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BABYLON

Babylon

Symphonic Prog


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Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Fans of bands like CATHEDRAL, MIRTHRANDIR, and YEZDA URFA are in for a treat with BABYLON. Their main influence was clearly early GENESIS, but they seemed to have been much more interested in the more aggressive moments of songs like "The Musical Box", "Firth Of Fifth", and "Cinema Show" than with their slow build-ups. The four compositions, recorded around 1978, lose little time getting aggressive and complex. They feature intricate RUTHERFORD/COLLINS influenced bass/drum grooves, melodic synth lines, and distant weeping-guitar lines. The vocals might be a little too dramatic for some. I guess, I could compare the situation to the vocals on MIRTHRANDIR's album. At first, the vocalist seemed a bit amateurish, but after repeated plays his style quickly became likeable. Overall, this another great release of GENESIS-influenced prog.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#1231)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well among many derivative bands in the vein of GENESIS and YES, in the course of late seventies, this one is the most interesting and personal too, along with MIRTHRANDIR (even though probably a 3 stars score for Babylon should be righter)... Actually "Babylon" is worth 4 stars at most, because there's not an immediate sense of melody, that is a refrain which can be sung by everyone (this is the difference between the majority of the derivative bands and the early GENESIS). Nevertheless its importance (a sort of "ante-litteram" new progressive wave genre, which will make the fortune of bands such as MARILLION some years later!!) and influence too, is very strong still today. Even though the syncopated singing and the sounds produced by the analogical keyboards as well, are not always convincing. It never minds, because this album- also as an historical document about the best 70's US derivative bands- is recommended anyway!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#1232)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The state of Florida isn't what you call a hotbed of prog rock. Usually when you think of that state's rock scene, you think of some of the southern rock bands that resided there, amongst them, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, .38 SPECIAL, BLACKFOOT, and MOLLY HATCHET. But coming out of St. Petersburgh came BABYLON. The band consisted of:

Rick Leonard: bass, voice, bass pedals / Doroccus: Lead voice, synthesizers, electric piano, Orchestron, Omni / Rodney Best: drums, percussives / J. David Boyko: guitars, muted variations thereof / G.W. Chambers: synthesizers, acoustic and electric piano, orchestron, Omni, voice

Of course the Omni refers to the ARP Omni, a combination string synth/polyphonic synth (that's basically an ARP String Ensemble with the very basic features of the Odyssey). The electric piano in this case is the RMI Electric Piano/Harpsichord, as what Tony BANKS used on "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and Rick WAKEMAN used while with YES and on "The Six Wives of Henry the VIII".

Far from trying to sound like SKYNYRD, like many bands of the time in that region often did, they much preferred the sounds of early, GABRIEL-led GENESIS and of YES. BABYLON released their one and only album in 1978, locally on the U.S. Artists label (it also says "Mehum Music" on the label, as well, but only on side one of the LP). In 1989, a small, up and coming prog label out of California owned by Greg Walker called Syn-Phonic released two albums of live archival material, "Night over Never" and "Better Conditions" for the DEAD.

Anyway the music of BABYLON is very influenced by GENESIS, with some YES thrown in, so originality isn't on their side. Doroccus oddly sounds more like MARILLION's FISH than of Peter GABRIEL (although there's a section of "The Mote in God's Eye" where he sounds like SUPERTRAMP's Roger Hodgson), so the MARILLION comparison does often surface, although this is from 1978, five years before "Script of a Jester's Tear". And if you dread MARILLION, don't worry, as it sticks in the classic prog vein, with lots of great HACKETT-like guitars, great use of Moog and string synths, and lots of lengthy and complex passage for those diehard-in-the-wool progheads who straightforward three minute long songs won't do. That means if you fear a proto-neo-prog album, rest easy. Certainly the vocals need a little getting used to, because it's more dramatic than GABRIEL (or even FISH), and there is more that "modern" feel that isn't the most appealing to me. The album has only four lengthy cuts, so the proghead who want lengthy epics won't be disappointed. Another album this reminds me of is a little of CATHEDRAL's "Stained Glass Stories", except without the KING CRIMSON and proto-ÄNGLAGARD sound (and with more the emphasis on the GENESIS style).

