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RING OF HANDS

Argent

Crossover Prog


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Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Wring of hands!

Argent's second album, is the missing link between their self titled first album with it's straight forward mainly pop based songs, and their more progressive and generally louder third album "All together now". Unfortunately, it tends to gather in the poorer sides of both albums, rather than parts which made those albums notable.

"Celebration" is an obvious opener, and was released as an unsuccessful single. As DJ Alan Freeman put it at the time when reviewing this song, "the ring wasn't quite loud enough". Russ Ballard contributes three songs, all of which demonstrate the enormous potential he had, which even to this day has been criminally under exploited. "Chained" (successfully covered by Three Dog Night) is the best of his tracks here, and thus the best on the album.

The long running Argent/White partnership (which goes back to Argent's Zombie days, although White never actually became a member of Argent) is responsible for the rest of the tracks. Of these, "Lothlorien" is both the most progressive, and the most striking. Rod Argent has the space here to indulge in some fine organ playing, leaving Ballard to do the singing (something Rod should have let him do more often!). "Pleasure" also features some good organ work, while "Sleep won't help me" is "Bring you joy" (from the first album) part 2.

The sleeve notes talk about this album being more "urgent" than their first. It's certainly a bit more complex at times, but urgent(?), not really. The music is adequate but unremarkable, and in the end rather ordinary. It's surprising how badly the album has aged in places, compared to other similar music of the time. Had Argent released another album like this, they would simply never have made it. They didn't, and the rest is history.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#26635)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
antoniodeste@
4 stars After a promising debut,the group consolidates the prog tendency in line with the ongoing years. The lines of Rod Argent's hammond organ draw new schemes for the future sound of the group. Is more remarkable the fracture between the compositions style from Argent and Russ Ballard that produce in future a serious divorce. Anyway a fine album characterized by a strong energy and original and fresh ideas. Some pieces (Lothlorien, Rejoice) mark with decision the personality and the particular styl eof the group.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#26637)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
openskyz@yaho
5 stars Having been a fan of the band from the early seventies, I feel I have to put the record straight. This album contains no hit singles and very few of the songs were played live, but make no mistake this is Argent's most consistent record by a country mile.

Recorded in 1971 it finds the band's twin towers namely Rod Argent and Russ Ballard working in harmony and contains a diverse yet throughly absorbing collection that still sparkles today.

This second outing throws off the Zombies sound and identifies the band as a truly original entity that defies categorisation. Prog fans will marvel at Rod Argent's magnificent keyboard solo's no doubt, but it's the songwriting on this album that really blows you away.

CBS had high hopes for this LP on its release and it's still a mystery why such a classic record is relatively obscure. Absolutely essential for lovers of quality music.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#40402)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I totally agree to Lyndon's estimation. 'Ring of hands' ist the best Argent-album by far. Miles away from the more pop-orientated Zombies-like aproach on their first album, but - even more important - lightyears away from their dull synthie-doodling on 'Nexus', not to mention their embarrassing weak albums 'Circus' and 'Counterpoints'. On 'Ring of hands' we have real melodies and Rod Argent is on his peak concerning the organ playing. The track 'Lothlorian' is the highpoint of their career. Check out the MP3 and you will immediately feel the urgent wish to possess the whole album!

