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Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom

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Refugee picture
Refugee biography
Founded in London, UK in 1973 - Disbanded in 1974

What do you get if you take THE NICE and replace Keith Emerson for Patrick Moraz ?

The answer is simple REFUGEE, an excellent Symphonic Prog band less pompous but IMHO with a technically better keyboardist.

The previous story is well known, Keith Emerson, the heart and sould of THE NICE left the band to form the first Prog supergroup ELP, so in that instant THE NICE ceased to exist. They managed to survive until 1973 with to inferior releases "Elegy" and "Autumn from Spring" which mainly consist of older material and reworks of older tracks including a ghost keyboardist who was already playing in another band.

But Lee Jackson and Brian Davidson wanted to revive the band, so they searched for another keyboardist who could replace Keith.and they found him. The Swiss born virtuoso Patrick Moraz left MAINHORSE so they recruited him and the result was incredibly solid.

Forget about the overblown keyboard sections of their early and the horrendous voice of Jackson (Who rarely sings), just listen Patrick performance. The band was never more mature, knowing what they wanted to achieve and what they had to do. They replaced the pyrotechnical excesses of Keith Emerson with the sober style of Patrick.

In 1974 they released their self titled debut and farewell album, a real gem, solid from start to end, instead of the hard aggressive Post Romantic and Modern Classical sound provided by Emerson, this album has a more versatile sound oriented towards the Baroque and Classic era.

But the fate of REFUGEE was sealed, Patrick Moraz was recruited by Yes to release the outstanding "Relayer" and they had to realize their history was over.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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Burning from the Inside OutBurning from the Inside Out
Yesterrock 2008
$13.86 (used)
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REFUGEE discography

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

4.10 | 213 ratings

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

3.47 | 28 ratings
Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974

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

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

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


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by WFV

4 stars 4.5 stars. Only the cover art is a turnoff for me as we find the Nice with Patrick Moraz in for Keith Emerson. He makes the keyboards his b word and elevates good material to great heights, especially with the effective Grand Canyon Suite epic. Lee Jackson does his best with the vocals, I can hear why he'd be give or take with a lot of listeners. He adds color to the songs for me and really performs admirably - on Credo he sounds like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Arthur Brown.

I'd call this a second tier minor masterpiece that all prog fans should hear at one time or another and it doesn't surprise me this is essential prog listening for some

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Rael

5 stars Absolute gem and masterpiece. Really one of the top prog albums in history. Everythings seems to be perfectly on place here. Outstanding composition and instruments. Some seem to complain on Lee Jackson's voice on this album, but for me it suits here perfectly. I think no other vocals could paint a better picture of amazing wonder of nature in Grand Canyon. The sung part in this suite is one of the most epic and emotional thing i ever heard in prog rock. Other tracks also are top notch (Jackson makes another great vocal performance in Credo). It is really pity that Moraz left the band (even thought he recorded another masterpiece with Yes). But maybe this makes Refugee album even more special. This is surely a must have for any prog rock listener.
 Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974 by REFUGEE album cover Live, 2007
3.47 | 28 ratings

Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974
Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Refugee were a short-lived project by any measure, which I suppose explains why the sound quality on this solitary live album of theirs is so mediocre - with so few gigs to their name and not a whole lot of confidence from their record company (who passed up the chance to get a 2nd album from them), I guess we're lucky any of their concerts were recorded at all. The track list begins with "Outro" - yes, we're coming into the thing mid-flow, proper bootleg style - and the sound quality remains highly variable across the album's running time.

Refugee's live set consists of a mash-up of the band's original compositions and various old songs from The Nice, which doesn't exactly help counteract the notion that Brian Davison and Lee Jackson were treating Refugee as a way of continuing The Nice by other means. The original material is captured better on their sole studio album, and Moraz' talents would found better use in Yes after he jumped ship, so the album is really solely for hardcore Refugee fans who are desperate to own all the official releases from the band - and how many people are head-over-heels for Refugee in the first place? Not many, I'd wager. Some CD editions of the debut album include this material as a bonus, but if you already have the debut and the original releases by The Nice I wouldn't put the effort into tracking this down if I were you. because you've already got all this material in greatly superior quality renditions.

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Although it would be both incorrect and unfair to write Refugee's sole studio album off as simply being Patrick Moraz' audition tape for his short-lived spot in Yes, I do wonder whether it would have received what attention it has received if it didn't include both an early appearance of Moraz before the work he's most known to prog fans for on the one hand, and a latter-day appearance by Lee Jackson and Brian Davison of The Nice.

