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Satin Whale - As A Keepsake CD (album) cover

AS A KEEPSAKE

Satin Whale

 

Prog Related

2.63 | 13 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
2 stars Although it doesn't often produce the greatest results, I'm constantly intrigued by the idea of prog musicians trying to find a balance between progressive technicality and commercial elements. It's a fine line, trying to please your existing fan base who expects something with more substance, and appealing to a new commercial radio-friendly audience - and especially keeping the record label happy.

Sadly, this Satin Whale album doesn't live up to the standard they set on their one true classic, the 1974 debut `Desert Places' . That album rocked with a fury, had endless killer guitar and organ work, and even if the vocals were a little rough around the edges, the actual melodies were very decent. `As a Keepsake', however is often blatantly commercial and undemanding, I'm not sure if this was the band's decision, or the result of pressure from their record label demanding some `hits'. The album is especially ruined by some over the top and unpleasant female backing vocalists. They show up on most tracks and really kill the album. While I guess it gives the band a unique angle, it's really a detriment to the album. They didn't need them for the near classic debut album, and they didn't need them on this.

(I wonder if the three `Chorus' girls credited on the sleeve were actually girlfriends of the band, so the guys put them on the record as a favour? If so, I hope you saw a lot of action, fellas!)

The dramatic intro to opener `Holidays' really gets your hopes up with some nice playing, if a little modeled on Yes with the grumbling bass, Howe like guitar licks and Wakeman keyboards, but it ends up just a straightforward pop/rock song with very slight progressive moments tacked on. Very positive but kind of clichéd lame lyrics about `getting away from it all'. Pretty forgettable, but you can tell the band are great players.

`Reminiscent River' sets the template for much of the poorer elements of the album. A decent band playing an unremarkable commercial arrangement, swamped with a sappy string arrangement and overbearing female chorus vocals. Mostly horrible.

`Devilish Roundabout' is up-tempo and very positive, really gets your foot tapping! Great acoustic playing, cool organ, rumbling bass on this one, thanks to those above-mentioned Yes elements, and there's a strangely effective xylophone solo in the middle! Love it, really makes me smile....until right at the end, those female backing vocalists come in and kill the thing almost dead. Luckily it's brought back around and saved briefly by a short and sweet electric guitar solo and acoustic outro. Not too bad, and probably the best track so far.

`A Bit Foolish, A Bit Wise' has a beautiful atmospheric intro, but gives way to a heavily orchestrated and uninteresting section. The middle does have a lovely synth and flute solo, before being joined by a classy electric guitar solo...and then cut off again by those female singers and a reprise of the male vocal section and strings. Disappointing.

Side B's `Shady Way' sounds almost like a Focus outtake, with plenty of snappy flute fills, solid drum work and a nice wailing guitar solo before the wretched female singers and strings come in. Starting to see a pattern forming here? Beautiful outro, though.

We now hit a brief run of a few tracks where the album picks up and the quality increases quite a bit! It's to be short lived, however.

`Goin' Back To Cologne' has probably the best band vocals on the album, wrapped up in a very accessible and catchy melody. Again, reminds me a lot of Focus with the thick organ, and a killer Wakeman-like synth solo in the middle, with fiery drums. Also, a round of applause please ? NO female backing vocalists! Really good track!

`Kew Gardens' has sweet vocals from Thomas Brueck, with laid-back electric piano throughout the whole piece. The sax solo in the middle sounds slightly schmaltzy, but I'm quite forgiving of this one, as there's no female chorus vocals, and a nice sentimental and reflective lyric to go with it. The few little harmonica interludes here and there are a nice touch, too.

Finally - an instrumental track!! `Maree' is a great upbeat and energetic track, with wonderful thick organ, heaps of keyboard variety, and a great back and forth between the flute and guitar about two minutes in. Very tight arrangement, the terrific bass is really upfront and prominent on this one too. The band really cooks on this. More of this please, fellas!

Then we plummet back to earth badly with the cheesy and commercial `No Time To Lose', which is easily the poorest track on the album. It does have a positive lyric, but it's crippled by overuse of the female backing singers, a lame chorus and even a very slight disco influence. The band don't even get any standout moments on it to justify us listening. Awful!

`As A Keepsake' borders very slightly on AOR, a collection of mostly straightforward rock with progressive elements spliced in. Very well played, with a nice clear production, a number of fantastic parts, but it's all quite undemanding and such a letdown from their knockout debut album. All the great elements from the first album show up in brief little moments throughout this one, but it's wrapped in a number of forgettable commercial tracks and those obtrusive female singers. Just listen to how much the album comes alive in the instrumental sections, and you kind of get an idea of what we missed out on.

Sadly, only two stars - but those couple of tracks on the second side are rather good!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 2/5 |

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