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Duncan Mackay biography
What do bands like ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT, BUDGIE and CAMEL have in common?

The logical answer would be very little, but the truth is that the common denominator is DUNCAN MACKAY, a guy who paradoxically completed his studios in Violin (He was elected the most promising violin player in UK at the age of 11) but was famous for his keyboard performances.

After earning a music scholarship in Shrewsbury Public School, he finished his studies in 1967 obtaining his L.T.C.L. and L.R.S.M diplomas in violin. Soon was invited to join the famous (In Latin America) SERGIO MENDEZ band (1970).

Is in this days the he works in his debut album "Chimera" that is released in 1974 with Duncan playing Vocals, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer, the album was brilliant but it was the year in which Tales from Topographic Oceans and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway were released, and due to the tough and unfair competition, the album never received the credit it deserved, being that people was busy buying music from the already famous icons who were at their peak.

In 1975 he joined Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel with whom they release the hit single Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile that reaches the peak of the British charts, but in the meanwhile, faithful to the music he loves, works and releases his second album Score that saw the light in 1977, with famous musicians such as John Wetton and Mel Collins (King Crimson), it's only recently that this album has reached the status of Collector's Item.

Around he date of release of Score, Duncan worked with famous musicians and bands as KATE BUSH, ALAN PRSON'S PROJECT, CAMEL and Budgie, and in 1978 releases his third solo album VISA, more oriented towards Electronic music.

In 1990, after working for several years with different bands and artists, MacKay's fourth album is released under the name ?A Picture of Sound.?

After his last solo release, he continues working and teams Greg McEwan to form REUNION in 2003.

After checking this extensive career, seems unbelievable that DUBNCAN MCKAY wasn't added to Prog Archives before, but this are things that happen when a site manages such a huge database of artists an albums, but at last we are making justice to a great artist unfairly forgotten by us.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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Fresh Records Africa 2017
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Bletchley Park Project (Shm/Mini Lp Jacket/Bonus Track)Bletchley Park Project (Shm/Mini Lp Jacket/Bonus Track)
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DUNCAN MACKAY discography

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DUNCAN MACKAY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.02 | 55 ratings
3.74 | 22 ratings
1.72 | 9 ratings
3.50 | 4 ratings
A Picture Of Sound
3.81 | 16 ratings
The Bletchley Park Project (with Georg Voros)

DUNCAN MACKAY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Chimera by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.02 | 55 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars The "Wow factor". It is the unspoken rule, the acid test ~ and if we're lucky, the result ~ when listening to progressive rock. It's what we all hope for again and again like a junkie who still hasn't gotten it through his head that that first, sweet high is never to be repeated, no matter how hard he tries or how powerful the junk is.

But occasionally if the brain isn't too fried and soul too jaded, an LP stimulates that long-lost remnant of one's virgin moment with a fickle lover. A kiss, a hand down the pants, and the lusty past may be relived. Or at least its memory. So it is with veteran Duncan Mackay's baby from '74, Chimera, and like most Gen-Xers the album is a troubled but astounding individual; Of its time in a big way reminding not a little of early ELP, and yet holding its own with a gifted gene pool during an amenable era for complex art music. More precisely, keyboardist/composer/singer Mackay and his trusty little duo of drummer Mike Gray and bro Gordon on violin are in league with the single-led efforts of Morgan Fisher or Dave Greenslade. And on Chimera, Mackay just lets it go, recognizing the liberties attainable and musical gold hidden there, somewhere, if he looked hard enough.

Luckily he did. 'Morpheus', though problematic, is pure anglophonic gold streamed with Mackay's organs and synths-- derivative to be sure but in the best possible way, even outdoing his much bigger peers, the tiny rhythm sec somehow keeping it all afloat. It moves through blues, baroque, samba, gospel, and hot galactic battles waged with laserbeams and proton missiles. '12 Tone Nostalgia' splits some sentiment but saves it with gritty organ prog that takes on J.S. Bach as good as any of 'em before shooting into orbit for another battle in the atmosphere. Friggin' awesome, and twenty-minute 'Song for Witches' seals it with a juggernaut of dazzling piano jazz-meets-baroque treated with heavy development, introspection, and some humor.

