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Big J - 2011 - "Duality"

(64:46, ‘Big J’)



1.  Carry Him Home-1 3:34
2.  Love Peace Freedom Happiness 7:34
3.  A Fictionary Lie 5:39
4.  Freedom 4:23
5.  Babylon Sons 5:53
6.  Falling Away 4:56
7.  Fanatic 4:52
8.  Break of Dawn 3:26
9.  This Song 3:27
10. I’m Free 6:11
11. The Fire of Life and Death 6:50
12. Carry Him Home-2 7:35


Big J – vocals; keyboards; guitars, bass; drums
Stefan Gunther – drums (2, 3, 6, 8)
Michael Kutter – drums (1, 4, 7, 12)
Mattias Steuert – guitar (2, 3, 7, 12)
Stefan Weber – bass (3, 5, 6, 7)
Eileen Doreen – flute (5, 8)
A few people on backing vocals

Prolusion. “Duality” is the latest solo outing by German multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, who prefers to hide his real name under the pseudonym BIG J – apparently an artistic one. Apart from the man himself, the album features some ten guest musicians (see lineup above for details), but, besides those by the drummers, their contributions don’t seem to be important.

Analysis. The twelve tracks that the disc is made up of are all songs, and almost all of them are heavily influenced by early ‘90s Eloy, almost a half of those suggesting that we’re dealing with a profanation of the style of Big J’s famous compatriots. None of that band’s albums contain compositions that would be as simple-minded and uninspired alike as the implied ones, namely A Fictionary Lie, Babylon Sons, This Song, I’m Free and The Fire of Life and Death, each of which is too long to rely on the stock alternation of verse and chorus to the degree it does, to say the very least. The mixed choir that is featured on a couple of these reminds me somewhat of that on Jeanne D’Arc from “Destination” (which it also does on each of the other tracks that it’s part of), but it isn’t operatic, singing much less diversely than Eloy’s one does. Either way, it isn’t much of help, in particular because the music as such is bi-thematic and sluggish, robbing the material of vitality. Although presenting himself as a one-man ensemble a-la a virtual quintet, Big J doesn’t play drums in fact. Throughout all of the tracks, on which the instrumental parts are all performed by him alone, he uses a drum machine, plus, in most cases, deploys synthy-bass pads instead of a bass guitar. These are the aforementioned This Song, I’m Free and The Fire of Life and Death, on the first two of which the man often goes on with something too long, so I begin to wander: what’s the intent? As to the latter piece (the album’s longest track, BTW), with the accent on a repetitive guitar riff which clashes the square, 4/4, structure-phrase provided by the ‘rhythm section‘, it is almost as straight as any of the first four described ones are, no matter that, due to its heaviness, it sounds edgier than either of those. It occurs very rarely when a theme unexpectedly changes, and the ‘band’ moves right along to something completely new. Nonetheless, the songs Carry Him Home-1, Love-Peace-Freedom-Happiness, Fanatic, Break of Dawn, Falling Away and Carry Him Home-2, can be cited as examples of the latter. Relying almost equally on the symphonic layering and the guitar riffing, these have at least some progressive quality to them, albeit overall, all of them are no more than pomp rock-meets-neo prog affairs (with a bit stronger emphasis on the instrumental performance), some of them being loaded with ‘radio voices’, using those with no taste or measure. All in all, only the latter two items, Falling Away (which begins with a set of sophisticated acoustic guitars passages) and Carry Him Home-2 (the album’s only track with long instrumental section), depict Big J as a true follower of Eloy’s creative legacy. Performed by the male choir, the remaining piece, Freedom, is structurally similar to the previously described ones (albeit it’s much straighter musically). Otherwise, however, it’s a different story altogether, alternating two vocal lines, one of which instantly evokes the singing of Siberian shamans, whereas another is just a single word, “freedom”, repeated almost endlessly.

Conclusion. Being for the most part only quasi-progressive in nature, Big J’s debut effort reminds me of –plenty of – albums by bands which, since the beginning of the last decade, have been pretending to fill the progressive rock genre, emasculating the idiom, but even more so the very idea of the corresponding movement, which will probably come to naught soon.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: September 7, 2011
The Rating Room

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