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Symphonic Prog • Australia

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Rainbow Theatre biography
Almost by rule, every time I listen a band with Jazz leanings and so influenced by King Crimson, I send them to Art Rock, but in the case of RAINBOW THEATRE I will make an exception, because the King Crimson influence is basically oriented towards "In the Court of the Crimson King" which is the clearly Symphonic and the Jazz elements seem almost as a superficial addition more than a structural attribute of their music.

This excellent Aussie band was formed in 1973 by their natural leader, frontman and guitar player Julian Browning (Later played Mellotron and Keyboards) with Ferg McKinnon {bass} and Graeme Carter in the drums, soon after Marty Rose {vocals} and Steve Nash {sax, clarinet, congas} joined, being followed by Frank Graham {Trumpet} and Don Santin {trombone} plus Keith Hoban as new vocalist, what started as a three man Rock band went out of their hands and ended being an absolutely complex Symphonic project of eight members and if you add the fact that for the recording of their debut album "The Armada" in 1975 they hired The Victorian Opera Company Choir, this was probably the most ambitious Australian band ever.

The next year they released the even more ambitious "Fantasy of Horses" with the addition of Keith Hoban in the organ (He was only vocalist in the debut), Ian Relf (trombone), Tricia Shevenan (flute), Chris Stock (oboe), - Karin McGechie, Stephen Daunt and Nya Murray in the violins, Rowan Thomas (alto) and Sara Glenie in the violoncello, it was almost an orchestra and the album has a really high musical quality.

After this second release they decided to take a short sabbatical but for unknown reasons they never joined again, in the meanwhile Julian Browning got interested in Classical music and decided o write a Symphony, so he studied Composition and Conduction in Latrobe University fulfilling his dream and composing eight Symphonies.

The good news for RAINBOW THEATER fans is that "Fantasy of Horses" has been re-edited in 2006 with a Symphonic addition by Julian and according to recent info "The Armada" is going to be released tomorrow (Nov 8, 2006) again, so if you don't have them, go get the both, it's worth.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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The ArmadaThe Armada
Deluxe Edition · Import
Aztec 2006
Audio CD$13.08
$13.07 (used)
Fantasy of HorsesFantasy of Horses
Aztec 2006
Audio CD$17.78
$15.00 (used)
The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE (2006-10-23)The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE (2006-10-23)
Audio CD$181.00
Fantasy of Horses by Rainbow Theatre (2008-03-14)Fantasy of Horses by Rainbow Theatre (2008-03-14)
Audio CD$70.98
Rainbow Theatre - Fantasy of HorsesRainbow Theatre - Fantasy of Horses
Free Records
Audio CD$9.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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Rainbow Theatre - Armada [CD New] USD $15.46 Buy It Now 5 days
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6 days
6 days
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9 days
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Iron Maiden Concert CD London Rainbow Theatre England 1980 USD $12.66 Buy It Now 10 days
King Crimson/Claire Hamill/Colin Scott 1973 Rainbow Theatre Concert Ticket USD $31.65 Buy It Now 10 days
Armada - Rainbow Theatre (CD Used Very Good) USD $13.46 Buy It Now 14 days
Queen - 1974 Rainbow Theatre London UK Concert Repro Poster (Freddie Mercury) USD $18.98 Buy It Now 16 days
Genesis live concert Rainbow Theatre London 9 February 1973 A4 size poster print USD $18.98 Buy It Now 17 days
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Sparks Rainbow Theatre, London 7/7/74 Ticket USD $22.14 Buy It Now 17 days
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Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Rainbow Theatre, London 18/10/74 Ticket USD $22.14 Buy It Now 17 days
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Status Quo 1973 UK Tour Programme + Ticket (Rainbow Theatre) USD $94.94 Buy It Now 19 days
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RAINBOW THEATRE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.64 | 31 ratings
The Armada
3.71 | 63 ratings
Fantasy Of Horses

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

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RAINBOW THEATRE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by sl75

