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Rainbow Theatre - Fantasy Of Horses CD (album) cover

FANTASY OF HORSES

Rainbow Theatre

Symphonic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars Wow!! I never start my review with wow. But apparently this group remains to be discovered by a lot of people, and that includes me. Talk about unearthing a gem here. Out of nowhere comes from the underworld this strange band that knows what drama is. As a matter of fact, some of their music can even be called operatic having not only a string section but also a moody wind section as well: jazzy feel on those very Spanish Conquistador dramatic themes. Yes, the music is often grandiose (sometimes bordering on the cheesy) and being somehow what Days Of Future Past should've been. Does this sound intriguing? Ya betcha!! These guys are drawing musical circles around you and they are twiddling with your unstabled brains with their incredible musical meanders and those orgasmic Mellotrons washes. For their second album, leader Browning opted for another horn section, and inside the quartet baritone singer Hoban stepped in to take the keyboards.

I am generally not an opera fan (and certainly do not like the "high culture" snobbery always present at those events), but here I will not only make an exception, we are in for a real rock opera, much more than the great Townsend threw at us into his trips and anguishes (go back to sleep, Rick!!). This music is really classical music fused with rock and might just be on the best example of fusion ever (even if I repeat the word cheesy). But the rock parts are hovering between early Crimson with a great (and much more than that) rhythm section, jazzy Spanish horn section drawing of Rodriguez-type of Aranjuez Concerto. Just flabbergasting if you let yourself taken by the waves of the music. The four tracks (two short and two epics) are gut-wrenching, fascinating, orgasmic, grandiose hair-raising (hear the Farewell of Dancer, the first epic) and yet flow so easily together to form one gigantic track. So much that the heavily rhythmic jazz rock of City Night Life simply does not shock, but actually perfectly and lovingly out-of-place, just like it was meant to be. Too bad for an excellent drum solo that lasted a minute too long, though. The title track starts on a slow operatic style but the crescendo is breathtakingly implacably progressive. Stupendous flutes with the whole orchestra pushing the oboe and other winds (the trombone gets some superb underlines), the whole thing resonates a bit like those unique and crazy Finns of Haikara (their first album really) due to the same Crimson influences but also Magma's works on choral works and interplay with rock. Stupendous, incredibly flawlessly played and written, this is nearing perfection although on the duration, not throughout the whole album, but close enough to be a masterpiece.

Just some 35 minutes-long, this album is easily the best thing to have come from down under, crushing any other pretenders by far, even (especially ;-) Sebastian Hardie. A second reissue saw the light of day in 06 (along with the never re-issued debut The Armada) with a 13-min+ bonus Browning-penned instrumental track Eagle Odyssey, which is not of the same era, recorded purposely for this album's bonus and entirely symphonic (no group or rock instruments). However it fits the album so well, that you don't even notice any difference and most listeners discovering the album now, will most likely integrate it in the album's oeuvre as if it had been there from the start. Sibelius and Strauss come to mind, when listening to this piece.

I'm not exactly sure how I should take the fact that this group was never being exposed (not even sure there are that many collectors who know of the group) and that they are finally getting exposition some 30 years later. This was obviously not a cheap record to make back then, so it is hard to understand how this group was never promoted properly. I just can't believe there are still some incredible albums that are finally getting a bit of attention some 30 years later (but this is also what keeps this old geezer up to his progressive obsessions ;-). Because music like this is only waiting for progheads to love it. One of my shocks this year!!!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#98852)
Posted Wednesday, November 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars WOW!

The other review started so appropriately that I can nothing but concur! From the very beginning through the whole 35 minuts is awsome music. A genius masterpiece of progressive or whatever music. Sean gave a great review and I will not write so many words. I'll just tell you the elements I found in this music. Not to say that this is a copy of many things because this really is not. But I to try to show you how diverse this music is whithout sounding incoherent.

