(All Album Reviews by gsk42)
Jim Como: lead vocal, percussion (tune and untuned)
Bryan Howe: organs, celeste
Ryche Chlanda: guitars, devices, vocals
Frank Petto: pianos, ARP 2600, mellotron, electric strings, sequencer, vocals
Martyn Biling: bass, 12-string, bass pedals
Audacious debut by these very talented American symphonic rockers, who freely and accurately quoted from everyone imaginable. Another unique calling card of this release was the production and musician (sax and flute) credits going to none other than Ian McDonald of King Crimson yore (he would also assist on Fruupp’s Modern Masquerades). The group’s inspiration arrives from Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator foremost and also heard, to a lesser but notable extent, elements of King Crimson in their tonal palette or even Yes in some of the vocal harmonies. But, alas, it is their undeniable ability to distill these varied influences into a distinctive brew that is instructive to note. Sure, on the opening piece, “Les Cathedrals”, we can hear a shameless quote from VDGG’s “Pawn Hearts”, but, that aside, the sheer scope of their output goes well beyond easy comparison and defies such convenient typecasting for the passive listener. Keyboard players Howe and Petto counterpoint and groove together with exacting precision, often serving a complementary function or guiding forces to the musical whole, thereby aiding the product as orchestrators or as soloists. Similarly, the guitar work is meticulous but not, as we too often observe, aptly described by comparisons to the greats of the genre.
These traits are in evidence not on only the aforementioned piece, but also on the witty “Centurion” and fiery “The Fireballet”. In a moment of repose, if only to show their soft, reflective side, “Atmospheres” is redolent of Genesis’ Tresspass in its pastoral beauty, laden with limpid mellotron and acoustic guitar and, yes, even a bit of affected Gabriel thrown in for good measure. The show-stopper is, oh yes, the epic title-cut, with its quotations of Mussorgsky and DeBussy, appearing as signposts to ensemble explorations of a considerable pedigree. Here, and elsewhere, the breadth of the outpouring is amazing – from keyboard romping to delicate passages of sax or flute to ensemble activity. The anguished vocals, albeit reserved for only a few transitions, call to mind a certain Peter Hammill. This is a work, a totally inspired effort, not to be ignored. One of America’s better ones!
The excitement that was so apparent in Night On Bald Mountain was regretfully extinguished by the altogether more patchy Two Too the following year, sorry to say. If its dreadful cover did not raise a skeptical eyebrow or two, certainly the uneven and hackneyed approach should have. An obscure reissue surfaced and disappeared just as quickly a few years ago, which included the entirety of Night .. and half of their dismal follow-up. For those who exalt over the symphonic rock style, delivered with an artistic skill and awash in musical complexity, this is one to be included in your 'heavy rotation'.