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Send comments to ekaton (BETA) | Report this review (#48735)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
bristolstc@ya
5 stars Argent's self titled first album had been an exploration into a slightly different musical terrain than The Zombies, and that was both a plus and minus. While some songs had a bit of the Oddesey and Oracle magic others sounded commonplace. It was a good, but not great album with a few great moments. Ring Of Hands was the first album of Argent's to really find a comfortable place between the wondrous melodies and vocal work of The Zombies (my favourite band perhaps from that era) and a heavier harder rocking sound. The songs are great, with several extremely impressive solos from Rod Argent in the longer tracks and controlled interplay between the group in others. The Cream influences in the vocals that were there on the first album are still here, but they've matured into something more individualistic. I love Argent, and I would have to also say this is their best album. The reason why it is there best isn't easy to put into words, yet isn't pure nostalgia on my part either. Russ Ballard never was a great guitar player, but when it came to a great voice and great songs he delivered! He and Argent's collaborations with fellow Zombie Chris White side by side with each other are brilliant. There's Russ's harder edge and Rod's melodic, emotional, even spiritual approach. "Celebration" is a beautiful song with Russ sounding great with his lead vocal and really fine harmonies. Also, "Pleasure" "Rejoice" and "Lothlorien" are the best songs Argent ever came up with, full of great melodies, pounding swirling organ, and harmony vocals that are astonishingly professional, but that will come as no surprise to anyone who listened to The Zombies. Every track here tries something different and suceeds, without being too all over the map. Ring Of Hands was the first album to successfully create Argent's own unique sound, but it also was an album of uplifting melodies in a time when uplifting music needed to be made. Follow up albums veered from the brilliant (In Deep) to the hodgepodgy (All Together Now) to the fantastic fusion prog of Circus, but Ring Of Hands is the best Argent album. I like some of the bluesy songs on here like "Sweet Mary" and I feel that creatively speaking Argent and White were at their best around this period, also composing great songs for the silver voiced Colin Blunstone, whom in case you didn't know is the greatest singer in rock and had fronted The Zombies. Blunstone isn't here, but the vocals are good anyway and it's still a masterpiece, their best since Oddesey and Oracle.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#79266)
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Argent were a terrific prog-rock ensemble created by his namesake Rod Argent, following the disbanding of his former group 'The Zombies' (responsible for the psych classic 'Odessey and Oracle'). It was Rod's wish to create music that was both musically challenging and accessible, combining strong, focused song-writing with a flair of talented playing and keyboard wizardry. 'Ring of Hands' delivers on this promise, wasting no time with the catchy rock-song 'Celebration', with it's Emerson-like Hammond flourishes and straight-to-the-point structure. 'Sweet Mary' on the other hand, is a standard blues tune that hundreds of bands were churning out at the time and offers nothing exciting - quite the low point of the album. 'Cast Your Spell Uranus' is picking up the quality again, with it's spacey intro and outro of electric-piano and reverbed guitar effects and features great organ playing. 'Lothlorien' is an incredible composition, and top choice for the representative MP3 for 'Argent', supplied here, featuring excellent riffing, great vocals throughout, and is something of a show-case for Rod's amazing, vibrant Hammond workouts. A strong classical feel is present during the first half's instrumental passage, shifting into more jazz territory for the latter half's passage. One of the best tracks ever written by Argent IMO and a solid taste of the more ambitious compositions that were to come on subsequent albums. One could always tell when listening to 'The Zombies' that the keyboard player was extremely talented.

Side 2 of the LP kicks in with a slight hard-rocking song, 'Chained', one of Russ Ballard's compositions, veering towards a simpler style and offering little in the way of prog, but is a concisely written track and enjoyable either way. 'Rejoice' is a pleasant song, book-ended with almost hymn-like organ passages and, stylistically, is similar to the song-writing when Rod was in The Zombies. 'Pleasure' contains another brilliant instrumental section with Rod 'pulling out all the stops' on the Hammond once again, and is a pleasure to listen to !! 'Sleep Won't Help Me' has a mysterious mood with some great drumming and well constructed bass-lines. A well-played electric-piano solo recalls Manzarek's work with The Doors, and is really great to hear. Lastly, 'Where are we Going Wrong' returns to a more standard formula, but has some good parts to it, especially the piano solo, but the vocal harmonies sound a little overdone and kind of let the song down. I really like the acoustic piano solo in this song though. Worthy of your investigation - 4 stars.

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Send comments to Tom Ozric (BETA) | Report this review (#111511)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

If Argent's debut was still very much of a Zombie thing (actually almost sounding a step backwards from Odessey And Oracle), this second album is still a transition album, although there are strong hints of their more progressive future featured in this one. While the bulk of the song are written by Rod Argent with his usual songwriting partner (lyrics) Chris White, lead guitarist and singer Russ Ballard with a few, although his contribution would generally be poppier and more commercial than Rod Argent.

