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Duncan Mackay

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Duncan Mackay Chimera album cover
4.02 | 66 ratings | 7 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Morpheus (11.29)
2. 12 Tone Nostalgia (8.23)
3. Song For Witches (19.56)

Total Time 39:48

Bonus track on 2009 CD reissue:
4. The Opening (7.03)

Line-up / Musicians

- Duncan Mackay / vocals, grand piano, Hammond B3, Denon e-piano, ARP 2600/Odyssey synths, clavichord, bass pedals, composer, arranger, producer

- Gordon Mackay / violin, piano, Wurlitzer
- Mike Gray / drums, backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Norman Catherine's "La Bombe Glacée de Catherine"

LP Vertigo ‎- 6356 100 (1974, South Africa)

CD Second Harvest ‎- 441 (2008, US)
CD Fresh Music ‎- FRESHCD 164 (1974, South Africa) With a bonus track

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DUNCAN MACKAY Chimera ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

DUNCAN MACKAY Chimera reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars The long time forgotten keyboardist DUNCAN MCKAY has at last been added to Prog Archives database by the Symphonic Team, so it's time to review his 1974 release "Chimera", an impressive work with great music but sadly almost unknown, due to the hard competition of the early 70's.

The album presents us an impressive display of keyboards of all kinds, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer ,etc, all taken to the maximum of their possibilities by MACKAY who does a very competent work. But that's not all, DUNCAN has a pretty decent voice and is supported by his brother Gordon, who adds some piano and violin, plus Mike Gray in the drums...Yes, it's true, no guitar or bass.

"Chimera" is opened with the strange "Morpheus", contrary to what the name may imply, the song has nothing dreamy or oneiric, as a fact is a frenetic song with multiple and radical changes of style, that go from pristine Symphonic with clear Rick Wakeman references to hard and excessive in the mood of Keith Emerson with a touch of Jürgen Fritz from TRIUMVIRAT.

The vocals are good enough and the drums are outstanding, a solid track from start to end, maybe a bit bombastic but strong and interesting

The second track "12 Tone Nostalgia" starts dramatic and sober, with a dramatic edge, and even when MACKAY explores all the possibilities of the keyboards, that heavy and almost Psychedelic atmosphere provided by the Hammond Organ adds emotion and sentiment.

The instrumental breaks marks a change; from being sober and nostalgic, the song changes into bombastic and unpredictable, MACKAY includes everything, from Bach inspired music to ELP oriented passages, and incredibly "REFUGEE" sounds (something hard to believe because both albums were released in 1974). Maybe people will say it's pompous and self indulgent....But that's the reason why I love it, at the end...Isn't that what we seek for in Prog Rock?

The original release ends with the 19:15 minutes epic "Song for Witches", a really strange song that begins with a clear Psychedelic inheritance, MACKAY and band jam with the instruments as if they were in the late 60's, and suddenly, when less expected they move into a frenetic Jazz section, with a slight MAHAVISHNU influence, but this doesn't last too long, MACKLAY as usual returns to the complex fantasia of sounds and influences that go from Classical, Baroque and Gothic to something that could had been released by THE NICE...The guys is absolutely versatile and this deserves credit.

My copy of "Chimera" is closed by a 1990 released bonus track contradictorily named "The Opening", even when it's obvious that MACKAY'S skills have improved even more, the sound is radically different, more modern and with a strong mainstream component in the vein of late ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, but we are here to talk about the original release, and even when the song is entertaining, sounds completely out of place in a 1974 release, and for that reason doesn't alter my opinion about the original album.

I believe "Chimera" is a forgotten gem that deserves no less than 4 stars, so except for people who dislike pompous music, it's highly recommended.

Review by ozzy_tom
5 stars Duncan Mackay is a sadly forgotten British keyboardist who recorded two solo symphonic prog rock albums back in 70s along with few disks together with such little known bands like Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel & 10cc, while in 80s he joined Camel to record "Nude". It's a pity that his discography usually isn't so well known for prog lovers 'cos he's surely one of the best keyboard players out there. Anyway his debut album "Chimera" is undoubtedly the best and most representative record of Duncan Mackay. I still wonder why he didn't become as big as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz, because "Chimera" is a truly remarkable statement of pure & powerful symphonic prog rock which should be checked out by all keyboard-driven music fans! Duncan's debut is a wet dream of all ELP and The Nice fanatics who always wish to find more Hammond drenched staff. Maybe in 1974 this kind of music starting to become a bit out of dated (you can check synth-led albums of "Yes" or "Genesis" from this time) but I don't care at all. Prog-rock dominated by blasting organ sounds is always a great pick for me and "Chimera" is definitely one of the best albums I've been ever listening to.