A prog monster that I wouldn't bet against in a knife fight with almost any of the big boys except maybe Wakeman on a good night, Duncan Mackay's introduction is, or was, a revelation. A quintessential vintage prog experience and what a 5-star rating is all about, a chip of Chimera should be placed under the tongues of every aging prog artist to bite down on when things become too much and they long for that absurd and shining moment when rock musicians were the Mozarts of their time. Recommended with enthusiasm.

 Visa by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
1.72 | 9 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by The Mystical

1 stars ?

After reading a hilariously negative review of this album, I was intrigued. After hearing the album, I was even more intrigued. From the moment I experienced this album I was equally horrified and in love. I do not think I have ever heard anything quite like it. The music is arranged like regular instrumental prog music, but the sound is very synthesised, to a slightly horrific extent. The whole album is very fact I can find nothing serious about it at all, and since prog is a fairly serious genre, I think that this will lose more points with other listeners.

I find myself loving this album because it has a light-hearted charm to it. My favourite track is the funky and somewhat atmospheric "Gin-Sing". However, I find the whole experience rather embarrassing can not imagine anybody else enjoying it.

If you are into supermarket jazz, elevator fusion, or ambient waiting room funk, than this is the album for you.

 Visa by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
1.72 | 9 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

2 stars So. On Duncan Mackay's third solo album, he has thrown away his backing band, other than a light drum track by none other than Simon Phillips, completely rid himself of all Keith Emerson imitations from the previous ventures, and has left himself with, well, nothing.

Track after track, Mackay gives us a sound that has the Euro-pop aspirations of Kraftwerk, the synthesizer swirling patches of Tangerine Dream, all bound together with the compositional sensibilities of elevator Muzak.

Mackay, at least, is an adept keyboardist. He does occasionally add some fills that make the ears perk up, but with the material he has given himself it is generally a lost cause.

It's too bad, because I really like his first two releases.

 Score by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.74 | 22 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Duncan Mackay, on this, his second solo album, has moved slightly away from the Keith Emerson imitations that permeated his first album. Slightly, because the Emerson sound still appears. On the first track, Witches, a somewhat Spanish sounding symphonic proc piece, Mackay plays Emerson-like riffs on a honky-tonk tack piano, similar in sound to keith's in Benny The Bouncer. Acousic piano appears throughout the album, with Mackay providing obvious Emerson-influenced sounds.

Most obvious are Spaghetti Smooch, which sounds very much like a reworking of the main sections of Tarkus, played in 7 instead of 10, and Time Is No Healer, which owes a lot to Take A Pebble.

Despite the Emerson overtones, Mackay is developing his own style here. He does a nice job of layering piano, keyboard and synths all at the same time without making the songs too busy. One slight complaint is that his reliance on mostly Arp synthesizers makes many of the tones very similar to those used by Larry Fast at the same time.

And Mackay's inclusion of John Wetton and Mel Collins as sidemen brings him firmly into the nineteen seventies progressive rock family tree.

 Visa by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1980
1.72 | 9 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by BORA

1 stars Popcorn anyone?

I am truly horrified by this album, the first ever solo work (I've heard) by Duncan MacKay. If this is Prog, then I don't know what isn't?

Lets make no mistake, Mackay is a familiar name as he had contributed to a number of relatively Prog albums. All of which will be seriously re-evaluated by yours truly as a result of this release, "Visa".

This is not serious music and at best is only "having a fun". More suited to amuse toddlers on children's television than to provide any quality addition to the music scene in general. To release an album like this and accept money for that from hapless people is bordering on criminal.

OK, onto the music - alas there is very little to say about music here. It's more like MacKay is fooling around on top of programmed drum machines. Ah, is it Simon Phillips on drums? I find it hard to believe. If so, then Phillips had become the first walking drum machine - ever. Well, chances are that Phillips may have contributed to a miniscule amount, but much of the beat in general is not performed by human hands.