And for all you UFO and alien abduction buffs who own the CD reissue wonder why the Grey alien on the cover looks exactly like the one featured on the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion, when you know for a fact in the 1970s, the Greys were never portrayed as looking like that in the 1970s, well, here's what happened: When Syn-Phonic reissued this on CD, they wanted to update the artwork. So the alien now ended up looking like Strieber's alien, with the dark, black, slanted eyes, and the "Babylon" logo was now color, as opposed to black and white like on the old LP. The original LP (which I own) features the alien with more human looking eyes (not unlike the aliens that abducted Betty and Barney Hill in 1961). So the reissue portrays the Grey as in the 1980s and 1990s version of it, while the original portrays the Grey as the 1960s, 1970s, and probably early 1980s version of it.

Well, back on the subject of the music, basically if you don't mind the sound of a prog rock band obviously influenced by GENESIS (but not an outright clone), and you don't mind some of the "modern-ish" sounding vocals, then I can highly recommend this album.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#1233)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Ridiculously overrated Genesis-wannabee band. The band are resonably good players and none of their compositions are explicitly plagiaristic of their sources (though originality is not their strong suit). The main problem is that they simply aren't strong enough composers to make their lack of originality a non-issue; there's little here to keep me interested in listening to the end, and the album's barely over a half-hour long!

The lead singer (who calls himself Doroccas. And people say prog-rock is pretentious!) has an obnoxiously arch and stilted vocal style. And the lyrics are appalling, perhaps not the worst I've ever heard by native English speakers, but close. Thin keyboard sounds worsen matters still.

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Send comments to Progbear (BETA) | Report this review (#44965)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
The Owl
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Florida is not normally a locale that one normally associates with prog-rock of any form, but in the late 70's, a fivesome under the moniker of Babylon defied the stereotype. And thanks to Greg Walker and the crew at Syn-Phonic, this long-sought-after collectible is available once again, remastered and with a nice booklet including photos of the live shows.

At first listen, one would be tempted to write them off as a Genesis clone (yes they ARE influenced by Genesis, auras of Selling England-- and The Lamb-- are most obvious), but on further listening, some noticeable differences emerge as well.

For the most part, Doroccas sounds absolutely NOTHING like Gabriel at all, if anything, his voice oddly enough makes me think of Gary Numan with a bit more facility. At times alien and detached sounding ("Mote in God's Eye"), others far more down to earth ("Before The Fall"). The band's live shows took their cues from Genesis in the respect of using films, slides and props.

1) "Mote In God's Eye" - Starting with mysterious synth noises and eerie percussion, this tale of Nazi war criminals caught red-handed wastes no time unfolding from a somber march to fiercely complex instrumental passages somewhat reminiscent of Genesis yet leaning more towards fusion in their intensity, numerous time changes and harmonic structures (even more noticeable in the succeeding tracks).

2) "Before The Fall" - Starts off low key with a melodious vocal section at times reminding me a bit of the best parts of Selling England--, but before long, the track takes a turn for the darker and spookier as eerie guitar and synth melodies wind around each other over fierce backing by the band. Rodney Best really shines here with his crisp Bill Bruford-esque drumming changing tempos and meters in the blink of an eye.

3) "Dreamfish" - This is where Doraoccas has a field day, having to narrate this tale of fish-like creatures invading the human realm hell-bent of horrific revenge. One has to marvel at how Doroccas can keep up with the band's demented, twisted and difficult meter/time changes.

4) "Cathedral of The Mary Ruin" Here's where the band pulls out all the stops and goes VERY over the top throwing in everything they can possibly think of in terms of unexpected rhythmic twists and dynamic changes and ending with a haunting keyboard figure fading out.

Clocking in at around 35 minutes, this disc moves along at a brisk pace and will definitely appeal to fans of fiercely complex symphonic prog with lots of drama, Genesis influenced yet not a clone. Doroccas's voice may not be everyone's cup of tea but somehow it fits the music quite beautifully. For keyboard fans there's tons of cool synth sounds and ARP strings (NO mellotron or Hammond Organ though) although I have to admit, that RMI electronic piano is one very obnoxious sound. A tight rhythm section holds it together with Rodney Best's crisp Bruford-like complex drumming and Rick Leonard's solid authoritative bass.

