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Eureka - Shackleton's Voyage CD (album) cover

SHACKLETON'S VOYAGE

Eureka

Neo-Prog


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tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Another of prog's major characteristics is the ability to create through sonic experimentation an overwhelming sense of raptured escape and boundless voyage. There are countless masterpieces that confirm the yarn of progressive rock as an artistic mixture of music and arts & crafts, an endless stream of luscious textiles, gilded filaments and intricate design, heavily attractive due to the manic attention to detail, bedecked with gems and shiny stones. We used to call it "tripping" back then, in the wondrous 70s and we witnessed night after exalted night of interstellar expeditions, coated in a still pure naďveté. Stories told in a wondrous musical context remain the core of the progressive muse. Well that tradition has not died out with the arrival of this exciting package from German multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert, allied with some splendid cavalry charges from Iona's Troy Donockley, RPWL's Yogi Lang and Billy Sherwood of Yes fame. The descriptive is centered around the ill-fated polar expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, a tragedy that went somewhat unnoticed during the strenuous early months of World War I. Throughout the 15 tracks, British actor Ian Dickinson offers his documentary-style voice to add some narrative, providing historical reference points for the rather illuminating music displayed. Sweeping along the traditions of Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Oldfield/Vangelis masterpieces, "Departure" implies the instrumental glee and buoyant confidence of a major undertaking setting sail, whooshing synths, rippling guitars simulating the flapping canvases and the exultation of a giddy crew. "The Challenge" states the purpose and the goal, crossing the Antarctic from coast to coast, Sherwood 's voice flush with muted anticipation perhaps even a hint of dread, as if expecting some frozen disaster. On "Grytviken Whaling Station" the mechanical effects and the woozy guitar instill the notion of preparation and the tedious performance of getting the show on the road. "Heading South" is an all-out masterpiece of symphonic grandeur, Yogi Lang's extended whistling synth ŕ la Manfred Mann rustles up images of distance and epic melancholy, while Bossert weaves in some parallel guitar lines. The frosty "Icebound" initiates as a bleak foreboding soundtrack, crisp winds howling on the horizon, swept along by a delicate melody that hints at Vangelian majesty in a quasi-electro/classical dimension that evokes the subject matter perfectly, the frozen vastness imprisoning the tiny wooden vessel , ironically named "The Endurance"! "Plenty of Time" introduces some optimism, a Celtic romp on the Uillean pipes (here played by Stefan Markus) that playfully stares danger in the face and states "bring it on!" from the star-crossed crew. "Going Home" is the winning track here, a genial attempt at articulating the destruction of the ship by glacial asphyxiation and the need to survive the ordeal, a gigantic main melody expertly expressed by Sherwood's forlorn voice propelled by some lustrous arrangements, flush with hopeful anxiety ("fight for our lives"). Bossert's axe solo weaves magically some kind of salvation, the synthesizer egging the flight on, with some backing choir work to finalize the menace. The instrumental "Into the Lifeboats" has a buzz of impromptu scurrying, overt violin arrangements adding a grandiose implication for haste and no time to waste, while the guitar bursts ŕ la Oldfield (a strong influence here), blitzing manically and spurting encouragement (the bass popping renders the urgency very well). "Elephant Island" as the title implies, reverts to the lumbering glacial mastodon of synthesized sound, plodding the eerie message of frozen destiny once again. "Will You Ever Return?" features the triumvirate of female vocals named Kalema , expressing the fears and worries of the families back home, another nod at Oldfieldian territories, majestic acoustic guitars vying with distressing piano meanderings, a completely successful piece that encompasses even further the ominous pain. "In Search of Relief" is the longest track here, ticking in at nearly 7 minutes, an odyssey of exasperating "endurance" (sic), a woozy blend of gentle harmonics blown aside by some harsh guitar blasts, furious drumming, reptilian bass and an extended and raging guitar foray that remains utterly convincing. The mid section offers some intricate picking, different patches and tones for the 6 strings involved, while the synth backwash persists further into still iced-up deliverance. Finally, the excruciating moment has arrived, "The Rescue" ushers in a feeling of exhausted disbelief, a variation on some of the previous melodic themes and humbly ending the proceedings with the words of Ernest Shackleton :"in memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man". A masterful monument to human suffering and progressive descriptive. A gem?.. 5 frozen lifevests.

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#231946)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I noticed this album on the 2009 Top Albums and I was very surprised it was sitting within the top 10. This album is terribly bland. Maybe it's my taste towards a lot of Neo-Prog, but I just felt there were no solid, captivating melodies for the album to really sit on. It's a really easy listen, but not one song stood out to me and really caught my attention. Everything was very simple, boring, and completely predictable. Nothing startling here. It's difficult for me to tell what they were attempting to get across in their music, 'cause I got nothing out of it. Music definitely needs to make a statement, and this just had nothing. Nothing is to gain from listening to this album, however, you only lose about 51 minutes of your lifespan on an emotionless and amateur album. Enjoy.

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Send comments to jpgarcia7787 (BETA) | Report this review (#240638)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a really nice little journey of an album. Documenting musically the journey of Ernest Henry Shackleton and his crew to Antarctica, their time stranded there, and the amazing adventure that followed in search of salvation is an ambitious goal, but Frank Bossert approached it admirably.

The album starts off with some narration explaining roughly what the listener is going to be hearing about for the next little while. Following that is Departure, the first instrumental piece (out of nine), giving the listener an excellent idea of what they are in for: great, atmospheric instrumental pieces. Departure has a decidedly celtic feel about it that works quite well.

