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Refugee - Refugee CD (album) cover

REFUGEE

Refugee

 

Symphonic Prog

4.15 | 236 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
5 stars REFUGEE were a short-lived Symphonic Prog threesome from London. You could be forgiven for thinking Phil Collins was a member of Refugee, because the man in the middle on their one and only self-titled album cover from 1974 bears a striking resemblance to the Genesis drummer. There's no mistaking Swiss keyboard player Patrick Moraz on the right of the album cover though. He was brought in as a last-minute replacement for Keith Emerson, who was otherwise engaged with the Prog- Rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the time. The other two members of Refugee besides Patrick Moraz were both ex-members of The Nice:- Lee Jackson on bass, electric cello, electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar and lead vocals, and Brian Davison on drums and percussion, where "percussion" meant virtually anything the versatile drummer could lay his hands on, including tympani, various gongs, Tibetan temple bells, African drums, kabassa (whatever that is!?) and broken glass! Patrick Moraz wasn't exactly slacking in the keyboards department either with this very impressive array of keyboard instruments at his disposal:- Mini- moog, AKS synthesiser, piano, electric piano, clavinet, organ, pipe organ, marimbaphone, alpine horn, electronic slinky, mellotron, and occasional vocals too! Patrick Moraz would of course go on to be a member of YES and a "days of future passed" member of The Moody Blues. Who could forget the famous music trial of the century!? The sole Refugee album was recorded in 1974 at ART Studios in Geneva in Patrick Moraz' native Switzerland, so he would have felt right at home there, whereas the two English members of the band, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison were temporary "refugees".

The title of the imperious 5-minute-long opening number "Papillon" can have several meanings:- Either a black butterfly; a symbolic breaking free of societal restraints and restrictions; or even a toy breed of dog with large butterfly-like ears! One thing's for sure though, the "Papillon" on this album is no delicate butterfly. No, this is an aggressive and impressive Pictures at an Exhibition-style display of powerful keyboard prog in the best tradition of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. There's no shortage of classically-inspired, lightning-speed keyboard runs to be heard from Patrick Moraz in this tremendous instrumental album opener, which also features a storming salvo of machine-gun-like drumming from Brian Davison. Yes, it looks like we could be in for quite a treat here with this gloriously pompous one-off album of unashamedly exhibitionistic Symphonic Prog. On the second song "Someday", We get to hear the emotionally-wrought (and some might say "over-blown") vocals of Lee Jackson for the first time, which also features another incredible keyboard performance from Patrick Moraz before he went on to join YES for their "Relayer" album in late 1974. "Someday" is one of those grand magisterial prog epics that gathers in pace and intensity as it progresses, so it could be described as the true definition of Progressive Rock. If "Papillon" represented a symbolic breaking-free, then "Someday" continues the theme of liberation with the powerful message contained within these lyrics:- "Someday, I'll go away, Pack my bag, Get on a plane, I'll fly up through my cloud, I'll smash right through, Right into the sun." ..... This is the kind of powerfully uplifting feel-good prog that'll leave you flying high on a wave of joyous and exhilarating emotion. If you haven't quite reached seventh prog heaven yet, then the third piece of music might help get you there, because next up is the awesome 17-minute-long, "Grand Canyon" suite, the first of two epic suites on the album. This magnificent five-part magnum opus is every bit as grandiose and spectacular as the song title implies. Be prepared to be stunned by this brilliant landscape of dazzling musical colours. The outstanding "Grand Canyon" suite represents the musical equivalent of the real Grand Canyon bathed in rich golden colours at sunset.

The title of the Side Two opener "Ritt Mickley" is a humorous reference to the strong Swiss accent of Patrick Moraz when he pronounces "rhythmically". It's another 6-minute-long demonstration of ELP-style keyboard prog at it's absolute best, so you can expect another dazzling display of keyboard histrionics from Mr Moraz & Co. The final piece of music on the album is the second of the two epic suites. It's a thunderous 18-minute-long masterpiece titled "Credo". The majestic music is divided into eight movements of stunning symphonic splendour and delight, which just HAS to be heard to be believed. This is incredible!

You can't fail to be over-awed by this stunning display of ELP-style keyboard prog. This outstanding one-off album has a treasured place in the hallowed halls of ProgArchives. Refugee might not be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but they truly deserve to be included with full honours and flags flying with this very impressive powerhouse debut!

Psychedelic Paul | 5/5 |

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