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HARLEQUIN MASS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Harlequin Mass biography
Formed in Portland, Oregon in the mid-seventies, HARLEQUIN MASS was part of a brief and modest wave of bands coming from American Northwest in that decade (HEART, NU SHOOZ, QUARTERFLASH, the WIPERS). Unlike most of their contemporaries though, HARLEQUIN MASS were largely influenced by progressive bands such as the MOODY BLUES, YES, and GENESIS. The band has pointed to the release of 'Close to the Edge' as the pivotal moment in the maturation of their sound, and their sound has been compared to a folk-influenced version of YES and ELP.

Touring mostly in the upper Northwest, the band failed to gain much of a following, but did manage to release a single album, which unfortunately was released in late 1978 just in time to be swept under the carpet in light of the burgeoning punk and new-wave movements of the late seventies. The band disbanded a year later after a failed attempt to replant themselves in the Seattle area, but reformed with a more mainstream sound as STUBBORN PUPPET a year later. Several songs from that band appear on the reissued CD version of the lone HARLEQUIN MASS album.

Most of the members of the original band remain in the music industry, including drummer John Reagan who owns the progressive label Big Balloon Music and is a sometimes member of AUTOPHOBIA; guitarist Jeff Pike continues to perform as a solo artist and session musician on the West Coast; singer Nancy Kaye has performed with the prog folk band TALAMASCA (not to be confused with the French trance band of the same name); and bass player/keyboardist Lyle Hodahl has appeared as a member of the neo-progressive group FIRE MONKEY and the ambient ART & SCIENCE PROJEKT.

HARLEQUIN MASS deserve inclusion in the Archives for their brief but clearly progressive touring career, and for their subsequent carrying of the progressive torch in the Big Balloon label and spin-off projects.

Bob Moore (ClemofNazareth)

Harlequin Mass official website

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3.28 | 14 ratings
Harlequin Mass
1978

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HARLEQUIN MASS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by Progfan97402

3 stars I live in Oregon and I can tell you right away this state was not exactly brimming with local prog acts (if it was, I'd be always frequenting the night clubs and venues, which I'm not because of the lack of local prog). There were a few pop/rock acts that did make it big, the Kingsmen being a big example, you can't escape "Louie Louie". Eugene, for some strange reason, was center of that brief swing revival that hit the nation in the late 1990s, with Cherry Poppin' Daddies giving us "Zoot Suit Riot". But a full-on prog rock band? Well Portland did have Touch who released a self-entitled album in 1969 on the Coliseum label (on Deram in the UK) and are often cited as one of those crucial albums in the development of prog prior to In the Court of the Crimson King. Harlequin Mass was a symphonic prog band, unfortunately they didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. The fact they came from Portland, and released their only album in 1978 when prog rock was in bad shape (and many of the major acts like Yes and ELP released substandard albums, compared to their past triumphs). Here in Oregon, I was only a small kid in 1978, but arena rock was huge. Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston (and yes, even Kansas) were getting constant FM radio airplay (KZEL in Eugene was a big example, and same for Portland's KGON). Many of them had performed live in Portland.

Halequin Mass was not exactly the most complex of prog out there. Keyboardist Lyle Holdahl played Moog and string synths, and a lot of the music tended to be acoustic, with female vocals from Nancy Deaver (later Nancy Kaye), drawing comparisons to Renaissance (and on parts of "Sky Caller", of Yes). The back cover of the album has an artist illustration of the band and for some reason Nancy Deaver looks too much like some hated school teacher I had to deal with as a kid rather than a singer in a completely obscure local prog rock band. Nothing on this album is rather complex. "A New Song" sounded like the band was desperate for a hit (even the lyrics went "I know I think it's a hit"). It's wasn't a hit, not even in Portland. "Love & Death" is probably the best song on the album, I really like the use of electric guitar. You can tell they're not exactly the most skilled of musicians. At least they don't try to play beyond their abilities, that's why they keep it simple, with folk overtones. It's not a bad album, but again, there are many bands, obscure and otherwise that can dance circles around Harlequin Mass. Apparently this band thought they'd stand a better chance in Seattle by moving there (I've been to Seattle, it's not exactly much more prog friendly, but then I was there in the mid 1990s just after the grunge craze had passed), but instead recorded some new wave-influenced stuff under a new name, and broke up. Apparently John Reagan (no connection whatsoever to Ronald Reagan, as far as I know) ended up running an internet mail-order prog rock catalog called Big Balloon Music (sadly now defunct), so at least he hadn't forgotten prog, just selling stuff he that he so much enjoyed.

I have to say, Harlequin Mass shouldn't be high on your list, but do get it if you want to add more obscure releases in your collection.

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 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by maryes

4 stars This single albun from North-American band HARLEQUIM MASS, is a good surprise, mainly if take in consideration that is a relatively unknown work ( 6 ratings and only 4 reviews ). The sound reminds in some aspects the German band NOVALIS (in special "Novalis" & "Bradung" albuns) and also takes a bit of GENESIS, YES. .Althought, the symphonic prog influences are great, I could perceive some crossover prog influences in the "vein" of the Britsh band BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST and a very small "pinch' of the sound of the Norwegian band RUPHUS in their two first albuns ("New Born Day" and "Ranshart") wich adds some Heavy-Prog aspects in the musical landscapes. I detach the track 2 "Love & Death", track 6 "A New Song" , track 7 "Sky Crawler" and track 9 "Meantime". My rate is 4 stars !!!

