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First Aid - Nostradamus CD (album) cover

NOSTRADAMUS

First Aid

 

Symphonic Prog

3.27 | 26 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
4 stars The British band FIRST+AID got together to record their one and only album "Nostradamus" in 1977. I prophesise that if you like the sound of some overblown Symphonic Prog, then this memorable ELP-style album may be just the prescription you need. Let's open the medicine cabinet now and see what the prog-nosis is. Will the album require medical care and attention or will it be given a clean bill of health? Well, let's find out.

"Visions" opens the album in dramatic style and starts as it means to go on with the sombre voice of the narrator announcing, "When the two great powers of the world unite, Their greatness will be seen to grow, But their power brings fear to the East, And the man of blood is angered, Then it will begin!" ........ I don't know what it all means, but it sounds ominous. The spoken word prologue precedes the doom-laden sound of a swirling solo synth before launching into an ELP-style free- for-all where two manic keyboardists appear to be competing with each other to see who's the nimblest keyboard wizard of them all. Shades of Keith Emerson vs. Rick Wakeman. Now we come to the title track, the 6-minute-long "Nostradamus". Play it loud! This song is full of pomp and ceremony in the best traditions of classic Symphonic Prog in all of its glorious splendour. It's everything you'd expect, including a powerful singer, a male chorus, and two sonorous synths competing with full orchestra, which is guaranteed to reverberate around the room and rattle the windows. If Phil Spector was a Prog-Rock producer, then this is what it might sound like. It's the prog equivalent of the "Wall of Sound". Now comes "The Awful Truth" where the listener is given a bit of a breather when the keyboard player displays his classical credentials with this pleasant little piano interlude. The next brief tune "By Royal Appointment" lives up to its name as it sounds like the kind of dramatic fanfare that might herald the announcement of the arrival of royalty at some historic occasion. "Catherine" closes out Side One. It's an emotionally appealing and heartfelt tribute to Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France (1547-1559) back in medieval times when France still had a royal family.

Opening Side Two is "Two Brothers", a 6-minute long instrumental piece with the uplifting sound of two swirling synths playing along side by side. When the full orchestra emerges, it feels like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds and bathing you in its warm glow. Who needs lyrics anyway when the music sounds as good as this. Now follows an orchestral reprise of "Visions", a gloriously beautiful piece of music which would make a marvellous film score. This orchestral piece is full of dramatic flourishes which wouldn't seem out of place gracing the screens of a Hitchcock thriller. To round off the album in impressive style comes the 13-minute-long opus "The Shape of Things to Come". The song title sounds dramatic and so it proves to be with the music. It's a suitably rousing song to end an epic Symphonic Prog album, with sudden shifts in tempo and time signature, so you never know quite what to expect on the first hearing. Prepare to be impressed though, because this long epic really grows on you and it's worth hearing for the stirring chorus and dramatic finale with voices from the pages of history, including Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy. Pretentious? Au Contraire!

This album may sound like an overblown Symphonic Prog effort to some ears, but if you like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, then this album should appeal to you. An interesting album from a historical perspective, released at a time when punk was just emerging and prog was accused of being overblown and pretentious by the snooty music press, but what do they know? Not that this album was even noticed by many people at the time of its release. It's not an essential album, but it does have impressive power and symphonic majesty and it's definitely worth a listen. A good dose of Symphonic Prog is the best medicine. It's just what the doctor ordered!

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |

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