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Harlequin Mass - Harlequin Mass CD (album) cover


Harlequin Mass


Symphonic Prog

3.28 | 26 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
3 stars It is always a pleasure to discover a band from the 1970s that received absolutely zero chance first time around. If the band was American, and did not play with the typical in your face style of its countrymen, so much the better. Harlequin Mass leans more towards the British school of symphonic rock, while incorporating folk elements into their best material. The folk basis is important, because it is generally sufficient to rein in the doodling on most of the longer pieces, the overly long and unfocused "Sky Caller" being the most notable exception.

It is hard to pick points of reference, even with Nancy Deaver's voice naturally calling out "Renaissance", because while the band sounds a bit like an energized Renaissance meets Yes, Deaver does not sound like Annie at all, but actually more like the Wilsons of Canadian classic rockers Heart, with a lot less venom. For a terribly obscure reference, how about Pauline Filby of the British prog/folk group Narnia, although Harlequin Mass is definitely a far better ensemble. Like Renaissance, though, Harlequin Mass knew how to vary the vox by gender, and Lyle Holdahl's lead on "One Step Home" helps make this mellotron and synth drenched pastoral epic the highlight of this disk, hands down. The backing harmonies in the final segment don't hurt, nor does the emotional lead guitar solo that fades out at the end.

Most of the material is strong and takes a few listens to get into. "Love and Death" might be the most representative piece by the band, featuring extended instrumental runs and interesting time changes but also some more accessible segments especially in the latter half. "A New Song" starts like Heart's "Crazy on You", but becomes a sweet lyrical paean to the possibility of the band having a hit, but yet one gets the impression from the lyrics that this is more an expression of a pipe dream than any attempt to pander. The benefit of retrospect tells us that the chances of such a monumental event were very slim, and in 1978 most prog bands must have gotten the message.

I cannot comment on the bonus cuts as my copy is the Big Balloon CDR. Harlequin Mass may not even command a small footnote in American rock history of the 1970s, but this is a strong debut that might have launched a more commercially successful career a few years earlier.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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