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Morgan - Nova Solis CD (album) cover

NOVA SOLIS

Morgan

 

Symphonic Prog

3.71 | 51 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars An obscure British prog-rock band from the early Seventies, Morgan took their name from keyboard player Morgan Fisher (a future member of Mott the Hoople), so it should come as no surprise that his playing dominates much of the music! Performing in a mostly symphonic style with plenty of spacey flourishes and pop vocal melodies on their 1972 debut `Nova Solis', he was ably supported by Robert Sapsed's nicely fat and upfront bass, with Maurice Bacon's thrashing and busy charge of drums/percussion constantly powering behind the oceans of keyboards. Guitars are absent with the exception of short acoustic passages supplied by vocalist Tim Staffel, forever associated with his connection to the pre-Queen band Smile that featured guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Sadly he sometimes falls back on a painful falsetto, but other times his confidence and optimism perfectly carries the music forwards, and the band often deliver passages similar to those found on King Crimson, Greenslade and Argent albums from the same era.

The first side presents three short to medium length pieces, all of them crossing back and forth between grand symphonic themes, dazzling instrumental prowess and slick rock/pop melodies. Opener `Samarkand the Golden' is the punchiest and most tightly-written moment on the disc, full of grooving spasms powered by Maurice's snappy drumming, Robert's grumbling and deliciously aggressive bass, and no shortage of creaking King Crimson-flavoured infernal Mellotron, glistening electric piano and bubbling Moog tastiness from Morgan. Tim's voice moves between high-pitched croons and gutsier snarls, sometimes reminding of Greenslade/Samurai vocalist Dave Lawson as well. It serves him well on ballad `Alone', delivering a nice variety of weary treated lead vocals in the verses that turn warmly optimistic for the chorus, plus his ethereal background harmonies are haunting. Instrumentally it sits somewhere alongside the softer melancholic moments on the first few King Crimson albums, but an instrumental interlude in the middle is grand and dreamy in the classic Genesis manner.

The up-tempo and excited `War Games' reminds of both Argent and parts of Curved Air, letting rip with ravishing electric piano runs and dazzling harpsichord-like keys to provide a boppy infectiousness, but the overexcited lead vocal is a little on the grating side. The entire second side is then made up of a nine-part suite, loaded with a variety of ambitious ideas. It opens with a grand whirring lead theme that bookends the epic, moving through everything from slightly obnoxious jazzy poppy vocal pieces, droning ambience, aimless spacey noodling ala `Moonchild' off the Crimson debut, more inviting acoustic guitar balladry and loopy runaway instrumentals that again call to mind Greenslade, and it's certainly an eclectic set of fragmented ideas.

`Nova Solis' proves to be a real grower of a prog-rock work, with just a few little issues perhaps holding it back from achieving true greatness. Although the vocals are hardly a deal-breaker, it must be said that the disc really takes off every time the singing stops, allowing the instrumental playing to soar to greater heights. The extended side-long suite on the second side also doesn't flow together particularly well, but admittedly all the individual little ideas and segments sound plenty tasty on their own merits even if they're never developed properly into something more cohesive. But the album is likely to be a keyboard lovers paradise, is full of positive energy, melodic tunes and excited playing from all the performers, and it makes Morgan and `Nova Solis' a very worthwhile addition for those prog-rock collectors looking for lesser known but still plenty rewarding extras to add to their library.

Three and a half stars.

(Dedicated to Mike Hewetson, the biggest `Nova Solis' fan I know!)

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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