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Paladin - Paladin CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

2.79 | 31 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars In the late 60s and early 70s when most bands were looking to the English musical world for inspiration, there were the occasional few examples of the opposite being true. Although emerging from the village of Arlingham in the Gloucestershire region of SW England, PALADIN were getting much of their inspiration from the other side of the Atlantic all the while garnering attention through a series of tours up and down the English countryside and finally winning over Island Records with live performances alone. The band released their eponymous debut in 1971 with critical acclaim for their eclectic incorporations of many of the sounds that had caught the Americas by storm around the same period including Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazzy rock fusion, psychedelia, ethnic embellishments and most of all solid strong catchy hooks that had all the addicting popular music attributes even upon first listen. The band consisted of only five members but many doubled up on their instrumental duties which gives this debut release quite the variation in sounds that lead you to believe that you are listening to a compilation album instead of one that is performed by the same band for its seven tracks.

Right from the beginning track 'Bad Times' it's obvious that PALADIN was very much influenced by Santana with some tight percussion that sounds like it could've been lifted off of 'Black Magic Woman,' however that's only true with the percussive drive as the slightly jazzy rock groove reminds me more of Steely Dan and other crossover jazz rock artists of the decade. Wasting no time deviating from a single style the second track makes you think that somehow a Lynyrd Skynyrd track was somehow mistakenly inserted between tracks, however despite sounding like Alabama's greatest contribution to Southern Rock, this retro sound actually came out two years before Skynyrd's debut album. Following the trend of no two tracks sounding even remotely alike, 'Dance Of The Cobra' emerges as a strange hybrid of 60s psychedelia with the Afro-Cuban Santana influenced percussion section that is augmented by bantering organ runs and a jazz-rock laden groove that could've rocked the Copacabana only with a touch of 60s stonerism oozing out of the mystic musical cracks. Most surprisingly is how it morphs into a heavier rock section and then commences with an over-the-top drum solo that builds to a staggering feat of stamina that sounds like something that would be perfect in a live performance setting but feels sort of strange on a studio album track. Once it ends it is replaced by a super groovy bass line that cedes to some outstanding guitar work that usher the longest track of the album to completion.

'Third World' is yet another complete left turn. While the Cuban percussion section is still in effect, it is the only musical section to be heard as the vocalist actually sort of raps around it going through each year of the 70s with clever little lyrical tales of how the future will unfold as the backing vocalists engage in an energetic call-and-response session. The lyrical style kind of reminds me of Debbie Harry on 'Rapture.' It concludes as the vocals stop and a piano run steals the show and fades out. 'Fill Up Your Heart' is an uplifting little positive number that sounds like a jazz laced rocker that probably sounds most like Steely Dan. 'Flying High' changes things up completely again. This one sounds like a late 70s AOR ballad! It reminds me of some of the sappiest of the sappy like something 10CC did at their poppiest or even something Hall & Oates would have cranked out during their pop charts run. And just when i have absolutely no idea where this album will go next, it takes yet another totally opposite approach and ends with the Lalo Schifrin cover track 'The Fakir' which of all things some sort of Middle Eastern groovy trance inducing number with seducing Arabesque musical scales that make me feel like i've woken up on the Silk Road!

This really has to be one of THE most unfocused albums of the early 70s. I've never heard so many genres and styles of music mixed and alternated together at least until Mr Bungle came along in the 90s! While i find this album very pleasing to listen to, it is a mixed bag for several reasons. All of the tracks are really well done for their retrospective styles but for some reason all this eclecticism feels a little hollow since the band is merely copying different styles and not really simmering them down into something tangibly their very own. The album comes across as a smorgasbord sampling of what the era had to offer with a few original twists and turns that do take me by surprise. After all is said and done, i actually like listening to this despite it not being the most original sound ammalgation of the era. The musicians are all quite talented and the compositions are quite catchy and are excellent representations of the styles they incorporate however as much as i enjoy listening to PALADIN's debut there is no denying that it simply regurgitates the swath of sonic samplings that were en vogue during the era and something just seems off and missing from the mix.

3.5 but rounded down because there's not really anything progressive on this one

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |


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