Essential Series - 2017 Pomp Rock Vol 1

geoviangeovian Earth Orbit
edited November 2020 in Essential Series

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ARTICLE: The Essential Series - Pomp Rock Volume 1, by Gdazegod
YEAR: 2017

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

Background

No doubt this will be the first of many volumes to come, as the Glory Daze website is chock full of pomp rock articles. What constitutes the category known as pomp rock? Well, like West Coast (and my explanation of that sub-genre some weeks back), pomp means different things to different people.

Some will suggest that pomp rock is a derivative of progressive rock, as we knew it from the days of Yes, Emerson Lake And Palmer and Pink Floyd. Is it the imagery? Well yes and no. When pomp imagery is conjured up, then bands like Angel and Queen come to mind. When it comes to sound, well possibly this is where it all comes together, with layers of keyboards dominating the music, as well as keyboard solos.

Bands like Roadmaster and Starcastle stick out for many. Strong vocalists are also a factor, but perhaps are a lesser ingredient, but that might be my opinion only. We have to start somewhere, and so here is the first volume for your reading pleasure.

The Albums

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New England - 1979 New England

Another album which surprisingly found its way to New Zealand in 1979, and a $7.50 purchase it became, thanks to being thrifty with my pocket money. I was 15 years old when I picked this up, and though New England weren't as life-changing to me as Boston was three years earlier, this LP and the accompanying video for 'Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya' was like selling ice-creams to Eskimos! A perfect blend of hard rock and pomp, I don't need to remind regular readers as to New England's track record here at GDM, and you certainly don't need reminding from Malcolm (a.k.a Explorer) either, as he could talk with you about this band until next century!

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New England - Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya


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Prophet - 1985 Prophet

I remember first reading about these guys in Sounds back in 1985, and from the review, it became my number one priority search. Once landed, it was everything I dreamt it would be. From Kansas like passages on the awesome 'Slow Down' (check out that synth solo from Joe Zujkowski) to the essential 'Away From You' and 'Everything You Are', this album easily sits in my top 10 pomp records. R.I.P Dean Fasano and Joe Zujkowski.

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Prophet - Everything You Are


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Avalon (Canada) - 1977 Voice Of Life

These guys had formed in 1975, and like Zon and Cinema Face, had built their profile around original music and live/stage theatrics. Their keyboard laden approach was tailor-made, the end result being the rather magnificent 'Voice Of Life' which really was pomp rock from a different era. They broke up in 1979, but music beyond this one album was evident in future years, but very hard to track down. If you can pick this little beauty up, never part with it.

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Avalon - Smoke And Fire


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Shooting Star - 1979 Shooting Star

Another LP from my high school years, and a great addition at the time as I was going through an intensive Kansas listening period. Despite originating from the food bowl of the American mid-west, the boys from Kansas City went over to England to record this debut with Gus Dudgeon, the LP being one of the first American acts signed to Richard Branson's Virgin label. This album contains the amazing symphonic rock classic 'Last Chance', and it set the stage for the band to dominate arenas all across America during the 80's.

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Shooting Star - You Got What I Need


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Starcastle - 1977 Citadel

I'll admit it. I was sold on the record cover alone, but it took me about three visits to the record store (Mainstream Records, Gisborne, NZ) to finally pluck up the courage to buy it. Call it instinct or intuition, but I didn't have a clue who Starcastle were (it was early 1978 after all), but looking at the glorious Hildebrandt Brothers cover art, I just knew. Once I hooked this fish, then all their other albums were reeled in soon after. I picked up 'Real To Reel' as a new release later in 1978, but 'Citadel' was an amazing piece of work, and of course the Roy Thomas Baker wind-tunnel effects were to be heard soon after on the debut Cars album. How cool was that! Pomp, prog, AOR, yep all in one.

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Starcastle - Shine On Brightly


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Zon - 1978 Astral Projector

Another Canadian band who need no introduction here. There was just something about this album that ticked all the boxes for me. If you read Sounds magazine back in the late 70's, 'Astral Projector' always seemed to be in the import charts alongside 1994, Storm and Legs Diamond. If you managed to own the blue vinyl LP, lucky you. I loved the quirkiness of the album, with some clever tunes and OTT keyboard work from one Howard Helm (later of the band Refugee). This site was lucky enough to write the liner notes of the Zon CD reissue for Escape Music back in 2004.

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Zon - Astral Projector


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Everest - 1984 Everest

I recall interviewing Everest's Ric McDonald about this Toronto based outfit back in 2002, but my first exposure to them was seeing this LP advertised for sale on one of Shades adverts in Sounds Magazine back in 1984. It took me years to wait for this one to land, thanks to the Long Island CD reissue in 1995. They are best described as a pompy version of Saga, but with Zon and Genesis influences thrown in for good measure. There is a second album out there too, so they weren't the one-off wonders we all assumed them to be. Glorious stuff.

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Everest - Danger Zone


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Styx - 1977 The Grand Illusion

By this stage of their career, Styx were definitely trending upward, and eventually peaked with albums such as 'Cornerstone' and 'Paradise Theater' a few years later. However, their most productive period (or perhaps the most interesting) were the years between 1975 to 1978. 'Equinox', 'Crystal Ball', 'The Grand Ilusion' and 'Pieces Of Eight' are all classics from this Chicago band, but for mine, 1977's 'The Grand Illusion' represents Styx at their pompiest best. Songs like 'Castle Walls', 'Man In The Wilderness' and the title track 'The Grand Illusion' takes us back to another time and place. Even Jimmy Fallon's modern-day Styx impersonations (as seen on YouTube) are no match for the real thing. No point foolin' yourself (every pun intended!)

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Styx - The Grand Illusion


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Fortune - 1985 Fortune

This Los Angeles based band were based around the Fortune brothers: Richard and Mick. It was their association with singer Larry Greene, Irish keyboardist Roger Scott Craig and bassist Bobby Birch which saw this quite lush set dominate the polls across various AOR and melodic rock publications for years. There's not a real weakness across this LP. The only issue I have is that no proper reissue label/company has gone back to MCA/Camel to get a decent full remastered CD created. That would be the cherry on top. An essential pomp record nonetheless.

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Fortune - Thrill Of It All


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Saga - 1980 Silent Knight

I've always been a sucker for the very early albums from these Canadian legends. But it was their third album from 1980 which took the cake. There is not a weak moment here, and this album became a soundtrack for my life back in the early 80's. Songs like 'Compromise', 'Careful Where You Step', 'Don't Be Late' and 'What's It Gonna Be?' are all classic Saga tunes which have stood the test of time. A compulsory acquisition.

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Saga - Don't Be Late

In Summary

This is our first volume in this series, you can be assured there will be volumes to follow as there are many Pomp related albums to cover off. We can add names such as M.P.G., Russia, Trillion, Roadmaster, Magnum, Air Raid, Bighorn and Touch.


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Comments

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    The musicianship on that Saga video clip is jaw dropping. :o
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    Sooo much quality here. Can't praise the likes of Zon and Avalon enough over the more obvious ones like Starcastle, Styx and Saga.
    Come to think of it, Saga is the band I've seen most times live. There's a good reason for that.
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