With this solo work Mackay had seriously discredited himself as a respectable artist and frankly, I won't go anywhere near a release that he is featured on. Capable musician, no doubt, but with this work, I am left scarred for life.

 Chimera by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.02 | 55 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Duncan and Gordon Mackay honed their skills playing covers of The Nice and Emerson Lake and Palmer, that much is obvious by the three tracks from the original release of this album. Each song is a wellspring of Emersonian impersonations, with Hammond organ volcanic eruptions, nimble mixtures of classical and jazz piano, and soaring synth lines.

The result, while not sounding exactly like Emerson's work, is quite good, but not up to par with the Master's output of the time. Mackay's fingers are just as fast as Keith's, but he lacked the sense of showmanship that Emerson could put into his music. And many times Mackay's imitation gets so close it could be called plagiarism. Where Emerson would playfully quote all sorts of other musicians and songs, Mackay quotes Emerson. There is an organ break on Morpheus that sounds like it was ripped from ELP's debut album (as well as a drum riff from Tank), the aforementioned organ swipes, and even some synth sounds. But while Emerson programmed most of his sounds himself, Mackay's all sound like preloaded patches on his Arp synthesizer.

Not that the Emersonian imitation makes this album less fun. It was about this time that ELP was just starting to lose their mojo, and someone taking up the mantle wasn't such a bad thing.

Later reissues have a bonus track, The Opening, a Tangerine Dream-like piece recorded in 1990.

I know I came down a bit hard on Mackay for the Emerson imitation, but this is really a good album. And later releases have Mackay becoming his own musician.

 Chimera by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.02 | 55 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Although Duncan Mackay's debut solo album doesn't offer anything truly mind-blowing - his style of keyboard playing here owes a lot to Keith Emerson, and between The Nice, ELP, Beggar's Opera and countless others this is territory which had been well-explored by the time 1974 rolled around - it does at least establish him as a very capable performer as well as a reasonable composer. Duncan performs with minimal accompaniment by Mike Gray on drums and brother Gordon Mackay on violin and piano; for the most part, though, Duncan carries the performance by himself, and does show with a little more subtlety than Emerson typically does, though he's able to bring the bombast to bear too.
 Chimera by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.02 | 55 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Another overlooked name in progressive rock circles,Duncan Mackay was born in Leeds,UK in 1950 and studied violin in his young age,before moving in Johannesburg at the age of 21 and focusing on his keyboard skills.The result of his collaboration with his brother Gordon and drummer Mike Gray was this ''Chimera'' album,releases back in 1974.

Of course ''Chimera'' didn't break any grounds,as the keyboard-driven prog style presented here was already established by previous keyboard wizards like KEITH EMERSON (who's influence on MacKay's style is quite evident) and RICK WAKEMAN.The unique thing is that this album features not only any guitar but also any bass player and is entirely centered around Mackay's various keyboards,including electric piano,the bombastic Hammond B3,the classical-influened piano and the spacey sounds of the ARP synth.Anyone into ELP knows exactly what to expect.Plenty of dynamic changes,complex breaks,classical melodies,bombastic jams and experimental bits along the way of the three long epics.Despite the length of the tracks,all of them are quite cohesive.Sparse vocals are also handled by Duncan Mackay,not his best skill,but they are decent at least.

Please,add another keyboard wizard in the list if you dont mind.''Chimera'' is definitely a grower and Mackay can place himself among the pages of the prog history with this album alone.Recommended,especially if you are a devoted fan of bands like ELP,THE NICE,BEGGARS OPERA.

 Score by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.74 | 22 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After phenomenal debut album "Chimera" Duncan Mackay seemed to largely lose inspiration. His second output called "Score" can't be compared with the previous LP at all. There are many problems with this release: mostly abandoning of organ-driven prog in favor of synthesizers / pianos art rock, addition of sometimes very obstructive orchestral arrangements, not-so-hot compositions & the worst from all - re-recording of many fragments from "Chimera" album, something like self-plagiarism! But is it a complete piece of crap? I wouldn't say so. In fact it's not so bad, it's just completely different from his first LP. I can clearly see that Duncan tried to move away from ELP-like style to more sophisticated Rick Wakeman-like symphonic prog. It's good that he tired to make a progress but somehow he didn't convince me too much. But for sure I can appreciate bringing Clive Chaman (Jeff Beck Group, Hammer, Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) & Andrew McCulloch (Fields, Greenslade, Manfred Mann, Anthony Phillips, Crazy World of Arthur Brown & King Crimson) on board, they create really fantastic rhythm section. Adding John Wetton (King Crimson) was also a very nice move.

