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Abel Ganz


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Abel Ganz Abel Ganz album cover
3.80 | 141 ratings | 7 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Delusions of Grandeur (2:12)
- Obsolescence (23:23) :
2. Pt. I - Sunrise (3:40)
3. Pt. II - Evening (4:41)
4. Pt. III - Close Your Eyes (5:01)
5. Pt. IV - The Dream (6:12)
6. Pt. V - Dawn (3:49)
7. Spring (2:25)
8. Recuerdos (4:20)
9. Heartland (5:08)
10. End of Rain (5:33)
11. Thank You (6:57)
12. A Portion of Noodles (3:22)
13. Unconditional (14:05)
14. The Drowning (5:25)

Total Time: 72:30

Line-up / Musicians

- Stuart "Mick" MacFarlane / lead vocals, acoustic (2,4,5,7,8,10-13) & electric (3,6,13) guitars
- David Mitchell / electric, acoustic, classical & 12-string guitars, sounds (10)
- Stephen Donnelly / bass, double bass (5,11,13), fretless bass (10)
- Denis Smith / drums, backing vocals, producer

- Sarah Cruickshank / oboe (1)
- Frank Van Essen / violin & viola (1)
- Jack Webb / keyboards (1,5,9,10,13), piano (2,3), Mellotron (2,3,6), Hammond (3,4,6), bells (5), drum programming (9), sounds (10), backing vocals
- Fiona Cuthill / recorder (2,3)
- Hugh Carter / backing vocals (3), acoustic guitar (10)
- Ed Higgins / congas (3,10,13), percussion (10)
- Iain Sloan / pedal steel guitar (3,11), 12-string guitar (13)
- Stevie Lawrence / tin whistle (3), 12-string guitar (5), low whisle (10), dobro (11)
- Hew Montgomery / synth solo & programming (4)
- David Carlton / flute (5)
- Stephen Lightbody / church organ & synth (5)
- Alastair McGhee / trumpet (8,13), flugelhorn (8)
- John Milne / tuba (8), trombone (8,13)
- Joy Dunlop / vocals (9)
- Malcolm Jones / accordion (11)
- Jerry Donahue / guitar (11)
- William Barbero / guitar solo (13)
- Andrew Brodie / sax (13)
- David MacDonald / sax (13)
- Tom MacNiven / muted trumpet (13)
- Brass Band Of Johnstone / brass (14)
- Paul Kiernan / conductor (14)
- Chris Brown / arrangements (14)

Releases information

Artwork: Stephen Donnelly

CD Abel Records - ARAG003CD (2014, UK)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy ABEL GANZ Abel Ganz Music

ABEL GANZ Abel Ganz ratings distribution

(141 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

ABEL GANZ Abel Ganz reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Abel Ganz previously unleashed one of the finest prog albums in recent memory with the divine 2008 "Shooting the Albatross", a release that caught more than one pundit with its prog pants near their ankles. Critically acclaimed and considered by many as a one-shot surprise never to be repeated, the Scottish band went through another round of musical chairs, losing original co-founders Hew Montgomery and Hugh Carter, and looked sadly like they were done. The bass and drums have remained intact as both Stevie Donnelly and Denis Smith are back, always good to have such a solid spine in place. Guitarist Davie Mitchell is back as well. New recruit Steve Lightbody on keys does a fabulous job while long-time vocalist Stuart "Mick" MacFarlane is now standing in the front spotlight. I was overjoyed about the prospect of another exciting Abel Ganz ride. It will nevertheless be a different kettle of fish. The sound has changed into a another subtle variation of neo-prog, this time with a more wholesome attitude, perhaps nearer to what I would call "hard neo- folk", like Big Big Train, Red Jasper The Gift or even Guy Manning.

