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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Gracious! (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This is a long lost album from 1970. It's one of those things that is only known about by a select group of people, but that group is enthusiastic about it. The epic on side two is so ambitious, but everything here is inventive. This group definitely combined jazz, classic, folk, prog and psychedelia into a fine example of early prog. This is a case where if success were based entire on talent and originality, these guys would have been superstars.

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Track by Track Review
Side One

Percussion starts the album. The group join, bringing some cool psychedelic angles to bear. This has some cool proggy twists and turns. There are moments that seem to foreshadow heavy metal. At times I can hear things from King Crimson to ELP and even Yes in the mix. Yet there are more mainstream psychedelic rock angles at play, too. There is a killer rocking instrumental movement later that features some smoking hot guitar work. It comes back to the song proper eventually to end things.

Again percussion begins this number. Keyboards rise up from there and the song begins to build gradually upward as bass joins, painting some intriguing melodic images. The guitar comes in further down the road, creating slow moving lines of sound. The piece begins to intensify and gather some speed. Then, before the three-and-a-half-minute mark it peaks and seems to end. That gives way to a new motif that has a bouncy sort of folk prog arrangement. More of a psychedelic rock jam takes over to serve as the backdrop for the entrance of the vocals. I love the back and forth of that vocal arrangement. The music drops away for a rather chorale section. Then acoustic guitar takes over in another folky arrangement. Piano joins and it feels a bit along the lines of classical music. Then the track works out to more of a prog psychedelic jam from there. This turns to some definite neo-classical territory from there with a hard rocking arrangement on it. There is a burst of non-lyrical vocals that makes me think of The Moody Blues before they hit the closing movement.
Twisted piano starts things here. Keyboard begins to create a sound that is noisy, vaguely classical and building in crazed ways. This gets pretty freaky. Then the piano again takes over. A rocking vibe emerges and begins to take command. They work it through some proggy changes from there. This keeps twisting and turning and reinventing itself. It is psychedelic, prog-based and tastefully unpredictable and weird. There are some non-lyrical vocals when the track gets a bit more "song-like" for a time. Then it shifts to creepy bombast with part spoken, part shouted vocals. They take us into some honky-tonk music from there with an old-fashioned sing-along. Then that gets powered up a bit to something a bit like the kind of treatment Queen might do years later. This keeps twisting and turning from there, getting into more pure prog rock zones as it does. This gets into some neo-classical territory right at the end.
Side Two
Fugue In D-Minor

A cool keyboard and guitar classical collaboration is on the bill as this gets underway. I'm a big fan of harpsichord, so this gets bonus points for the inclusion of that instrument. It even gets a little showcase. This has some dramatic, classically inspired proggy excursions. It's a stylish instrumental piece.

The Dream

Roughly 17-miniutes long, this is the epic of the album. A hard rocking jam opens this with some psychedelic angles built into it. That drops away and we get some Beethoven on piano, a section of "Moonlight Sonata." That ends and we're taken into more of a melodic full band treatment. This section has both jazz and classical vibes. Vocal harmonies come over in an almost Beatles-like way. After that section works through, they take it out into a quirky prog jam that definitely calls to mind King Crimson. They slow that part down after a time to end it. Then keyboards rise up, and we're take along a different Crimson-like road. It gets into some more mainstream psychedelia for a time, but then shifts back out to Crimsonian zones from there. They take it out fairly soon into another mainstream psychedelic rock jam. This one has a bluesy angle and some killer guitar soloing. The number shifts to more of a jazz jam from there, and a cool timed and intriguing one at that. The keyboards get into some killer soloing as this movement evolves. As the rhythm section provides the backdrop further down the road, there is a poetry reading that calls to mind some of the trippier Hawkwind stuff. As that reaches a peak, the music turns toward freaky bombast. Then they drive out into more inventive and exploratory territory from there. That gives way to a weird zone with sung vocals. It continues to evolve, at times turning more jazz-like before we're taken into a very melodic and soaring sung vocal section. Don't get too comfortable because nothing here stays in place for long. This just keeps twisting from one section to another. A voice says, "hey you, what about that bread you owe me?" Then it twists again moving into strange psychedelic rock with a musical theater mode at play. This gets into some powerhouse zones as it works to a more soaring instrumental jam from there. The guitar gets into some great soloing as this part works through. Eventually we're taken into a percussion-only movement. Other instruments return to build on that mode. Those eventually take over, creating a speeding up section. Then it all drops away for a short acapella section. They bring it back into with some seriously hard rocking stuff from there. That's another part that leans toward metal. They take it into more psychedelic musical theater from there. This just keeps twisting and turning as it tells a story. There are sound effects including gun shots. The sound of an alarm clock heralds a mellower, more melodic movement. Vocals add to that sense of calm and beauty. The tune works out from there to another driving powerhouse, though. It keeps getting punctuated by vocal harmony showcases. We get more Crimson-like moments at times, too. There is a dramatic neo-classical, yet hard rocking instrumental movement that takes over to eventually end the piece.

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