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Symphonic Prog • United States

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Quill biography
Founded by three musician friends back in 1975, QUILL was the result of the pairing of individual longings for the creation of rock music with a strong artistic drive: of course, the parameters of prog rock provided the main clue for this enterprise. Keyboardist Ken DeLoria, bassist/guitarist Keith Christian and drummer/percussionist Jim Sides joined forces after years spent covering pop music's top billing hits. From day one, they intended their original material to be epic and ambitious, full of mood shifts and orchestral-oriented structures: their power-trio formation allowed DeLoria's keyboard inputs to take center stage in the melodic department, although their material doesn't get as bombastic as ELP. The band's nuclear sound actually isn't too related to the prototypical pomposity of ELP or TRACE; QUILL is more focused on the meticulously melodic approach that YES, GENESIS and early 70's-RICK WAKEMAN has perfected so majestically in their hey-day. In this way, QUILL manages to create a musical proposal that turns out to be somewhat original while firmly rooted in the school of symphonic prog.

"Sursum Corda", a concept-album that combines the magic of fairy tales and the affirmation of the self, was recorded with private funding at a resort studio between late '76 and early '77, eventually being issued to the format of pre-release vinyl. The band gained a cult following but not much support from the industry. While they were struggling to make their music known more broadly, they managed to write and record another epic concept-album, titled "The Demise of the Third King's Empire". For a couple of years they managed to perform their material, properly staged according to its artistic nature, to pleased audiences, but there came a time when the band got tired of struggling. And so, QUILL parted ways. All three members remained and still remain close friends (even business partners, at some time).

QUILL's repertoire is recommended to all devoted lovers of symphonic prog, particularly that inspired by the most renowned British pioneers: the "Sursum Corda" album will surely make a valuable item in any good prog collection.

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Born From FireBorn From Fire
Metalville 2017
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QUILL discography

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3.20 | 40 ratings
Sursum Corda

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QUILL Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by Menswear
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Neh.

ELP could have triggered a 'cash-factor' into some minds of talented keyboard players. I can see classical pianists thinking: 'Hey now, I can play Stravinsky and Mussorgsky. What if I could be like them? Wait a minute, this could be good They look richer than Cresus!' It did with Trace, Le Orme, Egg and Triumvirat, and they did get a (very) little slice of the cake. ELP where living the BIG life, and for a prog band (and very few bands if you think of it), it never came this huge ever since.

Quill maybe wanted to be a part of the select super-sympho-club that were the bass-keys- drums pattern. It worked well for some, but the stakes were high to make a decent statement. Maybe if Quill injected more originality and/or crazyness in their approach they would've got a shot, but their songwriting is low compared to the competition.

If you're looking for a lost gem, this is not the place. The lyrics are cheesy (white knight something...ugh), the bass is bland but the keys are not that bad (think Toccata in Brain Salad Surgery). It just lacks punch and lacks oomph, see? If your skills are not the highest, a good interpretation is crucial. And again, the band has too few to offer. You're in the entertainment buisness, so be a bit entertaining!

Making a symphony demands more thinking guys!

 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is quite a good album for those who like genuine seventies music; it istrongly keyboards oriented.

Synths sounds do take you back to some Banks moments and are completed with sweet and mellowish vocals. Most of my colleagues do refer to ELP which in a way is not alien to the music featured on this one and only album from this confidential US band.

Still, I don't consider this as a clone album ("Triumvirat" was much more on this side IMHHO). As a whole I would depict this release as a pleasant work which should be good enough to raise the interest from the readers of this site (although very few reviews are available for this one and only album).

Bombastic, poignant, and melodic are the combinations available during this "Sursum Corda". It is very much above average of the usual US production. It is maybe not too much original, but well performed all the way through (I quite like the vocals here).

Four stars is my rating (seven out of ten would be ideal though). It is a fine and fully symphonic album by all means. The first "movement" is my fave one of the two. It is more vibrant and melodic. "Genesis" and ELP fans should be pleased with such a work.

 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by BIgFan

5 stars This Album is, perhaps, easily misunderstood.

As a three piece band with no guitarist, the parallels that listeners draw to ELP are going to be numerous (and obvious), but that's no more relevant than the treatment that Cream and Jimi Hendrix received from reviewers back in the days when it was novel to see and hear a guitar trio.

