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TRACK LIST: 1. Secret Place-I 9:03 2. You Don't Fool Me 10:03 3. Friends of Mine 11:19 4. Gone Margarita 9:25 5. Tales from the Green Sofa 12:34 6. Secret Place-II 7:34 All tracks: by Mirage. LINE-UP: Stephan Forner - electric & acoustic guitars; vocals Philippe Duplessy - organ & synthesizers Cyrille Forner - electric & acoustic basses Joel Mondon - drums Agnes Forner - flute Produced by Mirage. Engineered by C. Cartaut.
Prolusion. "Tales from the Green Sofa", the title of which has so much in common with that of Teru's Symphonia's "Fable on the Seven Pillows" (1990), is the second album by France's MIRAGE, the name of which is so inevitably associated with Camel. The review of the band's debut is here.
Synopsis. In the three years that have elapsed detaching "Tales from the Green Sofa" from their debut outing, Mirage spent their time wisely. While the essence of the band's general sound remains the same, the album is marked with distinct signs of maturity and other features of progress. Each of the seven tracks contains vocals (with English lyrics), and nevertheless, each of them, without exception, is largely instrumental and long. The entire album was created within the framework of Symphonic Art-Rock. The music is rather monolithic both stylistically and structurally, and at least overall, the songs are different among themselves only by the level of progressiveness and the richness of sound. The first composition: Secret Place-I is a bit more accessible than the others and is about something average between Camel's "Dust & Dreams" and "Harbour of Tears" and "The Division Bell" by Pink Floyd where only the Hammond solos seem to be really unique. The quantity of the band's original ideas is growing up while the album unfolds, and the following three songs: You Don't Fool Me, Friends of Mine, and Gone Margarita (2 to 4) turned out to be much more diverse and interesting. Each of these begins with soft interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and solos of flute, afterwards (and quite promptly) transforming into full-fledged Symphonic Progressive of a moderate complexity. The emanations of Pink Floyd have vanished, and the appearance of acoustic guitar, flute, piano, and string ensemble has vastly enriched the sound and refreshed it as well. But although the music as such is getting more and more original on each of the following tracks, Stephan Forner's vocals and the structure of electric guitar solos remain unchangeable down to the fifth track, eliciting more than a casual resemblance to Andy Latimer. Generally, the band kept all its principal trumps for the last two songs. More inspired and more original than any of the preceding compositions, the album's title track and Secret Place-II bring the listener into a more adventurous realm with complex arrangements, frequent and often unexpected changes of theme, tempo and mood, thoughtfully intermixed electric and acoustic textures, etc. Excellent stuff.
Conclusion. While there is still nothing revolutionary on the new Mirage album, it is much better than its predecessor and, unlike it, gets into the Classic Progressive category, at least on the whole. I only wish that, from now on, the band would hold to the direction, which is designated on the last two tales 'from the green sofa'. Going this way, they'll become more than just followers of Camel.
VM: July 14, 2004
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