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Abel Ganz - Shooting Albatross CD (album) cover

SHOOTING ALBATROSS

Abel Ganz

 

Neo-Prog

4.03 | 170 ratings

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Warthur
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Abel Ganz were active on the same early neo-progressive scene that spawned Marillion, Pallas and the like. A step up in terms of musicianship and production values from their rather rudimentary early wor is 2008's Shooting Albatross. This sees them in full-on nostalgic mode, providing four epic-length tracks in a slow, laid-back style. Instrumentation and presentation harks back to the 1970s without necessarily rejecting everything that's come along since - witness the keyboard work on "So Far", which mixes classic 70s-style mellotron with more modern synthesiser sounds, even working in the odd bit of 80s flair. It's impressive that between them Hugh and Hew can find ways to integrate newer synthesiser instruments and still create something which is essentially a nostalgia exercise. In terms of comparisons, the solo albums of both Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips are a good starting point, and the vocal delivery owes a lot to Peter Gabriel in the Genesis era. Standard neo influences, in short, and competently done.

To be honest, though I'm not too keen on the vocals from Stuart "Mick" MacFarlane - it's a good enough Gabriel impression, but to me it seems to lack genuine passion or an individual personality. And since the neo-prog and symphonic scenes are absolutely littered with singers who want to imitate Gabriel's Genesis-era performance style, I really need to hear both passion and individuality if I'm to be impressed by yet another impression.

Mick's shortcomings as a vocalist are put into sharp relief when Alan Reed shows up for a guest spot on "So Far", but even on Reed's performance there's the lack of originality to contend with - the wails at the emotional crescendos of the song are a bit too much like those in "The Knife", and the distorted vocals sound like... well, like the megaphone sections of "The Knife". At other points the vocals end up rather overwhelmed by the instruments.

The vocals are not the only originality issue. "So Far" also has a march-like instrumental break that kicks in just under 9 minutes into the same song, which also sounds a lot like a similar segment in "The Knife". But it's followed up a couple of minutes later with a Renaissance-styled interlude heralding a change in the direction of the track, so at least it's one little derivative part in a broad and sweeping musical canvas... but even then, the music never strays too far from its influences. Moreover, they still have the "five minutes of ideas padded out into ten minutes" issue which I've found has cropped up across their entire career.

Abel Ganz clearly isn't an especially unique or individual band; lots of groups are trying the same sort of thing these days. Ganz's advantage is that as a group they've been at it longer than many, and so can deliver a performance that beats out those by less experienced or polished groups. This time they do end up upstaging their own vocalist from time to time, but that doesn't detract too much from the quality of the work. It's just a shame they haven't found a new vocalist of the quality of Alan Reed, who used to perform with them before jumping ship for Pallas, and their compositions are still a weak point. The end result is that the album is acceptable, but not exceptional, and is unlikely to see heavy rotation if you have better symphonic or neo-prog releases to hand.

Warthur | 3/5 |

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