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Wally - Valley Gardens CD (album) cover

VALLEY GARDENS

Wally

 

Symphonic Prog

3.00 | 25 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars A curious and sadly little-remembered outfit, Wally produced a sophisticated yet slightly odd sound that mixed Yes-style symphonic grandeur with country-tinged West Coast rock. However, this was no North American act; far from it. Instead, Wally were in actual fact a Yorkshore-based British group with a collective love for Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Byrds et al, marking them out as one of the more adventurous groups bracketed under the far-reaching 'progressive rock' banner of the early 1970's. However, despite their bold musical brand, the six-man group would produce just two full-length studio albums during their initial burst of activity, their Atlantic-issued self-titled debut of 1974 succeeded by the following years superior 'Valley Gardens'. However, despite modest album sales they did enjoy a fairly strong live following, and would would often open for label mates Yes, sometimes at large venues. For some, this, and the fact that Wally were looked after by Yes' long-term manager Brian Lane, was proof that the Northerners were Yes' heir apparents; sadly it wasn't to be. Despite this strong backing, Wally had simply joined the progressive rock party a bit too late-in- the-day; Punk-rock exploded throughout Britain less than a year after 'Valley Gardens' was issued and the rest, as they constantly say, is history. But was it? Thankfully, one of the many wonderful advantages of both the CD and digital ages is that music that was once forgotten can be rediscovered, reissued, restored and remastered. Issued by the impressive reissue imprint Wounded Bird Records, 'Valley Gardens' can be now be fully experienced by those potential fans intrigued by the prospect of mixing early-seventies symphonic-style progressive rock with the dreamy sounds of the late-sixties Californian West Coast. Unsurprisingly, the former style dominates - 'Valley Gardens' features just four tracks, two of which take up more than two-thirds of the album's running time - though the addition of hazily-strummed acoustic guitars, slide whistles and violins makes for an almost cinematic overall quality, best exemplified by the lengthy and rather wonderful instrumental sections adorning the epic, nineteen-minute closer 'The Reason'. Overall, 'Valley Gardens' does prove an impressive and highly- melodic listen, almost an orchestral wall-of-sound experience. The album's country elements help to produce a gentle, breezy atmosphere that juxtaposes nicely with the faster symphonic sections, whilst the individual playing is carefully-restrained-yet-powerful. Exactly what fans of the West Coast sound make of Wally's second album should make for some interesting discussions; the fact remains, however, that classic-era progressive rock fans should find much to enjoy on this singular mixture of moods and styles. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2013
stefro | 3/5 |

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