A bristling symphonic overture sets the stage for the 5 part "Obsolescence" suite, a 23 minute revelation that hits you upon first earful, chock full of twists and turns with silky flute, colossal church organ, country-style guitar pickin', slippery synths and of course, a fascinating story delivered by the more than credible "Mick". Bassist Donnelly does wonders on the low-end while his partner Smith propels with subtle delicacy. The suite has a distinct "I want to hear this again and again" feel, a trait that certainly bodes well for future returns. It certainly fits very nicely with previous accomplishments like "Sheepish", "So Far" and "Ventura".

What really caught me off guard was the delightful acoustic guitar performance on "Spring", a breathless moment where I was expecting vocals that never came, a lovely piece that has an Anthony Phillips pastoral sheen. Drop dead gorgeous. Memories in Spanish are "Recuerdos", a vivid cut of nostalgia, fervently expressed by a stunning trumpet-like theme, escorted by an elusive guitar and a fully emotional voice that will tug at the heartstrings, crickets providing the slick backing vocals. Fragile and beautiful, once again.

Finally, we reach epiphany with the deliriously stunning "Heartland", a modern, electronic symphony of intense pleasure that has children playing, screaming and innocence at rest. A female voice that winks at Hungarian folk sensation Marta Sebestyen, a world music interpretation that only proves the level of wanton progression expressed by the musicians. The Gaelic vocals are supplied by Joy Dunlop. It segues nicely into "End of Rain", a sleek, acoustic guitar-fueled track that seeks out incredible images in the listener's mind, as if trekking through the rolling hills and dense forests, fresh and brisk air massaging the skin. Donnelly caresses his bass frets in bewilderment, a sonic utopia that exudes endless reverie. The final moments are exuberant, the bass and drums doing a tight waltz. This is beyond bliss, simple atmospheric music can be so perfect.

Malcolm Jones of Scottish legends Runrig makes an appearance on "Thank You", a typical Scot country tune, closer to Runrig with blessed accordion and a Mark Knopfler-styled guitar solo that twangs and slides with pedal steel-feel. A vibrant tune that will certainly stay the course, though totally devoid of any prog references, just a nice song!

"A Portion of Noodles" is another brief folk ditty, MacFarlane once again shining on the acoustic guitar, displaying sterling technique and a mesmerizing sense of feeling. This again serves as an appropriate introduction to the upcoming massive epic, the 14 minute "Unconditional", a harrowing pot-pourri of various styles, an American Indian beat that winks at the Eagles, a tortured guitar that veers into a jazz mode and then later into hard metal territory, Mick crooning with total conviction. Trumpets indicate New Orleans rather than Glasgow but the mood is delightful, electric piano gleaming brightly, shifting drums and very cool bass undertow. Lightbody does a masterful piano solo that is straight out of the jazz universe. The arrangement acquires more raw power as the surly organ decides to rage brightly, Mick starting to howl in earnest, Gentle Giant-like dissonance taking a brief bow as the guitars start to ratchet up their rage, Mitchell unleashing a mother guitar solo, very electric, very Vai/Satriani , highly intense. Toss in some choir harmony voices, stop on a dime movements, dazzle and shine. Totally unexpected and totally brilliant!

"The Drowning" sets this one to the cradle, pulling a comfortable duvet over the tired and weary soul, a goodnight kiss that will help dream sweet dreams. MacFarlane croons, flugelhorn in tow, brassy knobs on a wooden bed. Drenched in deep melancholia, the ebb and flow of the album comes to a serene conclusion. A gloriously tired trumpet eases onto the pillow.

This album is quite different, not as linear as the thrilling "Shooting the Albatross", content to explore new sounds and new dimensions, searching out distant horizons but making them fit into a catalog of sounds that unendingly excite and enthrall. Is that not the ultimate purpose of a progressive album?

I beg to differ on the cover artwork, it is one of the most poignant ones in recent memory and perhaps I can relate better living in Alberta, where such bleak winter vistas are commonplace. The lilac sheen is inspiring. Love this precious album.

