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ARENA

Marsupilami

Eclectic Prog


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Marsupilami Arena album cover
3.93 | 56 ratings | 6 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prelude To the Arena (5:23)
2. Peace Of Rome (7:01)
3. The Arena (12:55)
4. Time Shadows (11:16)
5. Spring (9:16)

Total Time: 43:51

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Fouracre / drums, timpani, percussion
- Fred Hasson / lead vocals, percussion, harmonica
- Leary Hasson / piano, mellotron, tubular bells
- Richard Hicks / bass
- Dave Laverock / electric, acoustic, bowed guitars, percussion, vocals
- Jessica Stanley-Clarke / flute, vocals

Guest Musicians:
- Mandy Reidelbanch / tenor and alto sax, flute, percussion
- Bob West / vocals
- Peter Bardens / percussion

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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ArenaArena
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2007
Audio CD$10.62
$9.15 (used)
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MARSUPILAMI Arena ratings distribution


3.93
(56 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
20%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(54%)
54%
Good, but non-essential (14%)
14%
Collectors/fans only (12%)
12%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

MARSUPILAMI Arena reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Very early intricate Prog and close to a masterpiece!

Edited 09/26/05!

Second album by MARSUPILAMI was an ambitious concept one about the brutality of the ancient Roman culture involving not less than eight musicians. BTW it has been produced by Peter Bardens whose band CAMEL was still waiting for their big success at that time. On ARENA the band had refined and further improved their sound by adding Mellotron, sax, electric piano, more woodwinds and percussion. But central instrument is still the Hammond played incredibly skillful by Leary Hasson covering its full potential spectre.

Apart of the involvement of more instruments the most striking difference to their debut is that the compositions on here are much less catchy and very intricate with a rather strong jazz influence at times almost towards RIO. Thus this one needs definitively a few spins to get into it. Prelude to the Arena opens the albums with a fluttery organ sound followed by narrative vocals by Fred Hasson leading to a quite heavy part with screaming, furious drumming and guitar but as well more quiet parts with e-piano, Mellotron or flute. First track is already a highlight! Second song Peace of Rome is as well a very versatile one varying between mellow, beautiful sections and more savage ones. Thereafter the very intricate epic songThe Arena is following with 13 minutes of timing and including awesome solos on Hammond and flute. Initially the track has a very oriental inspired sound developing more into a Canterbury vein. Time Shadow is the one where the sax comes into play and probably the best one with an incredibly intricate interplay between flute, sax and Hammond. It starts with psychedelic sounding spoken vocals then a dramatic intro with organ and drums which segues into a rather quiet part with flute, organ and short amazing solo on Harmonica (!) before vocals come in. This track has a very strong jazzy Canterbury touch not mainly due to the sax playing. Really an absolute highlight! The initial part of The Spring is the weirdest and oddest one of the album with a strange and disharmonic Hammond sound and a savage free jazz jamming, then it segues into a very pleasant theme on flute followed by a solo by Harmonica and the song switches more into a psychedelic folksy vein with mesmerizing vocals not unlike the band Quintessence. The final part is a reprise of the flute theme with tubular bells added on.

CONCLUSION

IMHO this album is an almost masterpiece in early Prog and an absolute essential one deserving a much higher attention than it actually has. Just the fact that I try to be more careful with giving the highest score keeps me off rating it with 5 stars (but 4,5 in real!).

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#37190) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This concept album about the drama of the gladiator's arena during the Roman Empire is the second of two intriguing albums Marupilami recorded in the early 70s. The pair of proto-prog albums are of almost equal strength, and both are worth investigating. While the first album wins marks for being such a unique work and sounding like very little like anything that came before it, Arena's greater variety in terms of instrumentation probably tips the scale in its favour.