First the mellotron beginning takes you back to the golden days of The Court of the Crimson King. And the mellotron is used alot. Then the bass playing would make Jaco Pastorius think of a carrier change. The use of the brass resambles Atom Heart Mother in its grandeur. But the jazzy side goes all the way to Archie Shepp, Carla Bley and even Hannibal Marvin Peterson. The trombonist might be Albert Mangelsdorf. The singing is done with such dignity that reminds me of gregorian chant, only done solo. I hear Ennio Morricone and spanish influences as well and Colosseum's Valentyne Suite. This is probably the best fusion symphony I have ever heard.

Only five stars is appropriate if you try to be objective and analyse the qualities of the music. And if you happend to like this kind of music you are in front of a real joyride!

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Send comments to pirkka (BETA) | Report this review (#100897)
Posted Wednesday, November 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Original, very very original album. Rainbow Teatre make me feel a new prog, with a mix influence of Pink Floyd (trombone, organ and orchestra in Atomic Heart Mother), Magma (vocals), King Crimson (flute and wind instruments) and classical music. The vocal is great, with beautiful piano themes. The track 5 "Dancer - Theatre" is a gem... the most classical-influence track of the album. I often study chess with some music in background... and I tried to study with this album. Well... I did not realize my chess study because the music is very complex. It's like Gentle Giant music. Or you listen it or study chess. Do both things is impossible!! Highly recommend! Hugs from Brazil!

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Send comments to sam_loyd (BETA) | Report this review (#102034)
Posted Thursday, December 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very interesting album. As said before, somewhat a mix between fusion and symphonic prog, but with prog having the more important influence. The music is very bombastic and very complex.

The only thing I do not like so much about this album are the vocals, it's a bit like the vocals on Par Lindh Project, but then worse.

I really do like this album, musicwise easily five stars, the vocals do bring it down a bit, but I'll stick to the 5 stars cos this is really something you should hear if you like complex bombastic music!

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Send comments to Autoband (BETA) | Report this review (#106338)
Posted Saturday, January 06, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If someone asked me now which is my favorite album i would say instanly Fantasy of Horses. And that is because this album express my feelings so well that make me extremely sad and extremely happy at the same time. I would say that this album brings melancholic feelings with happy edges in general. I really can't imagine why someone would give a less than 5 stars to this album.

The first thing that blew me away was the drumming. I have never experienced such a wonderfull rythms and patterns from a drum set. You 'll propably say that i exaggerate but if you listen to the album and especially the 'City Night Life' you will understand me.

The second special part of this masterpiece is the expressive sorowful operatic vocals that will haunt me forever. In the start of track 'Fantasy of Horses' these vocals adds so much melancholy that very few songs have expressed. But if you can't handle so much sadnes, don't worry, the magic here is that the sad moments replaced by happy ones and vice versa. There is no a sad or happy tracks, everyone has both. Bass is very noticable also. And thank God for that. Mr. McKinnon plays some unreal parts that will blow your mind. This record wouldn't be near nice as now without his playing.Also i really enjoyed the smart trombone parts on the album that brings so much energy! Its sound fits really good with the complex bass playing.

I think 'Fantasy of the Horses' is one of the most underrated records in rock history. And ofcourse i believe that this obscure masterpiece deserves 5 stars.

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Send comments to oracus (BETA) | Report this review (#120155)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Very interesting album and original. I can't belive my ears i listen to such an inteligent and elegant album. A combination between jazz and symphonic at the highest calibre, high quality music. Great vocals, so dramatic, the music is like the Spanish Conquistador dramatic themes with a jazz feeling, The first track Rebecca is superb, the bass line is amazing, not to mention the rest. What to add, this is a 5 star album, maybe you never listened to something as grandious like Fantasy of horses before, an unique music, unmatch band in my opinion. 5 stars, enjoy this underrated masterpiece of prog music, Highly recommend.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#122292)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
oliverstoned
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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars 2,5 stars

A rather cold and uninspired orchestral jazz band with slight progressive influences. The band claims that their music was similar to early KC. This is not the case unfortunately, the only analogy lies into Mellotron layers. Despite the rich instrumentation and the technical value, this record cruelly lacks soul.