4 stars I marked down the Armada because, despite the bold musical concept, the quality of the performances did not match the compositions. Fantasy of Horses is a big step forward. Here the instrumental work is impeccable, Keith Hoban's vocal technique has improved considerably over the intervening year - more clarity of tone, less wobble, improved freedom in the upper register - and we no longer have to put up with the dreadful choir that ruined the previous album. Julian Browning's compositional technique has also matured somewhat, and this is particularly on display in the impressive side-long title track - the 'classical' sections display a much more sophisticated musical language than previously heard. OTOH, the Mahavishnu influences come much more to the fore on this album, particularly in two excellent shorter tracks that show off the rhythm section to great effect, as well as the frontline soloists - "Rebecca" and "Caption for the City Night Life". Although we hear somewhat more guitar on this album, it is still the brass and woodwind that dominate the sound, and by this time the band also incorporated a string section - you'd never think you were listening to a rock band. Despite the obvious Crimson and Mahavishnu influences, you could never accuse Rainbow Theatre of copying anyone - they are completely unique.
 The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.64 | 31 ratings

The Armada
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by sl75

3 stars Here's something completely left field - an aspiring (and now established) classical composer, influenced by King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, puts together a rock rhythm section, a horn section, and recruits a classical tenor as lead singer - the result is truly worthy of the oft-misused label 'symphonic'. The influences are openly acknowledged, and audible - here it is mainly Crimson in their most symphonic mode eg Lizard/Devils Triangle; in places (particularly in "The Darkness Motive") it sounds like ELP's music with the keyboard parts orchestrated - but it manages to sound unique thanks to the expansive orchestral arrangements, the relatively low profile of the more traditional rock instruments (we barely hear any guitar), and most particularly thanks to the vocals. Having said that, the vocals are also a problem. There are plenty of classically trained singers out there successfully performing pop/rock or other contemporary genres, maintaining their core technique while adjusting for style (eg softening their diction, phrasing differently). Keith Hoban makes no such adjustments here, maintaining an exaggerated diction and 'operatic' delivery - but that core technique isn't so great either, his voice is lacking in ring or clarity of tone, the voice seems to be well back in the throat, his vibrato is not well controlled, and his tone often seems forced. Things get even worse when he invites seven friends from the Victorian State Opera to join him in forming a choir for two tracks. Their intonation is simply hideous, especially the sopranos who are consistently flat, sometime by nearly a full semitone - they single-handledly ruin a potentially great track in "Petworth House", and detract considerably from "The Armada". I take this recording as evidence of just how much the standard of classical singing in Melbourne has improved over the past four decades - I couldn't imagine these voices getting a gig with the Victorian Opera now. Intonation is in some places a problem for the band too, particularly for the brass on "The Darkness Motive". My favourite tracks are the two short "Songs", spotlighting the solo voice and piano. I have a lot of admiration for the musical vision here. The album gets a low rating because of the sloppiness of execution, particularly from the opera singers.
 The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.64 | 31 ratings

The Armada
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars The debut album from this Australian band who only released two albums before they vanished.

This album is by no means a run of the mill symphonic prog album. Their brand of music and sound is what is called cantus firmus. That is dark baroque music. In this case; dark baroque symphonic prog. I would say the music on this album is a cross between Gentle Giant, Aranis, Genesis and Italian symphonic prog. The mix of Gentle Giant like male vocals and female operatic vocals gives this album an edge. The same goes for the dark keyboards too which dominates this album.

Darkness is the key here and the opening suite The darkness motive is a case study in baroque chamber symphonic prog. The other suite The Armada is also heavy on the same motive.

Unfortunate, the sound quality is a bit too poor for me to really fully embrace the music here. A remastering would had been a good idea. But the quality of the material still shines through. This is a very good album by any means with The darkness motive as the best song/suite here. I like this album.

3.5 stars

 The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.64 | 31 ratings

The Armada
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This interesting Australian band spices up a formula inspired mainly by early symphonic-era King Crimson by slipping in a range of vocalists and a collection of brass instruments to the lineup, creating an intriguing blend of straightforward symphonic prog, jazzy brass rock, and a little bit of opera. Personally, it's not to my tastes - I think the over-reliance on Mellotrons masks a lack of really compelling material, and I've never seen the appeal of brass rock - but if you have found yourself wishing that symphonic prog involved more horns and a tenor or two this might prove a rewarding listen for you.
 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Gooner
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Count me in as a listener that finds this album horrible(and atrocious). I love symphonic prog. and jazz/rock, but this thing is a mess(i'm being polite). Musically, this band may be talented. However, I don't really know what I'm listening to here. Is this band a jazz group trying to play rock, or a rock band trying to play jazz? Nothing really fuses here. The vocals? I'm not sure if this is Josh Groban or Tom Jones trying to sing opera. The trumpets sound as shrill as Maynard Ferguson at his commercial worst in the late'70s/early '80s. This is like Guy Lombardo gone prog.(and Guy's big band was like nails on a blackboard). Apparently this band was influenced by King Crimson. How about the KC track _Groon_ played on a 33 at 45 speed. The bass is somewhat sloppy and too high in the mix. The drummer sounds pretty good, but in this rare instance; a good drummer does not a good band make. Definitely a frisbee, this one. Avoid if at all possible. The first album is just as bad.

