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Posts Tagged ‘William Blake’

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TRACKLISTING:
1. There Is a War Going On (3:22)
2. Jalal (7:16)
3. No More Quarrel With the Devil (4:41)
4. Rising Upon Clouds (5:41)
5. Purple Haze (4:47)
6. The Invitation (4:03)
7. Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love (12:14)
8. There Is a War Going On (reprise) (1:18)
9. Tears Before Bedtime (2:44)
10. The Human Abstract (6:24)
11. No More Quarrel With the Devil (reprise) (1:14)
12. Mercury (4:19)
13. Goodbye My Fellow Soldier (9:10)

LINEUP:
Alex Maguire – keyboards, sequencer
Michel Delville – guitar, Roland GR09, samples
Tony Bianco – drums, sequencer

Three years after the release of their debut, Never Pet a Burning Dog (with Canterbury legend Richard Sinclair guesting on three tracks), multinational trio douBt are back with a new album whose title of Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love comes from “The Divine Image”, one of the poems in William Blake’s inspirational Songs of Innocence and Experience. The album, recorded in 2011, was released in the autumn of 2012. The three band members – British keyboardist Alex Maguire, seasoned American drummer Tony Bianco and volcanic Belgian guitarist Michel Delville  – come from different yet complementary musical experiences, and have also collaborated on previous occasions (Delville and Bianco in Machine Mass Trio, Delville and Maguire on the Brewed in Belgium live album, released by Moonjune in 2008). Together they form an unconventional power trio, where the bass guitar is replaced by cutting-edge technology:  indeed, on Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love the role of technology as support to the explosive energy of rock is promoted with great effectiveness.

Just like its predecessor, Never Pet a Burning Dog (where the improvisational, free-jazz component was married to an unmistakable Canterbury influence), Mercy. Pity, Peace & Love sums up the current direction of Moonjune Records mainman Leonardo Pavkovic’s view of progressive music-making. Drawing upon rock, jazz, fusion, ambient and avant-garde with a fearlessly genre-bending attitude, the three band members bring their respective musical backgrounds to the table and merge them in a multifaceted yet cohesive whole. Tony Bianco’s jazz-inflected drumming is capable of understated finesse as well as muscular, propulsive power, and lays down a reliably eclectic foundation for the interplay between Alex Maguire’s fuzzy, slightly hoarse-sounding organ, reminiscent of Mike Ratledge’s unique tone, and Michel Delville’s dazzling guitar exertions.

Including parts of a recorded speech in an album is not a new device in rock music, and may come across either as a powerful statement of intent or as a rather cheap gimmick Here, the speech in question – delivered by firebrand US Senator Bernie Sanders – is focused on “class warfare” and the gradual disappearance of the middle class. The vintage psychedelic feel of the swirling organ and guitar fits the mood of the song perfectly, and is briefly reprised later in the album, reinforcing the sense of cohesiveness of the whole work. In a similar vein, the mid-paced yet raw-sounding “Tears Before Bedtime” and  a blistering cover of Jimi Hendrix’s iconic “Purple Haze” showcase Delville’s fierce, distorted guitar while emphasizing the remarkable synergy between the three musicians. Propelled by Bianco’s flawlessly dynamic drumming patterns, the  funky “Jalal” features stunning guitar and piano in an alternation of atmospheric and fiery moments.

Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love’s two “epics” – 12-minute title-track, strategically placed in the middle of the album, and  9-minute closing track “Goodbye My Fellow Soldier”-  highlight the fundamental influence of Soft Machine on douBt’s sound. Indeed, the  wailing keyboards and sinuous drumming of the former – bolstered by sampled strings at the onset, then allowed free rein –   bring to mind the legendary Canterbury outfit on steroids, while the latter takes a solemn, even somber direction, as hinted by the title. The angular, riff-driven opening of “No More Quarrel With the Devil” leads into a scorching guitar-organ duel that blends King Crimson and Deep Purple, while “Rising Upon Clouds” offers a surging, appropriately chaotic sonic description of a gathering storm that evokes Pink Floyd’s “A Saucerful of Secrets”. On the other hand, the band’s jazz matrix emerges clearly in the discreet, piano-led “Mercury” and the nostalgic, ballad-like “The Invitation”, where Delville’s beautifully melodic guitar is underpinned by understated drums and keyboards.. Finally in “The Human Abstract”, the instruments seem almost to be playing at odds, yet everything holds together, with electronics adding a spacey touch.

