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TRACK LIST: 1. Into the Labyrinth 1:12 2. Sand In Rain 6:08 3. Pressure 3:46 4. Asleep At the Wheel 6:15 5. Mr. Boggs 4:55 6. A Classic Past 5:34 7. The Ironclads 4:47 8. My Macabre Machine 5:04 9. Invisible Man 4:06 10. Diamond Jack & the Velvet Marauders 4:56 11. The End of an Era 18:36 LINEUP: Eric Domander – drums, percussion; Theremin; b/v Jamie Robinson – piano, synthesizers; b/v Doug Stevens – el. & ac. guitars Al Webster – lead vocals; bass With: Mark Staley – bass (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9) “Juice” – backing vocals (2, 4) Bruce Wilson – saxophone (9) Jonno Lightstone – flute (6)
Prolusion. Hailing from the same Canadian province of Ontario as Rush does, this band, THE LAST PLACID DAYS OF PLENTY (LPDP hereinafter), has existed since 1989 and has many live performances in their local area behind them. However, “Headphone Gallery” is only their first studio recording, released on CD last year.
Analysis. It is quite a tiresome affair to start on two musical journeys one after another when those have a lot in common between them. On one of the most renowned and at the same time my favorite progressive rock online resources I recently read that LPDP plays in the style of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” by Genesis. To cut a long story short, I decided to pick this “Headphone Gallery” up for review next to the “Days between Stations” CD so as to avoid anything similar to that effort, but I’ve missed. Another set of shorter tracks with a kind of sidelong epic crowning them, this is a Pink Floyd-inspired creation also. In this particular case, however, the implied influence a bit more often appears in its latent form than otherwise, and it is only on the first two tracks here where it’s striking throughout. With its sounds of an oar calmly crossing the lake’s surface, some other, say, characteristic effects as well as synthesizer drones, disc opener Into the Labyrinth instantly brings to mind Signs of Life, the piece that “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” begins with. Despite its promising title, suggesting an invitation to a musical journey full of adventures and so on, this cut is followed by a song (Sand in Rain) that’s almost a replica of Time, just delivered with a plainer, more balladic approach. Okay, there are also some female vocalizations, and those are borrowed from the Great Gig in the Sky – yet another killer from the “Dark Side of the Moon” album which those whose dream of becoming another Pink Floyd will never come true have been using as a milch cow probably since its very release in 1973. The remaining three instrumentals, Invisible Man, Asleep at the Wheel and The Ironclads, each alternate Floydian (still full of soaring Gilmouresque guitar patterns and atmospheric keyboards) space rock landscapes with (quite original) fusionesque, sympho-prog and hard rock arrangements, respectively. Well, the corresponding moves on the last of these are too straightforward to keep things interesting throughout – unlike the other two pieces, the first of which incorporates a saxophone that works well in contrast to its basically quasi-reflective tone. The rest of the material often portrays LPDP as a band that has taste and ambition alike, playing what by and large comes across as definitely an innovative approach to the implied model and where their direct connection with their mentors manifests itself for the most part only during either the introductory or concluding sections of compositions. The overall direction of such songs as Mr. Boggs, Pressure, A Classic Past and The End of an Era has probably as much to do with the art-rock element as it does with the space rock one, though the groovy and at the same time catchy nature of the first of these makes it sound fairly bothersome everywhere save for its piano postlude. A Classic Past is the richest in odd instrumentation: besides those of piano (which can be found on many tracks here), it contains quite a few acoustic guitar passages as well as some flute leads. The End of an Era is also notable for some acoustic guitar flourishes, and is the most varied and contrasting composition here, which comes as no surprise, though, since it exceeds 18 minutes in length. While still retaining the corresponding connection here and there, the remaining two tracks, My Macabre Machine and Diamond Jack & the Velvet Marauders, both for the most part alternate hard rock movements (which are reminiscent of Uriah Heep, especially when the organ parallels the growling guitar) with those in the vein of vintage Symphonic Progressive, reaching out a lot further than ‘your typical’ Pink Floyd school. As for the bands the heroes of this occasion themselves list as their sources of inspiration, namely Genesis, Marillion, Rush, Queen and Supertramp, I’m well acquainted with all the studio albums by each of those, but I was never reminded of any when listened to this one.
Conclusion. This is overall quite a good effort, showing an imposing level of musicianship by its makers, as well as their willingness to expand the framework of what at first leaves the impression of being their all-absorbing passion. Compositionally, however, the recording is anything but truly adventurous and, despite containing a few instrumentals, should mostly appeal to those into the song-oriented side of Progressive, generally speaking.
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