The best part about this album? The cover art. Gorgeous.

 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is an odd duck to say the least. For those into orchestral or opera will be turned off by the guitar, bass and drums. Those into Rock are turned off by the male operatic vocals and horn section. So yes us Progressive music fans are the ones who seem to appreciate this album the most. Even then as I noticed on many different sites there is a love or a hate towards this album. Not a lot of people inbetween. Well I think that's really where this belongs, right in the middle. Not that it's an average album but when you combine such different styles you aren't going to please everyone. I honestly can't stand the operatic male vocals. Take them away and this is 4 stars for me. Hard to ignore them of course. On the other hand this band has a fantastic rhythm section, and as an added bonus there's lots of mellotron.The sticker on the back of my cd says "Australian progressive jazz masterpiece from 1976". Unfortunately it's neither.

"Rebecca" opens with mellotron before drums and horns join in. Bass and sax lead for a while. Bass and intricate guitar sound good 2 1/2 minutes in. This is an uptempo instrumental that's okay. "Dancer" opens solemnly and vocals come in for the first time after a minute. A fuller sound a minute later then the tempo picks up around 3 minutes. The drumming is outstanding here. Guitar after 4 1/2 minutes. A change before 6 minutes as mellotron then vocals take over. It picks up around 9 1/2 minutes as the vocals stop. Mellotron and horns are back. "Caption For The City Night Life" opens with drums and bass as the horns honk. Nice bass before 2 minutes. Check out the drumming a minute later.

"Fantasy Of Horses" opens with piano as those operatic vocals join in. Horns before 2 minutes as it changes. More great bass and drum work follow. Organ before the vocals return around 4 1/2 minutes. A spacey calm 6 minutes in. Vocals and piano are back 7 minutes in. Vocals stop again. Mellotron 9 minutes in then the horns start to lead. Vocals 11 minutes in with lots of mellotron. Horns and drums are back. Huge bass follows. The string section comes in before 14 minutes. Vocals with mellotron ends it.

A unique album that deserves to be checked out. Many consider this to be a masterpiece and that alone makes this worth investigating. 3 stars.

 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Two ways: 1)I don't get this album 2)There's not much to get. This is definitely jazz rock, by my standards at least. I simply fails to hear symphonic parts here. Or they aren't here at all. But they were on last album, but this, this is just jazz rock.

And not good one though. Is it fair to compare this to Miles David ? Probably not, but both have similarities. But it's not pure jazz, or more like - it draws elements from more styles. There's little bit (OK, I admit) of symphonic sounds, but trumpet sometimes reminds me "Godspeed You Black Emperor", but just a little bit.

This is quite hard album to fully appreciate, but give it few listens and you'll see. You'll soon find symphonic beauty in part Big Time, or baroque singing and old atmosphere (old is good) in Theater.

4(-), weird one, confusing and also promising. Let it grow in your head and you'll see.

 The Armada by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.64 | 31 ratings

The Armada
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Amazing little-known band's first chapter

While certainly no expert on Australian prog I can say that Rainbow Theatre is my favorite prog band from Australia. With two fantastic albums documenting their short career they are a band well worth the attention of many prog fans. Julian Browning was a self-taught rock guitarist from Melbourne who studied piano and music theory before becoming interested in arrangement. He played in a few bands before forming the Rainbow Theatre in 1973 and the line-up solidified over the next couple years. By 1975 the pieces came together and Browning began to put together the first album, an effort to use his influences of classical music and guitarists like Fripp and McLaughlin to do something completely different. The composers who most impressed him were Stavinsky, Wagner, Mahler, and Beethoven. A final influence was jazz fusion but the Rainbow largely checked this at the door for the first album, it is present but not commanding. While they often let rip in their live shows "The Armada" is much more in the classical music camp--a bit of jazz would creep into their second album more. Not all of their live fans were thrilled with this approach, expecting their album to rock in the same way as the shows with lots of solos. But Browning explains that the album was different and he wanted to challenge the listener by going in a unique direction. They were also one of the few bands in Australia using the mellotron along with Sebastian Hardie, though the two bands sound almost nothing alike. Browning's material came from his intense interest in the 16th century Spanish Armada, his father did the artwork referring to lyrics of sailors drowning and turning into crustaceans, with the jewelry of loved ones sinking with them. "It was pretty ambitious but somehow I made it work" he recalled.

