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Perry Leopold - Christian Lucifer CD (album) cover


Perry Leopold


Prog Folk

4.68 | 31 ratings

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5 stars In the realm of prog rock, we are quite desensitized to the reality that, even in the genre's heyday, many LPs were issued with the stingiest quotas, which at least kept them out of cutout bins. We can argue that, for some of these, their only virtue was scarcity. But what of releases that never escaped in any form in whole or in part? Philadelphia-born PERRY LEOPOLD boasted one of each. His first, "Experiment in Metaphysics", had only 300 pressings, which he then proceeded to give away without even testing the open market. Even more wildly, his sophomore effort, "Christian Lucifer", was cursed into purgatory for a quarter century by a defunct studio that couldn't even fulfill its final directive, that being utter destruction of all master tapes. Somehow at least one survived, becoming the essence of the first ever issue of the recording in 1999. While I can't particularly fault those company execs for balking at the time, I do question their intellectual curiosity, for from the first listen "Christian Lucifer" wove itself into my folk DNA, while craftily mutating with each subsequent iteration. The only cure is salvation, which isn't going to happen, so I'll settle for the next best thing, rapt indulgence for the next 25 years, should I be so lucky.

Somehow "Christian Lucifer" manages to be uniform but not monotonous, consistent but not predictable, highly melodic but not cloying, lyrical but not precious, earnest but not preachy, devotional but not rigid, and free thinking but not blasphemous. All of these balances are achieved on more levels than most album-a-year artists could muster in a long career. They are essential to the duality of this work. Start with Leopold's words themselves, both poetic and street smart, resplendent with allegory, and his voice is earthy with just a slight trace of Americana, given to neither excess emotion nor indifference. His omnipresent and expressive acoustic guitar is serenaded by a variety of classical instruments like oboe, flute, horn and cello, with delicate accents on synthesizer, so painstakingly interspersed that they sound as rooted as everything else.

It is rather telling that, though smatterings of influences can be discerned over the course of the 7 tracks, the only one that is really worth echoing back is in the first words of the weakest track, the ultra low PH "Serpentine Lane", taking the form of "Ground Control to Major Tom". The best are the first two epics, the wafting and hypnotic "Sunday Afternoon in the Garden of Delights", and the slightly more emphatic "the Windwill", with its sprinklings of clavinet. But my personal favorite is the relatively lively "The Annunciation", which, is styled like a mellower JETHRO TULL circa "Benefit". But this is such a unified work that picking favorites is little different from playing favorites.

Like a grand friend, "Christian Lucifer" now seems like it's always been right there at my side, or maybe in front of me, my prog folk pied piper, leading me who knows where. But it's about the journey, isn't it?

kenethlevine | 5/5 |


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