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Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial & At the Sound of the Bell CD (album) cover


Pavlov's Dog

Crossover Prog

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4 stars Review Nš 186

"Pampered Menial & At The Sound Of The Bell" is a very special compilation of Pavlov's Dog. This is an economic package that includes the first two albums of Pavlov's Dog. I'm talking about "Pamperd Menial", released in 1974 and "At The Sound Of The Bell", released in 1976, on only one CD package. This is a very interesting compilation because it includes two very interesting albums of an original band at a very cheap price, what will be a very worth purchase for those who don't have yet the two original albums. "Pampered Menial" is an excellent album with some great tracks and "At The Sound Of The Bell" despite be not as good as the previous debut album is, has some really nice tracks too.

For those who aren't familiar with this group, one of the most important characteristics of Pavlov's Dog's sound is their vocals. Their front man David Surkamp owns a very peculiar and strange voice usually compared with Geddy Lee's voice from Rush. So, for those who don't know the band yet and don't like Lee's voice, compared by many as a sound of strangling a cat, certainly Pavlov's Dog isn't the best band that you are looking for. Anyway, their music style was very song based and actually not all that far from some British bands but still with an American touch into their sound.

As I've already reviewed these two albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those my both reviews. However in here, I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them track by track, as I made before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of both albums.

"Pampered Menial": "Pampered Menial" was their first and supposedly best album. It consists of strongly melodic tracks that focus more on strong melodies and tasty arrangements than complexity. And I guess it's the arrangements here that give the music its progressive edge. The mellotron is present in the sound all the time, and some brief passages also include flute, violin, organ and tasty moog. The synth solo in "Late November" has a very Wakeman feel and atmosphere. Other highlights include "Julia", the hard edged "Song Dance" and "Theme From Subway Sue". The latter must have one of the most emotional endings I've ever heard on a song, and David Surkamp takes his very distinctive high pitched vibrato voice to absurd heights. The most progressive tune here is "Of Once And Future Kings" and this complex track starts with a very medieval sounding intro called "Preludin". The only track that I don't care for here is "Natchez Trace" and this limp hard rocker lacks the strong melodies that characterize the rest of the album and doesn't seem to belong here. "Pampered Menial" will appeal to progressive rock fans who enjoys strong melodies and who doesn't necessarily want everything to be as complex as Gentle Giant, Van Der Graaf Generator or King Crimson.

"At The Sound Of The Bell": Their second album was a lighter and less powerful effort then their excellent debut, but the album is saved by generally strong songwriting and tasty arrangements. The atmospheric ballad "Standing Here With You (Megan's Song)" and the great "Early Morning On" features lots of strings that give these songs the majestic lift they needs. The opener "She Came Shining" and especially "Valkerie" are Pavlov's Dog classics of the same calibre as "Julia" from the debut. The sound and atmosphere of "Gold Nuggets" reminds me of something from the second part of "Tubular Bells". This is a great track too. The nice ballad "Mersey" and the poppy "She Breaks Like A Morning Sky" features saxophone, giving these songs a slightly different feel from the rest of the album. And just as on the debut, the most progressive songs are placed last on the album. The earlier mentioned "Early Morning On" has a cool mid part with a boy choir. While the closing number "Did You See Him Cry" is a complex and dramatic song. It's perhaps the best song ever wrote by them. Oh, and David Surkamp sings in a lower tone and in a more normal way here than on the debut, perhaps making this album easier to adapt to for those who have problems with high pitched vocals.

Conclusion: If you have the two studio albums of the two individual works, you don't need to buy this compilation because it has nothing new to offer, like bonus tracks, unless you have a collector spirit. However, if you don't have these two albums yet and you like less complex prog music and you don't have problems with high pitched vocals in the same vein of Geddy Lee of Rush, you willn't lose your time and money if you buy both albums. Still, if you aren't convinced by all my arguments, at least, you must listen to "Pampered Menial". This is really an excellent album with some kind of originality. In reality, Pavlov's Dog made a very powerful and balanced album, indeed. I think it's an excellent example of some of the best prog made in U.S.A., in the 70's. Like most of us know, in the 70's, the progressive rock music was practically a European phenomenon. So, American bands like Kansas, Starcastle, Pavlov's Dog and Blue Oyster Cult were, somehow, exceptions. So, Pavlov's Dog is one of the best examples of those times.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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