Reviews roundup – Saga vs. The Beat Daddys vs. Alarmist vs. Inner Odyssey
Steel Umbrellas / Generation 13
“Steel Umbrellas” was the tenth studio album by Canadian progsters, and originally came out back in 1994. It continued their late eighties / early nineties descent into radio friendly pop-rock, with only the opening ‘Why Not’ conjuring up the glory days of yore.
Elsewhere, it’s soft rock galore, with a couple of nice ballads, but the bad seemed unsure of where their place was in a post grunge world, and seemed to be scrabbling for a foothold in the world of mainstream radio rock. It’s definitely one of the lesser Saga albums, and is really only for completists.
As with the other reissues, it comes with bonus live tracks from a Hamburg show in 2015, this time comprising ‘On My Way’ and ‘On The Loose’. But there was something a lot better on the horizon.
And this is it. Hard to belive that this came straight after “Steel Umbrellas”, as it’s a full blown prog concept album.
The album concept and storyline was created by Jim Crichton, with inspiration coming from the book “13th GEN: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail” by Neil Howe and Bill Strauss, a book which tried to define and explain Generation X, here renamed the thirteenth generation. Frankly, I don’t care. Not when the music is this good.
It’s a prog rock classic, one totally at odds with the times, and even at odds with Saga at this time. Witness “Steel Umbrellas” preceding it and “Pleasure & the Pain” which followed it. The concept tells the story of social misfit Sam, and flows beautifully with instrumental links and spoken word elements. It’s like the best musical you’ve never seen.
It’s a dark story and the music matches it in feel and dynamics. It’s one of those records that begs to be played from start to finish, and every self-respecting prog fan should own a copy.
THE BEAT DADDYS
Hoodoo That We Doo
A quick change of pace, and it’s the first studio album from The Beat Daddys in over 20 years. I say studio because they’ve put out hunnerds of live albums since Larry Grisham and Tommy Stillwell got together back in 1986.
Back then, they were signed to an affiliate of the famous blues and soul label, Malaco, and even after all this time, it’s easy to see what attracted them, what with The Beat Daddys melange of blues, soul and rock.
They kick things off with ‘These Chains’ from the pen of Maxwell Russell, and it’s a fine southern infused start, which sets you up nicely for what is to come. There are slow blues in the shape of ‘Sorry’, blues rockers of the highest order such as ‘The Moment’ and the soul infused ‘D.U.I. Blues’, all of which are straight out of the top drawer.
It’s well produced, well arranged, and well worth a listen.
It’s math-rock, people! So. leg it,. sharpish. Oh, hang on, wait a moment, it’s not all shit. Which is unusual for this sort of thing.
Alarmist are an instrumental quartet from Dublin, comprised of Neil Crowley, Elis Czerniak, Osgar Dukes and Barry O’Halpin and despite the preponderance of electronics, they’ve managed to keep a human element to their sound, which keeps this out of the swamp.
They’ve put out a few EPs over the years, but this is their debut album, and fans of Krautrock and electronic spacerock will find enough familiar sounds here to keep them going. The singles ‘Safarisogood’ (yes, really) and ‘Morning, Kepler’ are the best places to start, and they might be a band worth keeping an eye on.
Strange to relate, after a couple of Saga albums, but we’re heading back to the Canadian colonies for some more prog rock. This time it’s Inner Odyssey from Quebec who comprise Vincent Leboeuf-Gadreau (guitars and vocals), Simon Gourdeau (bass), Etienne Doyon (drums and lead vocal) and Mathieu Chamberland (keyboards).
I’ll hit you with the comparisons early on, and say that theirs is a mix of post Waters Pink Floyd and mid period Porcupine Tree. So if you’re not interested, scuttle on to the next segment. However, if that floats your boat, then this wonderfully arranged, melodic prog may well be the thing for you.
It’s a record that flows beautifully, with nary a duff note, and tunes like ‘Losing Your Mind’, ‘A World Of My Own’ and ‘Why Am I Here?’ will have you champing at the bit for more. For sure, some of the lyrics are a bit clunky but if you look at their names and location, it could explain why. That aside, this is a delicious slice of prog.