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Symphonic Prog • United States

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The Load biography
This powerful Columbus, Ohio trio was formed in 1973 by bassist/guitarist Dave Hessler (OSIRIS, THE DANGER BROTHERS) and brothers Sterling (keyboards) and Tommy (drums) Smith. In time, Hessler built himself a double-neck guitar with a bass on the bottom and six strings on top, while Sterling acquired a Minimoog synth, allowing him to switch from bass to synth. Doing mostly American prog with classical influences, they gigged locally for a couple of years and became part owners of Owl Studios and Owl Records, allowing them to record their first LP at their own pace in 1976, "Praise the Load". Their second effort, "Load Have Mercy", recorded a year later, was quickly shelved and wasn't to be released until it appeared on CD in 1996. They then relocated to Los Angeles, spent the next two years working as session musicians (mostly with The BEACH BOYS) and by 1979, they called it quits and returned to their native Ohio.

"Praise the Load" offers a mix of conventional rock numbers with classical influences, featuring nicely crafted keyboard parts and complex themes in the tradition of KING CRIMSON, YES, ELP and REFUGEE. After 18 months of carefully remixing multi-track tapes of new material, the superior "Load Have Mercy" came out, a much more personal album showing less of their influences. Also classically inspired, it contains lots of dynamic interplay between the trio; Tommy Smith, in particular, is a percussive powerhouse while Hessler treats the listener to some aggressive, earbending solos.

Their second album in particular is a true sonic workout for any sound system and is highly recommended, especially if you're into classic ELP, REFUGEE, THE NICE or TRACE.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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THE LOAD discography

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2.88 | 24 ratings
Praise The Load
4.05 | 24 ratings
Load Have Mercy

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THE LOAD Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Praise The Load by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.88 | 24 ratings

Praise The Load
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Load from USA was and is a quite unknown band in prog circles. Formed as atrio in 1973 releasing one album (if I don't count the later archival release from 1999) in 1976 named Praise the load and disbanded and gone into oblivion in 1979. Anyway this album is far from being bad, at least for me, I don't know why is so low rated, really. This is the type of prog dominated by keyboards, moog and synth in purest mid '70s tradition with classicla influences not far from ELP, Refugee, Greenslade or Yes tradition. I like that the album is quite dynamic in most of the parts with nice interplays between musicians, specially the keybordist Sterling Smith who has some spectacular parts on opening instrumental 11 min piece Fandango, quite great for my ears, the rest is also more then ok. All in all Praise the load was gone unotticed, even has some good moments on it. For me solid 3 stars for sure, maybe 3.5 stars in places, for the excellent opening track.

 Praise The Load by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.88 | 24 ratings

Praise The Load
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by debrewguy
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

1 stars Praise the Load & pass on the CD. Unless you're head over heels in love with the B3 & vintage synths, this will be no more than a pleasant experience at best. Fandango, starts off the album in a decent manner, but it quickly becomes a case of where did I hear this before ? Flyaway slows things down ,with a rather formulaic prog melody, with a mid-piece that reminded me of a very bad Klaatu outtake. we will flyaway, indeed, if only they'd found a way to make this song rise above mediocrity. As they repeat the chorus ad nauseum, I would be driven crazy if not for the magic of remote controls. Brandenburg # 3 is, as can be expected a version of a Bach tune. ELP made a career out this, and more than one ELP wannabe built overly long careers re-interpreting classical music. The better ones, though , know that they have to bring something new to the table. Otherwise, why not just listen to the London Philharmonic or Glenn Gould play the stuff ? Dave's A Song starts off with a 60s type of organ riff that morphs into an electric piano jam with just bass & drums as backing. At the 4 minutes mark, I thought it was going to turn into an early Kansas riff due to the keyboard sound, but that didn't last. It goes back to a generic jam that most semi-advanced garage bands could pull off. Even the ending guitar solo is nothing to write home about. some nice noodling. The Betrayal - continues the lack of originality and lack of interesting music. Songs like these must be what anti proggers would use to illustrate this genre's reliance on a set of formulaic chord changes & vocals. Plus lyrics that would get a C in grade 9 poetry classes ! And then, we come to another classical music remake. Did I say that some groups really don't help themselves by pulling this schtick ? At one point, I thought that I was back in the 70s at our local skating rink , and that they were about to play Herb Alpert lonely Bull . We now get to the bonus tracks. Sit Down stands out only for words that recall a bit ( a very little bit) of Kevin Gilbert's lyrical bent on Shaming of the True (vis a vis the music industry) She calls my name - My God, is it followed by the words please please stop playing !

