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(43:30, Azafran / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. M’Goun 7:39 2. El Mestre de la Caverna 7:16 3. Quentadharkhen 14:55 4. Hsieh 7:22 5. Mujer Luna 3:44 6. The Last of the Lasts 5:30 7. La Espiral 5:56 8. La Ultima Expedicion 6:42 9. Labirintos de Piedra 7:51 LINEUP: Robert Santamaria – keyboards; ac. guitar, saz Marta Segura – lead vocals; percussion Pablo Taco – el. guitar; backing vocals Manel Mayol – whistle, didgeridoo; b/v Mireia Sisquella – saxophones; keyboards Renato Di Pronzio – drums, tablas Alan Chehab – bass, oud
Prolusion. AMAROK is one of the most impressive as well as long-standing progressive rock bands to hail from Spain. If my memory doesn’t let me down, "Gouveia 2005" is their first live album to date. Recorded at the Gouveia Festival in Portugal on April 9, 2005, it wasn’t released at that time, and only saw the light of day some twelve months ago. The point is that the band wanted to issue it on DVD also, but the original video footage has been lost and, well, never found.
Analysis. It’s not too simple to eschew repetitions when describing something that, generally speaking, has been described more than once, so I’m sorry for those in advance. This set includes nine live versions of Amarok’s compositions, all of which were already released by them at the time. The lineup is much the same that is featured on their 2004 studio release “Quentadharkhen”, and is totally the same one that would appear on their then-forthcoming album "Sol de Medianoche". The lyrics are in Spanish; handling lead vocals is Marta Segura, although there are male vocals too, which is to say traditional as well. In other words, the music here will sound familiar to anyone who has heard at least one of the band’s studio outings, mixing symphonic Art-Rock with various ethnic influences and, in places, bits of jazz, classical and heavy music, which is typical of its entire work. Of course, not all of the tracks fully suit the idiom. The disc’s first three items, M’Goun, El Mestre de la Caverna and Quentadharkhen, each involve most of the exotic instruments that are listed in the CD booklet: Central Asian saz and oud and Arabian tablas, all of which are often played alongside European ones, namely electric and acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, sax, flute, bass and drums. The end result is in all cases a very well integrated mix that blends sympho-prog, folk-rock and world-fusion genres into one coherent sound. Hsieh is similar to these, although at one point it brings a vivid jazz element to the mix, courtesy of a sax solo. The two pieces that the album finishes with, La Ultima Expedicion and Labirintos de Piedra, are poorer in elements of non-European music, belonging mainly to symphonic Art-Rock (not counting a drum solo that, all alone, sounds all over the second half of the latter). Contrary to these, Mujer Luna and La Espiral rely predominantly on exotic instruments and are both filled with Eastern sonic colorations. Finally, The Last of the Lasts is a jovial folk-rock tune based on Celtic music. The presence of European traditional stylings on the album, flamenco included, as well as danceable rhythms in places, suggests that Minimum Vital can be used as the main point of comparison (albeit, of course, each of the bands has its own, very personal vision of bringing together progressive rock music and the folk one). But while the French ensemble normally avoids quoting classic art-rock groups, this one does – from time to time. For instance, M’Goun, La Ultima Expedicion and Hsieh each reveal a couple of episodes that are obviously inspired by Jethro Tull; some of the synthesizer and organ leads on the latter two compositions instantly evoke those by Rick Wakeman when-in-Yes and on his ‘70s solo outings as well. Okay, all of this doesn’t matter much, really, and I’d better finish this paragraph by naming tracks that I find to be the winners, namely Quentadharkhen, Hsieh and Labirintos de Piedra. With their complex rhythms, memorable melodies and lively vocal presence, they sum up all of the band’s best tendencies.
Conclusion. This live album – a very good one – is seen as a documentary testimony of the band’s ability to play live as good as they do it in the studio, designed as a message to the next generations of prog lovers. (As to the present-day ones, who would ever doubt the matter?) Recorded, packed, stamped, sent! Let’s hope it won’t get lost somewhere on its way to the future.
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