The whole of the first side goes fairly uneventfully until the closing almost 8-min Lothlorian, where Argent clearly inspires himself from Bach themes in the organ intro then again with the piano in the middle section where Bach's Prelude is called upon. Overall an excellent track, but they only one really worth retaining from that side, even if its predecessor has its charms. The flipside is not really much better, still very much entrenched in 60's-type of songwriting, but you can feel that some parts are yelling out to be noticed. The middle lengthy solo section of Pleasure is a great moment, but unfortunately Argent is a bit alone in the solo dept, as Ballard failed to pick up on the solo to improve or even reply noteworthy. The other album highlight is the jazz-rock Sleep track where Brian Auger's style is not far even if the featured instrument is an electric piano (most likely a Rhodes Fender).

Outside of two tracks, the proghead better not be waiting too much from ROH, but I would certainly not call this album weak, nor essential for that matter. Only for fans , even if I rate it slightly better.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#126202)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars When compared to other keyboard-based albums of the time, this uneven affair suffers. Half the tracks are forgettable, the band chemistry could've been better, as could the mix and drum sound... and what's with that hideous cover? That said, there are some winning moments here among the muddled party- rock quality. The title cut is a perfectly good pop number that I can see getting some airplay 'round about 1972. But 'Sweet Mary' follows, a lugubrious blues with an out-of-tune guitar solo-- and so goes this bumpy ride, as an otherwise talented band throws rusty water on what could have been a really good prog record. 'Cast Your Spell Uranus' has one of the most unintentionally funny lyrics ever written and a John Fogerty delivery that only reminds of the rock'nroll roots most progsters aren't interested in. Finally there is 'Lothlorien', a terrific eight-minute bit of prog with the kind of exciting playing Rod Argent was capable of. 'Chained' is a heavy blues with Zeppelin leanings but none of the fire, and 'Rejoice', the compositional highlight, is a nice blend of Bach with Beatles and some beautiful church organ from Rod. 'Pleasure' is more Paul McCartney moaning with a classical keybord/guitar interlude and some Emersonian moments. Though a lively and inventive album can be seen somewhere among the mess, this one comes up short, and Argent seemed unsettled on whether it wanted to be a integral part of the prog movement or just a mildly successful rock band.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#126500)
Posted Thursday, June 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I was quite positive about Argent debut album (three stars). But even if they deserve a lot of recognition, I am afraid that their second album is way behind their debut one.

You might know that I'm not at all keen on bluesy items. And when I am confronted with a track like Sweet Mary, I am quite confused. Can't stand this! As if the heavy Argent sound wasn't good enough in those early days of (prog) rock music. Still, in this ocean of dull songs, some parts do shine like the great keyboard solo from Cast Your Spell Uranus

Ring Of Hands is not as easy to rate as their debut album. Some of the good tracks like Lothlorien featues some fine and heavy passages but they are combined with rather dull jazzy ones. Make your own choice!

It was a real pleasure to review their debut but this one is waaaaaaaaaaaay beyond. A very average effort actually. More bluesy/funk oriented (but some might love this evolution). Only a few tracks out of this album are really worth. Like Pleasure, during the instrumental part. Because I can't get passionated with these below average vocals.

Argent showed some good potential wit their debut album; but the band didn't quite match the expectations with this one. In those days, it was not easy to be positioned between hard and progressive rock. Because both were only emerging. And Argent' was not a major player.

Two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#181845)
Posted Friday, September 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
jammun
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well, just how proggy can an album be if Three Dog Night covered one of the album's lesser songs? Pretty proggy, it turns out. Ring of Hands starts off with the sappy Celebration. Expectations are minimal upon hearing this one. Sweet Mary is the beginning of the redemption for this album. Though it's yer average bluesy tune, we do get nice Ballard guitar work. Something strange sets in 'round 'bout Cast Your Spell Uranus. The band is treading in prog waters, and in the midst of the song there's a wicked Hammond solo from Argent.

And then out of the blue comes Lothlorien. This is as perfectly constructed a prog song as has ever been written, at least back in its day. Driven by Argent's Hammond (and this is certainly Argent's song), it is by turns playful and aggressive, baroque and romantic. From note number one it engages and challenges the listener; by the end of the song it is soaring way up there, ripping mad gashes across the sky. Let's just say it deserves a place in that rarified air where the great prog songs of the era exist.

