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Quill - Sursum Corda  CD (album) cover

SURSUM CORDA

Quill

 

Symphonic Prog

3.23 | 52 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

BIgFan
5 stars This Album is, perhaps, easily misunderstood.

As a three piece band with no guitarist, the parallels that listeners draw to ELP are going to be numerous (and obvious), but that's no more relevant than the treatment that Cream and Jimi Hendrix received from reviewers back in the days when it was novel to see and hear a guitar trio.

The magic of Quill is contained in their highly accessible melodic content. While Keith Emerson is pounding out powerful, rapid, complex musical figures, sometimes in unusual time signatures, Ken DeLoria is stating majestic and compelling melodic lines that nearly everyone can aurally digest.

My various female companions over the years have almost universally been turned off by ELP, but have willingly embraced Quill, often asking for more (no offense intended to the female gender).

When DeLoria faces the Hammond and plays the simple but powerful riff on Side II in "March of Kings," it couldn't be more authentic! It's him, speaking through the mighty B3.

And when Jim Sides melodically cries out "Mesmerize All Kings" at the top of his lungs with passion in his heart, it doesn't really matter if the words make perfect sense, because it's clear that the essence of his being is what's being expressed.

Jon Anderson's words rarely make sense and let's not even get into Steely Dan. Quill is a band that's telling a story but the story is abstract; it's by no means a textbook. It comes from the heart, in this listener's opinion, and should be accepted as such.

The title of the Album "Sursum Corda" which means "Lift up Your Heart" in Latin tells it all. Quill's music evokes images, power, conflict, passion and resolution. They've captured the essence of classical styles ranging from marches (such as Elgar) to delicate, almost baroque-like chamber music that could well be from Bach. DeLoria's use of the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord combined with a Moog flute voice is as pretty as it is innovate. Jim Sides' use of orchestra bells accents the lovely, quieter passages with rare beauty.

Now it's also true that these guys hadn't yet hit their stride with this first release. I was lucky enough to hear them perform a second, far more sophisticated work, entitled "The Demise of the Third King's Empire.' In 'The Demise" the storyline is clear while being quite complex. There's nothing abstract about it at all.

It addresses an apocalypse that covers the known Universe and salvation through the protection of a single book that contains the 'sum of all knowledge.' It's very much like the recent film release "The Book of Eli" with Denzel Washington, but expanded to cover intergalactic and multi-dimensional realms.

Well this is a review of "Sursum Corda," not "The Demise," so I'll leave it at that. It's my understanding that The Demise never got professionally recorded in a studio, but perhaps someday it will.

As a last observation, because I wouldn't want to leave him out, Keith Christian's bass work may not push the envelope like some prog rockers (notably Chris Squire), but it certainly complements the keyboards and vocals with skill and grace. In concert, Keith would sometimes perform a solo guitar part, which was usually gentle and sweet. He's also one of the principal lyricists.

I saw these guys play in Santa Barbara on several occasions. Their personal commitment to authentic musical expression was a joy to behold, particularly in comparison to the obnoxious strutting and posturing of Rolling Stones wanna-be bands of the time.

To write Quill off as merely an ELP clone would be like saying Hendrix is a BB King copy cat. Sure they both play guitar, just as DeLoria and Emerson are both seriously accomplished multi-keyboardists, but the flowing, lyrical content of Quill's music is vastly distant from the more staccato style and the overall approach of most Emerson, Lake, and Palmer pieces. For sheer technical virtuosity, Emerson is probably the more accomplished of the two. But for clear, powerful, and accessible melodic lines, with plenty virtuosity of his own, DeLoria's work is hard to challenge.

I love Quill and ELP and I have immensely enjoyed the time I've spent listening to both. For fans of this genre I recommend listening late at night with headphones and a lit candle (apologies to the writers of "Almost Famous"), which is a wonderful way to get deeply inside the music. The production quality of this CD is absolutely first rate. Rarely, will you hear a better quality recording. I give it the highest rating for skill and authenticity, while still recognizing that it is a first release in a genre that (at the time) required an awful lot of time and money to work within. Quill never had the backing of a major label and they should be lauded for the sheer dedication to their craft that brought this wonderful, independently produced work to light. So should Greg Walker, for having the vision to re-release it after the CD format emerged. Kudos all around!

BIgFan | 5/5 |

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