Let's proceed to the songs:

1. "Witches" - album begins with fully orchestrated track which sounds like directly taken from Rick Wakeman's "Journey to the Centre of The Earth". Strings section almost completely dominate the music here, and Mackay's piano seems to play only supportive sole. Real treat for fans of pure classical music, but not rock.

2. "Triptych" - slightly repetitive instrumental played on pianos & ARP synthesizer. Not very memorable.

3. "Spaghetti Smooch" - in the beginning Yvonne Keeley's speaking some Italian words over mellow synth music a la "Love Story" soundtrack. And her voice sounds very similar to Doris Norton from Jacula/Antonius Rex. Strange... Anyway later on she calms down and we can "enjoy" pure music. Yawn...

4. "Time Is No Healer" - sounds like jazz standard based on soft piano passages and mellow flute melodies (played by Mel Collins from King Crimson fame). Steve Harley's vocal are decent but I rather dislike those female choruses. Too corny, and absolutely no connections with prog-rock.

5. "Fugitive" - finally Duncan shows us some furious organ playing!! 2 minutes of sheer symphonic beauty which can be easily compared to staff recorded by such Hammond monsters like Keith Emerson or Jurgen Fritz. I can also think about Kansas' frenetic instrumental "The Spider". Definitely the highlight of this album!

6. "Score" - if I didn't listen to Duncan's debut album I would say that this is a definitive classic of this record...but I had, and I have to say that this instrumental is just a new version of "12 Tone Nostalgia" from "Chimera". Self-plagiarism! This version is very similar to the original and I don't see a point in re-recording it. I can only see that Mackay decided to use a bit more synthesizers and pianos this time, but still Hammond rules here. If you're not familiar with "Chimera" yet you'll be satisfied, but...

7. "Pillow Schmillow" - happy-sloppy turkey with danceable, funky rhythm and dumb lyrics. It's always nice to listen to John Wetton's vocals, but this song just isn't good enough. However Duncan Mackay's ARP solos are OK. Anyway the whole melody sounds almost completely the same like this short, vocal-oriented part of "Song for Witches" suite from debut album. Another self-plagiarism...

8. "Jigaloda" - really not bad instrumental played mainly on pianos & ARP synthesizers + atmospheric Hammond background. Very similar to Rick Wakeman or Michael Quatro. A good one.

9. "No Return" - well played song with bombastic instrumental parts containing deep organ layers & leading synthesizer solos. For the second time we can also listen to dependable John Wetton here. Middle section is a bit too sloppy (too much ballad-style) but overall it's a really good prog-rock track.

To sum up: "Score" isn't a very satisfying album. Compared with "Chimera" it's very lame & unimaginative (all those parts "borrowed" from previous record), but as a stand-alone LP it isn't so bad. I'd say: average. Just don't expect ELP/Trace/Triumvirat style here, because it's a completely different story. Recommended to fans of Rick Wakeman's & Michael Quatro's melodic symphonic rock led by pianos & synthesizers. There's almost nothing interesting for organ-driven prog goers on "Score".

P.S. Third solo output of Duncan Mackay "Visa" is an electronic album without any prog-rock moments at all. Horrible staff if you want to know my opinion!