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Send comments to oliverstoned (BETA) | Report this review (#131566)
Posted Friday, August 03, 2007 | Review Permalink
debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars This reminds me of a quote I read from am early 70s Italian prog musician, how the fact that they usually didn't think they would get a chance at second album, so they would throw everything that they could come up with on that one record. The same applies here. Yes, Rainbow Theatre did have two albums. But this one seems like they want to cover every symphonic and jazz related prog base.

Caption for the city night life seems a perfect encapsulation of the whole - bass & drums going full tilt, the horns blasting away, at one point quoting Thus Spake Zarahustra, then a breakdown reminding one of King Crimson's jazzier work. Then to finish off the piece, that 70s cliche - the drum solo. Remember Peart's little percussion outing on Fountain of Lamneth, this is its' poor brother. And actually, as I mention that album, I could almost say this one is a jazz/symphonic version. Just not as interesting. Too many frenetic pieces, interspersed by mediocre and unoriginal melodic piano & vocal pieces. The whole seems contrived as a conservatory music student's final exam piece. Not bad, but, well ... just not good.

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Send comments to debrewguy (BETA) | Report this review (#194937)
Posted Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Sebastian who?

If the term Aussie Prog makes you think of Sebastian Hardie first then you haven't heard Rainbow Theatre. But please do not make the mistake of judging this album too soon with a low rating as I might have in my past. "Fantasy of Horses" is the definition of a grower.an album that could seem unfocused (frenetic as another writer put it) at first but whose epic beauty comes after many plays have permeated the "instant gratification layer" of your brain, that unfortunate flaw most of us have whether we admit it or not. We often want to be blown away by music right away and if the first 5 plays don't accomplish that there is disappointment. Good music doesn't always work that way. One's first 5 spins of this album could certainly seem bewildering, perplexing, or confusing-feelings that will slowly thereafter morph into a wide proggy grin. Each new play of "Fantasy of Horses" is a revelation and that staying power is what makes an album worthy of a high rating. Without a doubt this was one of the most interesting and exciting discoveries to hit my mailbox in the past year.

Overview: The Rainbow Theater were a large collective of Melbourne musicians assembled in 1973 by composer and multi-instrumentalist Julian Browning. While they are described as a "classically influenced jazz rock" by the time of this recording they list influences like Stravinsky, Wagner, King Crimson, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The "Fantasy of Horses" album delivers what sounds like one long, calculated track with the ambition of "Atom Heart Mother," "Lizard," or "The Gates of Delirium." But Rainbow has their own sound, blending symphonic progressive with burning jazz rock, delicate melody, orchestral grandeur, and operatic singing. Their first album "Armada" was issued in 1975 and was followed by local gigs which created a small but enthusiastic following. It was hardly enough to sustain such a large group of band members and several began to leave. Undaunted, Browning would bring in a new brass section, woodwinds, strings, and engineer Gil Matthews to develop and expand the vision-the results of which were the band's most memorable achievement. Naturally after the recording of the music the label balked at the costs of pressing the album and Browning himself had to put up the cash. The album would be pirated by enthusiasts for decades before the release of the splendid remastered CD- more on that later. The new album was an amazingly successful one, yet the shifting musical interest of the times along with the huge costs associated with touring such a huge group of musicians left the project unsustainable and the band broke up in early 1977. After the split Browning studied composition and conducting and indeed did perform his works over the years.

The themes for the album really did originate from horses. Browning had been reading about the plight of "wild brumbies" running free in the high plains of South Wales. The inspiration of such natural beauty at odds with the dangers these animals faced by encroaching human interest made ample fare for the lyrics and moods of the new album, and the emotions became metaphorical for the artist's project if not for mankind itself. Browning would recall "alright, you've done something different with the first album so now it's time to come up with a unique approach, to find a new realm in which to create this piece. I was looking for a different inspiration. I still think there's nothing else that I've heard since that's quite like that album." [J. Browning] My own feeling is that an album like this is exactly the kind of thing more progressive music fans should be listening to, precisely because of Browning's adventurous spirit. With the homogenous, commercial mainstream "prog" albums that come out over the course of the year we need to sometimes step back and find these kinds of albums that seemed to transcend the commercial bubble in search of something more meaningful. This is one of those releases that prove again that commercial success is not a requisite for artistic triumph.

