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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


The Cross and the Crucible

Review by Steve Alspach

One of Scotland's finest, and longest running, progressive bands strikes again with this album. It's an ambitious effort, full of gothic choirs and grandiose themes involving theology and the origins of man. Somewhere in all this you'll probably want to wear a kilt, paint your face blue, grab a sword, and shout "FREEDOM!"

The musicians are Alan Reed, vocals and acoustic guitars; Graeme Murray, vocals, bass, and bass pedals; Niall Mathewson, electric and acoustic guitars, tambourine; Ronnie Brown, keyboards, and Colin Fraser, drums.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The Big Bang
This is an atmospheric preamble to the album that apparently documents the beginning of time. Well, heck, you have to start the story somewhere.
The Cross and the Crucible
Fraser and Murray carry the song along with a brisk rhythm. There is a Yes-like interlude where the renaissance-style choir (root and fifth, no thirds, thank you) sing over a repeated staccato riff, then Mathewson chimes in with a fret-burning solo.
For the Greater Glory
This number maintains a bit of a march tempo through most of its length, except for the slowed-down section at the end. A bit over-the-top perhaps, but a close look at the words ("We'll banish the Infidel Cross from our homeland, With the love of Allah on our side we can't fail") shows the group pointing out the immediacy of war today as in the past.
Who's To Blame?
An acoustic guitar leads the song with a delicate riff. It then goes into a mid-tempo rock piece. The piece, at 4:45, is one of the shorter tracks on the album and maintains a conventional verse-chorus structure.
The Blinding Darkness
This one is a bit slower, but it rocks out considerably. There is a lengthy spacey intro and outro in this piece, and Mathewson pulls a nice guitar solo.
Towers of Babble
Murray sounds a lot like Derek Shulman on this piece. The grandiose effects, such as the choir and church organ, share the stage with some complex playing.
Acoustic guitars and whistles add a definite Celtic folk feeling to this number.
Midas Touch
The lengthiest cut on this CD, "Midas Touch" has a little bit of Procol Harum in its spoken word intro, and Genesis and Led Zeppelin in other places.
This song, with the church bells ringing in the background, is an uplifting cut - a victorious call-to-arms. Some of the riffs recall early Spock's Beard.
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