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Neutrons - Black Hole Star / Tales From the Blue Cocoons CD (album) cover

BLACK HOLE STAR / TALES FROM THE BLUE COCOONS

Neutrons

 

Eclectic Prog

4.04 | 5 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars A very great measure of gratitude goes out formally to my PA colleague "synthphony" , who has urged me to get this absolute unknown album from the glory days of the 70's and offer up some critical review of the music within. Former members of welsh rock legend Man have combined their talents with Gentle Giant drummer John Weathers and violinist Stuart Gordon (of Incredible String Band fame) among others , to dish out a debut pot-pourri of original music , lush with various moods and structures, veering into space-prog a la Steve Hillage, folk and good straight ahead rock. "Living in the World Today" is a flighty groove that has a rifling theme, jangling guitars that will eventually sear the horizon, very funky (like Chicago's "I'm a Man", ain't that a coincidence?), a superb whistling synth solo to plunge this deep into prog expanses, the bass thundering down below and the marshalling drums doing the rest. A Brian Auger inspired organ run seals the deal. Exhausting! But an outstanding track nevertheless. "Feel" relies instead on a gentler premise, a slight Welsh country/folk consideration, a loopy electric solo very close to what Hillage could weave. "Mermaid & Chips" is odd, piano dancing in dissonance with the breathy vocals , the strings sliding in and the Northettes-like female vocals. The repeated chorus is hypnotizing ("Every time I get a bit closer, I seem to get a little bit near" ) and provides a great deal of enjoyment , a definite for Canterbury fans as well as Gentle Giant (there are so many of you, hugs and kisses!). On "Dangerous Decisions", the band decide perilously to delve into even proggier attempts , a complex tapestry of insistent rhythms, slippery synths and expert soloing by Phil Ryan. Simply fantastic from first second to last. "Doom City" is another screamer, a funky urban groove, close to Manfred Mann's celebrated covers of Bruce Springsteen or perhaps even near 10CC territory but Taff Williams really lets a mean guitar rip in glowing blaze, a jewel electric guitar solo that will stick your ass to your chair. Need I say brilliant! As for "Dante of the Psychedelic Lounge Lizards" (Now THAT'S a prog title! No typo by the way, its really "Dante"!) , the violin thrashes wildly, swirling in tandem with the spacy vocals, very fun and cheery, yet completely creative and memorable. "Going to India" is amusing, a clever little ditty ("no more doctors giving us pills") hahahaha , sweetly pastoral and hippie-ish , a bluesy guitar rant and more visceral violin. Some obligatory sitar and tablas ushers this one out. Finally, we finalize the disc on another organ fueled romp, the sinuously insistent "Snow Covered Eyes", a luscious outburst where all the players excel at doing it just right.

The second album is also on this compilation, that I found by pure chance and "Tales from the Blue Cocoons" is no downgrade by any measure, the playing just as intense and groove laden, even though Weathers is now replaced by unknowns Stuart Halliday and Dave Charles on drums. "No More Straights" is exemplary of the creative juices that were pressed into this ill-fated group, playfulness combined with intelligent playing (a common context back then in the UK, with bands like Wishbone Ash, Argent, Traffic, Man, 10CC and many more). "Northern Midnight" is a masterful 6 minute piece that flies close to Hillage territory again, both vocally and instrumentally, a delicate piano musing leading into more developed circumstances, nothing overtly complex but definitely showing its 70's sheen, highlighted by two guitar solos, first by Will Youatt and then Taff Williams bleeding one in for good measure. "Come into my Cave" is a romping piece that evokes simple pleasures, again featuring dual guitar blasts from the two afore mentioned protagonists, a breezy/bluesy escapade that finds appeal immediately. The somewhat unexpected synth solo really slings this into proggy territory, showing clearly why this was not better received by the poppier crowd. "Live your Lie" has female vocalist Caromay Dixon warbling nicely between two acoustic guitar panels for a brief journey into folkier expanses. "L'Hippie Nationale" as the name implies has a hippy-trippy feel that gusts gently, hints of Caravan and Donovan in the air, pleasing in a simple sense. Back to a funkier groove (they do that very well) with the glorious e-piano leading the way on the Traffic/10CC inspired "Take you Further", 12 string guitars welding with wah-wah electric phrasings, shuffling bass and drums adding to the insistence and spotlighted by a masterful electric piano solo that will evoke smile from ivory ticklers everywhere. Another tune that needs to be appreciated by all fans. With a typical English wacky title like "Welsh R Blunt or the Dexedrine Dormouse ", you know this will a quirky slab of instrumental insanity and it is! Phil Ryan's arsenal of keyboards include synths, organ and piano to brilliant effect, recalling Dave Stewart's glory days with playful conviction ,while Taff handles the bass, rhythm and lead guitars with deserved aplomb. Very near Hatfield/National Health terrain, this is certainly inspired stuff. "The Jam Eaters" is lightweight prog-pop, organ and synths blaring brightly with Dixon swooning to the mike, the flow measured and vaporous. Nothing special for this lad. The bonus track is "Suzy and the Wonder Boy", a clear rock and roller (a hint of Cat Scratch Fever riff from "the Nuge"), bar room hilarity, raise your tepid pints boys and girls , sing along to the trippy guitar solo and honky-tonk piano. All in all, a perfect example of a "must have, no one else has", type of album that will provide tons of fun to those wishing to relive the more obscure titles from the incredible "Golden Era". I was surprised, entertained and gratified. Thank you Keith....Easily 4 egocentric molecules .

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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