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(42 min, 'Marvel of Beauty')
TRACK LIST: 1. Ghost Reporters 5:33 2. That Strange Plaza 6:59 3. Joe Hill's Recorder 1:24 4. Lost Title 4:41 5. Time Bolero 6:25 6. Aiolos 5:03 7. Iron Wood 6:10 8. The Arrangement 5:21 All tracks: by Taylor. Produced by Taylor. LINEUP: Robin Taylor - keyboards; guitars; recorders; percussion Karsten Vogel - saxophones, bass clarinet Jon Hemmersam - Variax guitar Rasmus Grosell - drums Kalle Mathiesen - drums With: Louise Nipper - voice (3, 5, 8)
Prolusion. Robin TAYLOR is undoubtedly the most prolific Progressive Rock-related composer today. His general discography comprises the output by Robin Taylor-solo, Taylor's Universe and Taylor's Free Universe and counts 17 full-fledged albums, none of which features previously released works. "Oyster's Apprentice" is the fifth album going under the banner of TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE, the project that suggests the former Secret Oyster saxophonist Karsten Vogel to be one of the key figures of it, along with Robin, Oyster's apprentice in absentia.
Analysis. The boundary tracks of the album are Robin's freshest compositions, while the other six represent newly arranged and played versions of his earliest works (mainly from the second half of the '70s), none of which were published until now. I don't know whether Robin decided to open the album with a kind of hit single, but Ghost Reporters is probably the most straightforward and uneventful composition he has ever written for Taylor's Universe. This is a playful, at times too joyous pop jazz with lots of repetition and no tempo changes, strikingly different from the rest of the material. It's track list counterpart, the other new piece: The Arrangement, is much better, representing something average between Electronic Rock and authentic Jazz-Fusion. However, the main treasures are hidden in the up-countries of this musical land. Although reworked just recently, all of the other tracks indicate that in the earliest period of his creation, Robin's interests were deeply rooted in symphonic forms, Joe Hill's Recorder and Lost Title being especially telling in this respect. Each is purely symphonic in character, but the style is neither Art-Rock nor Classical music. This is something rarely unique, which doesn't have direct analogs in the entire history of music (which, in turn, is typical for Robin's creation in general). Lacking a better definition, I would say it's a chamber Rock, though the Rock component exists here mainly due to the presence of drums in the picture and their rather powerful sound in particular. The main storyline develops as the interaction between the piano and bass clarinet, soon joined by wooden flute and two saxophones, alto and tenor. The brass solos are rather unusual, yet, wholly fulfilling the overall symphonic structure of the compositions and their dramatic emotional palette as well. But here is something that's most important. Magic would be the key word to depict the atmosphere reigning everywhere between the poles of the album. Karsten Vogel and guitarist Jon Hemmersam form two thirds of the primary soloing force here, and the rest of the material finds them doing approximately an equal number of composed and improvised solos. Robin, however, rarely steps over the framework of the initially adjusted symphonic formula, which also lies in all of the basic themes. Having taken all this into consideration, we definitely arrive at the idea that although not without elements of Jazz-Fusion, the remaining four tracks have been carefully composed, still mainly in the form that is related to symphonic music. However, the picture will be somewhat incomplete if I omit a more precise description of one of them. While woven of easily recognizable fabrics and still having a strong symphonic sense, Iron Wood is the most unique yet. The composition begins as the acoustic guitar-meet-piano Art-Rock, later on transforming into a quasi Jazz-Fusion blended with Oriental music, except for parts of a string ensemble, which concern European Classical music.
Conclusion. Still can't imagine what this all is about? Get the CD, give it a proper listen, and you'll make certain that with "Oyster's Apprentice", Taylor's Universe has made the furthest and probably the most intimate step towards the general progressive audience and its largest, 'symphonic', wing in particular. Most of the music is simply astonishing and is highly attractive.
VM: July 21, 2005
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