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Unitopia - Covered Mirror Vol.1 CD (album) cover

COVERED MIRROR VOL.1

Unitopia

 

Crossover Prog

3.82 | 51 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars I have fantasized back in the late 80s that one fine day, when the trends and fads would gently get gobbled up by the technological future, that there would be old prog classics revisited with new renditions from 21st century musicians. Not because their creative kettle would be empty (it clearly is not as recent years have provided some amazing progressive releases) but from sheer and genuine respect for the great classics from the golden age. So I went about getting Nektar's A Spoonful of Time and the markedly less commercial "Covered Mirror Volume 1-Smooth as Silk" from Australia's Unitopia. The Aussies have put together a stellar list of fine prog, pop and rock classics, wrapped in wonderful artwork courtesy of the brilliant Ed Unitsky, songs that have inspired them to forge their own musical identity. And what a line-up it is!

After an opening self-composed prelude called "Signs of Life", the lads delve deep into music history. Klaatu's remarkable "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" is most extraordinary, a lush symphonic version that will stick in your mind for ever, showcasing orchestral aspects combine with the original Beatlesque melody. Resounding success!

Marillion's "Easter" has a lower register than the Hoggarth inspired tune, certainly a classic modern prog song if there ever was one, garnished with some sizzling synth soloing courtesy of Sean Timms and deep searing axe grinding from Matt Williams. Expanded with groovy backing vocals giving lead vocalist Mark Trueack room to moan and groan, the voice is actually closer to Peter Gabriel than anyone else. As good as the original.

Fellow Australian icon Iva Davies once fronted a remarkable 80s band named Icehouse that had strong prog flavorings within delicious melodies. "Man of Colours" is one of many stellar Icehouse classics, a brooding, emotional and uplifting tune, here given a more symphonic sound with heady doses of sultry sax that heats up the fire. Another "stick in your mind" tune with a superb backing choir.

Unitopia has no fear of slapping together a mighty Genesis medley of well-oiled snippets , incorporating the lesser known and early "The Silent Sun", attached lovingly to classic "Supper's Ready", blending into the majestic "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight", then veering into the New York-esque " The Lamb" and finally concluding serenely with "Carpet Crawlers". We all know the songs, their respectful interpretation combines genuine awe whilst doing a spicy take on the specifics, Trueack doing some magical Gabriel voicings in the process. Magnificent job, really, different but delicious.

Led Zeppelin, really? That takes balls to say the least, a feat rarely attempted in prog circles but having opted for the Celtic-tinged folk tune "Rain Song" only highlights the band's rather unique sense of inspiration. What's so cool is that Trueack's voice is obviously way deeper that Plant's unique shriek, giving the recognizable tune a different glow that is most entrancing. Having two percussors certainly gives a rhythmic pulse to the breezy guitar shadings, especially when the mood gets funky and heavy, bloody brilliant! Growl, baby Growl and moan??Orchestral finale with a vibraphone outro!

Supertramp? Really? "Even in the Quietest Moments" is what Unitopia chose to interpret and once again, they do a crack job! Birds singing, special effects and the majestic piano theme crackling through the clouds, the sultry saxophone recalling the melody once again, the lower register vocal shimmering like if a new tune, yes, this is another winner. Snap those fingers, oy!

Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends" is a well-known radio tune, here lush with hushed vocals, certainly less assertive and commercial than the original. A fluttering flute solo allied with a pounding piano and vocal "lah-lahs" make this an interesting ditty.

"Speaking the Truth" is another brief instrumental interlude where the flute takes control, charging up the batteries for another segment of stellar covers , none better that the classic The Korgis mid-80s pop hit, "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", a slow dance symphonic love song to die for. Some will find this inclusion surprising which is rather sad, as it's a fabulous piece of pop genius. Not as saccharine as the original, Unitopia again deliver a different shade for us to enjoy. My highlight track here, as I loved the original and well, it's a hard track to mess up, so deep is the beauty within and the gargantuan chorus. Contrary to The Korgis' version, here we have a scintillating guitar solo that stings and bites!

Balls? Yes, I mean ?..YES! A seamless medley of classics from the once crown jewels of symphonic rock, the Oz band takes on "Awaken/Close to the Edge" as an intro, flowing into the famous "Soon" section Of "Gates of Delerium", back to "And You and I", onward to "Onward", dive deep into "South Side of the Sky" and wave g'bye to a dignified, almost otherworldly version of "Owner of a Lonely Heart", turning all of these snippets into a 12 minute joyride. What makes this so grand is the deep voice, so completely the polar opposite of the heavenly Anderson wail. To me, that shows respect as well as artistic freedom, which is what inspiration is all about! They also stay away from any silly grandiose soloing, just like on the earlier Genesis medley, sticking to the song's inherent qualities! Smart and classy move that deserves recognition.

"To One in Paradise" is an Alan Parsons Project classic, given a total work over, less mechanical and sounding almost like a Beatles version with a slower, more deliberate orchestral coating. Perhaps the only slightly weaker piece on the album, but still very listenable and enjoyable.

The bonus track is a Flower Kings piece "The Way the Waters Are Moving" from the Paradox Hotel album, with a melancholic, vocal-oriented display of anguished pain. Trueack's delivery is stunningly fragile and utterly convincing. Bravo!

I mean some short sighted people and staunch purists will probably disagree with my assessment but if you really look at the context, this is a loving tribute to some amazing songs that I agree does not always succeed such as Fish's critically lambasted "Songs from the Mirror" but the Unitopia intention is clear and the result is simply fascinating.

4.5 Hidden reflections

Looking forward to a Volume 2!

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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