02. La Leyla (7:25)
03. Garden (5:03)
04. War (6:25)
05. Someone Like You (8:13)
06. American Dream (5:00)
- Hans D. Klinkhammer / bass
- Norbert Langhorst / guitars
- Winfried Langhorst / keyboards, vocals
- Herbert Natho / vocals
- Reinhard Schröter / drums, percussion
Hanover, Germany based RAMSES were formed in 1972 as RAMSES II. The next year was spent touring and performing original pieces and cover versions. This was also a period of several personnel changes. Their big break occurred in 1975 when they signed with the fledgeling Sky RECORDS and shortened their name to RAMSES.
They recorded their first and most acclaimed album "LA LEYLA" in barely a week in Conny Plank's studio. It measured up to the contemporary works of ELOY, JANE and NOVALIS among others. Apart from the title track and "Someone Like You", the album included the anti Vietnam war piece "War", which was deemed too controversial in the US and replaced with "Noise" there, using the same melody and arrangement.
In 1978 they followed with another fine album "Eternity Rise", which was also well received and promoted through touring, a highlight being the 11 minute title cut with martial drums. Then lead singer Herbert Natho quit for health reasons and the group undertook a lengthy search for a replacement. After a period of transition they settled on Matthew Moeller, who actually had a more mainstream voice as the group positioned itself more commercially for 1981's "Light Fantastic", recorded at ELOY's "Horus Sound" studio.
Like many 1970s prog bands, RAMSES was unable to maintain momentum into the 1980s, and have only released one album since 1981, that being "Control Me" in 2000, which has never been easy to find. According to their website, another studio recording is planned, but it is unclear for how long that has been the case.
It's really strange that this band isn't as famous as other giants of 70' progressive rock. I suppose their biggest problem was lack of "momentum". In 1976 progressive rock music started to significantly lose it's popularity in favor of punk rock, disco and other horrible creatures of late 70' music scene... If "Ramses" started his career few years earlier, now they would be equally famous as other German prog bands like Eloy or Jane and maybe even as popular as Yes or Genesis...who knows?
Anyway let's start the review of their debut - and IMHO - their best record ever. Lots of people unjustified compare them to early British art rock bands which based their music solely on Hammond organ sound. As far as I really love this early 70' British staff, I have to assure you that "Ramses" doesn't sound like them at all. Their music is much different, they offer richer sound with very good analog synths/mellotron arrangements and very important guitar presence (very similar to Frank Bornemann from "Eloy", lots of atmospheric leads and solos without even small sign of show-off).
1."Devil Inside" - very good opener. Very beautiful melodies played by guitarist in a bit sleepy mood are swimming in interesting synthesizer flights and soft mellotron waves. The vocal parts are also very good and atmospheric. No signs of typical "German" accent. I'd never guess that it's German band at all!
2."La Leyla" - this song begin with fantastic, 3 minutes guitar soloing (sounds like 2 electric guitars in the same time) based on rich keyboards (organ & Solina string ensemble) background. In fact keyboards aren't so much "background" in this fragment, it's more like crazy race or even battle between two instrumentalists! Splendid beginning. After 3 minutes music slows down, some flute tunes are presented (mellotron?) and Herbert Natho starts to sing in a very "moody", somehow "romantic" way with slightly falsetto choir in the background. In the second part of this composition Winfried Langhorst shows as also very good, melancholic Hammond organ solo.
3."Garden" - without any long intros (like in previous songs) "Garden" begin straight-to-the- point from Natho's vocal lines. This melancholic mid-tempo ballad which tell as a story about somebody's dream is really good and "catchy" (in a good sense of this word of course!). Your head will surely wave along with Langhorst's melodic synths. In the middle of the song another soft organ solo.
4."War" - the fastest, most dynamic composition with epic feeling (but in fact only 6:30 minutes long). Really memorable organ-guitar riff in the beginning doesn't leave any doubts that it will be very special moment of this album. I like the parts when music almost completely stops and vocalist sing his anti-war (but not in this he hippy-preaching style which I can't stand at all...) lyrics with only bass and drums sleepy background, than suddenly music starts again with all of its power. Refrain "War, everywhere, everywhere look around me" sing on the crunching Hammond's and guitar's riff can really make good impression on every rock lover. I also adore middle part of guitar/organ staccato (bridge? solos?) with very loud noises of exploding bombs and gun shots. Goose bumps!
5."Someone Like You" - the longest song of this record starts from very atmospheric synths and flute sounds which remind me mid 70' Eloy's music. Then electric guitar enters and together with organ waves leads very pretty, melancholic, yet a bit depressing song about somebody who's "too old" for love ("Better Leave me alone You're much too young for someone like me"). Sounds melodramatic and corny? Not when it's played by Ramses! I really dig this mostly slow-tempo track with it's sad lyrics, melancholic voice and almost crying "aaaaa" choir (a bit in the vain of Uriah Heep. And it's the only moment I can think about UH when I listen to this band. Really). As always middle part with beautiful synthesized string, mellotron sampled flute and atmospheric guitar is great.
6."American Dream" - this one seems to be the weakest track. However it also has it's moment. Pretty organ intro and outro, some Solina strings waves sounds good as always. The only problem is that vocal part isn't so interesting as in the previous tracks and it can sometimes drag a little.
To summarize I can say it's a real classic and probably the best German prog-rock album from the second part of seventies. I recommend it especially to symphonic rock lovers who listen to Yes and Genesis but aren't afraid of well arranged but not so long songs. For young progheads which grew on technical prog-metal this album maybe has to slow & melancholic pace to interested, them but I hope they will also find this record intriguing. Full blown, highly melodic symphonic prog rock full of good guitar and vintage keyboards sounds!