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Rachel's Birthday - An Invitation To Rachel's Birthday CD (album) cover


Rachel's Birthday


Eclectic Prog

3.76 | 31 ratings

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Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Don't judge a book by the cover

As fans of Progressive Rock we are used to great music, but also to incredibly beautiful art covers, artists as Roger Dean, Kim Poor, Paul Whitehead, H.R. Giger or groups of designers as Hipgnosis have created a need in us to see the artistic expression of the music reflected in the cover, so when we see "An Invitation to Rachel's Birthday" with an unusual photo of a girl framed with cheesy colours, we tend to reject the album......Big mistake.

The album released in 1996 by the Stuttgart based quintet "Rachel's Birthday" is full of surprises, "An Invitation to Rachel's Birthday" presents us an excellent fusion of Symphonic, Neo Prog and mainstream elements, blended with care and good taste, that captures the attention of the listener from the first note. making us forget the horrendous cover and the weird name of the band.

"Birthday Invitation" opens the album and works as a perfect introduction, while Bernd Mueller plays his acoustic guitar, Ralf Glasbrenner with his strong accent and peculiar voice, describes the preparation for the party and the album, absolutely delightful. The guy has the narrative style of Peter Gabriel in Genesis combined with the sound of Fish and a vocal range similar to the one used by Roger Waters in "The Wall", more precisely in the most dramatic sections of "The Trial".

But when the casual listener (as most of us) expects an album in the vein of the overture, "Philosophy" breaks our schemes from the beginning with the blast of power and strength, again Glasbrenner does an outstanding job, mixing the styles of Helmut Köllen (Triumvirat" with the theatric approach of Peter Gabriel. The interplay between Alfred and Bernd Mueller in the keyboards and guitar is impressive, while the rhythm section provides a solid guidance to the rest of the band.

But the surprises don't end, the next track "Waves" is a 24 minutes epic that has absolutely everything, starting with an amazing keyboard display, Alfred Mueller plays organ, electric piano and Moog with equal skills. Bernd Mueller doesn't stay behind and plays frenetic electric passages blended with acoustic sections.

Ralf Glasbrenner goes further than before, and while respecting the differences, clearly reminds me of Peter Gabriel's, singing theatrical sections that have stylistic similarities with "Battle of the Eping Forest" and "Script for a Jester's Tear" by Fish.

But the real hero of the track is Michael Six, who offers one of the most solid bass performances I have ever listened, complementing perfectly with Jürgen Hägele in the drums. An outstanding Progressive Rock epic from start to end.

"Cream Tears" begins with a beautiful but short piano intro and almost instantly morphs in some sort of Rock Opera track, absolutely dramatic, with interesting vocals and heavy arrangements, reminds me of the atmosphere prevalent in "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" with the vocal range used in "The Wall" by Roger Waters in the most frenetic sections.

In the middle an extremely heavy guitar solo surprises the listener and leads again to that heavy atmosphere that falls over the listener as a thick mist.

"Wedding on a Raspberry Day" marks another radical change, the frenetic and constant organ and vocal performances contrast with the relief provided by the soft acoustic guitar. There's is a point in which guitar and keyboards start a contrapuntal duel in which each of the musicians shows it's best.

"Everything's Alright" now takes us to mainstream territory, a beautiful ballad with fantastic vocals, "Rachel's Birthday" again proves us their versatility, the choir is relaxing and well developed, not a Prog track, but incredibly beautiful.

"A Supersonic Pest Controller" is one of my favourite tracks, a song that I could describe as an 8 minutes Rock Opera. After a keyboard, bass and drum introduction with no time to breath, Glasbbrener attacks us with a collection of different voices and ranges, creating a dialogue with himself. The song is funny, intelligent and a perfect demonstration of what Progressive Rock is, being that while the vocalist does his amazing display, the restless keyboard adds drama to the song.

"A Nightingale and Snake" starts, it's hard for me to say it....Hip Hop, something that almost made me lower the rating of the album, but it's only a short intro, then the band enters into an instrumental break of extreme weirdness and high quality, in which the band enters again into operatic territory and the music has a certain TRIUMVIRAT reminiscence. Except for the annoying intro, a good 15 minutes epic.

After listening "An Invitation to Rachel's Birthday", I have a couple questions..Why this band vanished so soon? and Why isn't this album more popular?

I'm not able to find an answer to this questions, mainly because the band won a second place in "The Battle of the Bands" on Stuttgart in 1989 and won the SDR3 Festival, so they had recognition, but mostly because "An Invitation to Rachel's Birthday" had critic and economic success, but still vanished.

Well, at least he left us this excelent album to enjoy, a release that I refuse to rate with less than 4 solid stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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