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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Hugh Hopper

Volume 2: Franglo Band

Review by Gary Hill

Hugh Hopper is probably best known as one of the founding members of Soft Machine. He did a lot of other things, too. This CD is the second in a new ten disc collection of Hugh Hopper oddities and rarities. It’s a live album recorded with Franglo Band. The music is more or loess fusion, but there’s a wide range within that. It’s quite a captivating and effective release, really. The full lineup here is: Patrice Meyer (guitar), Pierre-Olivier Govin (saxophones), Hugh Hopper (bass) and Francois Verly (drums and tablas) with special guest Didier Malherbe (flute and saxophone).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Facelift

This comes in tentatively and a little strange with mostly just a saxophone. Eventually some strange space elements start to emerge. Then around the two and a half minute mark it kicks into some more rocking sounds. It has a definite King Crimson like vibe as it moves forward. It careens this way and then the other. Around the four and a half minute mark there’s a switch to more fusion-like sounds. The cut continues to evolve on that concept. There is some pretty awesome instrumental work as this works through. Different instruments take command at different points in this section. Then it crescendos and we’re dropped down into a mellow tapestry before it rises back up into a more freeform kind of jam. It keeps shifting and changing as it works onward.

Lonely Sky and the Sea
Mellow and quite effective, this is very jazz-like as it works forward. It isn’t as crazed in the shifts and changes as the opener was. Still, it definitely evolves and moves pretty far from its origins. The changes are just more gradual and organic here. There is some great soloing. Overall this is one is pretty much a jazz tune, but it leans toward fusion.    
Mr Syms
Coming in very much as a jazz number, this has a cool vibe to it as it starts to grow outward. As it intensifies, it really gets powerful. The horn backed by bass and drums section is quite tasty. As keyboards rejoin it brings a new angle. This gets quite freeform as it continues. Different instruments take the dominant point. It gets a little chaotic at times. That bass really drives this thing in a lot of ways, though.     
Sliding Dogs
This is a powerhouse jam at the opening. It comes progressive rock, jazz and space music nicely. It drops back to a more stripped down, mellower arrangement later, though. This gets pretty intense as it continues. This has some of the more rocking sections we’ve heard. Yet, it also drops back to spacier movements.
Shuffle Demons
A cool piece, this does a great job of combining crunchy King Crimson like sounds with more traditional fusion. It features some of the best guitar soloing of the whole set. The more jazzy, horn laden movement is cool in a different way. It works out to a more playful mainstream rocking section later.
Wanglo Saxon
Hard rock and jazz combine on the cool riff driven groove that opens this track. It gets more explorative from there. This has some pretty awesome jamming as it continues to develop. As it approaches the five minute mark it gets into some territory that makes me think of mid-period King Crimson. The guitar really leads the way as it moves beyond that.
Miniluv

Coming in mellow, there is a lot of world music and folk built into this. It builds pretty organically, but it does work out more toward jazz as it continues along this road. It’s quite a straight line cut from there. It really has a lot of jazz built into it. It’s quite entertaining and compelling.

 
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