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Abel Ganz


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Abel Ganz Shooting Albatross album cover
4.02 | 197 ratings | 16 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Looking For A Platform (15:06)
2. So Far (23:31)
3. Sheepish (12:55)
4. Ventura (14:38)

Total Time: 65:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Stuart "Mick" MacFarlane / lead vocals (4)
- Hugh Carter / lead, classical & 12-string acoustic guitar, electric sitar, bass, double bass, flute, keyboards, melodeon, percussion, lead (3) & backing vocals
- David Mitchell / electric, acoustic & classical guitars, bass (1)
- Hew Montgomery / keyboards, programming (2)
- Stephen Donnelly / bass
- Denis Smith / drums, keyboards (3), backing vocals, producer

- Alan Reed / lead vocals (2)
- Deepak Bahl / chorus vocals (1)
- Raymond MacDonald / chorus vocals (1)
- Stevie Lawrence / bouzouki & mandolin, tenor banjo, low whistle
- Chris Fry / electric (2) & slide (1) guitars
- Jack Webb / keyboards (1,3), piano & Hammond & Moog (1)
- Fiona Cuthill / acoustic & electric violins and whistle and treble recorder (2)

Releases information

Artwork: Sally ?

CD Abel Records ‎- ARAG001CD (2008, UK)

Thanks to denis for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ABEL GANZ Shooting Albatross ratings distribution

(197 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

ABEL GANZ Shooting Albatross reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars


At about 24 years after their debut album Gratuitous Flash (1984) and 14 years after their latest studio-album The Deafening Silence (1994), Scottish formation Abel Ganz has released a comeback CD entitled Shooting Albatross.

Since Abel Ganz started to make music in the Eighties their sound is considered as neo-prog (like contemporaries Marillion, IQ and Pendragon) but on this new album my musical impression is that the sound is a blend of Seventies inspired symphonic rock and folk music. The four long compositions (between 12 and 24 minutes) contain lots of shifting moods and a lush instrumentation like the use of the Indian sitar (electric version in Sheepish) and the Greek bouzouki (in Sheepish en Ventura). I enjoyed the contrast between the folky interludes featuring 12-string acoustic guitars, whistles, banjo, mandolin and flute (beautifully blended with instruments like the harpsichord, Mellotron or classical guitar) and the symphonic rock parts with electric guitar (fiery, wah-wah drenched in So Far and a strongly build-up, sensitive solo in Ventura) and vintage keyboards like the Fender Rhodes elektric piano, the Hammond organ, the Minimoog synthesizer and the unsurpassed Mellotron, I didn't know that Abel Ganz was able to make such a captivating progrock! The vocals are handled by several singers, including Alan Reed (in the long track So Far), of Pallas fame but once he joined Abel Ganz.

I hope this new Abel Ganz album will got the attention it deserves, for me it was almost a musical revalation! My rating: 3,5 stars.

Review by The Doctor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is my first experience with this band, but on the strength of this album, I've gotten ahold of two of their other albums as well. This is high on my list of favorite albums from 2008 and has gotten a lot of airtime in my cd player over the last few months. There is quite a bit of folkish guitar and vocals mixed with symphonic keyboard stylings. If you liked Trespass, there is a lot here to love. While overall quieter and less angst-ridden than the classic Genesis album, the combination of folk and symphonic is hard to miss. This is mostly an album of epics, with 3 quite long songs, and two shorter songs. In spite of this, none of the 3 epics seem forced, rather the songs seem to be only as long as is necessary for the complete development of the musical ideas presented.

Looking for a Platform is the first of three epic length tracks on the album clocking in at 15+ minutes. It starts off with a really nice keyboard melody and leads into some cool (almost Fish-like, without being too derivative) vocals from the bass-player and mainman Carter. Some awesome symphonic keyboard work, including a great piano solo in the middle, from Montgomery and Carter make this song an instant classic prog track.

So Far is the long song on the album at over 23 minutes with Alan Reed taking over the vocals and what a fantastic job he does on this. His voice is a lot mellower here than on his work with Pallas, but at the same time, it is just as emotional and powerful as it is with his other band. Very nice classical and accoustic guitar work on this song too and again some great keyboard work, topped off with some pretty cool lead guitar work by Magenta's Chris Fry. Not to mention some violin, recorder, mandolin and banjo. Overall, this is one of my favorite 20-minute plus songs from the last several years.

