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8/31/2010 4:34:41 PM

LOOKING FOR A LITTLE STRANGE - The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra.  2009
 New Folk Records. NFR7022.      10 tracks, total playing time 48:58.        Star Rating  * * * * 
Personel - Dan Neale - guitars, electric and acoustic.
                John Wright - bass guitar and bass pedals.
                Elisa Wright - fiddle.
                Mark O'Day - drums and percussion.
Looking for a little different ? this album could be just what your looking for.  ''The Intergalactic Cowboy Orchestra'' are (on this album) a four piece instrumental band who play an eclectic blend of music ranging from folk to progressive, esoteric to grunge and country to raga. 
As the band were unknown to me before I received the album to review, I played the album a few times to get the feel of what the band were about.  At first, I struggled with the album but after the third listen I began hearing a plethora of nuances in the music. I have to add here that the musicianship on the album is of a very high standard and is not overplayed or pretentious in any way shape or form. I can honestly say that every track on this album is unlike the next. The range of musical styles is vast, this has the listener wanting to know where the band are taking them next.
I'm not wanting to write a blow by blow sort of review but the highlights of this album are ''Minor Scrape'', ''Slow Pour'', ''Raga Piloo'', ''The Biscuit Breakdown'', Odd Men Out'' and the very out there ''Dark Matter''.
 As a progressive rock fan who clearly remembers the classic seventies progressive scene, listening to the music on this album reminded me of how many bands from that era who I love that have violins, violas or fiddles in their line-ups. I don't know if the band are influenced by any of the bands of this era but in this album I have heard similarities to Caravan, King Crimson, Jerry Goodman and Jean luc Ponty all pioneers or progressive, jazz fusion and experimental music.  This is why I feel the album may be of interest to fans of progressive music.  I feel that this band would be a great live act.   
 JWGodbluff   August 2010

8/29/2010 7:09:57 AM
Mmmmmm! Being as i am a lover of most things prog i was inrigued to receive this album which pins it's colours firmly to the metal prog mast. Listening to the album for the first time makes you wonder if this is what Gentle Giant would have turned into had they survived the triles and tribulations of the music industry. Be under no illusion that this album slows down much at all in the course of it's playing time. Very much a buckle up and enjoy the ride type of album. I was instantly reminded of Dream Theatre when i first listened to the album. Not surprising then that ex Dream Theatre keys man Derek Sherinian is providing the textured landscapes for the other musicians on the album, albeit in a special guest capacity. Hailing from Germany this is the bands first album and frequently exceeds the boundaries of what we have come to know as prog. Relocator bare little or no resemblance to other bands skirting around this genre. As well as the afore mentioned Mr Sherinian the line up consists of Stefan Artwin (Guitars & programming), Michael Pruchniki (Bass), Frank Tinge (Drims & Percussion) and Bartek Strycharski (Electric Violin).

No doubt about it these guys rock. From the opening few bars of "Red Vibes" the race is on. Huge power chords and a beat to rival any heavy metal band it propells along in a very dramatic fashion. Though Stefan Artwin's guitar is the main instrument here it is carried along beautifully by Sherinian's nightmare orchestration. "Biosphere" is a keyboard lead assault which from time to time slips into the East coast sound and becomes very ecclectic drawing in many styles. It does include some extremely good interplay and gives your hi-fi a thorough workout. The title track "Relocator" is in my opinion the best track on the album and despite the heavy guitar presence it showcases Michael Pruchniki's sublime bass playing whilst giving a little more air to the talent of Frank Tinge who's drum technique shone through throughout the whole piece.

The next piece entitled "Proxima" maintains the pace of things quite nicely and could very easily lend itself to film score. This track opens with some sinister sounding keyboard voicing which reminded me of an early Alan Parsons piece. Not for long though, as things swiftly move up a gear and regains the high octane speed and performance. Indeed this is an album meant to be played in a performance car whilst driving at break neck spead through the desert.  "Aavishkar" is perhaps one of the most interesting tracks on the album and invokes a very Arabian feel about it as it begins. There are some wonderful textures on this piece and i think as with some of the other tracks the subtle use of Bartok Strycharski's electric violin sound sets the whole album apart from being simply "Prog Metal". As a package it is very difficult to catagorise. I think lovers of both traditional progressive music and those preferring a little more of an edge to their music will get something out of this album. The electric violin leads the way into the next supercharged foray "13 Reasons" and makes for some intersesting and and differing textures throughout. The remaining tracks "Urban Blue" and "The Alchemist" keep the pedal to the metal all the way through to the albums conclusion.

Beautifully packaged with some striking artwork, i would recommend this album to those who like their prog with a bit of zest. I think this album may drawer music lovers of two camps from differing directions. Those looking for something a little different and those who simply enjoy a raunchier aspect. Either way Relocator is a worthy addition to your collection and fails to disappoint. Devoid of any lyrical content this is very much an album for music lovers. Sound them out and don't be surprised if you find yourself reaching for your credid card.


