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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Unicorn

Slow Dancing – The Recordings 1974-1979, 4 CD Remastered & Expanded Set

Review by Gary Hill

Unicorn were an interesting act. They were not precisely progressive rock, but I've generally put them there. Some of their music has a lot of prog in it, but of the folk variety. They also have a lot of mainstream rock (AOR-like) in the mix along with country and bluegrass. David Gilmour served as their producer and/or engineer and played on a track here and there. This new four CD box set puts all three of their albums together in a nice cardboard box. It comes with a large booklet and lots of bonus tracks. In fact, in addition to bonus tracks on each album, there is a full CD of unreleased archival music. I have previously reviewed a couple of their CDs, so some of the track reviews are taken from those reviews for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
CD ONE
         
BLUE PINE TREES

         

Electric Night

I can hear a lot of things like America built into this. There is plenty of George Harrison and even some Eric Clapton here, too. It's essentially more of a folk rocker at the start, moving to more full on rock from there.

Sleep Song
In many ways this feels like taking something from Poco and turning it towards pure progressive rock in terms of the complex arrangement and then throwing a little Pink Floyd into the mix. It’s another killer cut.
Autumn Wine
Mix mellow Beatles with psychedelic Pink Floyd and you’ll have a good idea of what this track sounds like. It’s even stronger than the two that started us out. There’s a cool textural section that serves as the outro.
Rat Race
A fast paced number, there’s a lot of funk and plenty of prog rock in the mix here. There’s an awesome instrumental section to this that has some great keyboard work. The closing instrumental segment has some tasty acoustic guitar soloing.
Just Wanna Hold You
I don’t think I’d consider this one prog, but there is a cool echoey guitar solo section. This one qualifies more as the kind of mellow countrified jam band sound that the Grateful Dead used to do.
Holland
The main song here is a rocking little number that reminds me of the more rock oriented stuff we used to get from Bread and America, There’s a more progressive rock styled instrumental section mid-track, though.
Nightingale Crescent
Another with definite Beatles influences, I love how the bass just sort of wanders all around the background of this piece. It’s another tasty tune.
Farmer

This is much in the same vein as “Just Wanna Hold You.” It’s a good tune with a lot of country/bluegrass at its core. David Gilmour provides pedal steel guitar here.

In the Gym
A more complicated number, this one falls more into the progressive rock realm and reminds me a bit of something from Alan Parsons. There’s some killer jazz jamming later in the piece.
Blue Pine Trees
The title track is another energized rocker that’s still very melodic and organic. It’s not as progressive rock styled as the previous one, but I could still argue that it fits into that category.
Ooh Mother
There’s a lot more of a country texture to this piece. It’s pretty and intricate. The track grows a lot and becomes a bit Beatles-like. Many layers are added to the mix as they continue here.
BONUS TRACKS:

                        

Volcano

With plenty of folk rock in the mix, there is a definite country edge to this cut. I really dig the bits of bluegrass instrumentation built into it.

The Ballad of John and Julie (BBC Session 1974)
I dig the cool mellower groove to this number. It has a bit of a psychedelic feeling to it. This definitely crosses the border into progressive zones.
Dog Trotter
There is plenty of country music here. Yes, it also has some Beatles-like elements. This is a fun romp.
Ooh Mother (single version)
As you might get from the parenthetical on this, we get another version of the song we heard earlier here. This works well in this format, too.
I'll Believe In You (The Hymn)
The arrangement on this is multilayered. The song is lush and pretty. Progressive rock elements merge with folk rock.
Take It Easy
As the parenthetical indicates, this is a bonus track. It’s probably got equal parts country music, Eagles styled soft rock and progressive rock.
CD TWO
                   
