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Alan Simon

Excalibur: The Ladies of the Lake

Review by Gary Hill

This is a compilation album featuring the music of French songwriter Alan Simon. There is a theme running to the selections here, in that they all feature female singers. Simon's music is not always progressive rock, but is always closely enough to land it there. The sounds are quite Celtic in nature and have some definite range to them. The singers here include Moya Brennan of Clannad, Sonja Kristina of Curved Air and more. It should be noted that I've reviewed a number of these tracks on earlier album reviews. For the sake of consistency those track reviews here are copied or modified from those original reviews.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Origins (featuring Moya Brennan)
Coming in with mellow, world music based sounds, this shifts gear toward dramatic progressive rock as Moya Brennan's vocals come across in non-lyrical ways. The cut begins a building process from there with a lot of class and style built into it. It is quite symphonic in its treatment as it drops down further along the road. There some non-lyrical male vocals in the mix, too.
Secret Garden (featuring Maddy Prior)
This is a delicate Celtic based cut. It's quite pretty, and the vocal presence has an old world beauty to it.
The Girl & The Demon (featuring Karan Casey)
The acoustic guitar textures that start this bring a cool folk rock kind of style to the piece. As the vocals come in over the top this remains quite traditional, but there are enough prog elements to land this in the zone of folk prog. The cut gets quite involved. The vocals convey a good deal of emotion, but so do the layers of instrumentation.
Skye (featuring Kohann)
Keyboard textures bring this into being. There is a symphonic element as it builds outward. While in a lot of ways this is mellow and delicate, it's also powerful. While it started more electronic, it becomes a lot more full organic as it carries forward. There is a mellower section with some spoken vocals at the end.
Calling For You (featuring Moya Brennan)
I love the rocking angle of this cut. The melodic elements are always at its heart, though. This is a powerhouse melodic prog tune.
The Last Lament of a Fairy (featuring Siobhan Owen)
Intricate and quite pretty, the Celtic harp adds a lot to this table. It's a very old world styled number.
There Is Someone (featuring Siobhan Owen)
An intricate, slow moving piece, the vocals on this are spoken at the start. Again, I love the harp on this piece. It's quite old-time in sound. This is much more folk music than it is rock.
Silver Moon (featuring Moya Brennan)
Intricate and quite lush in arrangement, this is a very melodic cut. It's also one of the prettiest pieces here.
Yseult (featuring Siobhan Owen)
Intricate classically inspired textures bring this into being. A soaring, angelic vocal line comes over the top. The arrangement gets lusher at time through symphonic elements. There is almost a music box element to this cut. It's very pretty.
Sacrifice (featuring Jacqui McShee)
Another that begins intricate, the sounds here are more folk based than the classical textures of the previous ones. It's no less pretty or delicate, though. This is another potent Celtic based cut with plenty of mellow prog in the mix. This gets harder rocking as the electric guitar soars later in the track. It's one of the few serious rockers here.
A Prayer For My Lover (featuring Siobhan Owen)
Gentle piano opens this cut. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. The arrangement fills out from there. This is a very traditional Celtic type of piece. It is a pretty, intricate and quite powerful. It's a nice way to end the set in an organic way. Owen's harp serves as the background for the vocals on the closing movement.
Morning Song (featuring Nikki Matheson)
The acoustic guitar and harp that start this bring some magic to the piece right at the beginning. The guitar takes command serving as the backdrop for the vocals, lending a decidedly folk based sound to this number. This thing turns to more of a hard rocker as it continues, and there is a killer guitar solo that comes over the top of it. The mellower motifs return for the next vocal section, though.
The Passion (featuring Sonja Kristina)
A folk prog number, this is strong. Kristina's vocals are a big part of the magic here.
Dreaming Again (featuring Siobhan Owen)
A piano and voice based piece, this is quite pretty. It gets symphonic in terms of many of the overlayers. The Celtic elements are expressed well, too, particularly via the pipes.
Dun Angus (featuring Maite Itoiz)
This is rather symphonic, but it's also bombastic and rocking. It has vocals that are quite operatic, which is not my thing, but the general nature of the piece rocks enough to overcome that for the most part. 
 
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