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Marsupilami - Arena CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.09 | 87 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
4 stars MARSUPILAMI were one of the early Prog bands to come out of the UK and are often compared to EAST OF EDEN not because they sound anything alike but because they both played very complex and adventerous music, especially for 1970. By the way they named themselves after a cartoon character created by a Belgian artist. This is their second and final album released in March of 1971, they broke up after this one because of poor album sales. They became quite popular in The Netherlands though after their debut prompting the band to actually relocate there before making this concept album, in fact in the original liner notes for "Arena" there are some very complimentery words from two fellows associated with The Paradiso in Amsterdam who praise the band for not only their music but for their warmth and friendship as they really adopted these Brits as their own.

They added a new member for this release in Mandy Riedelbanch who plays sax, flute and percussion bringing this up to a seven piece band. Also they have two guests helping out in Bob West who helped with the lyrics for this concept about the "Arena" where so much violence and death occurred in the name of entertainment etc. back in Rome, Italy many centuries ago. Also Pete Bardons(CAMEL) produced this and helped with percussion, it should be noted that this was 2 years before CAMEL released their debut album. We get mellotron on this one as well with plenty of it on the first three tracks.

"Prelude To Ruin" opens in an intense and eerie manner before the music kicks in with vocals in tow. Aggressive drumming and guitar lead the way early on before it settles right down with reserved vocals. Gotta love the mellotron after 2 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in. Best part of this song for me is the last 1 1/2 minutes where it's almost jazzy with piano and prominant bass. So good. "Peace Of Rome" builds with flute, drums, vocal melodies and more. Vocals come in and eventually organ as the music continues to shift. A calm before 3 minutes then it builds. I like the keyboards, percussion and flute here then the vocals return along with some intensity. Nice guitar solo too. The bass is throbbing as we are treated to an excellent instrumantal section. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Man this sounds so good 5 minutes in after the vocals stop briefly. It's almost haunting late for a short time. "The Arena" opens with strange sounding vocals and some mean sounding organ runs. The flute that joins the organ is wicked. What I love about this band more than anything is their instrumental work and thankfully we get plenty of that the rest of the way. This is the longest song at just under 13 minutes. Great sound with the percussion, guitar and organ before female vocal melodies join in. They seem to jam here which is fine by me. Vocals and flute are back 4 minutes in. A beautiful section takes over before 6 1/2 minutes with soft spoken female vocals, piano and flute. It kicks back in a minute later with vocals. We get another killer instrumental section starting 9 minutes in. Reserved male vocals with a mellow sound follow but this song continues to have many time changes. A very entertaining track to say the least.

"Time Shadows" opens with spoken vocals that echo bringing to mind Krautrock. Freaky stuff before a melancholic organ and sound takes over. I like the flute and organ here. The harmonica before 2 minutes is brief then the vocals come in. It's still laid back. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes. This is really good as the vocals and flute standout. Piano joins in. A jazzy vibe around 5 minutes caused mostly by the bass playing then the sax joins in. Nice. This instrumental section continues for some time then the vocals return after 7 minutes as the sound changes. It's laid back here but the intensity rises late with the organ and sax dominating. "Spring" ends the album in style. It's pastoral to start before becoming experimental quickly. It settles back before 2 minutes and it sounds amazing with the beat, piano and flute. Gorgeous stuff right here. Bass and harmonica to the fore a minute later. Vocals join in along with bowed guitar which sounds very cool. The drumming starts to impress as well. The guitar starts to solo after 5 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's the flute's turn and we get two of them. So cool ! Vocal melodies come in late as it then calm right down to a whisper 8 minutes in. When it kicks back in to that familiar melody I have to say i'm not worthy.

I can't believe it took a couple of spins for me to start to realize that I had something special here. A solid 4 stars.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |


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