Sheepish is a bit more agressive than the previous two epics, but this still isn't heavy by any stretch. But the guitars are a bit more crunchy, the drums a bit more agressive, and even at times a bit more agression in the vocals (from Carter again). On the other hand, at times it also has a floating/ethereal quality to the music. Both sides capture the best of a great progressive rock song.

Ventura is listed as a 14 minute song, but in fact it is two songs divided by a few minutes of silence. The first song is Ventura which continues in the folkish guitar meets symphonic keyboard vein. Vocals here are from Mick McFarlane and really bring out the folkishness in this album as he wouldn't sound too out of place as a member of Jefferson Airplane or CSN. Nice keyboard and then lead guitar outro here. The second song is untitled. And almost sounds like a lullaby in its dreaminess, with Carter back on vocals for a mellow, spacey excursion that wouldn't be too bad to listen to as you fall asleep (and I don't mean that in a bad way at all).

These guys really made a strong comeback and I'm eager to hear their other works. It's powerful and emotional music and I know it will get many more plays in my cd player over many years to come. This is highly recommended for any fan of classic prog. 4.5 stars really!

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Very impressive work of these veterans from the first wave of neo prog rockers. While their earlier effords were good, but not particulary convincing, this one is. it's a superb mix of symphonic prog rock with scotish folk plus some other celtic influences. The result is quite stoniching. There are some hints of classic Yes, Genesis, Moody Blues, the Beatles, Jethro Tull and even some more metallic sounds here and there. The mix may sound odd, but it works.

The album is composed of only four epics (varying from 12 to 23 minutes). How could they go wrong with that? They had to be inspired and inspired they were. Even original singer Alan Reed (who left them in the mid 80's to join Pallas) appears on the best track, the excellent So Far. But the instrumental parts are the real treat fo this CD: incredibly varied, creative, well arranged and played, very progressive! Some keyboards parts are stunning, with the use of very organic sounds through analogic instruments (Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond Organ and waves of mellotron).

The acoustic moments are a show apart: they would made jealous many other much more experienced prog folk groups! The band did a fine job of exploring their folk roots in a unique form. The almost perfect balance of those elements are the key to understand this album. It reminds me of Genesis Trespass in some moments, but while is obvious that Abel Ganz pays homage to their idols it is also true they did it with lots of personality.

