Alan Simon — Excalibur IV - The Dark Age of the Dragon
(Babaïka Productions EXCAL-4-, 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.
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more