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(79.59, Red Farm Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Longings End 13:24 2. Signs 4:32 3. Fragments 6:06 4. Face My Fear 4:49 5. Meanings 3:42 6. Skylights 7:33 7. Disguise 6:24 8. Chicago 8:01 9. Where Have Your Flowers Gone 4:41 10. Through Your Mind 4:24 11. Wide World 6:34 12. Another Day (b/t by RPWL) 9:59 LINEUP: Christ Postl – vocals; bass; keyboards; guitar Hannes Weigend – drums Yogi Lang – keyboards Ossi Schaller – guitars With: Ian Bairnson – guitars (1, 2, 6, 9, 11) Christina Booth – vocals (1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) Alan Reed – vocals (1, 2, 3, 4, 7) Martin Kesser – piano (6, 8)
Prolusion. PARZIVALS EYE is the name of a new solo project by RPWL bassist Chris Postl. “Fragments”, his debut album, released in September 2009, was recorded with the participation of Postl's RPWL bandmate Yogi Lang, Christina Booth (Magenta), Alan Reed (Pallas) and Ian Bairnson (Alan Parsons Project).
Analysis. At a whopping nearly 80 minutes, “Fragments” is one of the longest albums I have recently had the occasion to hear, even in a time when albums in excess of 70 minutes seem to be anything but exceptional. As many of my readers will know by now, I am generally not in favour of exceeding one hour in running time, since the average listener’s attention span begins to waver after 45-50 minutes. Moreover, since very few bands or artists are capable of sustaining the quality of their product for so long, they will inevitably have to resort to filler, diluting the impact of their material. Parzivals Eye’s debut album is no exception. Impeccably executed by a bunch of first-rate artists, with flowing melodies, strong hooks and excellent vocal performances, it is an example of Neo-Prog at its classiest. As can be expected, it is not an effort that claims to be ground-breaking in any way, but rather re-elaborates the stylistic features of the subgenre with modern flair and undisputed professionalism. Influences abound, but not in such a way as to smack of over-derivativeness. As I have often pointed out, even if this is not my favourite variety of prog, I am quite ready to acknowledge quality when I hear it. However, “Fragments” does have its flaws, mainly stemming from its excessive length. The inclusion of Another Day, an almost 10-minute song recorded by Postl with RPWL, may strike as somewhat puzzling: originally included on the band’s “9” limited-edition album (released in 2007), it is a decent track with a vague psychedelic flavour, but hardly essential. However, the worst offenders, so to speak, are the three songs that precede this one – three pleasant yet rather lacklustre, poppy offerings in the vein of Genesis circa “And Then There Were Three”. As odd as the decision to include an RPWL song on a solo album may sound, I believe that Another Day would have definitely been a better choice as a closing track. The album opens with the 13-minute Longings End, a good part of which sounds like a tribute to early Seventies’ Pink Floyd – the intro in particular is a dead ringer for Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and the use of recorded voices also points to the influence of the seminal English band. Melodic and laid-back in its first half, after a sparse, atmospheric bridge the song morphs into a definitely rockier item, with some positively metal-tinged riffing, a catchy chorus and Gilmourian guitar solo – all in all, a fine introduction for the whole album, even if a tad on the derivative side. The rest of the disc displays a more conventional, song-oriented bent, with shorter tracks and the occasional catchy chorus. The main influences, as expected, are Genesis and Pink Floyd, as well as The Alan Parsons Project – not surprisingly, seen the presence of APP guitarist Ian Bairnson on five tracks (his solo on Skylights is particularly tasty). However, the strongest APP vibe can be felt in the almost danceable Disguise, strongly reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Run like Hell, with its steady 4/4 beat, whistling synth effects and aggressive vocals. “Fragments” also offers some impressive vocal performances – these days definitely a bonus – and it is Christina Booth’s poignant interpretation of Graham Nash’s protest song Chicago that wins first prize. Booth’s voice is pitch-perfect, brimming with melody and emotion without any trace of the contrived sweetness so typical of many modern female singers. She delivers the deeply moving lyrics of the song with striking simplicity, and the stately pace of the song is further enhanced by the unusual (at least in a progressive rock context), twangy sound of a dobro guitar. Alan Reed (who recently left Pallas after fronting the band for over twenty years) lends his experience to four of the songs, including the hard-edged, riff-heavy title-track, while Postl does quite a good job in the songs he interprets himself, such as the already mentioned Skylights. On the whole, “Fragments” is a positive debut for Chris Postl’s solo career. It remains to be seen whether it will be a one-off, and how the band he put together for some live dates will compare with the excellent line-up featured on this album.
Conclusion. Even if occasionally derivative, “Fragments” is a classy album, performed by a group of experienced musicians. While it will definitely please fans of vintage neo-prog, those looking for genuine progressiveness should look elsewhere. At any rate, a shorter running time would not have gone amiss, preventing the use of material not on a par with the album’s best compositions.
RB=Raffaella Berry: February 28, 2010
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