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(48 min, Musea FGBG-4650 / Poseidon PRF-036)
TRACK LIST: 1. Prolog 11:09 2. The White Sybil 7:14 3. Piano Solo 1:52 4. The Desolation of Soom 4:23 5. Magic Lady 7:35 6. The Star of Sorrow 4:32 7. In the Memory of Charnades the Pan 11:27 LINEUP: Takashi Kokubo - drums; vocals; synthesizers Yukitoshi Morishige - keyboards Masato Kondo - guitar Hiroshi Hamada - bass
Prolusion. RING is a very obscure Japanese outfit that existed in the second half of the '70s. This CD, "The Empire of Necromancers" includes all the recordings they've ever made, none of them having been available until now.
Analysis. The first five tracks were recorded live in the studio in the fall of 1975 and feature the performance of all the musicians mentioned in the lineup above. The opening instrumental piece improperly entitled as Prolog covers one third of the space of Ring's single conventional LP and is clearly overextended. It includes several different sections, but the band so often returns to previously traversed paths that I'd have to strongly strain my imagination to regard it as a true suite. What's most disappointing, however, is that most of the composition sounds heavily derivative, the themes being just ripped off from Pink Floyd's famous songs, namely Welcome to the Machine, Shine on You Crazy Diamond and Astronomy Domine. Only a few of the middle sections are free of direct influences, the music moving back and forth between classic symphonic Prog and complicated Hard Rock. The White Sybil follows and is one of the two tracks featuring vocals (surely in Japanese). Takashi Kokubo's inexpressive singing to the accompaniment of electric piano lasts for more than 3 minutes, but it was worth the wait, at least regarding this particular situation. The rest of the song is an intense, dynamic, effective instrumental Space Fusion filled with splendid piano improvisations courtesy of Yukitoshi Morishige, who is certainly the most original and, that being said, most skilled voice in this ensemble. Nevertheless, the overall picture still evokes certain associations with Pink Floyd, circa "A Saucerful of Secrets" this time around, which is also typical of the remaining song Magic Lady, although the beginning and the finale of it are heavy Art-Rock. Well, Piano Solo is indeed nothing else but a piano solo, which in turn:-) is just what the next track, The Desolation of Soom, begins and ends with. The long middle section is a slow requiem-like symphonic Space Rock, and I must note this Ring's variation on the central theme of Shine on You Crazy Diamond is quite simple and unpretentious, often bordering on plagiarism. It is no surprise that this "empire" had collapsed already before its factual birth back in the 70s, because the lord of the Ring:-), drummer Takashi Kokubo (he penned all the tracks for Ring's then-abortive LP), is a poor, unimaginative "necromancer". Although performed with the use of programmed drums, the remaining two tracks, The Star of Sorrow and In the Memory of Charnades the Pan, somewhat better suit my personal taste. Both were initially recorded in 1978, but were reworked and re-recorded especially for this release this last January. These aren't the works of Ring and come under the title of "Kokubo Synthesizer Works", being performed by Kokubo (synthesizers and programming) and Kayo Matsumoto (synthesizers) with the assistance of Haruhiko Tsuda (guitar). The former is rich in sounds of various woodwinds and reminds me somewhat of chamber music. The latter is a composite musical architecture, which includes classically inspired symphonic Progressive with bombastic arrangements and hints of both ELP and Gustav Holst, still Pink Floyd-influenced Space Rock, dark Ambient, imitation of Organ music and more.
Conclusion. This opus might be very attractive for those with incurable nostalgia for the '70s sound and for fans of Pink Floyd-inspired music. As for me personally, most of it leaves me absolutely cold.
VM: June 1, 2006
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