5 Clever Artilleries

Review by Progulator
3 stars Scottish proggers Abel Ganz have a long history that stretches back into the neo-prog scene of the 80′s. Like many groups of that era, they too had a long period of quiet, with no releases following their The Danger of Strangers album in 86′ until their 94′ album The Deafening Silence, followed by an even more extended break (12 years) prior to the release of their definite return in 2008 with the critically well received Shooting Albatross. With so many years between albums one can expect that things will be a bit different each time around, and such is certainly the case with Abel Ganz, who's latest direction since Shooting Albatross has been increasingly acoustic, folky, and pastoral. Not a bad thing in my estimation.

The opener, "Delusions of Grandeur," ends up being much more than your typical instrumental intro, driving immediate interest into the album with its nostalgic, pastoral opening which soon passes to a menacing theme performed by a classical style ensemble which even manages to surprise us me in the end with the sax being chosen as the lead, giving it a very unique flavor. From here, the five part "Obsolescence" song cycle takes us deep into what the album is all about. From 12 string guitars, folky picking, woodwind interludes, and a strong celtic pop feel, "Obsolescence" takes us on a journey from light to dark and back again. The transition from the light picking of sunrise to the upbeat, even bouncy, rhythms of "Evening" is well executed, with the latter taking many elements of the former and integrating them in new ways, such as the recorders from "Sunrise" becoming integrated as harmonic counterpoint" on "Evening." Following a a pedal steel guitar solo and plenty of conga, the transition from "Evening" to "Close Your Eyes" is actually the most fascinating due to its dramatic mood change. Shifting towards a darker sound that integrates pounding bass/drum interjections under plucky acoustics, harmonized vocals, and some roaring Hammond, "Close Your Eyes" is a track that kicks the album up a few notches with its increased intensity, strong groove, and unexpected keyboard solo before a fantastic synth sequency section followed by intense drumming that reels us back in to the main song. From here the cycle continues to evolve, this time with the advent of "The Dream." Aptly titled, this piece actual does have a vivid dream feel, augmented by its somber mood, uncertain chord patterns, and fluttering flute. THe gorgeous use of vocals harmony over a delicate Mark II Mellotron flute is pure gold, and the theme at the end is a winner with its strong nostalgia inducing factor. The real highlight of the song, and the album for that matter, is the surprising organ solo at the end of the track, which starts off soft and pretty before suddenly becoming triumphant and even gothic, bringing in huge chords and drum accents followed by a Bach-like melody on synth over cathedral-esque atmosphere before returning to a joyful theme. Wrapping up this powerful musical suite is "Dawn," a guitar solo that extends the main organ theme from the previous track over growling Hammond, taking us through several key changes for an uplifting conclusion.

While the rest of the album offers many elements presented in "Obsolescence," there are a variety of tricks that Abel Ganz pulls out along the way to keep it fresh. "End of Rain" and "Heartland" were completely unexpected for me. Between their mystical atmosphere fluxes between cinematic and new age soundscapes, proving a bit of trance inducing music for your pleasure. "Unconditional," a powerhouse song oriented piece, delivers wise use of constantly changing measures that don't distract but add a strong sense of groove to this catchy piece featuring great motifs, nice jazzy sections, a blazing guitar solo, and loads of vocal hooks. The biggest surprise, however, was the use of brass on several of these tracks. It makes a brief appearance in "Unconditional" on the jazz section, but it especially caught my attention on "Recuerdos" and "The Drowning." The slow, marching quality of the brass on "Recuerdos" adds an unexpected old-school vibe to this highly folky piece, while the horn section in "The Drowning" floored me with its evocative melodies. Banking on a strong, even mesmerizing sense of melancholy, "The Drowning" is about as brilliant of an album closer as you'll come by. The lamentful brass section carefully undulates in dynamics under introspective vocals in a low register for maximum effect. Additionally, the powerful lyrics, augmented by a heart wrenching trumpet solo will just about bring tears to your eyes. Bravo.

