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(45 min, Musea & Poseidon)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sir Bordenhausen 6:06 2. Triplet Colors-2 9:34 3. The Flower Ladies 5:36 4. Open Before Knock 4:12 5. Altered States-2 5:28 6. The Star of Sorrow 4:12 7. In the Memory of Charnades The Pan 9:47 PERSONNEL: Haruhiko Tsuda - guitar Yoshiyuki Sakurai - bass Naoya Takahashi - drums Kayo Matsumoto - keyboards Takashi Kokubo - synthesizers
Prolusion. HAL & RING is a new Japanese outfit arisen from the ashes of two different bands, Hal and Ring, both of which were active from 1975 to 1979, but had no releases until 2006. "Alchemy" is their first common brainchild, the album consisting of the tracks that were composed in the '70s, but were anew rearranged, replayed and re-recorded in 2006. Why "common"? The fact is that one of the groups, Ring, has this last year issued a CD under their own name. Titled pompously as "The Empire of Necromancers", that disc is made up of seven tracks, six of which are available only on it.
Analysis. Since I am well familiar with the said recording by Ring, it's clear to me which of the seven instrumentals on "Alchemy" are theirs. These are Triplet Colors-2, Altered States-2, The Star of Sorrow and In the Memory of Charnades The Pan, the latter being featured on "The Empire of Necromancers" too. That being said, the former three are 'classic' Ring, each representing psychedelic Space Rock much in the style of early Pink Floyd, but if Triplet Colors-2 is positively eclectic, evoking the title number of "A Saucerful of Secrets", the other two are both instantly accessible. The semi-epic In the Memory of Charnades The Pan sounds way different from any of the said three; it was created in 1978 - shortly after Ring had radically changed their style. Obviously, the men from Hal have also had their part in reworking the tune. All in all, In the Memory of Charnades The Pan and its track-list counterpart, Sir Bordenhausen, are musically almost like twin brothers. Both are energetic organ-driven Symphonic Progressive firmly rooted in classic ELP, although the resemblance disappears when the roaring guitar riffs come to the fore which happens quite often, yet, not as often as I would like it to. Triumvirate might also come to mind when listening to these, especially their third recording, "Spartacus". Hal's other two compositions, The Flower Ladies and Open Before Knock, are equally impressive, the former at first steering in the same direction as the 'boundary' tracks, but soon bursting out in something completely unique, suggesting composed Jazz-Fusion. Finally Open Before Knock is really exuberant music bringing together both heavy and edgy Symphonic Progressive and Blues Rock (which, though, still has a distinct symphonic quality to it), sometimes resembling Manfred Mann's Earth Band circa "Solar Fire".
Conclusion. Overall, Hal & Ring's "Alchemy" is a quite strong and very listenable album. However only those equally appreciating classic Symphonic Progressive and early Psychedelic Rock might like it in its entirety.
VM: February 2, 2007
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