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Bob Theil - So Far CD (album) cover


Bob Theil


Prog Folk

4.00 | 2 ratings

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4 stars Inspired by the heyday of the singer songwriter, electric folk and progressive rock, BOB THEIL's 1982 disc offers an eclectic mix of all, served up at least 5 years past its time hence virtually assuring itself of eternal obscurity. I don't expect recent re-releases to alter that fate a whole lot, but do feel obliged to bring it to the attention of one of the biggest progressive rock websites whose open minded and well informed readers can draw their own conclusions, or at least be able to spell his name during prog trivia parlour games.

The primary characteristics of Theil's sound are his weathered and warm voice, an omnipresent 12 string acoustic guitar backing, occasional acidic lead guitar solos, haunting folk melodies, and uncluttered arrangements and production. I hear the introspection of AL STEWART, the moroseness of NICK DRAKE, the profound cynicism of ROGER WATERS, the emotion of DAVE COUSINS (STRAWBS), the yearning of BOB DYLAN, the strainings of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, the Highland sensibilities of RUNRIG and DOUGIE MACLEAN, ROY HARPER and many others in this surprisingly cohesive and mature debut. Other than in the title cut, where idolatry of PINK FLOYD supersedes his own statements, it's all remarkably well integrated into the man's own inner and outer voice.

From the opening notes of the brilliant "Yesterdays", I am reeled into his wistful visions, leaving me to wonder how, if a 20-something can become so immobilized by the past, what is the hope for those whose 20s are no longer in the rear view mirror, let alone closer than they seem. The lead guitar is more 1972 than 1982, but as with all such solos on this album, very riveting and melodic, in fact bringing to mind QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE. "One day, today or tomorrow" is even more atmospheric and deliberate, and probably my favorite here. The original album closes with two too similar but sumptuous epic ballads, "Who are We now" and "December 1918". In both the earnestness emerges even through the weight of the subject matters. The latter even includes a long and eerie intro on synth atop the strumming, and a ponderous hypnotic outro.

The bonus tracks hail from an earlier EP, and include 3 that were re-recorded for the album, which are of relatively little interest, being less imposing than the album versions. However, the two other songs are very notable for being harder rocking than anything on the subsequent album, both catchy and substantive. It's curious that the aggression of "Post Modern Blues" and "Another Flight" seems to have dissipated by the time of the full length LP, and that is disappointing. Had the album included these rather than "So Far" and the surprisingly uninteresting guitar solo piece "Wind in the Wires", I would be hailing it as a 5 star masterpiece. As it is, this is nothing less than a superb musical and personal document with the potential to appeal to prog fans from the folk, psych and crossover axes, which has been unjustly neglected so far.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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