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Grace - Poppy CD (album) cover

POPPY

Grace

 

Neo-Prog

2.73 | 8 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Sing me something simple

Poppy was a bit of a letdown after the two great previous albums, The Poet, The Piper, And The Fool and Pulling Strings And Shiny Things. The history of the band goes as far back as the 70's with a debut album being released in 1979 after several years of touring and releasing singles. However, after the release of a live album they broke up in the early 80's and did not reform again until the early 90's. The group have since released three further full-length albums in the 90's of which the present release was the last. While, as implied, I thoroughly enjoyed the band's previous two albums, I must issue a word of warning concerning this follow-up. In my review of Pulling Strings And Shiny Things, I said that Grace occupies an area of music where Crossover Prog, Prog Folk, and Neo-Prog meet. On the present album however, not much of the Folk and Neo-Prog remains. The album title pretty much gives it away even if this is not by any means your paradigm "Pop Prog" album. A song title like Sing Something Simple is also quite revealing concerning the level of intricacy involved in the compositions. Still, when the initial disappointment had settled, I found myself enjoying this album nonetheless.

There is surely lots of talent here and the sound they produce in the end is clearly professional. The voice of Mac Austin is somewhat hard to pinpoint, but he sometimes sounds a bit like Fish of Marillion and sometimes like Brian Ferry of Roxy Music! Most of the songs are rather cheerful and almost nowhere do we find here the dark and brooding atmosphere of the previous album. The presence of saxophone on many tracks adds further to the Pop feeling and whatever Folk leanings that are still present are mostly represented by the inclusion of a few flute passages. Most of the songs are rather short and vocally driven rather than instrumentally so. An exception is the appealing (but short) bridge that ties Burglars and Sing Something Simple together. The lyrics are also sometimes questionable and overly simplistic, particularly some choruses like that of Sing Something Simple and Heart And Soul which basically consist only of repetitions of their respective song titles.

The longest track is Secret Garden with its over eight minutes, but the first two minutes consist of a lovely acoustic guitar instrumental that is musically unconnected to the rest of the song. The main part of the song reminds me a bit of Barclay James Harvest but with Ian Anderson-like flutes. Still, this is one of the highlights of the album together with Oklahoma and, the best of them all, the Celtic-flavoured closer Court Of Despair. Emily sounds very much like it could have come straight from a Roxy Music album, complete with strongly Brian Ferry-like vocals! It's quite a variation of styles and there seems to be no clear direction.

The album runs for over an hour which is too much given that the 12 tracks are musically unconnected to each other, it would have benefited from the exclusion of a couple of songs. I still haven't heard anything from the early incarnation of Grace, but the music found on this album from the band's come-back years is quite pleasant. While I would certainly recommend going for the much better, and more progressive, albums The Poet, The Piper And The Fool and Pulling Strings And Shiny Things first, Poppy is still a worthy addition to your collection in addition to those two albums.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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