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WALLY

Wally

Symphonic Prog


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ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars While much of the sixties were marked by the British invasion of America and all points west and east of Liverpool, there seem to have been some points in time where the influences flowed the other direction, if only in isolated pockets. Wally are one of those rare examples of this phenomenon. Despite being a bunch of guys from Leeds they managed to spend five years in the seventies touring around under management of Brian Lane and sounding something like the Eagles fronted by Jackson Browne with a hillbilly fiddler in tow. That and two albums produced by Whispering Bob Harris and Rick Wakeman should have made them stars somewhere, but apparently things just didn’t work out. Probably because their prog heavyweight connections belied their true talent as a modern-day R&B band.

This music is about as progressive as most of what Wishbone Ash or Ambrosia or America or Firefall or Home ever put out, which is to say not very. But if you are one of those people who has fond memories of the mellow, country soft-rock that filled the AM radio airwaves from about 1973 through 1978 then you will find this stuff pretty appealing. In fact “Sunday Walking Lady” sounds an awful lot like Firefall’s “Cinderella” except with some whiny fiddle for flavor. And “I Just Wanna Be a Cowboy” reminds me of Home’s “Time Passes By”. Not complaining mind you, just a couple of observations.

I think they’re closer to being a folk band than a symphonic one anyway, but I suppose the mellotron, Hammond organ and harmonium manage to fool some people. The one track that stands out a bit is the fourteen minute “To the Urban Man” with its psych sound effects and guitar fuzz layered in with that same persistently whining violin. This is a fun tune to listen to but it is also the only thing on the album that approaches true prog music with the exception of the opening track “The Martyr”, an eight minute mostly instrumental flight of fancy that moves between prog and pop almost seamlessly.

There’s a guy named Paul Middleton playing pedal steel throughout the album which of course makes this sound even more like country music than it would otherwise, although it would otherwise anyway. For fans of this instrument his highpoint is the closing track “Your Own Way” in which he pretty much sets the tone for the whole arrangement with some nice sustains and an overall wispy autumn afternoon feel. Nicely done.

These guys would put out one more album before constant touring and lack of acclaim took their toll and the band broke up. Most of them stayed in music though. Roy Webber played in a band called Trader for a while before turning to a graphic design career. Today he is one half of a part-time mainstream act known as Jackson-Webber. Pete Sage owns a recording studio in Germany, and Paul Middleton became a sort of British version of John Forgerty – hermit-like with rare public appearances before resurfacing a few years ago fronting Paul Middleton & the Angst Band. Keyboardist Nick Glennie- Smith (who replaced Paul Gerrett around the time this album was recorded) was one of a host of musicians who played the Roger Waters Berlin Wall gig. Pete Cosker unfortunately died of drug-related causes in 1990.

These guys aren’t all that memorable for a reason – they didn’t exactly put out innovative or timeless music. But they did what they did quite well, and managed to record an album with a decent sense of continuity and some nice blues steel, which is something I personally enjoy. This is a three star effort in my mind, but be warned that it is not what is traditionally considered progressive and is certainly not symphonic. Prog folk fans will undoubtedly enjoy it though.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#164974)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have never heard about or any music which deserve to be called symphonic country...... before I heard this album.

Maybe that is a bit unfair to brand it symphonic country & western. But it is tempting when the vocalist proclaim he want to be a cowboy. The music is more related to west coast rock. The Eagles very much springs to mind. Other American bands like Kansas too springs to mind, although in lesser scale. The likes of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash are also very much alive on this album. Think big, think America........... Although Wally is a band from the cold Leeds, Yorkshire, England, Europe. This makes it a bit of a strange album. Which is an understatement, btw.

The music is not particular good either. The material here is pretty anonyme. The pieces of music I notice in this blandfest is the ones where Wally sounds like a country & western band with the violin and steel guitar. Yes, this band use a steel guitar and that is probably a first for a socalled symphonic prog band. I wonder what the producer Rick Wakeman remember from this. Did it drive him to drink ?

Why am I so giving it some stars after all my sniggering ? First of all; neither this album or the band is anywhere near being symphonic prog. Eclectic Prog or Folk Prog is probably the right category. I am in doubt if this is prog at all. But I have now reviewed it and I do not this review to be erased from PA. But when all my sniggering is over and I have stopped laughing (after an hour or twelve), what is left is a pretty good west coast country album. I happens to like both The Eagles and in particular CS&N. Not to mention Neil Young. This is why I give it three stars. I would actually recommend it too because it is such an unusual album. Wally is one of the spices of life................ And the music is actually quite good !

