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Harlequin Mass - Harlequin Mass CD (album) cover


Harlequin Mass


Symphonic Prog

3.28 | 26 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I live in Oregon and I can tell you right away this state was not exactly brimming with local prog acts (if it was, I'd be always frequenting the night clubs and venues, which I'm not because of the lack of local prog). There were a few pop/rock acts that did make it big, the Kingsmen being a big example, you can't escape "Louie Louie". Eugene, for some strange reason, was center of that brief swing revival that hit the nation in the late 1990s, with Cherry Poppin' Daddies giving us "Zoot Suit Riot". But a full-on prog rock band? Well Portland did have Touch who released a self-entitled album in 1969 on the Coliseum label (on Deram in the UK) and are often cited as one of those crucial albums in the development of prog prior to In the Court of the Crimson King. Harlequin Mass was a symphonic prog band, unfortunately they didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell. The fact they came from Portland, and released their only album in 1978 when prog rock was in bad shape (and many of the major acts like Yes and ELP released substandard albums, compared to their past triumphs). Here in Oregon, I was only a small kid in 1978, but arena rock was huge. Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston (and yes, even Kansas) were getting constant FM radio airplay (KZEL in Eugene was a big example, and same for Portland's KGON). Many of them had performed live in Portland.

Halequin Mass was not exactly the most complex of prog out there. Keyboardist Lyle Holdahl played Moog and string synths, and a lot of the music tended to be acoustic, with female vocals from Nancy Deaver (later Nancy Kaye), drawing comparisons to Renaissance (and on parts of "Sky Caller", of Yes). The back cover of the album has an artist illustration of the band and for some reason Nancy Deaver looks too much like some hated school teacher I had to deal with as a kid rather than a singer in a completely obscure local prog rock band. Nothing on this album is rather complex. "A New Song" sounded like the band was desperate for a hit (even the lyrics went "I know I think it's a hit"). It's wasn't a hit, not even in Portland. "Love & Death" is probably the best song on the album, I really like the use of electric guitar. You can tell they're not exactly the most skilled of musicians. At least they don't try to play beyond their abilities, that's why they keep it simple, with folk overtones. It's not a bad album, but again, there are many bands, obscure and otherwise that can dance circles around Harlequin Mass. Apparently this band thought they'd stand a better chance in Seattle by moving there (I've been to Seattle, it's not exactly much more prog friendly, but then I was there in the mid 1990s just after the grunge craze had passed), but instead recorded some new wave-influenced stuff under a new name, and broke up. Apparently John Reagan (no connection whatsoever to Ronald Reagan, as far as I know) ended up running an internet mail-order prog rock catalog called Big Balloon Music (sadly now defunct), so at least he hadn't forgotten prog, just selling stuff he that he so much enjoyed.

I have to say, Harlequin Mass shouldn't be high on your list, but do get it if you want to add more obscure releases in your collection.

Progfan97402 | 3/5 |


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