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GRACE

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Grace biography
GRACE was formed by a group of art students in the late '70s, and they toured the North Staffordshire area. The stage show was dominated by lead singer Mac Austin, and flautist / sax player Harry Davies, both vying for the front man position. They started out as sort of more pop version of Jethro Tull. In 1977, they released their first single, "Old Stories," on an independent label. GRACE signed with MCA in 1979, and released the single, "The Fire of London." This also led to the recording of their self-titled debut album. Appearing on the album were vocalist Mac Austin, flautist and sax player Harry Davies, guitarist David Edge, guitarist Alan Whiting, percussionist Phil Brown, guitarist Marshall Bereford, bass player Dave Rushton, and keyboardist Roger Jackson. The band released another single in 1980, and then a live album followed in 1981.

It would seem that GRACE was on the verge of great success, but it was not to be. Prog was on the outs at this time, and the band dynamic was not exactly stable. So, they broke up, and the band members went off to other projects. Mac and Harry stayed together, and formed White Door, with Harry's brother John on keyboards.

In 1988, back in Staffordshire, Mac Austin and Dave Rushton just happened to run into each other. As you would expect, talk of a reunion ensued. The band ended up playing three reunion shows during that Christmas season. This led to more reunion shows, and of course new music. In 1992, original members Mac, Harry, Dave Edge, and Dave Rushton, brought John Davies and percussionist Tony Hall into the studio, and recorded "The Poet, The Piper and the Fool." The second, and more prolific, phase of GRACE had begun. The old prog influences were still there, but the band's sound had now been transformed. It is obvious that they were being influenced more by Marillion than Jethro Tull.

Harry's brother John would not return for 1994's "Pulling Strings and Shiny Things." Mark Price became the new keyboard player. This lineup remained stable for their last studio release, 1996's "Poppy." A December 1997 show at The Wheatsheaf at The Kings Hall was recorded, and released as "Gathering in the Wheat." Ironically, this was also the night they announced that they were breaking up.

Well, as you may have guessed, this is not a band that will go away so easily. They got back together with representatives from the new generation of musicians. Guitarist Adam Rushton, and keyboard player Da...
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GRACE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

GRACE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Grace
1979
2.90 | 11 ratings
The Poet, The Piper And The Fool
1992
3.46 | 11 ratings
Pulling Strings And Shiny Things
1994
2.73 | 8 ratings
Poppy
1996

GRACE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
Grace Live
1981
3.05 | 6 ratings
Gathering In The Wheat
1999

GRACE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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GRACE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

GRACE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Poet, The Piper And The Fool by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.90 | 11 ratings

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The Poet, The Piper And The Fool
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars When the first Grace period was over around 1981, Mac Austin and Harry Davies along with Harry's brother John formed the Synth Pop band White Door.The short-lived trio produced one album and several singles before disbanding in 1984.But in 1988 an accidental meeting between Mac Austin and Dave Rushton gave rise to discussions about reforming Grace.Eventually this took place in Christmas 88' with a succesful reunion concert with original members Harry Davies and Dave Edge in the line-up along with new drummer Tony Hall and John Davies from White Door on keys.In 1992 Grace returned with a new album,a self-produced release entitled ''The Poet, the Piper and the Fool''.

Good thing is the band did not stuck on the heavy GENESIS-influenced style of their past and Grace had now a more refined and less raw sound akin to ABEL GANZ and VISIBLE WIND, with strong vocal performances by Austin and accesible tunes.The album contains more demanding compositions along with some light commercial tracks, where keyboard breaks, smooth guitar playing and a clear production play the basic role.However it suffers from a killer track or a trully catchy and memorable tune to be regarded as a trully essential release.But the arrangements are decent with plenty of keyboard breaks, the lyrical moments are top notch, there are some great guitar parts, while Grace put on their own trademark on this Neo Progressive approach, adding a fair amount of organs and flutes along with whistles and bagpipes to make their sound a bit more nostalgic and colorful.Another positive credit comes from the extended compositions, where instrumental parts are well-played and far from difficult, though the pair of weaker compositions have more in common with White Door than with the 80's New Wave of British Prog.

