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TRACK LIST: Harlequin Mass: 1. Introit 3:03 2. Love & Death 7:37 3. One Step Home 7:32 4. Space Cats 1:00 5. Loss of a Friend 3:39 6. A New Song 4:21 7. Sky Caller 10:34 Stubborn Puppet: 8. My Place 3:14 9. Meantime 4:02 10. Fabulous Angel 4:04 11. Jeopardy 3:54 All tracks: by Holdahl, except: 8: by Hay. LINE-UP: Lyle Holdahl - - lead bass & rhythm guitars; vocals - piano, organ, & synthesizers; flute Nancy Kaye - - vocals; bass synthesizer Jeff Pike (tracks 1 to 7) - - lead electric, classical, and acoustic guitars; - clarinets; synthesizer & piano; backing vocals John Reagan (tracks 1 to 7) - - drums & percussion; backing vocals Kevin Hay - lead guitars (tracks 8 to 11) Tom Dickens - drums (tracks 8 to 11) Carl Bennett - bass guitar (tracks 8 to 11) Engineered by B. Stutenberg (1 to 7) & P. Hewitt. Recorded at Association (1 to 7), OR, & Triangle, WA.
Prolusion. This CD reissue includes all the tracks featured on both of Harlequin Mass's eponymous LP of 1978 and MC-EP of 1982, which, though, was released under the name of Stubborn Puppet. For the first time, Mellow Records released this CD in 1994.
Synopsis. Above all, it must be said that everything presented on this CD is completely original and very tasteful. However, the band's full-length album and EP are musically quite different among themselves, so I'll describe them separately from each other. There are seven tracks on "Harlequin Mass", one of which: Introit (1) is the only instrumental composition on the CD. The first half of this piece features the amazing interplay between passages of classical guitar and solos of clarinet, and the further contents of it are about Classic Symphonic Art-Rock of a moderate complexity. All of this is typical also for the short song: Space Cats (4). The music on each of the longest three songs here: Love & Death, One Step Home, and Sky Caller (2, 3, & 7), all of which contain truly large-scaled arrangements and the parts of all of the instruments listed above, represents just Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and is highly diverse and intriguing. Both of the remaining songs from the original "Harlequin Mass" LP: Loss of a Friend and A New Song (5 & 6) are compositionally simpler than any other track on the CD. But while these two are hardly related to Classic Progressive, both of them are still original and tasteful. The multi-instrumentalist and the main mastermind behind the band, Lyle Holdahl, takes the duties of lead vocalist on the two songs: Love & Death and Space Cats, and Nancy Kaye on all of the others. Unlike "Harlequin Mass", there are no backing vocals on "Stubborn Puppet", and all four of the songs here were performed by Nancy alone. Although the music on the last four songs on the CD is a bit less intricate than that on most of the preceding tracks, it is by no means less impressive. A highly original, real Progressive Hard Rock with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock is presented on My Place and Meantime (8 & 9), and a fusion of both of the said genres on the last two tracks on the CD: Fabulous Angel and Jeopardy. Here is another difference between the two stages of the band's creation. While the prominent mood of "Harlequin Mass" is originated from romanticism, most of the vocal and instrumental parts on "Stubborn Puppet" are clearly dramatic in character. Finally, I should mention that all of the musicians in the line-up on this CD are real dabs and by all means.
Conclusion. I regard Harlequin Mass / Stubborn Puppet as one; one of the best American bands that worked during the years revealed the end of Progressive's glory. Also, this is undoubtedly the best American band with a woman fronting. Saying so, I imply the other similar American outfits that exist in the history of Progressive Rock in particular and Rock Music in general. This CD comes recommended to all the lovers of Classic Symphonic Progressive. As for the two heavier songs here, you won't be disappointed with them (too). Honest.
VM: May 20, 2003
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