Ok, Shooting Albatross may not be perfect, but it is surely Abel Ganz best and also one of the best CDs I heard lately. I hope the group follow this same path for their next works. They have finally found their own true sound and came up with a brilliant piece of music (helped a lot by a tremendous production job). Highly recommended. 4,5 stars.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I know it's a bit corny and slightly abused but Forrest Gump's now infamously adroit words must be paraphrased here as "Prog is like a box of chocolates , you never know what you're going to get" , in reference to Abel Ganz' latest venture. Silly me, I sort of dismissed these Scots as pseudo-Pallas wannabes, with a strong Fish wish and nothing really to kneel in prayer over. I am generally very demanding with anything coined as "neo", well hardy har har, jokes on me! What a steaming surprise this is, thank you PA colleague and friend "synthphony" for this eye and ear opening gift ! Everything about this release smacks of unheralded genius, from the gorgeous heraldic artwork oddly reminiscent of Tull's "Crest of a Knave" to the well-thought out structure of 4 whopping epics , all well over a dozen minutes in length, stellar musicianship and outstanding vocal work by former and newer members. "Looking for A Platform" debuts with a plaintive Celtic musing welding well with clearly Genesis-like interplay between acoustic guitars and dreamy synthesizer washes, a perfect "platform" for some fabulously Fishy-Gabrielesque microphone work from multi-instrumentalist Hugh Carter, slide and lead guitar expressions from the previously unknown (to me) fretman Davie Mitchell and Hew Montgomery's exhilarating keyboard runs including an ornate piano solo (ah such a lovely instrument), dizzying organ splashes and whirling synth menageries. I am stunned by the overall quality, though heavily influenced by the Neo Gods but with a way more clever rhythm section that infuses some wondrous nobility. I say well so what when it's this luxuriant! "So Far" is a juicy 23 minute+ maelstrom that has all the hallmarks of creative genius within an admittedly narrow genre, tidal effects, pastoral flute renditions, wailing violin intros, a coop guitar and synth-led main theme that sets the perfect stage for Alan Reed (ex-member now with fellow Scots Pallas) to croon majestically with at first trembling delicacy, as the Spanish guitar motif morphs into a blistering lead with some lusty gusto. The muffled- effect laden voiced chorus is pure bliss and an immediate confirmation that we are in the presence of something special. The monstrous synth solo is brimming with unrepentant bravado, a growling organ toying with a sturdy wah-wah (another oft underused effect) guitar run (Magenta's Chris Fry?) and the smile starts setting in BIG TIME. The instrumental twist and turns are stunning, with dashes of harpsichord here and acoustic guitar there, a rush of brief e-piano, playful vocal musings and obvious "smirky" pleasure when washing in some opportunely dosed and poignant mellotron (especially the choir effects, my wobbly knees). Bravo! I never expected this to be so enjoyable, gagagagaga! Finally a worthy epic to challenge IQ's "Harvest of Souls", who would have thought! "Sheepish" displays a little of that famed upbeat Scottish humor , with an immediate romp into raunchier territory , certainly nothing sheepish here , a rollicking, colliding roller coaster that rocks assuredly, the mike now passed onto the gentler pipes of Carter again, with a raging bass-drum and rhythm guitar crunch. The solo spots are sweltering and genially effervescent, with occasional temperate doses of contemplation that let the tides breathe accordingly. A Hackett inspired lead guitar solo has no need for deft finger work; all is in the crescendo-like emotion! How about a Hammond blast that winks boldly at Triumvirat's Jürgen Fritz? Lovely music this is, a pure joy! "Ventura" caps off this gigantic disc, a folkier flute driven tribute to a departed soul, with gentle vocals from Stuart MacFarlane, a mid-section of respectful silence and then Carter taking over for the last hurrah. Whirling guitars and assorted keys sprinkle more creativity onto an already vibrant arrangement. The mighty mellotron shines again brightly, hinting briefly at Hero & Heroine-era the Strawbs, which is sublime confirmation of their proggy credentials. I have listened to this masterpiece over and over, spellbound by the newly emerging discoveries among its detailed grooves. The big surprise . 5 Loch Ness Pelicans.
Review by progrules
4 stars Abel Ganz' latest called Shooting Albatross got great reviews so far, I must admit I didn't really know the band yet but since it's neo prog I decided to check this one out. Well, I didn't really regret that decision one might say. Abel Ganz is more of an ancient neo band with roots in the eighties added with one nineties release and this latest being a sort of come back after fourteen years. And what a comeback it appears to be !

First track, Looking for a Platform starts a bit folky but also some general symphonical elements here before after some three minutes the vocals set in. These are not quite impressive I have to say but at least they are not annoying. The lyrics sound like a sort of story telling concept to me but I must admit I didn't really dive into that one to find it out. Lyrics never intrigue me too much in prog, they are a sort of necessity to me, otherwise prog would always be instrumental and that's impossible I realize. Anyway, after some more minutes the song raises its tempo singing the title of the song several times. This already proves this is a versatile epic although the chorus is the worst part of this track to me. Rest of the song proves to be a very good composition with amongst others some great piano play halfway down the song. 4*.

So Far is even more epical clocking over 23 minutes which is an impressive length of course. Also this one starts folky with same sort of flute as in the opening track. This almost makes this album by Abel Ganz a mix of symphonic prog with neo prog and a bit of prog folk. Interesting combination and it reminds me somehow of Camel's Harbour of Tears. Not exactly the same but some resemblance is there I believe. This second epic moves on with several instrumental contributions until Pallas' Alan Reed suddenly appears as the lead singer on this song. Alan is a good vocalist but I'm not a personal fan of his way of singing. On Strangers on a Train I liked his role better I have to say. But still he does a good job and many could appreciate this I'm sure. The instrumental passages (like acoustic guitar around minute six for instance) remain of very high quality. Like I said: I didn't know Abel Ganz so far but I really like what I hear from them. The thing I wonder about right now is whether this is their magnum opus or if it's their usual standard. If that last thing is the case I will check out more by this band. After listening to the rest of this lengthy track I can only conclude once more that this is another great effort. 4,25*.