In terms of listening to this album, I rarely get beyond Lothlorien, the remainder being somewhat of a letdown, following as it does perfection. Chained (the aforementioned covered song) is that typical cowbell-driven 70's rocker, albeit with above-par vocals. Argent contributes pleasant organ work on Rejoice before it lapses into nothingness. As for the rest, well it's purely average.

I'm torn here. This is an average album that hosts one spectacular song, but that song is special. So let's say it's a qualified 4, simply to encourage a newcomer to Argent with an inquisitive mind to give Lothorien a listen.

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Send comments to jammun (BETA) | Report this review (#207818)
Posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Argent vs. Ballard, act two.

After the experience with the Zombies in the Sixties, Rod Argent founded his own band trying to play more complex music, closer to progressive rock style. "Ring of Hands", published in 1971, is the band's second album. Argent can also count on the help of Russ Ballard, guitarist and composer that will became famous in the 80s with the worldwide hit single "Voices".

This is an album with highs and lows, enjoyable especially in the first part. It contains Lothlorien, one of my favorite prog songs ever, some other great song, but also others mediocre. It is basically a record featuring Hammond organ and piano, masterfully played by Rod Argent: almost all the solo parts are performed by these instruments and the guitar of Ballard remains largely in the background. Without any doubt the clash of styles between the two main authors is not very positive for the band: while Argent tryies to give the songs a progressive mark, with complex instrumental arrangements, changes of pace and refined vocal parts, Ballard prefers simpler and more rockin' songs, mainly based on guitar riffs. The result is a record without homogeneity, and a bit of disorientation is inevitable when you listen to this album: the question is, what kind of stuff I'm listening to? Now, a short analysis of the nine songs of the album:

Celebration. One of the more accessible songs (despite being written by Argent!) and based on pleasing harmonies. Simple and catchy, structured around a piano melody, it's a fine start. Rating: 7/10.

Sweet Mary. The song hated by purists of prog music. It is an ordinary and obvious blues, but this does not necessarily mean it's disappointing. All in all, I find that in the context of the album this song is pleasant. Rating 6/10.

Cast Your Spell Uranus. The lyrics are a bit strange, maybe a little 'anchored in those years, I think. However this is an excellent song, which begins with strange dissonances and frantic piano accompaniment. It is the first song of the album composed by Ballard. Rating 8/10.

Lothlorien. The masterpiece of the album, the longest song and definitely the closest to the canons of progressive rock, with symphonic interludes, and some jazzy sections, with the Hammond organ in evidence. The title refers of course to "The Lord of the Rings". Rating 10/10.

Chained. A classic rockin' number, according to Ballard's style, but well refined, especially for the great use of backing vocals. One of the best songs of the album. Rating 8/10.

Rejoice. Now...the painful notes. This is a gentle song with voice and piano, rather soppy and banal, introduced by a church organ solo. To give an idea, is vaguely reminiscent of the slow songs, for voice and piano, played by Freddy Mercury and Queen. The final part, preceded by unbearable choirs, reprise the organ intro. Rating: 4/10.

Pleasure. In my opinion the worst song on the album. The falsetto voices are terrible, and the backing vocals are really annoying. I still remember the Queen, in their worst. The symphonic interlude in the middle of the song is perhaps the only decent thing. Rating: 3/10.

Sleep Won't Help Me. Though the vocals are still disappointing and the chorus a little dull, is a piece with an original and captivating arrangement. The first time you hear may be indigestible. With successive plays it's better. The initial pace reminds me a little bit '"Come Together" by the Beatles, while in the middle interlude the organ sound is pretty identical to "Riders Of The Storm" by The Doors. Rating 6/10.

Where Are We Going Wrong. A pure and simple rock song based on a guitar riff by Ballard. Reminds me The Who very much (and Ballard seems...Daltrey). All in all, is mediocre and the worst of the songs written by the guitarist. Rating 5/10

In conclusion, we are certainly not in front of a masterpiece, but "Ring Of Hands" is still a good album, perhaps not very progressive and certainly with some flaw, but still enjoyable.

Final rating: 6/10.

Best song: Lothlorien

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Send comments to Dark Nazgul (BETA) | Report this review (#760938)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012 | Review Permalink

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