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Ethos Ardour album cover
3.90 | 84 ratings | 15 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Intrepid Traveller (6:20)
2. Space Brothers (6:14)
3. Everyman (5:00)
4. Atlanteans (7:11)
5. The Spirit Of Music (3:54)
6. Long Dancer (5:21)
7. The Dimension Man (7:58)
8. E'Mocean (4:35)

Total Time: 46:33

Line-up / Musicians

- Duncan Hammond / organ, Moog, piano, Mellotron, clavinet, vocals
- Michael Ponczek / organ, Moog, Chamberlin, Fx
- Wils Sharpe / guitar, mandolin, vocals
- Brad Stephenson / bass, bass pedals, vocals
- Mark Richards / percussion, Fx
- Greg Riker / Fx, mixing

Releases information

Artwork: Gene Murray

LP Capitol Records ‎- ST 11498 (1976, US)

CD Capitol Records ‎- TOCP-7700 (1993, Japan)
CD Capitol Records ‎- TOCP-70694 (2009, Japan) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ETHOS Ardour ratings distribution

(84 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

ETHOS Ardour reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lor68
4 stars In the average it should deserve a "3 stars score";anyway- regarding of the 70's US derivative scene- this US band produced a good work, "YES oriented" and with a good taste.Then you find also excellent keyboards and a decent job as well, concerning instead the rhythmical section (even though it's a bit fuzzy), which is often quite captivating!!

This album is recommended, although it is not completely essential...

Review by Proghead
4 stars ETHOS was a little known American prog rock band that came from an unlikely place: Fort Wayne, Indiana. Kinda strange to see a prog band coming from an area of the country that tends to be conservative. But they were lucky and got signed to Capitol Records, and went to New York and got busy recording this album. The band seemed to be lead by guitarist/vocalist Wil Sharpe, the rest of the band consisted of keyboardist Michael Ponczek, drummer Mark Richards, bassist Brad Stephenson, and keyboardist L. Duncan Hammond.

This album isn't exactly what I call essential, this is an American band trying to be European, but still sounding American (at least KANSAS had the sense of sounding American). The vocals still sound quite American, but there band had the benefit of two keyboardists, in which Moog and Mellotron are the most dominant. The lyrics all have that cosmic sci-fi theme that seemed to be a common theme to many prog bands in 1976. The cover to the LP has an Atlantean theme. The music can be a bit on the clichéd side, lyrics included, like the opening "Intrepid Travellers". "Atlanteans", as you might guess, is the song describing the cover. The lyrics seeme to more speak of Atlantis in the present tense, rather than the famous rise and destruction (like what EARTH & FIRE did three years before with their "Atlantis" album or ELOY did one year later with "Ocean"). "Spirit of Music" has some rather dumb lyrics lamenting about how the rock scene isn't the same in 1976 as it was in 1964, which is really odd, given they were playing prog rock, which is hardly supposed to sound like anything bands were doing in '64! And like the rest of the album, "Spirit of Music" is prog rock.

Basically this whole album is like many of the prog rock albums I own: decent enough, worth having, but not essential.

Review by hdfisch
3 stars ETHOS was another one of those US bands from the 70's who tried more or less successful to emulate the kind of symphonic prog done by the seminal British ones. I've read somewhere that they claimed to be America's answer to KING CRIMSON, but IMHO the presence of this influence is rather minor in their music. Instead the most obvious influence of them was certainly YES, not only due to the Squire-alike Rickenbacher bass but also the hymnic compositions and heavy use of different sorts of keyboards like piano, Mellotron and synths. Slight early CRIMSON reminiscence I can only detect in the quirky guitar riffs of Everyman and by the overall frequent use of the Tron. Most of the compositions are rather intricate and playful having a multi- part structure. ETHOS combined all these influences with a rather US-typical looseness giving them a bit of their own style and leading to a quite enjoyable result.

HIGHLIGHTS: The already mentioned Everyman and The Dimension Man, an excellent versatile composition with great rhythmic section.

CONCLUSION: As some of my co-reviewers I wouldn't regard this album here as an essential one but nevertheless as a quite good one and worth to be checked out by fans of this sub-genre. Definitively a nice listen and worth for 3.5 stars I would say!

Review by Progbear
3 stars One of the more infuriating albums out there. I guess you could call this the North American equivalent to TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS.

