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Esperanto - Esperanto Rock Orchestra CD (album) cover

ESPERANTO ROCK ORCHESTRA

Esperanto

 

Eclectic Prog

3.06 | 13 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Even those unfamiliar with Esperanto Rock Orchestra will likely find something strangely familiar with their sound, although exactly what that is may be difficult to pinpoint. Hard to believe one of the main singers on this debut record (Glenn Shorrock) would soon be crooning out soft-rock hits for Little River Band ("Well I was born in the sign of water, and it's there that I feel my best; the albatross and the whales they are my brothers...").

The rest of the multinational lineup were relative unknowns, although cellist Timothy Kraemer had managed to land an appearance with the monster assemblage known as Centipede during their epic 1970-71 recording sessions for 'Septober Energy'. And several of the female backing singers had also backed Al Stewart; two of them would score a minor UK hit in 1974 by covering an old Phil Spector tune under the name of The Hooter Sisters.

Esperanto drew their name from their varied nationalities, ranging from England to the U.S. to Italy to New Zealand and Australia, although the band itself was formed by a Belgian and was briefly based out of that country before traveling to England in search of a record deal. This, their debut album, featured a large cast including at least three different lead singers, although the lineup would prove to be fluid both during the recording sessions and throughout the band's brief career.

The influences of the Broadway, pop, folk and classical music backgrounds of the various members are all apparent in the lush and varied production of this album. Attempting to genre label would be a futile exercise and also a mistake with this music, as it ranges quite fluidly across so many spectrums of classical and contemporary disciplines.

The opening "On Down the Road" is a fairly straightforward light rock number with Shorrock's distinctive voice reinforcing the commercial feel to the tune, but with violins, cello and piano that are not all that different than what ELO would probably have sounded like without Jeff Lynne. Undoubtedly this was intended to be the launching single for the album.

The band begins to branch out almost immediately though, following the opener up with the Janice Slater-fronted, slightly R&B-tinged "Never Again" before returning to the strong string accompaniment with another Shorrock tune in "Perhaps One Day". This one seems to have progressive rock ambitions, but doesn't quite pull it off and ends up sounding like a pop-rock tune with a heavily fussed-over instrumental arrangement.

Shorrock adds a slightly sappy 'go USA' tribute with the self-penned "Statue of Liberty" that really doesn't seem to belong here ("hey you, get out the way - anything can happen in the USA!"); but the band acquits themselves quite well by following that with a trio of loping, comfortable-like-your-favorite-shirt numbers in "Gypsy", "Roses" and "City", the latter two of which move away from the orchestral string arrangements in favor of a more R&B sound with prominent three-part female vocals, featured lead electric guitar and plenty of dance- inducing percussion that comes off as sort of a white 5th Dimension (maybe a little bit like Silver Convention without the disco beat).

Given the folk and soft-rock influences of several members (not to mention the presence of an acoustic guitar player, cellist, violist and both 1st and 2nd part violinists), it was inevitable the band would include a slow acoustic number as well, which they saved for the end of the original vinyl on "Move Away".

CD reissues of this album include three bonus tracks. "Getting Along" is a funky dance number, while "Waiting Till the Day" is pure soft-rock with some proggy accoutrements and more extended organ breaks than appeared anywhere on the original record. I'm not quite sure but I believe the one of vocalists here is Keith Christmas, who appeared on some of the demo tracks the band brought to England and who would become the band's lead vocalist for their second release 'Danse Macabre'. Shorrock remains the lead singer here as well though. And "Emma" is another slow tune with a twangy guitar riff and vocals that remind me quite a bit of the bands America and Home circa around the same time period.

The large lineup, classical-music-meets-Broadway sound of the band could be compared to a blend of bands like Carnegie, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the 5th Dimension. I'm not sure this really qualifies as true progressive music, but it is a good introduction to some of the more complex and ambitious work the band would employ on their next two releases. A decent record to have in your collection; not a masterpiece but worth picking up especially if you are a fan of strings with your rock music. Three stars and recommended to fans of representative eclectic progressive rock from the mid-seventies.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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