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(55:56, Proximity Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mood No-10 5:12 2. Unconditional 6:30 3. Every Time I Think of You 5:58 4. And Pure 6:09 5. Lost Summer 6:55 6. Kiss Away the Pain 12:34 7. Fragments 12:18 LINEUP: Steven McCabe – el., ac. & bass guitars; keyboards Christopher Knight – drums Ken Senior – vocals
Prolusion. The brainchild of English multi-instrumentalist and composer Steven McCabe, ELEGANT SIMPLICITY has been around already for almost 20 years and is too well-known an outfit to enlarge upon its bio again and again. Released last December on the Proximity label, “Too Many Goodbyes” is their twentieth outing. All I can add here is that most of the band’s previous efforts have been reviewed on this site as well. Click here if you are interested to read any of those writings.
Analysis. Probably the most creatively stable as well as fruitful act of the UK’s contemporary progressive rock movement, Elegant Simplicity arrives this time out with their most beautiful album in the new century. Indeed, what has been said also means that “Too Many Goodbyes” is overall less complicated than any of the group’s other 2000s releases, but even so there is not a single sign of stagnation here, McCabe’s signature songwriting style still being evident far and wide. The seven tracks here total about 56 minutes; three of them, Mood No-10, And Pure and Fragments, only featuring Steven and drummer Christopher Knight, the band’s only permanent member besides the keeper of its name. Taking the first, the central and the last position in the track list, respectively, the instrumentals impart a strong sense of symmetry to the album’s architecture, to say the least. It’s only here, generally speaking, that the music constantly evolves, with a quantity of vintage-sounding keyboards deployed, and where the players are always busy and resourceful alike, effortlessly jumping from section to section as well as from style to style. As usual, Elegant Simplicity with ease eschews stereotyped musical terrains, so it is only to help neophytes to find their bearings that I will name some famous, legendary bands as reference points below. The music is basically symphonic, in a “Rain Dances” (Camel)-meets-“Tormato” (Yes) kind of way, though only Mood No-10 never leaves the implied realm, alternating softer passages with more intense, at times positively intricate maneuvers. And Pure is a synthesis of classic Art-Rock and symphonic Space Rock with a couple of classically-inspired, acoustic guitar- and synthesizer strings-driven moves, which may in places suggest something halfway between Eloy’s “Planets” and “Pyramid” by The Alan Parsons Project. The 12-minute closing track, Fragments, develops in full accordance with the laws of logicality, regardless of what its title might bring to mind. One of the most complicated and at the same time beautiful compositions to come out from Britain’s scene during this current decade, it flings together all the aforementioned styles along with symphonic Hard Rock and Jazz-Fusion, offering a large choice of conventional (yet so significant and pleasing alike) progressive features, such as frequent shifts in pace, theme and mood, besides many others. The rest of the material finds the band using a more subtle and, so to speak, exclusively art-rock approach, without a lot of intensity and striking dynamic or textural contrasts. Nevertheless, with the exception of Lost Summer (an atmospheric ballad performed without the rhythm section), all the songs, Unconditional, Kiss Away the Pain and Every Time I Think of You, contain some bombastic arrangements as well as soft, usually semi-acoustic, interludes. The best of the songs is the last-named one: although a bit more often vocals-based than otherwise, this is overall a full-blooded sympho-prog tune, going through a variety of themes, and not without what we normally comprehend as dramatic transitions. Ken Senior’s singing on this disc is probably warmer and more touching than ever before and, which seems to be most significant, is fully suitable to the music.
Conclusion. You see, either only two or three people play here, and yet the sound is so full-bodied that it’s easily associated with a quintet’s effort, thanks to a greater degree still to Steven, in particular for being equally masterful while handling all his instruments, namely electric, acoustic and bass guitars as well as various keyboards. Somewhat more laid back overall than a number of the band’s previous efforts, this is still a near-excellent recording that should satisfy all fans of moderately complex Symphonic Progressive, save for probably those exclusively into the neo branch of the genre.
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