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Hobson's Choice - New Horizons CD (album) cover


Hobson's Choice

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars Excellent work to this North-American band!!! In your music HOBSON'S CHOICE "New Horizons", bring to us a merge of Space- Rock, Symphonic Prog, something for Hard Prog and Classical music. Influenced by some bands with so disconnected styles like PINK FLOYD(like in the first and fourth tracks) , GENTLE GIANT, EL&P, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI (like in the track 6 mix with GG and EL&P) and in some passages of guitars and keyboards the brand of YES (especially in the solos of the last track). Showing great moments in acoustic guitar and piano. For the reasons above this is, in my humble opinion, one of the best albuns of 1996 and deserves 5 stars !!!
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Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hobson's Choice has to be one of the top unknown masterpieces in my collection, an American one shot wonder that spit out a debut album in 1996 and promptly faded MacArthur style away. What makes them quite original as a prog band is that they hail from the improbable musical mecca of New Orleans, better known for its , let's say more tropical styles. They actually cut their teeth as a prog-rock cover band, doing the usual suspects Genesis, ELP, KC, Tull and Floyd. The South must have never recovered from the shock!

Truth is New Horizons is a stellar package, a seasoned quartet of master musicians composing and playing music that appeals to their creative muse as well as challenging their skills. As such, keyboardist David Stocker displays all the flourishes one would expect, though preferring his hot organ over the other ivories at his disposition, while bassist Joel Webb handles the low end chores with skill, precision and muscularity. Drummer Doug Walsh keeps things tidy and orderly, with occasional flashes of dexterity and finally guitarist/ vocalist Richard Bird shows off considerable chops and sings with an effusive voice. These are 4 tight dudes and yet, the main thrill is the sheer quality of the compositions, the ultra- vivid melodies and the obvious old-fashioned prog themes that really hit the mark. There are possible comparisons to Happy the Man, Camel, Finch, Focus, even Oldfield and Gryphon!

'Raging Sun' kicks off this progressive 'mardis gras' musical feast with typical Floydian atmospherics, marching military drums, massive mellotron waves, rollicking Hammond, looping bass patterns and a glorious vocal theme that you swear you have heard before. It's spacey yet hectic, lush with polyrhythmic complexity and sensational playing by all members. 'Procession' is a highlight track, imagine a brooding organ /synth straight out of Peter Bardens territory, a melodic splurge that captivates you from the start, the big organ sounding like Sugarloaf or Booker T, simply fascinating. Again, the impression is that one has heard this before. Content to keep raising the bar of complete surprise, the quasi-Oriental theme that starts off the 8 minute + 'Passages' really keeps you on the toes, as the elegant piano makes its crystalline appearance, sounding very much like early Genesis. The quartet shows a strong sense of cohesion and tight playing, veering from easy to complex on a dime. The churning organ works in unison with the clean guitar theme, a very deliberate 70s feel that will win many unsure fans over, axeman Richard Bird doing some delirious notes not unlike Bacamarte's Mario Neto or Joop van Nimwegen from Finch. Tremendous music, this is. Another 8 minute piece is next up at the plate and need I repeat myself, another nugget of prog brilliance! 'Steps of Eight' is a slow-burning symphonic torch song, as Bird really leans into the microphone, showing serious intensity amid the piano rivulets and the snare taps. The arrangement breathes lovingly, clanging guitar in unison with the playful keyboards, strong hints of PFM mixed in with velvety inserts that wink at classic Floyd, even some tubular bells. A surly guitar solo gives a little bite after which Stocker does a fascinating Kerry Minnear/Rick Wakeman before the door shuts on the tune. Speaking of influence, how about a little hint of Gryphon to spice up your gumbo? 'Jan in E Moll' sounds like the medieval British group but I wonder if 'Jan' refers to Akkerman, as the acoustic guitar work is simply out of this world. Imagine that, in New Orleans! The synth does a great job imitating the bassoon and krumhorns associated with the Welsh bird! Absolutely marvelous piece of music. Can they keep this quality up to the end? 'Size of It' rambles unashamedly with even more gusto, loaded with a bubbly organ that stops and goes crazily. The synthesizer work emits a strong Celtic vibe, the piano played masterfully as the volume-pedal guitar hums, deliberate and stunning. Probably their more experimental piece here, a total keeper. The title track finishes off this lovely recording, with lavish breezy vocals leading the way, total attention to detail like the tiny synthesized 'ahs' at one point, and the definite enjoyment of playing a style of music the players deeply exalt over. Fresh, vibrant, lucid, generous and thankfully not over-produced, which only adds to the inherent charm, as the fiery mellotron blasts a massive goodbye. Bravo to your courage, talent and determination, wherever you guys are!

This is not an easy find but most certainly one of the finest symphonic prog albums from the USA ever! Definitely a collector's item and a jewel in any prog crown. I adore this album and often play it to my musician wannabe friends. Louisiana prog, babe, born on the bayou! Beat that!

5 Marching Saints

Report this review (#1007706)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Unknown US band, that only made on album around the mid-90's.They hailed from New Orleans, originally formed around David Stocker on keyboards, Joel Webb on bass, singer Stan Elder and drummer Tom Larson, while the free translation of their name meant something like ''no other choice''.Elder was replaced by singer/guitarist Richard Bird, the quartet recruited also percussionist Mark Whitacker and headed for the Audiophile Studios in their homecountry to record their debut ''New horizons''.The album was released independently in 1996.

Unlike the title of the album, you won't find any new horizons in this album.But Hobson's Choice had definitely a good smell of the re-emergence of Progressive Rock at the time and they certainly did not need any Spock's Beard to built their style upon.They were clearly influences by the likes of YES, GENESIS and GENTLE GIANT and recalled the music of compatriots ETHOS, MAELSTROM, PENTWATER and the likes to offer a strongly vintage-inspired Progressive/Symphonic Rock with long tracks and lush arrangements.Keyboard work is based on analog equipment with organ and synthesizers as the leading forces, while they guitar moves and bass lines are very much influenced by the classic works of YES.Music ranges from passable to astonishing with nice changes between tempos, odd time signatures, surprising breaks and often a strong sense of melody.Even the vocals have an evident nostalgic aura, coming from the aforementioned bands.Parts of the album are extremely technical with extended interplays, Classical nuances and very dense instrumental passages with impressive keyboard runs and tricky guitar workouts.Very good effort along the lines of Classic 70's Prog.

While the band was short-lived, one Doug Walsh appears to have replaced Tom Larson at some point with no signs of Hobson's Choice further activity.Richard Bird continued his career as a sound technician and recording engineer, having collaborated with Alan Holdsworth among others.

Very good, albeit rather unoriginal US Symph Prog.Despite its limited exposure, this one deserves some spins if you are a fan of the classic era of the genre.Well-played and often quite impressive music, that comes warmly recommended.

Report this review (#1164765)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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