This LP originally included only 3 long suites:

1. "Morpheus" - first epic track is the only one which featuring more vocal parts & I'm really surprised why Duncan didn't decide to sing more, 'cause his vocal abilities are not much worse than his keyboards skills. Really nice, "British"-style voice. But of course singin' isn't the most important factor on this epic, the main entertainment value is the HAMMOND ORGAN! Sometimes joyful & rhythmic, sometimes dirty and gritty, sometimes wild & unstoppable but always highly entertaining. Except organ Duncan also use ARP synthesizer & sparkling piano, all of them in suitable doses to not overshadow incredible B-3 solos & mean riffs. His ability to often change between symphonic passages and more pop or jazz oriented fragments but still keep everything in proper order is astonishing. References to ELP, Refugee and Trace are obvious, but I can also hear some Caravan influences, especially in Mackay's vocal delivery.

2. "12 Tone Nostalgia" - this instrumental is called "12 Tone Nostalgia" but only in the beginning we can hear a little nostalgic tones, while later it became a groundbreaking symphonic prog composition almost completely dominated by muscular Hammond organ passages. I really love Mackay's style, especially those flashy slide effects which reminds me about Terry Howells, little known organist who played with art rock formation Still Life. Currently Lalo Huber from Argentinian group Nexus seems to continue bombastic style of organ playin'. Brilliant!!

3. "Song For Witches" - the longest, 20 minutes mastodon track begins with rather psychedelic, enigmatic piano & organ performance, but after a while Duncan proceeds to long, jazzy piano part. Very similar to Patrick Moraz's style on "Refugee" album or some Keith Emerson piano instrumentals. About 7th minute Hammond organ comes back to life to entertain us with another bunch of memorable, classical-like melodies in the vain of Alan Park from "Beggar's Opera". In the middle there is a short vocal fragment, which sounds really good too. Especially clavichord, synth, organ & piano rich background for Mackay's voice is splendid. Near the end we can also witness crazy, Emerson-inspired (a la "Pictures at an Exhibition") synth soloing with many wild, dis-harmonic noises and squeaks. This madness is followed by another one, this time Duncan seems to make an attempt on destroying his Hammond organ by hitting it, stabbing and God only knows what else! Simply: highly recommended for ELP geeks.

+ Bonus from 2009 remastered CD:

4. "The Opening" - remastered CD finishes with track recorded in 1990 which completely doesn't suit the rest of this album. It's a very electronic sounding piece dominated by modern, high-tech synthesizers & some saxophone. However one fragment with jazzy piano is not so bad. Anyway I don't count it as a proper part of "Chimera" at all.

I can summarize this review saying that "Chimera" is a really obscure gem, forgotten white crow in progressive rock world. If you consider yourself as keyboards-driven rock aficionados, you simply need to listen to this album. It's highly recommended if you also like such formations like: ELP, The Nice, Trace, Triumvirat, Collegium Musicum, Refugee, Le Orme, Beggar's Opera, Amos Key and so on. But I can also add that "Chimera" bare many similarities with later prog-rock LPs, like Quill - "Sursum Corda"(1977) or Covenant - "Nature's Divine Reflection"(1993). Both seemed to be inspired by this Mackay's debut.

Best track: "12 Tone Nostalgia"

Fully deserved 5 stars from ozzy_tom

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another overlooked name in progressive rock circles,Duncan Mackay was born in Leeds,UK in 1950 and studied violin in his young age,before moving in Johannesburg at the age of 21 and focusing on his keyboard skills.The result of his collaboration with his brother Gordon and drummer Mike Gray was this ''Chimera'' album,releases back in 1974.

Of course ''Chimera'' didn't break any grounds,as the keyboard-driven prog style presented here was already established by previous keyboard wizards like KEITH EMERSON (who's influence on MacKay's style is quite evident) and RICK WAKEMAN.The unique thing is that this album features not only any guitar but also any bass player and is entirely centered around Mackay's various keyboards,including electric piano,the bombastic Hammond B3,the classical-influened piano and the spacey sounds of the ARP synth.Anyone into ELP knows exactly what to expect.Plenty of dynamic changes,complex breaks,classical melodies,bombastic jams and experimental bits along the way of the three long epics.Despite the length of the tracks,all of them are quite cohesive.Sparse vocals are also handled by Duncan Mackay,not his best skill,but they are decent at least.

