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Brand X

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I've never met a Brand X album that I didn't like, and Masques is definitely one of the strongest of a stellar company!

For this one, Chuck Bergi takes over the skins from Phil Collins (who'll return to the fold for PRODUCT), and does a very stalwart and capable job. Founding band members John Goodsall (guitar) and Percy Jones (one of the all-time MASTERS of the fretless bass) remain, and percussionist Morris Pert is back to hit various and sundry instruments, objects and parts of Britain.

All of the songs on this disc are great, but I especially enjoy those by Pert: the powerful "Deadly Nightshade," the ebullient "Earth Dance," and the surprisingly pretty and delicate "Black Moon." (Goodsall's "Access to Data" is also awesome!) As always, the band leads the listener down many winding, weird and wondrous paths, with complex rhythms and time signatures. Throughout it all, their sense of timing is impeccable -- these are strictly top-shelf musicians!

But be warned: Brand X is typically not what I would classify as progressive rock. (There are, however, some genuine "prog" moments on the much more commercial -- and hence aptly named -- PRODUCT.) It's much more in the "jazz-fusion" vein: (generally) instrumental, electric, and often frantic. Thus, their music can be challenging and "difficult" for the uninitiated. (When I first heard them as a teen, I didn't much care for them, and dismissed their sound as "organized jamming." With age and more exposure to other forms of music, however, I finally "got" the band, and learned to love them!)

That said, if you have an open musical mind, and room for diversity in your collection, you'll likely grow to really appreciate this fabulously-talented band's unique, eclectic "brand" of music, and MASQUES would be a fine way to commence (or augment) your Brand X collection! Far out!

Report this review (#23084)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars By the their fourth album, the inspiration was starting to fail or at least to wane and the first line-up changes arrive, but the new guys were bringing not many new ideas either. Gone are Collins (apparently not a permanent thing) and Lumley although aptly replaced respectively by Bergi (ex-Al DiMeola and Hall & Oates) and Robinson (ex-Quartemass), even if it obvious the former doesn't match Phil. Another exotic (shall we say Saharian) artwork graces the album's cover, but it's not indicative of the music's direction.

Apart from Collins' temporary absence, (thus handing over the group's direction to Goodsall and Jones), the Corea/RTF influence (courtesy of the departed Lumley) are also gone, We're still in the line of the usual BX compositions, but one gets the feeling that the band meanders in between ideas (ranging from ECM Jazz albums to Weather Report), afraid (or unable) to expand on them other than by excessive virtuosity/dexterity/showmanship (select two out of three and scrap the remaining one) at the expense of the musical interest. Morris pert gets the lion's share of the composition credits. The first side I find particularly boring, if not irritatingly boring, Pertt not being able to hide Bergi's neutral drumming (the latter will go on to rainbow, BOC and Meatloaf). The flipside does fare better as Goodsall's closing track Mayfield Lodge is the better one along with the to-die-for Access To Data.

What I mean by this is that I really must be concentrate on listening to this album (to stop my mind from wandering around), something that did not happen with the previous three albums but this will occur more often with each successive albums. While Masques is still considered a good classic album?. I personally can't wait for the next album and the "return to normal".

Report this review (#23085)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Masques" is the band's most accessible album yet, favoring upbeat fusion music that recalls the work of "Return to Forever" in more than a few spots. The change in sound can be traced to the changes in the lineup: keyboardist Peter Robinson (who had played with RTF's Stanley Clarke and Lenny White as well as with Pert in the short-lived Suntreader) is similar in style to Chick Corea, incorporating Latin and funk with an ear toward the spacier side of progressive rock; new drummer Chuck Burgi lays down solid riffs that favor the rock side of the jazz/rock split; and Morris Pert increases his role in the band as a songwriter and increases his percussive arsenal to include melodic instruments. Original member Robin Lumley assumes production duties, and his effect combined with Jones and Goodsall does bring "Masques" back to the sound of their first album, "Unorthodox Behaviour".

Although Jones has softened his string attack, "The Poke", "Black Moon", "Access to Data" and "The Ghost of Mayfield Lodge" move with the fluid grace of their debut's most memorable moments. John Goodsall contributes only one track, "Access to Data", highlighted by some terse and tart guitar leads, while Pert (heretofore a non-contributor) provides three, including the epic and triumphant "Deadly Nightshade" and their deepest foray into Latin fusion, "Earth Dance". As for the title track, it retains the atmospheric and Eastern feel of their last two records while providing Jones and Pert with some room to experiment.