Decent return by this legend of the Neo Prog movement.Grace offer a lot of enjoyable, pleasant and well-executed material on this album, always linked with the familiar sound of the 80's British Prog school.Warmly recommended.

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 Gathering In The Wheat by GRACE album cover Live, 1999
3.05 | 6 ratings

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Gathering In The Wheat
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars "I have no vision for nuclear fission, I have no hope for the isotope"

Grace is a band that has impressed me lately and I have found myself seeking out their hard-to-find albums one after another. I still lack their 70's debut album however, which seems to be long since out of print (was it ever released on CD?). This fact makes the present live album of particular interest as it includes several songs from the band's early days. In addition to songs taken from the band's three 90's albums we have here a further five tracks that apparently originates from the 70's; though, only two of which appeared on the now rare debut.

Before the release of the debut in 1979, this much overlooked British band toured and released a single in 1977. Their first live album was released in 1981, but the band broke up shortly after that and didn't reform until the late 80's. They then released three new studio albums during the first half of the 90's. The present 2CD, career-spanning live album is thus Grace' second live release and it features over two hours of music divided over 20 tracks.

You could perhaps place Grace in the same category as Haze and Red Jasper. All of these three great and overlooked bands mix elements of Folk and Prog, but in somewhat different ways. While Haze leans more towards Psychedelic Rock and Blues Rock and Red Jasper mixes Neo-Prog and pure British Folk Rock, Grace leans more towards Crossover Prog with a much stronger emphasis on hooks. (Haze and Grace were also formed around the same time in the 70's and both are (were?) apparently also on the same label: Cyclops Records). Red Jasper is by far my favourite of these three and they are absolutely brilliant, but Haze and Grace are certainly worthy of investigation too.

The show is split into two parts that divides neatly onto the two discs of this set. The first set opens with three old songs that I had never heard before. Lunar and Buccaneer were apparently originally featured on the debut album. The 1992 come-back album, The Poet, The Piper And The Fool, is represented with four strong tracks including the 11 minute, two-part composition Holy Man and the sing-along-friendly Rain Dance. Five songs are taken from the 1994 follow-up Pulling Strings And Shiny Things, and six songs are from the most recent Poppy album from 1996. The remaining five tracks are apparently old "classics" in the band's repertoire and the appreciative audience seem to recognize them. It is very interesting for a new fan like me to hear these older tracks, but the newer tracks are generally stronger.

The sound produced by this solid seven-man (!) line-up consists of guitars, bass, drums, various keyboards, Jethro Tull-like flutes, saxophone, whistles and the distinctive theatrical lead vocals of Mac Austin. Both the band and the audience seem to have lots of fun here (they make lots of humorous comments between songs, some of which are lost on me I'm afraid) and this is surely a very nice representation of the unfairly disregarded career of Grace. It makes you wonder why they are not better known among Prog fans.

This live album is unquestionably enjoyable and highly recommended in addition to the band's 90's studio albums, the best of which are The Poet, The Piper And The Fool and Pulling Strings And Shiny Things (the highlights on this live album are mostly taken from these two studio albums).

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 The Poet, The Piper And The Fool by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.90 | 11 ratings

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The Poet, The Piper And The Fool
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Wait a minute, The Fool is on the next album!

The Poet, The Piper And The Fool was Grace' come-back album and their first new studio album since the release of their debut in 1979. There was thus a 13 year gap between the present album and the previous album. As I have not yet heard the 70's debut I cannot comment on how the three 90's albums compare with that old one, but what Grace achieved in the 90's is certainly worthy on its own merits. We find here an appealing mix of classic Symphonic Prog, Neo-Prog and Prog Folk. Influences seem to include early Genesis, Barclay James Harvest and Jethro Tull, perhaps with a sprinkling of Marillion and Camel. The present album is much less hook-laden and "poppy" (which, by the way, is the name of one of the band's albums!) than the subsequent two albums and the appealing Folk elements are much more prominent here.

