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Argent - Nexus CD (album) cover

NEXUS

Argent

 

Crossover Prog

3.65 | 90 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Interior Designer v Scaffolder

I always thought of Argent as being a very underrated band but on reflection, and after having listened again to most of their output, must conclude that the dichotomy between the 'songwriter' (Ballard) and the composer (Rod Argent) is not dissimilar to the underlying tensions that afflicted ELP (with Lake and Emerson playing these roles, respectively)

Nexus is certainly one of the more progressively slanted albums in their career and one of my favorites for that reason. (So guess which side of the Rod/Russ debate I'm on?)

'The Coming of Kohoutek' - probably the best Argent track ever and although a more powerful and perhaps 'gutsy' version of the piece exists on the live Encore album this is a brilliantly realized composition from start to finish. Based entirely on a theme* stated by Rod on Mellotron at the outset, it goes through some inspired transpositions and stylistic avenues with brilliant use of synth, pipe organ, piano, Hammond, guitar, drums and bass. All the band get their chance to shine here and I am continually struck by how good and sophisticated were Henrit, Ballard and Rodford as players

*Now I ain't no grass or nuttin' Rod but there is a rather large chunk of yer tune that is just a teeny weeny bit identical to Liszt's Totentanz...

'Love' - This is more representative of the 'song' based side of the group and contains some stunning harmony vocals which became something of an Argent trademark. There is a smidgen of the Fab Four circa Abbey Road in places with a rather 'too clever for its own good' arrangement. Very good song and one of the better Russ Ballard dominated efforts in their repertoire.

Music of the Spheres' - the aforementioned battle between the competing designs of Rod/Russ reaches a satisfying 'ceasefire' on this track which blossoms into a lasting truce between the technicalities of prog and the hook driven quest for memorable lyricism. In short, the song is strong enough to stand on its own shorn of the elaboration provided by the keyboard wizardry, but is all the stronger for the latter. Wonderful electric piano solo in the middle and you wish that the exploitation of the powerful main theme at the end could go on forever...

'Thunder and Lightning' - Clever and simple use of 'weather' effects and delay on the intro. Memorable and classic song which contains a similar and successful synergy as employed by Spheres The band would never achieve quite as perfect and happy a blend as this again.

'Keeper of the Flame' - Decent enough song but suffers from a relative ordinariness by what precedes it. The quiet section in the middle is tastefully done and almost redeems this number with some delicate then slowly building up crescendo work from Henrit and Rod. Close, but no cigar.

'Man for All Reasons' - Henrit's martial beat echoes Hold Your Head Up a bit too closely for comfort and the melody is not particularly memorable. Despite a good synth solo and some nice piano flourishes from Mr A, the piece never really goes anywhere and the band seem unsure where or how to end the tune satisfactorily.

'Gonna Meet My Maker' - Very much on the heavier rock side of prog with some bluesy guitar and harmonica on the intro. The time honored device of merely singing the exact same notes as the verse guitar riff can be effective, but here I think it substitutes for a lack of melodic ideas sourced from some dull harmonic ones. Good guitar playing from Ballard but not a very satisfying conclusion to the album.

Given that Russ Ballard subsequently went on to compose some extremely successful (but frankly repellent) hard rock songs for a variety of artists, we cannot really be too surprised at the eventual estrangement between the main parties here.

Rod Argent does not escape entirely unscathed either, as his own solo work could charitably be described as very uneven.

For those wishing to hear Argent at their most consistent, the best place to start would be the double live album Encore which certainly contains versions of much of their most enduring work.

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |

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