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Quasar - The Loreli CD (album) cover





3.23 | 38 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars "She should have gone to her grave a thousand years ago, but the haunts the waves and lost and lonely souls"

Some seven years after their rather underwhelming debut, Quasar returned with the present album which is their latest to date (but a new album is apparently in the making as I write these words!). Quasar was plagued by line-up changes throughout their career and the only member that remains from the previous album is band leader Keith Turner. The addition of Tracy Hitchings on lead vocals was something of a stroke of genius as her presence injects the music with an energy and passion that puts it head and shoulders over the band's early effort. Hitchings would later go on to work with Clive Nolan and Karl Groom and then with Landmarq, but the present album was (as far as I know) her first venture into Prog territory. The vocal performance of Tracy here is simply astonishing; she gives us all she's got. But not only the vocals stand out here, the band is up for it and the compositions are very strong.

Loreli consists of five tracks two of which are over ten minutes in length. The gorgeous opening title track is based on the folkloric tale or Loreli. There are many versions of the story and Quasar give us theirs. Here the name 'Loreli' seems to refer to a ghost ship of some kind (as depicted on the lovely sleeve painting) rather than to a character who enchants sailors who passes by. The song begins with subtle sea-noises and Tracy almost whispers the opening words over discrete keyboards and guitar. Her vocal performance is so passionate as it sounds as if she had just seen the Loreli herself and is running home in awe, eager to tell us all about it! She is a technically skilled vocalist for sure, but it is not this that primarily appeals to me but rather her ability to sing as if the really believed every single word she is singing.

The title track together with the anti-war song Power In Your Hands that closes the album are probably the least progressive songs here. Seeing Stars (Part 2) (part 1 was on the debut, but I don't see much musical connection between the two) allows for more instrumental work. The line-up is the traditional one with drums, bass, electric guitars, keyboards and vocals. The sound is rather keyboard-heavy throughout and the keyboard sounds are lush and modern, but the bass and drums are restless and never timid. The drum sound is a bit thin like it often is in music from the 80's, but they are well played and I don't mind this at all on this occasion; indeed, it fits the music fine! The production of the album is not perfect, but for me the great melodies and the strong passion for music are more important than sonic perfection. There are perhaps some flaws in the recording and production stages, but the compositions and performances are impeccable. Make sure you listen to this one on a decent sound system, it does not sound good out of my laptop speakers (not much does, but this sounds worse!). But out of my best speakers and also my best headphones, it sounds very good!

There is an energy and power in this music like that in the best of Metal music, but the sound is not Metal at all. I would not call this typical Neo-Prog as it does not sound like any of the biggest names in the subgenre. As You Fall Asleep features again a very strong vocal by Tracy, she sings as if she was positively possessed! This ten minute track is one of the highlights for me. I'm reminded of one of my favourite bands here in Legend, but Quasar is much less dark and much less hard-edged than that band. This is followed by Logic? which is the album's second ten minute song.

This album is admittedly an acquired taste with its bombastic 80's sound and I can understand those who don't like it. It is a bit like Pomp-Rock where the catchy choruses have been replaced with great instrumental sections and the typical lyrics about love are replaced by folklore, fantasy, dreams, war and logic!? This is, I guess, "catchy", or accessible, in its own way, but the focus is on verses and instrumental movements and not on choruses. This is hardly ground-breaking nor breathtakingly original music and neither is it overly complex or technically extravagant, but I find much charm in this music and the arrangements are appropriately elaborate and not conventional. It gripped me on the first listen, but it remains consistently enjoyable after many repeated listens.

Tracy Hitchings certainly has her very own vocal identity and an expressive and distinctive voice and she propels the band forward here. Quasar was thus a predecessor to more recent female-fronted Neo-Prog bands. Some of the members would go on to form Landmarq, and the rest is history.

Four stars might seem like a generous rating, but I like this so much that I could have given five if this had been better recorded and produced! Please don't think that I give this a high rating to compensate for others' lower ratings, I never do that. This album deserves my praise it on its own merits.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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