Some passages of this album are blistering, unique and amazing, with fiery guitarwork and dual keyboards (Hammond, Moog, piano, Clavinet, Mellotron/Chamberlin, etc.) that really do add an extra dimension to the music, some of the finest moments of any American prog album ever. Some passages are downright embarrassing-derivative and saccharine, exemplifying the worst tendencies of American prog-rock.

The big problem is, you can't pick out any one track. They're ALL like that, with amazingly excellent and abysmally bad sections sitting side-by-side. This is why the album is so infuriating! You're FORCED to listen to the bad stuff to get to the good. Combine that with the fact that this contains what surely must be the worst sets of lyrics by an native-English-speaking band EVER and you'll understand why I don't play this one much. Silliest lyrics (and there's serious competition for that, believe me) are probably found in "Everyman" a conceptual piece (centered around the imaginary river Si, pronounced "sigh". I can hear you groaning already.) with metaphors so obvious you can see them from space.

Second prize probably goes to "Spirit Of Music", whose lyrics would become highly ironic mere MONTHS after the album's release.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A rather forgotten band from USA,this quintet hailed from Fort Wayne at the state of Indiana.ETHOS got lucky to be signed by Capitol Records and soon they moved to New York in order to record their first album.By the end of 1975 the work was almost ready and the eight arrangements of ''Ardour'' were all written by the leader of the band,vocalist/mandolin player/guitarist Will Sharpe.

''Ardour'' is the absolutely perfect example of balanced instrumentation and also an absolute heaven of instrumental interplays.While the band delivers an evident symphonic sound,the variety of instruments and the alternation of sounds,moods and tempos will leave you speechless.The sound of the band is a great mix of early-KING CRIMSON's cleverness and YES' complexity with touches of GENESIS and GENTLE GIANT.Will Sharpe's vocals are reminiscent of KING CRIMSON's Greg Lake,while Hammond delivers an amazing performance on mellotron,with the various flutes and strings blended with piano and organ creating a chaotic atmosphere.Stephenson's bass lines are complex and heavy in the vein of YES' Chris Squire and Sharpe's guitar parts are also in the path of YES' Steve Howe.The polyphonic vocal harmonies resemble to a bastardation of YES- and GENTLE GIANT-like harmonies,while some delicate organ/mellotron parts will remind you of GENESIS' Tony Banks.The musicianship is fantastic and all tracks are...what can I say...maybe the right term should be ''accesibly complex''!...I honestly love this album,which came as a total surprise to me...ETHOS were a US band,obviously influenced by the British acts of the time,who managed to refine their inspiration in a personal,amazingly-crafted and perfectly-composed LP!

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I've never seen so many 3.5 star ratings for an album before as there is around "The Net" for this one. It might be because it's too good to simply give it 3 stars, yet to give it 4 stars would be to over value it. The "good" about this recording is the bass and mellotron, I mean both are all over this album.The bad is the lyrics, concept and the fact it just comes across as cheesy. That's the first time and hopefully the last time i'll use that word, but for this record it fits.This American band actually got signed by a major record label in 1975 which is quite impressive.Two keyboardists and the band I thought of most often was YES.

"Intrepid Traveller" opens with strummed guitar as other sounds come and go. Keyboards take over with drums a minute in. Vocals follow. A calm with piano and reserved vocals as mellotron rolls in. It stays mellow until it picks up with a YES flavour 6 minutes in. "Space Brothers" opens with strummed guitar and mellotron. Vocals join in. I like the vocal melodies on the chorus. Nice chunky bass 2 1/2 minutes in with synths. Howe-like guitar 4 minutes in. "Everyman" has these laid back vocals with mellotron. It picks up a minute in then settles back as contrasts continue.

"Atlanteans" opens with mellotron as reserved vocals enter with bass. It picks up then kicks in after 2 minutes with bass and synths. The intro section is back after 3 minutes. Nice bass a minute later. It settles late with piano and mellotron. Waves end it. "The Spirit Of Music" has a corny intro but it becomes a lot better when the chorus arrives. The lyrics are cringe-worthy though. I like the heavy outbursts with mellotron after 3 minutes. "Long Dancer" has lots of mellotron and keys as vocals come in. More great bass before 2 minutes. The guitar with bass and mellotron is incredible after 4 minutes. "The Dimension Man" calms down a minute in. Vocals follow as it gets fuller. Contrasts continue. It's KING CRIMSON-like briefly before 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. "E'Mocean" is not a lame title is it ? Yeah it is. Sea-gulls and waves to open and close this tune. Strummed guitar, keys and vocals in between.