There are only seven tracks on The Poet, The Piper And The Fool and most of the songs are over six minutes in length allowing for more instrumental sections than on subsequent albums. The album is bookended by its two longest and best tracks, the absolute highlight probably being the opener. In accordance with the album title, there is a song called The Piper (the opener) and another called The Poet. The Fool did, however, have to wait for the next album to make his appearance - it being the opening track on the follow-up album, Pulling Strings And Shiny Things!

The Field is a moving song where vocalist Mac Austin showcases his mellower side as opposed to his more theatrical, Peter Gabriel-like style utilized on some of the other tracks. The Poet is another highlight with a great middle section with Tony Banks-like keyboards (think Selling England By The Pound), great guitar sounds and some discrete use of saxophone. Raindance would probably have sounded better with genuine Bagpipes instead of these keyboard-generated ones, but it still works very well to give the track a feel of the highlands.

The only track that might be considered commercial in nature here is Success which sounds a bit like Jethro Tull-trying-to-make-a-Pop-song-in-the-80's. Maybe it would have fitted on the A album? Anyway it is not a bad song at all! The Ian Anderson-like flutes appear here and there throughout the album. Lullaby is a sublime piano based ballad with strings and, again, a moving vocal by Mr. Austin. This song reminds me of Barclay James Harvest. The album ends on a high note with the two part composition Holy Man.

To sum up: This is a great and varied album, and though the sound is not quite as strong and direct as on the other two 90's albums of the band, the present one is more progressive - or, at least, more Symphonic and Prog Folk than it is Crossover. The Poet, The Piper And The Fool is thus a well recommended addition to your collection together with Pulling Strings And Shiny Things.

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 Poppy by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.73 | 8 ratings

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Poppy
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Sing me something simple

Poppy was a bit of a letdown after the two great previous albums, The Poet, The Piper, And The Fool and Pulling Strings And Shiny Things. The history of the band goes as far back as the 70's with a debut album being released in 1979 after several years of touring and releasing singles. However, after the release of a live album they broke up in the early 80's and did not reform again until the early 90's. The group have since released three further full-length albums in the 90's of which the present release was the last. While, as implied, I thoroughly enjoyed the band's previous two albums, I must issue a word of warning concerning this follow-up. In my review of Pulling Strings And Shiny Things, I said that Grace occupies an area of music where Crossover Prog, Prog Folk, and Neo-Prog meet. On the present album however, not much of the Folk and Neo-Prog remains. The album title pretty much gives it away even if this is not by any means your paradigm "Pop Prog" album. A song title like Sing Something Simple is also quite revealing concerning the level of intricacy involved in the compositions. Still, when the initial disappointment had settled, I found myself enjoying this album nonetheless.

There is surely lots of talent here and the sound they produce in the end is clearly professional. The voice of Mac Austin is somewhat hard to pinpoint, but he sometimes sounds a bit like Fish of Marillion and sometimes like Brian Ferry of Roxy Music! Most of the songs are rather cheerful and almost nowhere do we find here the dark and brooding atmosphere of the previous album. The presence of saxophone on many tracks adds further to the Pop feeling and whatever Folk leanings that are still present are mostly represented by the inclusion of a few flute passages. Most of the songs are rather short and vocally driven rather than instrumentally so. An exception is the appealing (but short) bridge that ties Burglars and Sing Something Simple together. The lyrics are also sometimes questionable and overly simplistic, particularly some choruses like that of Sing Something Simple and Heart And Soul which basically consist only of repetitions of their respective song titles.

