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Alcatraz - Vampire State Building CD (album) cover





3.83 | 79 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars By coincidence, while I was looking for Bio info about this band I've found a legal download of their debut album. The band story is quite unusual: an excellent debut album followed by years of silence and a number of further releases for a story which starts in 1971 and arrives up to 2002.

The band started as a cover band of VANILLA FUDGE and TEN YEARS AFTER and the influence of classic rock and early prog is huge, but what is more surprising is the use of the flute which is not too different from what in the same year Jimmy Hastings was doing with CARAVAN. The sounds are heavier, more acid, especially the guitar but the connection with the Canterbury sound is present in the more jazzy moments, like the sax solo over funky guitar in the chaotic second part of the first track.

There are improvised sessions as usual with Krautrock, and the bongos add a touch of hippy trippy, luckily very far from the out-of-mind/poor-of-skill debut of AMON DUUL. The five elements show a concrete skill even without loosing the spontaneity of the first Kraut bands,

The album is also very well recorded for the time and the place. It's likely that it has been made in a non-professional study with at maximum an 8-track recorder, but the balance in the volumes gives the idea of a band who knows what is doing.

I have read a review, I don't remember if on PA or somewhere else saying that the vocals are the band's weakness. I don't think so. Of course that kind of singing appears dated but it's very well inserted in the songs.

On "Your Chance Of A Lifetime" it's like a Chappo Chapman without vibrato screaming over a very high-volume acid-blues guitar. The second part of the song is very rocking and reminds a little to WISHBONE ASH (Pilgrimage as album).

There are also heavy moments like the intro of "Where The Wild Things Are" (still Wishbone Ash in my mind), even if the twin-guitar band has never been mentioned in the band's influences. URIAH HEEP and BLACK SABBATH instead were bands the Alcatraz were used to play covers of.

The Title track is the longest, scoring over 13 minutes. The structure is similar to that of the first track, the second in length, for it's being composed by a sort of very well jointed patchwork of different things (and genres). In a word a progressive mini-suite which to me appears more English than German even in the most improvised parts, around a long drum solo, as they remind more to the skilled free-jazz of SOFT MACHINES than to the trippy crazyness of CAN. However is effectively in this track that they play the improvised section which is more in line with what we are used to call Krautrock, while the following "Piss Off" could be fitting for today's noisy AVANTGARDE.

The closer starts as a swing song. If it wasn't for the Uriah Heep like choir. The vocals on this song (the only other with vocals) unite with the heavy guitar and the uptime bluesy bass and guitar remind very much to Hendrix. After the first sung part there's a very nice duel of guitar and sax, then a sort of uptime jazz section with dissonant piano (respect to the bass) leads to an excellent succession of different parts all of them driven by the sax. Honestly this is a track that must be heard. Describing it is ineffective as it's so full of things that a lot is lost in the description.

Anyway this has been a very lucky coincidence. I didn't know anything of this obscure and underrated band, previously. Now I'm happy to tell you how lucky I've been in discovering this little jewel.

octopus-4 | 4/5 |


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