8/19/2010 5:41:16 AM
The second album review as part of the Camel feature takes us from 1976 into the 80's with 1984's Stationary Traveller. As with my previous review i will for the reasons of nostalgia be refering to the vinyl copy of this album and not the remastered and extended CD et al.

However, i do feel it a great shame that "In The Arms Of Waltzing Fraulines" did not appear on the record or indeed until much later on an afore mentioned format. On first listening to this album i did feel that the subject matter was a little stuffy and to a degree insular. As i became a little more enlightened and more interested in modern history i became hooked on both it's sentiment and values. The cover itself invokes a very desolate, desporate and despondent post war Germany. A solitary young woman amidst the aging architecture of a city scarred by war and it's numerous effects.

"Pressure Points" is a fabulous way to open such a theme. Full of technique and technology of the day like the Fairlight sampler etc, which Camel borrowed from Kate Bush. Though many new and interesting people appeared on the album Andy latimer's blistering guitar style shone through like a diamond cutting through glass. And this opening barrage of highly strung guitar and emulated clavinet/Mandolin sounds soon gives way to a warm and seductive Wal fretless bass played by the genius that is Andy Latimer himself.  "Refugee" moves on a pace with the first of the songs on the album that Andy Latimer's voice slips into a Bob Dylanesque type slurr. I think it became one of the first albums on which he sung in such a way. It did give the song a very protesting feel about it. The song itself is very much a protest and is conveyed as such. The song includes a guitar break in which Andy uses the volume knob on his Fender Strat to swell the tones in the same way as some others used to use pedals of varios designs. This would late become a signiture sound in Andy's style.

The next track takes a sinister turn. "Vopos" is about the unforgiving border type German police which to a degree carried on the mantel of the Gestapo and contains some of Andy's best guitar licks. "Cloak And Dagger Man is the first time you get to hear Chris Rainbow's voice on the album and i think he's absolutely great. I don't know why but Scotsman always seem to make the best singers. This shamelessly synth driven song is catapaulted skywards by Ton Scherpenzeel's twent five finger exploits on the Roland Juno synth. The very first time i have heard such an E.L.P. type keyboard sound on a Camel album and it was quite refreshing.

Finishing the first side of the album is the title track. It is one of the most haunting that Camel ever recorded. As well as one of the bost beautiful guitar pieces the band recorded Andy plays Pan Pipes which add to the Europeam mood of the album and plays out with a rousing guitar cressendo. Turning the record over and listening to the B side, "West Berlin  maintaines the Michael Caine espianage feel of 50's and 60's poat war Europe. Made so by the many keyboard textures and imaginative voicings there of. "Fingertips" is one of my very favourite Camel songs and brings back happy memories of me dancing with my daughter who then but a baby. Mel Collins superlative saxophone augmented by a clutch of the best musicians in the business.

"Missing" and "After Word" are two instrumental tracks again utilising sounds and textures befitting the history portrayed. "After Words in particular being a very haunting, piano lead slowing the album down sufficiently for the opening of the final song "Long Goodbyes". Only Chris Rainbow could have performed this song with such aplomb. The shear beauty of this song is carried along by the innocence of the acoustic guitar in comparison to the many items of electronica used on the album. A fitting cressendo to a brilliant album and a fair one for camel to represent their limited output in the 80's. I urge you all to revusit this album. It's quite simply a treat.

8/12/2010 4:22:04 AM
Larsen who i hear you say? Exactly! I have never heard of them either. I happened across these guys whilst attending a China Crisis gig in Newcastle recently and they were terrific. You will be correct in thinking that China Crisis and most associates of do not a prog band make and you would be correct. However, so good were Larsen B i felt compelled to write down my thoughts. As they finished there spot as support band i managed to get to chat with them and pay them a few compliments and by doing so i ended up buying their album Musketeer, music from which i had just heard them play. My impression of the band is that they seem somewhere between The Divine Comedy and Keen. Indeed the second song on the album "Marilyn" has all the hall marks from the intro of "Something For The Weekend" by the said Divine Comedy. I played the whole album twice on the way home in the car. The following few days had most of the songs swimming around in my head and humming quite enthusiastically. My favorite song on the whole album however is without doubt "Robots Learn To Love" which is so simple and interesting. Mmmm, I could maybe get away with including this wonderfully simple clutch of songs on a prog site by promoting the fact that they are all short stories and have some kind of concept to them. This album has a certain retro feel about it that i find very comforting. Had it been in film i think it would have been black and white. Indeed somewhere on the cover is written old radio tunes. It is a joy to listen to. Eleven well played quality songs in a beatifully presented card sleeve. Well worth investigating. Sound out Larsen B on facebook.


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