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Heliopolis - City Of The Sun CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 77 ratings

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4 stars A well made album of intricately composed and performed prog in a kind of BIG BIG TRAIN and RUSH vein. Often I find that the lead vocals irritate me as the vocalist (Scott Jones)'s singing voice varies from sounding like Geddy Lee (RUSH), Chris Flynn (ART IN AMERICA), STEVE PERRY (JOURNEY) and the singer from THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE. But the song constructs, sounds, musicianship and soli are all top notch--the guitarist is especially interesting for his very unusual freaky-frenzied solos. Keyboards are very very good and the rhythm section is totally solid.

1. "New Frontier" (10:11) opens with a powerful KING CRIMSON sound built upon the repetition of an ascending chord scale and some frenetic lead guitar work. Then at 1:44 things smooth out into a melodic section in order to support the entry of a surprisingly Geddy Lee/Chris Flynn like vocal section. Then a YES "Tempus Fugit"-like section takes over to support the vocals and Steve Howe-like guitar riffing. The guitar soli, however, are nothing like Mssr. Fripp, Howe, Liefson, or Flynn. They are very unpredictable and ejaculatory--brief, spastic or spurting. The addition of piano accompaniment is quite interesting--and warming. At 7:12 the song takes a turn back toward its opening--but, it's only a tease, as we quickly return to the Tempus Fugit rhythm structure in order to support a rather exiting synth solo (not unlike a THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE synth solo) before. The song ends in this mode while the vocalist sings about the new frontier in which the end is just the beginning. Once I got past the vocalist I was able to enjoy this song. (8/10) 2. "Take a Moment" (8:55) opens with a sound, structure and feel quite strikingly similar to the song stylings of BIG BIG TRAIN's last two English Electric albums--except with lead vocalist taking on a more STEVE PERRY style. At 2:29 there is a brief shift into a quick bridge before a brief JOURNEY-like vocal sets up a brief quiet solo section. After a return to the vocal A Section, the sixth minute is given up to some great keyboard and guitar soloing. The eighth minute segues into another YES Drama-like pace and rhythm for some more fine instrumental soloing. The song finishes with the same A vocal section but nothing really exciting or interesting about the finish. (8/10)

3. "Mr. Wishbone" (3:30) is a quirky KING CRIMSONian RPI-like instrumental that I really like. It reminds me of an étude in that it feels like a group musical or warmup exercise. (9/10)

4. "Elegy" (6:07) has some great keyboard-based melodies. As a matter of fact, the piano is the rhythm-keeper here as the drums, bass, and guitars are all in a pretty constant state of going off on their own jazz-like ejaculations--at least while the vocal sections are transpiring. There is a very familiar THE FLOWER KINGS feel and sound to this one. The first instrumental section has a steadier bass and drum rhythm while keys and guitars take turns soloing. There is something so smooth, so familiar and comforting about this song's chord progressions and its melodies. Like early Yes (Time and a Word) or Wishbone Ash, though again, more like THE FLOWER KINGS. Very pleasant song--though again with excellent performances by all musicians. (9/10)

5. "Love and Inspiration" (14:05) again begins with some very wonderfully familiar YES- nesses (Tales of Topographical Oceans) before switching at 2:45 to a kind of bouncy jazz rhythm. Then at 3:28 things settle into a fairly straightforward almost CARAVAN/KHAN-like groove in order to back a decent if "normal" electric guitar solo. At 4:15 things slow down to set up a very THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE-like vocal section. Instrumental interludes are set up with a YES Drama-like moving bass line before shifting into gorgeous TFK-like transition movements. Awesome ELP/TPE ending. This song is very well performed. All band members show exciting, enthusiastic virtuosity on their respective instruments. Plus, the Canterbury inputs are much welcomed and appreciated. (9/10)

This album is a collection of songs that are all quite polished and mature--the composers/contributors are quite masterful as is the musicianship of each and every band member--who are all seasoned veterans from other accomplished bands. I highly recommend this album--it is, to my ears and mind, a step above the highly acclaimed IQ release. As a matter of fact, listening to City of the Sun side by side with The Road of Bones would be an exercise I would strongly recommend to all prog lovers; then maybe The Road of Bones would be put into its true place as a good, not great, album. I also like the fact that HELIOPOLIS band members state their shared desire to produce progressive rock music with a positive feel and message. It is my opinion that, like JOHANNES LULEY and THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, newcomers HELIOPOLIS have achieved this and a lot more.

4.5 stars rated down for the feeling that the band still has a lot of room to grow. I look forward with great excitement to their future collaborative productions.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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