Of course, it would also be incorrect to regard Refugee as a continuation of The Nice by other means; despite retaining the power trio format, Moraz showboats less as a keyboardist and has mildly different classical influences. At the same time, the album is a competent and enjoyable collection of prog compositions which fail to really offer anything in the way of a unique selling point. It feels to me as though the band put the album out a shade too early - that if they had a bit more time to both refine their compositions and to actually hit on a distinctive personality and sound for the band rather than sounding as flat and generic as they do here, they might have been on to something.

As it stands, it's nice, but I can see why Charisma passed up the chance to sign them on for a second album and I can also see why Moraz left for Yes, because there were some genuinely interesting and innovative stuff happening in the Yes camp at the time whilst this album sounds like a mild throwback to previous phases of the prog revolution. Quite simply, Davison and Jackson had fallen behind the rest of the prog pack, and Moraz' talents only really had an opportunity to shine when Jon Anderson and crew gave him a chance to join them at the cutting edge.

 Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974 by REFUGEE album cover Live, 2007
3.47 | 28 ratings

Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974
Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

2 stars To say the sound quality of Refugee's live album is rough is an understatement- it is almost like a bootleg. But that could have been swiftly forgiven had this group performed as a purveyor of instrumentals. Honestly, Billy Bob Thornton's character from Slingblade sing progressive rock just doesn't work. Lee Jackson's throaty, gritty, hoarse vocals (just listen to "The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon") make me wonder if I should burst out laughing or run screaming from the room. His grating nasal buzzing is worse than what I could hear at a karaoke bar after midnight; it's so terrible I cannot imagine why anyone would praise it. I can't listen to it with a straight face. A proper singer with a pleasant voice or the absence of a singer altogether would have complemented the music far more appropriately. The bass playing is generally solid, although the keyboards and drums overshadow it most of the time. Speaking of keyboards, I desperately want to spray WD-40 on whatever that "rusty bicycle" sound is that runs throughout much of "Papillon," and some of the cheesy extraterrestrial keyboard tones are dreadful. These criticisms notwithstanding, this is an album of interest for those fond of experimental, organ and synthesizer-driven symphonic progressive rock, and Patrick Moraz demonstrates an incredible presence and prowess throughout the concert as a musician.
 Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974 by REFUGEE album cover Live, 2007
3.47 | 28 ratings

Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974
Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by burgersoft777

4 stars To describe this as a bootleg is wrong as the tape was off the soundboard and belonged to Blinky.

The sound quality is reasonable good throughout, although not super. Even so what you get is an utterly indispensible live document, of one of Prog's shortest lived super groups.

Of course people are going to draw comparisons with the Nice, and indeed at times there are moments that sound very Nice like. Hardly surprising, But Blinky never played this fast with Emerson, and Jackson's bass playing seems to have come on leaps and bounds in the few years between the demise of the Nice and Refugee.

What a great band, and what a shame we only have this and the studio album to listen to now.

The only minus is Lee's vocals, which were never strong, but are mostly acceptable. Technically Moraz is a better keyboard player than Emerson, although maybe just a little less lyrical. Even so he is awesome on this record, as on the brilliant studio album. The good news is that you can buy a 2 disc version of the recording with the Refugee album, at a very reasonable price.

If you do not yet own this, and are a fan of either the Nice or ELP, then really this should be your next purchase because it is awesome. 5 star music, but I will dock 1 star to take into account the less than perfect sound quality. Even so essential for all fans of symphonic prog.

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Moonstone

4 stars A real progressive rock gem.

What a real keyboard driven prog album this is! Patrick Moratz is absolutely ON FIRE through this whole record, and he is definetly up there with the likes of Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord and Keith Emerson.

I love the whole album, especially the long suites "Grand Canyon" and "Credo" The only negative thing on this album is the vocals. Lee Jackson does a great job on the bass, but I dont think he holds up as a vocalist. So, it's a good thing there aren't a lot of vocals on this album.

The drumming is also excellent throughout, and makes me wonder why the hell Brian Davison did not drum like this with The Nice.

4,5 stars for this damn good album. I would have given it a 5 star if the vocals were better.

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Before joining Yes for the "Relayer" album, Patrick Moraz briefly teamed up with Keith Emerson's cohorts from The Nice, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison, and came up with this lone album.

Despite the absence of Emerson, the style and sound of this album is nearly identical to The Nice, minus some of the silliness. Moraz plays primarily on the Hammond organ and piano, and while not as bombastic as Emerson in approach, uses a similar combination of jazz and classical stylings. His synth work on the other hand, has a more Wakeman-like feel. The speed and fluidity of his playing shows why Yes chose him as a suitable replacement.

