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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Zodiac

Cosmic Sounds

Review by Gary Hill

I've read that both Roger Waters and Justin Hayward listed this album as an influence on them at least once. Listening to this reissue, it's obvious. This is a concept album working through the signs of the zodiac. It's arguably psychedelic rock, but it's also very experimental. This really is the kind of thing that later would be labeled as prog rock. Since that term wasn't yet coined, this is proto-prog. The vocals are all spoken poetry readings, much like a lot of the Moody Blues. The music is inspired and unique. This might sound dated, but it's also so cool.

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Track by Track Review
Aries - The Fire Fighter
Rising up gradually via a spacey structure, this works out to a jam that's part Iron Butterfly and part proto-prog. It works through like that for a while. Then it stops and a spoken vocal emerges. Trippy psychedelic elements are heard over the top of that. The cut fires back out into the earlier jam to continue. That sets the stage for another dropped down spoken section. The jamming returns for a short reprise to end the piece.
Taurus - The Voluptuary
Coming in a bit dark and electronic, the spoken lyrics come in over the top of this mellower motif. After that works through acoustic guitar enters and the cut is reborn with a new version of the basic musical theme. This remains on the mellower side. It has a bit of a psychedelia meets Moody Blues vibe to it.
Gemini - The Cool Eye
The jamming on this is really progressive rock oriented, despite the fact that the label didn't yet exist. There are parts that land closer to the mellower folk prog end of the spectrum. Some sections are faster paced and quite cool. This has some great shifts and changes. It has some cool melodic moments, too.
Cancer - The Moon Child
Coming in mellow and quite trippy, this has a real space-age, science fiction vibe for the first words. It shifts toward more of a pure psychedelic rock jam from there. Still, you can hear lots of the sound that would later be prog rock here. The balance between mellower and mysterious and more rocking is great on this number.
Leo - The Lord Of Lights
There is more of a pure psychedelic rock element to this. It also has a good balance between the soft and more powered up sounds.
Virgo - The Perpetual Perfectionist
This really fits as progressive rock so much better than it does anything else. It wouldn't be a stretch at all to imagine this as a Moody Blues track. Yes, there is psychedelia here, but that's a big part of a lot of early prog. Again it veers between mellower and more rocking territory quite well. This might be my favorite piece of the whole set.
Libra - The Flower Child
This is mellower and more purely psychedelic. It is clearly spacey and trippy. Sitar is a big part of this song.
Scorpio - The Passionate Hero
More chaotic and bombastic, this is a psych prog jam with an emphasis on the percussive elements. In fact, in some ways this is a drumming showcase. There are definitely some freaky, trippy things here.
Sagittarius - The Versatile Daredevil
Chiming bells open this cut. It turns toward something a bit like ELP as it works its way forward. While this is decidedly psychedelic, it's also very much in line with the kind sound that ELP would soon embrace.
Capricorn - The Uncapricious Climber
This is one of the most trippy pieces. It has some intriguing moments and a great contrast between dark and light.
Aquarius - The Lover Of Life
This comes in mellower and grows upward in a melodic way, feeling more like folk prog. This is one of the least adventurous cuts here, instead working through with a fairly sedate folk turned psychedelic sound.
Pisces - The Peace Piper
Trippy and a bit toward free-form, this is another that lands on the mellower end of the equation. It's definitely more purely psychedelic.
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