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Combination Head - Combination Head CD (album) cover


Combination Head



4.14 | 53 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Self-titled release from 2006 is the first and definitely the best album of British prog-rock band "Combination Head". Definitely it isn't such a diverse disk like next two offerings of these guys, this one is completely devoted to organ-driven melodic symphonic prog rock in the vain of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and you won't find any electronic/pop songs like in "Progress?" and "Museum" here. And you won't find any vocals neither, 'cos it's the only instrumental album in CH's career (so far...). I simply love this staff because it truly reminds me about 70s golden era of prog music. This is how retro-prog should sound for me!

1. "Clover Road A,B,C" - album begins surprisingly soft with classical sounding acoustic piano passages a la Rick Wakeman. Later come synthesizer and backing organ layers. So far nothing spectacular and while you're listening to it, you can start to think that it has nothing to do with ELPish prog I just mentioned in the beginning. Sounds more like neo-prog or even some kind of soundtrack music. But don't be mislead, it's just a beginning of this longest track. Later on tempo picks up significantly and we can enjoy tons of great synthesizer leads backed by mighty guitar licks, something very much in the vain of Jobson's UK. But the real treat are the last 4 minutes where Paul Birchall plays some fantastic, percussive-effects implemented Hammond organ solos which sound like taken directly from some undiscovered ELP's "Tarkus" session. Truly memorable part.

2. "Devonshire Crescent" - short (less than 3 minutes) but great piece of music which picks up where "Clover Road A,B,C" finished. Lots of organ solos backed by very catchy guitar melodies. ELP meets Don Airey (check out Don Airey's second album if you don't believe me!).

3. "Combination Head" - this one is undoubtedly another winner here. Very up-tempo, energetic track loaded with unstoppable Hammond organ, additional synthesizer sounds & surprisingly hard edged electric guitar solo which makes it sound almost like prog-metal in the style of Ayreon. I can also think about Japanese keyboard-led super bands Gerard & Ars Nova here, seems that Paul Birchall was also inspired by these groups too.

4. "Blue Waters" - short interlude piece entirely played on acoustic piano. Just to let you take a breath between one keyboards extravaganza and another.

5. "The Bonk" - slightly jazzy track led by groovy organ riffs (with this great percussive sound masterminded by Keith Emerson in early 70s). Rather slow-paced but really interesting. All of those quirky melodies here sound a bit Egg-like for me. This specific Canterbury Scene atmosphere is definitely here.

6. "Clover Road D,E,F" - simply extraordinary Hammond organ & Moog synthesizer heaven. Highly dynamic non-stop bashing of analog keyboards is exactly what I'm looking for in my retro-prog. Organ sounds almost exactly like Jurgen Fritz's gear on Triumvirat's mini-epic called "Panic on 5th Avenue", and it's a great compliment 'cos I simply love it!

7. "Fourteen" - undoubtedly the weakest track on the album, very electronic sounding (almost like J.M. Jarre or Klaus Schultze) but thankfully we have a real drummer, not a machine here. All of these synth-made atmospheric noodling can be tiresome.

8. "For What?" - albums ends with a bit more mainstream sounding piece, but it's still enjoyable. Guitar riffs, organ layers, frenetic drums & additional synths, all in all not bad at all, but sounds too much like some TV advertisement soundtrack. I like this Moog solo near the end, very wakemanish.

In one word: must-have. Combination Head's debut is the album I highly recommend to all symphonic (retro) prog fans and especially to Hammond-oriented music maniacs. I can easily compare them Emerson, Lake & Palmer from they prime days (1970-1974) but I'd like to also mention Japanese keyboard-player Motoi Sakuraba who seems to have very similar style to Paul Birchall. Other bands/artists you'll surely enjoy if you like this release: Triumvirat, UK, Don Airey, Trace, Ars Nova, Gerard, Social Tension, Nexus, The Nice, Little Tragedies, Collegium Musicum, Pär Lindh Project, The Load, Duncan Mackay, Lalo Huber, Subliminal, Le Orme, Quill, Nuova Era and Taproban.

Overall Combination Head seems to be one of only two (relatively) new British bands I enjoy (the other one is The Tangent)! Let it be a good recommendation for you.

Best tracks: "Clover Road D,E,F" & "Combination Head".

5 stars (with only small minus) from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 5/5 |


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