Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Willowglass - Book Of Hours CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 94 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars One man's brave attempt to create an instrumental prog album in the tradition of "The Cinema Show" (at least its instrumental bits), "Los Endos", MOONMADNESS and (for good measure) Rick Wakeman's WHITE ROCK. Andrew Marshall composed and arranged all the tunes, and played guitars, keyboards, bass, flute, recorders and drums. He only needed a more experienced drummer to help him out with (one imagines) the livelier, more complicated bits.

Early reviews in Progarchives were almost invariably positive (the familiar spectre of "vintage keyboard heaven" was raised) so I decided to give BOOK OF HOURS a try, and while it's an immediately likeable album, I found it's perhaps not the "contemporary prog classic" some people seem to take it for.

I find it hard to put my finger on the problem since the album sounds very clean and professional. "Argamasilla", the 11 minute opening tune, certainly sounds pleasant enough, but the same riffs get repeated a few times too often, and Marshall's solos (whether on synth or guitar) sound a tad too glib; they lack a certain degree of agressiveness and never reach the climaxes you're hoping for.

Similar problems plague most of the other longer tracks. If this had been a band playing, each and every soloist would probably have given their best while trying to outclass the others. Since Andrew Marshall is master of all he surveys, there's insufficient tension in the music. (Quite a few of Mike Oldfield's albums suffer from the same problem.) I also agree with earlier reviewers that the absence of vocals is a disadvantage. Marshall is a highly gifted arranger but not a virtuoso of the calibre of, say, Steve Hackett, so you keep waiting for dramatic things to happen. A powerful singer could have made quite a difference.

Nevertheless, there is a lot to enjoy. On "The Maythorne Cross", for example, Marshall plays solos on bass guitar, flute and churchy Hammond organ, and he tops it all by performing the most dramatic lead guitar solo on the entire album. This is undeniably impressive, and it makes you hope he will one day record a true masterpiece. "Willowglass" itself is a lovely acoustic tune, and on "The Labyrinth" there is one truly majestic moment where a church organ suddenly comes in. This particular trick has been pulled off quite a few times in prog history (most notably by the Flower Kings) but I've never heard it done as well as here.

Special kudos to Lee Gaskins for illuminating the CD cover with charming stained glass images based on DON QUIJOTE.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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