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(45:24; Gold und Tier Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. To Be a Clown 3:53 2. The Back of My Hand 3:40 3. A Contagious Fear 5:20 4. Truth or Dare 4:08 5. It's Beautiful 17:50 6. Naked 3:16 7. How Will I Know 7:17 LINEUP : Ulf Jacobs - vocals, drums, keyboards, recorder, percussion, programming with Sascha Conrad - guitars Bogati-Bokor Akos - guitars, bass, vocals Thomas Klarmann - bass Tina Dieper - vocals Kecskemeti Gabor - flute Kari Jacobs - backing vocals
Prolusion. German project YACOBS is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Ulf Jacobs, and in progressive rock circles he is probably best known for being a part of progressive rock band Argos for the past decade and a bit. This solo project has been an ongoing feature for a bit longer than that though, with the first Yacobs album seeing the light of day almost 20 years ago. "Beautiful" is the sixth album from this venture, and was released through German label Gold Und Tier in the fall of 2020.
Analysis. I understand that Ulf Jacobs has quite the varied background as a musician, and his versatility does shine through on this latest Yacobs album. Not due to the music being all that eclectic or hard core progressive, but due to how the material here slides back and forth between more mainstream pop/rock oriented escapades and creations with a distinctly more progressive rock oriented nature. Being able to master such a stylistic ebb and flow demands a certain skill level as well as varied experience, both of which it would appear that Jacobs has as a band member as well as a composer. Opening song 'To Be a Clown' is a good way in which to present the album, as this song rather strikes me as a cross between a Peter Gabriel song and a Genesis tune that has been run through a pop music filter at some point. Easy on the ear, catchy too, but with many fine and subtle nuances. The album continues in similar manners for quite a bit, with songs referencing more easygoing pop/rock structures in general but with a few more elaborate details tucked in here and there that adds more depth and nuance to the proceedings. Those with a taste for more purebred progressive rock oriented escapades gets their fill though, when the close to 18 minutes long epic 'It's Beautiful' kicks in, a multiple parts affair that nods it's various heads in the direction of classic eras Genesis as well as neo-progressive rock and perhaps even with a subtle nod in the direction of the Canterbury tradition along the way. A way and a path that also takes us into the more pop/rock oriented landscapes again here and there, but this time without these being defining features. The album's most low key and careful affair 'Naked' follows this magnum opus, and then this production concludes with another creation that probably will be more of interest to a progressive rock oriented audience again in the shape of 'How Will I Know', with what might or might not be subtle nods in the direction of the Canterbury tradition again, blended with some neo-progressive aspirations and again a certain pop/rock sensibility. This latter aspect obviously being something of a defining trait of this album. This is a well accomplished album too. The songs are elegant and, as the album title indicates, beautiful. The only possible slight negative are the lead vocals, which aren't quite on the same level as the instrumental work, and with a slight accent to them that might not be to everybody's liking. For my sake it's really case of decent to good vocals applied to music that overall is a notch above that again in quality however. A difference in positive quality rather than a qualified negative if you like. So while this isn't a negative aspect of the album for me personally, I can see that it might be for some listeners.
Conclusion. While "Beautiful" isn't an album to seek out by those with an interest in stark contrasts and dramatic developments, those who regard the words elegant, smooth and beautiful to be positive and the mention of layered keyboards and various Mellotron-tinged sounds to emphasize that will find a lot to enjoy on Yacob's latest solo album. Especially if music that glides back and forth between mainstream pop/rock and the more inviting aspects of progressive rock is regarded as a positive. Personally I regard this as a solid - and beautiful - production.
Progmessor: December 2020
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