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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Excalibur III: The Origins CD (album) cover

EXCALIBUR III: THE ORIGINS

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

3.49 | 7 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Even more myths and legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table

The King Arthur legend must surely be one of the most common themes for conceptual albums in all of Rock. Two well-known examples from the world of Prog are Rick Wakeman's The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table from 1975 and (side one of) Kayak's Merlin from 1981 (which, in my opinion, is much better than the re-recorded, Bard Of The Unseen-version, from 2003). A lesser known recent attempt at putting the King Arthur legend to progressive music is Gary Hughes' Once And Future King parts 1 and 2 (featuring such stars as Damian Wilson, Lana Lane, Bob Catley, and Arjen Lucassen). One positively obscure, but good, example that I recently discovered is Mentaur's Darkness Before Dawn.

French Folk musician and songwriter Alan Simon, not content to make just one album celebrating the King Arthur legend, has made three of them! Before Ken Levine's nice reviews brought my attention to these albums, I was familiar with the Fairport Convention album Fame & Glory that became the result of that band's multiple contributions to Simon's Excalibur project between 1998 and 2008. For this particular installment of this ambitious multi-album project, Simon has enlisted a wide range of well-known (and some lesser known) Folk and Prog artists including (in addition to Fairport Convention), Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, Les Holroyd of Barclay James Harvest, John Heliwell of Supertramp, Jacqui McShee of The Pentangle, John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia fame, and several others. The music is an appealing amalgamation of (Celtic) Folk Rock, New-Age, Symphonic Rock, and a slight touch of straight-ahead Rock, performed on a plethora of Folk and Rock instruments (with occasional orchestral backdrops performed by the Budapest Symphonic Orchestra).

I normally don't like these kinds of Rock musical projects, but this one is rather successful. There is always the overhanging risk in these endeavors that it will end up sounding too bombastic and overblown, but this album stays mostly clear of unnecessary bombast. There are however a few brief parts where it does veer into dreary Film Music territory. But it is soon brought down to earth again with the folky ballads, rockers, and lovely Celtic jigs. Thankfully, there is almost none of that awful Broadway Musical feel that plagued Kayak's 2003 Merlin re-make and parts of Gary Hughes' otherwise successful Once And Future King duo. Overall, Excalibur III could have been better if Simon fired the symphonic orchestra and edited the album down a bit.

Still, an enjoyable album, recommended for Folk Rock fans and fans of conceptual multi-artist albums.

Side note: The cover art is confusingly similar to Tempest's masterpiece album Turn Of The Wheel. I guess it depicts the same artefact (the round one with the heads - a Celtic shield perhaps?).

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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