The songs are reminiscent of The Nice, with symphonic sections, which give way all too often to simplistic one chord jamming. Jackson and Davison sound faster and tighter than on the Emerson albums, But Jackson's barroom vocals are still much too grating for this style of music.

The best tracks are the opener, Papillon, and the long closer Credo. But all of the tracks are saved by Moraz' great keyboard work.

4 stars, despite the vocals.

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This Is Neither Nice Nor a Strat Copy

(Scene - London 1973) Tony Stratton-Smith chuckled inwardly at being considered the founder of 'Charisma' and nursed tenderly a triple scotch chaser in a nicotine beige hand as he saw his two hirsute visitors appear through swathes of cigar fog from one of the capital's trendiest watering holes. Before appraising the unknown Swiss as a bona fide 'cutie' or allowing either Lee Jackson or Patrick Moraz to open their mouths in the Speakeasy, 'Strat' pre-empted their question:

Yes, if it's what I think you want. Come and see me in the office in the morning...lovely leathers...whose your friend Lee?

So it came to pass that what was planned as an attempt to jump-start the gravity bound 'Jackson Heights' gained sufficient momentum to result in one of the very finest but unjustly neglected Symphonic Prog albums to have been created in the early 70's (and beyond) Such are the unpromising ingredients and conflation of inauspicious circumstances that precipitated it's entry to the world, the status of Refugee is starting to take on the mantle of a miraculous and glorious fluke.

In the aftermath of the breakup of the Nice, fate had bestowed unimaginable riches on Emerson, been charitable to Jackson and positively miserly with poor Brian Davison.The latter's career had stalled in the interim due to a largely uninspired solo vehicle 'Every Which Way' and a drink problem that was spiralling out of control. Short stints with welsh soap-dodgers Man, Et Cetera and Gong provided Blinky with some income but with both a marriage and it's solution 'on the rocks', the drummer was going downhill fast before the salvation afforded by the formation of this trio.

Lee Jackson had garnered positive and encouraging reviews for his band 'Jackson Heights' but sales had proved elusive for a project that had sincerity and craftsmanship in abundance but memorable song-writing conspicuous by it's absence. When Lee and Patrick started to write together they quickly realised the material was going to be much heavier than the 'soft white underbelly of rock' represented by the modest Jackson Heights and considerably more symphonic in it's scope than even the Nice. They needed a drummer capable of handling such ambitious and complex music, step/stagger forward one Brian Davison.

Papillon - A rollicking instrumental so-named on account of the band having recently viewed the Steve McQueen movie of the same name and the rather more tenuous association of the Moog sound effects resembling the beating of the wings of a butterfly (That's 20-20 hearing fellas, capable of fart detection in ants I'd hazard?) The first thing you notice is how brilliant and 'musical' a drummer Davison is when a sympathetic engineer is allowed to capture in crystalline detail all the subtle and powerful embellishments and accents imbued in his playing. We are witness on Refugee to probably the greatest recorded performances of Blinky's life. Moraz provided enough clues with his formative band 'Mainhorse' to suggest he was a keyboard giant just waiting to happen and the assuredness of his technique, the ferocity of the textures employed and the rapid juxtaposition of stylistic references is quite breathtaking to behold. Alternately bombastic baroque, coruscating rock, visceral symphonic, horror movie creepy, jazz fluid, slyly and self depreciatively amusing (Lee clearly can't resist some reciprocal comedic bowed bass dialogue) plus some high tempo unison passages sufficient to have jaws raining from the skies all go to make this 5 minutes of your life that is mercifully available on 'repeat'

Someday - Blinky did not it seems have a monopoly on domestic discord at this point as illustrated by a soul searching song by Jackson ruminating on the breakup of his first marriage. There is no doubting the sincerity of his lyrics here as they run the gamut of conciliatory, bitter, frustrated and affectionate until the track's conclusion.

