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Duncan Mackay - Score CD (album) cover


Duncan Mackay


Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 22 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars After phenomenal debut album "Chimera" Duncan Mackay seemed to largely lose inspiration. His second output called "Score" can't be compared with the previous LP at all. There are many problems with this release: mostly abandoning of organ-driven prog in favor of synthesizers / pianos art rock, addition of sometimes very obstructive orchestral arrangements, not-so-hot compositions & the worst from all - re-recording of many fragments from "Chimera" album, something like self-plagiarism! But is it a complete piece of crap? I wouldn't say so. In fact it's not so bad, it's just completely different from his first LP. I can clearly see that Duncan tried to move away from ELP-like style to more sophisticated Rick Wakeman-like symphonic prog. It's good that he tired to make a progress but somehow he didn't convince me too much. But for sure I can appreciate bringing Clive Chaman (Jeff Beck Group, Hammer, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) & Andrew McCulloch (Fields, Greenslade, Manfred Mann, Anthony Phillips, Crazy World of Arthur Brown & King Crimson) on board, they create really fantastic rhythm section. Adding John Wetton (King Crimson) was also a very nice move.

Let's proceed to the songs:

1. "Witches" - album begins with fully orchestrated track which sounds like directly taken from Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Centre of The Earth". Strings section almost completely dominate the music here, and Mackay's piano seems to play only supportive sole. Real treat for fans of pure classical music, but not rock.

2. "Triptych" - slightly repetitive instrumental played on pianos & ARP synthesizer. Not very memorable.

3. "Spaghetti Smooch" - in the beginning Yvonne Keeley's speaking some Italian words over mellow synth music a la "Love Story" soundtrack. And her voice sounds very similar to Doris Norton from Jacula/Antonius Rex. Strange... Anyway later on she calms down and we can "enjoy" pure music. Yawn...

4. "Time Is No Healer" - sounds like jazz standard based on soft piano passages and mellow flute melodies (played by Mel Collins from King Crimson fame). Steve Harley's vocal are decent but I rather dislike those female choruses. Too corny, and absolutely no connections with prog-rock.

5. "Fugitive" - finally Duncan shows us some furious organ playing!! 2 minutes of sheer symphonic beauty which can be easily compared to staff recorded by such Hammond monsters like Keith Emerson or Jurgen Fritz. I can also think about Kansas' frenetic instrumental "The Spider". Definitely the highlight of this album!

6. "Score" - if I didn't listen to Duncan's debut album I would say that this is a definitive classic of this record...but I had, and I have to say that this instrumental is just a new version of "12 Tone Nostalgia" from "Chimera". Self-plagiarism! This version is very similar to the original and I don't see a point in re-recording it. I can only see that Mackay decided to use a bit more synthesizers and pianos this time, but still Hammond rules here. If you're not familiar with "Chimera" yet you'll be satisfied, but...

7. "Pillow Schmillow" - happy-sloppy turkey with danceable, funky rhythm and dumb lyrics. It's always nice to listen to John Wetton's vocals, but this song just isn't good enough. However Duncan Mackay's ARP solos are OK. Anyway the whole melody sounds almost completely the same like this short, vocal-oriented part of "Song for Witches" suite from debut album. Another self-plagiarism...

8. "Jigaloda" - really not bad instrumental played mainly on pianos & ARP synthesizers + atmospheric Hammond background. Very similar to Rick Wakeman or Michael Quatro. A good one.

9. "No Return" - well played song with bombastic instrumental parts containing deep organ layers & leading synthesizer solos. For the second time we can also listen to dependable John Wetton here. Middle section is a bit too sloppy (too much ballad-style) but overall it's a really good prog-rock track.

To sum up: "Score" isn't a very satisfying album. Compared with "Chimera" it's very lame & unimaginative (all those parts "borrowed" from previous record), but as a stand-alone LP it isn't so bad. I'd say: average. Just don't expect ELP/Trace/Triumvirat style here, because it's a completely different story. Recommended to fans of Rick Wakeman's & Michael Quatro's melodic symphonic rock led by pianos & synthesizers. There's almost nothing interesting for organ-driven prog goers on "Score".

P.S. Third solo output of Duncan Mackay "Visa" is an electronic album without any prog-rock moments at all. Horrible staff if you want to know my opinion!

Best track: "Fugitive"

3 stars from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 3/5 |


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