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Duncan Browne - Songs of Love & War CD (album) cover


Duncan Browne


Crossover Prog

4.66 | 4 ratings

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5 stars Once you amass a huge prog music collection, from the golden years to this very day, some sparsely unknown gems that try to vanish timidly before the eagle eye sends the message to the brain "I remember that being really good" and you go hunting for that prize. Duncan Browne is one said artist whose final 1993 album (posthumously released 2 years later with the help of Nik Magnus) "Songs of Love and War" is a terrific jewel, that transcends genres, certainly not pop in the strictest sense, quirky experimental like only the Brits know how to formulate, simple but highly evocative musicianship that seeks no heroes just splendid teamwork. The progressiveness factor enters in the moods generated, from the dreary to the sublime, with searing lyrical content and tons of whimsey to balance things out, chock full of details that stun me very time I return to this disc. Led by Duncan Browne (who reached some fame with Metro, a now mythical pop album mixed with glam and art rock) on guitars and keys , the legendary Zombies/Alan Parsons unfaltering singer Colin Blunstone , the equally magical duo of John Giblin on bass and drummer extraordinaire Simon Phillips as well as a few others like Tony Hymas, Nic Potter, Chris Cozens (Greenslade , Martyn) and Nick Magnus. They all shine and excel instrumentally, in a very laudable manner, tossing sublime movements, riffs, ornaments and focused on the arrangements. I imagine a more progressive Split Enz or 10cc and that should give some insight. This is an album to get ladies hooked on prog, as the romantic feminine is on the menu. Though a well seasoned progger, my dreamer leanings started when I was a child, and I still get those emotional urges today to listen and discover romantic prog in all its stylings.

Each song owns its intrinsic merits close to the heart, unleashing a fury of various emotions all along the setlist, keeping the sounds diverse and inspiring. "Scull Twins" is a dashing pop-prog track that sets the tone with sweet shifts, powerful drumming, a slippery guitar solo and a slight African feel in the chorus. The glorious double chorus of "Misunderstood" with its breathtaking and sorrowful mood will sear any mind within seconds, a ballad that is both original and heartfelt. Nic Potter is handling his bass quite distinctively, as Colin Blunstone puts on a magic vocal performance. A prime romantic moment. Gloom and a tinge of unease greets the listener on the somewhat Gothic "Suddenly Last Summer", a mini-movie score that alters the mood once again to keep things apace and thrilling. The whistling line is as memorable as Hocus Pocus or Jealous Guy, and the double chorus is exalting once again.

"Berceuse" means lullaby in French and this is an acoustic guitar display of the highest order. Soothing panacea, baroque breeze of beauty and grace. Proof this man could play guitar with the best of them. "Love Leads You" starts out like the Fixx' Stand or Fall for 5 seconds before veering into a LOVE song. Before you toss the maple syrup at me, I assure you it is not sugary at all, just a damn beautiful melody enveloped around a masterful pop song, the elevation at the mid-point is utterly convincing and the sharp electric guitar solo is truly perfect. The chorus on the other hand is deadly. Gorgeous corn. The bittersweet torch song "I Fall Again" is excruciatingly appealing, bathing in serene sorrow, acoustic guitar, and big, long bass lines from Potter , deft percussives and a cabaret sax solo. Blunstone emotes with gentle despondence, yet utterly convincing in his pain. Beautiful! Eastern motifs weave through "The Small Hours" as the symphonics creep in menacingly, orchestrations set the mood, a dulcimer (or is it cimbalom?) patch doing wonders for the proggy atmosphere, perfect again! One of my faves is the sputtering genius of "Wild Places 91", a Bowie-esque fantasy reprise from his 1978 album of the same name, owner of an oozing Browne vocal to die for (including a whispering section) and a melody that can slay anything. The longest piece at nearly 6 minutes, it is bright, catchy, and creative, the bubbly John Giblin bass belches, the chorus sticking to the nodes, just plowing resolutely forward with more propulsive symphonics. Speechless stuff. "Journey 93 "is the only okay song on the list and it is a short one. It is also a newer version of a 70s hit but it does not move me the way the rest does.

The instrumental "Sarabande" is as dazzling, if not more so than "Berceuse", an acoustic guitar played with feeling and purpose, immersed in lush orchestrations and keyboards, something Steve Hackett would admire profoundly. Elegant and masterful. The main melody and the lyrical hooks on "Rainer" are so grandiose, you may actually wonder why this was not a world-wide hit, spiritually uplifting in its melancholic romanticism and yet rather somber words. A majestic chorus so heartbreaking should be taught in music school everywhere. The finale is pure liquid gold. Duncan could also sing quite divinely. The subject matter is Werner Fassbinder the famous German movie director. "High Windows" when the tears come falling down, Duncan sings, you know he means it. Another evocative chorus permeates the mood, lyrically a romantic tour de force. Ringing guitar effect highlights the attention to detail as well as the musical creativity within the realm of a pop song. The ridiculously gorgeous "Romantic Comedy" was written originally for a theater play and the cinematic orchestration fits the bill perfectly. You will swear you heard this before but alas, I doubt it. Duncan' s acoustic guitar playing is unmatched and is in no hurry to let the feeling go, as his fingers caress the fretboard. The overpoweringly symphonic "Barry's Lament" has layers of haunting keyboards that astound and elevate the power of listening to this masterpiece.

While surely not ear candy for the experimental/tech/metal crowd, the more folk-oriented proggers out there will fall on their collective butts, most especially if you yearn like I do for sweeping melodies, cool instrumental play la British, varied soundscapes and sincere moments of emotional bliss. Probably the finest posthumous release in my collection, taken over poignantly by Nick Magnus after Duncan's passing in 1993. I could listen to this on auto repeat forever.

I urge any fan of quality music to hunt this sucker down and put it on the mantle, where it truly deserves to be.

5 metros

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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