TOO MANY CROOKS
                    
Weekend
This is a cool mellow rocker and a great way to start things in style. The sound is purely classic
Ferry Boat
I’d really have to consider this one an acoustic prog piece. It’s pretty and quite tasty and has some definite prog sounds. I can hear a lot of Pink Floyd here. But, there’s also Alan Parsons along with the Beatles and the same sounds as we heard on the opening piece. This is a great tune and a step up from that first one. It gets pretty involved further down the road.
He's Got Pride
This is the first track that’s countrified. It reminds me quite a bit of some of Neil Young’s more down home acoustic music.
Keep On Going
This is a rocker. It reminds me a lot of T-Rex. It’s a tasty number. Later in the track we get some killer instrumental interplay, pulling it rather into jam band type of territory.
Too Many Crooks
David Gilmour provides some pedal steel guitar on this cut. It starts quite mellow and rather countrified, but this one grows quite a bit. The changes and alterations are organic, but significant. This is one of the highlights of the set and despite the presence of Gilmour it isn’t all that Pink Floyd-like. It’s definitely got a classic rock texture, though – and Gilmour actually adds some of the most definite country aspects to it through that soloing. This one would almost qualify as progressive rock, too.
Bullseye Bill
Here we get another highlight. This is an energized rocker that seems to combine America, Neil Young and Pink Floyd. It’s another I’d consider progressive rock and it also manages to do some serious changing and rearranging throughout its course. It gets quite intense at times. I like this one a lot.
Disco Dancer
A fairly gentle piece, this is quite Beatles-like. It’s catchy and entertaining.
Easy
Another that’s quite prog-oriented, this is still gentle and quite pretty. There’s a definite folk rock element to the number. The sound is deceptively simplistic because there’s actually a lot going on here. It’s quite intricate and involved.
No Way Out Of Here
This rocker should seem very familiar to fans of David Gilmour. He recorded a version of it on his self-titled solo album. The song was one of the highlights of that disc and the version here is also a highlight of this set. It’s another that fits this into the progressive rock realm. This isn’t as dark and bleak in texture as Gilmour’s version, but it’s every bit as powerful.
In The Mood
A bouncy little number, this reminds me a lot of Little Feat, but I can also hear Neil Young in the mix. They throw in some bluesy jamming later that’s even a little Zeppelin-like. All in all this one of the cooler cuts to be found here.
BONUS TRACKS:
                  
So Far Away

This is an out-take from the sessions for the album proper. The song has a lot of country music built into it, but the lush arrangements lends something more, too.

Live Radio Studio Session 1975

                  

Weekend

I dig the rich arrangement on this thing. It's part folk rock with more of a mainstream rock edge. There are proggy elements built into it, too.

Ferry Boat
I really enjoy this tune. It has a great melodic arrangement and some cool changes. This is more decidedly progressive rock based. The exploratory, but mellow instrumental movement really reinforces that concept. There are hints of Pink Floyd type sound as it rises upward from there.
He's Got Pride
Bouncy and entertaining, this combines rocking zones with bluegrass textures. It's a fun tune.
No Way Out of Here
Here we get a live version of the song that David Gilmour covered. I love the proggy groove and vibe here. This is all class.
Disco Dancer (single version)
As you can gather from the parenthetical, this is a single of the earlier tune. It's an effective number no matter the version.
CD THREE:
              
ONE MORE TOMORROW
                                       
Have You Ever Seen the Rain

A cover of the CCR tune, this classy version has some proggy elements and hints of The Beatles in the mix.

New Shoes
A cool rocking groove is on display here, This has some proggy elements in the over layers and some of the twists. It's a fun rocker.
Slow Dancing
I like the classy country meets mellow rock vibe of this piece works well.
Get Along Fine
This rocker has such a cool 1970s rock sound to it. It makes me think of bands like America, but there are hints of things like Steely Dan somehow, too.
British Rail Romance
Bouncy and fun, this has both pop rock elements and country tinges. It's classy.
Eric
There is plenty of folk music and even some hints of country in this. Yet, it's also lush and powerfully proggy at the same time.
One More Tomorrow
Harmonica is a nice touch on this Bob Dylan and Byrds like folk rocker.
So Hard to Get Through
Energetic rock, folk music, mainstream rock and AOR prog all make appearances on this number.
I'm Alright (When I'm With You)
The vocal melody of this reminds me of "No Way Out of Here." The cut is a proggy, Beatles-like folk based song. It's one of the highlights of this third disc.
The Night
A bouncy kind of proggy jam, this has some definite hints of jazz in the mix. I can definitely hear some Beatles-like moments here, too.
The Way It Goes
I dig this energized pop rock tune. The harmonica is a nice touch.
Magnolia Avenue
Jazz and proggy elements are built into this song that at its core is a mainstream rocker. This is a classy number and a great way to close the album proper.
BONUS TRACKS
                       
