Babylon - Babylon(1978great us prog)
Florida is not normally a locale that one normally associates with prog-rock of any form, but in the late 70's, a fivesome under the moniker of Babylon defied the stereotype. And thanks to Greg Walker and the crew at Syn-Phonic, this long-sought-after collectible is available once again, remastered and with a nice booklet including photos of the live shows.
At first listen, one would be tempted to write them off as a Genesis clone (yes they ARE influenced by Genesis, auras of Selling England-- and The Lamb-- are most obvious), but on further listening, some noticeable differences emerge as well.
For the most part, Doroccas sounds absolutely NOTHING like Gabriel at all, if anything, his voice oddly enough makes me think of Gary Numan with a bit more facility. At times alien and detached sounding (“Mote in God's Eye”), others far more down to earth (“Before The Fall”). The band's live shows took their cues from Genesis in the respect of using films, slides and props.
1) “Mote In God's Eye” - Starting with mysterious synth noises and eerie percussion, this tale of Nazi war criminals caught red-handed wastes no time unfolding from a somber march to fiercely complex instrumental passages somewhat reminiscent of Genesis yet leaning more towards fusion in their intensity, numerous time changes and harmonic structures (even more noticeable in the succeeding tracks).
2) “Before The Fall” - Starts off low key with a melodious vocal section at times reminding me a bit of the best parts of Selling England--, but before long, the track takes a turn for the darker and spookier as eerie guitar and synth melodies wind around each other over fierce backing by the band. Rodney Best really shines here with his crisp Bill Bruford-esque drumming changing tempos and meters in the blink of an eye.
3) “Dreamfish” - This is where Doraoccas has a field day, having to narrate this tale of fish-like creatures invading the human realm bent of horrific revenge. One has to marvel at how Doroccas can keep up with the band's demented, twisted and difficult meter/time changes.
4) “Cathedral of The Mary Ruin” Here's where the band pulls out all the stops and goes VERY over the top throwing in everything they can possibly think of in terms of unexpected rhythmic twists and dynamic changes and ending with a haunting keyboard figure fading out.
Clocking in at around 35 minutes, this disc moves along at a brisk pace and definitely will appeal to fans of fiercely complex symphonic prog with lots of drama, Genesis influenced yet not a clone. Doroccas's voice may not be everyone's cup of tea but somehow it fits the music quite beautifully. For keyboard fans there's tons of cool synth sounds and ARP strings (NO mellotron though) although I have to admit, that RMI electronic piano is one very obnoxious sound. A tight rhythm section holds it together with Rodney Best's crisp Bruford-like complex drumming and Rick Leonard's solid authoritative bass.
What one might call a minor classic, grab it while you can.
Gabriel Bondage - Angel Dust(1975 prog psych prog)
I've known about this band and album since I snagged a copy of this in a collector's bin about 20 years ago. I also had their blue vinyl second LP "Another Trip To Earth" at one time but I can't recall what that one sounded like. I'm really surprised that this album isn't better known; there is a dearth of information about this album and group on the net (aside from a decent review of both albums at planetmellotron.com). Pretty good laid back symphonic prog. Can be very spacey at times, especially the opening track "Babylon". Nice flute, horn, piano, acoustic guitars, soft harmonized choral vocals. "Ladies and Gentlemen" is a great laid back acoustic guitar track with nice vocal washes. The 8 minute "Bondage" has some Canterbury moments bordering on RIO, but that's not the main sense of the album. Overall, this is a really GREAT slice of sadly overlooked mid 70's US prog.