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WELCOME

Symphonic Prog • Switzerland


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The members of WELCOME recorded their debut album in 1975 at Aquarius Studios in Geneva on the EMI/Swiss label to modest reception. The young trio embarked upon a small series of live shows in an attempt to promote the record, but lagging sales and lack of publicity led to the departure of bassist Francis Yost, who was replaced by Helmi Erdinger around the time of the band's second and final release, "You're Welcome".

The band reportedly recorded a third album in the late seventies with a lineup that included only Tommy Stebel from the original members, but this was never released. The band disbanded in 1981, and there is no record of the members pursuing their musical careers beyond that point.

WELCOME's music is distinctly in the vein of the early seventies, owing much of their sound to YES ala "Relayer". The production quality of their studio releases is rather uneven, and is characterized by sometimes wavering harmony vocals, heavy mellotron and Hammond, and rather sparse guitar work. The band appears to have moved toward a more commercial sound with their second release, although this album has yet to be reissued on CD and is difficult to find today.

WELCOME deserve a place in progressive history for their derivative but well-meaning sound, and for their semi-legendary though sparse history.

Bob Moore (ClemofNazareth)

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3.19 | 14 ratings
Welcome
1976
3.00 | 1 ratings
You Are Welcome
1978

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 Welcome by WELCOME album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.19 | 14 ratings

BUY
Welcome
Welcome Symphonic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This is the debut album from a kind of charming (and obscure) Swiss symphonic trio from the seventies. I doubt if you can find the original vinyl release anywhere, but some just as obscure Swiss label (Black Rills) reissued it on CD about a decade ago, and those copies are floating around and can pretty easily.

I can hear some of the harmonic vocals of Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as the meandering instrumental transitions that distinguished early ELP on this album; but even beyond that the influence of Yes is both heavy and undeniable. Keyboardist Bernie Krauer must have committed ‘Fragile’ and even the back side of ‘Relayer’ to memory; either that or he was channeling the still-alive Rick Wakeman on this album because the resemblance is actually uncanny. All three of these guys sing, but the combined effect takes on a Jon Anderson/Wakeman feel to it as well. Apparently all of them play guitar at various times too, but none of them sounds anything like Steve Howe, and at times that seems to be the only difference.

The opening track “The Rag Fair” starts off like a Head East power-chord tune, but quickly evolves into the complex, stilted organ/keyboard sounds that typified most of ‘Fragile’. Really, were it not for the fact that the guitars are only average and the keyboards are not insanely complex, I would swear this was a ‘lost’ Yes track. Even the vocals sound like the B-side for a “Gates of Delirium” single (man, and that would be a really big single, more like an EP really). This is so blatantly derivative that I can’t even really get upset – I’m more impressed that a group of unknown musicians from the land of the Alps managed to pull off such a flawless imitation.

More of the same on “Dizzy Tune”, which kicks off much the same as the previous track, but also manages to add some pretty wicked bass and even more pronounced organ. Here the vocals get kind of weird for a while, more like Gong around the same time with some half-spoken, half-sung, half-mad gibberish. But this finally gives way to an excellent keyboard/bass instrumental passage that manages to sound both Yes-like and still a bit original. I will say that the drums are fairly tepid here. Although they blend fairly well on the rest of the album, this is definitely the weakest link in the trio.

“Glory” starts to take on more of an ELP feel, more expansive and less grandiose and affected. The vocals would have worked on just about any pre-1974 CSN album just as well as they do here, with great harmonizing and impeccable timing. The acoustic guitar work adds to the CSN-like mood, and musically I think this is the strongest track on the album with its slightly folkish feel and flutish mellotron.

The organ gets heavy again on “Chain of Days” before giving way to a funky keyboard riff that blends well with what sounds like a single electric guitar. Vocally this is another ‘lost’ Yes tune circa about 1973, with harmonized chanting about greeting the day and enjoying the flowers, or something like that. It’s a bit hard to follow the lyrics on this album, but they aren’t all that important anyway. Hmmm, kind of like those same Yes albums that they are parroting.

Finally comes the ‘epic’, yet another nod to the early Yes albums. The twelve-minute plus “Dirge” throws in all the hardware; organ, mellotron, piano, electric and acoustic guitar, subdued drums, and an almost invisible bass plus lots and lots of three-part harmonies with a decidedly affected accent that sounds more Celtic than Swiss. Finally the guitar plays a major role with an extensive meandering solo that fills the middle part of the lengthy arrangement. After another extended tempo change comprised mostly of whining organ, the band builds up to something of a climax before disappearing behind a single whistling minstrel. A classic seventies ending.

This isn’t a masterpiece, or even essential by any means, but it is a very good representation of the early seventies symphonic sounds that came out of Europe. While the influences are undeniable and sometimes overpowering, the arrangements are decently laid out and played with precision. The recording quality is a bit uneven, but not bad at all considering their date and dubious production. This seems like a quintessential three star album, so that’s what I’ll give it.

peace

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 Welcome by WELCOME album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.19 | 14 ratings

BUY
Welcome
Welcome Symphonic Prog

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars With their epnymous debut effort, Welcome brought a very interesting input to the Swiss prog scene. Despite its formal power-trio structure, the band's sound is so more closely related to early Yes (from "Yes" to "The Yes Album") and "Remember the Future"-era Nektar, as well as the the semir-ough melodic approach of classic Novalis and Grobschnitt. The main melodic responsibilities rest on the shoulders of keyboardsman Bernie Krauer, who alternates effective leads on organ and Moog synthesizer with attractive mellotron layers that bear the usual orchestral feel that comes to be one of the essential ingredients of standardized symphonic prog. Meanwhile, bassit Jost very much emulates the vintage Chris Squire vibe while his rhythm partner Stebel develops a drumming style in the vein of Alan White's dynamics. All in all, this band does not display ceaseless pyrotechnics, which means that the core compositions are kept within a moderate use of bombastic elaboration. Welcome certainly does not hide its major influences, choosing to welcome them explicitly and organize the musical ideas around them. The vocal department is also very relevant in the band's overall sound, since there is no lead vocalist in Welcome: all vocals are delivered in harmonies that display the singing lines. All in all, the singing interventions complete the easy-going spirit of the repertoire. Since the drummer and the bassist share acoustic guitar duties, it is no surpirse that they appear in many passages of the album: strumming sections appear as an addition to mellotron layers or even dominate the bucolic ballad 'Glory'. The first two tracks display accurate examples of what the band intends to offer to the prog friendly listener. Particularly, 'Dizzy Tune' benefits from the presence of sinister undertones in the track's central jamming. IMHO, the second half of the album is its best part. 'Chain of Days' and 'Dirge' comprise the most appealing musical ideas and the most accomplished use of mood shifts. The latter includes a very pretty guitar solo, as well as some of the most energetic manifestations of Hammond organ and synthesizer. 'Dirge' is the most epic-oriented track in the album, even showing a somber side that is not in itself very usual. Jost displays a very effective guitar solo whose moderate length reveals a sense of pwer that until then he had only shown on his mostly fuzzed bass guitar - good for him! This record is not likely to particularly impress the demanding prog listener, but it sure will be a pleasant discovery for those collectors who just can't get enough of the stylish beauty inhenert to symphonic prog. "Welcome" is a very good album, indeed.

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