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Oblivion Sun - The High Places CD (album) cover


Oblivion Sun


Eclectic Prog

3.70 | 61 ratings

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3 stars Oblivion Sun (aka Happy the Man Mk II) has a new album out called The High Places, an innuendo laced title that recalls the Crafty Hands moniker from HtM! Yeah, the music is certainly in the exploratory mode pioneered by these American stalwarts, led by the intricate guitar playing of Stanley Whitaker, a rather original player both in style and tone as well as his HtM cohort, the industrious keyboard/saxman Frank Wyatt. The duo is aided in their quest by bass David Hughes and drummer Bill Brasso.

Whitaker's style always seemed to me at least a rather furtive combination of Holdsworth and Latimer, a soloist capable of sonic extravagances as well as gorgeous lyrical lines, chock full of emotion. This is ideally expressed by the first two pieces, the colorfully obtuse 'Deckard' and the majestic 'March of the Mushrooms'. Both are highly musical and very entertaining. But they like to mix it up a tad by including a brief vocal ballad 'Everything' (not my cup of tea) and then a highlight heavier tune full of playful fury , comically entitled 'Dead Sea Squirrels' that just is so totally pleasing, a space-rock extravaganza with a harsh drum beat, buzzing guitars and slithering synth doodles. Imagine Hawkwind meets Return to Forever! Yeah, very fun as well as funny! I love this tune!

But the centerpiece is without question the 22 minute 'The High Places' suite , a 6 part opus of deranged and yet inspired progressive rock that has all the aromas, scents and flavors one can hope for. There is so much going on within various themes, starting off with alternating vocals, piano renderings, in an almost Canterbury-esque expanse of the stupendous part one 'My Eyes'. This is what we mean by progressive, a veteran band of musicians taking basic rock structures, infusing it with jazz colorations, some bluesy flutters, a severe dose of delirium (wah-wah guitar pedal to the forefront) and some breezy vocalizings.

The short 'Awakening' keeps this rolling along, Whitaker's axe in the forefront, oozing and aaahing along unperturbed. 'Flowers' is another mini-interlude, keeping the pace alive and well. This time, it's the piano leading the charge with bass and drums in tow, the intensity level slowly growing in stature and expanse. Wyatt explodes with a super synth solo, full of lush deviance. Boom, Heaven is here! 'The Rules' is another 'high place' (sic) on this album, a seductive and smoky vocal that weaves superbly within a suave melody that captivates the attention and inspires some intense dreaming. Very pleasant indeed. It fades immediately into its companion piece, 'The Cage' that is simply the breakout explosion from the previous piece, complete with a sensational guitar solo, more erudite singing and forward propulsion. The finale ends with enthused piano playing that defies the norm. These 2 tracks are superb and absolutely first class! The 2 minute 'Our Eyes' qualifies as the explosive 'adieu', a brooding coalescence of sound and purity and offering some more exasperated vocals within a symphonic realm.

All in all a satisfying release that is a very pleasant listen, nowhere near the craziness and sonic brilliance of fellow Yanks and way more experimental Herd of Instinct, perhaps due to the heavy influence of the vocals that are good and certainly heartfelt but stylistically weak. I think I still prefer their debut album, which took me a while to warm to (I slipped into the car stereo for a week). It's also a short work clocking in at a hair over 40 minutes, a trait I generally dislike severely. Perhaps a little more structure and a tad more experimentation could have vaulted this sophomore package into a higher place (sic) . Worthy of hunting down but not a vital inclusion in one's discography unless you are a Whitaker fan boy''.

3.5 acmes

tszirmay | 3/5 |


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