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 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars Unknown band and a one album wonder from USA.

Or should I say New York ? I guess they are from New York because of their sound. A sound very typical for New York at that time. Or Greenwich Village to be more precise. We are talking bohemian laid back pop music with hints of folk rock and jazz. To this, Harlequin Mass has added both symphonic prog and punk/new wave. But most of all, this album reminds me a lot about what Edie Brickell did 10-15 years later.

The vocals sometimes comes across as new wave with hints of Squeeze and Madness. Sometimes she tries to sing in a symph prog fashion. But she is mostly restricted to her confines, which is pop/rock. Most of her vocals is dead flat and falls flat on it's face. The instrumentations is also a bit flat.

The quality is not good at all. This album is a confusion of many different styles melted into this Greenwich sound. There are some good melody lines well hidden inbetween the mediocrity. The opening minute for example. But most of this album is as fun as watching the doves in New York having breakfast. In short, please wake me up again.

2 stars

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 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A little treasure in prog world

While this band never got any big attention by listners they manage to release a single album in 1978 selftitled. To me is a very good album reminescent of Renaissance or Earth & Fire (Atlantis or To the world of the future era). The album was released to late in my opinion in late '70's when punk, new wave or the burst of NWOBHM steal the show of most of the prog bands. So is clear that this obscure band from USA, Oregon, never gain any big aplause, not because of the music witch is quite strong and has very good moments , it because was put on the musical market in a wrong time, so they lived almost 2 years before disbanding in 1980. About the music, i find it intristing , well played with some strong compositions like Love & death - here everybody can see what this band is capable of in prog music - good prog piece, One step home another highlight of the album, mellow piece with great cello and acustic guitar, funy Space cats with upbeat tempo and the optimistic A new song, the rest are ok.The voice is alternating from female to male, but Nancy Kay has the main role here who also has a good voice remind me more like contemporary female voice Lana Lane than Annie Haslan or Jerney Kaagman - just check out Loss of a friend. So, as a whole this album desearve more attention by symphonic prog lovers, to me is an excellent addition to any collection. 4 stars, and ending this review with Sean Trane words: "worth investigate". My Cd is released on Mellow record and has 4 bonus tracks from Stubborn Puppet era ( the second reincarnation of the band under diffrent name) - the pieces are more mainstrem in sound that on Harlequin Mass and nothing really to talk about, not bad not good.

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 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It is always a pleasure to discover a band from the 70s that received absolutely zero chance first time around. If the band was American, and did not play with the typical in your face style of its countrymen, so much the better. Harlequin Mass leans more towards the British school of symphonic rock, while incorporating folk elements into their best material. The folk basis is important, because it is generally sufficient to rein in the doodling on most of the longer pieces, the overly long and unfocused "Sky Caller" being the most notable exception.

It is hard to pick points of reference, even with Nancy Deaver's voice naturally calling out "Renaissance", because while the band sounds a bit like an energized Renaissance meets Yes, Deaver does not sound like Annie at all, but actually more like the Wilsons of Canadian classic rockers Heart, with a lot less venom. For a terribly obscure reference, how about Pauline Filby of the British prog/folk group Narnia, although Harlequin Mass is definitely a far better ensemble. Like Renaissance, though, Harlequin Mass knew how to vary the vox by gender, and Lyle Holdahl's lead on "One Step Home" helps make this mellotron and synth drenched pastoral epic the highlight of this disk, hands down. The backing harmonies in the final segment don't hurt, nor does the emotional lead guitar solo that fades out at the end.

Most of the material is strong and takes a few listens to get into. "Love and Death" might be the most representative piece by the band, featuring extended instrumental runs and interesting time changes but also some more accessible segments especially in the latter half. "A New Song" starts like Heart's "Crazy on You", but becomes a sweet lyrical paean to the possibility of the band having a hit, but yet one gets the impression from the lyrics that this is more an expression of a pipedream than any attempt to pander. The benefit of retrospect tells us that the chances of such a monumental event were very slim, and in 1978 most prog bands must have gotten the message.

I cannot comment on the bonus cuts as my copy is the Big Ballooon CDR. Harlequin Mass may not even command a small footnote in American rock history of the 70s, but this is a strong debut that might have launched a more commercially successful career a few years earlier.

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 Harlequin Mass by HARLEQUIN MASS album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.28 | 14 ratings

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Harlequin Mass
Harlequin Mass Symphonic Prog

Review by Prog_Traveller

3 stars It looks like I get to be the very first reviewer of this cd. Anyway, this one came out in the late 70's so it's no suprise that this is the only album put out by this Oregon based symphonic progressive rock band. Actually many US groups even from earlier in the decade released only one so I guess the US prog scene was kind of like Italy in that regard. Anyway, the music while squarely in the symphonic vein doesn't sound much like any one particular band so in a sense you could say there was a bit of originality there. THat said they were pretty straight ahead symphonic with few surprises and nothing too out of the ordinary. The music however is lush with nice melodies even if it doesn't go for the jugular. Genesis and Renaissance are probably the closest comparisons I could come up with. The band utilized both female and male vocals but the majority seem to be female led vocals. While this album certainly isn't essential or a must have it is worth searching out if you collect American prog especially recordings from the seventies. All in all a nice album although one that seems to have been lost in time. John Reagan the drummer for this band now runs big balloon music which is a prog mail order business on the internet and naturally carries this on cd.

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