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Quatermass - Quatermass CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.74 | 203 ratings

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5 stars Both then and now, QUATERMASS stands as one of the great and truly progressive rock albums. When this album came out in 1970 and for a good long while after, there would be parties where our local prog lovers and musicians us would get together just to listen to this album; it was an event. And still is sometimes. Why? Because this record is a classic. It is oozing with everything: Great songwriting, excellent musicianship, soulful and passionate vocals, and Attitude with a capital A. It's got authority, maturity, beauty, sensitivity, a truly 'progressive' and forward thinking aesthetic...and yet in spite of all that it's got DICK. BIG dick. And by that I mean it rages with menacing testosterone during its hardest moments. And yet it also has some hauntingly beautiful and poetic moments, including some of the best orchestration I've ever heard on a rock album, courtesy of the brilliant Paul Buckmaster. All said, 'Quatermass' is powerful musical statement; a strongly diverse and singular record that really has no peers. In multi- keyboardist Peter Robinson and bassist/vocalist John Gustafson you have two absolute monsters who turned in their best work ever on this one spectacular album.

This record came out in May of 1970, two months before ELP began recording their debut album. And though this is all a parade and not a race, one thing can be said with certainty: prior to his work with ELP Keith Emerson had not used a synthesizer, while on the Quatermass album Peter Robinson plays it like a seasoned electronics master. Alongside this, Robinson repeatedly turns in burning Hammond work throughout the album with some of the best organ registration (tone) committed to vinyl; his sound is fat, edgy, overdriven and big, with gobs of color. And for a dramatic exercise in contrasts, in the midst of some lush and cinematic orchestration from Paul Buckmaster, Robinson leaves us with in an organ solo on Laughing Tackle, the album's closing epic, that could pass for Jimmy Smith or any other jazz organ great at their very best.

John Gustafson's voice is, at times, so good as to almost be jaw dropping. His range, melodic sense and phrasing are nothing short of stunning, and he's got as much soul in his singing as any black man you can name. On 'Post War Saturday Echo', a 9- minute track filled with dramatic peaks and valleys, Gustafson turns in a vocal performance that is literally chilling. Even now decades later I get goosebumps hearing it. His soulful phrasing and high-range set against Robinson's multi-keyboard wall-of- sound create a striking contrast, and refreshing departure from the typically 'white' vocal style that was already emerging at that time as a hallmark of the progressive template with singers like Jon Anderson and Greg Lake. As a singer, Gustafson is simply in a league by himself. His bass playing is hardly less impressive; a seasoned vet of the British rock scene by that point, he plays with a skilled confidence and lyricism (similar to that of John Paul Jones) that serve as the perfect compliment for Robinson's diverse keyboard explorations. Drummer Mick Underwood holds it all together not unlike John Weathers of Gentle Giant, driving a deep plow through the soil and keeping everything on course while Robinson and Gustafson dazzle us up on top. Like Bonham with Zeppelin, Underwood's earthy and understated playing makes for just the right chemistry.

Every song on this album is a winner, each with its own unique charm. Production is top notch, and the cover is an unforgettable classic. This is just one of those perfect albums that has it all. It rocks hard. It has pretty and touching moments. Foreboding and suspenseful moments. Sunday mornin' sittin in a black church moments. Suspended in outerspace sci-fi drama moments. Moments of cinematic grandeur. Smokey jazz club moments. Its got leather AND velvet. It is ass kicking AND mind blowing.

Yin and yang? This record defines it. Progressive? One of the first, one of the best. And remember: This landmark album was released before ELP even began recording their first record. Get this album and listen to it with THAT in mind.

jonsilence | 5/5 |


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