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East Of Eden - Mercator Projected CD (album) cover

MERCATOR PROJECTED

East Of Eden

 

Eclectic Prog

4.03 | 96 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A spellbinding work from the dawn of the progressive era, Mercator Projected is no fully-formed symphonic prog masterpiece. But as a harbinger of the future (this album emerged in 1969) that is also challenging and enjoyable in its own right, there are few albums to match the status of this one. East Of Eden's true star is Dave Arbus who plays violin, flute, recorder and sax (although Ron Caines also joins in on sax) and it is a shame that the group's success with the novelty hit single Jig-A-Jig (#7 in April 1971) eventually stranded them in no-man's land. However this awesomely inventive debut should not be allowed to be forgotten.

What stays with me most is the glorious hook of Isadora ... "Isadora dance, we are entranced" probably works best if you're down with the hippie vibe, for dancing flutes and Eastern themes are draped around lyrics that are simultaneously corny and deep. Mercator Projector is also defined by the psychedelic rambles of Waterways, and perhaps more than anything else the proto-prog blues of Northern Hemisphere and the hilarious harmonica-driven Centaur Woman (replete with an impressive fuzz-bass solo courtesy of Steve York).

The softer side of the band is featured in the melancholic Bathers, in which violin, organ (from Caines) and recorder are blended to astounding effect. With the subtle drumming of Dave Dufont giving the song added character, this song might well appeal to those who enjoy King Crimson's early ballads. The propulsive Communion also features flute prominently, as well as some cute sound effects and even a joke told in another language (they translate everything except the punchline!). Moth is another piece that incorporates Eastern style exploration, although it is occasionally interspersed with a glorious Beatlesque melody. It all concludes with the high-octane jazzy jam In The Stable Of The Sphinx, which is carried by the saxes, but features spectacular turns on violin and guitar from Arbus and Geoff Nicholson respectively.

There are shades of Jethro Tull & Gravy Train here, but these guys are generally jazzier, almost straying into Soft Machine territory. There are times when they sound like King Crimson or The Moody Blues, although it's interesting that they don't use the mellotron at all. When you factor in that they were doing this stuff at the same time that most of these bands got their start, it becomes apparent that East Of Eden is an essential stop for those looking to investigate the roots of progressive rock. I consider Mercator Projected to be among the best proto-prog albums ever. ... 77% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |

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