What one might call a minor classic, grab it while you can.

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Send comments to The Owl (BETA) | Report this review (#54684)
Posted Friday, November 04, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Many years ago I ordered Babylon their two live LP's (Live At The Empty Keg 1 and 2) at Greg Walker his known label Syn-Phonic (in fact his first two releases!). When I received these two albums I was delighted because Babylon is a 'cult band', their studio LP from 1978 is a highly sought after item. But what a disappointement, the recording qualities are so inferior that it's almost impossible to judge this fine USA band. Their concerts were legendary multi-media events featuring screen-projections, theatre and interaction with the public. The music has obvious hints from mid-Genesis: Tony Banks inspired keyboards, Hackett-like guitar and even the drums evoke Phil Collins, only the bass work is in the vein of Chris Squire. So Babylon is a Genesis clone? No, elements like the very distinctive vocals and many subtle, sometimes very wayward ideas make Babylon to a band to check out!

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#75521)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Much better than just good yet not being absolutely excellent, the fact is that Babylon's only eponymous effort is one of the most amazing lost gems of America's symphonic prog scene back in the 70's. Recorded in late 1977 and released one year later, it is a pity that this album had to be unnoticed by the mainstream, but apparently the band had a loyal cult following, who probably were akin to the quintet's visual environemtns on stage. The band wear their main influences upon their sleeves: quartet-era Genesis (with the extra penchant for costumes that were archetypical of Gabriel-era), Yes, some Gentle Giant and also some Van der Graaf Generator (regarding the lead singer's impetuous vocalizations), bearing soem density in a large number of main melodies, but all in all, providing a light dynamic to the full instrumentation all the way through the shifts of melody, ambience and tempo. The dialogues between the guitar and synth are the most prominent features in the instrumentation, with the rhythm section setting a firm frame for them, while the keyboard orchestrations and adornments on string synth, piano and Birotron set a sheer orchestral mood that proves efficient for the most explicitly dramatic passages of the songs. The album kicks off with the anti-Nazi 'The Mote in God's Eye', a very effective number that fluidly combines the tow main motifs in 4/4 and 7/8, respectively, although the arrangements are not spectacular. It is from track 2 onwards that the band begins to show and develop its real symphonic potential: 'Before the Fall' is not as cohesive as its predecessor, but it sure protrays a slighly somber mood that provides an interesting musical landscape to the main musical ideas. The most accomplished tracks in the album have to be the last two, which continue with the epic structure of track 2 but bear a more cohesive feel. Although I hypothetically imagine that these songs should have profited from somewhat longer expansions, they are really good symphonic epics. 'Dreamfish' is a funny and ironic tale of Apocalypse in which the fish take their ultimate revenge on humankind, while 'Cathedral of the Mary Ruin' returns to the anti- Nazi subject. These tracks are also the ones that contain the most inventive lyrics (by lead singer-additional keyboardist Doroccus), as well as the most inspired melodies and contrasts. I only wish that the sections in which the lyrics are sung really fast had been arranged as multi-vocal sections, since I feel that Doroccus's need to overdo Gabriel's deliveries of 'Epping Forest' is not that well done: the parts in which he relatively emulates Jon Anderson's sense of spiritual grandeur are where he performes his best vocal deliveries. Boyko's merits on creating floating guitar lines and precise complementations to the synth solos deserve a special positive mention. All in all, it would be fair to say that Babylon procures carefully to work as an ensemble. I rate this album somewhere between 3 ¾ and 4 stars: "Babylon" is a lost USA prog classic that collectors should check out and appreciate.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#103687)
Posted Tuesday, December 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I recall attending various upstate New York college "mixers" in the late 1970's and watching bands like Babylon play their covers of Yes, Genesis and Rush, sprinkled in with their own original material. I was thankful then that there were bands like this that were courageously playing the kind of music that I (and few others, it seemed) enjoyed; and amazed that some attendees found a way to dance to it! ;-)

This cd is less than 35 minutes long, and that hurts its overall rating some. But if you enjoy other obscure U.S. prog bands from this era such as Hands, Yezda Urfa, Mirthrandir, Cathedral or Arabesque, GET IT. Pound for pound, this is one of the best progressive rock cd's I've ever heard.

