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Mahoujin - Babylonia Suite CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.21 | 17 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Before "Gerard", "Ars Nova", DeJa-Vu" and "Social Tension" there was "Mahoujin"(sometimes spelled as "Mahojin") - the first Japanese keyboards-driven symphonic power trio. However "Mahoujin"(oh man, I even don't know how to pronounce this name...) isn't as great as aforementioned formations, it still deserves bigger recognition than it usually receives in prog-rock community. This very obscure band was able to record only one album called "Babylonia Suite" in 1978, and soon after vanished from everybody's radars. Music presented on this disk is usually described as derivative to "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" style of prog, but I can't agree with such description. Of course "ELP"-influences are obvious here, but I can see many more similarities with German trio Triumvirat, especially they mid/late seventies period. One question arises: is it an obscure little gem unjustly forgotten by prog fans? Let's check four instrumental compositions included on the album to find out:

1. "Babylonia Suite" - disk begins with 21 minutes long, multi-part symphonic suite filled with hundreds of different keyboards sounds. Unfortunately this description promises much more than the epic really delivers. There are many problems with "Babylonia Suite" so I'll take note of the major ones. At first, construction of this suite is very patchy. Seems that few short instrumentals were just sticked together in the copy-paste fashion to create "an epic" track. At second, I'm not a big fan of polyphonic synthesizers used on this record, they seem to sound very artificial for me. Of course keyboardist plays also swirling Hammond organ, real Moog, acoustic piano and even one fragment is filled with glorious mellotron layers, but more modern gear often remains dominant. At third, many melodies for this suite were directly stolen from Trumvriat's epic called "The History of Mystery" ("Old Loves Die Hard" album). In general I also have to say that Mahoujin's Shiga Atsushi isn't as skilled as Emerson, Wakeman or Fritz, but he's surely not disastrous. I just have a feeling that he doesn't play as speedy-flashy as prog-rock keyboard wizard should. But don't get me wrong, overall "Babylonia Suite" isn't a total trash. In fact there are enough interesting moments which won't let you fall asleep. Especially bassist's work is tremendous, much louder and precise than for example Greg Lake's style. Okada Yasushi playin' reminds me Atsushi Hasegawa who used to show some great bass guitar skills on Gerard's and Motoi Sakuraba's albums. Sugano Shiro's drum work is also suitable, always dynamic & busy.

2. "Cariot" - I like this one more than the first track. Quite fast organ melodies, floating synthesizers and pulsating bass work seems to be more entertaining than overlong suite with uneven construction. I also like those occasional mellotron-created flute sections. Overall nice composition.

3. "Tower of Babel" - repetitive track with boring poly-synths layers. Sounds almost like Tangerine Dream or J.M. Jarre, but thankfully groovy bass lines and up-beat drums work redeem it a little. Nothing special.

4. "Festival" - the first part of this composition sounds like Eloy-ish space rock. We have some string-machine & mellotron work there, everything quite atmospheric and not bad at all. After that keyboardist switches to his trusty Hammond organ and "Festival" becomes even more beautiful. If not poor production, it could sound really impressive. But anyway it's still my favorite track of the album. It's good when closing number leaves with a good feeling.

To sum up: Mahoujin's only album is a symphonic prog album flawed by many serious issues, however most of Triumvirat/ELP/Trace/UK fans probably will enjoy discovering this music. But it's a pity that sound quality of this LP isn't as good as Mahoujin's European contemporaries (I think guy responsible for the mixing table should be fired for such work!). I recommend this album especially to people who like Japanese keyboard-prog bands: "Gerard", "Social Tension", DeJa-Vu" and "Ars Nova", they will find their roots on "Babylonia Suite" long-play. However Shiga Atsushi style isn't as bombastic/flashy as Toshio Egawa's or Kieko Kumagai's.

Best track: "Festival"

3,5 stars from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 3/5 |


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