The music of "Fantasy" is grounded by a superb rhythm section playing with a fusion slant that is frequently diluted by a cloak of mellotron or organ. Browning handles both keyboards and the occasional excellent flourish of guitar work. The basic foundation is then blasted into the stratosphere by the orchestral loveliness of 14 musicians working together. Brass, stings, and woodwinds provide the beauty and the constant drama needed engage the listener and engage you they will! The two long tracks "Dancer" and "Fantasy of Horses" are simply mind-bending musical adventure that rarely let up as they weave through multiple sections. In the middle of both pieces will come the occasional calm interlude that allows one to catch his/her breath. In these moments may come gentle piano melody or woodwind solo. Another fascinating aspect is the male operatic vocals of Keith Hoban which are both formal and dramatic, beautifully woven into the music. While a primarily instrumental album these vocal sections add so much grandeur and another distinct avenue for the ideas being expressed. The ending section of "Dancer" (the story of a young girl's desire to be a ballerina) must be one of prog's most beautiful moments: cascading soft trumpet and flute calling back and forth as the bass and mellotron drifts downwards, hit bottom and go back up to descend again, drum bursts all around but always delicate, the sensation is one of falling, floating down. Like "Dancer," the 7-part title track finale is remarkable in its ability to convey the storytelling instrumentally even if you set aside the vocals. Each part sounds carefully honed to impart the narrative and I was both moved and fascinated by the balance of emotion and technique, it was such an important reminder to me that the best music needn't bash one over the head with volume and note-mongering to connect with the listener. I only wish I could have seen this "prog opera" in a small playhouse in Melbourne back in the day. Browning mentioned the possibility of new material from the group in an interview. I only hope he will assemble the group for a one-off performance of this album for a DVD release, keeping the rock element firmly in tact, so that fans can witness this title as it was meant to be.

Press: "The fact is that this album is one of the best achieved and better constructed Progressive Operas ever released, especially when it comes to the 2 longer tracks in the album. The acoustic piano, sometimes close to the works of classical composers such as Stravinsky and Wagner, is perfectly combined with a thoughtful wind and metal section, with a rare sense of beauty and perfect interplay. The string arrangements are thrown in the mix to form an even tighter body of work. The multi- movement "Dancer" then introduces and adds the classical and symphonic virtues to that jazzy feel, enthralling the listener in a maze of combined styles in a not only refreshing but also surprising effect. This approach is then further explored to perfection in the 16+ minute opus "Fantasy of Horses," which just lets the listener in a pavlovian state.yearning for more. Also the duality between the ethereal Oboe, eerie Piano, and church Organ and the arousing "full band" parts is exquisitely done. The purest mindblowing 70's sympho prog is entwined with Magma inventive operatic intrusions and careful detailing, occasional Wutemberg pseudo-medieval bridges, Ezra Winston symphonic sensibility, Elizabethan pinches, Jazz Rock attacks, early King Crimson melodic approaches (remember Epitaph and Talk to the Wind) and jazzier sections (reminding Larks tongue. for instance) and a very personal sense of musical perfection." [Nuno/Alex Gitlin's Music Site]

"There are few albums that we can truly point to as being wholly original, but Rainbow Theatre's second album would have to qualify. An operating 8 piece rock unit (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, sax, trombone and flute) accompanied by a string sextet, "Fantasy of Horses" makes full use of the large palette of instrumentation available, not to mention that Keith Hoban's vocals are sung in operatic style. Overall it's a spirited affair, not an academic high-brow run through, so rockers have much to sink their teeth into. In fact, the drumming is astounding, and propels the album to great heights of intensity. The four tracks presented here, including two lengthy multi-part affairs, chock full of mellotron and high invention, are a progressive rock lovers dream. At least for those who keep an open mind." [Gnosis2000's Tom Hayes]