The longest track is Secret Garden with its over eight minutes, but the first two minutes consist of a lovely acoustic guitar instrumental that is musically unconnected to the rest of the song. The main part of the song reminds me a bit of Barclay James Harvest but with Ian Anderson-like flutes. Still, this is one of the highlights of the album together with Oklahoma and, the best of them all, the Celtic-flavoured closer Court Of Despair. Emily sounds very much like it could have come straight from a Roxy Music album, complete with strongly Brian Ferry-like vocals! It's quite a variation of styles and there seems to be no clear direction.

The album runs for over an hour which is too much given that the 12 tracks are musically unconnected to each other, it would have benefited from the exclusion of a couple of songs. I still haven't heard anything from the early incarnation of Grace, but the music found on this album from the band's come-back years is quite pleasant. While I would certainly recommend going for the much better, and more progressive, albums The Poet, The Piper And The Fool and Pulling Strings And Shiny Things first, Poppy is still a worthy addition to your collection in addition to those two albums.

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 Pulling Strings And Shiny Things by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.46 | 11 ratings

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Pulling Strings And Shiny Things
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Amazing Grace

Grace is a relatively new discovery for me and a surprisingly pleasant one. Pulling Strings And Shiny Things was the first album I heard from this very appealing, and much overlooked, British band but the history of the band goes as far back as the 70's. When Grace released their debut album in 1979, they had already been around for several years, touring and releasing singles. A live album followed in 1981, but the band never achieved the success they wanted (perhaps due to the, for Prog, unfavourable musical climate of that decade?) and they broke up in the early 80's. Not until the early 90's would they again release another album and the present album from 1994 was their third studio album. Yet another album followed in 1996 and a another live album in 1999. But what happened after that? No one knows.

As I said, I know nothing about the sound of the early incarnation of Grace, but the music found on this album from the band's come-back years is very good. The sound here often brings to mind a classic Barclay James Harvest that has been placed in a Neo-Progressive musical framework. Lean On Me and Architects Of War are the two songs that are most strongly reminiscent of Barclay James Harvest both in sound and structure. These songs have a symphonic sound that builds towards ever more bombastic repetitions of the same melodies in typical Barclay James Harvest-fashion. Perhaps even some qualities in the vocals remind me of that band. But this description tells only part of the story; this is not a Barclay James Harvest-clone and neither is it your typical Neo-Prog band. There is a folky nature to many of the songs and there are some flute parts that seem to be inspired by Jethro Tull's main man. Hanging Rock reminds me of some Cat Stevens song (I don't know if it is a specific song that I don't remember, or if it is just Cat Stevens generally). Yet other parts are slightly more in line with Marillion and their ilk, but not so obvious. You might wish to say that Grace here occupies an area of music where Crossover Prog, Prog Folk and Neo-Prog meet. This creates a novel and quite interesting approach even if it is not really groundbreaking. For me personally, the previous The Poet, The Piper And The Fool was the band's peak. That album had a bit more of the Symphonic/Neo-Prog and Folk and a bit less of the Crossover Prog.

The material on this album is very strong though and there is not one weak song to be found here. Fool and Mullions are the tunes that most easily stick to your head, but they are not necessarily the best songs. Mullions is given a short instrumental reprise at the end of the album in a radically different version but it does not add much to the album as a whole. Some songs have pretty catchy choruses, but not too catchy, if you know what I mean. I find this album highly enjoyable and very pleasant. It lends itself very well to repeated listens.

Highly recommended in addition to The Poet, The Piper And The Fool!

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 Poppy by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.73 | 8 ratings

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Poppy
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Arriving on the heels of the excellent "Pulling Strings..", "Poppy" came as both a shock and a disappointment. I kept waiting for those adventurous song structures, dark subjects, and imaginative melodies, but they are few and far between. The first cut starts off sounding like FOREIGNER and ends up like SUPERTRAMP, although it must be said that even when wounded GRACE has more subtlety than FOREIGNER and more restraint than SUPERTRAMP, so "Burglars" is in fact one of the highlights.

