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Chameleon - 2013 - "Rising"

(77:42, ShroomAngel Records)


1.  Texas Cyclone 9:41
2.  Follow Your Love 3:57
3.  Pilot Thoughts 7:24
4.  Brave New Way 4:08
5.  Drool Away 4:36
6.  Pass Thru the Columbian Mountains 6:43
7.  Everyday Everyway 5:56
8.  Mirkwood Forest 6:53
9.  In the Heart 5:26
10. Saturate 4:49
11. Midnight Matinee 5:29
12. Life Positions 9:26
13. In My Own Way 3:14


Craig Gysler  keyboards; vocals
Spencer Clark  guitars; vocals
Mike Huey  drums 
Rick Huey  bass 
Marty Naul  percussion 

Prolusion. The US band CHAMELEON was formed back in 1969, and was an active band unit until 1981, primarily performing live in their local area, from what I understand. They never got to release any material while active, but they had a few recording sessions over the years. These have been collected and restored, and the end result is the archival release "Rising", issued by the US label ShroomAngel Records in 2013.

Analysis. As the opening cut on this CD unfolds, the just over 9 minutes of Texas Cyclone will give you the impression that the world lost a highly talented band to obscurity in the case of Chameleon. With spirited organ movements, some nice crunchy guitars here and there, tranquil intermediate phases and an overall sound that brings Genesis and Camel to mind and a wide grin to your face, this is a fantastic song to open the album with. If someone is to release an album's worth of forgotten jewels in US progressive rock, this composition deserves a presence on it. It is unfortunate that the rest of the material isn't of the same quality. The band is an able and talented one, and they do know how to create good progressive rock numbers as well as more mainstream-oriented affairs. Those with a fancy for older Camel, paired off with some US touches, will find plenty of familiar material here as the band runs through one composition after the other with subtle jazz-tinged references, surging, compelling keyboard textures, fine lead vocals and vocal harmonies of the kind that might invite references to Starcastle or possibly even Kansas or Yes. The problem is that the music sounds terribly dated. These recordings are almost 40 years old, and they haven't fared all that well with time. Many of the keyboard sounds are typical in the negative rather than the positive meaning of the word, the arrangements and overall sound are also of the kind that shouts out "Recorded in the 70s" fairly loud, allegorically speaking. And when the band opts for a more conventional hard rock sound at times, they don't always succeed. Everyday Everyway is a good example, where they use a riff that could have been borrowed from classic Aerosmith and manage to use it on a song that tries to be both hard rock and progressive rock and ends up as something in between, combining the flaws rather than the strengths of both genres. Generally speaking they are a talented band. They do manage to combine a UK-influenced version of symphonic progressive rock with a more US-based one, and manage to add in some jazz-tinged touches to broaden the scope of the framework they work within, but everything is done in a manner that doesn't stand the test of time at all. I'm not the kind of person that have problems with retro-sounding music, and I dearly love many albums made and recorded in the 70s. But in this case the sound, the mix, the production and the instrumentation for me testify quite nicely to just why some bands were never signed back in the day. Or to put it that way: this is a band that had all the ingredients of greatness, but never got round to do the polishing job. Opening track Texas Cyclone is the exception of course, the one truly great song on this production that showcases all the best sides of this band as I experience them in 2015.

Conclusion. Chameleon explored a very time typical variety of 70s US progressive rock on the archival collection "Rising". This is a band that has been rather deeply inspired by the classic progressive rock bands from the UK: Genesis and Camel in particular, and attempted to create their own US based version of it. At best done brilliantly, but the greater majority of the material is of the kind that hasn't managed to stand the test of time all that well unfortunately. If you don't mind that distinct sound of the less than great part of the 70s, including some rather cliche and odd keyboard textures and arrangement choices that are less than stellar, then Chameleon is a band that merits a check. Opening track Texas Cyclone is the exception to this description though, a shining jewel amongst gemstones that went out of style permanently sometime in the 70s.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 8, 2015
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