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Esperanto - Danse Macabre CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.71 | 60 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Esperanto's second album reflects both the lineup and scenery changes the band had undergone in the year since releasing their debut. In addition, the group seems to have jelled somewhat following lengthy touring in support of the Strawbs after a less successful pairing with the retro-rockers Sha Na Na. The band found themselves in a Welsh castle for several weeks preparing for this release, and under the tutelage of producer and famed King Crimson lyricist Peter John Sinfield. The results of these changes were immediate and obvious. This album is much more cohesive than the group's first record, and while it is not a theme album or 'rock opera' per se it has a consistency of style and mood that was not present on the prior release. Also, the music is in much more of a progressive vein with majestic string arrangements, wordless vocal accompaniment from the mostly uncredited female singers, and lengthy instrumentals replacing the shorter, soft-rock and dance-oriented numbers on their 1973 release.

Glenn Shorrock departed between the test runs and final production of the album, replaced by the more earthy-sounding Keith Christmas who would himself leave before the band ended its run supporting the release. Sinfield also convinced the band to employ more layered, multi-part vocals here, although instrumentals dominate the work including on the ten minute-plus opening song "The Journey". The group seems to have taken a cue from Camus in the song titling, using simple, direct names such as "The Castle", "The Duel", "The Cloister" and "The Decision". These give the impression of a thematic album, although considering the paucity of lyrics or obvious storyline this appears to have been more of a gimmick than anything else.

The male vocals are less commercial-sounding than the band's prior work, particularly on "The Cloister" and "The Decision", and come across as more operatic and folksy than either the first or last album from the group. The one slight aberration is the closing title track, which manages to blend in a fiddle jig with the driving, rock-based rhythm resulting in a short but energetic tune that sounds as if it may have been influenced a bit by the time the group had spent on the road with the Strawbs.

As with the first record the reissues of this album include bonus tracks, in this case alternate mixes of "The Duel", "The Decision" and "The Cloister". These are generally more lively than the versions that ended up on the vinyl album, although the production is rather spotty and only the extended version of "The Decision" is a noteworthy addition.

Overall this is a better album than the band's debut, mostly due to improved production and a more mature, consistent mood. Sadly the band still didn't manage to make a lasting impression on the buying public which would lead to further lineup changes and eventually the group's demise; however, for progressive music fans this is an interesting album that marks a welcome improvement. Four stars out of five for effort, and a hearty recommendation for fans of most types of progressive music.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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