The Challenge features the vocals of Billy Sherwood (making this a collectible for Yes' most dedicated fans - although I'm not that dedicated of a fan personally, and bought this album based on samples heard online), and it is not overly bad, although to be honest I prefer the tracks where Frank really gets to work on the soundscapes without having to allow space for the vocals.

Luckily, Grytviken Whaling Station brings us back into the deft hands of Frank Bossert, and we find ourselves once again being taken away on this fantastic voyage. The music fits the Whaling Station locale perfectly. Following that is Heading South, which features excellent - if not overly complex - drums. (Who says it can't be good if it's not complex, anyways?).

Icebound is the first "stumble" on the album, not being quite as interesting as what has preceded it, but it is followed by the excellent "Plenty of Time", which always makes me want to get up and dance a jig (even though I'm not entirely sure what a "jig" even is). Story-wise, this takes place during the turning point in the story, and from that sense, I find it interesting that Frank decided to go the optimistic route for this.

"The Turning Point", I guess, is more literally the turning point in the story, and once again we are given some narration to explain what is going on, followed by "Going Home", the other song with Billy Sherwood guesting. I find I appreciate Going Home more than The Challenge.

"Into the Lifeboats" doesn't start off as convincingly as some of the prior tracks, but shortly after the two minute mark it gets a needed dose of intensity that makes it much more interesting. Unfortunately, Elephant Island I find to be rather droll, never really going anywhere or catching my attention. In this case, it seems to me a case of the music suffering for the story - I tend to forget that I am listening to the album until "Will You Ever Return?" (with Kalema guesting) starts playing. "Will You Ever Return" itself is a nice song, although it is not one of the best moments of the album - I have to admit a preference for the effective instrumental moments.

In Search of Relief is another weaker track, and unfortunately, it is the longest on the album. It starts off promising enough but my mind quickly wanders; around the two minute mark, much like in IceBound, it gets a bit heavier and more intense, which brings back my attention, although this is short lived, as it goes into a bit that reminds me strongly of "Heading South" only less interesting. Sadly, The Rescue did not rescue the album from going out on a low note - it too sounds remarkably familiar and doesn't stay as interesting as the earlier half of the album. The closer, "We Had Seen God", is essentially just dialogue, and while it is a nice quote to finish the story, it ends the album on a tired, low note.

It would be impossible to consider this music without it's package, for the liner notes include a photograph from the real voyage for each song, including some notes on what is happening in the story. Listening to the album while reading this is quite an enjoyable experience.

For those who would fear that this album would be another bland Neo-prog album that sounds like a Genesis clone, they can rest assured that it is more than that. This album definitely has it's own feel and charm. Unfortunately, that feel and charm runs dry halfway through the album. For the excellent first half, I award this album three stars.

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Send comments to TheGazzardian (BETA) | Report this review (#263209)
Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
4 stars This is not a masterpiece or the most innovative album of 2009, far from it, but it's an enjoyable easy listening experience. EUREKA is basically Frank Bossert, German multi-intrumentalist. Other musicians or vocalists are only guesting on one or two tracks, so practically Frank would have been capable of playng the whole work himself, like Mike Oldfield has done. I'm not very happy with all the guest appearances (the narration, by Ian Dickinson, is rather irritating feature; luckily there's quite little of it), but mostly they bring some needed ingredients to the whole. Billy Sherwood (familiar of his YES-connections) sings on two tracks, and the legendary Troy Donockley plays Uillean pipes on other two. There are also appearances of RPWL's Yogi Lang on Moog and synthesizers.

The concept album follows (track by track in the lavishly illustrated leaflet) Sir Ernest Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica. A nice concept even if not highly original: voyages seem to be one of the most typical concepts. It's up to the listener how closely (s)he wants to follow the story or if (s)he prefers just to enjoy the music as music - as I did. The album is harmless in that level too, usable as background music.

Musically it's melodic instrumental Neo-Prog with some Celtic feel. Well played, well produced, easy to listen to - easy to forget? Time will tell how much I enjoy this after many listenings, but for now this is worth four stars. There may not be absolute hair-raising moments of bliss, but not a single track I wouldn't want to hear either (except the brief intro track with the narration). Also some more variation or unpredictability would have done good towards the end. But a fairly nice album in its safeness.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#608651)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars A history lesson

Shackleton's Voyage is a conceptual musical journey by Eureka - a German project driven by multi- instrumentalist Frank Bossert - and featuring Billy Sherwood (Yes) and others as guests. I would like to describe the music found on this album as a mix between Mike Oldfield's Incantations, Camel's Celtic Rock masterpiece Harbour Of Tears, and Billy Sherwood's various projects such as Conspiracy (with Chris Squire) and Circa. Add to this some narration in the style of Rick Wakeman's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and you have a pretty good idea of what you will find here. Troy Donockley's pipes and whistles contribute further to the appealing folky/Celtic sound.

As the title implies, the album is based on the famous Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton (1874- 1922). Even though I am personally fascinated by Shackleton's exploration and explorers in general, I think that the narration and the lyrics are the least appealing aspects of this album. While Billy Sherwood's familiar voice fits in very nicely, the lyrics are to my mind just too descriptive and direct with little or no room left for any interpretation and emotional involvement on the part of the listener. I mean that they just simply and dryly describe the journey like in a history lesson. However, the majority of the album is instrumental and it is here that this album manages to engage the listener.

Despite its narrative imperfections, Shackleton's Voyage is a good album with several nice instrumental moments in a Neo-Prog/Folk Rock vein and (disregarding the lyrics) some good vocal numbers in a more Crossover Prog style.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#1199528)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 | Review Permalink

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