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TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 2:27 2. Run Sun 2:30 3. Atlantic Fisherman's Saga 3:01 4. Uncle Alexander Newfoundlander 4:11 5. Inverness 2:58 6. Winterlude 0:47 7. Chanson de la Rose 3:29 8. Coureurs de Bois 1:43 9. Looney Bird 1:47 10. Watersheds Suite 1:58 11. Mid-Western Farming Man 1:46 12. Harvest 1:13 13. Praire Rondo 0:55 14. Dangerous Dan McGrew 3:39 15. Rocky Mountain Fanfare and Fugue 1:52 16. Lumberjack's Song 2:02 17. Gastown 1:25 18. Sun Running Over the Ocean 2:07 19. La Mer 2:32 20. Finale 3:11 LINEUP: Steve McCann – keyboards: guitars, bass: vocals Randy Dawdy – drums, percussion; harmonica; vocals
Prolusion. The Canadian act BUSKER was founded in 1973 and for the next 12 years they were an active touring and recording outfit. From 1976 until 1984 five albums were issued and they were a popular band on the college and university circuit in Canada and Northern USA. In 1985 Busker went on a hiatus and wasn't revived again until just after the millennium. "Northern Fantasies", a composition with roots going back to the first stage of their career, was the first creation finished after the revival of the band and was self-released by the band in 2008.
Analysis. The most striking aspect of this production is the tribute to and celebration of the homeland of this band, Canada. The title of the composition and album, "Northern Fantasies", indicates this, the choice of titles for the 20 parts this epic composition has been divided into yields further clues to this, and the CD itself - with a striking printed artwork of Canada's famed maple leaf in red on a white background - confirms this even more. The liner notes do state this explicitly too, stating some extensive details as to how and why this celebration of Canadian culture and nature came to be. The music is a keyboard driven form of symphonic rock, and as befits a band with roots going back to the ‘70s it is a vintage form of the style that is explored here. Nods are to Genesis and ELP in particular in terms of musical associations, but also with strong leanings to classical, jazz and folk music directly. At its most adventurous (think quirky compositional features and layered vocals) the band will make you think of Gentle Giant as well. But although there are resemblances found, this is first and foremost an original creation. The band goes back and forth between different stylistic explorations and while perhaps lacking somewhat of a unique sound on this production the sheer diversity offered may be regarded as the main identity of Busker Anno 2008. From layered symphonic classical workouts performed by synths to atmospheric or quirky symphonic rock sequences, from jazz and ragtime-inspired creations to a few select happy-spirited explorations close to The Pogues in sound, many rather different musical landscapes are paid a visit, mostly with success. The parts of the composition closest to symphonic classical music in style aren't as good in quality as the other parts though. Keyboards and synths provide swirling, detailed and multilayered fluent textures, but the overall sound produced does end up as being too synthetic. The compositional foundation is a solid one, but one that begs for input from acoustic instruments rather than electric ones; violins and trumpets would seriously have added the vitality and mood these parts of the composition truly deserve. I presume this is a matter of cost prevention and one may hope that sometime in the future chance will allow an audience to get a chance to listen to these sequences with full orchestration. But overall this is an interesting recording where the opening and closing parts for me are the least inspiring, but with strong and intriguing segments served in between those.
Conclusion. Busker provides a compelling and intriguing tribute to Canada, in the shape of an epic composition exploring a diversified brand of symphonic progressive rock on this comeback album, issued 23 years after their previous effort. Proud Canadians into this style of music will obviously be the main crowd for such a disc, but others into this style of music should also take the time to check out this act.
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