Of course I give it 3.5 stars. Mellotron fans may rate it higher because this is drenched in it.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars 3.5 stars, really. My good friend Erik Neuteboom sent me thie debut CD of this obscure american band that I had never heard of. Although Ethos was based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, they sound like an european group. Unlike other USA outfits like Kansas, that has always included almost as much american influences as the ones from the continent (especially from England), Ethos seems to come from anywhere BUT America. That´s not a bad thing. Like so many artists of the time those yankees really loved prog music and tried hard to produce something similar like people from Holland, Italy, Brazil, etc. And their debut is not bad at all. In fact I found Ardour quite promising and interesting.

Their main influence is certainly Yes and it shows: the opener Intrepid Traveler has more than a passing resemblance of Yes Astral Traveler in its opening riff. the good news is that unlike other Yes worshipers (like Starcastle) Ethos does not tries to copy the originals all that much (singer and guitarist Wils Sharp avoids, mercifully, any falsettos a la Jon Anderson) and includes a good dose of strong elements from other prog icons, specially early King Crimson (just listen to Dimension Man), but also Genesis (Everyman) and even some early Uriah Heep on some parts. Another strong point is their songwriting skills. Although far from being original or groundbreaking, they showed a real knack for the nice melody line and these tracks quite stand on their own after all these years. And with two keyboards men on board, If you´re a fan of mellotron waves, this album has plenty of them.

With a good production work and strong musicianship of all involved, Ardour showed that theses americans had talent and could go far had they come a little earlier (by 1976 the prog scene was already on decline and under the heavy attack of critics and punk rockers, as you all know very well) and had time to develop their sound into something more of their own. As it is, the music here is pleasant and well done, although still a bit too derivative for comfort. I´m looking forward to listen to their follow up, 1977´s Open Up. This one is certainly not a lost gem, but it is still quite enjoyable, specially for 70´s prog lovers like me.

Good CD, but certainly not essential. 3,5 stars, because they have the right influences and tasteful tunes.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars ETHOS was one of the many late-to-the-party prog bands that emerged in the US after the European scene had peaked but somehow this band that started in Fort Wayne, Indiana crafted a clever tightrope act that balanced catchy melodic hooks with stellar virtuosic prog workouts and out of the box unorthodoxies with some of the left field hairpin turns. This band was not only amazingly clever but delivered excellent tight-knit instrumental interplay that included not just one but two adept keyboardists which caught the attention of Capital Records and despite the band emerging right at the birth pangs of punk and disco dethroning the prog gods, ETHOS still managed to sell around 50,000 copies of this debut album ARDOUR.

As was one of the many midwestern bands that was absolutely smitten with English bands like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator, ETHOS staunchly adhered to the fantasy prog that dominated the early 70s with chimerical cover art, sci-fi themes about Atlantis, space, ancient history and other thought provoking esoteric themes that somehow went out of fashion however it must be remembered that a few talented symphonic prog bands from the US were bucking the trend while swimming upstream with the prime example being the other Midwestern band Kansas releasing its multi-platinum album "Leftoverture" the same year as ARDOUR.

While its origins date back to the 60s the band that became ETHOS was formed in 1973 and released two albums, ARDOUR (1976) and "Open Up" (1977) before disbanding the following year in 1978. Unlike similarly minded bands like Starcastle, ETHOS exhibited a much more creative reinterpretation of its influences, some of which were startlingly unique with influences not only from the already mentioned bigwigs of prog but also showed a keen sense of crossover dynamism in the vein of Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The band entered the famous Hit Factory studio in New York City in 1975 to record ARDOUR and crafted eight tracks into true prog excellence. With instantly addictive melodic hooks in the vein of early 70s Yes led by the twin organ, Moog and mellotron attacks of Duncan Hammond and Michael Ponczek, ETHOS had plenty to work with from the getgo.

