Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Duncan Mackay - 1974 - Chimera

Duncan Mackay 

01. Morpheus [11.29]
02. 12 Tone Nostalgia [8.23]
03. Song For Witches [19.56]

Bonus track

04. The Opening [7.03] recorded 1990

- Duncan Mackay / Vocals, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer
- Gordon Mackay / Violin, electric piano, piano
- Mike Gray / Drums

What do bands like ALAN PARSON'S PROJECT, BUDGIE and CAMEL have in common?

The logical answer would be very little, but the truth is that the common denominator is DUNCAN MACKAY, a guy who paradoxically completed his studios in Violin (He was elected the most promising violin player in UK at the age of 11) but was famous for his keyboard performances.

After earning a music scholarship in Shrewsbury Public School, he finished his studies in 1967 obtaining his L.T.C.L. and L.R.S.M diplomas in violin. Soon was invited to join the famous (In Latin America) SERGIO MENDEZ band (1970).

Is in this days the he works in his debut album "Chimera" that is released in 1974 with Duncan playing Vocals, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer, the album was brilliant but it was the year in which Tales from Topographic Oceans and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway were released, and due to the tough and unfair competition, the album never received the credit it deserved, being that people was busy buying music from the already famous icons who were at their peak.

In 1975 he joined Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel with whom they release the hit single Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile that reaches the peak of the British charts, but in the meanwhile, faithful to the music he loves, works and releases his second album Score that saw the light in 1977, with famous musicians such as John Wetton and Mel Collins (King Crimson), it's only recently that this album has reached the status of Collector's Item.

Around he date of release of Score, Duncan worked with famous musicians and bands as KATE BUSH, ALAN PRSON'S PROJECT, CAMEL and Budgie, and in 1978 releases his third solo album VISA, more oriented towards Electronic music.

In 1990, after working for several years with different bands and artists, MacKay's fourth album is released under the name A Picture of Sound.

After his last solo release, he continues working and teams Greg McEwan to form REUNION in 2003.

After checking this extensive career, seems unbelievable that DUBNCAN MCKAY wasn't added to Prog Archives before, but this are things that happen when a site manages such a huge database of artists an albums, but at last we are making justice to a great artist unfairly forgotten by us.

The album presents us an impressive display of keyboards of all kinds, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer ,etc, all taken to the maximum of their possibilities by MACKAY who does a very competent work. But that's not all, DUNCAN has a pretty decent voice and is supported by his brother Gordon, who adds some piano and violin, plus Mike Gray in the drums...Yes, it's true, no guitar or bass.

"Chimera" is opened with the strange "Morpheus", contrary to what the name may imply, the song has nothing dreamy or oneiric, as a fact is a frenetic song with multiple and radical changes of style, that go from pristine Symphonic with clear Rick Wakeman references to hard and excessive in the mood of Keith Emerson with a touch of Jürgen Fritz from TRIUMVIRAT.

The vocals are good enough and the drums are outstanding, a solid track from start to end, maybe a bit bombastic but strong and interesting

The second track "12 Tone Nostalgia" starts dramatic and sober, with a dramatic edge, and even when MACKAY explores all the possibilities of the keyboards, that heavy and almost Psychedelic atmosphere provided by the Hammond Organ adds emotion and sentiment.

The instrumental breaks marks a change; from being sober and nostalgic, the song changes into bombastic and unpredictable, MACKAY includes everything, from Bach inspired music to ELP oriented passages, and incredibly "REFUGEE" sounds (something hard to believe because both albums were released in 1974). Maybe people will say it's pompous and self indulgent....But that's the reason why I love it, at the end...Isn't that what we seek for in Prog Rock?

The original release ends with the 19:15 minutes epic "Song for Witches", a really strange song that begins with a clear Psychedelic inheritance, MACKAY and band jam with the instruments as if they were in the late 60's, and suddenly, when less expected they move into a frenetic Jazz section, with a slight MAHAVISHNU influence, but this doesn't last too long, MACKLAY as usual returns to the complex fantasia of sounds and influences that go from Classical, Baroque and Gothic to something that could had been released by THE NICE...The guys is absolutely versatile and this deserves credit.

My copy of "Chimera" is closed by a 1990 released bonus track contradictorily named "The Opening", even when it's obvious that MACKAY'S skills have improved even more, the sound is radically different, more modern and with a strong mainstream component in the vein of late ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, but we are here to talk about the original release, and even when the song is entertaining, sounds completely out of place in a 1974 release, and for that reason doesn't alter my opinion about the original album.

I believe "Chimera" is a forgotten gem that deserves no less than 4 stars, so except for people who dislike pompous music, it's highly recommended.

1 comment:

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