The magic of Quill is contained in their highly accessible melodic content. While Keith Emerson is pounding out powerful, rapid, complex musical figures, sometimes in unusual time signatures, Ken DeLoria is stating majestic and compelling melodic lines that nearly everyone can aurally digest.

My various female companions over the years have almost universally been turned off by ELP, but have willingly embraced Quill, often asking for more (no offense intended to the female gender).

When DeLoria faces the Hammond and plays the simple but powerful riff on Side II in "March of Kings," it couldn't be more authentic! It's him, speaking through the mighty B3.

And when Jim Sides melodically cries out "Mesmerize All Kings" at the top of his lungs with passion in his heart, it doesn't really matter if the words make perfect sense, because it's clear that the essence of his being is what's being expressed.

Jon Anderson's words rarely make sense and let's not even get into Steely Dan. Quill is a band that's telling a story but the story is abstract; it's by no means a textbook. It comes from the heart, in this listener's opinion, and should be accepted as such.

The title of the Album "Sursum Corda" which means "Lift up Your Heart" in Latin tells it all. Quill's music evokes images, power, conflict, passion and resolution. They've captured the essence of classical styles ranging from marches (such as Elgar) to delicate, almost baroque-like chamber music that could well be from Bach. DeLoria's use of the Baldwin Electric Harpsichord combined with a Moog flute voice is as pretty as it is innovate. Jim Sides' use of orchestra bells accents the lovely, quieter passages with rare beauty.

Now it's also true that these guys hadn't yet hit their stride with this first release. I was lucky enough to hear them perform a second, far more sophisticated work, entitled "The Demise of the Third King's Empire.' In 'The Demise" the storyline is clear while being quite complex. There's nothing abstract about it at all.

It addresses an apocalypse that covers the known Universe and salvation through the protection of a single book that contains the 'sum of all knowledge.' It's very much like the recent film release "The Book of Eli" with Denzel Washington, but expanded to cover intergalactic and multi-dimensional realms.

Well this is a review of "Sursum Corda," not "The Demise," so I'll leave it at that. It's my understanding that The Demise never got professionally recorded in a studio, but perhaps someday it will.

As a last observation, because I wouldn't want to leave him out, Keith Christian's bass work may not push the envelope like some prog rockers (notably Chris Squire), but it certainly complements the keyboards and vocals with skill and grace. In concert, Keith would sometimes perform a solo guitar part, which was usually gentle and sweet. He's also one of the principal lyricists.

I saw these guys play in Santa Barbara on several occasions. Their personal commitment to authentic musical expression was a joy to behold, particularly in comparison to the obnoxious strutting and posturing of Rolling Stones wanna-be bands of the time.

To write Quill off as merely an ELP clone would be like saying Hendrix is a BB King copy cat. Sure they both play guitar, just as DeLoria and Emerson are both seriously accomplished multi-keyboardists, but the flowing, lyrical content of Quill's music is vastly distant from the more staccato style and the overall approach of most Emerson, Lake, and Palmer pieces. For sheer technical virtuosity, Emerson is probably the more accomplished of the two. But for clear, powerful, and accessible melodic lines, with plenty virtuosity of his own, DeLoria's work is hard to challenge.

I love Quill and ELP and I have immensely enjoyed the time I've spent listening to both. For fans of this genre I recommend listening late at night with headphones and a lit candle (apologies to the writers of "Almost Famous"), which is a wonderful way to get deeply inside the music. The production quality of this CD is absolutely first rate. Rarely, will you hear a better quality recording. I give it the highest rating for skill and authenticity, while still recognizing that it is a first release in a genre that (at the time) required an awful lot of time and money to work within. Quill never had the backing of a major label and they should be lauded for the sheer dedication to their craft that brought this wonderful, independently produced work to light. So should Greg Walker, for having the vision to re-release it after the CD format emerged. Kudos all around!

