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Epidaurus - Earthly Paradise CD (album) cover

EARTHLY PARADISE

Epidaurus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.51 | 108 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Epidaurus released in 1977 a symphonic prog album that is usually highly celebrated by prog collectors worldwide. Epidaurus had two keyboardists - Gunther Henne and Gerd Linke - as leaders: they wrote almost the entire material and their immense arsenal (pianos, organ, clavinet, lots and lots of synths and mellotron) is highly featured in the mix, since both were in charge of the soloing, the orchestrations and the basic harmonic stuff. Major influences seem to be Eloy, Camel and Novalis, with a bit of the most tender side of classic Genesis. The band actually had to go through a weird, long recording process for their debut album "Earthly Paradise", which actually was their sole prog offering during their 70s period. Side 1 (tracks 1-2) was recorded under a quintet format, with mezzo-soprano Christiana Wand assuming the lead singer's role; side 2 (tracks 3-5) finds the band having undergone a crucial line-up change, as an exclusively instrumental quartet and with a different drummer in the fold. The first two tracks are the most overtly symphonic, based on clever arrangements of nice melodies and a slightly pompous use of keyboard layers and ornaments in order to spice things up. Wand's vocal timber can be found celestial by some and annoying by others: I personally stand somewhere in between, since I feel that sometimes she strains her vocal range, which stops her from delivering a cleaner performance, but I also find her tone somewhat majestic, and that helps the music to keep its intended orchestral appeal. The addition of 12-string acoustic guitar (by Henne) and flute (by guest Peter Meier) gives 'Silas Marner' an enhanced sonic spectrum, particularly during the bucolic parts: this is the most accomplished of the first two tracks. But the best from Epidaurus is yet to come, since the all-instrumental second half contains a more solid material, as well as a more cohesive global performance. Newcomer Manfred Struck on drums provides a bigger dose of strength and versatility to the rhythm section: his jazz-tinged style helps the band to enhance its intended air of sophistication and ride out the material's complexity more fluidly. You can tell that bass player Heinz Kunert feels more confident, and also that the keyboard parts sound stronger, at times even more aggressive. 'Wings of the Dove' and 'Andas' are outstanding examples of Epidaurus' prog vibe exquisitely executed with an added touch of excitement. The former is structured according the usual "mood and tempo shift" prog ideology, while the latter is more clearly rooted in a sort of jazz jam, with the synths providing a cosmic ambience - 'Andas' sounds to me like an encounter of earth (the solid conjunction laid by the rhythm section and the electric piano-and-organ) and air (the ethereal string synth and mellotron layers, the touches of Moog, the amazing flute solo by guest Meier, again). Tracks 3 & 4 are, IMHO, the most amazing numbers of this album. Finally, 'Mitternachtstraum' closes it down: this is another jam, this time consisting of a synth-centered krautrock main motif that goes on recurrently with slight variations occurring along the way. It reminds me of what TD were doing in parallel for their 'Stratosfear' and 'Encore' albums. The very bright moments that "Earthly Paradise" contains cannot hide the fact that this album is somewhat inconsistent, so I am inclined to think that labeling it as a master opus or even excellent would be an overstatement: I would label it as good, but also essential to a certain degree. 3-3 stars for this Epidaurus album, which sure deserves a place in any good symph prog collection.
Cesar Inca | 3/5 |

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