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Collage - Moonshine CD (album) cover

MOONSHINE

Collage

 

Neo-Prog

4.01 | 266 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's been more than 10 years since the release of "Moonshine", arguably Collage's definitive masterpiece, yet it continues to send shivers down a number of listeners' spines in the present day - at least that's what happens to me every time I return to this neo-prog gem. Born out of the now distant Polish neo-prog "new wave" of the early 90s, Collage managed to become as important as a couple of other brilliant compatriots (Abraxas, Quidam), in no small degree thanks to "Moonshine". This is the band's apex because it is the album in which the cohesion among the musicians and the magic of the material fulfill their potential at 100 %. The repertoire's sound perfectly epitomizes the way in which Collage assume and reelaborate their main references - early Marillion, "Wind & Wuthering"-era Genesis - with the use of some good old folkish vibes and a musical strength of their own. The folkish thing is not as evident as in their amazing debut "Basnie", but definitely it is still there, as some sort of implicit alternative to the predominant symphonic prog ambiences. The main sounds are provided by the guitar and the keyboards. Mirek Gil's leads, harmonies and textures sound like a fusion of Hackett and Rothery, while the keyboards play an essential role in orchestrations, solos, multi-layers, and even well ordained segues between most of the songs. While in the melodic aspect we can accurately state that the main core is Palczewski, the whole structure of each song is solidly laid by drummer Wojtek Szadkowski, whose fantastic skills lead him closer to Peart [no kidding - just listen to his inventive rolls and constant use of cymbal tricks] and White than to his usually more constrained neo-prog colleagues. Amirian's voice, on the other hand, has always been a bone of contention for Collage reviewers: I stand on the positive side, since I think that his style and charisma are more than proper for the sound that Collage create. Well, the album kicks off with excellent keyboard-driven bombast, like the start of an epic movie. Soon the bombast subsides in order to let the evocative development of 'Heroes Cry' follow a natural course of reflectiveness. The epic thing feels more constant in the following track 'In Your Eyes', the first of the three suites that are comprised in the album. 'In Your Eyes' contains a fluidly connected succession of romantic and energetic passages: these are 14 minutes of pure prog glory. The other suites are 'Wings in the Night' and the namesake track. The former has a bigger emphasis on the reflective side of things, although it is not bland or boring at all: that peculiar intensity is always present. Although this suite tends to be the most highly praised in the Internet, I must prefer the darker 'Moonshine'. The way in which the drumming cadence gives way to the starting point and the way the succession of motifs meets a fluid cohesiveness make it one of the album's highlights. Another undisputed highlight is 'The Blues', an energetic exercise of self-determination as a source for the impulse to overcome melancholy and frustration: the melodic ideas are great, and so are the inputs of all five members. Before 'The Blues', there is the duality of 'Lovely Day' and 'Living in the Moonlight'. 'Lovely Day' brings a breeze of folkish air to the album, providing a warm portrait of the harmony between a man in a moment of happy meditation and the landscape. Segued to this track by a brief series of piano arpeggios, 'Living in the Moonlight' brings the darkness of both the night and the sorrow for love lost and still yearned for. 'Living in the Moonlight' was the band's major hit, a sort of 'Kayleigh' for them. The emergence of 'The Blues' helps to bring a statement of self-assurance and determination once the storm of nostalgia is over. But what about conflict? Can it be over? According to Amirian's closing statement, it can. 'War is Over' is an optimistic Celtic-based song that unabashedly shows off its own naive belief in a better future for human beings and mankind as a whole. Everything about this beautiful song brings soft emotional solace: the duel between the acoustic guitar and mandolin, the bagpipe "allusions" provided by the guitar and synth leads, the final accordion harmonies, Amirian's initial almost whispering turning into a candid frenzy. A beautiful end for a beautiful album. "Moonshine" is a testimony of College's artistic talent at its peak.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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