3 stars and an appointment at the nearest mental hospital

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#244322)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I had never heard of this british band before and upon hearing their debut CD it was easy to understand why. While those guys were good musicians and could write some nice tunes, they laked two critical qualities: personality and a strong sense of direction. They were labeled as symphonic prog and the fact that it was produced by Rick Waleman may lead to some misinterpretations. They are far from being symphonic, at least most of the time.

The album starts very well, with The Martyn a song that reminds of Kansas (more specific, that group´s The Wall). Fine symphonic piece, with some good keys and violin lines. The next is the very country-ish I Just Wanna Be A Cowboy (the title tells it all!), a song that would fit very well in any Eagles or Poco early LPs. Both tunes are very good, although completely different between themselves in the matter of style. From then on things are not as smooth: What To Do is another try on the country field: ok, but a bit too long. Sunday Walking Lady is more folky and reeks of Wishbone Ash harmonies, but add nothing in its short time.

Then comes their ´epic´ The Urban Man, an almost 14 minute suite that should be the highlight of the album. But clearly, Wally was not up to the task. The first part is ok, a nice ballad with good harmonies and decent guitar and keyboards lines, but it just drags after a while and the instrumental break after that is not exactly convincing with some boring noises at the end. It seems it would be better if they used 3 different smaller songs instead, I don´t know. the album closes with a typical early 70´s ballad Your Own Way, that seems to mix the styles of bands like Bread and Poco

Conclusion: more interesting than good. If you´re into country rock you might enjoy this album. I certainly don´t recommend it to symphonic prog lovers, because they will be disappointed. Maybe their second album shows some improvement on that field, I´ll have to listen. This one is little more than a country rock CD, even if it was made by british musicians. 2,5 stars.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#254685)
Posted Monday, December 07, 2009 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After discovering this band by a recommendation by a fellow reviewer on this site, toroddfuglesteg, in a forum topic I started regarding my lack of knowledge of any progressive country ever existing. Well, here it is. Wally is symphonic progressive country from the UK. Odd, right? That's what I thought, so I decided to give the debut album a listen.

It's definitely unique, and I actually enjoyed it even though it seems kind of dry.

The music on this album is Genesis/Yes-esque symphonic country, and even though there are some lengthy compositions on this album, the songs don't come across as being very progressive. There are a lot of sentimental country-rock type melodies that sound nice, but not much more than that. There is some electric violin playing throughout this album that really sticks out, but the playing isn't really extraordinary as much as it just adds another country element to the music. The musicianship by everyone else on this album isn't incredibly extraordinary either, but it is simple and soothing music in a very different kind of style.

"The Martyr", to me, sounds like a longer and more countrified version of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4", and it's a decent song for relaxing, though it sounds kind of melancholic.

"I Just Want to be a Cowboy" is a song about being some kind of pacifist cowboy game playing, and I don't really understand it too much, but it does sound nice. This is a very non- progressive country-folk song in the vein of bands such as America or The Eagles. It's still soothing.

"What to Do" starts off with the dry electric violin that I mentioned earlier. I always want the violin to take off in a Jean-Luc Ponty style, but I'm always let down. The vocal melody in the chorus is very nice, especially the part where "all I need is music..." is sung, but after the first couple of minutes the song gets kind of boring. And the steel lap guitar is annoying, but I've always been an avid hater of that instrument. This song is more of a psychedelic country style.

"Sunday Walking Lady" is another short country-folk song. It's got a nice melody but it ends too soon to actually develop anything else notable.

"To The Urban Man" is the longest track on the album. It starts off slow, electric country ballad but soon picks up momentum after a cue from a brief and ghostly choir sound, still maintaining it's country-rock style. It drones aimlessly for the next couple minutes in what seems to be an ambient-psych attempt, but it just comes off as a boring we-don't-know- what-to-play improv session. After an avant-garde country klang of instrument sounds, the main chorus motif ends the song. I honestly hoped of more from a song that was +13 minutes in length, but whatever; it's a debut album, and lots of times bands need more time to perfect their style.

"Your Own Way" starts off with absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar picking, and soon reveals itself to be another country-folk ballad. Twangy steel guitar solo ensues, not once, but twice.

This is a strange album to listen to. I like it, but at the same time I don't like it. I'd say it's not a very good progressive rock album, but it is miles above any country music I've ever heard. I definitely enjoy it and I'll definitely listen to it in the future for it's novelty qualities. Very soothing and serene most of the time. I'm not sure who this album is aimed towards, but I'd suggest it to anyone looking for something different, or for someone looking for a slightly more progressive version of country, as I was.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#434169)
Posted Friday, April 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well, this is an interesting one. Some have described this group as "Progressive Country," which is an interesting categorization for a British band whose first album was produced by Rick Wakeman. However, I think it's apt enough, as this band takes some decidedly country influences (especially in the vocal delivery and the instrumentation) and creates from them an at-times folky, at-times proggy album.

