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(122:00 2CD, Pseudonym Records)
Prolusion. CODA was a band from the Netherlands, which caused quite some interest when they released their debut album "Sounds of Passion" in 1986, selling out two pressings of the discs in three weeks. Although interest in the band was high, they never got around to doing live shows to promote the CD, as what they wanted to do live wasn't financially realistic to take on. Their debut was reissued several times over the following years, but it wasn't until 1996 that the follow-up album, “What a Symphony”, was released, and this proved to be the final release by Coda as well. In 2007 Pseudonym Records released a special bonus edition of the band’s debut, with the original album remastered and all sorts of bonus material added, resulting in the ultimate reissue of "Sounds of Passion", as a 2 CD set.
TRACK LIST: Disc 1 “Sounds of Passion” (58:30) 1. Sounds of Passion 29:14 2. Crazy Fool & Dreamer 4:25 3. Defended 7:07 4. 4th Movement Single Version 4:43 5. 3rd Movement Single Version 2:28 6. Crazy Fool & Dreamer Single Version 4:24 7. Central Station 2:06 8. Reverberating Sounds 4:03 Disc 2 “The Demos” (63:30) 1. Sounds of Passion Demo 31:25 2. Nevermore 4:25 3. Defended Demo 6:53 4. True Melody 3:19 5. Crazy Fool & Dreamer Demo 4:31 6. What A Symphony-1 Demo 4:48 7. What A Symphony-2 Demo 5:16 8. Reverberating Sounds Demo 2:52 LINEUP: Erik De Vroomen – keyboards; bass pedals; percussion; vocals Jack Witjes – electric & acoustic guitars; b/v Jacky Van Tongeren – fretless bass Mark Eshuis – drums With: Karel De Greef – el. & ac. guitars Jan Stavenuiten – drums Maarten Holz – bass &: Pip Van Steen – flute, piccolo, recorder Auke De Haan – saxophone Roel Strik – narration
Analysis. This double disc outing exceeds two hours in length, but only seven of the sixteen pieces here (running for 55 minutes) appear in their final form, while most of the others are their demos, three of the basic tracks being additionally represented by their single versions. I find it to be both quite a pointless and tedious occupation to compare the better and the worse variants of the same compositions, of whose corresponding qualities I was aware before I listened to them. So I’d better leave it to Olav, my sole work mate on the site, to express his opinion on the matter when writing his part of this duo review. Personally I’ll only examine all three of the tracks from the original “Sounds of Passion” CD edition along with those four extra tunes that are only available on this release. Lasting for almost 30 minutes, the opening composition Sounds of Passion is presented as a five-act instrumental suite that includes a Prolog and four Movements. Besides using bass pedals, bandleader Erik De Vroomen handles a solid set of vintage keyboards instruments, namely Mellotron, Hammond and pipe organ, Clavinet, Moog emulator and grand piano, as well as a number of then-modern synthesizers, whose role in the album, but especially on this, its title piece, is also significant. To cut a long story short, the style here is a crossover between ‘70s canonic Art-Rock, its ‘80s Neo manifestation and something I have to define as Symphonic Ambient, involving also some quantity of elements of Classical, Blues Rock and pop Art, though the 5-minute Prolog only finds Erik narrating to the ‘accompaniment’ of the sounds of nature, such as thunder, rain and so on. The music is overall quite original, yet incorporates certain others’ creative discoveries nonetheless, though while the influences of both Rick Wakeman and The Alan Parsons Project are evident here and there, those of Pink Floyd or Manfred Mann’s Earth Band are mostly hypothetical. Treated as a suite, the composition is multi-sectional indeed, but anyhow it’s for the most part only due to its length that it comes across as having a genuinely epic magnitude. Figuratively speaking, the band much more often explores the ground floor of their built construction than goes up to its upper storeys, so it doesn’t have a sense of complex architecture, despite the presence of intense, bombastic maneuvers in places. Comparatively in general and as regards the piece’s duration in particular, there aren’t too many transitions here, and since much of the composition is originally designed as slow-paced, the arrangements, while being sonically saturated, often lack in diversity let alone dynamism. The remaining two tracks from the original “Sounds of Passion” CD edition, Crazy Fool & Dreamer and Defended, are both complicated art-rock ballads and are fine as long as you reckon without the vocals. Erik’s singing is generally the weakest link here. Thankfully he sings relatively rarely, but when he does the result is often annoying. If he were to sing in his own language he would have certainly been more convincing. The two bonus tracks on the first disc, Central Station and Reverberating Sounds, are both makeweights, the first depicting the bass soloing in an eclectically-chaotic way, and the other representing a set of very brief sketches that have been taken from different sources, and so have no connection between them at all. The only two original tracks on Disc 2, Nevermore and True Melody, are way better, both reminding me of compact and at the same time edgier versions of the Sounds of Passion suite. It’s regretful that the band used the two balladic songs instead of these instrumentals when compiling their debut recording. The playing of keyboardist Erik De Vroomen, guitarist Jack Witjes and bassist Jacky Van Tongerendrum is impressive, whilst drummer Mark Eshuis doesn't always match his partners in technique. As for the embryonic versions of the first two movements of What a Symphony, both of which, to my great surprise, were recorded 12 years before the album of the same name was issued, these are fairly decent pieces also, though of course their final variants are much more compelling.
Conclusion. Despite all the above criticism, I recognize much of this music has a beauty and richness about it, so the “Sounds of Passion” album as such, as well as both the original tracks from the second disc, might well appeal to those who appreciate unhurriedly developing Symphonic Progressive with occasional outbursts of the energy typical of the genre’s classic shape.
VM: May 12, 2008