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Pavlov's Dog - At the Sound of the Bell  CD (album) cover

AT THE SOUND OF THE BELL

Pavlov's Dog

 

Crossover Prog

2.95 | 100 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars At first glance, one would think that At The Sound Of The Bell, Pavlov's Dog sophomore album, would see them make the step up to greatness. After all the core members ... lead singer/songwriter David Surkamp, lead guitarist Scott Scorfina, keyboardist David Hamilton, melltronist/flautist Doug Rayburn and bassist Richard Stockton ... are joined by none other than master drummer Mr. William Bruford, fresh from adorning King Crimson's seminal album Red. Throw in new member Thomas Nickeson and no less than eight guest musicians (including saxophonists Andy Mackay and Michael Brecker) and you'd bet on a winner right? Well, you'd lose.

There are two major factors that drag this album down. Firstly Pavlov's Dog had lost its greatest instrumentalist in violin/viola player Siegfried Carver. As if that weren't enough, Surkamp's songwriting made a transisition from dramatic minor key ballads to breezy light pop. Frankly the first three songs on At The Sound Of The Bell, She Came Shining, Standing Here With You (Megan's Song) and Mersey could have been lifted off a Jackson Browne or even a Judy Collins album (and both their voices would have been far more appropriate for this sort of easy listening music that Surkamp's helium-affected pipes!).

It's only on the fourth track Valkerie that one remembers that Pavlov's Dog are a progressive rock band, although I have no idea if Surkamp's plea for someone to "bring back the good old days" is meant to be as ironic as it ultimately is. Certainly the trademark sweeping strings, lush keys and melancholia return with a vengeance, bolstered by some tasty saxophone contributions. Valkerie is also, if you can believe it, the first time that it hits me that Mr. Bruford is playing the drums!

The rockabilly-meets-jazz track Try To Hang On is another filler before Gold Nuggets gives us a tantalising hint of what Pavlov's Dog's strengths really are ... as you might guess, it's another sweeping ballad. Lest you think that's a sign of better things to come, She Breaks Like A Morning Sky proves to be the lowest point of all, a singalong farce that is closer to Wham than Wigwam. Yet another ballad Early Morning Onwards preceeds what is by far the best song on the album ... and undoubtedly the group's greatest progressive moment ... the lilting, off-kilter Did You See Him Cry has it all, albeit in tiny doses ... woven into Surkamp's tragic tale there are Wakeman-esque piano runs, a brief organ fanfare and even Brufordesque drumming from the real deal. But it is far too little, far too late to save this record from being a flop. Overall, it barely qualifies as a progressive album and has to be one of the worst things Bill Bruford put his name to. ... 36% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 2/5 |

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