Someday I'll turn my back, lock the house and give up the pain and I'll go and take my peace Gonna sail away for a life and a day and I know that someday you're gonna feel the pain

The sleepy electric piano and boisterous pitch bend synth interludes provided by Moraz are spine tinglingly superb and the band display a firm grasp of how to build and release tension at all the appropriate places. One of the most polarizing aspects of any music featuring Mr Jackson is his singing (or lack of, as some would venture) I admit he cannot 'sing' in the conventional sense that an Anderson, Wetton or Gabriel can, but most of my favourite vocalists are similarly blighted by this failing (e.g. Robert Smith, John Cale, John Lydon, Mark E. Smith) and it has not impacted on my love for their voices one iota. I can only offer that there is more emotion, candour and vulnerability in Lee's Novocastrian tonsils than there is in some of the entire discographies of more celebrated technicians. At least the results post-Nice are assuaged by him getting to choose the key for this material, which is more than Emerson ever offered (Keith was loathe to transpose any Nice compositions from their original key to fit Jackson's very limited range as he thought rather naively that all singers should be able to sing any song in any key)

Grand Canyon Suite - Just in case you're wondering, yes that is an alpine horn you can hear and it is 'blown' very convincingly by Moraz as if it were orchestral brass added to the mix. A very cinematic and credibly symphonic intro worthy of Richard Strauss prepares us for a piece that was inspired by a documentary about this famous natural landmark viewed by both composer Moraz and lyricist Jackson.

The message is a tad cryptic but it centres around a dream Lee had where he saw himself flying using his arms as wings above the Grand Canyon courtesy of erm... astral travel:

When you go home and sleep this night, dream of wings and astral flight Fly with the speed of waking light and we'll go and I'll show you the way to the Grand Canyon

The sung portions have a commanding yet stately humility that would be paradoxical but for those very few souls like Jackson who can reconcile such conflicting elements satisfactorily and with an inconsolable melancholy that is genuinely affecting. It carries a sublime melody that Patrick improvises over and embellishes quite ingeniously during a jazzy piano solo that never fails to impress. Thereafter we are privy to Moraz writing an indelible chapter of Progressive Rock that even if he were to attempt Eval Knievel's leap across the Grand Canyon (minus the jet powered bike) would leave his mourners with some of the best keyboard playing, sounds and compositional rigour to be found in the entire genre to mollify their loss. Rest assured however, this is not a one man band show-boating his incredible skills and roomy equipment truck but a three way dialogue where all the participants contribute their inimitable personalities and abilities in a bartered synergy. (Jackson knows his limitations both vocally and on bass and wisely never overreaches himself throughout) Take note of that wonderful gradual accelerando ramp featuring the indivisible snare and keys of Blinky and Moraz respectively which meld into a dizzying blur before the whole band explode into the glorious central theme of the suite and just bow in supplication (We are not worthy) They even resuscitate fleetingly the 'rumpty tumpty' rhythm calling card of Rondo but the latter never sounded this elegant or noble in Keith's speed reading of same.

Ritt Mickley - Jackson's teasing of Patrick's halting Swiss accent was the source of the title (the keyboard wizard pronounced 'rhythmically' this way much to the bass player and drummer's amusement) After some unaccompanied rubato clavinet funnelled through the whooshiest phaser gizmo that money could buy in 1974, proceedings are momentarily halted by the sound of breaking glass before the main course arrives in the shape of a synth heavy groove that flirts coquettishly with (gulp) 'funky'. Thereafter the muse turns classically inspired with a wantonly buoyant section that shares the same joyous and irreverent abandon as that shown by the Nice towards Intermezzo from Karelia Suite.The guttural and staccato fade on clavinet proves what I've been saying for years (Billy Preston was white)

Credo - The second heavyweight slug fest on the album and it's a veritable belter from start to finish. Listen carefully to how Moraz's piano on the neurotic but eloquent introduction assimilates and quotes themes from the subsequent sung melodies and treats these phrases with the academic discipline of formal symphonic writing. He also punningly alludes to the line 'climb the Spanish stair' with a mock flamenco gravitas take on something that Lalo or Villa Lobos might have written. After the opening verse there ensues a section which is redolent of 'latin' but mercifully doesn't succumb to the oily wiggling hips of Chick Corea or the execrable Santana. A liturgical mood is summoned by church organ over which Lee ladles a passion and urgency on a hymnal melody that leaves a large footprint on the memory ever hence. Yes, he does sound as if he's being asphyxiated from within a spacesuit but for me, it's a very moving performance. I'm not going to pretend I know what the lyrics are about but the gist seems to be Jackson's rejection of the strict dogma of his catholic upbringing being supplanted by his own learned experience of the world at first hand. (A spiritual but secular humanism if you will) Irrespective of what floats yer teleological boat, you can accelerate those forehead wrinkles by pondering the following:

I believe and you believe and we believe that we're free and the air don't cost a thing to a bird with a broken wing The wisest king of all left his wisdom on the wall The queue forms beside me as I sing my credo to a lost cause

Then again, it just might be a veiled disillusion with the hippy idealism he lived through and saw cast asunder by the corporate commodification of aesthetics and greed (Man).