 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Quill is an american trio very much in vein of ELP, Triumvirat or Trace, same aproach to music same manner of composing. The only thing maybe diffrent from those 3 bands from above is that they release a single album in late 1977 entitled Sursum corda and re release on CD in 1993 by legendary Greg Walker from famous Syn-Phonic label. The music as I said is very up tempo in places, combned very well with slower moments, but even those particular arrangements are hammond driven , without guitar, only drums , voice and bass. The album has 2 long tracks , 2 movements, each one divided in miny sections. Specially the part 2, the second movement is for me more close to my taste, the first one, is not a bad at all, but is too repetative in arrangements and has to many ELP similarities, to many. Over all a good album, but nothing fantastic if you ask me, they release this album a little to late in prog world, when disco and punk were all over, they didn't manage to survive to many years and disbanded in 1979. The CD has great band pictures, lyrics and history of the band. So a pleasent ride in prog rock realm, at least for me, but I don't think that this album will exciteing many listneres. 3 star is the best I can give.
 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by loserboy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Quill were prototypes in the Triumvirat-ELO camp of prog with Hammond and Moog led classical symphonic progressive rock. "Sursum Corda" (which is latin for Lift up your heart) is a 36 minutes work divided in two parts named First Movement and (naturally) Second Movement. I suppose it has all the cliches of vintage prog rock but besides all the negativity in the reviews let me assure you this is an excellent recording. If you like the the US bands Surprise and Fireballet then I can assure you that Quill will not dissapoint you. Musically Quill blends lots of symphonic keys with excellent drumming, bass and guitar work. Their 2 epic songs are excellent and take us on a nice little jouney. The sound on this CD is also quite excellent and offers some great moments and I guess thanks for Syn-Phonic for making this available !
 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Very intresting album by this symphonic band. At the time I found Sursum Corda I thought they were from italy. I was very surprised to know they were in fact americans since their sound is so close to what was being done in Europe in terms of prog rock. I guess by the time they released their debut album they stood little chance to make it, since 1977 was probably the worst year ever to do such a thing. Small wonder they were unable to put out a follow up, even if they did try very hard on it.

Quill´s music is not very original. They were very good muscians, no doubt about it. But they sound too much like ELP on some parts, too much like Triumvirat on others, and a tad like PFM and Le Orme all the time. Given time I believe they would eventually find a sound of their own, but unfortunatly that was not to be. Anyway, Sursum Corda is far from a bad album. In fact, if you don´t mind originality I think this album is quite good and enjoyable, specially for fans of the aforementioned groups. Vocals are the weakest parts. They did need a good singer, but the instrumental parts are very well done. Keyboardsman Ken Deloria is very skillfull and talented. Production is only average, but acceptable.

Conclusion: a nice album to hear. Not very original and far from being essential in any way. But worth a listen if you like keyboard driven symphonic prog in the vein of ELP. rating: something between 2,5 and 3 stars.

 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Another seventies keyboard band that has inevitably been referred to as an ELP clone, but in this case the label is completely justified. Not only is the band almost completely centered around keyboards, but they manage to lift a good number of the riffs ELP recorded between about 1971 and 1973. Tastefully done, but lifted nonetheless. There is a bit of original material here, but not so much as you’d notice.

Credits to keyboardist Ken DeLoria though for hitting pretty much every base though: Hammond and Moog organs, ARP and RMI synthesizers, mellotron and even a grand piano and electric harpsichord for good measure. His parents must have owned a music store. Percussionist Jim Sides plays snare and timpani drums as well as some chimes, and Keith Christian plays bass as well as the few guitar licks that are on the album (acoustic I believe). The moog is more prevalent on the first half of the album then the second, while the Hammond pops up a bit more on the second half. Regardless of which is being played when, the various keyboards make up the vast majority of the instrumentation on the album.

There are relatively few vocals on the album, which is probably a good thing since the production quality of the singing is rather muddy compared to the excellent instrumental quality.

Besides ELP there are a few other bits and pieces of familiar music here. In the second movement there is a subtitled section (“the Call”) whose tempo and keyboard crescendo remind me a bit of the symphonic portions of early Kansas ala ‘the Pinnacle’ or ‘the Wall’. Bits of “Earthsplit” and “the Black Wizard” wouldn’t have sounded out-of-place on a Styx album of the early seventies either. Neither of these is particularly surprising since both Styx and Kansas were huge in the years leading up to this album and Quill was an American band after all.

But mostly this is more and more ELP, keyboards upon bombastic keyboards with layers of drums over and under the keys. From what I understand the boys in the band had a tendency to dress up in pretentious garb like robes and wizard costumes and put on flashy light shows when they played live as well, so I suppose they really were emulating the bands they grew up on.

