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Refugee

Live in Concert: Newcastle City Hall 1974

Review by Gary Hill
This was originally a bootleg. With the wizardry of modern recording the sound quality of this has been taken from poor to adequate – or perhaps a bit better. With that in mind, don’t expect a perfect recording here. It has some distortion issues and much of the bottom end is muddy. The thing is, the awesome performance manages to shine through despite the sound quality issues – a real testimony to the strength of this band. While the group is best known as the band that Patrick Moraz was in prior to joining Yes, the other two members of the band (Lee Jackson and Brian Davison) are equally talented. The three together can probably best be compared to Emerson Lake and Palmer. While this recording leaves something to be desired in terms of recording quality, you will still be blown away by the performances here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Outro – Ritt Mickley
It seems odd to start the show off with a track called “Outro.” I’m guessing, because this fades up, that the track was not really the beginning of the concert, but rather a shortened version of the number that truly served this function. What we get is an ELP-like jam that’s both bouncy and fun and quite powerful. It takes on both neo-classical and jazzy elements as it carries on. Patrick Moraz’ keyboards serve the central role in the melody of the number.
One Left Handed Peter Pan
After a short keyboard introduction, there is a period of silence followed by the bass taking the lead. Percussion is the first element to rejoin, followed by the keys and they build in a powerful, dramatic fashion upward as they carry on. As it drops to the hard rocking vocals, for some reason this reminds me of Spinal Tap. They work it out into a powerhouse keyboard dominated jam that has a lot in common with Emerson Lake and Palmer. When the keyboards kick into their killer solo this number really rocks out with the best of them. As the vocals return I’m reminded of the French band Halloween. After a time the bass fires out in some smoking work that drives the track through the next jam. A drum solo is worked into the mix before they power out into another smoking instrumental section and then a reprise of the vocal motif. A final burst of instrumental fury finally ends the piece.
Diamond Hard Blues Apples of the Moon
In keeping with the ELP leanings, the group cover a song by The Nice (Emerson’s pre ELP group) here. This is more of a hard rocking prog groove. Of course, the ELP-like strains are on this. I’d have to say that I like Jackson’s vocals here. They are angry and almost spit out. It drops down later to a killer funky blues-like jam that’s a great musical journey. There are some great keyboard solos on this one, particularly after the verse/chorus song that follows this funky segment.
Someday
The intro on this reminds me a bit of Procol Harum. As they move out into the next portion of the introduction, though, I get a bit of Chicago in the mix. Then they drop it way back for the verse, returning to those PH type sounds. They move it out into a slow, gentle motif for a tasty keyboard solo, the bass wandering beneath. This then gives way to a reprise of the song proper before they move out into another instrumental pattern, this time sort of a combination of the Procol Harum and ELP sounds.
Papillon
This might be my favorite track on the disc. While there are definitely ELP-type textures here, they also move into plenty of other progressive rock territory on this hard edged killer jam. It’s too bad that this one is plagued perhaps even worse than the others by the poor sound quality. They move through a fast paced, hard rocking segment before dropping back and coming out into careening (although understated section) a bit like “The Flight of the Bumblebees.” This moves back out into a burst of the ELP sounds, then drops back to near silence. They come back in with spacey weirdness to carry forward. After a time we’re back into the “…Bumblebee” sounds again. Then it drops back to more space music for a while. Once more they storm out into the faster paced modes, with the ambient tones running over at first until Moraz’ keys lead us into another short ELP-sounding segment. This gives way to another return of the bees. Eventually the ELP sounds take over to end the piece.
She Belongs To Me
Here the band turns to Bob Dylan penned material for the next cover of the disc. They start it off in a fashion that might make you think of Dylan, but in a hard rocking mode. This drops to nothingness, though, and then space sounds start up very far down in the mix. After the first line of vocals are put through in an understated, down in the mix way, they crank it back out for the next vocals. Then it drops back down again for the bass to take over for a time. This gives way to a frantic building pattern followed by more near silence segments. This sort of alternating pattern carries on as they move forward. Eventually a keyboard solo section, again calling to mind ELP, takes the track into new territory. I also hear some early Yes (Yes, Time and A Word era) sounds on this movement. They drop it back to just keys in a manner that makes me think of Vanilla Fudge. Then it builds up in a gradual way with bass and percussion joining with the volume still way down. This eventually comes up and becomes a joyful sort of musical excursion. We get another drum solo and then Moraz’ keyboards begin intermittent screaming across this, eventually transitioning into a more certain psychedelic energy to power up the arrangement. They are noisy and powerful. We get more jazzy sort of jamming – that, of course, raises the flag of ELP again. The drums are all over this arrangement. This is very free form and keeps moving and wandering about, switching between beautiful and noisy sounds until it drops back to spacey weirdness once more. Again I hear a lot of Vanilla Fudge on this outro.
Grand Canyon Suite
A four part suite, this weighs in at almost 18 and a half minutes in length. The keys that lead off here are quite pretty, if understated. After this short flourish they drop it back and begin to climb up in a progressive rock meets classical mode that calls to mind ELP’s “Fanfare For the Common Man” a bit. This grows after a time, without ever really rising too far up, into some pretty, pastoral sounds. It seems like an elephant is wandering the landscape at times here, though. Various seemingly random sounds come and go as this moves onward. It moves into some new territory with some Wakeman like keyboard sounds rising above the fray. It’s almost three minutes in before they begin to launch out into real “music,” though. Even then, it remains tentative and rather sparse for a while. Drums take the lead for a time and the group join to bring this upward to a frenzy. While this doesn’t come to fruition, it’s only a matter of time before they do launch out into another hard rocking journey, which of course raises the ELP comparisons once more. This holds the number for a time before they drop it back down and a classically tinged piano solo takes it in new directions. This turns a bit rag-time at points. You might also hear some jazz in the mix as it carries onward. Other keyboard sounds take over from there and serve as a balladic motif (still very atmospheric) for the first vocal segment of the composition, which feels a lot like the mellower of old Genesis material. This grows with a keyboard burst over the top. Then they power it back up into more ELP zones. As the vocals soar on this one we get some major distortion – what a shame cause it seems like such a powerful moment. The keys turn in a heartfelt solo after the vocals leave. They move back to the vocal section and continue through the song in much the same manner from there, with another distorted bit of vocal fury. This gives way to a drop back to more ambient keyboard sounds. Then they seem ready to jump back out through bursts of keyboards serving as punctuation. As other elements climb in noisy fashion this feeling of something ready to burst out gets more and more intense. Eventually they do scream out into another ELP-like jam, working it through a number of variations, changes and reiterations and modifications. This is one of the better portions of the album. The keyboard and bass both find times to shine here. They crescendo out and crashes continue on and give way to the next high energy jam. This one is continually punctuated by those crashes, almost feeling like thunder. The keyboard begins soloing in pretty waves and as other layers join those crashing sound finally leave the game. This jam carries it through for several minutes, leading to a final crescendo to end the piece.
Refugee Jam
The group’s encore, this comes in (albeit tentatively at first) as a bouncing, funky sort of jam that’s lots of fun. This has a lot of jazz at its core and is just a great groove. We get some cool call and response from the keys and Jackson’s vocals. We all get some bluesy rock and roll vocal work. At just a little over four minutes in length, it’s a less massive way to end things in style.
 
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