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(52:06, Altrock/Falling Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Three Jumps the Devil 7:06 2. You’ll Wait Forever 6:29 3. Never Worry 4:00 4. Thief 7:26 5. Brightening Sky 5:25 6. Rosa 16:10 7. Bye-Bye Now 5:32 LINEUP: Robbie Wilson – vocals; guitars; organ; trumpet Luke Foster – drums, percussion; piano Peter Evans – bass; glockenspiel Chris Lloyd – guitars; piano With: Bruce White – viola &: Helen Whitaker – flute (4, 5) Anna-Lousie Williams – vocals (5)
Prolusion. Hailing from England, AUTUMN CHORUS presents its first release, “The Village to the Vale”. As you can see above, three of the members of this quartet appear as men who wear two hats, each playing two different instruments, while its founder and main mastermind, Robbie Wilson, handles four, vocals included. Of the three guest musicians involved, a viola player, a flautist and a female singer, the first appears on the majority of the compositions.
Analysis. This 52-minute album is full of pastoral musical landscapes that indeed arouse associations with a South-Britain valley village. Almost all of the seven tracks presented are basically slow-paced, developing unhurriedly, overflowed with romantic and melodic flair that recalls early-‘70s Uriah Heep, Yes, Curved Air and Electric Light Orchestra at their most temperate, at times also evoking Wapassou and Art Zoyd – only without the avant-garde component of the latter band’s sound. The album’s closing piece, Bye-Bye Now, is its sole conventional ballad, featuring neither flourishes of chamber instruments nor flashes of classic sympho-prog arrangements (sic), unlike any of the others. In terms of style as such, Thief, Brightening Sky, Three Jumps the Devil and Rosa are all symphonic Art-Rock with elements of classical music. Adding to classical approach is the addition of viola and piano (plus acoustic guitar in the latter case) to the more conventional instrumentation of organ, electric guitar and bass. The battery of drums is deployed infrequently rather than otherwise, which can be explained by the fact that its commander, Luke Foster, also handles pianos and switches off to them each time it is necessary according to the band’s overall compositional design. The former two pieces are also rich in English folksy motifs, which are provided by the flute. The trumpet appears on Never Worry as well as You’ll Wait Forever, in both cases played in the academic manner. Along with the 16-minute Rosa (which, though, is a bit overextended), these two are the most compelling tracks here. Full of specific chamber tones and colorations, such as string pizzicatos, each of them is strongly influenced by classical music in its pure form, featuring few and no percussion instruments at all, respectively. The result is particularly impressive when the viola and keyboards are joined by trumpet, the sound then so saturated that it might seem an orchestral synthesizer is used too, whereas it doesn’t – the band just properly uses the studio possibilities. Back to the album as a whole: in some cases the first two of the bands that are cited as reference points come to mind only due to Wilson’s singing, albeit the man by no mean always sounds like a cross between David Byron and Jon Anderson, often delivering purely original vocal lines, at times singing in a quasi-operatic manner, such as on Never Worry, where he does so almost throughout. All in all, his voice is quite remarkable, covering no less than three octaves, and the vocal melodies are strong as well. On Brightening Sky he often shares the vocals with a guest female singer, but I wouldn’t say the piece benefits from what appears as a result, namely an AOR-ish choir singing.
Conclusion. Because most of its tracks either contain elements of classical music or are directly inspired by that the album does not appear as a collection of traditional rock ballads, the music normally staying well within the bounds of good taste. I believe all the progressive rock lovers will appreciate it, although I realize that most of them will only use it as background music. Anyway, this is one of the best ‘background music’ outings I’ve heard in years.
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