The Savage Rose – In The Plain (1968)

SavageRose_InPlain2 out of 5 Stars!

I really wanted to love this album, especially after reading numerous plaudits regarding the female singer, Annisette Koppel, and how the band was supposedly so innovative (“sooo ahead of its time”) for a late-sixties’ group.

But in general, I find The Savage Rose a rather unimpressive Psychedelic/Blues Rock band from Denmark, hardly ahead of its time, but instead reminding me on occasion of groups such as Big Brother & The Holding Company or Jefferson Airplane (especially when the band incorporates loose “gang vocals” on several tracks, such as on the verses of “Long Before I was Born” or the Gospel-inspired “I’m Walking Through the Door”). Oddly enough, they come across more like a West Coast (San Francisco) band instead of a European one. Both jazz and country overtones pop up from time to time (“Evenings Child,” for instance), with piano/organ being dominant on most tracks as opposed to guitar (similar to the keys/guitar balance used by Procol Harem). Also, there’s the often-forceful vocals of its lead singer to consider. And here is where, to me, the main problem lies with the band overall. Certainly, Annisette has a unique style, but after a while her raspy voice with its powerful vibrato (especially when she’s singing in the rafters) can get somewhat annoying.

I have only this, the band’s second album, and perhaps the shrill vocals are less dominant on the debut album or subsequent releases, but I will likely never know as the singing pretty much turned me off enough to not want to investigate any further material. Additionally, The Savage Rose is also considered somewhat of a Progressive Rock band, but in truth, I heard very little on this album in the way of Prog-Rock content (except perhaps a sprinkling during the final song “A Trial in Our Native Town”). Therefore, despite the genre label appearing on many music-related websites in association with this album, lovers of Prog-Rock should definitely beware.

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Squackett – A Life Within A Day (2012)

Squackett_LifeDay3 out of 5 Stars!

Being a fan of both Yes and Genesis (and both Chris Squire’s and Steve Hackett’s solo work) I was initially excited to grab a copy of this album, all the while imagining what the merging of these two unique styles of musicians might sound like. But unfortunately, despite the joining of these musical legends from two legendary Prog-Rock bands, Squackett’s sole album ended up being rather a letdown for me.

Sure, along with some generally impressive musicianship throughout the album from all involved (and from Steve Hackett especially), there are some fun moments. For example, with its Led Zeppelinesque “Kashmir” atmosphere, the opening track, “A Life Within a Day,” includes some intriguing time breaks and solos (from both Hackett and Squire) in the middle section that had me sitting up to take notice. But as the subsequent tracks continued to play I found myself hearing less and less material that grabbed my attention for more than a moment or two. “Storm Chaser,” a track in the latter half of the album, also caught my ear with Hackett’s memorable and heavy guitar riff (and a great guitar sound to boot), along with some interesting noodling in the song’s mid-section. But then again, the slamming John Bonham-like electronic drum sound was also a bit of a turn-off.

Sadly, much of the album reminds me too much of other “Yes-offshoot-bands,” such as Conspiracy and Circa:—a bit too glossy and slick and processed as far as the production, way too safe as far as the arrangements and instrumentation, and far too AOR oriented in general—and bland AOR in nearly all cases due to the emotionless vocals. I was dearly hoping for something much more unique, more progressive, more intricate (such as the aforementioned middle section of the opening track) with both Squire and Hackett involved. If someone had told me that Billy Sherwood had been in charge of the album’s production, I wouldn’t have been shocked, since that’s how similar this album sounds to Sherwood’s usual style of “too much perfection/too much over-production.” (Instead, it seems the keyboardist Roger King took charge of the album’s production duties, but I firmly believe he learned his job from studying Billy Sherwood body of work.)

Anyway, there’s nothing horrible here, mind you. It’s all rather pleasant. Yet there’s also not much in the way of catchiness (apart from the beautiful “Aliens,” which has probably the album’s most memorable melody during its choruses) or any truly captivating instrumentation that makes me yearn to hear the album on a regular basis. It’s all a bit too run-of-the-mill for me, with nothing here that actually acknowledges the legendary status of the two main musicians involved in this project. Sorry, I much prefer Steve Hackett’s early solo works or Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water instead.

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