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Judge Smith

Orfeas: A Song Story

Review by Gary Hill

While this album didn’t completely blow me away in terms of being something I’d listen to a lot, I was quite taken by the artistic nature of it. The term “rock opera” certainly applies, but this is even more theatrical than that. I love the story, what I can figure out of it, and its modernization of classic mythology. There are bits here that are purely theatrical and then other parts that rock. The truth is, though, those who like a continuing story with their music will love this. It’s really musical theater gone prog. It’s also very well done. Considering Smith was a founding member of Van der Graaf Generator, that kind of quality is to be expected, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Bard - One

This is a weird little old worlde section, like something you’d expect to hear at a renaissance faire.    

Rundown Rudi
After a stage introduction, the group launches out into something akin to serious 1970s hard rock sound. It works to more progressive territory as it drops back a bit. This instrumental works through a number of changes and feels a little like Pink Floyd at times. There’s a section later that feels a bit like Focus.
Soliloquy - One
Bouncy and fun, this is very British and rather like English pop music that was common in the early part of the 20th century – you know, the kind of thing Queen often referenced in their music.
Seven Yard Promenade
This is similar to “Rundown Rudi,” but has its own identity, too. It’s also an instrumental and runs through a number of shifts and changes.
Interview - One
After a little radio jingle introducing the “show” we get classical instrumentation dancing around behind an “interview” that’s part of the show.
Orphic Lullaby
This instrumental is rather Beatles-like, but the proggier side of The Beatles, think later period. It’s quite tasty.
Soliloquy - Two
Bouncy little bits of music are the backdrop for a spoken bit.
Wolfman George
Somehow this instrumental, while a lot like the others, feels a bit more playful and light-hearted. It’s got some smoking hot guitar soloing. There’s also an accordion solo.
Soliloquy - Three
The music to this spoken section is much more progressive rock, being playful and fun at the beginning. Then, as the main character realizes his prize guitar (much of the interview discussed it) is missing, the music becomes frantic.
The Bard - Two
Here we get another of the renaissance faire numbers.
Soliloquy - Four
Some world music is built into this spoken piece. Still, it’s some of the most pure prog of the set. As it ends in the sound of a car crash, we realize that the main character’s day just keeps getting worse.
In-Flight Movie - One
Delirium or crossing over to the afterlife make up this piece. It starts with very spacey music, but then works out to energetic electronic sounds. Then it turns out to dance club elements.
Orfeas and Eurydice – One
Our hero seems to wind up in heaven, but it’s unclear if he’s supposed to be there. The music is very much old-fashioned theatrical textured sound. It gets more electronic as it continues. This is campy, but also fun in a real musical theater way. It’s basically a dialog delivered as a duet.
In-Flight Movie - Two
This one feels more like traveling music. It’s bouncy and a little funky, but also very cool.
In Hell - One
Less than half a minute in length, this is just a quick bit of female vocals over some music.
Carpet of Bones
Dark and atmospheric, there are some seriously theatrical vocals. There are also bursts of metallic guitar. There are some later sections that really fit under the heading of “heavy metal” quite well.
In Hell – Two
The story continues with this theatrical dialog bit.
In-Flight Movie - Three
This is more traditional progressive rock in texture. It’s a cool bit.
Orfeas and Eurydice - Two
We get more theatrical dialog over playful music.
The Crab Nebula
More theatrical prog, the lyrics to this talk about a lot of famous musicians hanging out together in the after-life.
Orfeas and Eurydice - Three
This is more theatrical dialog.
Orfeas' Audition
Starting with some seriously hard rocking guitar, this instrumental is a killer progressive rock jam. It works through a number of changes and alterations and is just plain tasty. After some guitar soloing later, the bass leads into a section that is almost like surf music turned prog. It’s great. This might be the most effective piece of the whole thing.
Don't Look Back
Here’s another that’s more like musical theater, but with some progressive rock added to the mix.
In-Flight Movie - Four
We have another bit of traveling music here. It’s like electronica.
Interview - Two
And, now we get another interview segment, starting with the same jingle. Like the previous one, classical strings swim in the background as the interview is conducted.
Fishin' in the Styx
This proggy jam has some hip hop scratching in the mix, but is also quite fusion-like at times. It wanders out into some seriously soaring progressive rock later.
Soliloquy - Five
Another spoken bit with some interesting guitar based music continues the story.
Don't Deafen Me, Persephone
Here we get another jazzy tune. There is a rapper on this thing. There’s some extremely tasty guitar soloing on the cut.
The Bard - Three
This bard bit is quite short and the guitar playing is in the mode of Spanish guitar.
Soliloquy - Six
This spoken section comes with some harder rocking music mixed with Latin sounds. It’s interesting and short.
Catastrophe in Czecho
Fast paced prog jamming with accordion makes up this one.
An Announcement
This is just a spoken bit on stage.
Tear Him Asunder
We get some seriously weird, thrashy metal for this cut.
The Bard – Four
The final bard song closes things much the same way as it began.
 
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