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James (Jim) McCarty - Out Of The Dark CD (album) cover


James (Jim) McCarty


Crossover Prog

3.86 | 3 ratings

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4 stars Jim McCarty is one of the few longtime progressive artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although this achievement was based entirely on his work in the seminal YARDBIRDS. McCarty has stated that his move in a mellower direction was a direct reaction to the high decibel lifestyle, and this decision gave rise to his larger and arguably more significant body of work. As a key member of the original RENAISSANCE and ILLUSION he is well known to symphonic fans, but he has also been involved in several other formations, among them PILGRIM (like a less flashy BLACKMORE's NIGHT) and STAIRCASE (new age), and has released two solo albums, via which route he comes to our attention at this time.

On the surface, "Out of the Dark" is merely a collection of good soft rock tunes along the lines of ILLUSION's rather ignominious "Enchanted Caress" swan song. But minimal exploration reveals a concept album reflecting the idealism of the 60s brought into the post Thatcher era. It's a philosophy tempered by the realities of the day while heartened by the wisdom of experience and musical inspiration, both of which McCarty sports on his plaid sleeve.

Every track offers a simple yet gorgeous melody, powerful lyrical imagery, understated sincere vocals, and heartfelt playing in all areas. The musicianship and arrangements are what would appeal to progressive fans, and indeed some of the lovely keyboards of THE Matthew Fisher and another Matthew, surname Hammond, do taste sweetly of early Renaissance. It's hard to pick highlights because each song helps both its predecessor and successor sound richer. The dreamy drone of "Signs of an Age Gone By", the haunting self discovery of "Just Breaking Through", the emotive chill of "What if Summer Never Came", the devotional aspect of "Why Don't You Believe", the gentle blues of "Home is Where the Heart is", and the soaring finale "Back to the Earth" are all exercises in unfettered class.

McCarty's first solo album serves up a consistent vision of soft crossover prog without a trace of guile. If some of the more commercially successful 1970s bands of this sub genre had gone this route, there might have been fewer chart appearances but greater respect for prog as a whole. "Out of the Dark" positively illuminates what might have been. 4.5 stars.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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