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Leviathan - Leviathan CD (album) cover

LEVIATHAN

Leviathan

 

Crossover Prog

3.40 | 40 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Leviathan are a forgotten one-shot American band formed in the early seventies in Memphis, although most of the members hailed from Little Rock, Arkansas. They recorded this album shortly before scoring a major coup as opening act for an Electric Light Orchestra American tour (‘Face the Music’, I believe), then pretty much vanished after that. There was another album recorded with the working title ‘The Life Cycle’, but to my knowledge it was never released.

There are too many influences here to mention all of them, but several are readily apparent: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, a little Grand Funk Railroad and Uriah Heep, even some Moody Blues. I’ve read comparisons to very early Kansas (ala the Proto-Kaw ‘Early Recordings’), and while I doubt that group was an influence, there are certainly some similarities on a few tracks (“Quicksilver Clay”, “Endless Dream”). In a few spots there’s even a hint of Bad Company. So you get the idea – mellotron and Hammond in swirling amidst plenty of bluesy hard-rock riffs and a poor-man’s version of Robert Plant on vocals. While I can’t say there is anything particularly original here, this is still a very good album and a great example of that uniquely American transformation of the more high-brow British progressive music of the early seventies. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure.

The opening track is entitled “Arabesque”, which among other things means a whimsical and opulent musical piece written for piano. Well there is indeed piano on this track (and throughout the album), but I’m not sure the term ‘whimsical‘ applies. I suspect the band simply thought this was a sufficiently pretentious title for an album that aspired to symphonic leanings. The band had three keyboardists, so the interplay of mellotron (flute mostly), piano, and Hammond gets involved enough to seem almost muddled at times, but the percussion and electric guitar really dominate this work despite all the keyboards. Vocalist Peter Richardson vacillates between Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant, but wears both of these quite well.

“Angels” is actually a more piano-driven piece than “Arabesque”, and this tune borders on being a rock ballad for the most part. Bassist Wain Bradley lends vocal harmonies as well as a heavy bass line throughout.

The longest and most interesting piece is “Endless Dream”, which reminds me quite a bit of about half the tracks on the Proto-Kaw/Kansas ‘Early Recordings’ album mentioned earlier. The keyboards overwhelm quite a bit of this song, but here again there is a heavy and repetitive guitar riff reminiscent of most of Deep Purple’s work of the same period.

“Seagull” is the most straightforward rocking tune on the album, mostly guitars for the first half of the arrangement, but some Hammond here as well. Richardson is in full Plant-mode throughout, and the track transitions well into a mellotron-laden sequence that brings things to a mellow close.

Richardson and Bradley haul out the vocals harmonies again on “Angel of Death”, and this is the track that hints that the band had at least a passing familiarity with Uriah Heep’s body of work.

“Always Need You” is a title that sounds like a country tune, and there is a distinctly American feel to this arrangement. Other than a pretty decent buildup of keyboards toward the end, this one is very much seventies radio-rock.

The final track “Quicksilver Clay” would be my second choice after “Endless Dream” for strongest track. The vocals here almost border on Greg Rollie-era Journey, while the keyboards and rhythm is much closer to a slow and slightly unambitious Kansas tune – pleasant enough, but it’s not really surprising this stuff didn’t stand out much when it first released.

The band was relatively short-lived, thanks to among other things a small label with little ability to promote them, and no really flashy gimmicks to distinguish them from the crowd (although they did manage some notable gigs including opening for ELO at one point). I've read they recorded another album, but have never seen any indication it was ever released.

Bradley and a couple other band members went on to form a band called Companion, who themselves released only one album then disappeared. Bradley (who came to Leviathan from a late sixties psychedelic garage band named Changin’ Tymes) is a video engineer today and plays in the praise group of his local church. Richardson also went the gospel route, and today boasts a rather lengthy discography that he continues to add to from his home in Alaska. Drummer Shof Beavers formed a short-lived industrial-rock band named Sharkbait, and is still involved in music via production and music-based software engineering. Swearington is currently involved in "pure electronic" music according to Beavers. Sadler seems to have dropped out of sight.

This is one of those albums that you like to have in your collection, especially if you have a soft spot for well-made but forgotten bluesy and marginally progressive bands of those days when it was still cool to be in such a band. I would note though that the original vinyl is probably impossible to find, and the Texas label that released it claims that Akarma Records bootlegged the CD version that is now about the only version available. Not sure if that’s true, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

I’ll give this 3.6 stars just for being interesting, well played, and worth picking up if you run across it. Well recommended if you like a little heavy blues mixed in your cup of prog.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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