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Brand X - Masques CD (album) cover

MASQUES

Brand X

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.12 | 103 ratings

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JackFloyd
4 stars Masques is the last great Brand X album, in my opinion. They will remain as one of the best jazz fusion bands ever, but diluted songwriting and too many band members will permanently affect the quality of their albums from now on. Also, starting from here, the production gets thinner every time out.

Masques is also the first album without Phil Collins since he was busy with Genesis at the time, and yet, it doesn't really matter because drummer extraordinaire Chuck Burghi was brought in to fill his shoes, and because of his jazzier approach, the material sounds more like 'normal' fusion rather than their very own characteristic brand (no pun intended) of jazz-rock, even if there are enough quirks to maintain some of the personality.

Another average jazz fusion trademark is used here: lighting-speed guitar solos. Not a lot of Brand X tunes had guitar solos in the past ("Running On Three" from Unorthodox Behaviour; "Sun In The Night" with a sitar; "Why Should I Lend You Mine (When You Have Broken Off Already...)?" and "Macrocosm" from Morrocan Roll), but it would become ever more frequent (not bad but not very good either, either). Here, "The Poke" contains a muffled guitar alongside a subtle synthesizer pattern, "Deadly Nightshade" includes not only one, but three guitar solos, with two being slightly improvised over a written part and the third being created entirely out of thin air; "The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge" also has a short guitar solo, and "Access To Data" is an appreciation of Goodsall's speed with a full-fledged guitar solo, and three very fast parts that manage to resemble a machine gun.

Out of it's seven tunes, the only one that strikes as a filler is "Masques", but only in parts since it has some tasteful, atmospheric fretless bass set to a mysterious off-beat rhythm, the rest is a collection of pieces written with utmost care and lots of imagination.

A big surprise here is the prolific writing of Morris Pert who fleshes out not one but actually three songs: the bipolar "Deadly Nightshade", the delicate "Black Moon" and the groovy "Earth Dance", arguably the best songs on here. Goodsall's "The Poke" is not very good as an opener and could have benefited from some editing, but the quirky "Access To Data" is a joy to hear; Jones's "The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge" is as bipolar as "Deadly Nightshade" but more radical in it's moods, also, it has a main riff and a beautiful one at that.

Worthy of note is the fact that Robin Lumley is only credited as producer, having relinquished the position of keyboardist to J. Peter Robinson, previously from Quatermass.

This is a radically different line-up from the previous three records, but soon the old members would reunite without the exit of the new ones, leading to a mess called Product.

JackFloyd | 4/5 |

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