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East Of Eden - Mercator Projected CD (album) cover


East Of Eden


Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 146 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Welcome to one of the lost gems of early prog! Released in the same year as In the Court of the Crimson King, Mercator Projected marks the debut of of one of the most exciting, authentically progressive acts of the original prog era, now unfairly forgotten by most. Drenched in exoticism, from the stunning cover (depicting a heavily tattooed woman's back) to the evocative title (a Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection that distorts the shape and size of large objects), in spite of its undeniable rawness the album is a thoroughly exhilarating listen, blending Eastern sounds with jazz, blues, heavy rock and psychedelia in a heady brew that might at first sound dated, but is still deeply intriguing for a discerning music fan.

One of East of Eden's strengths lies in their use of an impressive array of instruments that, at the time, were still not common currency in the rock world. Dave Arbus' electric violin dominates the proceedings, weaving ethereal melodies or bringing a strident note to the compositions, while saxes and flute add a very distinctive character to the band's sound. In the best tradition of the original progressive rock movement (and not unlike KC's seminal debut), the songs on this album are at the same time accessible and experimental, soothing and harsh. While the band don't deny their rock and blues roots, they also push the envelope with their richly textured soundscapes, evocative of many different moods.

Closing track In the Stable of the Sphinx, a jazzy, sprawling instrumental (also present in a longer version in the 2004 remaster), is possibly the album's masterpiece: mainly guitar-driven, unlike most of the other tracks, it features some brilliant sax and violin work. Flutes take centre stage in the dreamy, hippyish Isadora; while Waterways and Bathers conjure images of Eastern-style languor and sensuality, with lashings of sumptuous violin and keyboard melodies. On the other hand, the bluesy, harmonica-driven Centaur Woman sounds somewhat harsh, and is in my opinion the weakest offering on the album, even though the slightly distorted, dramatic vocals add some interest to the song.

As previous reviewers have already stated, Mercator Projected is not the accomplished work of a seasoned band. However, even in its raw state it shows the promise than East of Eden would fulfill in their sophomore effort, Snafu. It is a great pity that they did not achieve the fame they deserved for their highly individual, creative approach to prog - they could have become as big as Yes or King Crimson, but now they are forgotten by almost everyone but the real aficionados of the beginnings of the genre.

On any account, this album is highly recommended to anyone who likes their prog to be a challenge, even if a bit rough around the edges. Four and a half stars from me for a disc that every self-respecting prog fan should at least try once.

Raff | 4/5 |


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