If the album title was not supposed to be a play on words, it should have been. Many of the songs are relatively simple even allowing for the confines of pop music, and seem like more than a mere step backward from "Pulling Strings...". But once I get passed that reality, I find much to enjoy in "Anorak of Fire" and "Heart and Soul", with its best BE BOP DELUXE imitation, while "Oklahoma" does capture some of the suspense of the federal building bombing that took place in 1995. "Rich Men Singing" is in the best tradition of the British legends LINDISFARNE, while the closer "Court of Despair" bows out with the album's most celtic passages.

Still, at least half of what's here seems to be going through the motions, when we know that GRACE is capable of so much more. Even "Secret Garden", clocking in over 8 minutes, ultimately fails with its lacklustre vocals and cutesy whistles. Several tracks again hearken back to the band's 80s lineage (thinking JAPAN), such as "Touch" and "Emily". Even though parts of these songs are appealing, I end up just wanting them to do something...mostly end. That is never a good sign, so at the risk of popping a few buttons I must downgrade from 2.5 stars again.

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 The Poet, The Piper And The Fool by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.90 | 11 ratings

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The Poet, The Piper And The Fool
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Reformed in the early 90s, GRACE returned with vigour to produce three albums in a relatively short period. This first seems to introduce the new style of the band and the various archetypal characters that would occupy them for a couple of years. Only sprinklings of their celtic inspirations can be detected here and there, and this is very much in the vein of neo prog bands that came before, with some rhythms and vocals reminiscent of the then recently departed 80s.

The first track, "The Piper", is fairly interesting and well rounded, with all band members working to establish a unique identity for the group, and half succeeding, thanks to a folky undercurrent that plays up the "piper" theme, and some pleasant organ and tasteful lead guitar. The lyrics are also fairly poetic. "The Field" is not quite as strong but still noteworthy for its fine melody and, again, the colourful organ and pseudo celtic touches. The use of saxophone, however, is ill-suited to the material and not well integrated.

The rest of the album is noticeably weaker. "Raindance" does include a catchy chorus that conjures up the New Romantic movement of the 80s more than it does rain, but "Success" is pure 80s excess. The compositions are ultimately a bit weak, and it sounds like Grace is just trying to spit out the ostensibly captivating poetry to whatever beat or melody happens to be playing at the time. "Lullabye" provides somewhat a change of pace, but its only notable aspect is the use of fake strings that provide an ethereally ambient break. Even the longer tracks simply lack verve and emotion, which is an element normally present even in weak neo prog.

In determining a final rating, I don't know whether to analyze the poet, pay the piper, or play the fool. But I have to conclude that this effort is of limited interest even to those who profess to be fans of the various sub genres found within, because the group appears to lack commitment to any specific style especially their own. 2.5 stars rounded down.

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 Gathering In The Wheat by GRACE album cover Live, 1999
3.05 | 6 ratings

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Gathering In The Wheat
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars Leaving gracefully

The title for this, the final release by Grace to date, is taken from a lyric on the Poppy album. This live album is intended as a coda to the band's studio releases, although the sleeve notes claim that the band is not defunct. The gig took place in Stoke, UK well after the release of Poppy in 1996 and was the last official live performance by the band.

The set list draws in tracks from the band's four studio albums including several from their rare 1979 self titled debut, an album which appeared some 13 years before their second release.

The sleeve note tell us that this album captures the band's real power, and that may well be the case. What it does not do though is reflect the fine arrangements and careful production which went into the studio albums. The performances certainly find the band enjoying themselves in front of an enthusiastic audience, but the refinement which characterised the original albums is largely missing. The sensitive observations on the Oklahoma bombings for example do not transfer well to a live audio album, despite the obvious passion in Mac Austin's vocals.

