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Comedy Of Errors - Spirit CD (album) cover

SPIRIT

Comedy Of Errors

 

Neo-Prog

3.90 | 260 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Comedy of Errors has raised the progressive bar to unprecedented heights. Let's not dilly-dally any longer ad infinitum and cut straight to the chase:

This is the best Neo album ever made!

Yup, yesseree, si senor, jawohl, numero uno! This album will enter the legend and simply redefine a much maligned genre that admittedly had quite a few stinkeroos, but this? Phew! Let's use the ill-used OMG tag and let's stick it on this supposed comedy of errors! No errors here, very little comedy, just straight forward brilliant music played deliriously and brimming with enterprise. Terrific pace, genial details abound, mini symphonies, oratorios and some vicious bass playing up front and center!

Rarely have I had to witness such a musical act of bravura, a spectacular opus that gets going from the opening note and does not let go until the final track has faded into silence. Scottish group Comedy of Errors thus releases its third album, after the remarkable Fanfare & Fantasy, which by most accounts was a rather typically 'safe' neo- prog album, with mounds of delicious melodies with tight playing and great vocals. It was quite well-received by most progressive pundits, even non neo-aficionados liked it, though it must be said that 'Spirit' is an all-together different kettle of fish (please excuse the Marillionish pun).

Vocalist Joe Cairney really elevates his talent by sounding both convincing and imposing, a sublime set of tones to the overpowering instrumental package and solid drummer Bruce Levick shows off some thoughtful chops and monstrous beats that pummel, thump and explode willingly. The now dual guitars of Mark Spalding and new- comer Sam MacCulloch offer up a winning formula of criss-crossing riffs that recall vintage Wishbone Ash or recent Final Conflict. But the true stars that shine brightly on all these tracks are the tremendous bass playing of Jim Fitzgerald and the sumptuous symphonic touches brought to the console by main-man Jim Johnston, whipping out his choir mellotron patches and adding grandiose adornments to the mix. But the most obvious difference is the sheer quality of the compositions, each one perfectly constructed and well-balanced, as well as a multitude of eargasmic melodies that seduce immediately. Throw in a great production and sumptuous artwork and yes, we have a winner of the very highest order. A glowing, simmering and mesmerizing masterpiece that deserves the greatest honor, like the bold headline for this review. I received my copy in the mail on Friday November 13, 2015, so it behooves me to dedicate this review to the innocent Paris victims of primitive barbarism, and my 2 cousins living in St-Denis, near the Stade de France, who are safe yet shaken to the bone. Their spirits will live on forever. The track list titles almost eerily forewarn of the impending terror that was occurring, as I was listening to this treat the first time.

Though all tracks effortlessly form an unending suite, when you listen to the opening jewel, there is no screwing around with light fluff, the band go straight for the jugular and punch your ears out with aggressive guitar slashes, blinding thunderclaps of tectonic drums and a turn-on-a-dime supersonic arrangement that leads into one of those bass guitar grooves that seduces lovingly and that one dreams about in fantasyland, like Mike Howlett's magnificent reptilian furrow on 'Isle of Everywhere' or Leland Sklar's devilish playing on Billy Cobham's 'Stratus'. Yes, fans, iconic monuments to insistent, mind-numbing bass guitar heaven! 'My Grief Lies All Within' is a classic piece of progressive rock and a scintillating first course in a long-line of terrific tunes that will follow. The short track 'Infinite Wisdom' is whirlwind guitar-driven, organ-fueled and rhythmically propelled ditty with raging vocals as well as nimble choir work, and serves as a fine opener for the stately 'Spirit Shines' , which serves as the main anthem that define this work, to be repeated two more times later, under different guises. The urgent and heartfelt vocals really touch an emotional nerve, caressed gently by twinkling piano and lush symphonics, a massive chorus that can only leave one breathless, a stupendous sense of elation and a general feel good sentiment, full of hope and resolution. This invincible crescendo bleeds straight into the stultifying explosion that is 'Can This Be Happening?', a rambunctious outburst that spares no prisoners either lyrically, vocally or instrumentally. Bombastic, meticulous and sensitive, one cannot help feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quality of the music displayed, adorned by a multitude of little quirky details (stunning choir work, slick cymbal minutiae, and massive mellotron whooshes) that astound and confound in a factual progressive way. There is a strong Fish-era Marillion feel that is also exquisite and impressive, loaded with dynamic theatrics that are never overblown or histrionic. This washes into the more delicate and Celtic-tinged 'I Call & Cry to Thee', a lavish and intricate rambler that starts off pastoral and bucolic, suddenly evolving into a furious tornado of guitar, keys and boom drums, soaring like some upward vortex of exhilaration. There is a hint of Shawn Guerin's classic 'Monsters in my Room' that made me smile immediately, a clever wink full of melodrama and angst.

The overtly classical overtones that are the hallmark of this work appear on 'Set your Spirit Free', as it continues to trumpet the life-force cause, a transcendent instrumental keyboard showcase, laden with dexterous, feminine and delightful insights, lush with emotion and awe. This impressionist tendency continues on 'Arise in Love Sublime', pipe-organ and synths, in an ivory embrace that would make Wakeman blush with envy. When the pompous bluster veers into heady circumstance, a simply celestial vocal enters the fray with ceremonial bombast, manic mellotrons whirring and purring magically, arching high and wide into the night sky. Gulp and wow! The main theme 'spirit shines' does an encore performance of the highest order, branding the gorgeous melody deep into the brain, forever seared by the ornate beauty within. The majesty heightens further with the glorious 'Into the Light', a ray of sunshine where slippery synths celebrate the renewal of the hopeful, everlasting and undaunted spirit of everlasting love, the sheer aural delight is unstoppable, the music unshakably genial and the impression eternal. One cannot help wondering why recent Yes could not give birth to something this 'close to the edge'. 'To touch you, to hold you, to see you, AGAAAAAAAAAIN'! Cairney's vocals are effing brilliant! Its companion piece, 'Into the Hills' just expands on the shimmering symphonics even further, scouring the loftiest expanses and glorious horizons, keyboard cannonades that defy the norms, intensely orchestral and defiantly imposing, musical monuments to progressive rock's take on classical music. Thus ends the main suite, a sensational avalanche of sonic beauty.

Bonus tracks are not too shabby either, as the magnificent instrumental 'This Is How It Has To Be' perpetuates the previous standard of elegant musical sorcery, a bewitching medieval styled piece, drenched in a torrent of choir mellotron, led by a beguiling bass guitar rumble and a mystically euphoric premise. A Kerry Minnear-like organ solo is a sheer delight, playful, expertly played and thoroughly inspiring. There is a slight stylistic resemblance to the previous album's 'Time Motet and Galliard', so one can surmise that this is a standard Comedy of Errors diversion into the past.

As promised, this crown jewel is put to rest with a third encore of the spirit theme, a radio friendly 'Spirit' that should be playing on any radio show, prog or not, it's that bloody brilliant! Piano, electric guitar and a chorus to expiate over, this is simply superb music. As perfect an album as one could ever hope for. The proof is in every note. As it stands, my fave album of 2015, another splendid year of stellar prog.

5 esprits de corps

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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