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Wally - Valley Gardens CD (album) cover

VALLEY GARDENS

Wally

 

Symphonic Prog

3.00 | 25 ratings

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VanVanVan
Prog Reviewer
2 stars We have here the second album from a decidedly interesting band whose first album was memorable (if very flawed) for its rather unique "country prog" sound. While a bit of that sound remains, this album sees Wally streamlining their sound quite a bit, moving towards space rock in a Pink Floyd and generally trying to come off as a more explicitly "prog" band. That's the impression I got, anyway, and unfortunately I don't feel that this approach works out for them very well. The first album was flawed but charming enough in its strangeness to be a rather enjoyable listen, while this one, on the whole just comes off as bland despite an early high point.

That high point is "Valley Gardens," which starts off the album with an intro that sounds like it easily could have come from Yes if you didn't know better. The sound quickly changes, however, into a guitar led melody that sounds like Dick Dale mixed with Pink Floyd. It's an incredibly promising instrumental opening that blends styles from many bands without coming off as a direct clone of any of them (with the exception of the first little bit, which sounds exactly like Yes). When the vocals come in the track takes on an even more Floydian sound, with languid delivery and spacey guitars that are spot-on for Dark Side era Pink Floyd. The track again shifts gears at around the 6 minute mark, bringing in a bit of the "country-prog" sound that made Wally's debut album sound so unique. As a whole, the title track here is a bit disjointed, but it's also a very, very good song and one that sets the bar very high for the rest of the album.

Unfortunately, it immediately becomes clear that the rest of the album is not going to reach the same heights. "Nez Perce" is a shorter tune, very much in the style of the first album, with Wally's rather unique blended style of folk, country western, and spacey progressive rock returning in a characteristically languid way. Violin plays a prominent role in the song, drawing possible connections to Kansas, though in general Wally's style is far more country than Kansas ever was. Excellent vocal harmonies that are at times reminiscent of CSN(Y) also feature prominently. Overall, "Nez Perce" is a pleasant little song, but not remotely proggy and a pretty big letdown after the excellent opener.

"The Mood I'm In" follows in a similar vein, starting off with some some ethereal keyboards and psychedelic guitars and adding in vocals in much the same vein of "Nez Perce." Languid delivery and lush backing harmonies are the name of the game here, and like the title track there are obvious comparisons to be made to the sound of Dark Side of the Moon, though this is done with far less subtlety. In fact, given the sound of the track it's not too hard to imagine that Wally was going for intentional imitation, especially given the remarkably similar use of saxophone in the track. With a spacey atmosphere and some pleasant (but not particularly noteworthy) solos, "The Mood I'm In" is again a decent song, but not a particularly original or spectacular one, which prompts me to ask myself if I wouldn't just be better off listening to a band that pulled off the style better.

"The Reason Why" sees Wally trying its hand at a sidelong epic. The epic "To The Urban Man" from their previous eponymous album came off as a wandering, aimless affair, and I was curious to see whether they would be able to pull it off better here. Unfortunately, after several listens I am forced to conclude that the answer is "no." It seems that the band tried very hard to make a progressive epic, with various motifs, solos and instruments darting in and out; however, the track simply meanders on with no sense of purpose and even kills a good two minutes with a pseudo-ambient section that sounds kind of cool but doesn't fit into the track as a whole at all. There's no real sense of drama or pacing, and even the solos feel bland and phoned in.

Thus, unfortunately, Valley Gardens is an album that starts strong but ultimately fails to deliver. The title track shows that Wally's compositional abilities had obviously begun to improve, but unfortunately the rest of the album has been so homogenized that it lacks even the idiosyncratic charm of the first album. Beyond the first track there's really not too much reason to check this one out, as there are a multitude of other bands who can do what Wally does here, but better.

2/5

VanVanVan | 2/5 |

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