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4 stars An underrated German band, whose only album is another excellent shot of symphonic rock plenty of changes and melodical richness, really complex and elaborated.

IVORY music is obviously influenced by GENESIS, but it isn't a copy or a clone, even when vocalist (he sings in English) reminds Peter Gabriel style. There are nine songs, but each one includes a sort of "mini-song" inside, with excellent keyboards and very nice melodies. "In Hora Ultima" and "My Brother" are the highlights, but all tracks are in the same quality line.

"Sad Cypress" is a highly recommended album for those who like '70s symphonic rock in the traditional vein. And one particularity: Keyboardist Ulrich Sommerlatte had 65 years old when "Sad Cypress" was released.

Report this review (#3915)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Basic symphonic progressive Genesis influenced band. The music is quite good but why, just why does the singer sing in English ? Especially when he pronounces the letter 'w' as a 'v'. Imagine ! This is simply awful. I just can't get over it. The only good tracks are the instrumentals and In Hora Ultima where the lyrics are latin ! The last two tracks are bonus and not as interesting.
Report this review (#81495)
Posted Monday, June 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars 'Sad Cypress' provides songs in a symphonic/neo prog vein ... technically rather prolific and the same applies to the compositional aspect by the way. Although they are partially peering hard at bands like Genesis, Camel, Eloy or the early Marillion this is quite original overall. Okay, a bunch of bands with a similar stylistical attitude existed at that time. So does this really arouse a great deal of interest? The line-up does at any rate. Here we have Ulrich Sommerlatte aboard, born 1914 (and gone in 2002). Originally being a trained music composer with the focus on popular and classical arrangements he started to experiment with prog and electronic music at the age of 65! Astonishing, however apparently not too late.

So consequently he founded the band IVORY three years later together with his son Thomas and was responsible for the compositions.on top of it. Respect! When I started to listen some associations came up immediately ... Steve Hackett adopted guitars, vocals are getting close to Peter Gabriel as well as Fish here and there. The skimped opener At This Very Moment sums this all up. But the smell of rehash dissolves over the course of time. There is a focus on a dreamy atmosphere, Eloy's Ocean flavour shimmers through all over. Less powerful rocking impressions, surely due to Ulrich Sommerlatte's longtime experiences in other territories. In Hora Ultima shows some vocals in Latin.

The tricky title track with lively drums and synths and the 14 minute epic My Brother are the most challenging tracks in my opinion. The original vinyl had been released on a German Schlager label by the way, later digitally re-issued by Musea amongst others, enhanced with four bonus tracks recorded between 1983 and 1987. They are following in their steps here, with a stronger classical touch though. And the keyboard work is less vintage flavoured, more infiltrated with modern electronical elements.

Overall this album is a nice, more relaxed workout by IVORY, which was situated in Munich by the way - unique but also showing some distinct references, entertaining in any case. Christian Meyer's vocals are pleasant ... and so typical due to this slight German accent. Guitars are rarely placed, so much the more 'Sad Cypress' is spiked with excellent lush keyboard/synth work, provided by father and son Sommerlatte. Who is keen on that will be well served by an overlap in the vein of those aforementioned bands. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#394828)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ivory were a unique band in the sense of being led by a 65 years old musician.It was Ulrich Sommerlatte, a composer born in 1914 in Berlin, who was the conductor of the Hannover Symphony Orchestra at the very young age of 22.Sommerlatte worked for the most of his career as a composer for film soundtracks and radio broadcasts, before listening to Classic 70's Prog and started experimenting with its sound.He formed Ivory in 1976 along with his son, also keyboardist, Tomas.Ivory featured also Christian Mayer on vocals/guitars, Goddie Daum also on guitars, bassist Charly Stechl and Fredrik Rittmüller behind the drum kit.Their debut ''Sad cypress'' was released in 1979 on Jupiter Records.

''Sad cypress'' was no less than excellent, attractive and clever 70's influenced Symphonic Rock in the vein of GENESIS and YES with dominant keyboard and guitar parts and great instrumental passages.Both the long and short tracks are complex, melodic and balanced with some beautiful organ runs and magnificent moog synthesizers workouts, while Mayer and Daum have both a sensitive HACKETT-ian touch on their guitars.Mayer was also responsible for the nice vocal work in the style of PETER GABRIEL.Lots of smooth interplays, plenty of dramatic instrumental passages, dreamy keyboard atmospheres, intense lyricism and series of sudden breaks guarantee a listening close to the best of the Classic Prog tradition.Hints of GENTLE GIANT's more accesible forms are also obvious throughout the listening.

