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Triumvirat - Illusions On A Double Dimple CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.94 | 401 ratings

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4 stars It's become almost a cliché to dismiss Triumvirat as 'the German ELP', but that knee-jerk label doesn't fit the band's second (and best) album. To begin with, they hardly sound German at all, singing English lyrics (memorized phonetically one line at a time, or so I've been told), and playing in a crowd-pleasing, extroverted style far removed from anything that might be considered Krautrock.

And unlike other keyboard whiz-kids Jürgen Fritz never leaned on the crutch of classical music with the same reverence as Keith Emerson, despite being supported on this album by the Cologne Opera House Orchestra, plus a separate brass section and a quartet of distaff backing singers. The ELP influence is hard to miss: one song is even titled "Lucky Girl" (and was written in what sounds to this non-musician like the same key as Greg Lake's "Lucky Man"). But if the German trio was making a conscious effort to walk in ELP's footprints they at least did so wearing sensible shoes, unburdened by the high artistic pretensions of their English role models.

The band was allowed an astonishing level of creative freedom by EMI after only one other (uneven) studio album, and they responded with their most fully realized and ambitious effort. The new LP was divided into an unmatched pair of side-long suites, but without the often trite thematic overkill common elsewhere in Prog Rock at the time. Side One relates the downward spiral of an alcoholic (a Dimple is a blended Scotch whiskey), and does so with more kinetic energy than the subject matter would otherwise suggest, cued by the furious attack of Hans Bathelt's curiously foreshortened drum sound.

The flipside "Mr. Ten Percent" is a satire of sorts of the music business. Neither suite (to their credit) has a defined narrative, but each is held together by the flow of the music, unified to a point where even the occasional copycat riff sounds entirely natural in context. Besides the expected nods to ELP you'll notice a wink or two at classic YES, including a sudden "Close to the Edge" vocal interruption at the top of the "Tarkus"-like opening to "Mr. Ten Percent" (a later episode is titled "Roundabout", but any resemblance to its namesake ends there).

If you can only hear one Triumvirat album, this should be it: a five-star pinnacle in the arc of their own career, and still a vital addition to any well-rounded European Prog Rock library. They certainly weren't pioneers or innovators, but how many of our musical heroes actually were?

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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