May 02, 2012

A review of "Hymn to the Sphynx" from "Prog Archives" Web site.

This recent quite interesting review of "Hymn to the Sphynx", written by "Sean Trane",  has been published by "Prog Archives" Web site 
( it'd be good if some TEB fans would like to review records, facts, things for this archive too!

"The present double-disc collection is a weird throw-it-all-together compilation, mixing some already-released first-era TEB material and some studio and live second-era recordings. The main interest of HTTS is the band's history in the booklet. A fairly ugly artwork disgraces this confusing compilation album as well, and while the music is mostly about the second-era, the pictures in the booklet are solely about the first-era, which kind of induces (willingly?) in error.

I'll first spend a few lines over the Abelard & Heloise suite, which had received a few months before its own release, and it represents quite well the TEB's first line-up. If you want to know more about A&H, read my review on that album's page. Of course, you'll find much more info about the piece and its background in the booklet of the present collection. To be honest, I'd have preferred the A&H suite to be released with the BBC sessions (are they still available?), rather than the second-era stuff present on HTTS.

Coming to that second TEB life, the studio tracks (recorded in 90, as part of the Magic Music album) on the first disc present relatively lengthy (5 to 9 minutes) ragas, that while being interesting, are mostly diluted via the electronic violin gear of Neil Back, while Dobson's saxes are in the line of what Minns did. But drummer Sweeney is the only remaining original member on this session. The trafficked violin gear was able to produce some electronic loops, sometimes approaching the future techno music stuff, even developing a slightly industrial feel, especially on the session-closing Midnight On Mars. The booklet tells us not to confuse the music of this session with the Materiali Sonori album of the same name, but you'd have to be a real TEB expert to tell a difference. To be honest, it's quite a relief when the A&H suite comes around.

As for the live recordings of the same year (featured on the second disc), it features the same line-up as the studio session; but they don't sound as "electronic" or "industrial" as those studio tracks, although the extended raga gives it a family resemblance. The set features a couple of tracks from their future album (most notably the very Indian-sounding Sun Ra Raga), one from the previous Live Ghosts, and more important their first-era compositions of Egyptian Book Of The Dead and Pyramid Song (both from their debut, the latter featuring some Dobson-scat vocals), which is an interesting exercise in comparison between the two eras - quite different versions, and the original being superior, but these are not without charm. It's unclear to me whether these live tracks are the ones that came out on the Voiceprint label's 96 release TEB Live, in which case this would render the present compilation almost utterly useless. Not sure the Mooncrest label did you a favour to you by releasing this one, because even parts of the liner notes seem to be paraphrasing Joynson's Tapestry Of  Delight book TEB entry. I'm rounding this up to the upper third star".

no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)  

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