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Triumvirat - Pompeii CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.07 | 145 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars I've really not given this Triumvirat album much of a fair go in the past. I came across `Pompeii' in a crate full of rubbish dross albums, so I picked it up very cheap for a couple of dollars (likely the seller had no idea what it was). It had a badly damaged cover that was really ugly to look at, so the idea of actually touching it to take the record out to play was very unappealing! I had also read several negative reviews on the Archives, so I figured it wasn't worth much of my time. But after eventually giving it a go, several listens later, it turns out to be a respectably decent, though deeply flawed and frustrating prog/pop album that is more of a severe missed opportunity than an outright disaster.

Triumvarit main man Jurgen Fritz is the real star of this album. Under difficult circumstances (the death of fellow band member Helmut Koellen and the exodus of previous band members), Fritz threw himself into the work and tried to make the best damn album possible. In addition to his army of reliable keyboards (Hammond C3, Organ, Moog, Polyphonic synth, Steinway Grand, fender rhodes, Arp string ensemble, Clavinet, and more), he produced the entire album, wrote all the lyrics (more on that later), and arranged all the choir and orchestral parts. The project comes across as a huge undertaking, so it's a shame that the album didn't turn out quite as rewarding as all the effort would have hoped for.

Two Passport members in Curt Cress and Dieter Petereit were brought in to fill out the sound on drums and bass/guitar, and they are excellent additions to this album. Not so the return of schmaltzy vocalist Barry Palmer. It's not that the guy can't sing, as he has an immensely strong and commanding voice, very technically proficient. It's just that his overwrought style is perhaps more suited to commercial music, and he really cripples much of the good work done by the other musicians on this album. He is frequently draining to listen to, and his voice has really dated this album terribly in parts. There's a few sections where he's a little more restrained, and it works much better. The truth is, this album would probably be rated a lot higher with a different vocalist on board, or if Palmer had seriously toned down his overly dramatic style. I would suggest even being a totally instrumental album might have been better, but with much of the music trying to find a balance between technical progressive and friendlier pop/rock, I'm sure an accessible singer was quite necessary.

The album and side A starts out with the hugely promising `Earthquake 62 AD', a killer instrumental intro (very influenced by ELP, but let's get that clich├ęd observation out of the way right away!) that's all busy drums and pounding organ. We then get a scene-setting and thoughtful narration before a busier reprise of the instrumental, but then we have the first appearance of Barry Palmer. This is the track his vocals are probably best on, but that's not saying much. Nice bass on this bit too. `Journey Of A Fallen Angel' is fairly commercial, with nice subtle synths and lovely piano, but Palmer's cheesy dramatic vocals on the verses frequently let the track down. The chorus is actually rather good, and Palmer is more restrained and quite effective on this section. `Viva Pompeii' is a wonderful orchestral instrumental with relentless piano and furious drum-work. Mesmerizing bass and inventive synth/electric piano solos. This track shows so much fire and energy, it's also very catchy and gets your head nodding! Best track on the album! `The Time Of Your Life...?' has a vile almost honky-tonk intro, but an upbeat and jolly foot-tapping melody kicks in with a syrupy Palmer vocal and female backing chorus vocalists that are more restrained than him! The orchestral strings are quite pleasant and effectively used on this one, before a very dizzying finale.

Side 2's `Rich Man and the Carpenter' has a lovely majestic intro piano/drums/bass intro, before the vocals and rollicking melody comes in. The `What do I do...?' chorus is strangely reminiscent of later Alan Parsons Project pop songs, and it's kind of catchy! There's a nice low key quiet piano and vocal middle section that Barry sings perfectly here! The band seems to relish the drama of this track, their playing a little more energized and frantic on this one when they get to cut loose on the instrumental sections. The marching drums add a real sense of tension on the second instrumental `Dance On The Volcano', an energetic classical workout. Everything you love about the band is in this track. `Vesuvius' begins as yet another instrumental, before a rapid-fire narration and hideous wail from Palmer, before a reprise of themes from the first track. "The day Pompeii died, it was the Devil's fair....Vesuvius raised his hand..." is a very evocative lyric. `The Hymn' ends the album on a grand uplifting and spiritual finale, with a mostly very effective Barry Palmer vocal. He's really rather good on this, though it probably helps that he has such a lovely melody to sing. In addition to a soothing choir, there's some beautifully restrained piano from Fritz on this, that really shows the band didn't function on the one setting of `bombastic classical overkill' at all times.

No doubt the tragedy of Pompeii is a terrific and grand theme for a prog concept album, and Jurgen Fritz really went out of his way to pen some high quality lyrics. Utilizing a clever mix of historical situations, fictional characters and personal observations, despite suffering from occasional `lost in translation' English moments, Fritz' lyrics are rich in detail. They are also lovingly reproduced on the LP inner sleeve so they can be appreciated properly. I think the lyric "Exotic birds came with the wind, singing songs only birds can sing" is especially lovely. The liner notes confirm how passionate Fritz was about this album and making sure it came together.

Despite the number of problems with the album, `Pompeii' never sounds less than amazing, with Fritz providing a warm production where every instrument sounds full and thick.

Before I had even started writing this review and playing the album properly over and over in preparation of it, I had set in my mind that two stars would probably be all the album was worth. However I've come to really appreciate how much effort went into making a decent mix of progressive and pop-rock, with technical playing and arrangements and easy- listening vocals. It may not have the longer classical workouts from their earlier albums, but I'd rather see a band try and fail something new than keep sticking to the same pattern. `Pompeii' is a very admirable effort from a great band.

Three and a half stars really!

(Special thanks must go to fellow Archives member Presdoug for our back and forth discussion on this album that helped me see it's highlights and faults much clearer! I've always admired his devotion to Triumvirat, and I truly appreciate his contribution.)

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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