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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Marscape CD (album) cover

MARSCAPE

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

4.02 | 39 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Marscape is a soundtrack performed by some of the finest British jazz-rock musicians, mostly schooled within Brand X and under the leadership of keyboardist Robin Lumley and lyricon (an electronic wind instrument) player Jack Lancaster , both having glorified previous careers with the Brit prog universe. Brand X back up is provided by guitarist extraordinaire John Goodsall, the slippery fretless master Percy Jones and the ridiculously talent drummer turned future torch singer Phil Collins. Finally, Simon Jeffes (Penguin Café Orchestra) arranges the necessary orchestrations where needed. I had this LP since its release and only recently found a CD version, so I was thrilled to add this puppy into my collection.

The material is mostly instrumental, but sort of strange and ethereal, purposefully so in order to really expand on its uniqueness. The sound is obviously closely associated with Brand X, as well as cousin projects Wilding-Bonus, Quantum Jump, Isotope and John G.Perry solo. Percy Jones needs no introduction, for my money among the top bassists ever (Perry not far behind), his fretless technique way more complex and technical than say the master of wobble Mick Karn of Japan legend. His playing is simply remarkable throughout, in perfect alignment with Collins' terrific rifling style. But this is really Robin Lumley's pet project, fully developing his piano artistry, adding harmonium, synths, organ and autoharp to his ivory arsenal, as well as being helped by Lancaster's saxes, flutes and the much- maligned lyricon.

The material for the most part is relatively mid-tempo, at times out right spacy like on the opener and on the unreservedly thrilling two-part "With a Great Feeling of Love" (an album highlight) and gets all stitched up on "Olympus Mons". This killer track really is typical of the British jazz rock scene, starting out with brooding sax, a driving rhythm and sudden plunges into oddball weirdness, such as the echoing gongs swimming in aquatic samples and traversed by blitzing piano rivulets, to then explode into a manic excursion into neo- Mahavishnu Orchestra land, everyone soloing like madmen but in controlled harmony with each other (Jones, Goodsall and Collins just cook and broil). Lumley really develops incredible mastery on his piano in particular, displaying a lavish style that is unafraid of jumping to intense zones of expression, whist doing the traditional jazz thing too.

Then when you least expect it, a synth-bass introduces "Hopper", an homage to the Soft Machine bassist I presume but cleverly camouflaged as the nickname for a Martian land rover, a rollicking excursion over sand, rocks, valleys and peaks, the lads having a ball bouncing all over their instruments with a little tchaka-tchaka guitar and calypso drum outro. At times, the mood becomes experimental and outer-worldly. This is no pop record as "Dust Storm" is just like its title would claim, an opaque and cross winded blizzard of microscopic molecules that rustle and inflict odd sensorial reactions (hey, 1976, okay!). After the koto infused "Blowholes" adding even more oddness to the proceedings, things revert to more rational behavior with the choir-led "Desolation", a 6 minute magnificent hymn to the galactic entities, a track that has all the traits that thrill the prog fan to no end. Sublime mood, incredible confidence, scintillating bass and drums, all built as a platform to dish out some sizzling soloing, as both Lancaster and Lumley let it rip, but in this cool jazz way. Jeffes' orchestrations are spot on, too. This track alone is worth pursuing the album, finally available nicely re-mastered and at a reasonable price (for a very long time only available as a Japanese import for mucho dinero).

'Domo arigato', Jeffes plays the koto again, in accordance with Lancaster's delicate flute, "Release" is the final cut of a true prog collector's addition. A classic.

4.5 Alien chocolates

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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