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Wallenstein - Cosmic Century CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.59 | 73 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Don't be put off by all the embarrassing "Symphonic Rock Orchestra" sales talk: WALLENSTEIN was one Classical Rock outfit that was at least able to back up its bourgeois pretensions with some good music. Even so, their third album (in less than two years) needs to be heard in the proper musical context of the early 1970s, a time when, for better or worse, every forward thinking rock 'n' roller aspired to the finer elements of high culture.

Keyboardist / composer Jürgen Dollase had flirted with quasi-orchestral arrangements before, but "Cosmic Century" saw the first real flowering of his classical training, cued in part by an adjustment to the instrumental line-up of the band. Guitarist Bill Barone, such a commanding presence on their earlier "Blitzkrieg" (a title which pretty much summed up the album), was pushed more into the background mix here, forced to share the soundstage with new violinist Joachim Reiser, a move that effectively softened some of the rougher edges of the music. But don't worry, there's still plenty of residual rock energy: listen to the brief blues boogie at the end of "The Marvelous Child", or the almost comical pitch-bending guitar clichés in "The Cosmic Couriers Meet South Philly Willy" (a title that single-handedly deflates any accusations of pomposity the band ever suffered).

Sure, the album might be more song oriented than its predecessors, but in the best Prog Rock tradition the songs still sound more like instrumentals, with occasional vocal detours. And, as suggested by the title, there's a certain Space Rock bias to the music, most of it achieved through an over-reliance on echo and reverb effects, and the phased hi-hat of drummer Harald Großkopf, which is about as cutting edge as this disarmingly low-tech production ever gets.

A few tasteful synthesizers have been added to Jürgen Dollase's keyboard arsenal, but are used only sparingly, compared at least to (among many, many others) his compatriot Jürgen Fritz of TRIUMVIRAT. The grand piano remained his instrument of choice, dramatically so on several tracks (the stately "Song of Wire", or the aptly titled "Grand Piano"). And his insecure tenor voice is still very much in evidence. Dollase was never the most confident singer, but his first appearance here, midway into the album opener "Rory Blanchford", is a model of atmospheric subtlety, enhanced as always by his own deft touch at the mellotron. So why is it, whenever he opens his mouth, that I'm reminded of Chet Baker?

In the end the music succeeds in locating that elusive tertium quid between rock and the classics, but I admit to calling it my own favorite WALLENSTEIN album for reasons which have nothing to do with aesthetics or taste. Before I bought the CD it survived in my collection only as a barely audible cassette tape, which over the years became almost an icon of all the lost musical treasures from my wayward youth. It was like a mystical relic from a bygone Golden Age, but unlike Sir Percival I got to keep my Holy Grail when I found it again in digital form.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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