This is really not a treasure, and the only value, would be as a collectible. I would hazard a guess that the rarity of the LP is owed mostly to the fact that most of the buyers didn't bother to keep it around, and it probably found its' way to the curb for garbage pickup in the few neighbourhoods where someone had it. One of those albums where you just wonder ...

 Load Have Mercy  by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.05 | 24 ratings

Load Have Mercy
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This had been second output by forgotten US band The Load which actually didn't see any release before it had been reissued on CD in 1996. Originally recorded in 1976 the 8 tracks are revealing a type of bombastic, classically (or by Christian religious music) inspired keyboard-driven Prog in the vein of ELP (or rather The Nice). Although sounding quite nice and as well being played very well I must say that this kind of music sounds rather dated for the time of its creation, moreover at times directionless and a bit of wishy-washy as if the musicians couldn't make up their mind whether they like to play Christian hymns, classical, blues, boogie or rock. Most of the tracks are instrumental which is a good thing since Sterling Smith's vocals aren't as impressing as his organ play dominating them. Every now and then there is a nice moog solo or some harpsichord. The music is mostly kept in an up-tempo pace with a solid rhythmic section provided by bass and drums with a couple of more quiet sections. On the occasion of first release of this record the band reunited in 1994 and recorded the bonus track "Eitel's Lament" fitting stylistically very well to the rest of the album. To sum up my review I would say that "Load Have Mercy" is a nice however quite dated record more in a proto-Prog vein which could be recommended if at all to fans of keyboard-driven instrumental Prog. Good enough for a solid 3-star rating!!
 Praise The Load by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.88 | 24 ratings

Praise The Load
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This album strikes me as a collection of semi-serious musings by a couple of seventies Midwest suburbia kids who either spent a lot of their free time at the Lowry Organ & Piano store in their local mall, or maybe snuck some time in on their church’s Wurlitzer after services. The seventies Midwest suburbia types is pretty much accurate; not sure where they cut their musical teeth. In any case they undoubtedly listened to a lot of seventies keyboard music back then, and I suspect they had some classical training as well.

This is a pretty entertaining record, although getting your hands on the original vinyl release would be pretty difficult. Fortunately the album was reissued on CD in the nineties, and that one isn’t very hard to find. There are basically two types of tracks here – keyboard-crazed instrumentals, and keyboard-crazed instrumentals with vocals. The lineup is a trio consisting of brothers Tom and Sterling Smith, plus guitarist Dave Hessler. Apparently Sterling Smith has subsequently made a career of session work, no surprise since his keyboard skills are readily apparent all over this album. The other two have appeared as part of “America’s Favorite Party Band” the Danger Brothers for the past quarter-century. So they’ve managed to make a living in the industry, albeit not playing this type of music. But they have this and one other early recording and their memories, which is nice I suppose.

The opening track “Fandango” is an eleven minute instrumental featuring what sounds like acoustic guitar, slightly syncopated and lively drumming, and a whole cornucopia of Hammond and synth keyboard passages that are pretty entertaining and kind of impressive for the skill of Sterling Smith’s fast fingers if nothing else.

“Flyaway” features more detailed keyboard work and electric guitar, well done except for the harmonized and uncredited vocals which are quite dated-sounding and kind of pithy in their lyrics. This one sounds like a hundred different forgotten seventies bands, but wouldn’t have been too bad on the radio back then.

“Brandenburg #3” is another instrumental, mostly keyboards, and quite a bit shorter than “Fandango” but with the same kind of lively tempo. Smith seems to favor string synths, which is okay since he plays them quite well.

The Hammond and some electric piano are featured on “Dave’s ‘A’ Song”, and this is the one that reminds me of those Lowry organ showrooms in the malls back in the seventies. Peppy tempo, light and lively progressions, but not a whole lot of substance. This clocks a little over seven minutes but actually seems a lot longer than that.

There’s a short blast of the “William Tell Overture” included which is almost all organ, with a few synth flourishes for good measure. Heck, why not?

The longest and probably most ambitious track is “The Betrayal”, an eleven minute blend of funky bass, light guitar, and almost jazzy drum work. Again the featured instruments are the various keyboards, although they are a bit more subdued here. I think this is some kind of religious-themed song, but the lyrics are a little hard to follow since they almost seem like an afterthought added once the instrumental tracks had been laid down. Again the vocals are very dated, but wouldn’t have been out of place thirty years ago when this was recorded.

There’s two ‘bonus’ tracks on the CD version, which is probably the only version anyone who doesn’t already own this is likely to find. Both are pretty good. “Sit Down” reminds me a bit of “Fandango” with its twangy guitar, off-beat drumming, and Wurlitzer-like keyboards. The lyrics are just silly, which probably explains why this one didn’t make the original release.

