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Tracklist: 1. Culley On Bleecker Street 7:12 2. Oversight 6:14 3. Wintersong 8:16 4. Hope You Don't Mind 9:01 5. Like This 6:14 6. Where the River Runs 7:53 7. We Are the Sun 6:57 All music: written & arranged by Nice Beaver. All lyrics: by Eric Groeneweg. Line-up: Hans Gerritse - electric & acoustic guitars; vocals Eric Groeneweg - lead vocals; keyboards Peter Stel - basses; backing vocals Ferry Zonneveld - drums & percussion; backing vocals Produced by Mike van Dalm. Recorded & mixed by Roel Toering at "Stable Studio" in Amhem, Holland.
Prologue. Note: First, the debut Nice Beaver album, "On Dry Land", was released on CD by the band's own label 'No Beaver'. I am going to review exactly the original CD, the contents of which are different from those on the CD that was recently re-released by "Cyclops Records". Some of you, dear readers, can guess why the original version of the same album is different from the second one.
The Album. These Dutch guys look like a mature band already on their debut album, which is filled with amazingly intriguing and thoughtful arrangements almost entirely. There are only two tracks on the album, Culley On Bleecker Street and Where the River Runs (1 & 6), where repeats of the vocal parts are slightly striking. However, the instrumental parts on these songs (as well as throughout the album) contain the arrangements that are typical for Classic Progressive. As for Eric Groeneweg with his rather low voice (don't worry, he is by no means a bass!), I find him one of the most original and tasteful vocalists on a contemporary progressive scene. Eric's dramatic way of singing is also very distinctive and can't be compared to anyone's. (It's quite a rare case when I really enjoy the vocals. Though, of course, I enjoy the instrumental arrangements on this album as well.) While a few of the vocal parts (but not the vocals themselves) on this album can be related to Neo, the instrumental arrangements have nothing to do with that 'natural child' of Progressive at all. To depict the album more precisely, I have to define its stylistics in detail (yes, usually, I do it in the beginning of reviews). So, both the aforementioned songs are about a blend of Neo and Classic Symphonic Progressive. These two are the most light, - no, 'light-weight' rather than "simply" light, - songs on the album (there are no instrumental pieces on it). Perhaps, one would call the stylistics of all five of the remaining songs as nothing else but a blend of Classic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. Which wouldn't be correct, despite the fact that electric and bass guitars play more a significant role on this album than keyboards. Nevertheless, the latter instruments were used by no means just for a background. The solos and passages of synthesizers are active almost everywhere on the album. While the long, fast, and virtuosi organ solos on Hope You Don't Mind (4, which is a real gem of complex, hard-edged Art-Rock), is undoubtedly one of the hallmarks of this album. So just Symphonic Art-Rock (which really rocks!) with just elements of Prog-Metal would be, in my view, the best general definition of the style of the debut Nice Beaver album. Yes, the elements of Prog-Metal are sometimes more than merely evident on it, but a real fusion of these two genres is present only on We Are the Sun (7), which is the last track 'on dry land'. The most intriguing songs on the album are, however, in the core of it: Oversight, Wintersong, Hope You Don't Mind, and Like This (2, 3, 4, & 5). And two of them, Hope You Don't Mind and Wintersong, are not only the real masterworks of the genre. Also, they're full of some unspeakable magic, which, though, was typical for many of the genuine, truly inspired albums released in the heyday of Progressive in the 1970s. Wintersong, in addition, brings to the listener a healthy dose of positive hypnotism. Even if these two were the only great songs on the album, I would say that it is worthy of buying.
Summary. Well, Nice Beaver is another band playing quite an original music within the framework of Prog that is regarded as classic (or traditionally classic). However, unlike some bands that also perform an original, yet, not that impressive music (like Synema, for example), Nice Beaver are full of inspiration, which, certainly, is reflected in their music. Highly recommended to all the lovers of Symphonic Progressive Rock (not Metal yet) in general.
VM. August 1, 2002
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