Prelude To the Arena: The Undertones Of Violence In A Drifting Generation begins with some threatening noises from lead vocalist Fred Hasson over some frenzied attacks but soon settles down into a truly beautiful melancholic passage with acoustic guitar, flute and mellotron. Fast-paced jazzy vocals and a great electric piano solo from Leary Hasson take this piece home

The second track Peace Of Rome: They Manufactured Death To Keep The Peace, has a nice, dark mid-section led of course by organ and flute, before a searing special from Dave Laverock (actually the best guitar solo I've heard from him) takes the music to a new level. Marsupillami's longest song The Arena (The Fighting, The Killing, The Mother Of Fornication) doesn't start off so well but after a couple of minutes becomes an outstanding organ-dominated psychedelic improvisation, drawing heavily from Eastern themes, with drummer Mike Fouracre also making his presence felt. This track loses momentum, but again resolves itself towards the end, even if the very last notes of the song seem unbearably harsh

Time Shadows (Lay Low The Past, The Future Brings Hope) is a sombre, almost eerie affair, with Jessica Stanley Clarke's flute and Leary Harsson's organ doing a good job in building up an atmosphere (Fred Hasson's harmonica works rather less well). It eventually breaks into jazzy flute driven prog. There's some nice piano playing, and another pleasing surprise when a saxophone kicks in to good effect. Laverock's jazz guitar solo is also of note, while the ferentic stomping conclusion to the piece ensures that a good time is had by all.

The closer Spring is another strange one With a pastoral acoustic guitar/organ/flute opening giving way to a veritable cacophany of sound for more than a minute before a beautiful almost soft-rock passage comes into play. This portion is rather remiscent of Camel's tamest moments which is perhaps no surprise given that future Camel stalwart Peter Bardens produced this album. There's a harmonica solo, a powerful jam with an eerie conclusion and a restatement of the soft-rock passage before the show shuts down.

By and large Arena is an album that doesn't really follow any precedents, which is exactly what makes it, to my mind, so darned fresh. ... 80% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#39130) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Into the Arena!!

An amazing and complex album that was in line or even ahead of where the competition was at the time it was made in 1970. As you likely know this is a concept album about the Roman culture that was produced by Camel's Peter Bardens who also plays some percussion. Musically and lyrically it is heavy, dark (mostly), and quite adventurous. More than anything though this is a near perfect example of early English progressive rock (though recorded in the Netherlands.)

"Prelude to the Arena" (subtitled "the undertones of violence in a drifting generation") starts quite violently with Sabbath style dramatic chords and the theatrical exclamations of Fred Hasson, whose vocals are adequate for this material but sit just on the edge of being annoying at times. This leads to alternating calm and rock sections with organ, guitar, flute. Bass and some furious drumming are pretty stellar throughout the jamming. Quite a nice opener. "Peace of Rome" ("they manufactured death to keep the peace") starts with a back and forth between vocalizations and flute. Then there is a section of sung spoken narrations about the Roman concepts with lovely flutes and another fluent rock section with organ. "The Arena" ("the fighting, the killing, the mother of fornication") begins with more dramatic narration over Hammond blasts and then some extended organ over subdued drumming, bass, and female background vocals. The flutes come in and the sound is quite eerie and a bit exotic. In the middle there is a great section of piano, flute and whispered female vocal, the calm before the chaos to follow. Starting at 9:20 is a section that sounds quite Camel-ish, one wonders if Barden's picked up some subconscious influence here although most of Marsupilami is much more brash than Camel. The latter half of this song features some truly fine prog rock moments, great guitar work, mellotron, vocals, and overall memorable textures.

Side 2 begins with "Time Shadows" ("lay low the past, the future brings hope"). This one starts very weird with echoed vocal and organ, then acoustic and flute join and then harmonica and vocal. Soon a brisk bass and jazzy drum beat grabs the weirdness and pulls it along, then some piano joins in. If this sounds like a mess, well it kind of is a musical car wreck and yet is quite fulfilling. About half way through we get the saxophone and electric guitar trading licks with an urgent flute and rhythm section behind. The last minute gets pretty crazy with the sax and guitar laying down some very heavy rock. "Spring" is a great closer and another good hippie rock moment. After yet another insanely dramatic beginning the track suddenly jumps into the most delightfully melodic passage of flute, piano, and gentle Camel like rhythm. That stops and we move into a vocal weirdness section with cathartic wailing to edgy strings and keys. Then a short e guitar solo-the lead guitar work is good enough though by no means jaw dropping. But with everything else going on around it doesn't need to be. The sound here again is VERY busy and ambitious, and somewhat difficult. This will be just too bizarre for some to enjoy, but others will feast on the eccentricity of the album. After several minutes of strangeness it slips back to the Camel-like melody to provide a pleasing and memorable ending.