“She Calls My Name” sounds like a cross between the Nice and the Beach Boys circa the mid-seventies. Not a bad song, but nothing special.

Like I said, this is a pretty entertaining album, and the keyboard work is excellent. This isn’t an essential piece of progressive history or anything, but makes for a decent novelty piece on a symphonic rock collection. For American prog fans this one probably gets an extra star for its decidedly Styx-meets-Church-lady keyboard passages. I’d say three stars, almost 3.5, is accurate.


 Praise The Load by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.88 | 24 ratings

Praise The Load
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by akraten

5 stars First of all, I am surprised - there is still no one reviewed this amazing album before. The Load is keyboard driven blend of symphonic progressive rock generally in the vein of ELP, REFUGEE, early Rick Wakeman and Rick Van Der Linden (TRACE/EKSEPTION) very slightly touched by "American prog influence" that "infected" such American's bands as Kansas, Starcastle, Fireballet. The main feature is definitely virtuosity of keyboardist Sterling Smith using huge variety of keyboard units from Hammond organ to string synthesizer (that makes The Load's uniqueness), however exciting bass lines by Dave Hessler and very effective drumming by Tommy Smith create excellent support. The tracks very crafted primary instrumental numbers with complex themes influenced by baroque era of classic music. Some tracks are even arrangements namely Rossini's William's Tell Overture and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto. The entire album conceptual masterpiece underrated at the time, creates unique touches of medieval spirit . Their second afford "Load Have Mercy" (recorded a year later wasn't release until it appear on CD in 1996) generally in the same direction, just more space for Dave Hessler guitar's passages that interplay with trademarked keyboard's overwhelming. The original LP issued by Owl Records is pretty hard to find, it is appears on Ebay auction from time to time for the price of $100 and up. The Japanese CD contains two bonus tracks that nicely suites to the album conception. I offer it with five starts rating without any doubts, I wish could give them more! Both albums are absolutely essential and highly recommended for all progressive fans, especially those who mostly appreciate keyboard domination. Alexander Kratenko - Ukraine
 Load Have Mercy  by LOAD, THE album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.05 | 24 ratings

Load Have Mercy
The Load Symphonic Prog

Review by Gatot
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Forgotten Band

--- Uhm . while RADIOHEAD is now the most famous band in this beloved website where many reviewers have given their say about "how prog the band is with OK Computer", and now am reviewing the band that is very "unpopular" at all (to my knowledge, at least) in the prog arena or any other arena. So, I have to be prepared for not becoming popular because I have not jumped into Radiohead bandwagon yet - therefore, no one would want to read this review. Nevermind, Gentle Giant did their bold efforts for not being popular in their music direction. Indeed, they succeed with their own way for not being popular. That's exactly what I want to do with this very unpopular band (and therefore "underrated") that, indeed, deserves detailed review. My ultimate goal is to help you in making decision to purchase the CD. Well, I have no financial interest at all with The Laser's Edge, but I feel obliged to review this well deserved album!! Go get the CD now! You won't regret!

I would consider this band as forgotten band of the seventies as very few knew them. Even the CD on my hands now was basically found by my prog-mate, Andy Julias, "by accident" from one of our local record stores down here in Jakarta, Indonesia. THE LOAD was a band that started in Columbus, Ohio, in March 1973, and conducted its career in California in 1980. They were partners in Owl Recording Studios, from which they released their first album "Praise The Load" in 1976. "Load Have Mercy" was the second of three albums the band recorded. (source: CD sleeve note). [My personal thanks to Max that has promptly put this album in this site].

THE LOAD music is a blend of Procol Harum, Uriah Heep, ELP, Kansas, and Rick van der Linden (Trace). Aha! When I mention these names, now it rings you a bell about sort of music these guys are playing hah? Hold your thought for a second. Don't misunderstand my statement as if you listen to the band by yourself, you may "partially" disagree with my statement. There are heavy influences of classical music in this album and bit of classic rock music. For my personal taste, this album is really excellent and I will tell you why on track by track basis. Hope that you don't get bored with it. You don't have to read this detailed review, just purchase the CD!

Mobilized opens the album with an excellent rock instrumental with electric guitar taking the lead of the music, combined with Hammond organ / clavinet D6. The tune starts off with a soft Sterling Smith's Hammond organ accompanied with an acoustic guitar fills. The style of Sterling's play is a blend of Ken Hensley and Procol Harum's keyboard player. The inclusion of clavinet D6 sounds in some transitions has enriched this track. The stunning electric guitar work played by Dave Hessler reminds me to the style of Procol Harum's, it's just much more rocking in this track. There is a segment where I can see the influence of "I want You" by The Beatles. Overall, this track is excellent and very satisfying my mind!