First, the vocals and musicianship here are top-notch. Second, the sound production is surprisingly fantastic! I think the compositions are great; even the transitions from one section to another seem to flow so naturally. Soaring keyboards, interesting guitar solos, a gifted drummer (are there overdubs on the last 2 minutes of "Before the Fall"?), and a thick melodic bass line are my basic ingredients for ecstasy. These guys nailed it. I wish there was more... (4.5 stars)

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Send comments to Squire Jaco (BETA) | Report this review (#206351)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars BABYLON was formed in central Florida in 1976, they were influenced by the usual suspects like GENESIS, KING CRIMSON, GENTLE GIANT, VDGG, HAPPY THE MAN and many others. When they performed a concert it was like multimedia extravaganza, encompassing film, large screen multi-image projection, theatrics and audience participation. This was their only studio album released in 1978. It's very GENESIS-like instrumentally but the singer sounds nothing like Gabriel, in fact he sounds a lot like Phideaux. These guys play complex and challenging music. The original album cover had normal eyes looking at us while on the cd re-issue they've changed it to alien eyes. The cd re-issue was done by Greg Walker and his Syn-Phonic label in 1999. It was also re-mixed and remastered then by the late Kevin Gilbert who knew a thing or two about GENESIS. The sound quality is excellent by the way.

"The Mote In God's Eye" has vocals after a minute and they're almost spoken as we get synths and a beat in the background. It kicks in around 2 1/2 minutes and it's GENESIS-like a minute later where we get an instrumental section. Some wild synths before 5 minutes and the vocals return a minute later. "Before The Fall" is kind of dreamy and laid back with synths, bass, light drums and reserved vocals. The vocals come and go. It's GENESIS-like around 5 minutes then we get a change as the song becomes more dynamic. I like the drumming during the final minute.

"Dreamfish" has lots of synths, drums and bass to open then we quickly get a calm as the tempo continues to change at will until these fast paced vocals arrive 2 minutes in. The bass is great here as well as the drumming. Again GENESIS comes to mind as the song plays out. Sounds pulse before 6 minutes then the vocals return and they again are fast paced. Themes are repeated. "Cathedral Of The Mary Ruin" is GENESIS-like early with keyboards and vocals. The drums become prominant. I like the vocals and sound after 2 minutes. The vocals turn theatrical and the sound gets heavier 3 minutes in. It's mellow again before 4 1/2 minutes with vocals. Nice. Again themes are repeated.

A solid 4 stars for this lost American classic.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#304253)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars What? A symphonic prog band from Florida? In 1978? PA never ceases to surprise me! I had never heard of this band and I was quite curious about it when I saw some of the reviews. It seems that their forte was playing live with lots of multi media stuff and theatrics. Since I was unable to get a hold of one of their live CDs I had to rely entirely on Babylon´s solo studio offering. And it is not bad! Ok, it is far from original, but they did write some very fine tunes in the mid period Genesis mold. Put some Yes (specially the bass parts) and Vand Der Graaf Generator influences in the mix and voilá: you have Babylon.

Hearing this CD I get the feeling that this group was very promising. If the sound is maybe too Genesis-copy, the vocals are not. And even the instrumental parts show that they coud get pretty far giving time and opportunity. But, alas, this was not to be. In many aspects they remid me of Marillion, a group that started doing something similar. Like Babylon Marillion sounded a lot like early Genesis (even in the vocal department) in the beginning but soon found their sound and became one fo the greatest prog acts of the world. I can only wonder if this talented bunch could go that far. For they could, unlike most other Genesis clones, write real melodic and outstanding songs.

There is only four tracks in this very short album (a little over 34 minutes of playing time). But they are very fine ones. Production is quite good for the time too. The ten minute epic Before th eFall is the highlight of this CD to me, excellent tune with beautiful Hackett -like guitar lines.