Both Musea Records and Belle Antique have re-issued the album, which now features four bonus tracks recorded between 1983 and 1987.Sommerlatte seems not to have run out of interesting ideas with Ivory's style now being closer to the likes of British Neo Prog but still with an excellent demanding sound.The sound recalls acts like early IQ and ABEL GANZ, being a bit more synth-based with some Electronic touches here and there but deeply rooted in 70's progressive music with melodic guitar work, symphonic arrangements and warm, sensitive vocals.These tracks make the purchase of the CD format of the album really essential.

If you are after innovative, ground-breaking and trully experimental Prog just skip by.But if you are a fan of vintage GENESIS-influenced Progressive Rock and a lover of trully intricate arrangements this one deserves to reach your hands.Not very original music but definitely among the best albums of the style.

Report this review (#663765)
Posted Sunday, March 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Excellent album - really enjoyable. Can't imagine why it has been categorised as psychedelic/space rock - this is classic symphonic prog from the 70s. Never easy (or particularly helpful) to cite influences since I am not inside the heart and soul of the band, so can't hope to know what they liked or listened to. However, whether consciously or not, many of the usual suspects are here: Genesis (most definitely), the Enid (but more playful), Spring, Strawbs, a bit of Mike Oldfield, Fantasy, even England....all in all, a feast for every lover of prog. Intricate, varied and altogether interesting musicianship, with perfectly acceptable vocals - (I think "silvertree" is unduly critical) - the songs move along nicely and well repay repeated listenings. This said, I am not too fond of "Incantation". Title track, "My Brother" and "Barbara" are undisputed gems.

Note of caution: the "follow up", Keen City, is totally unrelated and has no prog content at all. Some pleasant noodling but no more. Avoid.

Report this review (#921266)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars When this German symphonic one-off was produced in 1979, keyboardist Ulrich Sommerlatte was 65 years old, which at the time was quite unheard of, given many of our heroes were still in their 20s. Now, in 2013, the first wave of prog artists who are still with us are in their 60s and we are ok with that. Oh the cruel irony!

"Sad Cypress" arrived too late to have a chance, with a retro sound even at the time, but I doubt whether they would have found much success 5 years earlier, because the sumptuous keys and arrangements are let down by coldly calculated compositions and an inexorable heaviness of heart. Even worse are the English vocals sung with a thick German accent that even I cannot tolerate, and I am usually most forgiving in that department. The worst of these are, unfortunately, on the album opener and nothing can wash it away once the first soupcon is flung forth. It also suffers from the most mawkish of lyrics, another area where I am normally lenient. Luckily, matters do improve on all fronts, but, as I implied, "At this very moment" shouldn't have made the cut, or should have been buried somewhere in the middle or end, preferably as a hidden track.

Not suprisingly, the best mustered here is instrumental. "Time Traveller" is quite lovely and reminds me of the more virile contemporaries ZOMBY WOOF. Two other long tracks, "The Great Tower" and "Barbara" boast more appealing passages and more of a balanced feel, where the keys seem almost whimsical at times, a worthwhile counterweight to the general seriousness. Most of the other pieces have their moments but in the end they add little fodder to the canon of late 1970s German symphonic rock that was still smoking heavily at the time, especially relative to what was transpiring in America and the UK.

This is recommended to those who enjoy that classic vintage keyboard "sound" of the period, but I doubt even its most devout apologists will endow it with classic status or regard it as valuable enough to poach.

Report this review (#944112)
Posted Monday, April 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Sad Cypress' - Ivory (65/100)

Ivory's debut Sad Cypress was released at least three years after progressive rock starting getting uncool. Even the bands carrying the torch around then (most notably Marillion) had largely acknowledged times were changing, and shifted their styles accordingly. With a style that sounds like it was drawn straight for the circa-Selling England by the Poundgolden period, there is a sad romanticism to Ivory's music. A noble unwillingness to develop with the current trends. Although composer Ulrich Sommerlatte was relatively new to progressive rock, Ivory's story is made unique by his relatively late arrival to the scene; he was already in his mid-sixties when he founded the band with his son Thomas. A professional composer and conductor, he had decades of musical experience going into progressive rock. Knowing Ivory was a product of late adulthood undoubtedly changes the perspective.

