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Continuum - Continuum CD (album) cover

CONTINUUM

Continuum

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.03 | 10 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Bach to the future.

Released in 1970, Continuum's first album is a confident statement consisting of three pieces based on Bach compositions, one based on Handel's "Allegro", and a side long suite composed for the band by Richard Hartley. There are lengthy sleeve notes explaining the compositions further, and I shall borrow from these during the review (although they are at times complex, perhaps even pretentious). Quotes from the sleeve notes are shown thus ^quote ^.

The album opens with "Invention", a band composition based on Bach's "Invention no. 13 in A minor". The two classical guitar players in the band pick up the theme before multi-instrumentalist Yoel Scwarcz switches to recorder and then flute. The piece was ^originally written as a counterpoint exercise ^, the band increasingly improvising away from the main theme.

"Allemande and blues" is another Bach inspired band composition. Guitarist John Warren ^plays the solo Allemande, a running dance in 4/4 beginning with an upbeat before digging into an earthy blues ^. Double bassist Mike Hart (the band use an acoustic double bass in place of a bass guitar), switches to bowing the strings for part of the track here. The blues section offers something of a contrast to the rest of the album, the flute improvisation being similar to Steel Mill's "Green eyed god".

"Allegro" is the only non-Bach inspired piece on the first side, the track being based on Handel's "Harpsichord suite no. 7". The classical guitarists alternate solos before Schwarcz moves into a harmonica improvisation. This section has even more of a blues feel than the previous track, the descending bass line offering much more of rock beat.

Side one closes with Richard Hartley's "Bouree" taken from Bach's "Second English suite". The medieval atmosphere of the track emphasises the fact that Bach composed the suite ^ for the English ^. The sleeve notes state that ^the theme is stated on recorder and guitar, before the bass leads into a rhythmically intriguing prelude to a 24-bar improvisation in the relative minor ^.

^The excursions of the first side act as a preparation for the more intense explorations of the second ^. Side two of the album is occupied entirely by "Legend of Chile Harold" composed by Richard Hartley. The piece is based on the poetic works of Lord Byron, and is ^a thinly veiled indictment on the world of the time^.

The suite is in five named sections, each having a sub-title describing the part of Childe Harold's journey being depicted by the track. For example "Approach of Judgement" is described as ^Sure doom advances, half remembered dances haunt on^.

Musically, the piece opens with heavy cello, not unlike some of ELO's early work, with phased strings and a dramatic feel. The extra strings added to the suite offer a slightly more classical feel, although the piece is still largely improvisational, with a jazz rock basis. The "Dance of destruction" section reflects ^The subtlety of man's inhumanity passed off as glory^, It has ^an 8 bar theme broken by a solitary 7 bar passage, and swings into a baroque vein gypsy dance^. As the piece develops, Schwarcz adds one of his fine lengthy flute improvisations, something he would do to fine effect again on the following "Autumn grass" album. Towards the end of the suite, the band experiment with electronic sounds and effects, the structure almost disappearing completely before being brought back together for a brief symphonic conclusion.

Why Continuum never gained the recognition the deserved is a matter for conjecture. Perhaps it was because they took themselves just a little too seriously, or maybe they were simply ahead of their time. Whatever the reasons, their debut album shows them to be highly talented performers, who were not afraid to venture beyond the confines of traditional rock and classical music, resulting in a couple of fine but criminally ignored albums.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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