All in all, Abel Ganz's latest shows a keen sense for songwriting that focuses on strong melodic ideas within a consistent framework of sound. That said, there's enough strategic deviation from the expected to really make focus key sections impactful. Add in the benefit of crystal clear production values and Abel Ganz shows themselves to be progressing quite nicely in 2014 with an album that is certainly worthy of being self-titled.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is an album of quite diverse and eclectic styles, though it is essentially a collection of nice retro Prog Folk in the same league as THE DECEMERISTS and ECHOLYN (though I like this album better than anything I've heard from the latter two).

The five-part epic entitled "Obsolescence" (23:22) (8/10) is a true prog epic--opening in an acoustic folk fashion like THE DECEMBERISTS, but closing with hard electric instrumentalism.

The album has a couple of full-blown world music songs, including "Heartland" (5:08) (9/10) complete with woman singing in an unusual foreign language and ENIGMA-like rhythms and synth washes, and the instrumental "End of Rain" (5:33) (9/10).

"Spring" (2:25) (8/10) and "A Portion of Noodles" (3:22) (8/10) are both Windham Hill-like solo acoustic guitar pieces. "Thank You" (6:57) (7/10) is an out-and-out Country/Western song.

"Recuerdos" (4:20) (8/10) is a beautiful, sensitive, horn-supported CHICAGO/FROGG CAFÉ-like song. There is even a modern neo-chamber piece, the album's opener, "Delusions of Grandeur" (2:12) (10/10).

"Unconditional" (14:05) is a kind of ECHOLYN-meets-PORCUPINE TREE song of suitable prog length. (9/10)

The album's finale, "The Drowning" (5:25), with its deeply stirring male vocal with only the support of a horn section, almost defies categorization and yet may be the most beautiful and effective song on the album. (10/10) What a way to end and album! This is definitely an album that has been well worth the attention and time I've given it to get to know its depths and subtleties. What I originally thought was good I now highly recommend as an excellent addition to any prog music lover's collection.

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In 2008 I discovered a new band (for me) and their new album. This band was Abel Ganz and their new album was then called Shooting Albatross. I played that record A LOT back in 2008 and 2009. I kept checking on the band to know if they would soon release a new record but by 2010 I lost hopes and forgot about them.

In the late 2013/early 2014 the band started to tease fans in their social media websites and their crowdfunding campaign for their new album was a success. So here we have their self titles album Abel Ganz, released in July 8 2014.

Now, first things first, this new release has certain differences from their previous album. First their have a new line up and this change any band's music. Second their new album is a bit more folky. Granted, their previous album was also very folky, but I believe Abel Ganz (2014) is more, way more. And third and final difference, the album is long, clocking almost 73 minutes.

Musically speaking Abelz Ganz (2014) is as high as you can get. High quality musicians and excellent crafting songs. No doubt about it. But as with many long albums I feel a sense of 'filler' in many songs in the album and this is the big reason for the album not get a 5 stars from me (if not the only one).

But don't fool yourself, Abel Ganz is an amazing piece of music, specially for the weak year that was 2014 for Progressive Rock. Also, the CD has one of the most amazing artwork in the last few years. You should definitely pick the CD edition and enjoy without reservations!

Latest members reviews

4 stars I kind of drift around prog finding, listening to, loving and enjoying a lot of great stuff, but now and again an album catches my ears and this is one of them. I'm getting old in my brain cells, but from time to time an album just seems to "fit", I know I like it, it's just ..............good. ... (read more)

Report this review (#1280412) | Posted by pharcanal | Saturday, September 20, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I don't write negative reviews or for that matter many reviews but I had to write one here! It took "Abel Ganz" 6 years to come-up with an album that has a boring uninvented name and a cover that looks like a 5 year old kid painted that is boring too and uninvented! I was hoping the music would be t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1206901) | Posted by mbzr48 | Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars last opus after too much time is here ; and really fantastic album delivered ( for me the best ). very different of first albums with a new sound in the vein of big big train , genesis , the creativity is evident ( fabulous guitars ) & instrumentals fusion at the top , some tracks are more lo ... (read more)

Report this review (#1206898) | Posted by lagos | Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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