Conclusion: a very good surprise. If you´re into 70´s symphonic classic stuff, this is surely one you should listen to, as long as you don´t mind the fact that their influences were still quite evident in their music. Since I´m a huge fan of Genesis, I´m delighted with what I heard. I can´t really say it is essential in any way but still very good. So my rating is somewhere 3 and 3,5 stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#305250)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Babylon: Babylon [1978]

Rating: 7/10

This sole album from Floridian band Babylon is one of the strangest within the symphonic prog genre. This album's weirdness isn't a result of the musical style; this is keyboard-driven, Genesis-influenced progressive rock with hard-rock flourishes. What makes Babylon bizarre is the overall tone of their music. This tone is mostly the result of Doroccus, the lead vocalist. This guy sounds like what Peter Gabriel would sound like if he overdosed on LSD and became the ringmaster of some sort of dark circus. The bizarrely brilliant lyrics add to his persona, sounding more like something on a Captain Beefheart album than on a symph-prog release: 'Seems me and my partners were caught up in a tree/Is it such a crime, we cried, to pose for pornographic pictures?/In this dog-eat-dog world, where they drag your face in mud/Is it such a crime, dear sirs, to shoot people between the eyes?' This strange brew results in an unusually dark release that is unfortunately overlooked.

The first few minutes of the opener 'The Mote in God's Eye' constitute some of the best on the album. Brooding keyboards back up vocals that manage to be both understated and theatrical. The track gets more fast-paced, and the synth tones remain superb. The vocals on 'Before the Fall' are a bit softer. I love the guitar/keyboard harmonizing here, and the conclusion is magnificent, sounding like some sort of cosmic horror-film soundtrack. 'Dreamfish' is probably the most Genesis-esque track here. Great synth work abounds yet again, and the manic vocal section in the latter half is one of my favorite moments on the album. 'Cathedral of the Mary Ruin' returns to the broodiness, and even throws in some jazzy piano.

Babylon's music is intriguing because it manages to twist its influences into something distinct. This album sounds like Genesis, but it doesn't feel like Genesis. This ability to bring a unique feel to stylistically similar music is what makes this album so interesting. The songs are well-crafted, and the musicianship is excellent. As stated before, the synth tones are spot-on; there are certain synth lines here that creature pure exultation within me. I suppose my main complaint with Babylon's self-titled is the fact that the band doesn't quite mange to instill enough emotional significance within the music in order to truly catalyze the dark tone. Regardless, though, this is an excellent work. Sifting though the obscure Genesis/Yes-influenced prog records that came out during the 70s can be a daunting task, but be sure not to let this be passed by. It's unfortunate that Babylon never released anything else.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#472520)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the best album that has come from USA apart from the three albums Happy The Man produced. Then there are others like Fireballet and Yezda Urfa and I mustn't forget Zappa. Anyways this album is pure gold, 4 excellent songs which all feature enjoyable singing and lyrics by Doroccas the USA-Gabriel. The Mote In God's Eye is the most innovative and personal track on the album. It sounds least like Genesis, especially Doroccas sounds really individual. Also the beat that repeats itself for a couple of minutes brings Marillions Garden Party to mind. Indeed this album posesses some neo-prog influences or should I say proto neo-prog. Musically this is not the ELP kind of virtuosity but still musically complex and at some points fast music that evolves constantly. What a fine album!

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Send comments to BrainStillLife (BETA) | Report this review (#485417)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A Landmark of an Epoch

In 1975 Neu!, one of the reference Krautrock bands, recorded their third LP which included two tracks that added screeching vocals to their habitual guitar/drums metronomic sound. This would provide the backbone for a new back-to-roots musical movement in Britain that aimed pretty much at the opposite of progressive rock, a truly cultural regression. The irreverence and novelty of Punk Rock was so appealing to record companies that they soon forgot about other forms of music. As a parenthesis it should be noted that this did not impacted Progressive music alone, the break-out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was delayed 3 to 4 years because of this obsession with Punk. Some established Progressive bands where able to pursue their ways for a few more years, but for new bands there simply wasn't space; Progressive music entered its Dark Ages.

