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Abel Ganz - Shooting Albatross CD (album) cover

SHOOTING ALBATROSS

Abel Ganz

 

Neo-Prog

4.10 | 125 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Abel Ganz are Scottish veterans of the neo-prog scene that burst out of the UK in the 1980's, with the likes of Marillion, Pendragon, Pallas, IQ, and Twelfth Night. Although this is one of my favourite eras, and sub-genres, I have to be very honest when I state that my recollection of this band at that time is thin, to say the least. This is probably not that surprising given that they effectively disappeared for 14 years between the predecessor album and this 2008 release. But, boy, what a comeback!

There are only four tracks on this album, the shortest being a mere 12:55 minutes long. It is an incredible achievement, and the news that a new album is in the pipeline should excite all fans of quality progressive rock.

The opener, Looking For A Platform, sets the scene for much of the album, in that it contains much that nods to the band's neo roots, but also sets them apart and in new directions. The opening passage is distinctly pastoral and folky in its feel, with more than a touch of Mostly Autumn in its pipes and guitars. The track then develops into a gorgeous symphonic suite, with both Trespass and immediate post Gabriel era Genesis in its root influence. Indeed, much of it reminds me of tracks from Big Big Train's The Underfall Yard, one of the highlights of 2010, and it is certain, to these ears, that these bands are intimately familiar with each other's work. The guitar lead at the conclusion is nothing short of excellent, mixed together with keyboards which would not have sounded out of place on Wind & Wuthering.

The longest epic, So Far, clocks in at a mighty 22+ minutes, and is notable for featuring the voice of former vocalist Alan Reed, who left the band for Pallas. Again, the opening segment is gorgeously pastoral, and I really love this Celtic fusion with the more "traditional" symphonic prog that is at the band's heart. Of course, much of it is also very reminiscent of Pallas' work, something that would have been hard to avoid, given Reed's involvement, and this is stated as no bad thing at all. The track, as would be expected from its length, contains many changes, but its real joy, I feel, is the exceptional guitar work, acoustically by Carter, and electrically by MacFarlane, and this is taking absolutely nothing away from the incredible keyboard work. At turns full of Celtic folk, Floydian lushness, heavy prog, and symphonic passages, this is a mighty slice of neo prog up there with the very best in the field. The ending is ghostly and haunting.

By contrast, Sheepish is a "single" length track, but at just short of thirteen minutes still packs in a great deal. It contains some far heavier passages than preceding tracks, but also manages to deliver, in the same piece, some lush pastoral symphonic passages, and the guitar and keyboard solos are brilliantly performed, with the former, at times, sounding eerily akin to some of Steven Rothery's best work, which, from me, is about the finest compliment I can make. Impossible to pin down, and, to me, the highlight of a fine album.

Ventura completes the album, and is a track actually of two parts. The first part is, perhaps, the closest the album comes to "classic", or "traditional", neo prog. Think of Anthony Phillips' solo work, mixed in with a fair dollop of Tony Banks' compositions circa 1976/77, and you are somewhere near the mark. It is marvellously uplifting in the same way as tracks from Genesis of that era are, and, I must say, as well produced. Much of that is owing to the superb vocals of Stuart MacFarlane as much as the music itself. When the track "ends", you take a rather deep breath, before noticing that there are, in fact, some five minutes until the close. The end is, in fact, a mere interlude, before the final four minutes bring us a spacey, almost psychedelic, passage of four minutes of music, with swirling guitars, orchestration, that is completely out of keeping with the rest of the album, but no less effective, excepting, perhaps, a rather too dreamy vocal performance.

This is a fine album, which only just, barely, falls short of a masterpiece. The musicianship is never anything less than inspirational, and the way in which they manage to bring us music that is so clearly heavily inspired by classic symphonic Genesis, but yet deliver something fresh and new, is a lesson to many bands. This comes extremely highly recommended.

4.5 stars, but rounded down to four in the sure and certain knowledge that the next one will blow your wig off.

lazland | 4/5 |

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