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Cast - Al-Bandaluz CD (album) cover

AL-BANDALUZ

Cast

 

Symphonic Prog

3.71 | 57 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Another double CD for this prolific band . So far, they have released an awful lot of material : some very good records and a few other ones...One of their charasteristic is that all of them were extremely long (being a single or a double album). This band is rather anonymous. Even in their own country. I was incidently in Mexico last month and it was very difficult to find any of their releases. Of course I didn't go up to Mexicali to do so (it's about 2,000 km from Mexico city...).

There were lots of changes in personnel for this album. Exit Dino Brassea, their lead vocalist who will be replaced by Carlos Humaran on the lead (he used to be backing vocals and lead guitarist), and they are joined by new members Kiko King on drums, Flavio Jimenéz on bass. A second vocalist (it sounds a bit too much since this album is almost all-instrumental). This change of personnel was due to the wish of the previous members to stop. It was even taken into consideration to change the name of the band after so many departures...

Anyway, so far the band has sung in English, except for "Laguna De Volcanes" a double compilation CD with Spanish versions of original English songs. For the very first time, the band has decided to sing in their mother language, which is fine with me. The direct impact will be that their music will be even more related to PFM while vocals will be involved.

The opening number "Viajero Inmóvil" is extremely varied and complex. During this all instrumental track, the band shows his great musical skills, as they are used to. But this time, they really achieve a superb work. This type of song could have been longer without any problem. Superb, really.

"Jerezcali" has some ELP flavours (another Cast influence) during the intro. It features interesting complex off-beat rhythms and is one of the few songs with some lyrics. It is my least preferred song of CD one. Strong musically, but kind of weak vocally.

The Crimson influence is definitely present in "Encrucijada". This is a long song, divided into three sections : "Ascenso", "Retorno" and "Conversión". Cast has released several long pieces like this but I have to say that the intro section is great. The whole band is very powerful. All members having their part, not only Alfonso who has been used to be somewhat invading.

Cast will transport us from Crimson to Yes along with the song evolution. But there are worse references, right ? On top of this, even if the influence of the masters is noticeable, by no means (at least in this song) can Cast be referred to as being plagiatory. Some real beautiful passages (piano, guitar) are very enjoyable. Antoher instrumental highlight of this album as well as one of the best Cast song. Brilliant.

I have always wondered why this band was referenced in the neo-prog genre and not in the symph one. This song only proves it.

The pleasure goes on with "Lamento Del Gato" (Cat's Lamentation). Less achieved then "Encrucijada". A complex intro will lead to very melodic vocals. Symph prog at its best. During almost ten minutes. An orgy of keys which will fill your heart with joy.

"Damajuana" is another jewel. Very light song, simply structured. It is fully Trespass-esque (as Cast has already produced). A very optimistic atmosphere perspires out of it. I really like it. A very pleasant way to close this beautiful first CD. The best studio one so far for Cast.

I only hope that they won't disappoint me with the second one.

It starts with the short (for Cast standards) "Viento" which sounds almost as a classical piece. A duet between piano and vocals.

Next comes "El Puente" the second suite of songs clocking at twenty-two minutes. It also has a more classical background than the material featured on disc one. I probably therefore do not like it as much as "Encrucijada". Vocal parts are not really convincing either. This song shows some tireness at times. even if Lupita Vidales (another family member) displays some beautiful backing vocals. This number is probably the one that refers the most to the ELP repertoire. The finale (almost five minutes) is much stronger and saves the track, IMO. The guitar solo at the very end is remarkable.

Again, the classical mood is still present during "La Ballesta". A very Wakemanesque piano solo to start, joined by some acoustic guitar a little later. Vocals enter the scene at almost half time. Little emotion filters from these ones. Even if Dino was not the most brilliant vocalist in the rock history, he is missed here even if the timber of voice sounds almost similar. It is the first poor song of the album. The next instrumental "Ensamble Al-Mayá" is fully Orientally influenced. Also a weak number.

"Ansia, Angustia, Desperación" is fortunately better. Crimson is back, the rhythm is great. Finally, Cast is back. This is a solid closing number during which Cast uses all the ingredients from the first CD.

Should Cast have released a single CD with an average amount of music (let's say sixty minutes), I won't have hesitated to rate it with five stars. As such, it is only very good. Four stars for this very pleasant symphonic moments and one of the best Cast studio album so far. Arriba Mexico.

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |

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