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View From The Rating Room:
Halloween (France) - 1989 - "Laz" *****

Genre: Classic (Symphonic) Art-Rock
Manifestations include: Electronic Rock, French Folk music
Playing Time: 54 min
Label: "Musea"

Themes: interesting and original on the majority of the album's tracks
Arrangements: complex and varied just on a half of the album's tracks
Performance: striking and masterly on the majority of the album's tracks
Vocals: accented, unusual and gloomy (with English lyrics, mostly based on the Lafkraft's works)
Producing: mediocre, the tracks are placed unsuccessfully - in a wrong sequence
Sound: satisfactory

Overall Rating: *****

Hammill, Peter (UK) - 1972 - "Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night" *****

In fact, the first solo album that truly deserves the name of Hammill. Very personal, sad, even depressed, with profound lyrics, it started the series of similar albums created by Peter in different years, that definitely express his then mood. In this rich work, in the first place compositionally (without complex instrumental parts characteristic of especially early Van Der Graaf) acoustic instruments dominate. content

Hammill, Peter - 1992 - "Fireships" *****+

Together with "Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night" (1972) and "Over" (1977), "Fireships" (though all of them sound differently) musically is a very depressive record with strong sad compositions, where there are for the first time many orchestral Classics-oriented arrangements playing a prominent part. I will return to the best, in my opinion, Peter Hammill's solo-album in "Detailed Reviews". content

Hammill, Peter - 1996 - "X My Heart" *****

As usual, Peter creates his works in collaboration with his staunch friends from Van Der Graaf, "XMH" is a polyphonic album with extensive instrumental arrangements typical for a serious band. Once again, it is diffferent from its predecessor. In the '90s Peter seems to have found a second breath, and this creative period can be compared to his early halcyon days yet it is even sometimes more original. Quite apart from new musical discoveries, Peter's present-day lyrics are, as always, profound, but less grotesque, with a criticizm on capitalism and social ills. Also, his voice seems to have mellowed from the usual overwrought intensity. Finally, at this time PH became a welcome guest in Moscow... content

Hammill, Peter - 1997 - "Everyone You Hold" ****+

Not a bad album, but perhaps, Hammill's weakest for the last 10 years (of course, not regarding his very strange "hybrid experiments"). Unlike most of his late albums, this one is largely played by Peter himself (specifically, Banton plays only in one - and the best - track). As a result, there are few instrumental arrangements . "Everyone you hold" slightly resembles "Fireships", but the latter has much more trumps. Most Peter's latest albums are released at his own lable "Fie!". content

Happy Family (Japan) - 1997 - "Toscco" ******

This band I cannot recommend to only few, since RIO (Rock in oppositon) is a complex style, perhaps the most complex, ( and here adventurous, in addition). The exploding mixture of Art-Rock, Classic music and Jazz-Fusion: a close picture. As for Happy Family, these Japanese guys actively throw in also, for the first time in the history of the genre, heavy metal, Prog-Metal to be exact. Doubtless classic for the future. However, to comprehend this album is more challenging than the previous. All told, sincere interest (blend of RIO with Metal!) multiplied be patience will be of good help and then the charm of Toscco will reach you. Composition, arrangements, the drive!.. content

Happy The Man (USA) - 1997 - "Crafty Hands" ******
("Musea", 42 min)

Musea has started to reissue this American legend number two (after Kansas) with their second album, considered as their best. Myself, I regard it as absolutely equal to the first; in all they put out three albums back then, but recently they have reorganized in an almost original line-up (with only Kit Watkins of Camel -79 fame absent) to make a fourth album due already this year. Frankly, it's a real mastermind of the genre that's been hidden from us for some reason (while the reason Watkins went over to Camel is clear), though this album came out on that very Arista, on which Alan Parsons shone with gold and platinum in those years. Most surely, one of the three best albums of 1978. Original, yet some (stylistical!) comparisons with Camel are there anyway (keeping in mind that Camel's disk of the same year doesn't live up to it at all). content

Hart, Stuart (USA) - 1999 - "Inner Voice" **** (44 min, "Mother West")

Another good effort to come out from the "Mother West" label. Stuart Hart is a true master of the real Jazz Fusion guitar. Basic themes, arrangements, improvisations are done well in every piece without exceptions. You will not find here any unimpressive morasses, jammings or boring guitar solos. Stuart Hart is far from going to play pseudo Jazz Rock in the manner of Neal Schon and a lot of the likes who for some reason describe their music as "New Agy Jazz Fusion", whereas all I heard there is New Age and New Age only. Back to Stuart Hart, imagine the most "bombastic" parts of early Brand X (as an example, their from "Product", 1979, and from their both albums in the 80's) and throw in here a solid portion of Hart's virtuosity and, that's the main thing, his specific originality (oh, I almost forgot of the great rhythm-section that works incessantly), and you will have a vivid picture of this good ProGduct of the (real) Jazz Fusion genre. content

Hawkwind (UK) - 1990 - "Space Bandits" ****+

In my opinion, this is the last Hawkwind's decent album with a touch of originality. "Space Bandits" is undoubtedly better than its predecessor "Xenon Codex" or any album following "Palace Springs" till their last for now"Alien 4" (1995). On the whole, there is just slightly psychedelic Hard-rock that relies on massive keyboards, but all the same, about one third of the songs contains very effective fast instrumental arrangements. Also, this is the band's most energetic album over the last ten years. In the course of the last 13-15 years Hawkwind guys have released their production through their own label "Flicknife". content

Henriette Kat - 2006 - "Violet Fire" ****
(65 min,

This is the debut recording of Henriette KAT from Holland. Released via Dreaming, which is a division of Musea Records dedicated mainly to electronic music, this album however somewhat distinguishes itself from the label's mainstream, embracing also new-age, ethnic, symphonic and even classical elements. It seems the artist had additionally used Pro-Tools when working on this collection, because (apart from traditional synthesizers) I sometimes clearly hear the sounds of guitar and drums. Well, most of the drum tracks are played by the machine, but it's programmed surprisingly well. The music relatively frequently changes its outline, the amount of dreamy and positively eclectic arrangements being approximately equal within each of the disc's nine tracks. Overall, "Violet Fire" can be defined as a kind of Electronic Progressive. content

Hernandez, Francisco (of Cast) (Mexico) - 1998 - "Whispers From the Wind" *****
(56 min, 'Cast')

While the latest Cast "Legacy" is their most symphonic album (i.e. which sounds less heavy than ever before), so far the only Francisco Hernandez solo work "Whispers From the Wind" looks like just the most heavy album of Cast. Incidentally, it is not surprising that it sounds exactly that, keeping in mind that the album was created by one of the two Cast main masterminds and performed with the help of the rest Cast members. Although some of the fans of Cast who have already listened to "Whispers From the Wind" can say that Cast, in itself, would never go so heavy as Hernandez on his solo way, anyhow, everything on this album brings to the listener a clear spirit of Cast thatů just goes heavy this time. As 1998 was the only year in which Cast didn't release their regular studio album, I am personally inclined to regard "Whispers From the Wind" not only as a solo album of Francisco Hernandez, but also (and to a great extent) as an album of Francisco Fernandez and Cast. content

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