Third track Sheepish is only half the length as previous but still it's almost an epic of nearly 13 minutes. This is my personal favourite of the album. But this is very personal, this just meets my taste best of the four songs but others might like one of the other epics better I'm sure. Sheepish is more of a rocking song, slightly heavier than the two previous with a blistering guitar solo halfway down as highlight followed by an impressive keyboard solo. Brilliant track. 4,5*

Ventura is another great song but it's only fair to reveal this one ends with one of those disappointing hidden tracks. I really hate those and can't appreciate this last one as much because of that. 3,5*.

But of course it can't ruin this release for me anymore. This is simply a fantastic effort by Abel Ganz that deserves much more attention by reviewers than it got so far. So check this out and you will not regret it I promise. Recommended for fans of Camel, Mostly Autumn, Glass Hammer and Mangrove. Four stars seems to me the right score for Shooting Albatross.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars So far they have come!

This 2008 album was my first exposure to Abel Ganz a couple of years ago. After now having listened to and reviewed all the earlier albums, I had to go back an re-listen to this album and update my review and add another star to my rating.

The first thing to notice in comparing this with the earlier albums of the band is how very different this album is from the rest of the band's discography. Abel Ganz was formed in 1980 and was part of the original Neo-Prog movement in Britain together with the likes of Pallas (whose present lead singer Alan Reed sings on the longest of the four tracks on this album). The present album has not that much to do with Neo-Prog at all, often coming across as a mixture of Caravan and Mike Oldfield with hints of Pallas. Interesting, right?

The first track, Looking For A Platform, is very similar to the style of Caravan. Especially the whimsical vocals remind strongly of that band, particularly the Cunning Stunts album. But there is also a nice Rick Wakeman-like piano solo in the middle of the song. The keyboards and guitars used here have a vintage sound and is similar to the Canterbury Scene bands of the 70's with their Jazz and Folk music influences. Indeed, there is an impressive plethora of very pleasant vintage and traditional instruments on this album with keyboards, electric piano, violins, mandolins, flutes, etc., etc. But there are also more modern sounds that contrast sharply and appealingly with the vintage ones.

The second track, So Far, in particular, has a more modern sound and a much harder edge. There are passages in this 20 minute plus track that remind very much (both musically and lyrically) of Pallas' Ghostdancers from their Dreams Of Men album. And it is, after all, Alan Reed of Pallas fame who takes the lead here and he does a very good job. I certainly would have preferred having him sing either all the album's lead vocals or none. Since the two vocal styles employed on the album are so radically different from each other, this adds to the somewhat disjointed feel of the album. With this said I must emphasise that all four songs here are highly enjoyable and pleasant. The folky passages sometimes sound like the wonderful and much underrated Prog Folk/Neo-Prog band Red Jasper and any Prog fan will be reminded of many sounds from the 70's and 80's. This music is not groundbreaking, but it is very well-crafted and certainly not your regular Neo-Prog album.

Compared to the more playful and whimsical Looking For A Platform, So Far is more serious and dark, musically and lyrically, and also a more structured piece. There are some heavy passages in this track and even some occasional, light "growls" somewhat similar to those pre-historic "growling" vocals on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells! I enjoy both styles very much, but having them on the same album comes across as a bit disjointed and gives the impression that the band didn't quite know in which direction they wanted to go. This was the primary reason I gave only three stars on my original rating of the album. But this album remains enjoyable time after time despite its flaws and deserves a higher rating. Shooting Albatross is, after all, highly recommended despite some minor objections. It is particularly recommended for fans of Prog Folk and Canterbury Scene, perhaps more so than for fans of Neo-Prog. Great cover art too!

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It grew on me

The first time I spun this album, I did not think this is something deserves to be a special prog album because of two things: I did not quite patient enough to wait the pace of the music that starts very very slow especially at the opening track and it was very annoying to have a repeated lyrics "round and round looking for a platform" that made me annoyed and got bored with the vocal line of this segment. I almost did not want to have another spin due to that two reasons especially the boring "round and round" ...oh my God! How come the band has never thought in progressive way? Making this repeated lyrics has made me totally bored! Come on guys .. do not make that kind of thing anymore!

But when I look at the music in deep, forgetting the slow nature and boring "round and round" words, I find these guys have made excellent music. Hey, what about Pink Floyd Shine on You Crazy Diamond which is very slow at the beginning as well? That's why I made my mind change to make me able to appreciate the music of Abel Ganz.

