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Major Parkinson — Valesa - Chapter 1: Velvet Prison
(Apollon Records AP143, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-03-29

Valesa - Chapter 1: Velvet Prison Cover art

The last studio album from Major Parkinson was Blackbox in 2017, and they’re moving forward with Valesa - Chapter 1: Velvet Prison, which is apparently the first of a series of albums telling a single story. The general multifaceted nature of the band is again on exhibit, bringing together elements of progressive rock, pop, electronics, and more. Maybe my assessment will change over time, but I find that the band is less cohesive on Valesa, and the stylistic hopscotch is more jarring. Listening to the album feels a lot like listening to a musical stage production without being able to see what’s going on. The lyrics present a variety of characters, and there’s clearly a story that’s packed with emotional ups and downs, but I’m unable to engage with the proceedings. I always feel like I’m coming in on the middle of a story where characters are in conflict and distress, but I’m missing the context, so I don’t know what it all means. This is possibly a failing on my part from not really concentrating on the lyrics. Certainly the band is excellent, both vocally and instrumentally, and I can’t fault the production at all — a lot of work has gone into this recording. The band has added a new wrinkle to their style on Valesa, a fondness for 80s synth sounds that brings with it a certain poppish feeling. I love a lot of 80s synth-pop, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and results in a few really tasty moments, but they’ve coupled with a tendency to use processing on the vocals, especially those of violinist Claudia Cox (AKA Peri Winkle), turning her into more of a cartoon character than a singer. I would never tell a band that they shouldn’t change, but to my ear Major Parkinson has stretched a bit too far in a direction that doesn’t work for me. With stronger material, I’m sure they could be successful with it, but Valesa - Chapter 1: Velvet Prison isn’t that album. I will single out what is probably the best track on the album, “Fantasia Me Now!” The annoying vocal processing is overcome by such charms as this lyric: “All I want to do is see The Never-Ending Story with you. I haven’t seen it since 1987.”

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Major Parkinson

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