Conclusion: A sure thing for any adventurous progger, "Fantasy" is an album that has proudly elbowed its way onto "the special shelf" as an essential title. The 2006 Aztec Records reissue is a high quality tri-fold digipak design with a good Bio in the booklet. Also of great interest is a bonus track that actually matters! The 13-minute "Eagle Odyssey" is not some crusty old demo but a recently recorded classical piece that fits very well with the content of the original album. The mood and ambience of the track enhances and adds value to the rather short original album making for a fuller listening experience. Furthermore the CD is remastered by engineer Gil Matthews from the original master tapes, finally providing this classic with the respectable sound is deserves. "Fantasy of Horses" would certainly make my list of the best prog releases of 1976 and would have to be considered a favorite for greatest Australian prog album.

A final point of interest to me was the choices Browning was making between composing the string arrangements and being the Mellotron player in the band. How would one decide which choice was most appropriate in a given section? He touches on the differences in this quote as well as commenting on the Mellotron versus modern keyboards: "Having written for string sections in orchestras many times I know they have much more expansive, diverse and epic qualities than the Mellotron was supposed to emulate. However, I believe the Mellotron has a warm, romantic and ethereal quality which makes it quite unique and stand in its own right. The closest orchestral string writing I can think of is Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe where Ravel mutes the strings and they trill together with bowing close to the fingerboard. Sounds like a Mellotron! The Mellotron's unique quivering sound is partly produced by the slight unevenness as the tapes move. If a modern electronic keyboard can imitate this, fine, if not... Long live the Mellotron!" [Browning to Arlequins' Alberto Nucci & Jessica Attene]

I believe those last four words are fitting ones for which to end the review. Thanks to Hugues for championing this title in his review that caught my eye.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#199760)
Posted Monday, January 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Superb - highly complex compositions that reward repeated listening. In truth Rainbow Theatre have more in common with the jazz compositions of Graham Collier, Mike Westbrook, Neil Ardley and Mike Gibbs than a great deal of fare generally considered progressive rock. The main point of contract with widely accepted 'prog' would almost certainly be the first three King Crimson releases - especially in the prominent role given to the mellotron in many of the pieces. The playing throughout the Fantasy of Horses is superb and would undoubtedly appeal to any who enjoy the early incarnations of Crimson - the somewhat operatic style of the vocals may not be to everyone's taste - but are very much in keeping with the style in favour with contemporary British jazzers such as Michael Garrick in the early seventies. For those who di find them hard to take - take heart the CD is predominently instrumental. This could be considered 'difficult' music as a great deal is going on for much of the time - but it really does repay several listens. Highly recommended to those who enjoy jazzier prog!

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Send comments to barp (BETA) | Report this review (#201585)
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Two ways: 1)I don't get this album 2)There's not much to get. This is definitely jazz rock, by my standards at least. I simply fails to hear symphonic parts here. Or they aren't here at all. But they were on last album, but this, this is just jazz rock.

And not good one though. Is it fair to compare this to Miles David ? Probably not, but both have similarities. But it's not pure jazz, or more like - it draws elements from more styles. There's little bit (OK, I admit) of symphonic sounds, but trumpet sometimes reminds me "Godspeed You Black Emperor", but just a little bit.

This is quite hard album to fully appreciate, but give it few listens and you'll see. You'll soon find symphonic beauty in part Big Time, or baroque singing and old atmosphere (old is good) in Theater.

