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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars What is it with Texas? Just when you think they're a bunch of backward rednecks largely responsible for both Big Oil and the death of the 35th President of the United States, the state has gradually emerged as one of the leaders of American prog rock going back decades and right up to our time. Houston quartet Chameleon is one of those unearthed relics. Active during prog's heyday in the 1970s though formed in '69 by high school friends, they were a healthy young band that composed quite original arty prog influenced by both the British scene and their domestic roots. Rising is a collection taken from tapes made between 1975 and '80 at the converted barn they used and so the disc does have a somewhat disconnected feel, but it's a lot better than nothing. And the sound & mix is reasonably good.

Chameleon did a sort of progressive kaleidescope of musics they mapped-out carefully and then injected with a good dose of feeling. When two brothers are leading, drummer Mike Huey and bassist Rick Huey, it usually makes for good copy. With fine enhancement from Craig Gysler's keys and the guitars of Spencer Clark, Rising is a mystery box of treasures and terrors both, but the treasures are surely worth the occasional muck & mire. At least for any respectable prog excavator. 'Texas Cyclone' is a decent starter and vaguely reminds of the kind of Greenslade-ish stuff around at the time; 'Follow Your Love' is harder and a touch commercial, and quite good. But 'Pilot Thoughts' is more interesting if derivative with a sound that might've caught-on in their time, and 'Pass Thru the Columbian Mountains' is a delight of texture and arranging from guitarist Spencer Clark. Classic '70s hard glam for 'Everyday Everyway' in the vein of Big Star et al.; Trippy, even muddy progressive jazz-folk-rock of 'Mirkwood Forest' doesn't score too many points though it is an excellent try at a very complex bit; The unmistakable influence of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker is heard on 'Saturate'; 'Midnight Matinee' features good vocal layers, a decent lyric, and very nice 'Life Positions' has the whole band pitching-in on writing and at over nine minutes may be the compositional highlight, the record closing on verbose but brief 'In My Own Way'.

Though there is nothing Chameleon did that was important or influential or lasting, it was honest, quality prog with some personality and a nice helping of America on the side, and now finally takes its place among the great unwashed insignificance of obscure prog rock. They deserve it, for better or worse.

Report this review (#1175030)
Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars A Houston rock band who switched to a progressive style after hearing King Crimson, E.L.P, classic-era Genesis and Yes in the early 70's, Chameleon went on to record a series of pieces over the period of 1975 - 1981 before disbanding, and those tracks have been compiled on this winning compilation by Shroom Angel Records. Thankfully the album has a mostly consistent flow, making it feel like a proper studio album as opposed to a randomly assembled collection of scattered tracks, so listeners can approach this album like a true long-lost prog album from the vintage area!

`Texas Cyclone' opens the disc in blistering Yes-style, a track that leaps around with punchy galloping bass, ethereal guitar strains, a battery of synths and grand piano rises that come together in a way that would make Starcastle green with envy! The mannered vocals here almost sound a little like Martin Griffiths from Beggars Opera. `Follow Your Love' is a charging relentless rocker (the vocals almost channeling Peter Gabriel is a few spots this time), and despite some more frantic outbursts, `Pilot Thoughts' offers dreamy mellow slide-like guitar, gently spiraling synths and soft acoustic guitar. The verses of `Brave New World' are jangly and poppy with bouncing bass work, the chorus full of heavy guitar grunt, and there's a frantic mini-moog solo in the finale. `Drool Away' is a dirty slow-burn R&B bluesy rocker with a subtle funkiness and a scorching lead vocal, `Pass Thru The Columbian Mountains' an infectious quirky instrumental with twisting time-changes around gorgeous snaking bass, electric-guitar fire, blitzkrieg synth-soloing and fiery drumming.

`Everyday Everyway' is a fairly uninteresting grunting heavy rocker, saved by a strangled instrumental second half, but it really breaks up the flow of the album - program this one out, CD listeners! Despite some more obtrusive screeching hard-rock vocals in the chorus, most of mid- tempo rocker `Mirkwood Forest' is made up of chilled and dashing instrumental runs. Ditto for `In The Heart, a lightly jazzy instrumental stroll. `Saturate' is a muscular groovy fusion workout, `Midnight Matinee' an upbeat and sprightly pop/rocker with ambitious group harmonies and a spacy Eloy-like middle. `Life Positions' is another ambitious Yes-like epic rocker that carefully unfolds with a floating space rock ambient passages, dramatic heavy fanfares and dreamy group vocals that's almost as good as anything that bigger band did! `In My Own Way' closes the album on a simple, heartfelt ballad, and it's really rather sweet.

If these recordings had been released back in the Seventies, I have no doubt Chameleon would still be being spoken of in positive ways, perhaps as a talented band that had plenty of their own ideas, as well as the technical skills to pull off similar sounds of the above mentioned bands. The recordings offered on `Rising' are thankfully not mere leftover discarded scraps compiled together to take advantage of the wallets of vintage prog fans hungry for some undiscovered treasures, they really are worthy of being cherished and enjoyed! Chameleon were a reliable, humble and technically able band playing lovely progressive rock.

