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Aardvark - Aardvark CD (album) cover

AARDVARK

Aardvark

 

Crossover Prog

3.48 | 83 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Aardvark' - Aardvark (61/100)

Even though 1970 was only a couple of years away from the height of progressive rock, the style was still relatively nascent. Many of the bands we now consider legendary were still on their bottom rungs, and many prog rock tropes hadn't yet been codified. Although Aardvark is probably best known as a footnote in rock history (they were a predecessor of the one-hit wonder Free, of "All Right Now" fame), their first (and last) LP is a fair indicator of where progressive rock was at that point. Revelling in the past decade's psychedelic traditions and British rhythm-and-blues fetishism, Aardvark's self titled feels heavily dated to modern ears, but it's a solid and fairly memorable album that probably deserved more attention than it's since received.

Even today, the notion of a rock or progressive act without guitars might be met with doubt; even if Van der Graaf Generator and Emerson Lake & Palmer have demonstrated a rock band's bread and butter can be the keyboards themselves, it's still pretty rare to see a band eschew use of the genre's flagship instrument. In this regard, Aardvark were onto something interesting here that separated them from many of the other heavy psych would-bes of the period. Steve Milliner's thick organ riffs easily fill whatever gap may have been left by the absence of guitars. The opening track, "Copper Sunset", is a perfect example of this; the organ idea is as rocking and heavy as any riff you're bound to find in hard rock. There's no doubt that the organ is the biggest reason to check out Aardvark; if you're among those who doubt the instrument's place in rock music, all the more reason for you to check out the album.

Though there's a fair amount of variety in the songwiritng here - ranging from catchy pop tunes to an "Interstellar Overdrive"-style psych jam on "Outing"- all of Aardvark's ideas have their roots in the bluesy rock and psychedelic zeitgeist of 1970; although the instrumental jam "Put That In Your Pipe" shows Aardvark trying their hand at a more expansive, performance-based style of composition, many of these tracks are the sort of thing you might expect to find on an obscure 60's British psych compilation. Though Aardvark are defined by the rich organ, many of the songs are built around vocal melodies, provided here by the capable (but ultimately derivative) Dave Skillin. The songwriting is generally memorable and each track carries a tune of its own, but of the smaller-scale pieces, the only one that stands out is "Very Nice of You to Call", a song I think may have had potential to become a hit, given the proper exposure at the time.

It's rather a shame that Aardvark only came out with one album, and there's no cause to speculate as to what may have become of them, had they stuck together. For the sake and weight of this album, the band and their self-titled debut are sentenced to a corner of prog rock obscurity. For some great use of the organ (particularly on "Put That In Your Pipe") and its release at a formative period for progressive rock, Aardvark can be recommended to fans of the genre, though more casual sorts might be better off sticking to the classics.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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