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Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial CD (album) cover


Pavlov's Dog


Crossover Prog

4.07 | 365 ratings

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4 stars The first thing to bear in mind when tackling Pavlov's Dog is that if you can't stand Rush singer Geddy Lee's vocals, you're going to hate the high-pitched and undeniably grating singing of Pavlov's Dog's lead vocalist/main songwriter David Surkamp. The second is that despite comprising seven members including two guitarists, two keyboardists (David Hamilton and melltronist Doug Rayburn who also doubles up on flute) and violinist Siegfried Carver, Pavlov's Dog's music never actually gets that complex. In fact there is a fair amount of verse chorus verse chorus songwriting going on here ... some of it though, is really beautiful.

If you can get past the "simplicity" of the music, Pampered Menial can be downright infectious. Julia is the relatively well-known acoustic ballad that kicks off the album, but I think it pales in comparison with the memorable Late November. Surkamp's refrain of "It just goes to show you never know" becomes a thing of power, as the band adds layer after layer of strings and keys to its pulsating chorus. Incidentally this album is produced by Blue Oyster Cult producers Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman and Late November does stray quite close to that group's sound.

The third track Song Dance is one of only three here that's not written by Surkamp and it is one of the more progressive tracks, featuring some bluesy riffing from lead guitarist Scott Scorfina. The fourth cut Fast Gun is mostly notable for the marching beat of the chorus and is pleasant enough. I'm not particularly fond of the fifth cut Natchez Trace which is written by Scorfina, even if it does contain one of Carver's best solos.

Theme From Subway Sue is another lovely Surkamp song that bears all the group's handmarks ... superb but restrained use of keyboards (piano and mellotron in this case) to infuse the song with lush depth. Surkamp's tragic vocals as the songs close may be a little too hysterical for some of you but they hit the spot for yours truly. And then there's Episode, in which Carver practically writes the book on how to accompany a ballad with violin lines, but once again the main song is really not much more than a ballad.

The final two pieces segue into each other, and feature the most progressive moments of the album. First we have Carver's sole composition for Pavlov's Dog, the intriguing multi-textural (and at 1:39 seconds, all too-brief) instrumental Preludin, before the band launches into yet another trademark Surkamp composition. Of Once And Future Kinds does benefit from having a number of distinct sections that features some lovely interplay between Carver and his counterparts on piano and guitar, ending in a suitably epic blowout.

Overall, Pampered Menial is a cohesive, but far from consistently progressive album that everyone should listen to at least thrice. Do not expect too much, and you will be rewarded. ... 70% on the MPV scale.

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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