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Odyssee - White Swan CD (album) cover

WHITE SWAN

Odyssee

 

Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 13 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Blue Rinse Army Faction

You'd think those young Germans who drove barbers into ruin circa the early 70's would be more than qualified to provide some of the highest cholesterol Symphonic Prog around wouldn't you?. I mean take the bloated romantic legacy of Wagner, the pagan mysticism of Heine, the universal poesy of Novalis (the writer not the band dude) the fastidious breast beating lieder of Schubert and Goethe's artery clogging Faustian fudge pact and you have all the ingredients sufficient for German rock music to make Yes sound like a minimalist skiffle covers band. Why then is it that the likes of Grobschnitt, Eloy, Novalis, Neuschwanstein, Sirius and Epidauras etc come across like blushing cissy girly combos who struggle to fill their bras? I think we have to dig a little deeper than my routine glibness to find the answers. I guess that post WW2 there would have existed in Germany an entire generation who were not remotely equipped to deal with the associated guilt and commensurate anger foisted upon them by their forbears. This just might be the reason why so much progressively slanted German music from the early 70's has the unmistakable flavour of agit-prop activism or hedonistic abandon (in other words, what has come to be thrown back in the authors faces as Krautrock) Founder of the Red Army Faction Ulrike Meinhoff voiced at around this time what many young Germans probably felt about a new order that was propagated and populated by what they saw as unrepentant Nazi sympathisers in their midst that hadn't been brought to account for their allegiances:

Protest is when I say this does not please me.

Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more

So we are left with a parting of the ways in the ranks of German 'yoof' i.e. the political and subversive slant of Amon Duuls I & 2 (pun intended), Faust, Floh de Cologne et al in stark contrast to the aforementioned avowedly conservative classical Symph Rockers. Sweet and Sour Krautrock if you will. Please forgive my long winded intro but context is crucial to any artistic phenomena as I'm advised by those clever scientific chaps that yer ears wouldn't detect squat in a vacuum.

Although this album was released when prog was relegated to that unclaimed fart in the crowded elevator (1978) it beggars belief that this was a 'private pressing only' given the top drawer quality on offer. It's a real shame that the fickle vagaries of the aesthetic fashion corps dictate that vanity publishing is clearly not monopolised by the writing profession. This is a very strong and distinguished slice of jazz inflected symphonic Prog that showcases an original voice that surely deserved wider recognition from the genre's cognoscenti. The toppy and eloquent bass wedded to the jazz inflected electric guitar is bound to draw comparisons with Yes, but we encounter on White Swan a rich diversity of influences and stylistic avenues that are explored by an extremely accomplished and eclectic band. The loping gait of the swung 6/8 groove on Impression of November provides substantive evidence that downy haired pale Northern Europeans can swing with as much cred as perennially suntanned jazzers.(even PFM) The pace is generally brusque throughout in a sort of 'no nonsense cut to the chase and forego the hippy cosmiche wank' of their supposed peers. The developmental section of this track carries a glorious whiff of Happy the Man replete with plucked oriental missives from the synth leads which delight and intrigue in equal measure. Konstaninopel is a no holds barred excursion into jazz fusion shorn of the 'completely unrelated harmonies we learned to solo over which is dead hard' conceit of celebrated masters of this realm. Break the Ties starts with a restive solo piano passage and the emergent music is superb throughout although the vocals do betray a self consciousness born of a realisation that they are encroaching on Gentle Giant territory. Good Day Good Morning kicks off like I Zimbra (I ain't kidding) but somehow conspires to segue quite effortlessly into one of the most memorable vocal hooks on the album. There's an uncompromising discipline and economy throughout this record that precludes the inevitable consequences of technique as expression i.e.what cannot be replicated cannot emote (n'est pas?) Intrada carries another deferential nod of acknowledgement to Gentle Giant and has all the contrapuntal vagaries of the latter but this is a reference point not 25 foot high letters exclaiming 'You Are Here'. OK? Where Odyssee and your furry correspondent part company however is on the last (gulp) title track which sounds like something commensurately ambitious from either Wind and Wuthering or Trick of the Tale era Genesis. That's not to say it's bad of course (as both those albums contain much fine material) but they milk to inordinate length the best chorus post Gabriel Genesis didn't write and the singer sounds uncannily like the very reason gaffer tape was invented (Phil Collins) Don't let the frankly w.a.n.k.y cover put you off as yes, it was probably designed by the 'dead artistic' pubescent little sister of one of the band so its more wonderbra than wundabar alas, and this is a more than generously endowed album that needs no such concealing padding.

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |

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