The picture I paint here is probably bleaker than is justified. These are after all competent performances of a wide array of songs from throughout the band's history. The bottom line is perhaps that this album is largely superfluous for those who have the studio albums. Those who have remained faithful to the band, and who were fortunately enough to witness a live performance may well consider this to be a valid memento though.

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 Poppy by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.73 | 8 ratings

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Poppy
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Poppy prog

I have to confess to being extremely impressed with this 1996 album by British band Grace. At time of writing, "Poppy" is their fourth and latest studio album, the band having been around since 1979. I should say straightaway that this is more of a prog related album than a bona fide neo-prog album as such, but the music here is written and performed with an assured confidence which questions why Grace as not far better known than they appear to actually be. Anyone familiar with the band Dare will be pleased with what they find here. There are also distinct influences of bands such as Marillion and perhaps more specifically Fish, along with residual nuances of their early influence, Jethro Tull.

The six man line up commands an instrumental array which offers a diverse range of sounds including sax and flute in addition to the ubiquitous guitars and keyboards. The style is generally from the pop prog end of the spectrum, drawing in sound of bands such as Supertramp, It Bites and Stackridge. The opening "Burglars" is particularly reminiscent of the latter, being an upbeat, bouncy affair with whimsical lyrics.

"Sing something simple" takes us back to the pre Radio gaga days, the song sounding a bit like a hybrid of the Fish and Hogarth era Marillion. Mac Austin's vocal style varies considerably from track to track, but here he sounds rather like Pendragon's Nick Barrett.

These opening tracks set the scene for a succession of highly enjoyable sophisticated pop songs which are developed well through instrumental breaks and embellished arrangements. While the album is generally upbeat, occasionally the band will take on something more serious. "Oklahoma" sensitively examines the impact of the bombing there, especially in light of the "it could never happen here" attitude which prevails in most of us.

At a shade under 8 minutes, "Secret garden" is the longest track. Its length is in part due to a pleasant acoustic guitar intro which stands apart from the rest of the track. The actual song is an acoustic number with strong flute, which develops through an anthemic chorus, the song celebrating the joys of parenthood.

"The wolf" and "Emily" seem to move the band more towards Roxy Music/ Bryan Ferry/ David Sylvian territories, the former featuring saxes and a quivering vocal, while the latter is a much moodier piece in the sparse style of Sylvian. "Rich men singing" is a mildly amusing rant about the use of lottery funds to underwrite the cultured arts such as Opera. "Hearing Italian without any rhyme sung by unpronounceable figures, but they're sure that they're having a wonderful time while the rich men behind them just snigger", says it all really.

In all, a very enjoyable album but one where the enjoyment mainly comes on the first listen. The arrangements are good, the songs are well written, and the performances are of a high standard, but there is perhaps a lack of underlying depth to the album as a whole. Worth a go though.

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 The Poet, The Piper And The Fool by GRACE album cover Studio Album, 1992
2.90 | 11 ratings

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The Poet, The Piper And The Fool
Grace Neo-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars A strange mix of neo-prog, Genesis like prog, Marillion, celtic folk and the worst excesses from the 1980s pop music scene.

The opening song is the highlight of the album. A good symphonic prog epic with a lot of influences from neo-prog and celtic folk. Good stuff. After a couple of songs, the album looses it's focus and becomes more like a pop album with some celtic connections. The fourth track, called "Success" is a pure pop track in the vein of Duran Duran. Only a lot worse. I would not be surprised if this track was released as a single to attract the teeny-bopper girls or the disco crowd. This horror is followed by a love ballad of some sort. Again, pure horror. Then somebody suddenly remembers that this maybe a neo-prog rock album after all and tries to get the album back on track. For the last eight minutes of the track, somebody is trying to unlock the door to prog rock land again. The result is some neo-prog with uptempo pop and a celtic sound. The Marillion influences kicks in like a lion with a sore head and we get a mess as a result. I have really spent time with this album and I wished I liked it. Besides of the opening track; I don't. Two stars.

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