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Aunt Mary - Loaded CD (album) cover

LOADED

Aunt Mary

 

Eclectic Prog

2.94 | 39 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Loaded' - Aunt Mary (64/100)

Admitting my own bias as a reviewer, having first heard Aunt Mary's third (and final) album Janus before anything else, the knowledge that these guys would evolve into a full-fledged progressive act has no doubt coloured my impression of Loaded. While an eclectic progressive sound is usually preferable to the sort of psychedelic-tinged hard rock that flooded the early 70s, it's not the difference in style that makes Loaded the lesser testament in hindsight. Aunt Mary made themselves out to be an impressive hard rock act here, but with songwriting chops ringing true only around half the time, Loaded is left feeling less impressive than might befit a band of their thunderous energy.

It has everything to do with consistency. Beginning with the debut (which I've heard compared to the rockier side of Jethro Tull, and rightly so) Aunt Mary always had an inventive side to them. It would be wrong to say they 'evolved' into progressive rock on Janus- it was just a matter of highlighting an element that was there all along. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the best cuts on Loaded are those in which Aunt Mary are openly strutting their progressive side. Make no mistake; Loaded is a hard rock album and never strays far from that path, but the particularly sophisticated riffs in "Joinin' the Crowd" and inventive flair of "Fire of My Lifetime" feel cut from a different cloth than the regular sort of 12 bar bluesy same-old that influenced so many of these bands.

As I said before, listening to Janus has influenced the way I see Loaded. The problem is not that Aunt Mary were playing familiar blues rock for the most part; it's that the mileage of their songwriting success varies to the point of a fault. "Playthings of the Wind" is a solid tune, and as I mentioned before, "Fire of my Lifetime" is a fantastic song, and probably the best tune Aunt Mary ever wrote. On the other hand, "Delight" feels like a shrill half-baked ditty at best, and "Upside Down" is plainly boring- with its tired blues rehashes, it sounds like a poor man's Rolling Stones, without the benefits of that band's natural talent as songwriters.

Even "Blowin' Tiffany"- eight minutes long, and my greatest initial hope for the album- feels sort of aimless; it's as if Aunt Mary felt the urge to write a hard rock epic, but lacked the inspiration for it at the time. Be it progressive or your garden variety hard rock; Aunt Mary are successful half of the time with both on Loaded. So much of the criticism I see regarding this album attacks the album for not being 'progressive' enough. That is not the issue at all. Aunt Mary could have made an excellent hard rock record just as well as a progressive one. Where Janus succeeded over Loaded was not necessarily a matter of style, but the fact that they made each song somehow memorable. That album flowed. This one flows around half the time.

More enduring fans of Aunt Mary seem to be torn between this and Janus as their favourite. I'll conclude the review on a more positive note: while Loaded's songwriting is impressive only half the time, they had a thunderous, organic punch to their sound. I think they lost a bit of it on Janus. For my money, it's that album that will stand the test of time (as best as Aunt Mary can, at least) but Loaded has got its moments.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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