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London Underground - Four CD (album) cover

FOUR

London Underground

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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3 stars KEYBOARD-CENTRIC ECSTASY

If you like keyboards and more keyboards layered over keyboards, with an astonishingly tight rhythm section laying down tight grooves- you'll love LONDON UNDERGROUND.

Add in spacey, jazzy jams that sometimes sound lifted from classic progressive albums of yore (think Atomic Rooster, Pink Floyd, Argent, heck, even vintage Santana- you'll get the flavor, fall under the spell of the music, and emerge on the other side with a grin.

At least I did.

LONDON UNDERGROUND

I've heard it said that long-time lovers begin to look alike, think alike, react alike- so much that one can finish the other's sentences.

That's the feeling I get listening to these veteran musicians. They've been working and playing together long enough to know where the music is headed, when to build, when to draw back- then build again.

I CONFESS...

...I can't decipher the album title runes(?), but I see this album listed as "4", which is fitting and proper as it's apparently the fourth release by the band, now consisting of GIANLUCA GERLINI on multiple keys, STEFANO GABBANI playing bass guitar, and ALESSANDRO GIMIGNANI on drums.

Several guests, including former member Fabio Baini, add bass guitar, guitar, viola, and some superb sax sprinkled throughout this 56 minute disc.

THERE'S SORT OF A FORMULA

Although the entry to each tune varies, it's based on fairly simple patterns established by bass and drums at times, ethereal keyboards, or various combinations.

Then there are serious jazzy workouts, often lead by growling Hammond, or synthesizer sounds, and guitar here and there.

At times the keyboards including Mellotron, string sounds, electric piano (sadly, never acoustic piano), are setting a mysterious or foreboding mood, while the rhythm section absolutely cooks. I was repeatedly impressed by the understated, tasteful wizardry of Gimignani on the drum-kit. Certainly each player holds his own; no slouches here.

I thought guitars could have profitably been given a bit more prominent role.

STAND-OUT TRACKS

Each track is strong. I especially found "What I Say" with its soaring sax lines and uptempo backing, winsome. Also, "Tropic of Capricorn" (Brian Auger) and "Jam" wormed into my heart, with stentorian keyboard lines nudged by crisp hi-hat fills and solid bass guitar underneath, or the knockout drum groove in "Jam".

BONUS TRACKS

On the CD and vinyl editions of "4", you'll also get classic Joe Zawinul tune "Mercy Mercy Mercy" made famous by Cannonball Adderley, and Wes Montgomery tune "Bumpin' on Sunset". To these ears, nothing new was really brought to the table by these cover tunes.

IN SUM

Fine, fun keyboard-centered jazzy, psychedelic, progressive album. I'm going with three and a half stars on this one- better than "good", but not bringing enough "progressive" to merit "essential" for your collection.

Report this review (#2151360)
Posted Saturday, March 2, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Vintage keyboards rule!"

London Underground started as a musical project by Gianluca Gerlini on piano, Hammond, Moog, clavinet and Mellotron, Marco Piaggesi on bass, banjo and backing vocals and Daniele Caputo (who also played in other Italian band Standarte) on drums, percussion and vocals, with additional musicians on guitar, pedal steel guitar and string arrangements. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2000, followed by Through A Glass Darkly in 2003, Honey Drops in 2010 and this latest effort entitled Four, from 2018, after all those years only Gianluca Gerlini remained as an original member in London Underground. I am familiar with the first two albums and have always loved the pleasant and melodic Hammond drenched music. Listening tot his new album I am delighted, what an amazing band, what a quality, and what a wonderful vintage keyboard sound!

A slow rhythm with delicate Fender electric piano, beautiful Elka strings and a compelling organ solo in Billy Silver.

Swing time with Hammond Extravaganza, evoking Brian Auger and Hardin & York and an awesome rhythm-section in Ray Ban.

A mellow atmosphere with a Floydian synthesizer sound, and hypnotizing drums, gradually turning into a psychedelic climate with exciting work on guitar, Hammond and synthesizer in At Home.

First a slow rhythm with an electric piano solo and then an accellaration with again exciting work on piano, organ, fuelled by that awesome rhythm-section in The Comete.

A catchy mid-tempo featuring powerful saxophone and Hammond, the interplay with the drums and bass is outstanding, and finally a fiery guitar solo in What I Say.

A mellow and hypnotizing atmosphere with delicate work on clavinet, Hammond and again powerful saxophone in a lush climate in Tree Job Man.

A swinging rhythm with exciting Hammond and Moog (like ELP, Triumvirat and Quill), fuelled by dynamic drums and bass in finally a swirling Hammond solo in the Brian Auger cover Tropic Of Capricorn.

First a swinging rhythm with a spacey Moog solo, then a lush and dynamic atmosphere with strong work on clavinet and Hammond, and in the end exciting interplay between powerful Hammond and fiery electric guitar in Jam.

Again swing time in the Joe Zawinful cover Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, this is top notch Hammond Extravaganza!

The Wes Montgomery cover Bumpin' On Sunset delivers jazzy Hammond play, a short but very entertaining composition.

This vintage keyboard driven prog is not like ELP or The Nice but more in the vein of Sixties bands like Booker T & The MG's, Brian Auger's Trinity and Hardin & York (former Spencer Davis Group members), I am sure that the floods of organ will delight the many Hammond aficionados!

This review was recently published in a slightly different version on the Dutch progrock website Background Magazine.

Report this review (#2189860)
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2019 | Review Permalink

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