Alan Simon — Excalibur IV - The Dark Age of the Dragon
(Baba, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-01-19
If you've always felt that Rick Wakeman's epic concept albums were a little too understated, Alan Simon has got you covered. There may be no ice-skating dinosaurs involved (maybe a dragon, though), but when it comes to Celtic fantasy, Simon is doing his best to make the genre his own. With his fourth installment of the Excalibur trilogy (as it was apparently planned), he presents 73 minutes of heavily orchestrated romantic melodicism with elements of Celtic folk music, kind of like Riverdance meets Phantom of the Opera with touches of Alan Stivell and Jethro Tull tossed in. For every brief moment where a tin whistle or Uillean pipes plays a rousing melody backed by a nice acoustic guitar or an energetic ensemble, there are about ten moments where a plodding rock rhythm section backs a massive string section sawing away on big chords. For every lovely bit of singing from one of the guest stars there’s a time when a vocal is mangled by Auto-Tune — there is definitely something suspicious going on with Sonja Kristina’s voice on “The Passion,” and that’s not the only place I hear it. Many tracks are ornamented by tacky saxophone parts (think cheap imitation “Baker Street”), and even Martin Barre’s great tone on the lead guitar can’t save tracks from descending into sappy overblown sentimentalism. I’ve tried to give this album a chance, but honestly can’t find a single track that I like from beginning to end. Life is just too short, and there is so much better music out there. Obviously, between the session musicians, the guests stars, and the elaborate packaging, a lot of money was spent on producing this, and I assume it came from all the people who bought Alan Simon’s previous albums, which means there is an audience for this kind of thing, but I am quite happy not being among that group.
New Aristocrats Live Album on the Way – No foolin'! These supreme musicians toured Europe early in 2020, just before touring ceased to be a thing musicians could do, and there were some hot performances captured. On May 7, some of these will be releases as Freeze! Live in Europe 2020. » Read more
Jewlia Eisenberg RIP – The sad news has come out that Jewlia Eisenberg has died. As a founding member of Charming Hostess, Eisenberg changed the face of music, bringing together Balkan klezmer, American folk, and experimental rock in a distinctive blend that garnered much praise. » Read more
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more