"Masques" may well be the band's best fusion album, at least in terms of memorable melodies. Purists might argue that the absence of COLLINS and (audibly, at least) Lumley diminishes the band's achievement, but the subsequent shift in strategy (however small) does produce a fusion record as meritorious as any they've recorded.

Report this review (#23086)
Posted Saturday, April 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Brand X are for me the best and the main very important band of my life. I knew them when i was very young and when their albums were not sold, during the 80th, a very bad period of only commercial aims for everyone in the world, more than others. This album is with their 1st one and the side a of Livestock the best you can hear of what really fusion can be for a rock band who involves into electrical jazz. It was my personal door towards a world beyond the old progressive. You can hear here also the best mixture of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Lifetime, Return to Forever and Gong with A. Holdsworth. They never annoied me because any emotion is strong and true, in any experiment you can feel the blood and the concept behind. And what you can feel is an extreme JOY and a great sense of humour with a lisergic melancony. Try to find all these 3 together somewhere else so easily .-)
Report this review (#23087)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After a couple of really well-working Brand X releases, the band went on a bit different path than before with "Masques". This album can be seen as a tighter, quirkier and harder release but still with the usual Brand X playfulness and the amazingly solid instrumentation. Phil Collins was too busy with Genesis at the time for this release that he got replaced by Chuck Bürgi, a superb drummer who does a mind-boggling performance here, up to pair with Collins I would say. Collins returned after this release.

This might be the most complex Brand X album, stuffed with odd time signatures. The songs are well composed and structured with a great sense of melody too, in Brand X' usual quirky style, of course! There are no really weak tracks here, with the possible exception of the minimalistic noodling title track. Otherwise, "Masques" reminds on of their best releases in their discography!

My rating: 4.5/5, rounded up to 5 for being so underrated.

Report this review (#23088)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars From all albums Brand X made, "Masques" is still my favorite. Why? Easy to say: It's con- sitency. Tracks like "Black Moon" or "Deadly Nightshade" are just great, well played, total in expression & absolutely magnificent! Their music should stand today in a different light, if..., but as we all know, popular culture likes it low, consumer-friendly, & - of course - females aside - women-appealing, which Brand X is definitely NOT! For the better, I guess. For the rest of their catalogue... "Unorthodox Behavior", of course! "Livestock", parts of it, especially the "phased parts". The rest of those albums, one or two tracks do the job! I like the "idea" behind Brand X. And Phil? I think he showed us, what a versatile drummer he actually was, then ( before he started " In the air tonight" & other rubbish to earn just money from it.) Phil Collins "became" extremly "radiofriendly" in the 80ties & beside of his productionwork something of a "Hatezone" not to listen to. Genesis & his solowork became expendible, & so.... redundant (Sorry Phil!!! - But that's damn true, innit?)!!!! How about "Moroccan Roll", Phil? - Those were the times, THEN... in the 70ties. But all those Rappers, Trance-music-lovers, drum&bass-freaks, techno-philliacs, take a listen to Brand X Stuff & you're blown away....Still in the 21st Century... ( what actually shows, what a decline popular culture made - all over the years - "Maybe I'll lend you mine, when you have broken yours (off) already! That sound arrogant & snobish, innit? Yes, in fact, it should. There's the real progress.... where else?
Report this review (#47785)
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth work of BRAND X released in 1978 "Masques". It seceded so that Phil Collins might concentrate on GENESIS. Chuck Burgi was elected a successor. In addition, Robin Lumley that takes charge of the keyboard to the former work has been alternated with Peter Robinson of former QUATERMASS and SUN TREADER. His play is a technique extremely and is lucid. Well, the album is a content to which it falls and pop is done by the high technology in Ma overall. The improvisation is a work very enhanced though it decreased. However, I wanted to listen to a personally darker and estheticism music.
Report this review (#58983)
Posted Saturday, December 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Brand X's fourth album is an uneven affair. Where Moroccan Roll and Livestock had a highly individual take on fusion, this album saw them starting to settle into slick, laid back but rather anonymous jazz rock grooves. There are some flashes of inspiration, but a good half of the album is rather forgettable.

