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Rousseau - 2008 - "One Step Up Two Back"

(61:08, Mellow Records)


TRACK LIST:                                 

1.  Skylight 4:23
2.  Entee 5:08
3.  Breakfast at Tiffany's 4:26
4.  Windsong 3:34
5.  The Dance 5:08
6.  Magical Moments 3:30
7.  Winter's Tale 7:11
8.  At the Cinema 4:21
9.  Amour Fou 3:24
10. Wednesday 7:53
11. Northern Lights 4:32
12. One Step Up 7:38


Rainer Holmann – keyboards 
Ali Pfeffer – drums 
J?rg Schwarz – guitars 
Dieter Beermann – bass 
Christoph Huster – flute (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 12)
Stefan Pieper – cello (10)

Prolusion. ROUSSEAU is a German band that was formed back in 1977. They released three albums in the late ‘70s and in the ‘80s with different line-ups and after the last of these productions in 1987 the band went into hiatus, as the members at that point got involved in numerous side projects. 2002 saw the bandcoming back together with a new line up, with keyboardist Hofmann and drummer Pfeffer remaining from the band active in the 80's, issuing a new album on the French label Musea Records, which also saw to it that the band's back catalogue got reissued. Come 2008 and "One Step Up Two Back" sees the light of day, released by the Italian label Mellow Records.

Analysis. When an act has a history going back more than 30 years, it's not uncommon to see a compilation album released and for this band this is their first. They have carefully chosen 2 tracks from each of their previous studio productions, added some tunes made for special releases, and then topped it off with a new song. Favorites of old, a few compositions fans may have a hard time getting to as they weren't part of the studio releases, and a promise for the future. As compilations go this is a nice construction, which should give new listeners a quick resume of the band's musical evolvement as well as providing interesting tidbits for existing fans. Musically this is a band very much influenced by the British band Camel, or to be more precise, by the most atmospheric explorations of that act. In other words, the mood-filled symphonic landscapes with lush keyboards, flutes and generally relaxing sonic landscapes are carefully explored here; while the jazz and folk tinged territories Camel also incorporated into their compositions aren't a common feature in the songs performed by Rousseau. The compositions chosen from this band's first two creations may not even fit well into the category "influenced by”. Indeed, replication is a much closer description of these creations, especially the chosen tracks from Rousseau’s debut album "Flowers in Asphalt", so close and similar in style and sound to the most atmospheric output of Camel that they could have passed as creations made by that act. As replications of another band's style go, these are good ones though, as the melodies and moods explored are compelling and captivating. When the band moved beyond their two first studio efforts the tempo slowed down and the compositions becomes more predictable. Mood explorations in a symphonic style seem to define the band's output following their second release "Retreat" from 1983, and ones not too interesting at that. The performances are skilled, but the melodies and moods come across as somewhat tedious. Layered symphonic keyboards and atmospheric guitar soloing are key features throughout this band's output, but where the first creations of the band also incorporated some skilled guitar work, flute soloing and tendencies to incorporate some jazzy touches at times, their later creations have more of a neo tinge to them, lacking in nuances, textures and musical complexity altogether. The final composition on this release has quite aptly been named One Step Up, as it is one indeed. Somewhat fragmented and with minor structural flaws, it's still a song in which the band once again ventures beyond the realms of lush relaxing mood explorations, adding breaks, darker textures in the sonic tapestry and some slight dramatic flavoring: a song that probably heralds the start of a musical renaissance for this veteran German act.

Conclusion. As compilations go, this one has been well composed and presents selected highlights from the entire career of the band to new listeners and potential fans alike. Musically the older compositions are far stronger than the latter ones. Fans of the most lush and atmospheric creations of Camel should constitute a key audience for this production and their later day creations might strike a chord with listeners fond of neo prog as well as new age music with slow compositions dominated by layered keyboards and atmospheric guitar soloing.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 28, 2008
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Mellow Records


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