Three and a half stars for a great little band, and I really dig the album artwork too!

Report this review (#1177445)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Recordings made by Chameleon, an obscure Progressive Rock band from Texas, were finally released in 2013, up to 40 years after they were first recorded. The 13 tracks on "Rising" were recorded in various studios between 1973 and 1978, including six tracks from their own studio/rehearsal room in a converted barn.

The sound quality, production and musicianship is very good but the band suffer from a serious lack of originality. Listening to this album is like listing to a compilation of the more famous 1970's prog bands playing unreleased tracks that didn't make the grade for inclusion on their albums of the time.

The album opens with "Texas Cyclone" which is one of the better tracks. It starts off sounding like Begger's Opera with a bit of Chris Squire style bass thrown in. As it progresses the Yes influence becomes stronger with some Steve Howe style guitar and there is also a bit of Genesis influence in places.

Track 2 "Follow Your Love" is reminiscent of Kansas.

Track 3 "Pilot Thoughts" is heavier in style, a bit of a poor man's Rush, but interspersed with some long mellow sections. Nice guitar work through the long mellow passage towards the end of the track.

Track 4 "Brave New Way" is another Kansas style track. It's a very American sounding track.

Track 5 "Drool Away" is an out of place oddity, this is their attempt at a James Brown track!!!.

Track 6 "Pass Thru The Columbian Mountains" is strongly influenced by Gentle Giant.

Track 7 "Everyday Everyway" is their homage to Led Zeppelin. I quite like this one.

The intro to track 8 "Mirkwood Forest" sounds like Fruupp then followed by Rush style vocals. Part of the track sounds like Beggars Opera.

Track 9 "In the Heart" is the Steely Dan track.

Track 10 "Saturate" is a return of the Kansas influence.

Track 11 "Midnight Matinee" reminds me of something (surprise surprise) but I can't quite place it, although there is a bit of a Beggar's Opera influence in parts.

Track 12 "Life Positions" is another of the better pieces. This is influenced by Genesis with a bit of Camel and Chris Squire's bass thrown into the blender.

Track 13 "In My Own Way" is a pop song, nothing prog about this at all. It is the earliest track on the album recorded in 1973 before the band had decide to embrace progressive rock. It's the worst track and really should have been left off.

Overall it is an interesting listen, they are good musicians but unfortunately totally lacking in originality. There is nothing distinctive that you could say this is Chameleon. But in general the compositions are well formulated and well played. Standout tracks are the opening "Texas Cyclone" and "Life Positions" I will be generous and give it three stars.

Report this review (#1261726)
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars US band CHAMELEON was formed back in 1969, and was an active band unit until 1981, primarily performing live in their local area, from what I understand. They never got to release any material while active, but they had a few recording sessions over the years. These have been collected and restored, and the end result is the archival release "Rising", issued by the US label ShroomAngel Records in 2013.

Chameleon explored a very time typical variety of '70s US progressive rock on the archival collection "Rising". This is a band that has been rather deeply inspired by the classic progressive rock bands from the UK: Genesis and Camel in particular, and attempted to create their own US based version of it. At best done brilliantly, but the greater majority of the material is of the kind that hasn't managed to stand the test of time all that well unfortunately. If you don't mind that distinct sound of the less than great part of the '70s, including some rather cliche and odd keyboard textures and arrangement choices that are less than stellar, then Chameleon is a band that merits a check. Opening track Texas Cyclone is the exception to this description though, a shining jewel amongst gemstones that went out of style permanently sometime in the '70s.

Report this review (#1353018)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although this North-American band in many moments sounds like a new reading from old progressive- rock ways, I consider CHAMALEON "Rising" a work worthy at least of one audition ! I say this, because, in spite the clear influence from some "monsters" of progressive rock of 70's such as YES, KANSAS, DEEP PURPLE... only for cite some... Their compositions are full of energy which make me almost forget such influences... The introduction of track 1 "Texas Cyclone" with a impressive hammond-organ riff with the accompaniment for some electric-guitar "ornaments" and bass/drums "unquiet" interferences are exceptional and attracts instantly the listeners, the "lyrical" interlude with a acoustic-piano and guitar pedal volume effects are brilliant. The track 2 "Follow Your Love" is a mix of KANSAS and URIAH HEEP . The track 4 "Brave New Way" bring a brief overture with lots of keyboards and some rhythm-blues in HUMBLE-PIE "vein" and an "hallucinating" keyboard solo closing the song. The track 6 "Pass Thru The Columbian Mountains" shows a certain GENTLE-GIANT's cadence, this is also present mainly in some beat drums in track 7 "Everyday Everyway" . The track 7 "Mirkwood Forest" reminds me in their overture and middle-section YES and in other moments sounds like GENTLE GIANT again. In a general way the album are very agreeable. My rate is 4 stars !!!
Report this review (#1369052)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2015 | Review Permalink

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