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Arzachel - Arzachel CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.65 | 212 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Heavy Psychedelic Blues Collector's Item

Egg + Steve Hillage = Uriel which had to record their single album under the name Arzachel. Even the band member's names were faked and the album remained an obscure secret for some time. It sounds like the makings of a rare progressive gem.

Alas, no. This is a record of some incredibly talented teenagers playing echo-ey psychedelic blues jams in the realm of Led Zeppelin I, early Pink Floyd, and most notably early Deep Purple. It is proto-prog in the true sense of the word. Though the music was somewhat exploratory for the time, it sounds very typical of the period now. What's more, these musicians developed massively over the next years' projects. While I do not have the first Egg album, the spirit of the second Egg album and this one could not be further away. Arzachel is bluesy improvisation in straight time. Egg relies on both complex time and harmony to create classically inspired, extremely challenging compositions.

I enjoy both styles of music, and the style of Arzachel has been near and dear to my heart since I first submerged myself in Led Zeppelin's music at age 14, over 20 years ago. The fact that Steve Hillage holds his own on guitar even compared to the colossal Yardbirds trio tells you something. Dave Stewart plays the blues organ like a seasoned master, though he was only 18 himself. But his massive range of tonality and complex signature style is really nowhere to be seen on the record. The rhythm section holds up, but playing this record alongside an early Deep Purple record reveals a more limited skill set, used well. The vocals are also simply adequate to fair.

The recording quality is very rough, to say the least. Though the musicians are basically playing live in the studio, and the energy is captured well on the record, the production quality itself is quite poor. The organ sounds sometimes bite painfully hard and the sheer volume on "Leg" overwhelms the tape beyond saturation. The EQing is harsh and the idea of listening to such an aggressive mix under the influence (which I hear suggested in many reviews) sounds about as unpleasant as a musical experience could be. Finally, the overdone echo / reverbs relegate the album toward 60's cliché.

There is really nothing about this album that makes me think prog. Everything here is well within the psychedelic toolkit, though both Stewart and Hillage explore those tools with youthful excitement and remarkable skill. If anyone tells you that in 1969 no one could match Led Zeppelin's heaviness playing the psychedelic blues, well Arzachel gives them a run for their money to say the least. It's just that these same players went on to play some of the most exploratory music of all time. This album shows the foundation upon which it was all built. But it really is for Canterbury fans exploring the dark alleys of the genre, and should be obtained only after one has already soaked in Stewart and Hillage's developed work. (Khan being the best single album, but Gong, Hatfield, National Health, and Hillage's solo work all being better). Outside of prog, this is a solid 3/5 start album. But its lack of progressive elements and poor sound quality lower it to 2/5 for me.

Negoba | 2/5 |


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