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Gravy Train - Gravy Train CD (album) cover

GRAVY TRAIN

Gravy Train

 

Heavy Prog

3.41 | 64 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

steamhammeralltheway
4 stars MAKE THAT 4.5 STARS, I only recently found out about Gravy Train but have been quite impressed. This debut is a masterpiece. From the opening strains, it is a cavalcade of catchy riffs, blues and rich instrumentation. 'The New One' features ample flute and several sections: never a dull moment. The moodier 'Dedication to Sid' dishes up of course the trademark flute but also fuzz guitar, tribal drums and a pensive vocal. The only detracting factor is vocal overdubs in an annoying extreme falsetto. The flute and guitar interplay and get both psychedelic and soulful on this track. Then the song takes off on a spacy journey where the drum assumes a heartbeat style and guitar feedbacks, later building to crescendo with the expressive flute.

'Coast Road' is a bonafide blues track, but far more engaging than most blues numbers because it's anchored by flute and fuzz guitar -- not your typical blues instruments for sure, and ones to add much texture and depth to this tried and true musical form. Later on the song becomes more cookie cutter and rambly with the addition of harmonica and lack of any new motifs to move it beyond the blues formula. And the band insists on droning on over six minutes for no clear reason. A soaring and fluid sax does furnish some additional focus. The amateurish sounding vocal enters briefly late in the song and very well could have been omitted altogether for better effect.

'Enterprise' along with 'Think of Life' are the album's most memorable songs. Laughter and snippets of conversation near the beginning of "Enterprise" lay down a playful mood. This counterbalances the forceful and intense main theme on flute and drums. This very tight jam well contrasts to the introspective, thumping vocal theme. Though some will undoubtedly find the lyric forced, to me it's so hyperbolic as to be sublime, a case of the cheesier the better. Not easily dismissed is the perfect proggy flute accents. And I want to praise the vocals a little more: the delivery is superior to anything on the album. A later much darker vocal bridge illustrates singer Norman Barrett's versatility. A lengthy very intense flute solo interwoven with the darker vocal takes things to new heights.

'Think of Life' begins with similar vocal silliness to 'Enterprise.' This one is a pounder, very enjoyable if the lyric only wouldn't get insipid in spots. But 'Think of Life' levitates towards the stratosphere in the middle and never lets up until it's completely out of sight.

The final track, 'Earl of Pocket Nook' very skillfully walks a line between lightheartness and wistful melancholy. The vocal aids this unusual mood. Again the flute and fuzz guitar are the perfect implements to relay this adventure in sound. This track oozes '60s hippiedom. The vibe is just a touch retro. Soloing makes the most use of Hughes' bluesy saxes than any of the prior tracks. 'Earl of Pocket Nook' is the longest number on the album, and time is used wisely. Things start getting weird past the six minute mark with the sax on a never-ending but much variegated solo. Ethnic drums and flute punctuate an instrumental escapade, bringing to mind Nik Turner's sage words that music is the real drug. Who would need to be chemically enhanced under the influence of something as mind-expanding as this album!? The Gravy Train debut is truly a far out trip.

steamhammeralltheway | 4/5 |

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