Best track: "Fugitive"

3 stars from ozzy_tom

 Chimera by MACKAY, DUNCAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.02 | 55 ratings

Duncan Mackay Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Duncan Mackay is a sadly forgotten British keyboardist who recorded two solo symphonic prog rock albums back in 70s along with few disks together with such little known bands like Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel & 10cc, while in 80s he joined Camel to record "Nude". It's a pity that his discography usually isn't so well known for prog lovers 'cos he's surely one of the best keyboard players out there. Anyway his debut album "Chimera" is undoubtedly the best and most representative record of Duncan Mackay. I still wonder why he didn't become as big as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz, because "Chimera" is a truly remarkable statement of pure & powerful symphonic prog rock which should be checked out by all keyboard-driven music fans! Duncan's debut is a wet dream of all ELP and The Nice fanatics who always wish to find more Hammond drenched staff. Maybe in 1974 this kind of music starting to become a bit out of dated (you can check synth-led albums of "Yes" or "Genesis" from this time) but I don't care at all. Prog-rock dominated by blasting organ sounds is always a great pick for me and "Chimera" is definitely one of the best albums I've been ever listening to.

This LP originally included only 3 long suites:

1. "Morpheus" - first epic track is the only one which featuring more vocal parts & I'm really surprised why Duncan didn't decide to sing more, 'cause his vocal abilities are not much worse than his keyboards skills. Really nice, "British"-style voice. But of course singin' isn't the most important factor on this epic, the main entertainment value is the HAMMOND ORGAN! Sometimes joyful & rhythmic, sometimes dirty and gritty, sometimes wild & unstoppable but always highly entertaining. Except organ Duncan also use ARP synthesizer & sparkling piano, all of them in suitable doses to not overshadow incredible B-3 solos & mean riffs. His ability to often change between symphonic passages and more pop or jazz oriented fragments but still keep everything in proper order is astonishing. References to ELP, Refugee and Trace are obvious, but I can also hear some Caravan influences, especially in Mackay's vocal delivery.

2. "12 Tone Nostalgia" - this instrumental is called "12 Tone Nostalgia" but only in the beginning we can hear a little nostalgic tones, while later it became a groundbreaking symphonic prog composition almost completely dominated by muscular Hammond organ passages. I really love Mackay's style, especially those flashy slide effects which reminds me about Terry Howells, little known organist who played with art rock formation Still Life. Currently Lalo Huber from Argentinian group Nexus seems to continue bombastic style of organ playin'. Brilliant!!

3. "Song For Witches" - the longest, 20 minutes mastodon track begins with rather psychedelic, enigmatic piano & organ performance, but after a while Duncan proceeds to long, jazzy piano part. Very similar to Patrick Moraz's style on "Refugee" album or some Keith Emerson piano instrumentals. About 7th minute Hammond organ comes back to life to entertain us with another bunch of memorable, classical-like melodies in the vain of Alan Park from "Beggar's Opera". In the middle there is a short vocal fragment, which sounds really good too. Especially clavichord, synth, organ & piano rich background for Mackay's voice is splendid. Near the end we can also witness crazy, Emerson-inspired (a la "Pictures at an Exhibition") synth soloing with many wild, dis-harmonic noises and squeaks. This madness is followed by another one, this time Duncan seems to make an attempt on destroying his Hammond organ by hitting it, stabbing and God only knows what else! Simply: highly recommended for ELP geeks.

+ Bonus from 2009 remastered CD:

4. "The Opening" - remastered CD finishes with track recorded in 1990 which completely doesn't suit the rest of this album. It's a very electronic sounding piece dominated by modern, high-tech synthesizers & some saxophone. However one fragment with jazzy piano is not so bad. Anyway I don't count it as a proper part of "Chimera" at all.

I can summarize this review saying that "Chimera" is a really obscure gem, forgotten white crow in progressive rock world. If you consider yourself as keyboards-driven rock aficionados, you simply need to listen to this album. It's highly recommended if you also like such formations like: ELP, The Nice, Trace, Triumvirat, Collegium Musicum, Refugee, Le Orme, Beggar's Opera, Amos Key and so on. But I can also add that "Chimera" bare many similarities with later prog-rock LPs, like Quill - "Sursum Corda"(1977) or Covenant - "Nature's Divine Reflection"(1993). Both seemed to be inspired by this Mackay's debut.

Best track: "12 Tone Nostalgia"

Fully deserved 5 stars from ozzy_tom

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to H.T. Riekels for the last updates

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