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Arzachel - Arzachel - Uriel CD (album) cover

ARZACHEL - URIEL

Arzachel

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.06 | 16 ratings

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jonsilence
4 stars Since there are extensive reviews here on the regular release of the Arzachel album, I won't address previously visited territory except to say that the sound quality on this new reissue is excellent, especially given the period (late 60s) and original recording circumstances (low budget). Obviously there has been much care given to providing a sonically upgraded version of the original album. The real bonuses are the extra 6 tracks (really 5, excluding the brief spoken memento of a young Mont Campbell) and extensive booklet, all previously unavailable and presented here for the first time courtesy of the band members' private archives. The booklet is a great and fun read, and the guys themselves tell us everything we want to know. It's the next best thing to having been there.

If you like the Arzachel album on its own, you should love this with all the extra goodies. You get not only a superior version of that recording, but some really great bonus tracks never previously heard. If you're an Egg fan this is a great record for hearing the roots of the band on the bonus tracks. As with the companion CD The Metronomical Society by Egg (reviewed under EGG), this special release is accompanied by an extensive booklet that has a detailed band history & personal recollections written by the band members, along with numerous photos from the private collections of each member (sans Hillage, who appears to have not contributed). This a beautiful package all the way around, so I opted for the limited autographed edition available through the band's direct site (egg-archive.com). The bonus tracks were recorded in 1968, a year before the Arzachel sessions. Here we get more classic Arzachel we've never previously heard, with late 60s psychedelic/pre-prog excursions and eerie, doped-up freak outs, the best and most mind-bending example of this being heard in the wild Swooping Bill. We also get more of a glimpse of what Egg would fully hatch into. 'Egoman', a Campbell composition, is highlighted by lush & dreamy intro and outro segments featuring ethereal & ghostly organ from Stewart and beautiful French horn from Campbell; these bits sound like they could have ended up on the first Egg album, evoking comparisons with the otherworldly 'I Will Be Absorbed' from that record. The most direct link between the two bands is found in the bonus track Saturn, Bringer of Old Age. Based upon a movement from 'The Planets' by Holst, this track would become the Third Movement in 'Symphony #2 on Egg's debut album, although the section was removed before the record's release in 1970. (Only after a 35 year absence has it been re-inserted into the most recent CD reissue of the first EGG album) Here, Uriel attack the movement aggressively with Hillage; it is a dark, lurching & foreboding piece of music, the perfect soundtrack for a horror film. And it is a very progressive (yes, there's THE word) forward-thinking piece for a bunch of teenagers from the late 60s; Dave Stewart was 18, Hillage 17 when they recorded this.

For many, Egg and especially Uriel/Arzachel have always been somewhat mysterious entities who made their statements with little insight or explanation about what lay behind the dark curtain. There were hints here and there, and the cinematic & otherworldly moods found in some pieces seemed to suggest certain possibilities of influences. But there were never any direct revelations made as to what was informing the music and lyrics. After all these years, in the booklet Stewart breaks his silence on the matter and helps us to at least somewhat crack the code, offering that he and Mont Campbell as teenagers were interested in 'the supernatural and the unknown.' Stewart then tells us with detail and humour exactly how these interests showed up on the Arzachel album and in the band's real life experiences. It all makes for a great read to accompany the exotic sounds.

For Arzachel & psyche collectors and devout Egg fans alike, I say this is a two-thumbs up package. Best of all, it's nice to know that the band themselves have given us this gift and will now be able to benefit directly from our enjoyment of their creation. Thanks guys, it was well worth the wait.

jonsilence | 4/5 |

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