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Ten Jinn — As On a Darkling Plain
(Musea GBG 4329.AR, 1999, CD)

As On a Darkling Plain Cover art

Finding a balance between the seemingly opposing forces of accessibility and progressivity is a task that many artists have attempted but few have mastered. Many hit the nail on the head for one or two releases and then start drifting toward unrestrained commercialism. In the 70s we had Todd Rundgren’s early Utopia, Godley & Creme era 10cc, Queen, Saga, and others all mining different parts of the same mountain. Of today’s crop of bands, Glass Hammer, Spock’s Beard and now Ten Jinn seem to be the brightest purveyors of this style. The sound is a well crafted harmony-vocal based rock with hooks, integrated with grandiose, often complex and colorful instrumental parts befitting the finest of progressive rock. Ten Jinn, on their second release has delivered the goods. The disc is effectively a double-album; part one is the 40-minute title suite, comprising eight parts, three instrumental and five with lyrics based on themes from the vampire novels of Ann Rice. Part two is six mid-length tracks more-or-less unrelated to the first part. The most prominent features are the songwriting, which contains strong classical elements run through the 70s rock filter, and the arrangements — including liberal use of melodic hooks and multi-part vocal harmonies. John Paul Strauss’ lead voice pulls out all the stops and has a soulful and deep mysterious quality to it, often reminding this writer of Michael Sadler of Saga. The instrumental attack and arrangements may remind of Saga as well (Heads or Tales period), but are sometimes closer to A Night at the Opera period Queen, in fact “Beautiful Marquise” (part six of the title suite) is a deadringer. With dual keyboards in the purely instrumental passages, the band is able to reach the heavy symphonic territory of bands like Renaissance (Novella era), yet the guitar presence is very strong as well, with Stan Whitaker’s unmistakable ferocious leads and support work fortifying every track on the disc. Production-wise, the disc is nothing short of outstanding, with utmost care given to every sonic detail. Recommended to fans of Spock’s Beard, Glass Hammer, and of course Saga, this ambitious sophomore release now places Ten Jinn in the major leagues of the current progressive rock scene.

by Peter Thelen, Published 1999-04-01

The success of a progressive vocal project hinges on a lead singer’s ability to communicate a unique emotional quality and connect to an audience with the material. John Paul Strauss is the man who composes and pushes Ten Jinn’s sound as he helps shift the band into a musical middle ground. But this fits the bill for the band’s second album As On a Darkling Plain which is again partly based on themes drawn from Anne Rice’s vampire novels. Being a fan of those books, I’d have to say that the subject matter has been ripe for a wide musical interpretation for some time, and who better than a progressive group to undertake the task? But the disc is not a 100% successful epic per se, since there are a few flaws including a few weak standard 70s rock songs mixed into the prog blender. At its worst a few of the main themes remind me of Foreigner or Pendragon but with a less heavy-handed execution. But it’s not a neo-prog effort since this band marks a clear distinction between watered down arrangements and simpler rock songs (not far from Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard’s catchier hooks or Musea label act, Madrigal from the Pacific Northwest). Guitar ace extraordinaire, Stan Whitaker (ex-Happy the Man) is all over the mix too which adds another favorable draw. Despite the few low points, this band is taking off since the group has just completed back to back appearances at the Baja prog festival in Mexicali to much praise.

by Jeff Melton, Published 1999-04-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 17, 1999 releases

Related artist(s): Stan Whitaker, Ten Jinn

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