Overall, the musical composition of this album is good and it has all elements that typical neo prog music has: long overdue keyboard work, stunning guitar solo and catchy melody. I can sense the feel of Pink Floyd in its musical segments especially the opening track. My favorite track is of course the second one "So Far" which features the band's previous vocalist Alan Reed before he was poached by another neo prog band Pallas as the band's lead vocalist / frontman until now. "So Far" moves the music beautifully from start to end with long sustain keyboard plays its significant role combined with guitar. The acoustic guitar work is really nice and it enriches the music. The guitar solo reminds me to the kind of Marillion's "Chelsea Monday" or "Sugar Mice". Or, put it this way: this track completes your satisfaction due to limited guitar solo in Marillion. The vocal part by Alan Reed brings this song into the closer similarity with Pallas even though I can sense the difference in guitar playing as well as bass guitar work by Graeme Murray of Pallas who usually use Rickenbaker. Alan Reed sings this song wholeheartedly and it makes the music very entertaining, especially when it's combined with keyboard work and music riffs that follow. The guitar solo is really stunning; I like it very much.

Other two tracks are also entertaining. "Sheepish" (12:55) is dynamic in terms of beats and has good composition overall. Even though it sounds a bit pop, but it has excellent music riffs. The rhythm section is nice, the melody is catchy. "Ventura" (14:38) reminds me to Genesis music in the era of Anthony Phillips. It's much closer to the solo work of Anthony Phillips with its "The Geese and The Ghost" album but with beat. I enjoy the long sustain keyboard solo as well as acoustic guitar work that sounds in the vein of Anthony Phillips.

Overall, this is an excellent addition of neo-prog music with close to four star rating. I would say this is a 7+ out of 10. You will enjoy it if you like Pallas, Pendragon, IQ, Red Sand, etc. Keep on proggin'...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars My first exposure to Abel Ganz. At first, I was quite afraid of this artist's name (not exactly afraid, but I simply overlooked this band and looked for something else), but when I finally tried it (because I was tempted by "what if it is good"), I was pleasantly surprised. Music that fits into my soul, into my point of Prog view perfectly.

Four long compositions, ranging from 13 to 25 minutes provides many twists, complex layering without giving in to weirdness. Nope, pleasant atmosphere surrounding all these tracks remains thorough entire album. Breathtaking guitar solos, calm parts (yep, comparing this to Anthony Phillips is especially true) and most of all, great feeling of something "bigger than us" (you know how they call it), when listening this. Striking in a non-aggressive way, melodic in a non-cheesy way, complex in (guess what), non-stupid way, "Shooting Albratros" isn't just beautiful cover (which helped me to start listening it), it's great album of group old almost 30 years, which looks like Delirium's return to former glory. Only that this time it's Neo- Prog (yes, we can call it like that, it's mostly truth)

5(-), even I don't like last 6 minutes of final track that much. Because I'm in asking mood right now, I'll just say: "Guess why?".

Review by Warthur
3 stars Abel Ganz were active on the same early neo-progressive scene that spawned Marillion, Pallas and the like. A step up in terms of musicianship and production values from their rather rudimentary early wor is 2008's Shooting Albatross. This sees them in full-on nostalgic mode, providing four epic-length tracks in a slow, laid-back style. Instrumentation and presentation harks back to the 1970s without necessarily rejecting everything that's come along since - witness the keyboard work on "So Far", which mixes classic 70s-style mellotron with more modern synthesiser sounds, even working in the odd bit of 80s flair. It's impressive that between them Hugh and Hew can find ways to integrate newer synthesiser instruments and still create something which is essentially a nostalgia exercise. In terms of comparisons, the solo albums of both Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips are a good starting point, and the vocal delivery owes a lot to Peter Gabriel in the Genesis era. Standard neo influences, in short, and competently done.

To be honest, though I'm not too keen on the vocals from Stuart "Mick" MacFarlane - it's a good enough Gabriel impression, but to me it seems to lack genuine passion or an individual personality. And since the neo-prog and symphonic scenes are absolutely littered with singers who want to imitate Gabriel's Genesis-era performance style, I really need to hear both passion and individuality if I'm to be impressed by yet another impression.