4(-), weird one, confusing and also promising. Let it grow in your head and you'll see.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#242885)
Posted Sunday, October 04, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is an odd duck to say the least. For those into orchestral or opera will be turned off by the guitar, bass and drums. Those into Rock are turned off by the male operatic vocals and horn section. So yes us Progressive music fans are the ones who seem to appreciate this album the most. Even then as I noticed on many different sites there is a love or a hate towards this album. Not a lot of people inbetween. Well I think that's really where this belongs, right in the middle. Not that it's an average album but when you combine such different styles you aren't going to please everyone. I honestly can't stand the operatic male vocals. Take them away and this is 4 stars for me. Hard to ignore them of course. On the other hand this band has a fantastic rhythm section, and as an added bonus there's lots of mellotron.The sticker on the back of my cd says "Australian progressive jazz masterpiece from 1976". Unfortunately it's neither.

"Rebecca" opens with mellotron before drums and horns join in. Bass and sax lead for a while. Bass and intricate guitar sound good 2 1/2 minutes in. This is an uptempo instrumental that's okay. "Dancer" opens solemnly and vocals come in for the first time after a minute. A fuller sound a minute later then the tempo picks up around 3 minutes. The drumming is outstanding here. Guitar after 4 1/2 minutes. A change before 6 minutes as mellotron then vocals take over. It picks up around 9 1/2 minutes as the vocals stop. Mellotron and horns are back. "Caption For The City Night Life" opens with drums and bass as the horns honk. Nice bass before 2 minutes. Check out the drumming a minute later.

"Fantasy Of Horses" opens with piano as those operatic vocals join in. Horns before 2 minutes as it changes. More great bass and drum work follow. Organ before the vocals return around 4 1/2 minutes. A spacey calm 6 minutes in. Vocals and piano are back 7 minutes in. Vocals stop again. Mellotron 9 minutes in then the horns start to lead. Vocals 11 minutes in with lots of mellotron. Horns and drums are back. Huge bass follows. The string section comes in before 14 minutes. Vocals with mellotron ends it.

A unique album that deserves to be checked out. Many consider this to be a masterpiece and that alone makes this worth investigating. 3 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#265018)
Posted Monday, February 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Count me in as a listener that finds this album horrible(and atrocious). I love symphonic prog. and jazz/rock, but this thing is a mess(i'm being polite). Musically, this band may be talented. However, I don't really know what I'm listening to here. Is this band a jazz group trying to play rock, or a rock band trying to play jazz? Nothing really fuses here. The vocals? I'm not sure if this is Josh Groban or Tom Jones trying to sing opera. The trumpets sound as shrill as Maynard Ferguson at his commercial worst in the late'70s/early '80s. This is like Guy Lombardo gone prog.(and Guy's big band was like nails on a blackboard). Apparently this band was influenced by King Crimson. How about the KC track _Groon_ played on a 33 at 45 speed. The bass is somewhat sloppy and too high in the mix. The drummer sounds pretty good, but in this rare instance; a good drummer does not a good band make. Definitely a frisbee, this one. Avoid if at all possible. The first album is just as bad.

The best part about this album? The cover art. Gorgeous.

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#279742)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I marked down the Armada because, despite the bold musical concept, the quality of the performances did not match the compositions. Fantasy of Horses is a big step forward. Here the instrumental work is impeccable, Keith Hoban's vocal technique has improved considerably over the intervening year - more clarity of tone, less wobble, improved freedom in the upper register - and we no longer have to put up with the dreadful choir that ruined the previous album. Julian Browning's compositional technique has also matured somewhat, and this is particularly on display in the impressive side-long title track - the 'classical' sections display a much more sophisticated musical language than previously heard. OTOH, the Mahavishnu influences come much more to the fore on this album, particularly in two excellent shorter tracks that show off the rhythm section to great effect, as well as the frontline soloists - "Rebecca" and "Caption for the City Night Life". Although we hear somewhat more guitar on this album, it is still the brass and woodwind that dominate the sound, and by this time the band also incorporated a string section - you'd never think you were listening to a rock band. Despite the obvious Crimson and Mahavishnu influences, you could never accuse Rainbow Theatre of copying anyone - they are completely unique.

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Send comments to sl75 (BETA) | Report this review (#722295)
Posted Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | Review Permalink

RAINBOW THEATRE Fantasy Of Horses ratings only


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