"Arena" is an album that puzzled me at first but I'm glad I stuck with it, I now find it to be a challenging and always entertaining listen. To give a bit more info on the overall sound I quote just a short section from the GEPR: "There is also a strong folk feel in the vocal melodies and some of the music. The organ work gives a bit of a early '70s psych feel. Arena is a concept album but the songs on both albums run in the 7-9 minute range. Perhaps not essential but generally pretty nice if you like melodic prog with folk touches and a bit of an early feel. I especially like the heavy keyboards and busy drumming. Their overall sound is somewhat typical of the period - full of late sixties influences - but unique enough to be worthwhile. They occasionally sound like In Search of Space era Hawkwind but with more emphasis on vocals and keyboards. The instrumental proficiency and variety will keep the average prog-head interested." [part in quotes from GEPR]

It's certainly true that parts of this sound dated but that isn't necessarily the same thing as "not aging well." If you don't mind theatrics I'd say this has aged quite well, the strange complexities of the composition and arrangements make it as interesting to me as some of today's ultra complex prog. The Japanese remaster is not a gatefold unfortunately but it does offer some decent sound quality considering how old this is. 4 solid stars for a great early prog album and recommended to anyone intrigued by what they're read.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#156374) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars After their debut album's release, Marsi toured and expanded by adding Mandy Riedelbanch on multiple wind instruments and found themselves relocating in Amsterdam, where they were playing a series of concert in the Paradiso theatre with the then-state of the art MC2 Lightshow. This is when they started to write and rehearse for their second album, with the assistance of an external lyricist Bob West. The album, recorded in London, was produced by future Camel founder Peter Bardens, and indeed you can hear some of Mirage's source of inspiration in Arena, including Latimer's flute, much reminiscent of Jessica Stanley. "Graced" with one of the ugliest ever prog artwork, Arena was an improvement on their debut, partly because the extra musician allowed the group to have much more possibilities, sonically and songwriting-wise.

So the aptly titled opening track Prelude does musically exactly that: it resumes the first album's progress and the band is ready to pick up things where they'd left it at. So with the following Peace Of Rome (we're in a concept, but I was never bothered to follow it too much without smirking at the pretentiousness, the worst offender being Triumvirate) is a very ambitious piece, exploring its themes over circus/arena crowd noises, and a touch of mellotron (that was missing in the debut album) and plenty of interplay time. The mammoth title track starts rather eerily, but in a second movement, it picks a mid-eastern them over tabla and drums, but in the next one, the ambitious and daring vocal passage turns close to ridicule, but saved from it by further impressive progressions until a sharp and raw end. At one point, you can hear Laverock's bowed guitar give an acetate cello sound.

The flipside starts on effects-laden narration as intro of the other epic of this album, Time Shadows. This tracks spends a considerable time in its first movement a piano/organ duo (overdubbing from Leary, certainly), before gradually intervening are Jessica's flute, Mandy's sax and Laverock's now jazzy guitar. After an insufferably long passage dishing out whatever lyrics the track had to offer, the group unleashes on a bass and closing lyric lines, before echoing keys and sax bring the track into a very Graaf-esque ending. Indeed you'd swear this is Jaxon , Banton, and Hammill closing this track. . I'm not sure whether the closing Spring track is supposed to be part of the concept, for it doesn't get one of those pompous description like the first four tracks, but it's also a collectively-written track, that starts as a complete mayhem to slowly settle down in a dervish-like trance , with Fred's meandering scat vocals soaring over the rest of the band's great semi-raga, until the guitar and flute slowly deconstruct the group's unity (there is a superb double flute interlude that last until the organ breaks it up, announcing the piano and now double scat vocals. Fantasrtic stuff and definitely the group's best moment and it is quite accessible too. Much more than some of the more "baroque" passages that "doesn't click all the way".

