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Castanarc (UK) - 1984 - "Journey To the East"
(38 min, "Kinesis")

Track List:

1. Peyote 4:40
2. Traveling Song 2:08
3. Am I 3:30
4. Goodbye to All That 5:50
5. Rhyme 2:11
6. The Fool 8:40
7. Soon 3:04
8. Journey To the East 7:30

All tracks: by Holiday & Powell.


Mark Holiday - vocals
David Powell - keyboards
Paul Ineson - electric guitars
Neil Duty - bass, electric, & acoustic guitars
Dave Kirkland - drums & percussion

Produced by J. Spence.
Engineered by J. Spence at "Fairview" studios, England.

Preamble. "Journey To the East" is the debut album by the UK's band Castanarc, though most of you dear readers are certainly in the know of it. Thierry Sportouche, the editor of Acid Dragon (and I am one of the contributors to this magazine), sent me this CD especially for my review.

The Album. No, there aren't influences of Marillion in the music on "Journey To the East". As well as most, if not all, of the first Neo bands in general (including the same Marillion, but excluding Saga), Castanarc are influenced by the most influential Art-Rock band of all time, Genesis, though not as heavily and openly as many others. Like that of most of them, the music of Castanarc is about a simplified version of Genesis circa "Wind & Wuthering", though it's not without the band's own ideas as well. By the way, Rhyme (5), the instrumental arrangements of which consist of varied, tasty, and beautiful interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and those of piano, is a Classic Art-Rock ballad, which, moreover, is compositionally completely original. Furthermore, precisely half of the songs on "Journey To the East": Goodbye to All That, the said Rhyme, the album's title-track, and especially Peyote (tracks 4, 5, 8, & 1 respectively), are, in my view, more complex and interesting than any 'average-statistical' Neo song. With the exception of Rhyme, the stylistics of each of the said songs represents somewhat of a blend of Classic and Neo Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Prog-Metal, which is because it features many of those essential progressive ingredients that we used to regard as classic. Even though Mark Holiday's vocals aren't that great overall, his voice, as well as his way of singing, doesn't remind me of anyone's and remains quite original throughout the entire album. Well, all four of the remaining songs: Traveling Song, Am I, The Fool, and Soon (2, 3, 6, & 7), are instantly accessible and are about a purely symphonic Neo. The latter of them is the only song here that is just filled with Banks-like solos of synthesizer and Hackett-like solos of electric guitar. Certainly, Soon is the worst track of this album. What's interesting is that unlike the songs that I was just talking about, any of the best four tracks on "Journey To the East" contains the parts of the Hammond organ, and both of the album's opening and closing tracks - the excellent solos of acoustic guitar.

Summary. While not as impressive as the debut albums of IQ and Marillion, "Tales From the Lush Attic" and "Script For a Jester's Tear", Castanarc's "Journey To the East" is, in my view, one of those early works of Neo that may be of interest today as well. Which, though, concern only those who are into an accessible progressive music.

VM: January 29, 2003

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