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Archive for March 17th, 2011

TRACKLISTING:
1. BunChakeze (1:57)
2. Whose Dream? (4:05)
3. Walk in Paradise (6:57)
4. Handful of Rice (5:10)
5. Flight of the Phoenix (6:20)
6. Midnight Skies (6:25)
7. Long Distance Runner (6:09)
8. The Deal (7:50)
9. Whose Dream? (reprise) (2:24)

LINEUP:
Colin Tench – guitars, synthesizers, backing vocals
Gary Derrick – bass, bass pedals
Cliff Deighton – drums
Joey Lugassy – vocals

With:
Alex Foulcer – piano

The rather weirdly-named BunChakeze (a ‘creative’ spelling of the more mundane ‘bunch of keys’) were one of the many bands born in the mid-Eighties who – in spite of  the much-touted Neo-Prog breakthrough of those years – found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Formed in 1984 by guitarist Colin Tench, drummer Cliff Deighton and bassist Gary Derrick after the demise of the six-piece Odin of London, like the former they were among the many casualties of the lack of interest in music that did not comply with the stereotypes of that era. All too aware of the indifference of record labels and promoters, BunChakeze voluntarily dropped off the radar and went their separate ways after having recorded an album’s worth of material.  Fast forward about 25 years, to 2010,  when  – thanks to progressive rock’s surprising Renaissance – BunChakeze emerged from oblivion. Taking full advantage of the possibilities of the Internet, they finally released their album, and set about to actively promoting it all over the community of progressive rock fans.

To be perfectly honest, when I got my copy of Whose Dream?, after having read a slew of enthusiastic reviews, I was curious to see if it really was the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread, or rather one of the many rather undistinguished releases that seem to be a dime a dozen on the current prog scene. Indeed, not everyone would view BunChakeze’s obvious enthusiasm about their release in a completely positive light, and some would even think, “do we really need yet another album by a long-dead band?”. On the other hand, though occasionally showing its age, Whose Dream? is a pleasant listen, easy to approach in just one listening session (unlike so many modern releases), and featuring some noteworthy guitar work courtesy of Colin Tench. True, it is not the most progressive album on the market, and its catchy nature may prove a turn-off for the more elitist fringe. Moreover, the sound quality is anything but flattering to the material: neither the tinny drum sound nor the dated, whistling synthesizers do the album any favours, and Joey Lugassy’s voice sounds positively strained at times. However, it is definitely no worse than many current releases frequently hailed as near-masterpieces beyond their true merits.

A strongly song-oriented album, with no tracks longer than 7 minutes, Whose Dream? shows a distinct lack of sprawling epics –a refreshing change of pace from the often overambitious efforts that seem to be the rule these days. Some of the compositions, in spite of their relative shortness, do have an epic scope of sorts: “Flight of the Phoenix” and “Midnight Skies” (dedicated to the plight of Native Americans) both offer enough tempo changes (though never in an overly complex fashion) and instrumental interest to qualify as mini-epics, The general mood of the album tends to be somewhat melancholy, both musically and lyrically – perhaps reflecting the frustration the band members were experiencing at the time the music was composed.

As the band members themselves are ready to admit, the biggest influence on BunChakeze’s sound are Pink Floyd, in their more subdued, hauntingly melodic incarnation rather than the experimental one.  The intro to “The Deal” is a dead ringer for “Welcome to the Machine”, and Colin Tench’s clear, smoothly flowing lead guitar pays more than cursory homage to David Gilmour’s hugely influential style. Hints of Kansas (without the grandiosity) surface in “Long Distance Runner”, while “Walk in Paradise” shows touches of Deep Purple-style hard rock (even in Lugassy’s vocal approach) in its first half, suddenly changing into a more melodic pace reminiscent of Genesis and Camel.  Two sprightly instrumentals  bookend the album,  putting Tench’s Spanish-flavoured guitar on display; while the above-mentioned “The Deal” is by far the darkest offering on the album, with its haunting bass line, echoing guitar chords, and almost lush keyboard sounds.

At the time of writing, though the various band members have long since been engaged in other things (not necessarily music-related), it seems that BunChakeze are definitely getting back together, possibly with a view to playing some live shows. Though Whose Dream? is certainly no masterpiece, BunChakeze are a group of talented musicians who deserve respect for their resilience and dedication to their craft.  A special mention should go to the very nice CD booklet, with thorough yet funny liner notes, lyrics (which are quite interesting, though occasionally a bit on the naïve side), and vintage photos of the band. Fans of neo-prog and melodic prog in general could do much worse than get hold of Whose Dream?, and help the newly reformed  band to fulfil their dream of finally performing on a stage.

Links:
http://www.bunchakeze.com

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