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Strangers On A Train - The Key, Part I  - The Prophecy CD (album) cover


Strangers On A Train



2.96 | 46 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars At the time, the title for this project couldn't be better chosen. Although this is the name of a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, these three musicians were little more than strangers at the time this was recorded. Tracy Hitchings was presented to a prog audience for the really first time with her band Quasar just the previous year. Karl Groom was the guitarist of an early incarnation of Threshold who hadn't released anything till the recordings began for "The Key". Maybe Clive Nolan was the only name who rang a bell at the time ; being the keyboard player of Pendragon. After the release of "the Key", everything changed and the musicians finally got the recognition they deserved in Threshold, Arena (Nolan) and Landmarq (Hitchings).

I bought the first version of this record after its release in 1990. This fact is worth mentioning because there really are two version around of this record. The album got rerecorded after the release of the second STOT album. When compared to the second album, this album, sounds pretty small. The only instruments that are used are piano & keyboards, little slices of guitar and bass here and there. The latest version did have a real piano instead of an electric one which was used for the original. This is not a detail. Everyone who listens to this record can tell that most of the piano parts carry the melodies throughout the whole album. The energy of the vivid piano parts sets the atmosphere on fire on many excerpts like the middle part of "Sacrifice". Not for the only time I seem to notice some similarities between the way Nolan handles the keyboards and the way Rick Wakeman does. This isn't a problem, in fact not many keyboard players are able to do that and It's still far from plagiarism. "Crossing the wasteland" is another example of some virtuoso keyboard playing. The appealing basic piano parts are on the fore. The solo of synthesizers really is the pearl on the crown of this magnificent piece of instrumental music. "Duel" is another mini track of the same kind. There is a tension that's building near the end. After hearing this track you would expect the next track to be a rockier song but it is not. You won't find any rock song on this album anyway. Only a few rock elements are present in the marvellous guitar lines from Groom. You will catch some elements from minimal music, classical music and mediaeval folk music.

Quite essential to this album are the vocals of Tracy Hitchings. Her voice is excellent for the melodic songs and she puts some mystery in the more experimental parts of the album.

Even though this really is a concept album with a head and a tail ; You can enjoy each track separately which I often do because there's so many different moods to choose from. One can divide the tracks in two categories : one category which consists of instrumental jewels that come across very mathematical. Other tracks show the skills of Nolan for simple and plain song writing of melodic music. "Perchance to dream" is a similar to Floyd's "great gig in the sky" and also is somewhat reminiscent to Renaissance's "prologue". "Losing a hold on life" is another sad, calm piano song. "Lightshow" is a beautiful song in the traditional sense of the word. "From the outside in" must be the emotional highlight, some could find this too pathetic. "Occams tears" is a strange kind of epic that combines the melody with emotionless repetitive atmospheres in the different passages of this track. Maybe this could be considered at the highlight of this album. The repetitive nature of this song reminds me a bit on Mike Oldfields "Incantations".

Usually progressive rock is all about broad sounding musical landscapes full of adventurous musical twist and turns. "The key" is the perfect example of the opposite. Progressive rock can be sober, accessible and yet still enjoyable at the same time. The melodies on this album are awesome and should be the reason for purchasing. On the other hand I can imagine that some will find this music too melodic. Others will be annoyed by the lack of variation in instruments. If you like keyboard based progressive rock, you should definitely check out this astonishing album. This album is special because it combines parts from an emotional nature with cold, technical sounding passages. "The Key" definitely deserves more attention from the prog audience.

Fishy | 4/5 |


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