You can hear Sommerlatte's maturity in every part of Sad Cypress; it is gentle, lavishly composed, and shamelessly out-of-touch which what (back then) was considered cool and edgy. While I don't think age itself is any impediment to innovation (just listen to some of Scott Walker's recent work for proof!) there needs to be existing discomfort for an artist to carve their own musical path. With the amount of experience some of the 1970s legends are only now reaching, it is presumable Sommerlatte went into writing Sad Cypress with a lot of confidence in his abilities as a composer. He formed Ivory as a way to express his admiration for symphonic rock, and his influences are clear to show. Above all else, Genesis comes to mind. Ivory's progressive rock favours warmth and consonance. There are no abrupt shifts in pace, no sound unpleasing to the ear. Quite like Selling England by the Pound, the gentle warmth belies the complexity of the composition. Christian Mayer's voice even sounds so close to Peter Gabriel's that it's impossible not to foster the comparison.

Let's not mince words about it; Ivory's sound is so close to the Genesis template that it's hard to approach them without some kind of existing bias. Fans of Selling England by the Pound should enjoy Sad Cypress to varying extents. If you're not a fan of the Peter Gabriel era, you might as well skip out on Ivory. Especially given that it was coming up on a decade since Genesis had made their original statements in this style, one cannot help but think Ivory did nothing to advance prog rock as an artform. That may sound like a condemnation-- and surely, it's reason enough for Ivory to have remained unknown-- but there's such essential beauty to the Genesis sound that I'm happy other bands were around to make further use of it. In the specific case of Ivory, most of their formula was already laid out before them, tried-and-tested, and relatively sure to succeed at least marginally. Sommerlatte's tone as a composer is perhaps too gentle to breathe life into the entire album, but his arrangements are more sophisticated than most of what the younger innovators were getting up to a decade prior. Sad Cypress is a worthy recommendation if ever you're looking for a new, but familiar sound to sate your thirst for symphonic prog-- expect no more or less of it.

As a side-note, I'd recommend checking out the expanded CD version of the album over the abridged vinyl counterpart. The supposed bonus tracks arguably make the album longer than it should be, but some of Ivory's best work was lamentably cut for sake of time restrictions. Although the lyrics are saccharine enough to spell death for anyone with a latent diabetic condition, the fifteen minute "Barbara" is as delicate and beautiful a progressive epic as anything I've heard.

Report this review (#1434378)
Posted Friday, July 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I really don't understand why this band is in the Psychedelic/ Space Rock sub-genre when this sounds as GENESIS as GENESIS does. This is a Symphonic album all the way. "Sad Cypress" was released in 1980 by this German band and the vocals are in English. The vocals are the weakest link in my opinion but man for me being a massive GENESIS fan it's hard not to appreciate the very GENESIS-like instrumental sounds, in fact that's all that's keeping this at 3 stars for me.

I'm going to be fairly brief here. The album opens with "At This Very Moment" which in my opinion is a bad way to start only because the vocals seem to be the weakest here and the lyrics don't help much. A beat and synths lead early on as he sings over top. When he stops singing we get keys then a relaxed guitar solo. Themes are repeated. "In Hora Ultima" has a guest singer briefly singing in Latin. Church bells to start before a full sound with vocals arrives just before a minute. Man this sounds familiar. Tribal-like drumming follows. This is so GENESIS-like before 4 1/2 minutes. The vocals come and go.

"Sad Cypress" sounds so much like GENESIS I can't believe it. A change 2 1/2 minutes in as we get high pitched synths. A complete change follows as it turns uptempo with vocals and it's still very GENESIS-like. I do like the melancholic instrumental ending. "Time Traveller" is an instrumental with plenty of time shifts. It's okay. "My Brother" is the almost 14 minute closer. Keys and atmosphere to start as reserved vocals and more join in. This is all very relaxed and he actually sounds like Gabriel here for the first time. It does pick up before a minute but I'm not a fan of this or the vocals that follow. Lots to describe on this track but I'm done.

I have lots of GENESIS inspired albums that range from great to poor. This is closer to the latter except I do really like most of the instrumental sections on here. So 3 stars it is.

Report this review (#1544451)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2016 | Review Permalink

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