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Triumvirat - Spartacus CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.84 | 357 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars "It has everything that makes entertainment great!"

That was the breathless claim on posters advertising the epic 1960 Kirk Douglas film about the legendary Roman slave-turned-rebel hero, and the same PR hyperbole applies to the concept album of the same title, released at the peak of Prog Rock's Golden Age by everyone's favorite ELP clone: Triumvirat.

Okay, so maybe 'clone' is too strong a word. If imitation really is the highest form of flattery then Jürgen Fritz was only extending his appreciation of Classical Music to include Classical Rockers like Keith Emerson. In truth Triumvirat at its mid-'70s best represented a version of how ELP might have sounded without any pretensions to High Culture, making the German keyboard trio a welcome alternative to their English role model. And "Spartacus" found the band at its popular (if not quite its aesthetic) zenith, performing with an energy and confidence that easily offset their often derivative style.

The opening theme to "The Capital of Power" is uncomfortably close to the title track of ELP's "Trilogy" album. But after that the similarities are merely (and not unpleasantly) cosmetic, right down to the ratio of moog solos and radio-friendly ballads. Some of the latter ("The Gladiator's Song"; "The Deadly Dream of Freedom") anticipated the dumbed-down commercial pop of later Triumvirat line-ups, but were arranged and played here with conviction, despite the occasional tonal faux-pas. Hearing the lyric "I've been trained to kill a man / a sword, a spear or with my hand" crooned in the manner of Greg Lake singing "Still...You Turn Me On" can be a little disconcerting, if you think about it.

The subject matter was fitting for a talented secondhand act dogging the footsteps of a conquering supergroup, although maybe Fritz should have considered the fate of his album's hero: captured and crucified on the Appian Way. But the album itself likely profited by a happy accident of timing, appearing while Emerson and company were on their long hiatus before the stumble of "Works Volume 1".

It might have led to even greater success had singer / bassist Helmut Köllen not quit to pursue a solo career (releasing one studio album before his untimely death, ironically titled after the Beatles song "You Won't See Me"). Triumvirat was never quite the same afterward, but "Spartacus" still carries enough nostalgia value to earn three strong stars, especially from anyone who can recall hearing it (almost) fresh off the racks.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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