"The Martyr" kicks things off, and really sets the tone for where this album is going to go. A very laid back track (as are most of the tracks on the album), it features a very nice violin part that reminds one of some of Kansas' softer moments. The lyrics, while certainly not great, are probably at their high point here, as the band will deliver some truly horrendous ones later on.

Speaking of which, the second track is "I Just Wanna Be A Cowboy." Despite the title and the almost painfully twee lyrics, the song really isn't that bad. It's a nice song that combines some country sounds with English folk sensibilities to create an interesting blend. It's value as a prog track is extremely debatable, however.

"What to Do" is next, and is actually one of my favorites on the album. It's a slow, somewhat depressed sounding track, but the combination of country sounds and prog mentality is used to its best effect here, and the result is very good. This song I think really shows that less can be more when it comes to prog: there are no instrumental gymnastics here, but it's well arranged and the resulting ambience is very nice.

"Sunday Walking Lady" is the shortest song on the album, and I think it could have fit in perfectly on the first Crosby, Stills, and Nash album, as the vocal harmonies sound very similar (to my untrained ears at least). It's not remotely prog, but it's pretty much the only uptempo song on the album so it's a good change of pace.

"To The Urban Man" is the obligatory epic, and on my first listen of the album I was curious to see how Wally would take their sound and make a longer track out of it. Well, it appears that their approach was to write another 4 minute song and then meander for 10 minutes. It's pleasant enough, but it doesn't really go anywhere and I can think of much better ways to spend 14 minutes musically.

"Your Own Way" closes the album off in an aurally pleasing but ultimately forgettable way. This is one of those songs that sounds nice enough while you're listening but as soon as it's over you can't remember a single melody or theme from it. It has a passable, suitably laid back guitar solo toward the end, though, so if you're only half listening to the album it's a nice enough closer.

Overall, this is an interesting album, but not much more. There aren't any truly awful songs, but there aren't really any that are much better than "decent" either. The fusion of influences, though, I think makes this album charming enough to warrant a listen or two.

2.5/5, rounded up

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Send comments to VanVanVan (BETA) | Report this review (#565517)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If there ever existed a genre known as "soft prog" I think Wally would be qualified as such. By "soft" I mean simply that there more emphasis on melody and accessibility rather than being overly complex. Nothing wrong with that. There are several bands qualifying as such. Supertramp, for instance. It is by no means an act of dislike from my part labeling Wally (et al) as soft proggers.

Wallys first and selftitled album is a mixed bag of songs and it is not always good. Diversity is one of prog's great strengths but in this case it works against them, just as with Baby Whale sometimes brilliant album. The good parts of Wally is made up of folk tinged progressive rock with keyboards and violin playing a large role. The not so good parts are west coast, American styled country-ish stuff which really does not appeal to me. (I love country and American bands but to me it gets confusing when an otherwise british sounding folk-symphonic prog album goes west.)

The first track, "The Martyr", is by far the best track. Dramatic, mellow yet biting it tells the story of Joan of Arc and starts off ever so nice with ye olde harpsichord ( I think) and heads straight into electric violin taking the lead. The vocals (not the harmonies!) are a bit weak but overall very nice.

"I just wanna be a cowboy" is one of those country-tinged songs which does nothing for me. "What to do" is a very nice ballad-y song, very mellow and gentle. Alongside "The Martyr" this is the best track. It holds a very spacious and flowing ambience. Really nice stuff.

"Sunday walking lady" is another of those confusing tracks. On one hand I recall british folk at it's best but then it turns into americana. I cannot feel love for this track. It is, however, the next track that may be the most impressive one, "To the urban man". Over 13 minutes long it holds several sections. Similar in places to "The martyr" it still differs. It is not the most wonderful epic you will hear but it is nice enough. A bit country-ish in places aswell. The ending "Your own way" is a beautiful piece, perfectly suited as the finish of this album. A bit too CSNY for me, though.

Overall, as a conclusion, I find only two songs to be really good: "The martyr" and "What to do". The other tracks are more in the vein of american folk-rock like CSN(Y), Gram Parsons or The Byrds. There is really no fault in that. I like that kind of music alot but not when mixed like this, with british folk and symphonic prog. And to be frank, the material on this disc is not really much to gossip about. In "The martyr" Wally makes a bold-ish statement and in that lies their legacy as far as this album goes. The album is well played and well produced but that is it. Sorry Wally. I cannot give you more than three (hesitant) stars. "The martyr" and "What to do" picks up the rating somewhat, as it otherwise would have left me no option but to rate it slightly lower.

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Send comments to GruvanDahlman (BETA) | Report this review (#1287049)
Posted Friday, October 03, 2014 | Review Permalink

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