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(72:03, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Darkwood 20:37 2. Hijrah 6:40 3. The Labyrinth 14:07 4. The Vision Clear 6:57 5. Endzone 23:32 LINEUP: Clive Nolan – keyboards; vocals Karl Groom – guitars, bass Tracy Hitchings – vocals Alan Reed – vocals
Prolusion. Please read here.
Analysis. It would take Clive Nolan and his collaborators three years to produce the second of the planned three Strangers On A Train albums, and when it arrived it turned out to be markedly different from it's predecessor on a few but important levels. On this one the band opts for longer and more elaborate suites rather than one short song following the other for starters, a distinct alteration in approach for this band. In addition Alan Reed was brought in to complement the vocals, which did expand the scope of this album somewhat. In terms of style, we're still dealing with a band that put the piano in a rather central position for all proceedings. Gently wandering piano motifs again a mainstay, but now as a part of compositions of longer and more accomplished nature that frequently incorporates more sophisticated symphonic oriented passages. Still easygoing material admittedly, but on this disc it is easy to hear and understand why this unit has been regarded as a neo progressive one, as well as the compositions by and large being described as symphonic in nature. While a more accomplished production, "The Labyrinth" still doesn't manage to really impress as far as the end result is concerned. This is a creation that relies on listeners with a certain affection for the piano as well as the particular delivery of the vocalists to really hit home. The brief instrumental Hijrah is perhaps the main exception: following a not too intriguing initial phase this piece explodes into an energetic and compelling array of symphonic inspired details and movements, lots of nerve ensure that this is a clear album highlight. This is a pleasant album overall, but of the kind that will be regarded in a higher esteem by a select audience I surmise. The scope of the material itself developed quite a lot from the initial part of this planned trilogy to this second chapter, and if the third album is ever made it will be interesting to see what 20 odd years have done with the style of music this project explored.
Conclusion. Neo progressive rock with a foundation in the symphonic parts of the progressive rock universe is how Strangers On A Train comes across in style on their second outing. The compositions are still more often than not based around piano motifs, and the role of the lead vocals is just about as prominent as on their initial production. The compositions themselves appear more advanced though, leaving the more distinct pop art style of the preceding disc behind for a more sophisticated overall sound. That those who have a soft spot for the gentler parts of the neo progressive productions of the 90's should be a core audience for this disc is a statement that should be fairly uncontroversial.
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