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(61:52, Unicorn Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Common Goal 4:36 2. Fate 4:58 3. Justify 12:53 4. Take Good Care 8:36 5. Ride 3:44 6. More Than a Dream 5:43 7. Slow Down 8:10 8. Lives Go Round 6:31 9. Still Here 6:40 LINEUP: Mark Trueack - lead vocals Sean Timms - keyboards; vocals Matt Williams - guitar; vocals David Grice - bass; vocals Monty Ruggiero - drums With: The Adelaide Art Orchestra
Prolusion. The history of Australian outfit UNITOPIA is dated back in 1997 when songwriters Mark Trueack and Sean Timms met each other. Soon they recorded a semi-epic suite Take Good Care, which has become the foundation stone for their first album "More Than a Dream". The CD was released this last December and, apart from the band, it features an orchestra conducted by Tim Sexton.
Analysis. "More Than a Dream" is a mixed bag, bringing together its makers' original compositional thinking with the 'discoveries' they've 'made' being influenced by '80s pop-art, though the artifacts of Neo progressive of the same decade can also be found here. The objects that Unitopia have drawn their inspiration from while working on this recording are quite numerous and include such well-known albums as Peter Gabriel's "So" and "Up", Phil Collins's "Face Value" and "No Jacket Required", Genesis's "Duke" and "Abacab", plus (to a lesser degree) "Holidays in Eden" of Marillion, "The World" by Pendragon and more, to be mentioned in due time. Unitopia at times very successfully apply the tunes and rhythms of their native aborigines, some other ethnic motifs, elements of opera, classical and English folk music, as well as hard rock- and pop-related features. The essence of Common Goal lies in the combination of angry electric guitar riffs with melancholically atmospheric passages of strings provided by the orchestra. Some works from "Salisbury" by Uriah Heep and Saga's "Generation 13" are notable for a very similar approach. Ride, Still Here and Slow Down are bright, melodically pronounced songs, and yet, there is nothing memorable. All lie outside my interest, as does Fate, which is arguably the most lightweight and contagious, a primitive pop-rock opus built around the invariably straightforward guitar chords with a primitive verse-chorus song structure. The addition of ethnic colorations doesn't help in this case at all, unlike Take Good Care where such are really in place, particularly when they're combined with orchestral arrangements. The title track is also a radio-friendly song, but it's more or less tasteful, based on a well thought-out melody. The refrain quite strongly resembles the central theme of Motherless Children, which is the first fragment of the 30-minute epic Duel With The Devil from "Bridge Across Forever" by Transatlantic. Justify has a nice instrumental interlude in the vein of vintage hard rock. All in all, the aforementioned Take Good Care (comparable with Peter Gabriel's gems Biko and Shaking The Tree) is the only song on this recording that more or less fully suits my personal taste. This is a fine symphonic Neo generously enriched with oriental and African-like tunes, the joint movements of orchestral strings, guitars and marimbas being especially impressive.
Conclusion. Dear reader! It depends exclusively on your taste, whether to check "More Than a Dream" out or not. If you like your progressive music to be mostly melodic and unpretending, this is most likely what you're just eager for. Tried Prog heads should be much more careful, unless they've just suddenly found themselves to be equidistant from neo progressive and mainstream pop rock:-).
VM: May 1, 2007
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