"The Armada" is a dark and often dramatic mix of symphonic (with a slight fusion slant) laden with mellotron, horns, operatic and choired vocals. It is progressive rock that is intimately linked to classical music, proudly and successfully so. Think of an album like "Days of Future Passed" with a gothic twist, combined with the brass and dark choir flavors from "Atom Heart Mother" and performed by a band with some jazz rock tendency. Browning admits that descriptions of the band often sound dreadful on paper but the approach works very well. The album is book-ended by two multi-part suites with three shorter tracks in the middle. The various sections will offer up soothing mellotron backgrounds alternated with briskly paced, jazzy rock sections--underlying rhythm sections in the band portions sound a bit like early Camel. There is a nice assembly of brass and woodwind for the classical touch: lots of sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, cornet, French horn, and trombone. The passages flow from one to the next smoothly, augmented by Browning's occasional guitar notes and a grand theatrical feel. And my favorite ingredient, which make me curious about an RPI influence, are the dramatic and stately tenor vocals of Keith Hoban. These along with the choirs are handled with great formality and operatic passion. Rich and unsettling like dark, deep water, there is little on "The Armada" that is going to please the casual listener, those looking for the obvious hooks and sweet melodies. It is another title more fitting of a recital where the listening is willing to take in these various elements with patience. I share this reviewer's notice of the academic feel although I certainly don't mind it, in fact that's what I enjoy about this group: "The horns start out raggedly, but perhaps deliberately so. My ear hears what sounds like a student band, out of tempo and out of tune, but this may be intentional since there is no hint of amateurishness in the execution of the music which follows. That music seems to me less well-focused than the music on FANTASY OF HORSES, however. It also has some of the earnestness of a student recital, and this is underlined by the decidedly non-rock nature of the vocals, both lead and choral. There is in fact very little of any "rock"-like qualities to this music. It has instead the feeling of an ambitious, but rather academic conservatory work. But the appearance of a "Bolero" section in "The Armada" reminds us of Browning's Crimsoid influences." [Dr. Progresso] While elements of the sound are formal (particularly the vocals), the overall band sound still has room for looseness and the musicians are having plenty of fun playing together.

While "The Armada" may not be quite the perfected masterpiece of its older brother "Fantasy of Horses" it is still very satisfying to the RT fan. Newbies may wish to start with the slightly more melodic and polished-production "Horses" and if enjoyed, proceed to the grittier, less polished "Armada." The Aztec reissue is another superb release with the best possible remastered sound and a great booklet/biography. Also included is a latter day bonus track (Icarus) that perfectly compliments and expands the enjoyment of this CD. Both RT reissues feature the outstanding use of bonus space, actual music that improves the experience with the original material. It must be very satisfying for Rainbow Theatre to see both of their beloved works reborn with such care for the current generation to enjoy. Both titles are wonderful examples of the free, adventurous spirit that made the 1970s progressive rock's finest hour.

 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by barp

5 stars Superb - highly complex compositions that reward repeated listening. In truth Rainbow Theatre have more in common with the jazz compositions of Graham Collier, Mike Westbrook, Neil Ardley and Mike Gibbs than a great deal of fare generally considered progressive rock. The main point of contract with widely accepted 'prog' would almost certainly be the first three King Crimson releases - especially in the prominent role given to the mellotron in many of the pieces. The playing throughout the Fantasy of Horses is superb and would undoubtedly appeal to any who enjoy the early incarnations of Crimson - the somewhat operatic style of the vocals may not be to everyone's taste - but are very much in keeping with the style in favour with contemporary British jazzers such as Michael Garrick in the early seventies. For those who di find them hard to take - take heart the CD is predominently instrumental. This could be considered 'difficult' music as a great deal is going on for much of the time - but it really does repay several listens. Highly recommended to those who enjoy jazzier prog!
 Fantasy Of Horses by RAINBOW THEATRE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.71 | 63 ratings

Fantasy Of Horses
Rainbow Theatre Symphonic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Sebastian who?

