Crucible – Tall Tales (1997)

Crucible_TallTales5 out of 5 Stars!

If you’re a fan of Genesis’s early work, then you will certainly find this at least interesting, if not love it. I fall into the latter category, admitting this is one of my favorite progressive-rock albums of recent years.

The Genesis comparison becomes immediately evident on the opening track “Over The Falls” in a variety of forms, mainly the tones of the piano, organ, mellotron, synths, etc…all have Tony Banks’s signature style stamped over them. Even the guitars, both acoustic and electric, resemble Steve Hackett’s or Mike Rutherford’s tones/playing styles. Add an occasional flute to the mix on tunes such as “The Poet’s Liar” and you have a band eerily reminiscent of Genesis around the era of the classics Nursery Cryme, Selling England By The Pound, or the magnificent Foxtrot.

And it’s more than just the instruments/musicianship that brings to mind those “oldie” albums. Changes in time signatures, seamless interweaving between heavy and acoustic passages, complicated arrangements also have the Genesis mark.

The only place the sound truly differs from Genesis is when it comes to the lead vocalist. Crucible’s Bill Esposito doesn’t possess the instantly-recognizable timbre or quirky dramatics of Peter Gabriel (or even Phil Collins, for that matter), but then again, who does? Esposito’s voice is more than pleasant, however, and fits well within the genre.

Generally, most of the tracks are memorable, some even “sing-along” worthy. “Lords And Leeches” is one such tune. Additionally, many of the most unforgettable sections on this album are the instrumental bits—the occasional guitar or keyboard riffs—that pop up throughout several of the longer tunes. Again, in “Lords And Leeches,” an organ riff in the center section is a prime example of this, as well as the opening acoustic guitar/mandolin melody that opens the short instrumental track “In Ancient Tongue.” You can hum along to these passages after just one or two listens and you’ll have them popping into your head at the oddest of times.

The high point of the album, however, has to be the last track, “An Imp’s Tale,” a seven-part epic highly reminiscent of all things Genesis. Although the opening section sounds quite similar to Genesis’s “The 11th Earl of Mar,” the remainder has more than a few similarities to Genesis’s opus “Supper’s Ready.” Heck, there’s a hopping/bopping little passage reminiscent of “Supper’s Ready’s-Willow Farm” section as well as another chunk that instantly brings to mind the powerful “Supper’s Ready-Apocalypse In 9/8” passage, replete with the odd time signature and the haunting mellotron wash and synth leads. And once again, the flute returns here, making the Genesis influence/connection complete and too apparent to ignore.

Is the “copycat” approach horrible? Not to my ears. Apart from the earliest releases by Marillion, I had not run across another band so reminiscent of Genesis, especially the “early/classic” era when Peter Gabriel still ran the roost and before things slowly degenerated into pop territory. Is Crucible’s approach in any way innovative? Hell no, but that’s what makes them fun, at least to me, since I’ve longed for that old Genesis sound for way too many years. Is Tall Tales another masterpiece in the form of Foxtrot or Selling England By The Pound? Probably not, but it’s close enough for me!

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