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(59:59; Apollon Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Lover, Lower Me Down 5:22 2. Black River 4:22 3. The Wheelbarrow 7:13 4. Beaks of Benevola 3:55 5. Strawberry Suicide 3:32 6. Isabel: A Report to an Academy 6:54 7. Baseball 5:26 8. Night Hitcher 6:35 9. Before the Helmets 7:00 10. Jonah 7:26 11. Heart of Hickory 2:14 LINE UP : Jon Ivar Kollbotn - vocals Claudia Cox - violin, vocals Lars Christian Bjorkenes - piano Sondre Veland - drums
Prolusion. Norwegian progressive rock band Major Parkinson have been around for a couple of decades by now, with four studio albums and two live albums to their name so far. "A Night at the Library" is their most recent production, and this live album was released through Norwegian label Apollon Records in the spring of 2022.
Analysis. Major Parkinson strikes me as a band that really enjoys doing the unexpected, changing central aspects of their overall sound from one album to the next and not at all adhering to what one might describe as what is expected by the band. This live album strikes me as a fairly good example of just that. Released only a handful of years after their previous live album, but rather than highlighting new material on a traditional live album they have chosen a very different direction altogether by giving old and new songs alike a radically different arrangement to be performed by a very different version of the band. The band has always been an eclectic one as far as progressive rock goes of course, and the eclectic spirit is certainly maintained here. Here we are given an acoustic rendering of a chosen set of their songs, and rather than opting for a more traditional acoustic guitar oriented performance the songs have been rearranged for piano, strings and vocals, with rhythm details filling in when appropriate. The very tone and spirit of some of the songs have been altered as well, with the dramatic and borderline aggressive take given to 'Beaks of Benevola' a prime example of just that: A song I suspect many would have imagined as quite the soft and dreamladen affair when performed by a pianist and a violinist. The unexpected qualities of the band also comes in the manner of general form and execution here, as the limits and borders of music performed by the three instrumentalists and two vocalists here are expanded and tugged upon constantly. Some songs now appear as vibrant chamber rock excursions, others as gentler piano ballads, some being closer to acoustic rock in this new guise. With many of the songs moving back and forth across the borders between this triangle of different modes of delivery. The distinct vocal qualities of singer Kollbotn ties it all together with his theatrical and emotional delivery: As a singer he comes across as totally invested in and living his performance here, which certainly adds life to the performance overall. The only slight sour grape I have with this entire album is the rendition of the band's old classic 'Heart of Hickory', a tune that in the chaotic, high paced and dramatic mode it is given here comes across as a much less interesting song for me personally, to the point that I will probably skip this song when I play this album next.
Conclusion. One can have many opinions about the band major Parkinson I guess, but one opinion it is impossible to have is that the band is a predictable unit. I don't think all that many of their fans, if any, would guess that they would create and release a live album where their songs are explored inside a stripped down piano ballad, acoustic rock and borderline chamber rock context. But now the album is here, and for many fans this will be a delightful experience. For those unaware of the band this album isn't where I would start exploring them though. But for those with an interest in a stripped down and at times expressive variety of progressive rock operating within the previously described triangle this album is one to investigate. If for no other reason than the fact that there aren't all that many albums of a similar kind and nature out there to begin with.
Progmessor: April 2022
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