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Catapilla - Catapilla CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.46 | 122 ratings

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3 stars Good 1970s Hard Rock

I just had to get hold of an Arkama 180g repress of this to find out why people feel compelled to spend up to $500 on an original. Must be amazing, right?

Well no, not really.

Once you've got over the come-down of finding out that there's nothing supernaturally brilliant about this album and start concentrating on the music, it's just slightly better than average garage/jam rock music, with no outstanding musicianship - but nothing painful. That includes the vocals of Anna Meek, which seem to constantly come up for scrutiny - they're really not bad at all - quite inspired in places, a bit like Skin (Deborah Anne Dyer) from Skunk Anansie, with plenty of slighty over the edge passion and energy, but overly loose in the more quiet sections to the point of slightly embarrassing.

Time to get stuck into the music :o)

"Naked Death", apart from having a great title, has a great intro - not crashing in as you might expect, but sensitive percussion followed by a haunting sax refrain. Then the music crashes in.

A bunch of slightly cheesey but palatable early seventies style riffs are nicely interspersed with hushed quiter moments. The musicianship of the guitarist (or lack of) really shows itself here, and the band do not develop a confident groove - which is a shame, as the music itself lends itself to being well and truly grooved up. I listen to this and hear the potential, rather than the music, which I find slightly uncomfortable and distracting.

On the plus side, the sax solo is rather nice, and the instrumental backing with wah- wah guitars, thudding bass and light drums something you might have heard as the backing track to the trendy seventies film of your choice - just a groove built around a couple of chords, no progression or development - just nice, if slightly over-loose and over-long.

A guitar solo picks this up, but it's all basic blues scale stuff, and the bass player seems to feel the need to solo at the same time - and you can tell he's the type of bass player that plays with his knees bent, looking studiously at his fingers with perhaps a few beads of sweat appearing on his brow. The guitarist probably has a cigarette in his mouth, his eyes tightly shut with an expression one minute of bliss, the next of agony, as his fingers roll inexpertly around the blues scales.

Other wind players have a go at soloing too, but no-one has any real ideas of how to progress or develop this number, and it's just a 15 and a half minute multiple jam, no- one really getting what anyone else is doing, but everyone trying very hard to find their little niche.

The verse and chorus are somewhat audaciously reprised once the soloing finally finishes, and the ending is a great surprise.

About 11 minutes of this song should have been left in the rehearsal studio. Great songs can come out of jams, and really, really accomplished musicians can build entire pieces out of them. Catapilla as a band wrote a good song here, but

"Tumbleweed" is more like it - this sounds like what Catapilla were really about, but this is where Anna Meek's voice really doesn't work - she sounds like Joni Mitchell with added vibrato. The overall sound is a kind of typical early 1970s party song - reminding me a little of Shocking Blue, with touches of Grand Funk Railroad, overlaid with wind arrangements that remind me of the great swing bands of the 1940s. Nice sound, slightly below average execution, enjoyable song with a couple of nice changes, but nothing you wouldn't hear done better elsehwere.

"Promises" puts the seal on it - the wah-wah guitar, wind puctuation, slightly ham-fisted bass lines just epitomises the sound of this band for me, and there's a stronger energy to this song than we've had so far. The sudden change to a sweeping section is a great surprise, spoiled only slightly by the execution. I'd like to have heard Anna Meek do the whole Skin thing during this song, because when she gets it right, it's scary - especially given the context of when this was made.

There's a nice middle "8" (more like 32, but I'm not going to count them...) with stalky wind over ominous guitar and bass. This feels more progressive than anything we've heard so far, and stops the album from falling into the "for collectors/fans only" bin completely.

"Embryonic Fusion" is a better title than piece; The title completely and accurately sums up the piece better than I could. Think everything I've said about the album so far, then extend it to 24 minutes - but put in a few marker points which stop the piece from being a total jam session.

The other reviewers sum this up well too - the wind arrangements work very well indeed, but Anna Meek does not use her voice very well on the whole, and tends to have intonation issues (which are highlighted, not solved by the double tracking, excessive chorus and dry reverb) wherever she is not singing "can belto". However you can hear what she is trying to achieve, and there can be no doubting her creative imagination, just her powers of putting all of her vision into reality.

Catapilla's first album is full of potential - which is kind of OK for a debut, but not enough to sell it to anyone looking for professional, artistic or even strongly passionate music. If you simply must have everything released on the Vertigo "swirl" label, then this is for you, otherwise, buy only if you actually enjoy listening to garage bands jamming without progressing.

Prog Rating (Is it progressive): 2/10 Rock Rating (Does it rock?): 7/10 Creativity Rating (Are the artists pushing their style to the limits?): 7/10 Musicianship Rating (Do the artists execute the music well?): 4/10 Enjoyment Rating (Do I like it?): 6/10

Total : 26/50 = 52%, or 3 and a bit stars. Good, but definitely non-essential.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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