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Haze - Stoat & Bottle CD (album) cover

STOAT & BOTTLE

Haze

 

Neo-Prog

3.21 | 14 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars In the end...

After having spotted them here on Prog Archives and heard a few songs from the band's MySpace site, I invested in the 30th Anniversary Shows double live album and and I was not disappointed. That was my fist encounter with Haze. Since several of the songs featured on that live album originally came from the present studio album, I searched out Stoat & Bottle as my first Haze studio album. Stoat & Bottle actually sounds quite different from what I expected and features a reasonably appealing mix of Prog Rock, straight Rock, Blues Rock and 80's Pop Rock. Given the "rural" feel of the cover art, I was expecting a bit more of the Folk influences found on the aforementioned live album (but I have learned that the folky side of the band was in large part a more recent development).

Formed in 1978, Haze released their debut LP in 1984 and has since released another two studio albums and as many as three live albums under that name (for the fourth studio album listed here on PA, they somewhat confusingly changed the band name to World Turtle and called the album Haze!). While the songs and performances on Stoat & Bottle are clearly professional, the recording itself (as well as the cover art) has a slight "independent" feel to it.

The album opens with a short, gleeful song about a rural pub called 'Stoat & Bottle'. It is unclear if this is a local pub that actually exists somewhere in the UK or if it is an imaginary one, but regardless of which, this is a rather silly tune both musically and lyrically ("don't forget what you came here for is ale"!). I think it was rather unwise to open the album with this tune, or even to include it at all, as it differs significantly from the rest of the album. See Her Face is more true to the band as I know them from the live album I mentioned on which this song was also included. Here the bass, drums, and guitars comes to the forefront to embellish a nice vocal melody. In The End is probably the first track to deserve to be called "progressive", at least the keyboards start to assert themselves a bit more on this number. This song too was featured on the 30th anniversary live album where it too sounded better than it does here.

In The Universe is a somewhat Pink Floyd-ish song with a retro feel. Humbug is a short instrumental that leads into The Vice which is the longest track of the album. Its seven and a half minutes are used well to allow the band to stretch out a bit more instrumentally, making it one of the most interesting songs here. The sound is, however, again inferior compared to the live version on the aforementioned live album. Autumn is a Blues Rock number and as such it isn't really my cup of tea, but a decent one of its kind.

Resealing is yet another (unnecessary) instrumental that segues into the pure 80's Pop song (!), Tunnel Vision. At this point you rightly begin to think that the album lacks a clear direction with so many disparate styles attempted, but thankfully some of the best songs are yet to come. Ophelia is in my opinion a very good song with some lovely guitar and keyboard work and a memorable melody. The dark Shadows is another good song. Fading Away is again a weak, 80's flavored song, but the album ends on a high note with what is possibly its best song, the lovely Last Orders. It begins with an acoustic guitar backed vocal and builds towards a bombastic ending with a fine electric guitar solo. Superb! Stoat & Bottle could have been better than it is, had it been better recorded and produced and omitted the worst couple of songs. Still, as it stands it is quite decent despite a few weak moments. Out of the three Haze albums from the 80's (all of which have been reissued on CD) Stoat & Bottle remains the least good one. I recommend any newcomer to begin with the excellent 30th Anniversary Shows live album on which most of the best songs from this album are present in better versions.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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