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(44:48, ‘Marvel of Beauty’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Salon Bleu 5:31 2. Firestone 6:33 3. Days Run Like Horses 6:56 4. Fame 6:18 5. Tortugas 7:33 6. Haunted Yellow House 7:29 7. Mooncake 4:28 LINEUP: Robin C. Taylor – guitars, bass; keyboards; percussion Thomas Thor Videro Ulstrup – synthesizer Frank Carvalho – guitars; synthesizer Jakob Mygind – saxophones Klaus Thrane – drums John Sund – guitars With: Jan Fischer – voice Louise Nipper – voice
Prolusion. The Danish project TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE has been an ongoing feature for more than 20 years in various guises, and more than a dozen studio albusm have seen the light of day over the years. "Across the Universe" is the most recent outing by the band, released through Robin Taylor's own label Marvel of Beauty Records towards the tail end of 2015.
Analysis. This CD is, at least to my knowledge, a fairly unique item in the catalog of albums Robin Taylor and his various contributors have created over the years. It is something of a compilation album, subtitled "An Introduction to Taylor's Universe", but while the CD doesn't provide any new material, it isn't a straightforward "Best Of" type of compilation either. As the liner notes state, "Across the Universe contains a selection of highlights from the later repertoire of Taylor's Universe, here in altered 2015 versions: Rearranged, partly re-recorded, remixed and remastered, featuring a very special line-up of the band". My main impression is that this production heralds something of a subtle phase shift in the history of Taylor's Universe, and possibly in most future material released by Robin Taylor in other guises as well. Idle speculation perhaps, but my impression is that there is a subtle, but marked, difference to the 2015 versions of these compositions, compared to the general sound explored by Taylor and Taylor's Universe previously. Just about all the songs here remain creations difficult to pigeonhole into any easy genre category; this aspect of any material released by Taylor's Universe will probably never change. Indefinable in general style, but with facets and details that mainly can be traced back to ‘70s progressive rock and jazz rock of various kinds. Some of the trademark Taylor themes are very much present, obviously, and the warm, organic-sounding guitar and organ combinations he should trademark most of all, with as well as without further supplements from guitar or keyboard solo runs or supporting instrumental layers. There's still room for some playful, intriguing saxophone solo runs as well, and the calm, almost ambient sections featuring low key instrumentation and effects of one kind or another are very much in place, used sparingly and to good effect. There's plenty of room for keyboard solo passages throughout, often combining with or alternating with a guitar or organ solo. As usual, the album is mainly instrumental, with Louise Nipper adding her charming non-verbal voice to just one of the songs this time around. There is a difference here when compared to past releases, however. Unless I'm much mistaken, there's less room for the more distinctly jazz-oriented saxophone solo runs here, while the guitars and keyboards appear to have been given somewhat more prominent roles throughout. There's a general feel of this album being if not totally oriented to be a more generally appealing creation then at least that it has been purposefully made to be less challenging. If it is one, the other or both isn't all that important really, but my general impression is that this is a CD that will be a good introduction to Taylor's Universe, and one that will appeal to a somewhat larger crowd than most of the previous albums in the history of this project.
Conclusion. Taylor's Universe has been a quality provider of compelling but challenging instrumental progressive rock for more than two decades, and this collection of altered versions pulled from the more recent history of the project comes across as an appealing production on all levels, and arguably the album released by the project that will have the broadest general appeal at this point. It is subtitled "An Introduction to Taylor's Universe", a functional description that comes across as apt on all levels, but it is also an album well worth checking out by those that have already warmed to the charms of this fine Dane and his revolving sets of contributing musicians.
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