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Sebastian Hardie - Blueprint CD (album) cover

BLUEPRINT

Sebastian Hardie

 

Symphonic Prog

3.67 | 69 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Australia is hardly a hot-bed of progressive music talent, so it was a welcome surprise to discover so many years ago that the country I call home produced an exceptionally good symphonic band in the form of Sebastian Hardie (that's a band name, not a dude!). During the mid-Seventies, the group produced two first-rate albums in the grand symphonic prog style (three albums if you count the `third' album `Symphinity' that saw an altered line-up of the band change their name to Windchase). All were highlighted by lengthy instrumental runs from Toivo Pilt's gorgeous sweeping keyboards and Mario Millo's soaring epic guitar solos. Their debut album `Four Moments' was not only a landmark album for Australian progressive music, but for symphonic prog of the era in general, and it was as good as anything coming out from around the rest of the world at that time.

Like many prog bands from back then, changing musical tastes saw the band split up (Mario Millo would still go on to release a quality solo album `Epic III' in 1979 after the group folded), but it was the opportunity to support symphonic legends Yes in Australia in March 2003 that saw the band reform for the occasion, and the members were inspired enough to eventually record some new compositions. So almost thirty years since their initial works, the band returned in 2011 with the perfectly titled `Blueprint' that more or less picks up where their Seventies works left off, with an added touch of melodic classic rock, and the passage of time has not dulled their musical skills in the least!

While opener `I Wish' holds a thoughtful lyric about missed opportunities and regret that taps into the rich heritage of classic Australian rock, much of the piece revolves around mellow foot-tapping instrumental moments by way of a variety of vintage Mellotron, Hammond and Moog sounds and laid-back guitar soloing. The amusingly titled instrumental `Vuja de' jumps back and forth in tempo, all prancing Hammond and up- tempo driving beats with scratchy rollicking Hammond organ one second, jazzy vibes and dreamy electric guitar fire the next. `Art of Life' is a pleasant, laid-back ballad-rocker sung with warmth, and the sedate `I Remember' includes several minutes of ringing honey- dipped guitar themes and vintage keyboard flights in the classic Sebastian Hardie manner around a smooth tune.

With its mix of tricky instrumental twists and quirky boisterous vocal interjections, `Another String' wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Spock's Beard album, and Alex Plavsic's snappy drumming and Peter Plavsic's punchy heavy bass really shine on this one, as too does Millo's lengthy slow-burn bluesy guitar wailing. After leading with some cosy acoustic flavours, brisk album closer `Shame' is revealed to be a lovely little instrumental along the lines of the most romantic passages of bands like Camel and Rousseau, with a finale in the manner of the most victorious Flower Kings moments.

Yes, `Blueprint' does reflect the age of the musicians, and it's hardly cutting edge by any stretch of the imagination, but everything is performed with such relaxed taste, played with a lightness of touch and given a fuzzy warm restrained production. Skilled instrumental runs blend seamlessly with strong melodies and pleasant vocals to bring a fine mix of lightly symphonic prog and the sort of classic rock that Australian artists do so well, and the forty minute vinyl length running time means it's not overlong or jammed with filler material. It invokes memories of those precious earlier Sebastian Hardie albums, yet also stands on its own modern merits just fine. There's not too many acts their age that release new albums and emerge with their dignity intact, but Sebastian Hardie can hold their heads high with a worthy release that doesn't destroy their legacy.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four stars for this classy effort.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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