Anyway, this isn’t too original but it is kind of fun to listen to, especially if you really dig keyboards and enjoy trying to pick apart the instrumentals to determine where the individual sounds came from. If you like that sort of thing you’ll love this album. I’m only going to give it three stars due to the lack of originality, but the musicianship is very good so I don’t think most progressive fans would be put off by the album at all; they might just not consider it a masterpiece any more than I do. Give it a spin if you get a chance though.


 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Quill was a young American power trio devoted to give it a try unabashedly in the pompous side of symphonic prog. Following the example of ELP in terms of a taste for long compositions, epic arrangements and a predominant use of organ and Moog synthesizer for the lead melodies and main motifs, the fact is that the threesome don't manage to pass beyond the realms of what's nice and interesting. You can tell that they were heading for standards of excellency regarding the compositions, but the intentions portrayed on the arrangements and expansions of the main motifs are nothing but a promise half fulfilled. The lyrics are very naive and unsubstantial, and given the fact that the vocal input is poorly delivered, the sung parts come out as a distraction from what otherwise could have been a more thorough elaboration of the instrumental passages. That having been said, the keyboardist's skill is wide enough to provide the nuclear strength for the whole group, while the rhythm section stands solid and precise. One might wish that the rhythm duo had reached closer to the dynamics of other more brilliant progressive power trios, but all in all, they behave competently during DeLoria's ceaseless excursions of melodies, orchestrations and adornments. Their "Sursum Corda" album is a suite divided in 2 sidelong Movements. Had each of them been longer and more maturely conceived, I'm sure that the material would have driven the musicians to use more energy than the one registered in this recording. First Movement contains the brightest individual sections of the entire album - 2 to 5 -, but generally speaking it fails to create a consistent ambience and a sustained fluidity: it is really uneven. The opposite can be said about Second Movement, which is the most consistent and cohesive one, although it fails to create enough drama when it is apparently needed. The lyrical richness suggested in sections b and c is only partially exploited, while the instrumental interludes feel extremely short, not having enough room to develop and/or enhance the hooks evidently betrayed in the organ riffs and synth layers. All things considered, I must prefer the Second Movement to the First: like I said before, it is more consistent and it bears more successfully the ethereal mood of the epic's concept, which concerns man's travels in and out of the world of dreams. The album's main shortcoming is the failure to develop its potential strength and bring it to the fore; the album's main virtue is the clever use of attractive motifs. Nice, while not being really essential - "Sursum Corda" will make a good addition in any symphonic prog lover's collection.
 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by vartskyj

2 stars well well..... Has anyone ever heard of this band?. They sound so english with the mood and the concept of kings and duels but this band is american and a pretty late comer to the prog sceen (1977). I must admit i was quite puzzlled when i found this CD for a low price at a used CD (and records!) shop. I looked at the cover, and then at the back for the track list where the word movement stuck out and then i said to myself:"This is a prog album". "But how does it sound?", i asked myself.....'s not that good , and that is what counts here as you all know. Why is it not that good?. Well the musicians are ok and they do play in the genre (A keyboard trio a la ELP,le orme or any KB trio you can think about) but it is just an inspiring. The singing is the weakest point in my opinion, the guy just cant sing!!. Another problem is that the material is just not written well and therfore makes the album (In my opinion) boring. I will give this 2 stars for musicianship and a nice concept (Although the words are a bit silly but how sirious can you be with such a concept). Avoid unless you find it for a nice price (like i did).
 Sursum Corda  by QUILL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.20 | 40 ratings

Sursum Corda
Quill Symphonic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars In the early Nineties several USA progrock labels released CD's on a LP size so you could experience the technical progress of the CD sound and the pleasure of the size of a record. To me this was a fine but expensive initiative, especially because post from the USA tot Holland is expensive. This CD "Sursum corda" (the LP is from 1977) made by USA progrock band Quill was one of those releases, recently it has been re-released on the normal CD size. If you like the vintage keyboard sound, this trio is heaven on earth! The CD contains two movements (19 and 15 minutes) featuring warm and melodic symphonic rock. The parts sound flowing and alternating, from mellow to bombastic eruptions and from compelling to up-tempo. The music is very tasteful: powerful Hammond runs, fat Moog flights, majestic Steinway grand piano (with echoes from Gandalf), beautiful Mellotron waves and a soaring string-ensemble. The vocals have a bit melancholical undertone and fits perfect to the atmosphere on this CD. Every fan of Le Orme, Triumvirat, Hecenia or Rare Bird should give this wonderful album a chance. RECOMMENDED!

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