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The Great Balloon Race

Review by Gary Hill

While overall the concept of instrumental prog/fusion isn't greatly changed from their previous works, this one is just so strong. The quality and intensity are really dialed up a lot. There are some vocals on this but they range from spoken to sung non-lyrical ones, so it still qualifies mostly as instrumental.

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Track by Track Review
Desperate For Your Love

Mellower elements bring this in with a trippy kind of space rock vibe. There are some spoken words almost in the background. This is unsettling and movie soundtrack like in a cool proggy way. More of those spoken voices come across as this grows upward. Eventually the rhythm section asserts itself and starts to take command. The number shifts more toward a melodic space rock meets fusion kind of groove. More spoken vocals are heard on this piece, this time further in the foreground. The jamming continues to guide the piece through some intriguing musical territory. There are some bits of whispered female vocals and some sung non-lyrical female vocals further down the road. This cut is almost paradigm shift level evolution from the previous work of the group.

Classical keyboards open this number. They fire out into a powered up rocker based on those concepts from there. Again this is so much more powerful than the music they did before. It reaches toward metallic territory with the guitar sounds, but overall lands in the energized prog meets fusion end of reality.
The Land
A mellower, melodic piece, this is more like the stuff they did on earlier releases.
Peter's Wedding
This is a powerhouse number that deftly combines fusion and progressive rock. There are some seriously hard rocking elements and some dramatic shifts and turns built into this thing. It drops way down for a bass sole mid-track. There is a section after that with what sounds like sampled scat singing. Percussion is prominent there. As a flute jams amidst that percussion I'm reminded of the band Focus. Then it shifts out to something like fast paced old time movie music. It eventually works to more jazzy stuff before exploding out into a rocking jam that has some fusion mixed with progressive rock.
The Great Balloon Race
Coming in much mellower, this feels like Vangelis as it works forward. It shifts toward more rocking stuff after a time, though. This is so dramatic and powerful.
The Lady & The Imp
Again making me think of Vangelis, mellower keyboard based textures bring this into being. It works through like that for more than a minute. Then it shifts to a fast paced jam that has more fusion and classical music in the mix. I love the shift this way and that nature of this piece. There are definitely links to some of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's works here.
Intricate acoustic guitar leads this into being. It works out from there. There are both classical and jazzy leanings on this number. Eventually it makes its way to more of a fusion meets New Age kind of arrangement as other instruments are added to the mix. This is melodic and effective.
An energetic and powered up number, this has plenty of prog and fusion in the mix. The guitar brings some hints of psychedelia, too.
Night Sky
I love the balance of acoustic guitar and piano on this sedate tune.
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