If the term Aussie Prog makes you think of Sebastian Hardie first then you haven't heard Rainbow Theatre. But please do not make the mistake of judging this album too soon with a low rating as I might have in my past. "Fantasy of Horses" is the definition of a album that could seem unfocused (frenetic as another writer put it) at first but whose epic beauty comes after many plays have permeated the "instant gratification layer" of your brain, that unfortunate flaw most of us have whether we admit it or not. We often want to be blown away by music right away and if the first 5 plays don't accomplish that there is disappointment. Good music doesn't always work that way. One's first 5 spins of this album could certainly seem bewildering, perplexing, or confusing-feelings that will slowly thereafter morph into a wide proggy grin. Each new play of "Fantasy of Horses" is a revelation and that staying power is what makes an album worthy of a high rating. Without a doubt this was one of the most interesting and exciting discoveries to hit my mailbox in the past year.

Overview: The Rainbow Theater were a large collective of Melbourne musicians assembled in 1973 by composer and multi-instrumentalist Julian Browning. While they are described as a "classically influenced jazz rock" by the time of this recording they list influences like Stravinsky, Wagner, King Crimson, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The "Fantasy of Horses" album delivers what sounds like one long, calculated track with the ambition of "Atom Heart Mother," "Lizard," or "The Gates of Delirium." But Rainbow has their own sound, blending symphonic progressive with burning jazz rock, delicate melody, orchestral grandeur, and operatic singing. Their first album "Armada" was issued in 1975 and was followed by local gigs which created a small but enthusiastic following. It was hardly enough to sustain such a large group of band members and several began to leave. Undaunted, Browning would bring in a new brass section, woodwinds, strings, and engineer Gil Matthews to develop and expand the vision-the results of which were the band's most memorable achievement. Naturally after the recording of the music the label balked at the costs of pressing the album and Browning himself had to put up the cash. The album would be pirated by enthusiasts for decades before the release of the splendid remastered CD- more on that later. The new album was an amazingly successful one, yet the shifting musical interest of the times along with the huge costs associated with touring such a huge group of musicians left the project unsustainable and the band broke up in early 1977. After the split Browning studied composition and conducting and indeed did perform his works over the years.

The themes for the album really did originate from horses. Browning had been reading about the plight of "wild brumbies" running free in the high plains of South Wales. The inspiration of such natural beauty at odds with the dangers these animals faced by encroaching human interest made ample fare for the lyrics and moods of the new album, and the emotions became metaphorical for the artist's project if not for mankind itself. Browning would recall "alright, you've done something different with the first album so now it's time to come up with a unique approach, to find a new realm in which to create this piece. I was looking for a different inspiration. I still think there's nothing else that I've heard since that's quite like that album." [J. Browning] My own feeling is that an album like this is exactly the kind of thing more progressive music fans should be listening to, precisely because of Browning's adventurous spirit. With the homogenous, commercial mainstream "prog" albums that come out over the course of the year we need to sometimes step back and find these kinds of albums that seemed to transcend the commercial bubble in search of something more meaningful. This is one of those releases that prove again that commercial success is not a requisite for artistic triumph.

The music of "Fantasy" is grounded by a superb rhythm section playing with a fusion slant that is frequently diluted by a cloak of mellotron or organ. Browning handles both keyboards and the occasional excellent flourish of guitar work. The basic foundation is then blasted into the stratosphere by the orchestral loveliness of 14 musicians working together. Brass, stings, and woodwinds provide the beauty and the constant drama needed engage the listener and engage you they will! The two long tracks "Dancer" and "Fantasy of Horses" are simply mind-bending musical adventure that rarely let up as they weave through multiple sections. In the middle of both pieces will come the occasional calm interlude that allows one to catch his/her breath. In these moments may come gentle piano melody or woodwind solo. Another fascinating aspect is the male operatic vocals of Keith Hoban which are both formal and dramatic, beautifully woven into the music. While a primarily instrumental album these vocal sections add so much grandeur and another distinct avenue for the ideas being expressed. The ending section of "Dancer" (the story of a young girl's desire to be a ballerina) must be one of prog's most beautiful moments: cascading soft trumpet and flute calling back and forth as the bass and mellotron drifts downwards, hit bottom and go back up to descend again, drum bursts all around but always delicate, the sensation is one of falling, floating down. Like "Dancer," the 7-part title track finale is remarkable in its ability to convey the storytelling instrumentally even if you set aside the vocals. Each part sounds carefully honed to impart the narrative and I was both moved and fascinated by the balance of emotion and technique, it was such an important reminder to me that the best music needn't bash one over the head with volume and note-mongering to connect with the listener. I only wish I could have seen this "prog opera" in a small playhouse in Melbourne back in the day. Browning mentioned the possibility of new material from the group in an interview. I only hope he will assemble the group for a one-off performance of this album for a DVD release, keeping the rock element firmly in tact, so that fans can witness this title as it was meant to be.

