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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Playing the History CD (album) cover

PLAYING THE HISTORY

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

3.48 | 6 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is an instrumental project by three musicians who share deep love of both classical music and prog rock. They wanted to blur the dividing line between these genres, and chose tracks (mostly instrumentals) from well-known prog artists to be performed as if they were classical music. The main instrument is pipe organ - ie. church organ? - played by Marco Lo Muscia. John Hackett plays flute on almost each track, and the third musician in the core team is bass player Carlo Mattoucci. They are accompanied by Steve Hackett (who also speaks few words of introduction: "I'm very happy to be part of this album.... It has come together beautifully and I'm sure it will give many a listener a great deal of pleasure.") on four tracks, VDGG's saxophonist David Jackson on two tracks, and less known guitarist Giorgio Gabriel on five tracks. Drums are totally absent.

Yes, this is full of pastoral beauty just like the cover art, and the selection is very pleasant, emphasizing on the GENESIS / STEVE HACKETT material. 'Hairless Heart', 'After the Ordeal' and 'Horizons' are of course instrumentals in their original form as well. It could have been more exciting to hear interpretations of some vocal compositions, but they might have ended up sounding less honest. The whole album is made quite safely, avoiding tracks that would demand bigger arranging tasks. This is also the weakness, as the outcome is not as groundbreaking as it could have been. And during the album I occasionally get a bit bored at the dominance of the organ. I do like classical organ music and it's a gorgeous instrument, but to really make this album feel like classical chamber music there could have been for example a violinist or a cellist instead of a bassist - whose contribution stays quite unnoticed anyway. Also the choice of the original prog acts could have been much wider. For example, where is Yes or Focus?

'I Talk to the Wind' (King Crimson 1969) is one of the few that originally feature vocals, and this peaceful version works very well. The arrangement of Hackett's debut album closer 'Shadow of the Hierophant' features also some Mellotron and brief soprano vocals. This composition has clearly been among the more difficult ones to the threesome, and it contains some clumsiness, it doesn't flow quite naturally. Other Steve Hackett compositions are instrumentals such as 'Hands of the Priestess' and 'Hammer in the Sand'.

The George Martin tune 'Theme One' has been chosen from VDGG. There would have been some peaceful songs perfect for this occasion that I would have rather chosen. Jackson plays also on the closing track 'The Great Gig in the Sky', the vocalise track from Dark Side of the Moon. The gritty saxophone part breaks the illusion of classical music, and actually this is the track that most clearly loses to the original.

The long album includes also three new pieces, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien. Hmm, beautiful, but why not make the whole album with the same idea, to reinterpret classic progressive rock? This is certainly a nice album to enjoy when you're in need of something peacefully comfortable and pastoral, but it's not as great as it may sound as an idea, and it also turns out to be TOO soft, tender and mild at least for more demanding prog ears. But you may love it if you like the pastoral sides of artists such as Hackett, Genesis, Anthony Phillips or King Crimson. 3½ stars rounded up for the great design in the leaflet.

Matti | 4/5 |

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