Combining outstanding musicianship, a healthy dose of eclecticism and plenty of emotion (which is not always the case with this kind of music),  Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love is riveting from start to finish, and – though clocking in at a rather hefty 67 minutes – never feels as padded or overstretched as other albums with a comparable running time. Highly recommended to all lovers of instrumental music, both of the rock and the jazz persuasion, Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love will equally appeal to fans of Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix, and will definitely earn a mention in many a “best of 2012” list.

Links:
http://www.myspace.com/doubt3

http://www.moonjune.com

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Death Walks Behind You (7:24)
2. VUG  (5:03)
3. Tomorrow Night (4:02)
4. 7 Streets (6:47)
5. Sleeping For Years (5:30)
6. I Can’t Take No More (3:36)
7. Nobody Else (5:04)
8. Gershatzer (8:01)

LINEUP:
Vincent Crane – piano, keyboards, Hammond organ, vocals
John DuCann – guitar, vocals
Paul Hammond – drums, percussion

In the progressive rock community there is some controversy regarding the status of Atomic Rooster as a full-fledged prog band.  Like many Seventies acts often placed under the ‘heavy prog’ umbrella (Captain Beyond and High Tide to name but two), in the eyes of purists they are little more than glorified hard rock combos with some hints of something more complex, yet more akin to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath than Genesis or Yes. In recent times I have happened to see Atomic Rooster labeled as a ‘dark’ band – a definition that made me think of the likes of The Cure or Siouxsie and the Banshees rather than any of the classic bands of the Seventies.

On the other hand, as both the brilliant title and the iconic cover (depicting William Blake’s “Nebuchadnezzar” on a simple black background) suggest, Death Walks Behind You is a very dark album – a haunting, Hammond-drenched effort which sounds like a encounter between Black Sabbath and Deep Purple with ELP writing the soundtrack. In many ways, it can be seen as the blueprint for the heavier side of prog, a lavish feast for any self-respecting fan of the mighty Hammond organ, and a welcome respite from the pastoral soundscapes of  Camel or Genesis, or the mind-boggling intricacy of Yes. Definitely hard-edged, occasionally oppressive, undeniably raw and unpolished, it possesses the kind of power that many more recent albums strive in vain to achieve.

This is one of the rare albums that captured my attention right from the first listen. True, Death Walks Behind You is not perfect, but then very few albums are, even those normally hailed as masterpieces. Vincent Crane’s highly effective, aggressive playing style, perfectly complemented by the expressive voice and blistering guitar lines of John DuCann (formerly with proto-prog outfit Andromeda), is a real treat for the ears of every Hammond lover. The third band member, drummer Paul Hammond (who replaced co-founder Carl Palmer when the latter joined ELP), lays down a powerful backbeat, assisted by Crane’s skillful use of both keyboard and foot pedals to replace the missing bass lines. This idiosyncratic take on the classic power trio unleashes a massive volume of music that, while not as technically impeccable as what ELP or Deep Purple were producing at the time, is brimming with sheer intensity.

A couple of tracks relieve the tension and overall dark mood of the album – namely the catchy, almost upbeat “Tomorrow Night” (originally released as a single), and the heavy rock-goes-commercial “I Can’t Take No More”. Neither are personal favourites: in my view, especially the latter could be scrapped from the album without doing a whole lot of damage. On the other hand, the slow, melancholy number “Nobody Else”, dominated by Crane’s piano, sees a remarkably emotional vocal performance by DuCann, providing a perfect foil for Crane’s despondent, foreboding lyrics (he suffered from mental problems and ended up committing suicide, as did Hammond).

The real highlights of the album, however, are to be found elsewhere. The title-track is introduced by dissonant, menacing piano, then explodes into a memorably hypnotic organ riff punctuated by the obsessive repetition of the title, “Death Walks Behind You”.  “7 Streets” is a more structured composition, based on the interplay between organ and guitar, while “Sleeping for Years” is in a similar vein, though with a slightly darker tone – both excellent examples of vintage heavy prog, somewhat influenced by Black Sabbath, but with better vocals and lashings of keyboards replacing Tony Iommi’s monstrous riffing. The two instrumentals, “VUG” and “Gershatzer”, are probably the most progressive offerings on the album, showcasing Crane’s skills as a Hammond player; the latter, which is almost 8 minutes long, has the slightly loose feel of a jam session, intensified by the presence of a short drum solo.

Though not exactly flawless, Death Walks Behind You is an impressive offering  that is  almost a must-listen for Hammond fans and anyone who likes their prog with a harder edge (though not necessarily metal). A fascinating, almost addictive album by an underrated band, whose long but chequered career ended tragically with Vincent Crane’s death in 1989.

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