Mick's shortcomings as a vocalist are put into sharp relief when Alan Reed shows up for a guest spot on "So Far", but even on Reed's performance there's the lack of originality to contend with - the wails at the emotional crescendos of the song are a bit too much like those in "The Knife", and the distorted vocals sound like... well, like the megaphone sections of "The Knife". At other points the vocals end up rather overwhelmed by the instruments.

The vocals are not the only originality issue. "So Far" also has a march-like instrumental break that kicks in just under 9 minutes into the same song, which also sounds a lot like a similar segment in "The Knife". But it's followed up a couple of minutes later with a Renaissance-styled interlude heralding a change in the direction of the track, so at least it's one little derivative part in a broad and sweeping musical canvas... but even then, the music never strays too far from its influences. Moreover, they still have the "five minutes of ideas padded out into ten minutes" issue which I've found has cropped up across their entire career.

Abel Ganz clearly isn't an especially unique or individual band; lots of groups are trying the same sort of thing these days. Ganz's advantage is that as a group they've been at it longer than many, and so can deliver a performance that beats out those by less experienced or polished groups. This time they do end up upstaging their own vocalist from time to time, but that doesn't detract too much from the quality of the work. It's just a shame they haven't found a new vocalist of the quality of Alan Reed, who used to perform with them before jumping ship for Pallas, and their compositions are still a weak point. The end result is that the album is acceptable, but not exceptional, and is unlikely to see heavy rotation if you have better symphonic or neo-prog releases to hand.

Review by stefro
4 stars Never the most prolific, or indeed successful, of the 1980's neo-prog set, Scottish rockers Abel Ganz were last heard of over 16 years ago with their underwhelming 'The Deafening Silence' album, a release that sought to add a smooth pop-sheen to the group's keyboard-heavy, Marillion-and-Genesis-inspired sound. Now, over a decade-and-a-half later, the group are back with 'Shooting Albatross', a lengthy, carefully-crafted modern prog opus that ignores the mistakes of 'The Deafening Silence', wipes away that ill-advised commercial ingredients, and, somewhat surprisingly it must be said, finds Abel Ganz very much at the peak of their powers. Featuring just four songs, 'Shooting Albatross' is an instrumentally-impressive, atmospheric album filled with layers of shining keyboards and hazy synths, as well as several stylistic nods to the bands Scottish roots. Even former lead-singer Alan Reed(Ex-Pallas) makes a surprise return, sharing singing duties with the sonically-similar Stuart MacFarlane on the epic, 23- minute long 'So Far', which is by far the strongest track on the album. That's not to say the rest of the material on 'Shooting Albatross' is lacklustre; far from it. The remaining three tracks all exhibit the fluid Ganz-style, though as a whole the album seems to be touched by an overall feel of bittersweet melancholy, as if the band themselves have realised that the days of Abel Ganz may be numbered. On the strength of this thoroughly-satisfying and highly-impressive comeback return though, the perceived end of Abel Ganz may be some time away. Alongside the group's popular 1988 album 'The Dangers Of Strangers', 'Shooting Albatross' must surely mark as one of this minor group's finest recordings, showing that there is still much life left in the old, 1980's-style neo-prog beast. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011
Review by lazland
4 stars Abel Ganz are Scottish veterans of the neo-prog scene that burst out of the UK in the 1980's, with the likes of Marillion, Pendragon, Pallas, IQ, and Twelfth Night. Although this is one of my favourite eras, and sub-genres, I have to be very honest when I state that my recollection of this band at that time is thin, to say the least. This is probably not that surprising given that they effectively disappeared for 14 years between the predecessor album and this 2008 release. But, boy, what a comeback!

There are only four tracks on this album, the shortest being a mere 12:55 minutes long. It is an incredible achievement, and the news that a new album is in the pipeline should excite all fans of quality progressive rock.

The opener, Looking For A Platform, sets the scene for much of the album, in that it contains much that nods to the band's neo roots, but also sets them apart and in new directions. The opening passage is distinctly pastoral and folky in its feel, with more than a touch of Mostly Autumn in its pipes and guitars. The track then develops into a gorgeous symphonic suite, with both Trespass and immediate post Gabriel era Genesis in its root influence. Indeed, much of it reminds me of tracks from Big Big Train's The Underfall Yard, one of the highlights of 2010, and it is certain, to these ears, that these bands are intimately familiar with each other's work. The guitar lead at the conclusion is nothing short of excellent, mixed together with keyboards which would not have sounded out of place on Wind & Wuthering.

