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TRACK LIST: 1. Crossing the Rubicon 0:57 2. Strange Days 5:08 3. Mass Driver 6:17 4. Ocean & Sky 6:42 5. Raindance 7:07 6. Acrobat 8:21 7. Time & Again 6:56 8. Last Call for Captain Trips 4:18 All music & lyrics: by Campbell. Arrangements: by Campbell & Crooked Mouth. LINE-UP: Ken Campbell - guitars; backing vocals Kenny Haig - lead vocals Simon Ellis - keyboards Tony Hodge - drums Chris Stenhouse - bass With: Alison Mitchell - flute Lynne Campbell - backing vocals Eilidh Swanson - backing vocals Produced by Campbell. Engineered by D. Gray at "The Sound Cafe".
Prolusion. The album titled Crooked Mouth is the debut of the Scottish band of the same name and is the third release by Moon Brothers Music, the label owned by composer and guitarist Ken Campbell. By all appearances, the previous two MGM releases have no concern with progressive music.
Synopsis. The album's opening track: Crossing the Rubicon is a very short instrumental piece, which consists of 'the wailing of the wind' and some other synthesizer and guitar effects. So it can hardly be regarded differently than as an intro to the following song, although there is a pause between them. The first two songs: Strange Days and Mass Driver (2 & 3) are both very melodious and accessible and are about a proto-progressive Art-Rock and a somewhat Hard 'n' Art, respectively. Both of which happen to be the two principal directions that the band works within. Upon first listen, these songs may seem to be too naive and plain, but at the same time, they possess something, which makes them immediately attractive. The fact is that Crooked Mouth's music just shines with sincerity, originality, and a genuine inspiration and often borders on magical. This is an event that occurs rarely today, especially within the framework of vintage progressive genres and styles, including those mentioned above. Phenomenon is the word. What is especially amazing, though, each of the further songs turned out to be much better than the precursory one. Track by track, the band displays all the stages of the fantastically rapid process of its maturity and, closer to the end of the album, appears before the listener as highly experienced and remarkably strong Progressive Rock outfit. Raindance (5) represents Symphonic Art-Rock, and Ocean & Sky (4) a blend of Art-Rock and progressive Hard Rock. But while these two are of a moderate complexity, Acrobat and Time & Again (6 & 7) look, respectively, like their brothers in style, and also like their elder brothers in everything, which concerns the compositional, arrangement and performance aspects of music. The second and the last instrumental here: Last Call for Captain Trips (8), which, simultaneously, is the last track on the album, is an astonishingly original and inventive Symphonic Art-Rock performed without a rhythm section. This is the kingdom of acoustic instruments where guitar, piano and flute rule, and electric things appear like honorable guests. Generally, Crooked Mouth's music is very rich in acoustic textures, and the vocal palette of the album is as beautiful and warm as its overall sound.
Conclusion. It is the right time to repeat that I consider originality and frankness the main trumps of any true artist. Crooked Mouth just shines with these qualities. The album possesses a lot of the other virtues, and I believe this band will become really huge one day. The only thing here that I don't feel comfortable with is the name of the band. Such a moniker would be alright for some Avant-garde Jazz or RIO outfit, but IMHO, it doesn't fit such a perfectly harmonious music as is presented on this recording, which, nevertheless (rather, in any case), gets my sincere recommendations.
VM: March 17, 2004
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