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MARSCAPE

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) Marscape album cover
4.03 | 33 ratings | 3 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Take Off (Into Earth Orbit) (3:08)
2. Sail on Solar Winds (The Journey) (2:48)
3. Arrival (Into Martian Orbit) (1:53)
4. Phobos and Deimos (The Twin Moons of Mars) (4:49)
5. With A Great Feeling of Love: Inner Warmth and Feelings of Affinity (2:46)
6. With a Great Feeling of Love: Marscape: Outer Cold and Icy Silence (2:14)
7. Olympus Mons (5:22)
8. Homelight (Reflecting on Distant Earth) (3:26)
9. Hopper (Machine for Negotiating the Rough Martian Terrian) (4:21)
10. Dust Storm (3:28)
11. Blowholes (The Pipes OF Mars) (3:06)
12. Realization (6:13)
13. Release (2:17)

Total Time: 45:33

Line-up / Musicians

- Jack Lancaster / Lyricon, saxophones (alto, tenor & soprano), flutes (alto, bamboo & glass), violin, panpipes, watergong, brass arrangements
- Robin Lumley / acoustic & electric pianos, harmonium, synth, autoharp, Hammond organ

With:
- John Goodsall / electric & acoustic (6- & 12-string) guitars
- Percy Jones / double & fretless basses, sequencer, watergong
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion
- Morris Pert / percussion
- Bernie Frost / voice
- Simon Jeffes / koto, string quartet arrangements
- Geoff Leach / synth programming

Releases information

Artwork: Geoff Halpin

LP RSO ‎- 2394-170 (1976, UK)

CD Ozone Records ‎- OZ005-2 (1993, US)

Thanks to Slartibartfast for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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VARIOUS ARTISTS (CONCEPT ALBUMS & THEMED COMPILATIONS) Marscape ratings distribution


4.03
(33 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
27%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
36%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (15%)
15%

VARIOUS ARTISTS (CONCEPT ALBUMS & THEMED COMPILATIONS) Marscape reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Brand X goes to Mars. This is the original Brand X lineup with some extra musicians thrown in for good measure. Imagine, if you will, Brand X with strings and wind instruments. Actually the lead on this one is Jack Lancaster, who's work I'm not familiar with outside of this album. I'm not sure anymore about the details regarding how I discovered this little gem, but the vinyl LP has been in my collection for some time and it was a real thrill when I found it available on CD.

The concept here is mankind's first journey to Mars. No lyrics here, it's done totally instrumentally. The music is a mix of mellow and high energy material.

With a Great Feeling of Love: Inner Warmth and Feelings of Affinity is one of the most beautiful progressive music pieces I've heard. That one alone is worth having this album for.

If you're a fan of the original Brand X or just like a really good concept album this one's a must get for your collection. My CD is an Ozone Records release, but there are new ones available through Verdant Records. Beware of the overpriced used ones out there. In fact, avoid any Ozone label CDs. I just noticed it's copied off of a vinyl record. New ones can be obtained from the Verdant web site for a reasonable price.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Marscape is a soundtrack performed by some of the finest British jazz-rock musicians, mostly schooled within Brand X and under the leadership of keyboardist Robin Lumley and lyricon (an electronic wind instrument) player Jack Lancaster , both having glorified previous careers with the Brit prog universe. Brand X back up is provided by guitarist extraordinaire John Goodsall, the slippery fretless master Percy Jones and the ridiculously talent drummer turned future torch singer Phil Collins. Finally, Simon Jeffes (Penguin Café Orchestra) arranges the necessary orchestrations where needed. I had this LP since its release and only recently found a CD version, so I was thrilled to add this puppy into my collection.

The material is mostly instrumental, but sort of strange and ethereal, purposefully so in order to really expand on its uniqueness. The sound is obviously closely associated with Brand X, as well as cousin projects Wilding-Bonus, Quantum Jump, Isotope and John G.Perry solo. Percy Jones needs no introduction, for my money among the top bassists ever (Perry not far behind), his fretless technique way more complex and technical than say the master of wobble Mick Karn of Japan legend. His playing is simply remarkable throughout, in perfect alignment with Collins' terrific rifling style. But this is really Robin Lumley's pet project, fully developing his piano artistry, adding harmonium, synths, organ and autoharp to his ivory arsenal, as well as being helped by Lancaster's saxes, flutes and the much- maligned lyricon.

The material for the most part is relatively mid-tempo, at times out right spacy like on the opener and on the unreservedly thrilling two-part "With a Great Feeling of Love" (an album highlight) and gets all stitched up on "Olympus Mons". This killer track really is typical of the British jazz rock scene, starting out with brooding sax, a driving rhythm and sudden plunges into oddball weirdness, such as the echoing gongs swimming in aquatic samples and traversed by blitzing piano rivulets, to then explode into a manic excursion into neo- Mahavishnu Orchestra land, everyone soloing like madmen but in controlled harmony with each other (Jones, Goodsall and Collins just cook and broil). Lumley really develops incredible mastery on his piano in particular, displaying a lavish style that is unafraid of jumping to intense zones of expression, whist doing the traditional jazz thing too.

