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Earth And Fire - Song Of The Marching Children CD (album) cover


Earth And Fire


Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 186 ratings

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5 stars 4 Stars for the Album, 5 Stars with the Bonus Tracks!

Earth and Fire's second album is their most celebrated by prog fans, and with good reason. The band discovered the Mellotron in a big way prior to this album, and Gerard Koerts uses it to very nice effect in addition to his well-established organ work. Jerney Kaagman has fully matured as a vocalist, and assumes a gothic, icy persona here that is very seductive. They've backed away somewhat from the heavy guitar focus of the debut album, and the rhythm section moves effortlessly into a more symphonic mode as opposed to the blues rock mode of the debut. And yes, there is a Side-Long Epic on side two!

About the title track - It's good, but I personally don't find it to be the knockout punch that it could have been. Definitely a 4-star song, it just doesn't cohere as well as it could, and doesn't leave me breathless by the end (translation: I hold side-long tracks to a higher standard, since they take up a high percentage of the album's running time) .

The shorter songs on side one, on the other hand, are uniformly successful, thoroughly enjoyable and well crafted. "Carnival of the Animals" is a lovably playful ditty, with a skipping beat and some comical oscillator sounds providing links to the sections. Kaagman sings what sound like two different "characters" in the song, one deep and grave, the other high and coquettish. At just over 2 minutes, it's a wonderful little thing. "Ebb Tide" has prominent flute, and shuffles along at a leisurely pace, reminding me a little of Jethro Tull's song "Inside" (which rhymes with "Ebb Tide"... hey! conspiracy time!). And then there's the Gothic single "Storm and Thunder"... ohhh this song is wonderful, probably the album's standout track. Phantom of the Opera-style cathedral organs, a sad, slow melody intoned perfectly by Kaagman, followed by the devastating, loud chorus that repeats until the song fades, carried by thick coats of keyboard majesty and Kaagman's soaring vocal. If you think Annie Haslam is the bee's knees, you should hear Kaagman's performance on this song. The side ends with a short instrumental called "In the Mountains", which reminds me a lot of Focus (e.g. "Focus II").

But we're not done yet. Earth and Fire excelled throughout the seventies at writing strong, catchy singles, and the latest CD reissue includes a couple of these. First, there's "Invitation", and its B-side, a re-recorded and concentrated version of the album's title suite. This single stands as one of my absolute favorite moments by the band -- "Invitation" is absolutely beautiful and powerful, with a chorus that throws in a "trick chord" that just floors me (an E7 with a G# bass actually, but it's HOW they place it that's so great). This was a band that knew how to write a damn good chorus, as they proved again and again. One of my favorite songs of all time, period. The 4.5 minute single version of "Song of the Marching Children" is, in my opinion, even better than the 18 minute version - like they added some extra "oomph" in their playing. Then there's the single edit of "Storm and Thunder", which merely cuts off the long intro from the album version, but doesn't diminish its power. Its B-side, "Lost Forever", is an uncharacteristically simple guitar-riff-based song, more befitting the debut album, but it's still pretty good for a b-side. "Memories" follows, which I understand was one of the band's biggest hits in the Netherlands, and it's not hard to see why. If you ever wondered what an early Motown single would have sounded like with a Mellotron as the lead instrument, look no further than this song. Bizarre, but undeniably catchy. Lastly, its B-side, "From the End Til the Beginning", a spooky gothic Mellotron song that sounds similar to "Song of the Marching Children", but lacks just a little bit of glue to hold it together better. Still, individual passages are really nice, and could have made it a monster song if they'd worked a little more at it.

Though many believe this is the band's "One Shot at Brilliance Before Going Down the Toilet", this album is just another of several great albums by this fantastic Dutch band. This is the first one to get if you love the Mellotron (and who doesn't?), and it is deservedly considered a symphonic prog classic. But don't miss those bonus tracks!

HolyMoly | 5/5 |


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