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Better Promise 3:53 (M. Hunt, and Tessa Hood) When You Turn 6:53 (B. Leek, M. Hunt, T. Day, & David Daley) Route Forty Nine (part 1) 4:48 (M. Hunt, T. Day) Dance Me a Song 5:47 (B. Leek, M. Hunt, T. Day, with Sarah Jackson & D. Daley) Neon City 5:42 (M. Hunt, T. Day, & D. Daley) Peas And Queues 3:56 (B. Leek, & David Bartholomew) Night Flight 6:58 (M. Hunt, T. Day, & D. Daley) Gasp (in three parts) 9:32 (B. Leek, M. Hunt, T. Day, & D. Daley) Sun Quay 2:42 (M. Hunt) Time will Tell 6:25 (M. Hunt, T. Day, with S. Jackson & D. Daley) Footprints (in two parts) 6:04 (M. Hunt, T. Day, & D. Daley) Now'sthe Time 10:00 (B. Leek, M. Hunt, T. Day, J. Tilbrook, & Andrew Herring)
Produced by Max Hunt. Recorded and mixed by M. Hunt and T. Day at "Force Ten Productions", North Cornwall, UK.
Line-up: Max Hunt - keyboards, percussion, backing vocals; Tim Day - lead guitars; Bob Leek - lead vocals; Jason Tilbrook - bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin & balalaika; Damien Slowey - drums & percussion; Gerlinde Hunt - keyboards, percussion, backing vocals. With: Toby Young - additional keyboards.
Prologue. Tantalus is a new name in the world of Progressive Music and "Jubal" is this band's debut album released by "Headline", one of the four special divisions of Hi-Note. To know more about the Hi-Note label and its four divisions you may read a special article devoted to this, one of the most important recording companies in the UK (at least) here or enter there through Labels of Prog from the "Articles" section.
The Album. I think I won't be wrong to say that with new bands like Tantalus Britain can lead, again, the international Progressive Music movement in the near future. Until now, there was the only album to come out from Britain since 1995 that I consider a true progressive masterpiece. This is Xitizen Cain's "Raising the Stones" (of 1997), which has to be their most complex and also the first album of their own original stylistic (at least instrumentally). But, while the most structures of the latter album is based on the old (schematic?) ways of composing, Tantalus's "Jubal" is chock-full of fresh ideas that reflect a new, different approach to build musical 'sculptures'. I like the "Jubal" album as a whole, as much as I like all its songs taken separately. Stylistically monolithic, the album, however, contains a few progressive variations that are quite different among themselves. Of course, these are the album's different tracks that present these variations. The opening trick Better Promise is the only totally vocal based track on "Jubal" yet nothing but a classic approach to composing the material is obvious even here, on the album's (relatively) most accessible song. While it's typical for Neo that arrangements, 'surrounding' the vocal themes, are simplistic since instrumentalists use mainly chords to create just a musical background for the singer's themes, all the Classic Prog-band's main 'instrumental' soloists build their own, different arrangements, as if unaware that their vocalist is singing. On the other hand, it seems 'their' vocalist also doesn't pay attention to what his accompanists are busy with at the moment. Actually, though, all of them also create their own arrangements that sound differently yet in full concordance with Harmony, which in its (progressive, not jazzy) turn, is based on the laws of European Classical Music. Another one that also sounds quite differently of album's nine other (exactly) songs, including the opening one, is Time will Tell. This is the only more or less mellow composition on "Jubal" - with vocal and instrumental parts sounding accordingly to the song's prominent mood. Time will Tell, however, is not your typical ballad. Even compared to the Rocket Scientists "Brutal Architecture" album's (so long and monotonous, unlike all the other tracks on that album) pseudo epic hit The Mariner, Time will Tell surpasses the latter because there is no monotony nor boring episodes in it. The third different part represents two instrumental pieces, though they differ wildly even within their (instrumental) framework. Route Forty Nine piece, written by both band's masterminds Hunt & Day, presents quite powerful, massive and diverse arrangements filled with active and effective crossing passages and solos from the direction of each instrumentalist, including the two bosses at the rhythm-section. While I didn't find any derivations in playing (and singing) of all the people at Tantalus, Max Hunt is a special one here. A real virtuoso, he also created a very interesting style of playing which has nothing to do with anyone else's you are familiar with. Hunt's various keyboards totally dominate over the second instrumental Sun Quay. This is the shortest one here, but Max does his best to fill it to the brim with adventurous sounds, themes and even solos. The largest category on the scale of diversity of the "Jubal" contains the following songs: When You Turn, Dance Me a Song (maybe, Sing Me a Dance will feature the band's second album?), Peas And Queues, and Night Flight. Although you can find many particular differences inside each of these songs, there is much more of a unifying principle in them. All these songs consist of rich vocal parts and, most often, of massive, diverse instrumental parts, rotating among themselves, though all vocals themes are mainly supported by heavy yet always quite diversified guitar riffs and diverse keyboards passages and solos. Bassist and drummer feel free to do their 'independent' solos, too, - always when the band works as… a band. The fourth part represents the strongest compositions on "Jubal" and these are all the three epic ones: Gasp (in three parts), Footprints (in two parts) and Now's the Time. The album's last track wasn't divided in parts, whereas this one consists of two very different parts more distinctly than any other. The first (quite short) part features some vocal lines, done nicely to the accompaniment of interesting arrangements. And the second part of Now's the Time represents the largest-scale entirely instrumental palette on the album. The arrangements of (the long) second part is filled with lots of diverse solos, interplays, etc that are like a wonderful, broad and deep sea, to dive (and dive) in which is such a wonderful pleasure that lovers of Classic Progressive feel not too often. The only weak episode I found on "Jubal" is a repeated singing of a monotonous refrain for no less than two minutes by the end of Holy City, the first part of which is at the same quality as all songs from the largest 'different part'. Thus, here we have a fifth different point and, bearing in mind that there are 12 tracks on the album in all, a conclusion is obvious: the contents of "Jubal", an album of undoubtedly united and original stylistics in itself, are among the most diverse ones you ever met in Progressive.
Summary. here are lots of strong guitar riffs on the album, but these are just a good hard-edged 'addition' to the band's overall stylistic, which, on the whole, is of the Classic (Symphonic) Art Rock genre - in the true meaning of the word "art", which Western reviewers use in regard to pomp-bands for some reason. Tantalus's "Jubal" is probably the best debut album I hear from bands to come out of Britain in many, many years. Also, after listening to this and a few other Hi-Note newest releases, I see that Britain presently really advances, so I believe this country will be at the helm of the international Progressive Rock movement once again. As for the only weak episode (from an experienced Prog-lover's standpoint), it's actually too short to consider this double album (LP talk) differently than a pure masterpiece.
VM. May 14, 2001
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