Another aspect that puts ETHOS over the top in the originality department is the outstanding variety of percussion sounds of Mark Richards who not only cranks out delicious drum rolls delicately spruced up with jazz and technical precision but also dished out bell sounds, glockenspiels and other tricks and trinkets to take the sounds into Neil Pert territory and while Wils Sharpe's guitar role is primarily limited to rhythmic accompaniment, when the band allows him off the leash he fires up some sizzling guitar riffs and soloing especially on "Atlanteans." While rooted in sing-songy hippie-dippy lyricism which can indeed enter the cheese zone from time to time (i mean just check out "Space Brothers" an anthem of power to the people space style!), the vocal harmonies themselves are actually quite beautifully done as are all the special effects that find creative time signature deviations and off the wall synth note bends and even a moment when the music drops and only beyond trippy electronic effects buzz around like a swarm of doped up bumblebees.

ARDOUR is nothing less than extremely consistent in its ability to craft solid classy prog composiitons and add totally off-kilter deviations that literally were quite forward thinking however once again the lyrics could have perhaps been a tad more cryptic as to allow the imagine to ponder the meaning of it all rather than engage in a galactic kumbaya moment. While the Yes influenced aspects often take a back seat to the more pastoral Genesis moments, when those crazy frenzied odd meters reminiscent of "Relayer" crank it out, they are no less than magical however they are used sparingly so the vocal oriented sections with full symphonic pomp are allowed to dominate. Still though there are enough of those moments to keep this album crackling with an electricity much in the vein of fellow USA-ans Yezdra Ufa.

While not exactly a true obscurity due to the fact ETHOS had its brief day in the sun albeit with slight overcast, ARDOUR was a surprising minor hit for a prog album given the year it was released. This may have been due to a delayed American response to the prog scene but i would bet that it was the high quality of the album that just hooks you in from the start that was the magic bullet. Had this been released five years earlier it possibly could've qualified as a true classic of the prog era but getting back to the vocals and lyrical content, some of the moments do reek a little too much AOR cheese but overall the album more than makes up for all that and personally i don't give a rat's ass about lyrics anyway so they could be lamented the grime on the kitchen sponge for all i care as long as the music hits all the g-spots and in that department it does quite competently. Overall, ARDOUR has enough flaws that this cannot be equated to the true masterpieces of the era but as a second rate prog album this is one that everyone should experience if for no other reason it's unique approach to crafting a beautiful symphonic prog album.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Wow! I had to read each/every critical review of one of my absolutely favorite albums of all time. I 'get' the purist analysis against the British progressive rock bands of the time. Truly I do. But I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana at that time. I had no idea (until afterwards) that they we ... (read more)

Report this review (#2280570) | Posted by markmuri | Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Is very hard to me understand why this lost pearl of the progressive scenery of the seventies, presents so few reviews (only 11). I prefer to believe, that it is due to the ignorance on the part of the collaborators' of the PA community, that for some indifference type! However, I also verifie ... (read more)

Report this review (#291773) | Posted by maryes | Saturday, July 24, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I see lots of people here generalizing this group as a mediocre American wannabe Prog band. I don't care were it came from (and I'm not an American), I just interested in the music and I think this album is simply excellent. Very few bands are able to combine beautiful melodies with complex arran ... (read more)

Report this review (#283278) | Posted by ShaiBerger | Monday, May 24, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I had this album earlier this year and all but ignored it. What a fool! Here is about the one US band you've put up here I'd give the full 5 star masterpiece rating to, and don't let this one pass you by as it can still be found affordably, comes in a beautiful cover, and has the music to matc ... (read more)

Report this review (#98517) | Posted by | Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This Album is The Best Ever American Propgressive Music, challenged only by its follow up album "Open Up" and sadly last offering from Wil Sharpe and Friends. ironically, This is filled with quite The English Inspiration side of Prog, formed by all of the usual suspects. But the main Sound here ... (read more)

Report this review (#87298) | Posted by The Tubular One | Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When this LP was first released I fell in love with the cover. So I took a chance and purchased it hoping that the music might also be as cool as the cover. And I was right. I still listen to this LP but on cassette. I also still have the "Open Up" LP. I never knew that there was a rare Ethos, Ar ... (read more)

Report this review (#19033) | Posted by | Monday, January 12, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Take a big spoonful of Yes, a big splash of Jethro Tull, a modicum of Gabriel-era Genesis and lots of Deep Purple and you may get an idea of what this 70s era prog band from Indiana is about... From the earliest strains of "Intrepid Traveller", you can hear their influences throughout the album. ... (read more)

Report this review (#19035) | Posted by | Sunday, January 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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