The better moments are largely down to Morris Pert, who contributes 3 compositions which account for about half of the album's playing time. Black Moon is a rather generic piece, but the lengthy Deadly Nightshade takes some interesting twists and turns and has some of the urgency of earlier recordings. John Goodsall turns in some terriffic lead guitar and Morris Pert gets busy with some highly imaginative tuned percussion. The use of marimba recalls Pierre Moerlen's Gong circa Gazeuse, and Pert and Burgi form an interesting partnership. Earthdance is full of dense, complex rhythms and at times recalls Return to Forever or post Caravanserai Santana. The title track was co-written by Percy Jones and new boy Peter Robinson, and is another interesting piece which recalls some of the quieter moments on Eno's Before and After Science (which Jones also played on). The remainder of the album is always well played and beautifully produced, and fans of Percy Jones' bass work will find much to enjoy, but there's a lot of soporific noodling padding it out.

There's enough good material (just) to make this album worth owning, but it marked the beginning of the end for Brand X. If you're new to them, try Livestock or Moroccan Roll first.

Report this review (#63838)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars An excellent jazz rock album here from Brand X, and in my very humble opinion, some of their finest work. The album has a much more worldy/ latin feel to it than their other albums, and I think they pull it off excellently. The opening track "The Poke" has you listening immediately with it's great blend of Jazz breaks and progressive keyboard sounds, carried on the back of an intelligently reserved drum beat, giving it a fell similar to that of "Dance On A Volcano" from Genesis' "A Trick Of The Tail" album. The other song that stands out on me on this album is the delicate (almost Chick Corea like) Black Moon, which is a great find for any fan of Latin jazz, not to mention the powerful world drum beat on "Earth Dance". I would say the only weak track on this album is the 12 minute long "Deadly Nightshade", which for me really seems to drag. Otherwise, this is a very good all round album with a few cracking tracks in there, a must have for any fan of Brand X or the jazz/rock genre.
Report this review (#146383)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I can't say that I miss Phil Collins on this album. I especially don't miss his vocals. The replacements for Collins and keyboardist Robin Lumley, Chuck Burgi and Peter Robinson do an excellent job filling in. But the standouts on this album of great fusion, as usual, are guitarist John Goodsall and the ever spectacular Percy Jones on bass.

The music here is the tight, fast, complex fusion that we have come to expect from Brand X. The songs here are all extremely well played. In fact, when I first heard this album, the very first time I heard this band, I was so blown away by Jones' bass playing that I almost put down my bass for good, since there was no way I could ever even approach this level of amazingness.

Report this review (#244006)
Posted Saturday, October 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Masques is the last great Brand X album, in my opinion. They will remain as one of the best jazz fusion bands ever, but diluted songwriting and too many band members will permanently affect the quality of their albums from now on. Also, starting from here, the production gets thinner every time out.

Masques is also the first album without Phil Collins since he was busy with Genesis at the time, and yet, it doesn't really matter because drummer extraordinaire Chuck Burghi was brought in to fill his shoes, and because of his jazzier approach, the material sounds more like 'normal' fusion rather than their very own characteristic brand (no pun intended) of jazz-rock, even if there are enough quirks to maintain some of the personality.

Another average jazz fusion trademark is used here: lighting-speed guitar solos. Not a lot of Brand X tunes had guitar solos in the past ("Running On Three" from Unorthodox Behaviour; "Sun In The Night" with a sitar; "Why Should I Lend You Mine (When You Have Broken Off Already...)?" and "Macrocosm" from Morrocan Roll), but it would become ever more frequent (not bad but not very good either, either). Here, "The Poke" contains a muffled guitar alongside a subtle synthesizer pattern, "Deadly Nightshade" includes not only one, but three guitar solos, with two being slightly improvised over a written part and the third being created entirely out of thin air; "The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge" also has a short guitar solo, and "Access To Data" is an appreciation of Goodsall's speed with a full-fledged guitar solo, and three very fast parts that manage to resemble a machine gun.

Out of it's seven tunes, the only one that strikes as a filler is "Masques", but only in parts since it has some tasteful, atmospheric fretless bass set to a mysterious off-beat rhythm, the rest is a collection of pieces written with utmost care and lots of imagination.

A big surprise here is the prolific writing of Morris Pert who fleshes out not one but actually three songs: the bipolar "Deadly Nightshade", the delicate "Black Moon" and the groovy "Earth Dance", arguably the best songs on here. Goodsall's "The Poke" is not very good as an opener and could have benefited from some editing, but the quirky "Access To Data" is a joy to hear; Jones's "The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge" is as bipolar as "Deadly Nightshade" but more radical in it's moods, also, it has a main riff and a beautiful one at that.

Worthy of note is the fact that Robin Lumley is only credited as producer, having relinquished the position of keyboardist to J. Peter Robinson, previously from Quatermass.

