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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tomita

Pictures at an Exhibition

Review by Gary Hill

Since the last issue of Music Street Journal we’ve lost three exceptional musicians. I’m doing a retro review featuring each of them. Since I’m also going to do the Emerson Lake and Palmer Pictures at an Exhibition album, this seemed the appropriate choice from Tomita. I should mention that I have the vinyl of this, so perhaps my track division is a bit off as it can be hard to keep track. I would also say that some might consider this a poor fit for progressive rock. It’s electronic sound is definitely not rock, but it is quite progressive, particularly for the time. This 1975 album is a great introduction to Tomita’s music really.

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
Promenade

This short introductory piece has an echoey kind of mellow vibe that makes me think of Pink Floyd’s Meddle album a bit.

The Gnome
Starting weird and percussive, this grows outward from there. That sound alternates with something like mellow science fiction film effects. There are more powered up melodic sections as this works forward, but alternated with odder stuff.
Promenade
Another short piece, there are synthesized voices and more symphonic elements here. It really does feel like a “Promenade.”
The Old Castle
There is some suitably creepy sound at the start. Then it builds out with elements of space music mixed with world sounds. This evolves out from there in more intriguing melodic territory. It has a regal meets freaky sound to it in a lot of ways. There are sections later that feel a bit like theremin.
Promenade
Symphonic electronic sound is the concept on this short piece.
Tuileries
Another short one, this is energetic and space like with serious electronic sound.
Bydlo
Bouncy, almost circus type sounds are heard on this. It works from there in trippy ways.
Promenade
Here is another cool bit of electronic sound. Again there are things here that sound like theremin. There are synthesized voices, too.
Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells
There are bird sounds on this piece, along with a lot more. It’s a weird little electronic excursion that’s quite cool, really.
The Two Jews
I dig the trippy electronic space music vibe that starts this thing. As it works forward there are more symphonic elements along with synthesized voices that make their way into it. It gets rather computer like as it moves forward.
Limoges/ Catacombs
Parts of this are playful. Parts of it are more symphonic. Still others land along the lines of trippy space music.
Cum Mortuis In Lingua Mortua
Mellower and yet more dramatic at the same time, the electronic sounds of this one are rather mysterious.
Baba Yaga (Hut On Fowls' Legs)
Dramatic and rather noisy space music opens this. The cut moves forward from there in a very trippy and still powered up way. This gets quite bombastic as it continues, but is also very space oriented.
Great Gate of Kiev
This piece comes closer to rock music than anything here. It’s also the most accessible. It has some great melodies and soaring movements. It’s a powerful piece that’s quite a great example of this kind of electronic music, really. This is a great closing number for sure.
 
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