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(46:20, Marvel of Beauty Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mean Attack 11:42 2. Definitely Greek (He Said) 10:48 3. Remembering Johannesburg 9:23 4. Dark Side of Alec 14:27 LINEUP: Robin C Taylor - guitars, keyboards, basses, percussion, voice John Sund - guitars, bass Jakob Mygind - saxophones Thomas TV Ulstrup - minimoog Rasmus Grosell - drums Klaus Thrane - drums with: Louise Nipper - vocals Jytte Lindberg - vocals Pierre Hansson - voice
Prolusion. Danish project TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE was formed in 1993, and since 1994 it has been a going concern that so far have released 16 studio albums, some on labels while others have been self-released through Taylor's own etiquette Marvel of Beauty Records. "Almost Perfected" is the most recent of this, and among the CDs that have been issued on Taylor's own label.
Analysis. Robin Taylor have quite the extensive back catalogue, and like many musicians he appears to be something of a perfectionist. "Almost Perfected" is the second album where he revisits old material in order to make them come across in a better way. He first started doing this on 2015's "Across the Universe", but this time around the work has been rather more extensive than on this first endeavor of this kind. Probably due to the material on this album being reworked on a more fundamental level, the compositions covered here have been given new names. While my memory isn't as it was in remembering details, especially from an artist as productive as Taylor is, I rather guess that Mean Attack is the new version of Tag Attack from "Soundwall" and that Definitely Greek (He Said) is a remake of Totally Greek from the same album. I'd also guess that Remembering Johannesburg is a remake of Johannesburg from Robin Taylor's solo album "Isle of Black", while I haven't been able to guess or deduce where the origins of Dark Side of Alec may be situated. But as indicated, this is an album with reworked and rerecorded material rather than merely remastered, remixed and otherwise tinkered with in a small way. The aim here will obviously have been to perfect material from yesteryear, as indicated by the album title and explained in the liner notes. The songs here are rather different in scope, and opening cut Mean Attack is the one that comes closest to what I'd describe as a typical Taylor' Universe song, or at least typical among the ones I tend to favor over others. Gentler interludes of rhythms and plucked guitars alternate with guitar and organ driven majestic passages, with the saxophone and guitar trading places for solo runs and overlays. A delightful excursion also in this version, and a wee bit longer than the original too. The two next cuts have more room for plucked guitar motifs and softer keyboard details, and the always charming non-verbal vocals of Nipper and Lindberg. Both of them alternating between gentler and more majestic sections, both of them also featuring calm sections that one might claim borders ambient at times too, and both compositions featuring a more dramatic run towards the end. Concluding epic Dark Side of Alec carries some similarities with these two as well, but is an arguably more expressive and diverse affair with perhaps a bit more ebb and flow in intensity throughout, prior to an elongated fade-out towards the end. As will always be the case with Taylor's Universe, the music is difficult to pinpoint to an exact and specified corner of the progressive rock universe. The compositions come with some obvious nods to symphonic progressive rock and jazz, but also feature cinematic details and passages with more of an expressive spirit that ventures beyond the common fields of this genre. This without being overly challenging nor demanding. I've already heard several claim that this is the best Taylor's Universe album they have come across, which if not anything else indicates that the songs on this album, in this specific guise, most likely has a broader general reach than the previous incarnations of these compositions. A fact that should be satisfying to know for both Robin and the current members of Taylor's Universe.
Conclusion. Taylor's Universe have been creating and providing progressive rock fans with high quality and mainly instrumental progressive rock for close to a generation at this point. Just about any of the albums merits a check by those fond of innovative, instrumental progressive rock, and this latest one may well be the one that has the broadest general appeal among them. An artist well worth investigating, and this particular album comes across as a very good place to start exploring the vast catalogue of this Danish band.
Progmessor: November 20th 2017
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