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(51:50; Progress Records)
When I opened the envelope and discovered two Cross albums inside, together with press releases, it was something of a shock and I actually had to sit down. The reason being is that Hansi used to be a friend of mine, and we swapped numerous emails when I was running Feedback in the UK, as I not only reviewed five albums by his band but also many other artists he released on his label. I lost touch with him when I attempted to drop out of the music scene on moving to New Zealand in 2006, but I was fully aware he had passed away far too young in 2017 as he approached his 57th birthday. Now here I was with two Cross albums being released on a label I also thought was no more. Which one to play first? Oh well, whichever comes to hand, which was this one. One of the things about Cross the band, was that at times it was just Cross the person, while at others it was a full band and at others it was a small band with guests, so many musicians were involved over the years. This album is credited to Hansi on vocals and guitars, along with Olle Siljeholm (organ, synthesizers), Robert Iversen (drums, percussion) and Thomas Christensen (bass), so basically the ‘Visionary Fools’ line-up from 1998, apart from Thomas who played on the previous album ‘Gaze” (1996) – this latter just happened to be the first Cross album I ever reviewed, 25 years ago! This release was viewed as to be a “best of” compilation, but half of the songs are previously unreleased versions while the other half are previously unreleased at all. When looking at the CD cover, I noticed that eight of the songs were recorded in 1997, which got me thinking and that infernal computer in my brain started chunking out information, which led me over to Discogs to see if my memory was correct – I wish I knew why I am seemingly unable to remember important information but when it comes to music, it just sticks! Back in 1996 Cyclops Records released ‘Gaze’, which was the fourth Cross album but the first to be released in the UK, with the other three albums already deleted. That went so well that Cyclops agreed to release a compilation of material from the first three albums, but Hansi being Hansi decided to either remix, remaster, or straight-out re-record some of the songs, and these were all then released as ‘Dream Reality’. So, the Cross line-up on this album is actually the ‘Dream Reality’ line-up from 1997 and looking at that album I can see that most of the alternative versions included here also appeared on that release, although that is not to say they are the same versions. But what about the music? I do not know if my views have changed over the years, or if it is the album itself, but to me this feels far fresher and interesting than the albums Cross released at that time. This is solid neo-prog, very much in keeping with the music being released at the time, yet Hansi often came across as more of a rock singer than one from prog, with far more edge and aggression in his voice. The band are incredibly tight, really locked in, and there are long instrumental passages where Hansi takes the lead with some wonderful rock guitar, complex with plenty of widdly but also with stacks of aggression. There are also times when he links in strongly with Olle in complex duets, and the end result is something while obviously somewhat dated due to the style and time it was recorded, is still really enjoyable and a load of fun. I must confess that it is some years since I last played a Cross album, but I am going to get them back down off the shelves and reacquaint myself with a band who these days are certainly not as well-known as they should be. Well done everyone for getting behind this and making these recordings available.
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