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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Marsupilami - Arena (1971 uk, epic agile potent concept progressive rock, Won Sin and Esoteric editions)

After their debut album's release, Marsi toured and expanded by adding Mandy Riedelbanch on multiple wind instruments and found themselves relocating in Amsterdam, where they were playing a series of concert in the Paradiso theatre with the then-state of the art MC2 Lightshow. This is when they started to write and rehearse for their second album, with the assistance of an external lyricist Bob West. 

The album, recorded in London, was produced by future Camel founder Peter Bardens, and indeed you can hear some of Mirage's source of inspiration in Arena, including Latimer's flute, much reminiscent of Jessica Stanley. "Graced" with one of the ugliest ever prog artwork, Arena was an improvement on their debut, partly because the extra musician allowed the group to have much more possibilities, sonically and songwriting-wise.

So the aptly titled opening track Prelude does musically exactly that: it resumes the first album's progress and the band is ready to pick up things where they'd left it at. So with the following Peace Of Rome (we're in a concept, but I was never bothered to follow it too much without smirking at the pretentiousness, the worst offender being Triumvirate) is a very ambitious piece, exploring its themes over circus/arena crowd noises, and a touch of mellotron (that was missing in the debut album) and plenty of interplay time. 

The mammoth title track starts rather eerily, but in a second movement, it picks a mid-eastern them over tabla and drums, but in the next one, the ambitious and daring vocal passage turns close to ridicule, but saved from it by further impressive progressions until a sharp and raw end. At one point, you can hear Laverock's bowed guitar give an acetate cello sound.

The flipside starts on effects-laden narration as intro of the other epic of this album, Time Shadows. This tracks spends a considerable time in its first movement a piano/organ duo (overdubbing from Leary, certainly), before gradually intervening are Jessica's flute, Mandy's sax and Laverock's now jazzy guitar. After an insufferably long passage dishing out whatever lyrics the track had to offer, the group unleashes on a bass and closing lyric lines, before echoing keys and sax bring the track into a very Graaf-esque ending. Indeed you'd swear this is Jaxon, Banton, and Hammill closing this track. 

I'm not sure whether the closing Spring track is supposed to be part of the concept, for it doesn't get one of those pompous description like the first four tracks, but it's also a collectively-written track, that starts as a complete mayhem to slowly settle down in a dervish-like trance, with Fred's meandering scat vocals soaring over the rest of the band's great semi-raga, until the guitar and flute slowly deconstruct the group's unity (there is a superb double flute interlude that last until the organ breaks it up, announcing the piano and now double scat vocals. Fantasrtic stuff and definitely the group's best moment and it is quite accessible too. Much more than some of the more "baroque" passages that "doesn't click all the way".

One of the rare deceptions I have is that it seems that the new member Riedelbanch is only really present (or at least noticeable) on the album's flipside, which is a crying shame, because I think she made quite a difference. Arena is definitely an improvement on their debut album, but it is a bit like Gnidrolog?. Get both albums as they're equally good, even if this one will get more nods.
by Sean Trane 

1. Prelude To The Arena (L. Hasson, B. West) - 5:23
2. Peace Of Rome (L. Hasson, B. West) - 7:01
3. The Arena (L. Hasson, B. West) - 12:55
4. Time Shadows (L. Hasson, F. Hasson, B. West) - 11:16
5. Spring (D. Laverock, L. Hasson, F. Hasson, R. Hicks, M. Fouracre, J. Stanley-Clarke, M. Reidelbanch) - 9:16

*Fred Hasson - Lead Vocals, Percussion, Harmonica
*Dave Laverock - Electric, Acoustic, Bowed Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
*Leary Hasson - Piano, Mellotron, Tubular Bells
*Richard Hicks - Bass
*Mike Fouracre - Drums, Timpani, Percussion
*Jessica Stanley-Clarke - Flute, Vocals
*Mandy Reidelbanch - Tenor, Alto Sax, Flute, Percussion
*Bob West - Vocals
*Peter Bardens - Percussion

1970  Marsupilami (2008 Eosteric remaster)

Free Text


adamus67 said...

Recorded for the Transatlantic Records label two albums group Marsupilami,included a very interesting and exciting pageview of the new progressive rock. Group presented a spirited marriage of hard rock and of early music in whole has saturated all of the elements of jazz, with an almost theatrical drama, which was intensified by the singer's voice often screaming oscillates at the recitation around Hammond organ sounds, electric guitar and wind instruments such as flute and - on the second album - saxophone.

The Group managed to combine a variety of influences into a coherent, compelling compositions characterized by high growth performance and the ability to build a mood with the help of variables are combined,often a very of contrasting themes. Great emphasis was also placed on the development of the vocal group collective, oftentimes with vocalises character in duet with a subtle tones sounds of the Hammond organ.

"Prelude to the Arena" opens with some vibrating organ sounds that leads right into a surprisingly heavy part with screaming and partly narrative vocals from Hasson, followed by wild drumming and guitar. But it quickly slows down to a melodic and harmonic part before a beautiful theme played on flute appears, and here we also hear the first tones of the holy Mellotron. The song then goes into a fast and catchy vocal part followed by a solo on el-piano and finally ends with the opening riff again. This is classic 70's progressive rock at its best, and the high standard lasts for the rest of the album. "Peace of Rome" is stuffed with themes that varies from mellow and beautiful to faster and more disharmonic stuff. The most complex track is undoubtedly the 13-minute "The Arena". The lyrics on the record are naturally full of gladiators, violence, fights in the arena, martyrs and evil emperors, and the band manages to capture all this drama very well in the music. The 11-minute "Time Shadows" starts with some echoing narration that sounds exactly like what Michael Moorcock would do on Hawkwind's superb "Warrior on the Edge of Time" four years later. After that, the track goes into a jam where new member Mandy Reidelbanch is allowed to stretch out on saxophone. This is very efficiently followed by some themes from "Peace of Rome" and "The Arena". The album closes with "Spring" that is based around a nice melody on flute, but also features lots of chanting vocals and long duels between the two female flutists in the band. Marsupilami would unfortunately broke up after "Arena", but they left behind two obscure classics of 70's progressive rock. With this 24-bit remastered edition from ESOTERIC RECORDINGS, the conceptual 'Arena' has never sounded better. Great music... Pure poetry progressive rock!

Bilek said...

Thank you