Elsewhere this wasn't the case and while in Britain Prog was coming to an halt, by the second half of the 1970s in other places new bands where emerging. In France, for instance, there were groups like Shylock or Pentacle, in Germany there were bands like Novalis, in Portugal there was Tantra. And in the United States Progressive music was only now really taking off, with a multitude of musically exquisite bands coming to be at different places, Happy The Man, Earth & Fire, Mirthandir, to name a few. All these bands have in common the fact that they show up after the initial phase of Progressive music that lived up much from the first contact with new technologies by popular artists. That phase of experimentation was done with and hence Progressive music was by now much more an Art-by-the-Art thing than anything else. The technology itself was evolving with the introduction of new synthesizers; most of these bands didn't use the Mini-Moog, the Hammond and scarcely the Mellotron, which even when it appears was now much smoother. Guitars were used mostly as lead instruments, rarely appearing with rhythmic functions and now with much smoother and defined tones. In terms of recording there is also a clear evolution from just 4 or 5 years earlier; high quality recordings become more of a norm than an exception. These bands, though largely unknown, produced a further step in Progressive music, bridging the early 1970s dawn to the Neo-Prog in the 1980s.

The Album

The first, eponymous and last album by Babylon is to me a quintessential work of this epoch. It certainly owes much to the Progressive precursors, especially Steve Hackett (yes more him than Genesis itself) but at the same time achieving a distinctive sound, even distinct among it's late 1970s peers. This comes first and foremost from a pretentious vocalist, whom doesn't waste a single opportunity for a theatrical performance. To flamboyant vocals add unconventional lyrics, whose literary quality I'll leave for a native English speaker to assess; love it or loath it, this combination of vocals and lyrics certainly adds something else to the music. And a second distinctive element of Babylon's sound is the drumming, well above average for a rock band and much closer to jazz, easily creating variate temporal textures that promote the complexity and the overall richness of the music.

There isn't much point in differentiating between individual tracks, I have pretty much the same to say about each. Complex compositions that travel across many different moments, with swift directional changes that are very well accomplished. The listener is totally engaged, always looking for what may come ahead. There are moments where only one instrument provides a footing melody (mostly the guitar) while all the others improvise around it, in a jazz-over-symph mixture that's really sweet to the hears. But while going at great lengths on improvisation the band always manages to keep focus, either by swiftly evolving to a more solid melody or by introducing a tempo intermission that resets the overall musical direction. And this goes on for the full four tracks of the album, building to a very solid recording that is greatly appealing as an ensemble.

Invariably, bands like Babylon had an early end to their careers. With the pressure from Punk on the one side and the 1980 Economic crisis on the other, record deals were nowhere to find. The creation of MTV in 1982 brought the final blow to those that might still have been standing at the time.

The Veredict

Babylon is a record that manages to be greatly complex but engaging at the same time, which by itself is a major achievement. Adding to this is the overall balance of the recording, its just plain good, there are no week moments to point out, thus producing an LP that is enjoyable in its entirety. I have no doubt in classifying this record as a Masterpiece, not only for its pure quality but also for being a reference of a musical epoch. There's always some discomfort in classifying a record well above the Comunity'a average, but I believe this comes from the unusual complexity of this LP, which requires a good deal of attentive listening before it can be fully enjoyed. Perhaps Babylon just needs a bit more of attention.

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Send comments to Luís de Sousa (BETA) | Report this review (#567303)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Along with Starcastle, Babylon often get brought up as "a band that sounds like Yes." While this is certainly true, it's also a bit unfair-while Babylon has a lot of obvious Yes influences, they also have a great sound in and of themselves. Their single album, while certainly flawed, is also an awesome time-capsule of late 70s prog: certainly influenced by those that came before but also pushing ahead. If you're a fan of Yes and want to hear some relative contemporaries who were influenced by them then this is a great album for you. If, however, you're sick of bands who sound too much like classic-era Yes, you may wish to look elsewhere.

"The Mote In God's Eye" gets the album off to a bit of a slow start, with extremely minimalistic keyboards and a bit of percussion serving as the entirety of the music behind some slightly monotone vocals. This opening section of the song is extremely sparse, but it still kind of works, though it does go on a bit long. When the song really picks up, however, is about 3 minutes in, as the instrumentation fills out, the tempo picks up, and the music begins to sound almost scarily similar to Yes. Again, this isn't a bad thing; I personally have no problems with bands that sound like other bands. However, the similarity is quite astounding, with most of the instrumental music on the back half of the track sounding to me like it could have come straight off of Tales for Topographic Oceans. "The Mote In God's Eye" isn't a bad song at all, but I will admit that it's probably my least favorite of the 4 tracks that make up this album.

