Combination Head - Progress? CD (album) cover


Combination Head



4.03 | 36 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 2nd album recorded by British band Combination Head contains a very solid material. It's no longer pure organ-driven, ELPish symphonic prog as in their debut, but I still like it a lot. Compositions & their arrangements on "Progress?" are truly varied. We can listen to alternative fast-tempo rockers, pop/rock ballads, electronic/sountrackish instrumentals and - what's the most important for me - there are still many ELP-like tracks with flashy Hammond runs.

And now the songs:

1. "New City" - after few seconds of unrelated electronic noises and police (or fire-brigade?) siren, the real "thing" begins: powerful organ-led instrumental with additional analog synth solos. Gareth Moulton also plays some great metallic guitar sounds here. Very dynamic & symphonic influenced track. Halfway between ELP/Triumvirat & Ayreon, but the most suitable comparison would by Japanese keyboards wizard - Motoi Sakuraba. Very similar style, really!

2. "Glass and Steel" - quite catchy and rather mellow pop/rock ballad which reminds me Pink Floyd's work on "The Wall". Background organ, leading synthesizers and warm vocals (probably it's Paul Birchall's voice, not sure).

3. "Liquid" - the longest track of the album is a very enjoyable instrumental. It's rather slow tempo and without any flashy keyboard solos, but I really like this omnipresent organs & melodic synthesizers here. Relaxing composition, slightly in the vain of Camel. Splendid.

4. "Smoking Tree" - slightly boring track based on calm piano and atmospheric synthesizer landscapes.

5. "Future Wisdom" - along with "New City" this is the most Emerson, Lake & Palmer inspired composition. Fantastic organ runs all the way through + supportive guitar tones. Some fragments seem to be even "stolen" from "Tarkus" suite but overall it's Combination Head's own vision of keyboard-led symphonic rock formula. So far so good!

6. "Anthem" - this one begins with lengthy, mellow electronic/piano landscapes like from some Vangelis' soundtrack but later on Neil Fairclough (guesting vocalist) starts to sing and we find out that "Anthem" is in fact quite nice electronic-pop/rock quasi-ballad. More mainstream sounding tune but not so bad.

7. "Solid Ground" - extremely surprising song! Begins with some goofy since-fiction voices and later on we have a mix of up-tempo alternative rock with electronic pop and ultimately catchy Hammond organ rides. Nick Van Eede's (guesting vocalist) really suits this material. In fact after some editing it could become a radio-friendly hit :-).

8. "Tomorrows World" - nice, slightly folky ballad with acoustic & electric guitar and background keyboards. Suitable vocal delivery by Gareth Moulton, very warm & pleasant. Overall very poppy but not offensive for my ears.

9. "The Great Escape" - another unusual song for Combination Head. In fact it's some kind of disco-hit track with infectious female vocals by Sheila Gott. Sounds like disco but it's so much better than your typical FM radio staff. Very sharp guitar, great bass work & floating synths are truly good, but the best is gritty organ solo included in the end of the song.

10. "Cloud Cover" - my least favorite track on "Progress?". Sounds like your usual radio-friendly staff. Not memorable at all. Only some Moog/organ/guitar soloing near the end is worth mentioning.

Overall "Progress?" is a much different album than Combination Head's debut one. It's more varied in style and that's why it may make some of the most hardcore prog-heads very unhappy. But wide range of different kinds of music & arrangements on this particular album sound rather good for me. Anyway first part of the album seems to be stronger and directed toward ELP/Triumvirat/Collegium Musicum/Trace/Social Tension/Motoi Sakuraba/Gerard/Ars Nova keyboard-based symph-prog aficionados, while the send part is more mainstream, radio-friendly oriented. So I recommend it to both kind of audiences.

Best tracks: "Future Wisdom" & "New City"

4 stars from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 4/5 |


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