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Refugee - Refugee CD (album) cover

REFUGEE

Refugee

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 148 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What an awesome album this is! When one reflects on the considerable popularity of ELP and Yes among progressive rock fans, it's really surprising how many people fail to make the correct extrapolations to arrive at this particular masterpiece ... chances are most people would be more likely to investigate Asia than this lesser-known group! I implore you to try this one out.

I must emphasise that while a good many critics have compared Refugee to ELP and its precursor The Nice (understandable in that two-thirds of Refugee played a supporting role to Keith Emerson in The Nice), I'm convinced that this album is most likely to appeal to those who feel that Yes' Relayer is an outstanding work on which Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz proves himself to be a startlingly inventive player.

For, despite some excellent instrumental work from bass player Lee Jackson and drummer Brian Davison, it is undeniably Moraz who is the star of this superlative album. From behind a battery of organic keyboards (piano, electric piano, organ, Moog and mellotron all make an appearance here), Moraz proves himself to be an outstanding composer and player. While comparisons to Emerson and Wakeman are inevitable, Moraz's style is quite distinct and very compelling.

Having said all that, the opening moments of the instrumental opener Papillon are full of Emersonian pomp! But after a couple of minutes, Jackson and Davison strike up a secondary rhythm , Moraz's swirling synths establish themselves, and Refugee creates a whole new world for us. Delightful rapid-fire piano, with dashes of classical and tinges of avant-jazz, are his main weapon on the latter part of this piece.

I have griped quite consistently over Lee Jackson's gruff, frequently off-key vocals during his time with The Nice (and I'm still far from his biggest fan), but I must say that in two out of the three songs on which he sings (the other two pieces are instrumentals) his voice suits the track fine. It is only on Someday that my old feelings of annoyance are stirred ... please be warned that Someday is the first piece on which he sings, so do not walk away from this album if you don't like the vocals!

Besides, in terms of playing time roughly 80% of this album is instrumental, and I don't feel that the vocals are enough of a factor to sway one's opinion of Refugee. Someday for example, surely must be defined by Moraz's monumental electric piano and synth solos (diametrically opposite in style).

The 17-minute epic Grand Canyon is an absolutely enthralling piece. It is a slow building spacey ethereal affair that suddenly bursts into life, with some rich synth work from Moraz leading into some Steinway majesty over which Jackson (gasp) sings a beautiful melody. At some points of this piece, the dual piano/organ reminds me of Procol Harum's excellent Pilgrim's Progress (a track off A Salty Dog), but all that goes out of the window when Moraz takes the reins again with some blistering synth. Halfway through the piece there is a dramatic shift to a very edgy rhythmic section before Moraz does the business once again. It's pertinent to point out that both Jackson and Davison (no slouches as instrumentalists to begin with) have distinctly improved in the few years between The Nice and Refugee, and also effortlessly keep up with the insanely talented Moraz.

The instrumental Ritt Mickley is a quirky, almost funky piece with a classical organ theme thrown in at the middle, although it is generally dominated by some massive synth sounds. For some reason it strikes me as the kind of jam Gentle Giant might do on a lazy day. Again the playing is absolutely top-notch.

One would have thought that Grand Canyon would be the centerpiece of this album (and it is of course my favourite piece) but it's actually pipped in the time stakes by the 18-minute Credo. Credo sees Patrick kick off with some outstanding lyrical unaccompanied piano (for the first 4 minutes, mind you) before everything just swirls into action. Jackson's harsh vocals actually fit this piece too, although they are a merely a sideshow to Moraz's piano playing (at one point, Jackson does throw in a great fusiony bass solo too.) Ominous classical organ then heralds another astonishingly beautiful vocal passage. Some more incendiary piano followed by electric piano followed by synth concludes one of the greatest prog-rock albums I've ever heard.

I haven't yet heard Mainhorse, the Swiss prog outfit with which Moraz debuted, nor his acclaimed solo album The Story Of I, but right now, I find it hard to believe that this sumptious album isn't the artistic pinnacle of his career (and yes I'm including Relayer, where he has to share the limelight with the likes of Steve Howe). I can well imagine the frustration of Jackson and Davison when Moraz was lured away to join Yes and it remains a minor tragedy that this outfit never made more albums. All we can do now is marvel at the one gem that was left behind. ... 92% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 5/5 |

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