flavoured voice - a kind of mix between that of Peter Gabriel's and Indie-group Elbow's Guy Garvey ? is strong and commanding, his voice at it's most effective when deployed on the slower numbers that dominate side 1. Very few 21st century Prog groups are going to emulate the feats of the genre's major players, and, despite an obvious commitment to all things prog, Unitopia can't either. However, fans of modern-prog, GENESIS, YES, THE TANGENT or SPOCK'S BEARD may find much to enjoy from a talented, if somewhat un-original line-up who, with time, can only get better. We await more epic Australian concept-pieces with baited breath. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2009
stefro | 3/5 |

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