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Grace - Pulling Strings And Shiny Things CD (album) cover

PULLING STRINGS AND SHINY THINGS

Grace

 

Neo-Prog

3.46 | 11 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Amazing Grace

Grace is a relatively new discovery for me and a surprisingly pleasant one. Pulling Strings And Shiny Things was the first album I heard from this very appealing, and much overlooked, British band but the history of the band goes as far back as the 70's. When Grace released their debut album in 1979, they had already been around for several years, touring and releasing singles. A live album followed in 1981, but the band never achieved the success they wanted (perhaps due to the, for Prog, unfavourable musical climate of that decade?) and they broke up in the early 80's. Not until the early 90's would they again release another album and the present album from 1994 was their third studio album. Yet another album followed in 1996 and a another live album in 1999. But what happened after that? No one knows.

As I said, I know nothing about the sound of the early incarnation of Grace, but the music found on this album from the band's come-back years is very good. The sound here often brings to mind a classic Barclay James Harvest that has been placed in a Neo-Progressive musical framework. Lean On Me and Architects Of War are the two songs that are most strongly reminiscent of Barclay James Harvest both in sound and structure. These songs have a symphonic sound that builds towards ever more bombastic repetitions of the same melodies in typical Barclay James Harvest-fashion. Perhaps even some qualities in the vocals remind me of that band. But this description tells only part of the story; this is not a Barclay James Harvest-clone and neither is it your typical Neo-Prog band. There is a folky nature to many of the songs and there are some flute parts that seem to be inspired by Jethro Tull's main man. Hanging Rock reminds me of some Cat Stevens song (I don't know if it is a specific song that I don't remember, or if it is just Cat Stevens generally). Yet other parts are slightly more in line with Marillion and their ilk, but not so obvious. You might wish to say that Grace here occupies an area of music where Crossover Prog, Prog Folk and Neo-Prog meet. This creates a novel and quite interesting approach even if it is not really groundbreaking. For me personally, the previous The Poet, The Piper And The Fool was the band's peak. That album had a bit more of the Symphonic/Neo-Prog and Folk and a bit less of the Crossover Prog.

The material on this album is very strong though and there is not one weak song to be found here. Fool and Mullions are the tunes that most easily stick to your head, but they are not necessarily the best songs. Mullions is given a short instrumental reprise at the end of the album in a radically different version but it does not add much to the album as a whole. Some songs have pretty catchy choruses, but not too catchy, if you know what I mean. I find this album highly enjoyable and very pleasant. It lends itself very well to repeated listens.

Highly recommended in addition to The Poet, The Piper And The Fool!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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