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Eclectic Prog

4.07 | 433 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Wied
5 stars The late seventies are often seen as the end of days for the great prog bands. Genesis, and soon after Yes, were releasing pop albums, King Crimson was on the shelf, Pink Floyd had been consumed by Roger Waters' ego... It seems as if the genre could not continue. However, nobody told John Wetton. When he decided to recruit Bill Bruford, fresh from his fusion group, to form a new group, it signaled the creation of one of the greatest prog albums. Bruford recruited guitarist Allan Holdsworth, Wetton signed on violinist Eddie Jobson. While the band had some internal strife, they managed to play together well enough to provide a great debut album.

A three-song suite opens the album. The first track, "In the Dead of Night", which loans its name to the entire movement, introduces most of the themes of the next two tracks. Right away, you can tell this group has a very unique sound. Wetton's voice, for one, hasn't changed from King Crimson, so you know the vocals on the album are top-notch. Jobson's synths provide most of the melody of the track. He mainly uses one that sounds like some electric string instrument. Bruford's drums are also very unique, because, at this time, he was using rototoms, giving the drumming this awesome clanging sound. Holdsworth, however, really contributes to the feel of this track. Halfway through the track, he performs a guitar solo that ranks at the top of my list. Whenever a jazz musician plays in a rock group, it's bound to be good, as proven by anything Bruford touches. Holdsworth's solo is magnificent, it fits the track perfectly, and without it you might as well skip the album. After his solo, the main vocal theme is reintroduced, before a synth fade to the next song. 5/5

The next part of the suite, "By the Light of Day", follows a lighter, more atmospheric approach to the themes and motifs of the last song, to great effect. It's sophisticated, atmospheric, and futuristic. It sounds much like music people in the future would listen to. In place of an awesome guitar solo, on this track we have a great violin solo provided by Jobson. Bruford's clanging rototoms are still present, but they don't ruin the track, neither does Wetton's voice or bass. 5/5

The concluding part of the suite is broken into two parts. "Presto Vivace and Reprise" is named after the musical terms used in the track. The first part is a fast (Presto) and lively (Vivace) instrumental number, with futuristic synths. It gallops along at blazing speeds. Jobson's synths dominate the piece. After this instrumental, a reprise of the vocal theme from "In the Dead of Night" plays out to the end of the track. Perfect way to end the suite. 5/5

The last song on the first side, "Thirty Years", begins with slow synth chords playing along with acoustic guitar by Holdsworth. This soft intro lasts for a bit before launching into a soft vocal piece. It lasts for the first half of the track. A more upbeat piece of music follows. It is in odd time signature, and contains another Holdsworth solo, still great. Following the solo, another vocal, this time harder, by Wetton, and a sluggish outro. Could have been a bit better, but it's still a very good song. 4/5

"Alaska", the next song on the album, is an instrumental piece written by Jobson. As such, it starts off with a long keyboard introduction. Listening with your eyes closed, you can imagine flying in a plane over an Arctic wasteland to this music. The intro is long, but definitely not boring. Halfway to the end of the track, the song picks up, and a futuristic, guitar and organ dominated piece follows. It seems to follow one theme, for the majority of the track. At the end of the track, a chorus brings you into the next track. 5/5

That chorus brings you to "Time to Kill". The song starts right away. It is a really up-tempo song. Jobson contributes some beautiful piano work, though it's probably a piano synth. Bruford dances in and out of the beat like a ballet dancer. Jobson plays a great violin solo in the track, and during the vocal pieces Wetton can't be replaced. 5/5

"Nevermore" starts out with some great acoustic guitar playing by Holdsworth. Wetton enters, and provides some very spacey vocalizations, until the song takes a more focused approach. Jobson and Holdsworth duel for the lead spot in the next piece. Holdworth will play a bit on the guitar, and Jobson will try to counter with some synths. Who wins? Both of them do, and that's the key reason to listen to this track. It takes a bit to close, but that's negligible compared to the beef of the track. 5/5

The band apparently decided it was best to chill out during the closing of the album. "Mental Medication" is filled with electric piano and cool synths in the intro. Wetton charms you with his vocals. However, following a formula you can trace back to "Nevermore" and "Thirty Years", this quiet section gets a bit louder, and Wetton still retains the dreamy sound in his voice despite the change in dynamics. Holdsworth shines in this song, too. Again, with the formula, a jam-like section breaks out, with a synth solo by Jobson, who trades in the keys for a violin two-thirds of the way in. After the solo, the dreamy section reenters, closing the track and the album. 5/5

This was one of my first forays into progressive rock, and this album therefore holds a special place in my heart. I own this album on vinyl, and sometimes I fear I'll wear the player out listening to it. All of the players are virtuosos, and they make a great quartet. Pity that the group didn't last. I guess that's what you get when you try to get jazz musicians to play in a rock group.

Wied | 5/5 |

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