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(66 min, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Half of Me 8:08 2. Dark Flower Perfume 1:14 3. Love & Pain 16:11 4. Waiting 2:09 5. You 5:32 6. Private Fears 8:08 7. Back on Planet Earth 5:54 8. Just Before 2:08 9. One Day 16:52 LINEUP: Didier Pegues - drums; keyboards Philippe Benabes - keyboards Benoit Derat - vocals; guitar Amirouche Ali Benali - guitar Cecile Carretero - bass
Prolusion. Yet another new name to put on the progressive rock map - EYE TO EYE, from France, presenting their first official release, "One in Every Crowd".
Analysis. With their debut output, Eye To Eye join a still-huge camp of fervent adherents of Neo Prog, thus once again proving this remains a popular, fashionable style. When listening to the album, I simultaneously watched the development of its lyrical storyline, trying to read the text synchronously with Benoit Derat's singing which is plaintive, done in a typically theatric manner, evoking nothing other than a sad clown - a picture that has already set my teeth on edge. In short, neither on this CD impressed me very much, but while preferring a more profound music, I haven't forgotten that Neo has served as a stage in the further development of many former neophytes, particularly those who are by nature predisposed to complicated music. From this standpoint, I find "One in Every Crowd" to be a pretty decent album, though not a classic, by far, which is partly because there are plenty of outside factors to be found here (although I realize it's probably impossible to step on that beaten path having not walked smack, well, into someone's track). The echoes of some of the style's trendsetters, namely Marillion, Pendragon and Pallas (at their heaviest), can be heard on each of the six tracks with lyrical content and are actually too loud to turn a deaf ear to them. Most of the synthesizer patterns instantly bring to mind the name of Mark Kelly; the many guitar solos are nearly moulded on those by Nick Barrett, and even the guitar riffs, while being rather diverse in themselves, at times sound like it's Niall Mathewson in person who provides these. However, my main complaint about this recording concerns the relative narrow-mindedness of the group's compositional thinking, as a result of which all six of the songs, without exception, turn out to be overextended, and while Half of Me and Back on Planet Earth both reveal obvious repetitions only in places, You and Private Fears are abundant in these, especially the former - in which is no surprise though, as it's made up of only three different themes. The best songs are those pretending to be perceived as side-long epics, Love & Pain and One Day, each exceeding 16 minutes in duration, both being constructed to a very similar blueprint. The content of the first half of each is truly interesting, revealing probably everything that Neo Prog is famed for. Later on however, the music is for the most part both slow and simple, strongly resembling Pendragon at their most reflective. The three instrumentals, Dark Flower Perfume, Just Before and Waiting, are all short. The former two, both feature only keyboards (piano, synthesizer plus emulated chamber and brass instruments in places), fluidly flowing into their follow-ups. The latter is much the same story, excluding its brief mid-section which reveals a full-band sound. All in all, this one is perceived as a separate track. One more positive note as the curtain falls: I have no idea which of the two men handling keyboards, Didier Pegues or Philippe Benabes, plays organ, but the organ work is beyond criticism overall.
Conclusion. Neo heads and some novice prog lovers should happily join this band in their retro researches. As for me personally, such music is a traversed stage for me, so I'd better join Coca-Cola:-).
VM: February 26, 2007
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