One is Gone is a very short track (1:46) but it's very nicely composed. It's performed in medium tempo with powerful vocals & backing vocals in happy mood, accentuated excellently by the Hammond sound. The short solo combining Hammond and piano is really really (I mean really!) excellent! It's enjoyable and accessible to any music buffs.

Something Suite (instrumental) opens with a common song familiar to my ears as it has been played by many bands including Marillion at the opening of "Margaret" live version track. Sorry, I don't know exactly, but it seems to me like a British traditional tune. When it reaches minute 1:35 - is now the time for the band's composition to play. The Hammond organ has again done a marvelous job in this track. Having explored the sound of Hammond, electric guitar takes wonderful solo. At the end of guitar work, Tom Smith does his fantastic solo drumming. Wow! What a dynamic tune this one is.

Richter Scale (hmm . the title seems so scary for me personally - it's a scale that is used to measure the magnitude of earthquake and tsunami that's just happened recently in my country). This is another fantastic song beautifully crafted by the band. It combines the improvised works of guitar, bass and clavinet. When Hammond takes part in solo work at the middle of the track, it's really killing me. It's then combined with a simple (but nice!) piano touch in classical music vein. The tempo turns faster at the end, accompanied with short drum solo. Oh my God! These guys are really geniuses!!!

Interstellar Debris (instrumental)starts of with a keyboard work; the music flows unexpectedly with a very nice texture. The rhythm section has repeated chorus but it's not boring because keyboard and guitar fill in the transitions and interlude. Some musical passages remind me to Babe Ruth music, especially "First Base" album.

The Narrows (instrumental) starts with a bass solo that at first bar almost mislead me to the opening bass line of "I Am A Camera" (Yes "Drama"). But it's not the case as when the music flows with Hammond organ takes the melody, it's different. The clavinet solo during interlude is played in a jazz music vein. The combination of drumming and guitar works is fantastic!

Choices opened with a church organ followed with a voice line and percussion. It's a short track that welcomes the next wonderful track.

Too Much To Believe is an epic that opens with a soft organ work followed by full music crescendo with unique singing style at voice line. I like the rhythm section of the opening part which is dominated by organ sound - bit of Ken Hensley style. At approx minute 3:00 the music enters into a passage where soft bass guitar play accompany solo organ, augmented with soft drumming. This segment reminds me to Kansas. The organ solo is soooo fantastic and it can bring me to the journey to the "other world". Oh mannnn ... I love it very much! What makes me happy is that this nice piece performed relatively long. It then flows to a pure (without any other instruments played) organ / clavinet solo with classical music influence. It reminds me to the work of Rick van der Linden (TRACE). Nice solo, but it may tend to bore the listeners. The music returns back to the original tagline melody. A track of my favorite!

Eitel's Lament (instrumental) kicks off with organ work augmented with a soft marching drum. The bass line brings the music in its full stream with great drumming - again, it reminds me to Kansas music. But interestingly, when lead guitar enters the music, it gives me a nuance of Procol Harum's song "Repent Walpurgis" (ugghh . wonderful track of the Harum!). The solo guitar is really stunning especially with the background of seventies style rhythm section. The inclusion of acoustic guitar work with soft organ sound (at background) in the middle of this track is a fantastic idea! Especially when the organ gradually increases its sound. That's not the end yet! When electric guitar follows in a style of "Repent Walpurgis" style, it's able to create a sort of "cry" deep in my heart (hey, I'm not exaggerating, this is real! The melody is really killing! Like Repent Walpurgis kills me, really!). The ending part is colored by amazing organ work in the vein of Ken Hensley. Wonderfully crafted track! I would doubt your "progness" (new vocabulary!) if you do not enjoy this long instrumental track! Very highly recommended!!

To conclude my long write-up that actually I don't want to end - because (I think) this album deserves 15 pages review - I would highly recommend you to purchase the CD direct from Laser's Edge. In addition to music, the sonic quality of this CD is really top notch! On rating, well . I was thinking to put in between 4 to 5 stars and indecisive on which end should I round (up or down?). Finally . having learned from other reviewers that "dare" to give Radiohead "OK Computer" with full five star rating, I'm very confident to say that this album is much better than any Radiohead!! (sorry, I don't mean to say OK Computer is not a good album, but it does not deserve 5 stars - there are some loose structured songs after Karma Police). So, I offer this album with five stars. Keep on Progging!

Progressively Yours,

GW - Indonesia.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Gentle Giant for the last updates

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