Please,add another keyboard wizard in the list if you dont mind.''Chimera'' is definitely a grower and Mackay can place himself among the pages of the prog history with this album alone.Recommended,especially if you are a devoted fan of bands like ELP,THE NICE,BEGGARS OPERA.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Although Duncan Mackay's debut solo album doesn't offer anything truly mind-blowing - his style of keyboard playing here owes a lot to Keith Emerson, and between The Nice, ELP, Beggar's Opera and countless others this is territory which had been well-explored by the time 1974 rolled around - it does at least establish him as a very capable performer as well as a reasonable composer. Duncan performs with minimal accompaniment by Mike Gray on drums and brother Gordon Mackay on violin and piano; for the most part, though, Duncan carries the performance by himself, and does show with a little more subtlety than Emerson typically does, though he's able to bring the bombast to bear too.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Duncan and Gordon Mackay honed their skills playing covers of The Nice and Emerson Lake and Palmer, that much is obvious by the three tracks from the original release of this album. Each song is a wellspring of Emersonian impersonations, with Hammond organ volcanic eruptions, nimble mixtures of classical and jazz piano, and soaring synth lines.

The result, while not sounding exactly like Emerson's work, is quite good, but not up to par with the Master's output of the time. Mackay's fingers are just as fast as Keith's, but he lacked the sense of showmanship that Emerson could put into his music. And many times Mackay's imitation gets so close it could be called plagiarism. Where Emerson would playfully quote all sorts of other musicians and songs, Mackay quotes Emerson. There is an organ break on Morpheus that sounds like it was ripped from ELP's debut album (as well as a drum riff from Tank), the aforementioned organ swipes, and even some synth sounds. But while Emerson programmed most of his sounds himself, Mackay's all sound like preloaded patches on his Arp synthesizer.

Not that the Emersonian imitation makes this album less fun. It was about this time that ELP was just starting to lose their mojo, and someone taking up the mantle wasn't such a bad thing.

Later reissues have a bonus track, The Opening, a Tangerine Dream-like piece recorded in 1990.

I know I came down a bit hard on Mackay for the Emerson imitation, but this is really a good album. And later releases have Mackay becoming his own musician.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The "Wow factor". It is the unspoken rule, the acid test ~ and if we're lucky, the result ~ when listening to progressive rock. It's what we all hope for again and again like a junkie who still hasn't gotten it through his head that that first, sweet high is never to be repeated, no matter how hard he tries or how powerful the junk is.

But occasionally if the brain isn't too fried and soul too jaded, an LP stimulates that long-lost remnant of one's virgin moment with a fickle lover. A kiss, a hand down the pants, and the lusty past may be relived. Or at least its memory. So it is with veteran Duncan Mackay's baby from '74, Chimera, and like most Gen-Xers the album is a troubled but astounding individual; Of its time in a big way reminding not a little of early ELP, and yet holding its own with a gifted gene pool during an amenable era for complex art music. More precisely, keyboardist/composer/singer Mackay and his trusty little duo of drummer Mike Gray and bro Gordon on violin are in league with the single-led efforts of Morgan Fisher or Dave Greenslade. And on Chimera, Mackay just lets it go, recognizing the liberties attainable and musical gold hidden there, somewhere, if he looked hard enough.

Luckily he did. 'Morpheus', though problematic, is pure anglophonic gold streamed with Mackay's organs and synths-- derivative to be sure but in the best possible way, even outdoing his much bigger peers, the tiny rhythm sec somehow keeping it all afloat. It moves through blues, baroque, samba, gospel, and hot galactic battles waged with laserbeams and proton missiles. '12 Tone Nostalgia' splits some sentiment but saves it with gritty organ prog that takes on J.S. Bach as good as any of 'em before shooting into orbit for another battle in the atmosphere. Friggin' awesome, and twenty-minute 'Song for Witches' seals it with a juggernaut of dazzling piano jazz-meets-baroque treated with heavy development, introspection, and some humor.

A prog monster that I wouldn't bet against in a knife fight with almost any of the big boys except maybe Wakeman on a good night, Duncan Mackay's introduction is, or was, a revelation. A quintessential vintage prog experience and what a 5-star rating is all about, a chip of Chimera should be placed under the tongues of every aging prog artist to bite down on when things become too much and they long for that absurd and shining moment when rock musicians were the Mozarts of their time. Recommended with enthusiasm.

Latest members reviews

4 stars DUNCAN MACKAY (born 1950) is a British keyboard player who's worked with several well-known artists over the years, including Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel (1975-1977), 10cc (1978-1980), and also with Kate Bush on her first three albums. This album "Chimera" (1974) is his first solo album. Four f ... (read more)

Report this review (#2283883) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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