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Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial CD (album) cover


Pavlov's Dog


Crossover Prog

4.07 | 365 ratings

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Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Great idea to include this underrated USA band in Prog Archives and specially this album, which IMHO is even better than their so called magnum opus "At the Sound of the Bell".

The first doubt I have is in which sub genre of prog rock include Pavlov's Dog, sincerely I don't know exactly, but neither I agree when most of the people qualifies this band and album as neo prog', I believe "Pavlov's Dog" is so special and unique that defies any categorization, they are one of their kind. It's also important to remember that "Pampered Menial" was released in 1974, when Neo Prog' didn't even existed.

The second problem is how to describe David Surkamp's voice? I can only attempt to compare him with Geddy Lee's using extra helium and singing in the trembling style of the magnificent Edith Piaff. Of course his voice is not naturally gifted but the guy transmits different feelings and moods, something very important for a good vocalist. You may love or hate David, but once you heard him singing you'll never forget the experience.

David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn do an almost perfect work with keyboards and mellotron respectively but if you add Sigfried Carver's talent with violin and viola, you've got a special band. The drums and Guitar by Mick Safron and Steve Scorfina are not spectacular but very much over the average.

The album starts with "Julia" a simple ballad that the band manages to make complex and beautiful, with a great piano opening followed by David's unique vocals surrounded by acoustic guitar. Through all the song each member adds something extra including flute and correct drumming, an excellent way to start a very good album.

"Late November" is a faster track with a simple melody ideal for vocals and well complemented by the drums and guitar, also good song but not in the level of "Julia".

"Song Dance" is much more classic rock oriented, percussion and bass are used to start the song but suddenly a strong guitar completes the atmosphere, reminds me of some REM tracks specially from "Out of Time" but David's particular voice and carver's violin break the effect leading the tune towards a harder edge.

"Fast Gun" always confuses me, it's a strange song that pretends to have a Far West atmosphere but they never fully develop the concept, getting lost in the middle because of Surkamp's specially fast vocals and the violin plus a really weird instrumentation, never knew where they tried to take us but I like this chaos. Not a masterpiece but can be listened.

"Natchez Trance" can be described as another hard rock oriented song, which IMO is the weakest of the album, the vocals are totally out of place with the early Rock & Roll piano and drums. They missed the shot.

The next track is "Theme for Subway Sue", an interesting song with full instrumentation and very good piano, the backing vocals create a special effect very pleasant that collisions with the hard guitar, another high point.

Episode starts with heart breaking violin and vocals that match perfectly, anybody will describe it as a simple ballad, which would be accurate, but there's something special, a sad melancholic atmosphere of sad beauty, the piano reminds me a little of Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf composer) but much more elaborated.

"Preludin", for some people the best track of the album, an instrumental that starts with a violin semi solo similar to early Kansas, with some druggy mood (remember Preludin is a derivate of amphetamine), this short tracks works as an intro for the closer "Of Once and Future Kings" which begins with a beautiful guitar and vocal section that suddenly changes with an ultra fast piano and unusual low vocals that are cut by another sad violin section, at the end David Surkamp reaches very high ranges almost not audible for any two legged being, all with the company of an almost psychedelic guitar.

Pavlov's Dog is not for everybody, but neither is progressive rock. I encourage people to try this album, because it's one of the most powerful American bands that I ever listened, if you like it will be for ever.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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