Surprise - Assault On Merryland

EricEric USA
edited June 4 in year-1977

Housed in a gorgeous and whimsical cover, 'Assault On Merryland' is a concept album based on the eternal conflict of good versus evil and the band pull it off without getting too heavy-handed.

Surprise - Assault On Merryland
ARTIST: Surprise
ALBUM: Assault On Merryland
LABEL: Carousel Records
SERIAL: TS77-743/744
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1995, Zarathustra Records, contains bonus tracks

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA Flag
LINEUP: Mark Biehl - lead vocals, flute, trumpet, piccolo * Rick Bess - electric guitars, acoustic 12 string guitar, bass * Blair Blake - hammond organ, grand piano, mini moog, moog taurus bass pedals, arp string ensemble, celeste * Dave Kelly - drums, tympani, orchestra bells, gongs, triangles, gyro

TRACK LISTING: 01 Eve Of The Assault/Merryland * 02 The Acrobat Between The Stars * 03 Palace Of King Ferris * 04 Tyrangatang * 05 Dance The Tarantella * 06 Tournament Of Love * 07 March Of The Squatamauders * 08 A Day Without Light * 09 The Wonderful Sunshiner/Grand Finale

Background

Another in a long list of independent American progressive rock albums released in the mid-70's that now fetches in its original form at least four figures or more. Thank the gods for the sake of my wallet, the band reissued the album to CD from the master tapes in 1995 otherwise I would never have heard it.

Unfortunately, the accompanying booklet for this long out-of-print reissue while beautifully presented didn't share much information on the band other than they were originally from St. Louis, Missouri - the epicenter of classic and progressive rock thanks to KSHE radio's groundbreaking playlists and support for the local scene.

The Songs

Housed in a gorgeous and whimsical cover, 'Assault On Merryland' is a concept album based on the eternal conflict of good versus evil and the band pull it off without getting too heavy-handed. Immediately noticeable is Surprise stayed true to their Midwestern roots by using more guitars i.e. Kansas and Styx rather than their Euro counterparts of the day, which makes for a refreshing listen.

No doubt hailing from St. Louis, Starcastle whose management was based in the river city carried some weight in their sound and this comes through loud and clear on 'The Acrobat Between The Stars' both structurally and vocally. On the heavier side there's plenty of pre-1976 Blue Oyster Cult madness to be found on 'Tyrangatang' and 'Dance The Tarantella' with heavy guitar playing a major role.

Splashes of Uriah Heep and Genesis dot the remaining album culminating with the excellent 'The Wonderful Sunshine/Grand Finale' making 'Assault On Merryland' one of the more satisfying Ameriprog releases I've had the pleasure to own.

In Summary

The CD reissue contains a heavier updated remake of 'Tyrangatang' which doesn't thrill me nearly as much as the original, but it is what it is. Many years ago I made a couple of trips to St. Louis that included their supposed best record stores. You know - collectors shops with big buck LP sleeves hanging on the walls. I asked the clerks and in one case an owner who looked remarkably like Tommy Chong about Surprise and no one knew who they were, which was very disappointing but in the end - not surprising.


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Comments

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    gdazegodgdazegod Lostralia
    edited April 28
    Have seen discussion on this Ameriprog album elsewhere on the Net, unfortunately the feedback is not on the same page as Eric's review above.

    click here
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