Then when you least expect it, a synth-bass introduces "Hopper", an homage to the Soft Machine bassist I presume but cleverly camouflaged as the nickname for a Martian land rover, a rollicking excursion over sand, rocks, valleys and peaks, the lads having a ball bouncing all over their instruments with a little tchaka-tchaka guitar and calypso drum outro. At times, the mood becomes experimental and outer-worldly. This is no pop record as "Dust Storm" is just like its title would claim, an opaque and cross winded blizzard of microscopic molecules that rustle and inflict odd sensorial reactions (hey, 1976, okay!). After the koto infused "Blowholes" adding even more oddness to the proceedings, things revert to more rational behavior with the choir-led "Desolation", a 6 minute magnificent hymn to the galactic entities, a track that has all the traits that thrill the prog fan to no end. Sublime mood, incredible confidence, scintillating bass and drums, all built as a platform to dish out some sizzling soloing, as both Lancaster and Lumley let it rip, but in this cool jazz way. Jeffes' orchestrations are spot on, too. This track alone is worth pursuing the album, finally available nicely re-mastered and at a reasonable price (for a very long time only available as a Japanese import for mucho dinero).

'Domo arigato', Jeffes plays the koto again, in accordance with Lancaster's delicate flute, "Release" is the final cut of a true prog collector's addition. A classic.

4.5 Alien chocolates

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Both Jack Lancaster and Robin Lumley are two classic musicians who straddled the line between the jazz and the progressive rock worlds of the 1970s after making names for themselves in other roundabout ways. Lancaster played with Jethro Tull's ex-guitarist Mick Abraham in Blodwyn Pig and both Lancaster and Lumley played together in a band called The Soul Searchers which included the stellar lineup of John Goodsall (guitar), Gary Moore (guitar), Percy Jones (bass) and Bill Bruford (drums).

Lancaster and Lumley would collaborate to release two albums with a wealth of guest musicians that remain unique in the prog history books even within the vast canon's of all the musicians that participated. The first would be the rock version of "Peter The Wolf" based on the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's works in which the duo collaborated to create an eclectic modern version that was released in five different languages with different narrators for each one. The music was created to exist within the jazz-fusion and progressive rock worlds and sounded like nothing else within either. It was released in 1976.

Lancaster and Lumley crafted a second surprise released the same year only this time based on a completely different theme. MARSCAPE was a mostly instrumental album (voices were used as effects only) that is most famous for featuring the musicians who would become Brand X the very same year. Lumley himself has been with Brand X from the beginning and even in 2019 is still officially a member but MARSCAPE also features the guitar antics of John Goodsall, the fretless bass bantering of Percy Jones and of course, Genesis drummer Phil Collins who displays his most technical chops. Lumley himself handled all keyboards, pianos, harmoniums, autoharps and organs. Lancaster provided the wind instruments including sax (alto, tenor and soprano), flutes (alto, bamboo, glass), violin, panpipes, watergong and all the brass arrangements.

This bizarre soundtrack to a movie that never existed emerged before the first Brand X album "Unorthodox Behavior" was released also in 1976 and is indeed the very first album where that band played together. While this album could be thought of as a Lancaster / Lumley meets Brand X album, it was Lancaster and Lumley who composed the entire score therefore despite the musicians playing together, this does not resemble any of the Brand X albums that followed as the focus is more on creating musical textures and ambient atmospheric accompaniments to the themes presented in the track titles. MARSCAPE is an incredible varied type of album ranging from trippy free jazz to bouncy space disco.

Despite this album being more famous for Brand X playing on it than the music itself, the album actually contains many more musicians adding to the richness of the stylistic shifts including Morris Pert on percussion, Bernie Frost on voice and Simon Jeffres on the koto as well as string quartet arrangements. The album also employed the help of Geoff Leach on synth programming and if all this talent on board sounds like quite the elaborate project underway, then you would be correct to assume as much. It's apparent upon a single listen that this album was seriously fussed over. Every single detail was polished out to create a cohesive flow where every track cedes into the next and great attention was paid to keeping the tracks unique with each exhibiting a different flavor.

Thematically, MARSCAPE takes on exactly what it insinuates, namely a trip to the red planet where life has purportedly existed in one shape or another for eons. Each track is like a tribute to different aspects of the red planet and are reflected by a diverse roster of rhythms, tones, timbres, tempos and time signature dynamics. Part progressive rock and part jazz-fusion, MARSCAPE expands its horizons well beyond those limiting labels and also displays its fair share of ethnic world music sounds and even a cheesy ballad in the form of "Realization" which sounds like a cheap muzak version of "Hair." The rest of the album however shines like the sun in the sky with an intriguing mix of technical chops tamed into emotional gemstones that perfectly evoke the subject matter at hand.

The beauty of this unique confluence of talent is that it runs the gamut of the most avant-garde on tracks like the opening "Take Off" which builds the mood through the ratcheting up effect of sounds and the surreality of space flight experienced in "Sail On Solar Winds" to the seemingly danceable disco grooves of "Hopper (Machine for Negotiating the Rough Martian Terrian)." Both rock and jazz elements are used to paint strokes on the canvas rather than exist for the sake of connecting them to their respective genres. All sounds are crafted to represent the themes at hand and are surprisingly effective. From the minimalistic sparseness of "Phobos And Deimos" to the bombastic fusion workouts of "Olympus Mons," MARSCAPE is an album of mastery.

While a mere blip on the 70s music scene, MARSCAPE exudes a timelessness to it unlike many albums of the era. It's more akin to a classical work such as Gustav's "The Planets" than to related Brand X and prog rock bands, however the one track "Homelight (Reflecting on Distant Earth)" very much points to the future sounds that Brand X would fully bring to life which in a way proves that they really played on this album. While the album is brilliant it doesn't always convey the Mars mission at hand and therefore falls short of perfection by a couple tracks that don't really gel well with the rest of the pack. The silly "Hopper" would make a great new wave novelty track but seems out of place here and "Realization" is a little too sappy for its own good but otherwise this is unique and well worth the listen especially for anyone interested in everything Phil Collins related and the origins of Brand X.

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