Give and Take

I like the pop rocking groove on this energetic number. It is another classy cut on a set full of classy music.

Nothing I Wouldn't Do
I can hear a lot of Neil Young in the mix on this one. It’s got a lot of that southern tinged classic rock in it.
In The Mood
Country and folk are on display on this cut. This is a playful little tune with some mainstream rock built into it.
Keep On Going
More of an energized and rocking jam is on display here. It reminds me of The Hollies a little. It's a fun little number.
Rio De Janeiro (Live Radio Studio Session 1975)
This is a classy rocker with some cool hooks and changes.
Don't Tell Me I Know (demo)
There is plenty of country music on this mellower tune. The energetic jam later goes into some full on country rocking zones.
All Crazy People (demo)
This definitely feels demo-like in the production. Perhaps it's more than the recording wasn't properly preserved. In terms of the song itself, it has a folk rock sound that has some definite country built into it. There is a classy guitar picking solo.
CD FOUR
                
THE ARCHIVE RECORDINGS
                   
Come a Long Way

Another folk based tune, this is solid.

Billy the Kid
I like the groove of this number. It has a cool vocal arrangement and a bit of a Latin vibe.
The Man in Me
An energized mainstream rock tune, this is more classy stuff.
Hold On
Folk rock is on the menu here. This reminds me a bit of The Byrds.
Loving You
There is a bit of a reggae groove to this number. It's classy stuff.
Don't Turn Away
The guitar solo on this tune has a real old school rock and roll magic to it. I think the whole number feels a bit like Buddy Holly.
This Old World
More decidedly proggy, this cut is packed full of class and style. It has some interesting shifts and turns. The guitar soloing in jazzy.
The Sweeter Life
There is a bit of a dreamy, trippy quality to this piece, but overall it's more of a mainstream rock tune.
Look Into Your Mirror
I dig the rubbery bass work on this song. The number has some cool grooves and sounds at its heart. There is a definite jazzy edge to it. The cool jazzy groove later is great.
Boney Fingers (Live in the USA 1974)
There is a lot of country music at the heart of this little tune. It has a lot of bluegrass built into it, too.
Corina, Corina (Live in the USA 1974)
Energetic folky and jazzy rock is on the menu here. I dig the soaring guitar solo on this a lot. There is a more blues rock based solo later in the tune, too.
Nashville West (Live in the USA 1974)
There is a jamming bluegrass sound this cut. It's a killer high energy tune with a real traveling music vibe to it. It's an instrumental that is quite cool.
Lenny Dee
There is a lot of class and drama built into this killer tune. This starts mellower and builds out as it continues. It's a real powerhouse in a mellow way.
In the Gym (live 1974)
I love this energetic AOR rocker. It's a powerhouse tune that really works well. They work out into a killer, proggy instrumental jam that has some hints of fusion later as it continues.
Get Along Fine (alternate version)
I dig the cool lightly jazzy groove on this number. It's another piece of class.
Man in the Fog
This country based rocker makes me think of the Grateful Dead to a large degree. The instrumental section is a full on country exploration.
You Angel You
An energetic mainstream rocker, this has some cool melodies and hooks built into it.
One More Tomorrow (demo)
Country rock of the softer variety, this is another classy tune.
Tell Me Straight
A bit more of a rocker, this still has plenty of that country edge to it.

 

 
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