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Phideaux - Number Seven CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.02 | 515 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Phideaux is the catbird in the ornithological world of progressive rock. This avian denizen enjoys mimicking other species', but not religiously so or in rapid-fire succession a la Mockingbird. The catbird also has its own distinct mew, but even that is relatively mellifluous, and no self-respecting catbird would ever mimic high voltage wires.

So it is with Phideaux, who distills the less amplified and more refined aspects of decidedly spacey and symphonic rock with a preference for the classics. Everyone mentions PINK FLOYD, but I hear plenty more of ALAN PARSONS, CAMEL, MIKE OLDFIELD, and ELOY, as well as folk artists who lean progressive like AL STEWART, DONOVAN and even CAT STEVENS. The mix is eclectic and tends to best of breed both in the referenced artists and in the references to them.

As with the masterful "Doomsday Afternoon", "Number Seven" takes many listens to fully appreciate, as Phideaux guides us on a convoluted route to and from the happy, sad, funny, and dramatic. The material here isn't as strong as on the prior album, as fewer truly outstanding passages are exposed, but it's still a hugely entertaining romp with its plethora of instrumentation from retro organs to orchestration, sax, guitars and pretty much anything else the group can muster.

From the first listen to the last, I admit to finding Part 1 to be most appealing, with the lightly sinister "Waiting for the Axe to Fall" and the suspenseful "Claws of a Crayfish" arguably the best tracks on the disk. Side 2 begins with a curious folky reprise of themes from "Doomsday" in the form of "Darkness at Noon". But its peak rests on the shoulders of "Gift of the Flame", which adds horns to its 1980s MIke Oldfield /Maggie Reilly patterns and spare airborne lyrics that are anything but trite.

While weaknesses do emerge - "Love Theme from Number Seven" is as dull and unfocused as prog can be - what impresses me after umpteen auditions is a matter that separates Phideaux from a lot of his idols, especially those who were big so long ago. These guys/girls are having fun, and, even though they legitimately could do so, they are not taking themselves too seriously, and all one needs to confirm my suspicion is a quick listen to the various "Dormouse" components strewn about. But the lightness of spirit is everywhere, regardless of the apparently somber nature of some of the lyrical themes. "Storia Senti" sounds like it is leaning to the pretentious side just for its Italian lyrics, that is until a sublime piano theme bursts forth when least expected, and refreshes mightily.

Unlike the prog superstars of the past, Phideaux need not answer to empty suits, which means that he not only has been able to achieve a lucky seven opuses, but, to pilfer an expression, he is sitting in the catbird's seat, and looking and sounding just fine.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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