Unlike the debut album, Arena did receive a Cd issue, but this was in the early 90's with the German label Line A (and apparently there was also a Japanese remaster according to a fellow reviewer), and it was long out of print, so all kudos goes to Esoteric Records to have re-unearthed this small forgotten gem. One of the rare deceptions I have is that it seems that the new member Riedelbanch is only really present (or at least noticeable) on the album's flipside, which is a crying shame, because I think she made quite a difference. Arena is definitely an improvement on their debut album, but it is a bit like Gnidrolog?. Get both albums as they're equally good, even if this one will get more nods.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#223193) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, June 26, 2009

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars MARSUPILAMI were one of the early Prog bands to come out of the UK and are often compared to EAST OF EDEN not because they sound anything alike but because they both played very complex and adventerous music, especially for 1970. By the way they named themselves after a cartoon character created by a Belgian artist. This is their second and final album released in March of 1971, they broke up after this one because of poor album sales. They became quite popular in The Netherlands though after their debut prompting the band to actually relocate there before making this concept album, in fact in the original liner notes for "Arena" there are some very complimentery words from two fellows associated with The Paradiso in Amsterdam who praise the band for not only their music but for their warmth and friendship as they really adopted these Brits as their own.

They added a new member for this release in Mandy Riedelbanch who plays sax, flute and percussion bringing this up to a seven piece band. Also they have two guests helping out in Bob West who helped with the lyrics for this concept about the "Arena" where so much violence and death occurred in the name of entertainment etc. back in Rome, Italy many centuries ago. Also Pete Bardons(CAMEL) produced this and helped with percussion, it should be noted that this was 2 years before CAMEL released their debut album. We get mellotron on this one as well with plenty of it on the first three tracks.

"Prelude To Ruin" opens in an intense and eerie manner before the music kicks in with vocals in tow. Aggressive drumming and guitar lead the way early on before it settles right down with reserved vocals. Gotta love the mellotron after 2 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in. Best part of this song for me is the last 1 1/2 minutes where it's almost jazzy with piano and prominant bass. So good. "Peace Of Rome" builds with flute, drums, vocal melodies and more. Vocals come in and eventually organ as the music continues to shift. A calm before 3 minutes then it builds. I like the keyboards, percussion and flute here then the vocals return along with some intensity. Nice guitar solo too. The bass is throbbing as we are treated to an excellent instrumantal section. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Man this sounds so good 5 minutes in after the vocals stop briefly. It's almost haunting late for a short time. "The Arena" opens with strange sounding vocals and some mean sounding organ runs. The flute that joins the organ is wicked. What I love about this band more than anything is their instrumental work and thankfully we get plenty of that the rest of the way. This is the longest song at just under 13 minutes. Great sound with the percussion, guitar and organ before female vocal melodies join in. They seem to jam here which is fine by me. Vocals and flute are back 4 minutes in. A beautiful section takes over before 6 1/2 minutes with soft spoken female vocals, piano and flute. It kicks back in a minute later with vocals. We get another killer instrumental section starting 9 minutes in. Reserved male vocals with a mellow sound follow but this song continues to have many time changes. A very entertaining track to say the least.

"Time Shadows" opens with spoken vocals that echo bringing to mind Krautrock. Freaky stuff before a melancholic organ and sound takes over. I like the flute and organ here. The harmonica before 2 minutes is brief then the vocals come in. It's still laid back. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes. This is really good as the vocals and flute standout. Piano joins in. A jazzy vibe around 5 minutes caused mostly by the bass playing then the sax joins in. Nice. This instrumental section continues for some time then the vocals return after 7 minutes as the sound changes. It's laid back here but the intensity rises late with the organ and sax dominating. "Spring" ends the album in style. It's pastoral to start before becoming experimental quickly. It settles back before 2 minutes and it sounds amazing with the beat, piano and flute. Gorgeous stuff right here. Bass and harmonica to the fore a minute later. Vocals join in along with bowed guitar which sounds very cool. The drumming starts to impress as well. The guitar starts to solo after 5 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's the flute's turn and we get two of them. So cool ! Vocal melodies come in late as it then calm right down to a whisper 8 minutes in. When it kicks back in to that familiar melody I have to say i'm not worthy.

I can't believe it took a couple of spins for me to start to realize that I had something special here. A solid 4 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#1116129) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 18, 2014

Latest members reviews

4 stars A fine piece of early seventies prog. Plenty of styles fused into an original and imaginative mix. The music is mainly keyboard driven, but the vocal and brass arrangements brought to mind Colosseum's early albums. This probably does deserve the term 'undiscovered gem' - it's hard to understand ... (read more)

Report this review (#144535) | Posted by barp | Sunday, October 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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