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David Bedford - Rigel 9 (with Ursula Le Guin) CD (album) cover


David Bedford

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Besides ''The Odyssey'', this album here is the one among Bedford's output that comes the closest to actual progressive rock. Stylistically, it is quite similar to the aforementioned album; the orchestral section seems to be larger this time around, and there are even a few actual songs, one of which features a conventional rock instrumentation (more on those later). The album also isn't tranquil throughout like ''The Odyssey'', there are a few quite dramatic sections to be found here. Bedford's synthesizers (and other keyboard instruments) are again featured heavily throughout.

The album can be described as a kind of radio play with music. The story, written by reknowned science fiction author Ursula Le Guin exclusively (as far as I'm aware) for this album, is quite intriguing. In short, three scientists explore an uncharted planet. At first they can find no signs of intelligent life, but eventually they encounter a group of aliens. One of the scientists is captured by the aliens and taken to their city. This is seen as an act of hostility by the other two, and a subsequent encounter between them ends violently. The aliens however turn out to be peaceful and well-meaning, and the third scientist is fascinated by the beauty of their city and the harmonious lifestyle of the aliens. He eventually returns to the ship, only to be told by the others that the ship's instruments have mapped the whole continent, and there are no cities. There's nothing on this planet. Rigel 9 was a waste of time.'' He tries unsuccessfully to convince the others of the existence of the city; eventually the crew sets off in the ship, and it is implied that no one will ever know about the beauty the third scientist encountered on this planet because the rest of the crew just do not believe his story, assuming the aliens ''did something to his mind''.

The music is again a mix of synthesizers and orchestral arrangements; the voices of the aliens are represented by beautiful choral parts which are indeed ''alien-sounding''. All of the instrumental music on this disc sets the mood for the story very well, alternating between atmospheric and dramatic. The songs, on the other hand, don't do much for me. I wouldn't really describe them as prog songs, they sound more like something out of a musical. One of them is a bona fide rock song, complete with drums and even saxophone; the others feature the usual mix of orchestra and synthesizers. There are however only three of them, and they don't really take away from the overall experience. It's not like they're downright bad, but I wouldn't exactly miss them if they were gone.

For a 1985 recording, this is really surprisingly seventies-sounding. There's nothing on this disc that suggests it dates from the mid-eighties. All in all, like ''The Odyssey'', this is an unusal yet ultimately very rewarding album. I doubt anything similar exists anywhere, so if you're in for a unique experience, you'd do well to give this a try.

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Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Review Permalink

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