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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Bethlehem Asylum

Commit Yourself to Bethlehem Asylum

Review by Gary Hill

This CD collects the two albums released by Bethlehem Asylum onto one CD. In what seems an unusual move, though, their second disc, 1971's self-titled release, is first on the disc. That album ends with the epic "Tales From the Citadel Vol. 1." The first album, Commit Yourself from the previous year finishes out the disc. Not everything here is prog, but there are at least proto-prog elements to most of it. Some tracks definitely fit well under prog with the subheadings of jazz prog or folk prog. There are definitely psychedelic angles to a lot of it, too. Whatever you call this, though, it's obvious this group should have been better known. This is very cool stuff.

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Track by Track Review
Lady Author
Soft rock, Southern rock and more merge on this number. It has a real classic rock angle to it.
The Year's Biggest Rain
A slower cut, this has much the same combination of sounds as the previous track did. That said, I think you can add folk rock and some proggy angles to the list here. As good as the opener was, this is much stronger.
Another Time, Another Place
Now prog comes home to roost on this keyboard-based track. This instrumental is pure class.
I Know A Lonely Man
Piano brings this in. As vocals come over the top it takes on an evocative arrangement that feels a bit like a psychedelically tinged prog ballad. That prog angle, with a folk side to it, really gets more pronounced as the arrangement fills out later.
Ring My Bell
A blues rocking jam is on the menu as this thing gets underway. This has some cool 70s rock stylings in place.
Blind Man's Bluff
Blues, folk rock and proggy angles all merge on this cool tune. The flute is a nice touch. The rocking section with flute soloing over top begs comparisons to Jethro Tull.
Tales From the Citadel Vol. 1
Here we get an epic piece that runs more than 13-and-a-half minutes long. It starts with a keyboard section. it works out from there to a fast-paced jam that makes me think of both The Doors and Van Morrison. This is a full prog piece, working through some killer twists and turns. It has some definite jazzy things at play, too. It drops way down at one point after the first vocal movement. Then it fires back out into a driving jam that's set very much in jazz rock zones. After working through for a time, it drops way down for a bass solo that has some more great jazz at its heart. After a brief understand return to more of a band arrangement, we're taken into a drum solo. From there the whole band return to take us back out the vocal movement from earlier to continue. It all seems more energized and powerful as it gets going in that direction. It works out into a crazed section at the end.
Child of the Mountain
More of a folk music concept brings this number into being. There are definite folk prog concepts at play as this gets more energized and involved later. Some world music creeps into the arrangement, too.
Sailboat Ride
Folk, jazz, psychedelia and proto-prog all merge on this fast-paced rocking number. It's quite a classy musical exploration.
Dramatic and powerful jazz rock concepts merged with proto-prog are on display as this gets underway. I'm reminded a bit of Frank Zappa on the introduction and outro to this. We get some killer psychedelic rocking guitar work later in the arrangement. This instrumental works through a number of twists and turns. It has various instruments and genre leanings in control at various places. Overall there is a lot of jazz built into this cut that runs more than nine-and-a-half minutes. There is a drop back late in the piece that at first focuses on bass, but then piano takes over. That break gives way to a return to the opening movement of the number.
Sea Rider
I mentioned Frank Zappa on the last song. This fast paced, jazzy jam really seems like something Zappa might do in a lot of ways. This shifts toward some rather klesmer=like music for a time. Then we get some playful jazz. This keeps moving from one type of thing to another in a seriously dynamic jam. They sure pack a lot into a song that's just a little over six-and-a-half-minutes long.
Talkin' 'Bout Love
This is a bouncy, fun number with jazz and rock stylings at its heart.
It's About
Mainstream rock, proggy elements, psychedelia and more merge on this cool tune. The extended instrumental section is on fire.
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