Unlike "The Mote In God's Eye," "Before the Fall" starts off amazingly. Immediately launching into a mysterious, psychedelic keyboard melody, the vocals are great here as well, with a lot of very good use of harmony. The extreme Yes influence of the previous track is mostly gone here as well; though there are some similarities in the synth parts it certainly doesn't come off as clone-like. Like "The Mote In God's Eye," this track is heavily keyboard-led, with several great solos appearing in the instrumental middle section of this track and towards the end as well. Especially notable is an awesome major-key reprise of the first motif that really pulls the whole song together. "Before the Fall" is a great track and if the whole album was this good it would likely be a 5-star disk.

"Dreamfish" more or less ventures back into Yes territory, with the vocals especially sounding more like Yes on this track then they have on either of the previous two. "Dreamfish" on the whole is more uptempo and overall more frenetic than the minimal "The Mote?" and the somewhat slower "Before the Fall," with the vocals practically delivered at auctioneer speed and the music equally as energetic. Even when the motif changes midway through the track it doesn't lose any steam-I'm amazed the vocalist can even breathe with how fast he's spitting out lyrics. There's a decent amount of ELP influence here as well, especially in a lot of the instrumentation, and the sheer ability of the musicians here makes me wonder what could have come of this band had they released more than one album.

"Cathedral of the Mary Ruin" finishes off this self-titled album. Beginning with a very rhythmically complex series of keyboard parts, the track calms down a bit for a dreamier vocal section which is followed by some absolutely gorgeous piano playing. The track picks up again with about 2 minutes left in the song to launch into a bombastic, ELP-esque series of solos that eventually give way to the vocals again. Unfortunately, I don't think "Cathedral of the Mary Ruin" finishes rather weakly, just kind of fading out without any real sense of resolution. I don't have a problem with the fade-out ending, but this one doesn't resolve very well and it's a little underwhelming, especially for the last track.

Personally, I find this album very enjoyable. There's enough Yes sound to be an interesting listen from an historical perspective, not to mention that for the most part the music is pretty darn good in its own right. Definitely not the most original release but still a great listen and a bit of a lost gem from the late 70s.

4/5

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#637919)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
apps79
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Neo Prog Team
3 stars Babylon hailed from Central Florida and were found by a bunch of musicians, influenced by the likes of Genesis and Happy The Man, these were lead singer Doroccus, guitarist David Boyko, drummer Rodney Best, keyboardist Gary Chambers and bassist Rick Leonard.All came from local area groups and upon their formation they played live with strong theatrical colors and multi-image projectors.They recorded their only album in the fall of 1977 at Studios 70.This was released the next year on the unknown Mehum label, propably connected with the group's members.

Babylon played a theatrical Progressive Rock exactly on the thin line between the fading Classic Symphonic Rock of the 70's and the upcoming British movement of Neo Prog.They do sound extremely close to compatriots NORTH STAR and British veterans IQ first steps, where the huge analog sound has been replaced by the constant use of synthesizers.However, stylistically the album is strongly rooted in the old GENESIS approach, featuring four long, symphonic tracks with expressive vocals and notable keyboard textures with some smooth guitar playing around.Moreover the music alternates between pompous, instrumental moves and more laid-back, almost romantic soundscapes with melodic synthesizer lines and mellow electric guitars.Some complex themes are still in the menu with extreme, dual keyboard acrobatics and impressive Classical-influenced interludes.Doroccus' sounds a lot like another PETER GABRIEL-wannabe, yet his voice is very charming and pleasant to the ear.While GENESIS seem Babylon's most apparent influence, there are also these dual keyboard experiments, that flirt with the sound of HAPPY THE MAN, which is the only US band I recall when listening to Babylon.

Very good Symphonic Rock, certainly against the trend of the time.Not original, not groundbreaking, but very enjoyable, passionate and well-executed.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1100182)
Posted Thursday, December 26, 2013 | Review Permalink

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