Press: "The fact is that this album is one of the best achieved and better constructed Progressive Operas ever released, especially when it comes to the 2 longer tracks in the album. The acoustic piano, sometimes close to the works of classical composers such as Stravinsky and Wagner, is perfectly combined with a thoughtful wind and metal section, with a rare sense of beauty and perfect interplay. The string arrangements are thrown in the mix to form an even tighter body of work. The multi- movement "Dancer" then introduces and adds the classical and symphonic virtues to that jazzy feel, enthralling the listener in a maze of combined styles in a not only refreshing but also surprising effect. This approach is then further explored to perfection in the 16+ minute opus "Fantasy of Horses," which just lets the listener in a pavlovian state.yearning for more. Also the duality between the ethereal Oboe, eerie Piano, and church Organ and the arousing "full band" parts is exquisitely done. The purest mindblowing 70's sympho prog is entwined with Magma inventive operatic intrusions and careful detailing, occasional Wutemberg pseudo-medieval bridges, Ezra Winston symphonic sensibility, Elizabethan pinches, Jazz Rock attacks, early King Crimson melodic approaches (remember Epitaph and Talk to the Wind) and jazzier sections (reminding Larks tongue. for instance) and a very personal sense of musical perfection." [Nuno/Alex Gitlin's Music Site]

"There are few albums that we can truly point to as being wholly original, but Rainbow Theatre's second album would have to qualify. An operating 8 piece rock unit (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, sax, trombone and flute) accompanied by a string sextet, "Fantasy of Horses" makes full use of the large palette of instrumentation available, not to mention that Keith Hoban's vocals are sung in operatic style. Overall it's a spirited affair, not an academic high-brow run through, so rockers have much to sink their teeth into. In fact, the drumming is astounding, and propels the album to great heights of intensity. The four tracks presented here, including two lengthy multi-part affairs, chock full of mellotron and high invention, are a progressive rock lovers dream. At least for those who keep an open mind." [Gnosis2000's Tom Hayes]

Conclusion: A sure thing for any adventurous progger, "Fantasy" is an album that has proudly elbowed its way onto "the special shelf" as an essential title. The 2006 Aztec Records reissue is a high quality tri-fold digipak design with a good Bio in the booklet. Also of great interest is a bonus track that actually matters! The 13-minute "Eagle Odyssey" is not some crusty old demo but a recently recorded classical piece that fits very well with the content of the original album. The mood and ambience of the track enhances and adds value to the rather short original album making for a fuller listening experience. Furthermore the CD is remastered by engineer Gil Matthews from the original master tapes, finally providing this classic with the respectable sound is deserves. "Fantasy of Horses" would certainly make my list of the best prog releases of 1976 and would have to be considered a favorite for greatest Australian prog album.

A final point of interest to me was the choices Browning was making between composing the string arrangements and being the Mellotron player in the band. How would one decide which choice was most appropriate in a given section? He touches on the differences in this quote as well as commenting on the Mellotron versus modern keyboards: "Having written for string sections in orchestras many times I know they have much more expansive, diverse and epic qualities than the Mellotron was supposed to emulate. However, I believe the Mellotron has a warm, romantic and ethereal quality which makes it quite unique and stand in its own right. The closest orchestral string writing I can think of is Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe where Ravel mutes the strings and they trill together with bowing close to the fingerboard. Sounds like a Mellotron! The Mellotron's unique quivering sound is partly produced by the slight unevenness as the tapes move. If a modern electronic keyboard can imitate this, fine, if not... Long live the Mellotron!" [Browning to Arlequins' Alberto Nucci & Jessica Attene]

I believe those last four words are fitting ones for which to end the review. Thanks to Hugues for championing this title in his review that caught my eye.

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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