This is a radically different line-up from the previous three records, but soon the old members would reunite without the exit of the new ones, leading to a mess called Product.

Report this review (#455312)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first and last of the first Brand X formation albums without Phil Collins. Replacing Collins is a much less known artist by the name of Chuck Bergi, there is also an additional percussionist. In my opinion Morroccan Roll is overrated whereas Masques is overlooked simply because it doesn't feature Phil Collins. For me Brand X means a lot more than just Collins's drumming altho it's an important part of it. The album kicks off with "The Poke", a mindblowing prove that Masques will continue the high level of the earlier records. Then a short piece: "Masques", which has a desert-like snuggy jazzy beat with again lots of the arabian/north african influence. Black Moon is a distant spacejazz effort which stands out with it's massive relaxing energy. The longest piece is the over 11-minute long Deadly Nightshade which quite nicely jumps from quiet parts to fast parts to loud atmospheric parts. Goodsall's guitar is dominant and Percy Jones's fretless bass runs up and down. Earth Dance starts with a quiet intro and evolves through a bass/conga part into a fast musical freefall where every band member is on fire. Not without a thought one of the band's best efforts ever. Access to Data is another fine tune with some enjoyable sequences. The Ghost of Mayfield Lodge is an excellent 10-minute long concise tune which evolves through multiple parts and ends quietly. All in all Masques is an overlooked gem in the Brand X discography that should have more reputation.
Report this review (#495309)
Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars BRAND X's third album came with some changes as we get a new drummer (Bergi) and keyboardisit (Robinson) as Collins and Lumley have left the fold. I did find this album a step down from the first two but it's really the three long tracks that save this record for me. I find the four shorter tracks to be a little too light-weight for my tastes.

"The Poke" is uptempo and intricate. Impressive stuff really. I like when it settles some before 2 minutes. It kicks back in before 3 1/2 minutes and the drumming here is great. "Masques" is pastoral with piano early. Then different sounds start coming and going but it's still minimalistic.

"Black Moon" is a catchy mid-paced tune. "Deadly Nightshade" is a top three. I like when it changes 1 1/2 minutes in with deep bass and drums leading the way.Guitar too then the tempo picks up before 2 1/2 minutes.The guitar and drums lead 5 minutes in then Goodsall starts to shred after 6 minutes. It settles back late but it's still powerful.

"Earth Dance" turns intricate with percussion a minute in. It fades out to end it. "Access To Data" is a top three. Much better than the last tune, much more dynamic. A nice bass / drum section 2 minutes in.The guitar joins in sounding great.This continues to the end.Killer stuff.

"The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge" is my final top three.The sound builds. Piano before 2 1/2 minutes with crisp drumming.The guitar leads before 3 1/2 minutes, nice bass too.Then drums come to the fore. A calm follows with intricate sounds. It starts to pick up after 5 1/2 minutes then turns powerful before 6 1/2 minutes.It's lighter again a minute later then a calm ends it.

A low 4 stars but impressive enough to recommend.

Report this review (#507283)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of the three solid albums Brand X kicked off their studio career with, Masques might be the most traditional in its fusion temperaments, with a style reminiscent of Weather Report or Pierre Moerlen's Gong. Still, as far as albums of this style go, it's quite decent. Don't let the cover fool you - the world music influences of Moroccan Roll are largely absent here, as is Phil Collins (business having perked up for Genesis), with Chuck Burgi filling in on the drumstool whilst Peter Robinson of Quatermass fame steps into the keyboard role. What they deliver is more directly rocky and straight-ahead than the more unorthodox behaviour registered on previous albums. One for serious fusion fans mostly.
Report this review (#1920699)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brand X still going strong even without Phil Collins behind the drum kit. The new drummer is on one side more poppy with way too simple beat structures and very complex in the long suites like "Deadly Nightshade" with its furious tempo or "The Ghost of Mayfield Lodge".

"Access Data" has become a popular concert number, it has a nice symbiose of groove, some instrumental complexity and still does not sound too cold and inaccessible - so has all attributes to capture the attention of most listeners. Keyboards and guitar shine through. "Black moon" is one of the first forays into smooth jazz, a lovely but drumwise very unchallenging track. "Earth dance" with subtle Latin influence is a dark horse on this album thanks to excellent drums, bass and keyboards, I think percussions contribute too.

"The Poke" has a memorable motive.

This is the last classic Brand X album since from 1979, pop-fusion thrash will start appearing on the albums.

Report this review (#2314011)
Posted Saturday, February 8, 2020 | Review Permalink

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