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Fruupp - It's All Up Now - Anthology CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.65 | 19 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
3 stars I know some people are able to borrow a disk and listen to it a couple of times, while confidently formulating an opinion that they don't mind committing to posterity on a website read by thousands. Let me just say that no review of mine results from fewer than 3 full listens, which is sometimes painful but at least makes me feel confident that somebody's children will really know I gave each disk a chance. Hey prog is a pretentious art form so its reviewers are allowed to feel self important too!

All this to say that nothing requires me to listen to the same recording over and over again for a week, probably a dozen times, especially when I don't consider it even close to a masterpiece. Yet this is precisely what has happened in the case of the nigh-complete compilation before us. I believe that this exercise wheel approach to reviewing FRUUPP reflects both their best and worst aspects. On the one hand, the group plays well and is generally pleasant to listen to, while being complex enough to try again and again. On the other hand, not enough of it really sticks, no matter how much I try. I find myself lamenting how much effort is required to stay focused. I blame part of this on poor production in the sense that many passages are recorded so low that I need to jack the volume up, only to be nearly deafened by a subsequent blast. In the 1970s I'm sure that white noise was not as pervasive as it is now, so I will cut them a bit of slack.

The music is hard to characterize, with an eclectic blend of neoclassical, sunny 1960s pop a la BEATLES and HOLLIES (especially in the vocal sections), KING CRIMSON referenced mellotrons, VAN MORRISON/TRAFFIC styled jazz, GENESIS mythological references and dramatic flair, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST soaring lead guitars, and some NICK DRAKE, MAGNA CARTA and TIR NA NOG gentle string oriented psych. It's surprising how rarely they betray their Celtic origins given that every other contemporary influence can be discerned.

It would appear that the best material emanates from the first and last of the four original albums, with the third being by far the poppiest and weakest, even if it does include their most accessible and confident short song, the single "Prince of Heaven". Luckily, the longest tracks tend to be the best, my favourite being "Graveyard Epistle". Spacey, ponderous vocals, leaving the 60s way behind, bass, electric piano, alternating with faster passages make this wholly captivating. At around 2 mins an instrumental part is a highlight for the group, with middle eastern sounding motifs on keys/strings, organ and bass are simply bursting with conviction. "On a Clear Day" and "Song for a Thought" both feature lead guitars like those of John Lees in BJH, especially the latter with a striking similarity to his solo on "After the Day". The beautiful "Three Spires" and "Elizabeth" show the more sedate and orchestrated side, the latter bursting forth in mid verse after the lengthy intro has well established the proceedings. "Misty Morning Way" and "Masquerading with Dawn" form another peak of inspired playing on mellotron, guitars and bass, as well as convincing vocal performances, with Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" only slightly below the summit. "Sheba's Song" recapitulates these best qualities one last time before the group takes its leave.

If you enjoy a generally mellow hybrid of 1960s and early 1970s psych and progressive stylings, with an accent on mellotron, strings, and soaring lead guitar, it's all up to you now to discover Fruupp, one of the more underrated, if ultimately not entirely convincing, prog bands of the 1970s.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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