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(53:12, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Summons 5:58 2. The Prosecution 5:15 3. The Outcry 4:19 4. The Defense 2:36 5. The Verdict 5:18 6. Shiva-I 6:28 7. Soon be Gone 5:32 8. Between Two Voids 3:42 9. Glimpse of a Chance 8:37 10. Shiva-II 5:23 LINEUP: Brett Barnett – keyboards Bill Estes – guitars Greg Miller – drums Paul Harrison – bass John Mabry – vocals; ac. guitar With: Marika Hughes – cello (1) Choir (3)
Prolusion. The press kit of this release presents MIND FURNITURE as a young American band, influenced by Rush, Kansas, Styx, Jethro Tull and Marillion. On their website, however, all the musicians look like being in their early forties. I have already listened to “Hoop of Flame” (which is a follow-up to their debut release “End of Days” from 2000), and I must note I don’t find any of the cited reference points to be useful, to say the least.
Analysis. “Hoop of Flame” is yet another virtual musical journey into that blessed seventh decade of the last century, which, however, in many ways stands out against the general background of time-divers into the epoch whose variety of musical directions still has to be realized and, maybe, even rediscovered as well. In its overall appearance, the album reminds me of a crossover between ’70s Hard-, Progressive-, balladic Rock and AOR, and if I say now that its makers cover mostly terrain that has been cultivated by Uriah Heep, it might surprise only those who’re unaware of the legend’s creative omnivorousness (may they forgive me for this expression), as they’re indeed the only classic English hard rock ensemble who’ve always been notable for their frequent as well as varied digressions from their primary style. The invisible links between the American and the English band are best of all audible on The Summons, Between Two Voids and Shiva-II, all of which are driving symphonic hard rock creations, and also on the ballads that involve some moves with the use of big guns, namely The Prosecution and The Defense. It’s not to say that Mind Furniture sounds exactly like Uriah Heep, since the signs of direct influences disappear almost right away after they pop up, but the overall atmosphere is very similar, evoking “Demons and Wizards”, these musicians’ technique and command of the style seeming to be nearly on the same level as their mentors’. The guitar, organ, bass and drums provide a lush background for the singer’s melodic lines, while the arrangements within instrumental sections are truly sophisticated, those on the calmer songs included, as both are complicated ballads, lying fairly far from the standards adopted in this category of music (though to a greater degree this remark is relevant to the three tracks to be described last). The Outcry and Glimpse of a Chance contain no hard textures, both displaying a humbler, more commercial approach, suggesting the mid-’80s period of you know whom or even Boston’s third outing. The first of these reveals at least a couple of refined piano interludes, whilst the latter is quite straightforward throughout, with the endlessly marching drums and mixed choir that automatically brings to mind Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. That being said, this one has an exaggerated sense of purpose and can only appeal to music lovers outside the hard rock camp, let alone the progressive rock one. Of the remaining three tracks, The Verdict, Soon Be Gone and Shiva-I (which follow each other in the very middle of the CD), the first is the sole instrumental here, the latter features some spacey landscapes, but overall they are all much in the same style. These are ballad-like, mostly acoustic guitar- and piano-laden pieces that are crafted in a very original way, arousing no associations, besides which the first two at times cross into progressive realms, both being my personal favorites. The use of a string synthesizer as well as samples of a few chamber woodwinds, besides adding variety to the songs’ basic sound, imparts a pleasing light semi-classical semi-medieval flavor to them.
Conclusion. Most of the tracks on this 53-minute recording are enjoyable as a melodic late-‘70s hard- or pomp rock-style band flirting with some classic progressive features. If this remark chimes in with your personal preferences in music, I’d recommend you check out “Hoop of Flame”.
VM: May 7, 2008
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