Perhaps the falsetto scat singing interlude was ill advised but if it is Jackson singing, he conspires to hit all the notes accurately and I can only surmise it was after 143 vein bulging takes with his gonads wedged tightly in a vice (Thank you for suffering for your art Mr Jackson)

The ending instrumental music is brilliantly arranged, ever changing and undergoes many detours in tempo, meter, key, texture and dynamics along the exhilarating way. So much of this album has a hard edged and unsentimental muscularity that prevents it from lapsing into some of the clichés inherent in the stylistic sources it borrows so freely from.

The late Brian Davison and Lee Jackson must be the two unluckiest men in rock: not only did they lose the greatest rock keyboard player of all time to ELP in 1970, they also lost perhaps the 2nd greatest rock keyboard player of all time in 1975. (some say that's just careless but Yes don't take 'No' for an answer) Surely a double whammy for two bands neither of which boasted a guitarist?

I think the pressure and scrutiny on Patrick Moraz would have been sufficient to break many a lesser man having been asked to fill the daunting shoes of both Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. That he did so with such aplomb and contributed to both Relayer and Refugee his own unique personality and vision of the music, is testimony to his integrity and strength of will. Kudos are also due to the great and dearly departed Tony Stratton-Smith, without whom so much progressively minded music would never have seen the light of day. It would have been very tempting and lucrative for 'Strat' to market 'Refugee' as 'the Nice Mark II', but he never did this and saw them in the same way we should all see them now: A completely original Progressive Rock band whose sole album is one of the finest of any genre you care to name.

Hunt down and lure this critter out of hiding soon Prog lovers, you won't regret it.

 Refugee by REFUGEE album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.10 | 213 ratings

Refugee Symphonic Prog

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

2 stars Patrick Moraz does a fantastic job bringing freshness to bands. Relayer from Yes, for example, sounds unlike any other Yes album despite having a distinctive Yes sound (something of a paradox, I suppose). And Moraz, taking over for Keith Emerson who left to form ELP, places his stamp on this group, even though the name changed. In fact, this one album practically oozes keyboard, as the other two members just sort of hang around in the backdrop most of the time. Moraz mostly does some interesting and often spectacular keyboard theatrics, making use of a variety of sounds and styles. Unfortunately, this is one pairing that just doesn't ever mesh for me. The drumming is decent, the bass playing lame, and the singing ranges from okay to horrendous. The only outstanding aspect is the keyboard work that dominates the record and some of the (ruined) vocal melodies. I can't say I'm a fan of the overall product.

"Papillon" The opener boasts involved, technically demanding piano and synthesizer work that rivals the best of ELP. Even still, there's an annoying, warbling, buzzing synthesizer thread that's strung through the middle.

"Someday" The first song of the album introduces (or re-introduces) the listener to one of the most irritating voices of progressive rock. Surely Lee Jackson has decent moments, but much of the time, the man uses this whiny, grating, nasally voice that surely cannot be natural! The music is okay, but the vocals are almost too distracting to even pay much attention to it.

"Grand Canyon" Using light synthetic textures, the opening of this extended track reminds me of music from Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson, only with some bass jamming that somewhat robs the beginning of its grand effect. As Brian Davidson works out his snare, Moraz showcases his immense talent and dynamic ability. Abruptly it turns into a classical piano piece that manages to incorporate a bit of jazz. Jackson is inoffensive as a singer when he arrives. Without transition (again), the music turns into quick bites of incoherent organ and drums. What follows is tremendously overindulgent, gaudy, and downright goofy, although after a while, the music takes shape and symphonic splendor returns, albeit briefly.

"Ritt Mickley" Thick, spacey synthesizers begin this one. After it sounds like someone has knocked over everything in the kitchen, a coherent piece of music begins, and it's quite decent, charming in many ways. It's happy, upbeat, full of whimsical keyboard moments, and downright entertaining, even if rhythmically simplistic.

"Credo" The extended finale of the album begins with ominous piano. Indeed, the piano plays a large role; even when handling the background and letting Jackson solo on his swampy-sounding bass, Moraz's fingers are incredibly busy. A church organ interlude interrupts the whole piece close to the middle. Jackson's voice grows increasingly grating, though thankfully is pushed down in the mix in a few places. Too bad, because the vocal melody is quite good most of the time. Overall, "Credo" is needlessly lengthy, basically pasting several unrelated bits together (a common but usually ineffective method of composition in my opinion). Some of those bits are good, and others aren't.

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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