The longest epic, So Far, clocks in at a mighty 22+ minutes, and is notable for featuring the voice of former vocalist Alan Reed, who left the band for Pallas. Again, the opening segment is gorgeously pastoral, and I really love this Celtic fusion with the more "traditional" symphonic prog that is at the band's heart. Of course, much of it is also very reminiscent of Pallas' work, something that would have been hard to avoid, given Reed's involvement, and this is stated as no bad thing at all. The track, as would be expected from its length, contains many changes, but its real joy, I feel, is the exceptional guitar work, acoustically by Carter, and electrically by MacFarlane, and this is taking absolutely nothing away from the incredible keyboard work. At turns full of Celtic folk, Floydian lushness, heavy prog, and symphonic passages, this is a mighty slice of neo prog up there with the very best in the field. The ending is ghostly and haunting.

By contrast, Sheepish is a "single" length track, but at just short of thirteen minutes still packs in a great deal. It contains some far heavier passages than preceding tracks, but also manages to deliver, in the same piece, some lush pastoral symphonic passages, and the guitar and keyboard solos are brilliantly performed, with the former, at times, sounding eerily akin to some of Steven Rothery's best work, which, from me, is about the finest compliment I can make. Impossible to pin down, and, to me, the highlight of a fine album.

Ventura completes the album, and is a track actually of two parts. The first part is, perhaps, the closest the album comes to "classic", or "traditional", neo prog. Think of Anthony Phillips' solo work, mixed in with a fair dollop of Tony Banks' compositions circa 1976/77, and you are somewhere near the mark. It is marvellously uplifting in the same way as tracks from Genesis of that era are, and, I must say, as well produced. Much of that is owing to the superb vocals of Stuart MacFarlane as much as the music itself. When the track "ends", you take a rather deep breath, before noticing that there are, in fact, some five minutes until the close. The end is, in fact, a mere interlude, before the final four minutes bring us a spacey, almost psychedelic, passage of four minutes of music, with swirling guitars, orchestration, that is completely out of keeping with the rest of the album, but no less effective, excepting, perhaps, a rather too dreamy vocal performance.

This is a fine album, which only just, barely, falls short of a masterpiece. The musicianship is never anything less than inspirational, and the way in which they manage to bring us music that is so clearly heavily inspired by classic symphonic Genesis, but yet deliver something fresh and new, is a lesson to many bands. This comes extremely highly recommended.

4.5 stars, but rounded down to four in the sure and certain knowledge that the next one will blow your wig off.

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4 stars Rock neo symphonic progressive with a good dose of acoustic guitar and flute. Neo progressive has been one of the most controversial movements within the genre. It was originated in the eighties fateful, fateful for symphonic rock. However, looking into the distance the early works of Marillion ... (read more)

Report this review (#997958) | Posted by sinslice | Sunday, July 14, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars OK, having been a fan of epic length, symphonic recordings in my formative prog years (the 70's), and having fallen in love with such iconic bands as Genesis and Yes, I can appreciate the work it must have taken to create these 4 tracks. Although expansive, they manage to hold the listeners atten ... (read more)

Report this review (#902354) | Posted by pfdfcc | Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a far, FAR departure from their 80's output and while it retains a lot of melody and hook characteristic of the neo-prog stable, it's way more symphonic now. I'm definitely not saying their early output is bad, in fact I think Gullibles Travels is a fantastic album and well represents the e ... (read more)

Report this review (#718680) | Posted by rickdeckard | Monday, April 9, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Electric Garden Festival 2011 was my first introduction to Abel Ganz, what an amazing revelation it was. I cannot recall a time where I was so impressed by a live band that I had never heard of and when I purchased "Shooting Albatross" it surpassed my expectations. This is an album that fe ... (read more)

Report this review (#472969) | Posted by treebeard | Thursday, June 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars IS THIS THE BEST SYMPHONIC PROGRESSIVE ALBUM OF 2008 BY A COUNTRY MILE? Well on the first listening it has got to be in with a shout! Don't like the genre name Neo-prog, because Abel Ganz are out and out Symphonic prog and this CD is a sparkling example of the genre, GET OUT AND BUY THIS, YOU W ... (read more)

Report this review (#176855) | Posted by M27Barney | Monday, July 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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