4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Based in Washington State, Aviary appeared on the scene in 1979 with its self-titled debut album, which featured some absolutely stunning Pomp Rock/Art Rock, with scads of keyboards, upbeat rhythms, slightly eccentric lead vocals, and glorious background harmonies, all well-produced and absolutely majestic. Indeed, I remember thinking at the time how the band sounded so impeccably polished, so utterly seasoned, it was hard to fathom that this was only a debut release.
Yet oddly enough, I admit that, despite my above reaction regarding the band’s professional sound and my overall rating, when I purchased this on vinyl the week of its release I actually didn’t like it all that much. Based on the cover art and the record store owner’s description of the music, I had expected a different style, something more Prog-Rock oriented, and the music not only didn’t match these expectations, but instead contained a sound/style that proved truly different from anything I had ever experienced up to 1979. Only decades later, after my musical tastes had thankfully broadened and I heard singer Lana Lane’s commendable version of Aviary’s “Soaring” on her Cover Collection album in 2002, did I give this album another spin—and damned if I didn’t fall in love. It took me all that time to appreciate it for its sheer brilliance. And since I’ve come to cherish it, I’ve listened to it countless times through the years and I have yet to grow tired of it.
Regardless of my initial feelings toward the album, one thing I could never forget throughout all those decades was the album’s opening track, the aforementioned “Soaring,” which is nothing short of a 5-Star masterpiece in its own right, and Aviary’s version has to be heard to be believed. The pianos and keyboards, the guitar, bass, and drums, all played to perfection, the song arrangement highly dramatic, and the vocals jaw-dropping (Queen-inspired, for certain), sends chills of excitement along my spine whenever I hear it. So I thank Lana Lane and her exemplary taste in music for reintroducing me to this outstanding group.
Following “Soaring,” the song “Anthem for the U.S.A.” comes blazing out of the speakers, a bouncy pop ditty with more Pomp keyboards, spectacular vocal harmonies, and another fascinating exercise in creative instrumentation and song arrangement. The same can pretty much be said for other tracks such as “As Close as You Can Get,” “Mystic Sharon,” “Feel the Heart (Then You’ll Be Mine Again),” “Average Boy,” and “Maple Hall,” with each musician adding touches of melodic magic in each of their performances. Indeed, in retrospect, Aviary reminds me of a ’70’s version of the current band called A.C.T, very eclectic with a variety of Pop and Pomp and Progressive influences all merged into a sound that is a bit off-the-wall, highly quirky (such as “Puddles,” for example), yet melodic and breathtaking and perfectly performed and produced.
Therefore, if you want to know what a conglomeration of City Boy, Queen, Sparks, and other Art Rock bands might sound like after being wedded with groups such as Trillion, Styx, Spys, and The Beatles, this (and A.C.T) are a great place to find the answer.
I worked a record store near San Fran in ’79 when this came out. I put it in the turntable and was instantly hooked and played it very often at work. I went to see Greg Kihn and was pleasantly suprised (ecstatic) that Aviary was opening the show. It’s the most consistently strong album of its type and unique at the same time.
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