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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Odyssey - The Greatest Tale CD (album) cover

ODYSSEY - THE GREATEST TALE

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

4.21 | 73 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars When I saw the length of this magnum opus I was quite taken back as it is 220 minutes of full blown prog attempting to capture the mammoth tome of Homer's "Odyssey" in musical form. Jammed on to 3 CDs this is quite an arduous task in itself, to listen from start to finish to such a monster, however it is certainly masterfully produced and quite astounding musicianship and compositional structures. There are 3 tracks of over 20 minutes in length on each CD, so in effect it is a series of epics that work like a classical multi-movement suite encompassing the whole legacy of Homer's masterpiece. The undertaking is certainly ambitious and will take some patient prog ears to endure from go to woe, but it is a journey, a quest, and something unique for those who would dare to venture in. The main drawcard for me in taking the "Odyssey" test is the addition of such class acts as Glass Hammer and Nexus, though I was very unfamiliar with other artists so in a way it is like a samper, as one can sample what these bands offer and perhaps discover some hidden treasures.

The album opens where 'The Odyssey' begins, with 'Chapter I: Of Longings, Suitors, Deities And Quests...' presented to us by Nathan Mahl, a Canadian band led by multi-instrumentalist Guy LeBlanc who plays bass, guitar, and keys, including mesmirising performances on clavinet, Hammond, Moog and electric piano. The guitar is prominent and howls and soars along the crest of ambient waves. The atmosphere is a cinemascape of symphonic grandeur and majestic power.

'Chapter II: El Regreso-The Return' is by Argentine proggers Nexus, a very popular group that certainly makes their presence known on this opus. They prefer a sound akin to ELP with pounding Hammond staccato phrases and a mixture of heavy guitar to acoustic vibrations, taking the listener on the journey with subtlety and finesse. The Spanish vocals work well with the thematic content and this must surely rank as one of the highlights of the album.

Glass Hammer is the most well known band of the 9 on offer here, and I certainly looked forward to sitting under their enimitable style of prog for over 21 minutes. They play a track called 'Chapter III: At The Court Of Alkinoos', no relation to the Crimson King's Court, but just as good. The keyboards blaze with power and the guitars are captivating. This is one of the best songs I have heard from the American proggers and well worth seeking out for Glass Hammer fans.

CD2 begins with France's XII Alfonso with their massive epic 'Chapter IV: From Ismarus To The Land Of Death (I. Ismarus, Land Of The Cicones/II. Seventeen Days Of Open Sea/III. The Land Of The Lotus Eaters/IV. The Land Of The Cyclops/V. The Island Of Aeolus & The Land Of Laestrygonians/VI. Circe's Island/VII. The Land Of Death)'. It is a 26 minute excursion into symphonic territory, with choirs and a solid percussion attack. The jazz touches and swathes of synthesizers are dynamic, but I particularly like the Hammond blasts and guitar sonics.

Simon Says play a masterful song 'Chapter V: Minds Of Mortal Men - Meander Tales'. The Swedish band are virtuoso musicians with twin keyboard battles and searing guitar licks, with the use of an E- bow at times.

C.A.P. are from the Rock Progressive Italiano school of thought and their track 'Chapter VI: Sulle Ali Del Sogno - Odissea: Libri XIV, XV, XVI' showcases their talents. The keyboards are a dominant force especially the use of Moog synthesizer. The Italian vocals hold nothing back and it is a distinctive sound generated to cap (no pun intended) off another wonderful CD.

CD3 begins with Brazilian Tempano's 'Chapter VII: (I. Hecatombe/II. Book XVII - Odysseus Arrives At The Palace/III. Book XVIII - The Suitors Torment Odysseus/IV. Book XIX - The Beggar Meets Penelope/V. Parnasus)'. It begins with cathedral organ grinding and operatic tones in the vocals, makig this a genuine fish out of water on this project. The Mellotron is haunting and creates foreboding atmospheres of grandeur and cinematic imagery.

French band Minimum Vital offer 'Chapter VIII: Etranger En Sa Demeure', with more church organ sounds and beautiful electric guitar soloing. There is a certain bombastic feel to their approach and the guitars are absolutely glorious, soaring to the stratosphere.

Brazilian band Aether close the album with the oddly short-titled track, 'Chapter IX', that clocks 21:31 minutes. It is quite a dreamy track with loads of synths and swirling spacey nuances. The guitars rise and fall along the plateau of keyboard ambience, making this one of the most beautiful pieces on the box set.

At the end of the album one is left with a sense that they have experienced one of the grandest most majestic albums, harkening back to the vintage 70s years when prog bands churned out music like this without fear. The fact that "Odyssey" was released during 2005 makes it all the more astounding and the collaboration of the 9 bands is a one off and a treasure to be savoured. It is not an album I would turn to often due to the challenging and overwhelming length, but it is certainly worth a visit now and then to experience the power of Homer's classic, and the beauty of music at its highest calibre.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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