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Duncan Mackay - Chimera CD (album) cover


Duncan Mackay


Symphonic Prog

4.01 | 61 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
4 stars DUNCAN MACKAY (born 1950) is a British keyboard player who's worked with several well-known artists over the years, including Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (1975-1977), 10cc (1978-1980), and also with Kate Bush on her first three albums. This album "Chimera" (1974) is his first solo album. Four further albums followed, "Score" (1977), "Visa" (1980), A Picture of Sound (1993), and his most recent album, "Kintsugi" (2019). Duncan Mackay provided vocals on the "Chimera" album and his brother Gordon Mackay also featured on the album, playing violin and keyboards. The album features two long pieces of music occupying Side One and a long 20-minute suite taking up the whole of Side Two. A bonus track was included in the 2009 CD reissue of the album.

The album opens impressively with "Morpheus", an 11-minute-long symphonic opus. The sonorous sound of the synth hits you right between the eyes from the first few opening bars. As you'd expect, there's plenty of intricate keyboard noodling and dramatic changes of pace to keep the listener entertained, with a few classical motifs thrown in for good measure. Duncan Mackay could certainly give Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson a good run for their money with the keyboard skills displayed here. He's a pretty good singer too, which is just as well with him performing vocal duties on all of the songs contained within. The second of the three long suites on the album, "12 Tone Nostalgia" is another dramatic piece and it certainly does have an air of nostalgia about it. It's enough to make you long for the halcyon days of the 1970's when superb prog albums like this were being released on an almost weekly basis. This 9-minute-long epic might be described as overblown, pompous and pretentious by the snooty music press, but who cares!? To true blue aficianados of Symphonic Prog, this is prog heaven! Side Two of the album is fully occupied by the 20-minute-long suite "Song for Witches." A clap of thunder announces the dramatic opening of this epic song. Again, there are alternating fast and slow keyboard passages, combining synths and piano, and it even features a church pipe organ. It's grandiose, it's triumphant, it's magnificent, but above all, it's a marvellously entertaining 20 minutes of classic Symphonic Prog, and you can't ask for anything better than that. As Duncan Mackay announces with some satisfaction right at the end of the album, "I think that might have been it."

A "Chimera" is described as anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling, all of which could apply to this complex album. Just as one would expect from such an accomplished keyboard player, this is a very keyboard-oriented album, but it's none the worse for that. It's very much in the style of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Rick Wakeman, with fast arpeggios, complex keyboard runs and constant changes of tempo. You never know quite what to expect on first hearing the album, and it's worth giving the album several listens to truly appreciate what an accomplished work this is. It's classic Symphonic Prog with long extended pieces that YES or any other prog band of the era would be proud of. It's definitely worth a listen, especially for fans of Symphonic Prog generally.

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |


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