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Haddad - 2008 - "Eros & Thanatos"

(93:16 2CD, Musea Records)


****+

Prolusion. Hailing from Vitoria, Brazil, HADDAD are a family-based band, originally formed in the mid-Eighties by veteran big-band saxophonist Zezito Haddad together with his two sons, guitarist Leandro and keyboardist/vocalist Gustavo. They have released seven albums since their debut in 1993. On Eros & Thanatos, the six current members of the band are augmented by a number of guest musicians, including Zezito (now almost 90 years old) on saxophone.

Disc 1 (47.32)
****!+

TRACK LIST:

1.  Deuses Anjos Homens & Bestas 10:02
2.  Solidao 6:04
3.  A Colonia Dos Cybermen 9:00
4.  Liberdade Cedo Ou Tarde 4:59
5.  Fluidos Rituais 3:13
6.  O Executor 2:34
7.  Viena Flashbacks 1:14
8.  Punk Baby Lou 4:44
9.  Eros & Thanatos 5:42

LINEUP:

Gustavo Haddad  keyboards; lead vocals
Gabriel Haddad  ac. & el. guitars 
Leandro Haddad  ac. guitar; cello
Paulo Pelissari  el. guitar
Sergio Melo  drums 
Rubinho  bass 
With:
Zezito Haddad  saxophone (D-1: 4) 
Benedito Viana Gomes  flute (Disc-1: 1, 6 / D-2: 1, 5, 7)
Hariton Nathalides  violin, viola (D-1: 1, 2, 6 / D-2: 5, 7)
Leo Caetano  slide & ac. guitar (D-1: 3, 9 / D-2: 2, 5, 7)
Veruska  backing vocals (D-1: 2, 3, 4, 9 / D-2: 2)
Fabiane  backing vocals (D-1: 2, 3, 4, 9 / D-2: 2)
Geilson  backing vocals (D-1: 2, 3, 4, 9 / D-2: 2)
Paulo Sodre  bass (D-2: 10)
Analysis. Family-based outfits are nothing new in the music world one only needs to think of The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, or even Oasis, not to mention an even larger number of lesser-known acts. It would seem, however, that Haddad are a definitely more harmonious combination than some of the above-mentioned bands, as proved by their seven albums and relatively successful career in their native Brazil. Composed over a period of many years (as illustrated by the liner notes for those who can read Portuguese), Eros & Thanatos a lavishly-packaged, double CD set containing over 90 minutes of music might be seen as the bands crowning achievement, at least on account of its sheer scope. However, those misled by the title into expecting some sumptuous concept album in vintage prog tradition (a speciality of South American bands) will be severely disappointed. The prog quotient in this double set is unfortunately not very high, as it is the diversity of its musical approach. A large portion of the set, in fact, is taken up by 3-minute, melodic pop songs that hold little interest for those looking for something more challenging. In all fairness, the band have never denied their leanings towards the lighter end of the progressive rock spectrum, often mentioning Supertramp as one of their chief influences. However, the British band have released a number of authentically progressive numbers, and even their most commercially successful album, Breakfast in America, contains more variety in its 45 minutes than Eros & Thanatos in over 90. After a while, all the songs begin to sound the same (to paraphrase Led Zeppelin), and Gustavo Haddads smooth delivery clearly influenced by the Brazilian singing tradition, but rather monotonous in the long run does not do much to improve the situation. Disc 1 is certainly the one that holds the most interest for seasoned prog listeners. Its opening track, Deuses, Anjos Homens & Bestas (one of their oldest numbers, dating back from 1997) is without any doubt the highlight of the album, showcasing Gustavo Haddads skill on a variety of keyboard instruments and some beautiful guitar work by Paulo Pelissari, very much in the vein of David Gilmour and Andy Latimer. As a matter of fact, Camel and Pink Floyd might be cited as the main influences here, as well as ELP in the rockier synth-and-riff section appearing in the second half of the track. The strong melodic feel and classical nuances trademark features of South American progressive rock may also recall some of the more subdued instances of Italian prog. Even stronger Pink Floyd references surface in the other standout song, A Colonia Dos Cybermen (a title clearly modelled on Genesis The Colony of Slippermen), dedicated to sci-fi writers Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. The excellent vocal harmonies, however, have a distinct sixties flavour, and might even bring The Beatles to mind. While the title-track, which closes Disc One, is a relatively energetic number with occasional hard-rock aspirations and an overall upbeat mood, the rest of the songs are generally nothing to write home about. The circus-waltz tune of the brief instrumental Viena Flashbacks is a bit of a curio, while the songs, strong on melody and pleasing vocal parts, occasionally border on cheesiness (Punk Baby Lou being probably the biggest culprit), and their clear-cut mainstream appeal may put off those looking for genuinely progressive rock. The uniformly slow, lazy pace of the songs comes across as monotonous after a while, and the compositions are quite simple in structural terms. On the other hand, for some listeners this kind of music can be seen as a welcome respite from more demanding propositions.

Disc 2 (45.47)
****

TRACK LIST:

1.  Se O Ceu Nao Tem Almas Para Nos Dar 8:04
2.  Horizontes 3:43
3.  Alright 2:06
4.  A Danca Da Viuva Negra 2:32
5.  Raios Da Centaura 3:57
6.  Joie de Vivre 3:54
7.  Rotina 3:35
8.  Brother John 2:28
9.  O Voo Da Feiticeira 2:45
10. Twilight Zone 12:27

LINEUP: same
Analysis. If Disc 1 offered something of interest to true-blue prog fans, Disc 2 will be definitely be a disappointment. Barring the opening track, Se o Ceu Nao Tem Almas Para Nos Dar, an 8-minute slice of atmospheric prog featuring a lengthy, keyboard-led section in the second half, the rest of the disc is made up of rather undistinguished, mainstream-oriented numbers. Even the instrumental tracks are quite forgettable A Dan?a Da Viuva Negra and O Voo Da Feiticeira are somewhat disco-tinged with their 4/4 time signature and electronic effects, while the flute- and keyboard-based Joie de Vivre (dedicated by Gustavo Haddad to his wife Gisela) is romantic in a sort of mawkish way. The discs closing track, Twilight Zone, is a heavily vocal-based epic-lite that has only its running time of 12 minutes, as well as an occasional Pink Floyd vibe in the guitar and keyboard parts, to distinguish it from the rest of the disc. In spite of the bands undoubted proficiency, and Gustavo Haddads very pleasant vocals, Disc 2 is clearly a step down from the first half of the set, and will therefore influence the overall rating in a negative sense. One cannot help wondering why Haddad have chosen to release such an unnecessarily long album very few acts can adequately sustain an opus of such length without resorting to all sorts of padding. On the other hand, the members of the band are seasoned musicians and songwriters, and the kind of music they play, even if largely inoffensive and not particularly inspiring, does have its aficionados within the variegated world of prog.

Conclusion. Eros & Thanatos is clearly targeted to those progressive rock fans who lean towards the more mainstream end of the spectrum, and who consider melody the most important element in a song. Conversely, those looking for variety and complexity should definitely look elsewhere. Though undoubtedly well-executed by a group of seasoned musicians, the album, with only a couple of exceptions, is only borderline progressive. It is also way too long, relying too much on filler material that does not do anything to enhance the albums overall quality.

RB=Raffaella Berry: Feb 7 & 8, 2010
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Haddad


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