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TEMPEST

Tempest

 

Heavy Prog

3.21 | 37 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Colosseum's break up came a bit as a (non?) surprise to everyone involved at the end of a tour with Clempson announcing he'd received an offer to join Humble Pie, the group just suddenly broke up without anyone trying to stop it, including leader John Hiseman. It seems everyone had had his fill and the band had run its course without ever having a shot at the US market with another tour. He didn't stay inactive though, keeping bassist Clarke within a few months Tempest was up and fighting, with two multi-instrumentalists coming in, Paul Winter on guitars and keyboards, but singing as well (his vocals resembles quite a bit Farlowe's) and Alan Holdsworth (ex Igginbottom and Nucleus) on guitar and violin. This debut was released in early 73 (recorded in October 72) on the same Bronze label that had seen the last Colosseum album released and it featured a splendid abstract artwork below their mythological snake-lady logo.

Opening on the second-longest track Gorgon (that's a Celtic/Gallic sorceress that used snakes during the Roman empire and is part of the band's imagery, on both their albums), past an intro, we are plunged into a harder-rocking music than anything we'd seen with Colosseum, including huge riffs, loud slow singing and a pedestrian bass, Hiseman's drumming being the most impressive. Clearly Hiseman had decided to bring up the rock part of his music even more up front than the jazz part; and all of the tracks on this side are written by Clarke & Holdsworth, Hiseman providing the lyrics. The following Foyers Of Fun has a bit of a Cream or Mountain feel, Dark Horse keeping the same path, while the start of Brothers sounds slightly more Colosseum-esque, but soon the hard riffs and pedestrian bass are back, but it's the highlight on this side.

The second side is less focused, the songwriting better shared and even outside interference allowed. A strong Holdsworth-penned Up And On starts impressively, retaining a Colosseum edge via the solid drumming and Winter's voice, much reminiscent of Farlowe. The weakest track must be Clarke's Grey & Black, where he sings too (a tame Queen's Mercury comes to mind), but it's also the shortest. Strangeher is a strong hard rocker, reminiscent of the Powell-era of Jeff Beck Group. Clearly the album's apex is the closing Upon Tomorrow where Holdsworth's violin gets a good (and all too rare) chance to shine and the track gets a long crescendo with plenty of interplay (something cruelly lacking on this album) before, between and after the verses.

It's probably safe to say that Tempest was one of those groups where their individual members' credentials exceeded the actual resulting music, fruit of their collaboration. With a line up of Hiseman, Holdsworth (who still had much to prove back then, though), Clarke and Winter, the usual 70's music fan would expect a more interesting album than this debut. Funnily enough, this is Holdsworth's least jazzy album he played on, and it was (partly) his doing for he wrote 5 songs (shared credits, but still), and what really lacks here is more instrumental interplay space, for the song format is simply too mainstream chorus-verse thing. Tons of albums like this cluttered the middle and lower ranks of the charts for Tempest to get a glimpse of sun with their chosen hard rock direction. Holdsworth and Winter would quit the band, but they stayed long enough to meet and play with their replacement Olie Halsall (ex-Patto) for a BBC broadcast, which was finally released with the remastered version of the two albums. While this debut deserves to be heard, just to see what Hiseman wanted to achieve, there is little doubt that it'll probably rarely spin on your turntable.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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