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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Paul Roland

In the Opium Den: Early Recordings 1980-87

Review by Gary Hill

The sub-title of this really tells you what you are getting. I generally put Paul Roland’s stuff under prog because there is a folk prog edge. In a lot of ways, that’s more true of this one than it is some others. There is a nice selection of music here. I have previously reviewed the majority of the songs on the second disc in another review. For the sake of consistency, I’ve used/adapted those reviews for use here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1

                    
Dance Macabre LP (1987)
                      
Witchfinder General

A galloping bass line opens this. The melody line that comes over the top reminds me “The Green Manalishi.” From there, though, it grows out into a very British sounding bit of prog rock based on folk rock. This is hard edged and dramatic.

Madame Guillotine
This is a lot more of a psychedelic rocker. It has a nice balance between mellower and more powered up territory. It’s a good tune with some great guitar fills.
The Great Edwardian Air-Raid
This is a psychedelic meets prog ballad. The lush layers of sound are cool, but overall, it’s just a simple guitar and voice song. It’s one of the more effective melodies, and the lyrics paint pictures with words.
The Hanging Judge
This song is very British. It’s a bit ounky. The overall vibe is a pounding, bouncing one. This has some psychedelia in the mix, but overall is more of a straight ahead rocker.
Still Falls the Snow
This is an excellent bit of psychedelically inspired prog. It has a lot of world music buit into it.
Matilda Mother
I like this one a lot. It’s very much a psychedelic song. It has some proggy changes, though.
Gabrielle
I dig the keyboard sounds on this cut. The number is pretty much in line with what we’ve heard to this point. It has some real magic built into it, though. The classically inspired keyboard solo mid-track is tasty.
Requiem
This classy tune is very much a folk prog piece. It’s one of the cooler songs here, too.
Buccaneers
This folk-inspired tune has a lot of Celtic elements at play. It’s a pirate type song. It’s very British and a lot of fun.
In the Opium Den
Here we get a cut this is mellower and slower moving. That’s appropriate given the subject matter. It has a very dreamy kind of texture. It’s part psychedelic rock and part prog. It’s all cool.
Twilight of the Gods
There is more energy to this piece. It’s much more of a straightforward rocker. Yet both the psychedelia and prog influences are intact.
Burnt Orchids Mini Album (1985)
                              
Death or Glory

This is another rocker that’s set in folk rock stylings but demonstrates prog concepts, too. It’s good, but not really a standout.

Burnt Orchids
I particularly like the violin arrangement on this. It really elevates the song. Beyond that, this is a mellower tune in the same general vein as the rest.
The Puppet Master
This is a classy and rather dreamy kind of tune.
Captain Blood
More of a straightforward 60s styled rocker, this is quite British. It’s also quite fun. The flute driven instrumental segments take it into jazzy territory with a bit of a Jethro Tull element. I like the keyboard textures on this a lot, too.
Cairo
This has some suitable Middle-Eastern elements. Beyond that it fits with the rest of the stuff here quite well.
Green Glass Violins
I dig this rocker. It might not be a lot different, but the extensive violin work on this brings a different dimension.
Funhouse
A mellower cut, this is still pretty odd. It has a lot of keyboard sounds built into it. It also features some pretty bizarre (but cool) violin work. I love the fun house music section mid-track.
Ghost Ships
Keyboards open this, and the song moves forward in a great electronic fashion. This works out to another proggy, folky sound.  The keyboards take over again at the end.
EP Tracks
                      
Beau Brummel

There is a lot of violin in this tasty tune.

Berlin
This reminds me of “House of the Rising Sun” quite a bit. It is a slow moving, moody, folk based tune. It’s a good one.
Disc 2
                  
The Werewolf of London (1980)
                      
Blades of Battenburg
The keyboards that open this are dramatic and a bit ominous. It powers out to a more straightforward song structure. This thing really rocks. The vocals bring a rather punky element to the thing.
Brain Police
There is a bouncy kind of keyboard dominated musical texture to this thing. It has a new wave meets progressive rock vibe to it. I can definitely make out comparisons to Hawkwind. This is playful and fun. More of a dramatic and serious progressive rock jam, with a bit of a reggae vibe, joins later in the piece.       
Flying Ace
Bouncy, folky music, this is very British. It’s got a charm to it, but is a bit odd. This very much makes me think of some of the folk progressive rock from the 1970s.
The Cars That Ate New York
There’s a lush, keyboard oriented prog rock vibe to this piece. It reminds me a bit of Gary Numan in some ways. There are really some lush keyboard sections to this piece. It’s one of my favorites here.  
Public Enemy
For some reason this makes me think of the psychedelic pop side of early Pink Floyd quite a bit. It’s bouncy and fun.
Werewolves of London
Weird science fiction like music opens this. The song proper kicks in with that same bouncy psychedelic rock vibe. This powers to some harder rocking sounds as it continues. In a lot of ways this feels like Hawkwind at times. The saxophone soloing over the top really lends that element to it.
Angel
A bouncy psychedelic rocker, this is another that calls to mind early Pink Floyd at times. The saxophone solo on this is a nice touch.
Lon Chaney
Folk and psychedelic music merge on this rather creepy and yet charming piece. There is some world music built into this thing.
Jack Daniels
Hard rocking, this feels like a pretty classic bluesy rocker. It’s not anything all that special, but again, it’s a bonus track.
Outtakes from Unreleased Second Album
                     
The Ghoul

A cool keyboard introduction brings a rather spooky vibe to play. From there the cut works out to a bouncy kind of jam that’s punky and quite cool. Keyboards deliver a proggy jam near the end of the tune.

The Old Dark House
Creepy keyboard sounds open this and make up the extended introduction. It powers out to more hard rocking territory from there. A fast paced, more purely prog jam is heard mid-track. A spoken word piece adds a different air to the piece..
Hot George
This opens with a sound that is very definitely 80s inspired. It makes me think of a cross between The Cars and DEVO. Of course, that’s with a healthy helping of the sound we’re used to with Roland.              
Singles and EPs
        
Oscar Automobile

This is a very old school rock and roll styled number. It has a definite British texture, too. I can definitely see valid comparisons to David Bowie and also T-Rex on this song.

Dr Strange
Keyboards open this. It works to a cool prog rocker with a lot of psychedelic rock in the mix.
Madelaine
More of a folk piece with symphonic elements on the outskirts of it, this gets psychedelic sounds in the backwards tracked stuff later. Again I’m reminded of very early Pink Floyd quite a bit.
Cavalier
Folky music with prog leanings is the order of business here. This is a good song, but it doesn’t really stand out from the pack.
Sword and Sorcery
This is one of the real highlights here. It’s hard rocking and quite a bit like Hawkwind, but with other elements at play, too. I like this one a lot.
Alice's House (EP Mix)
Keyboards open this, but it shifts to a mellow acoustic guitar based arrangement from there. The string arrangement later adds some charm.
Go Down You Murderers
This piece is very much a British folk song. It’s classy stuff.
Happy Families
I love the keyboard elements on this. They bring an almost symphonic element to it. Beyond that, folk music and proggy things merge here.
Jumbee (Demo)

Keyboards and voice create a haunting, trippy kind of musical texture.

 
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