Saturday, May 2, 2009

Grand Halls 24

OBLIVION SUN – “Oblivion Sun” CD ’07 (Prophase, US) – At times, I can be very foolish. Just ask my wife. On second thought, don’t ask my wife ‘cause she’ll tell you that “foolish” is the norm and that, on some rare occasions I can actually have some sense. Ok, she’s not that bad…ask her anyway. Thing is, there are times I can overlook shit and then wonder where the hell I’ve been. Such is the case with OBLIVION SUN. Yeah, I had some Happy The Man records like the self-titled & “Crafty Hands” (’77 and ’78 respectively). I listened to ‘em, but for some reason back in those days, my prog of choice was stuff like Rush’s “Hemispheres” and HTM’s more measured and melodic material skated by me without as much of an impact. Later, when the band reconvened for 2004’s “The Muse Awakens,” I bought the disc and was into it more, although my excitement with the growing stoner scene at the time had put a bit of a damper on my forays into prawg rawk.

Now, it’s 2009 and my bowling/music crone Rick says to me the other week, “How’s about going to check out OBLIVION SUN at Orion in a few weeks.” A little research on this here net led me to the knowledge that this OS crew in fact included Stan Whitaker (guitars / vox) and Frank Wyatt (keyboards / sax) of HTM, as well as 3 other musicians (Bill Plummer – moog / keys), Dave DiMarco (bass) & Chris Mack (drums). As luck would have it, a trip to the local CD shop (not many of them left!) landed me a used copy of the solitary 2007 OBLIVION SUN CD and after some long listens, I’m now really looking forward to seeing these guys live.

From the get-go, it’s obvious that OBLIVION SUN are well-steeped in being “prog.” The unusual song structures of opener “Fanfare” indicate that this bunch is not gonna be treating the listener to 40 minutes of 3-minute pop affairs. It’s with “The Ride” that you realize the…er…ride is going to be rockin’. This number is unabashed, hard-assed rock. In a sense, it reminds me of some of the obscure ditties I listen to from the ‘70’s by bands like Marcus, Rhapsody and Neon Rose, the guitars leading the way and yet supported by an undercurrent of keys below. Whitaker’s vocals are mid-range, self-assured and simply quite good. His guitar work on the other hand, as throughout the record, smokes. His Schenker-like leads, combined with the occasional rhythmic surprises make this one come off like a cool cross between UFO and Crack The Sky. Not ones to keep beating the same horse, however, OBLIVION SUN then shift gears with “Noodlepoint” a cut that Wyatt’s sax makes me think of something from the debut Chicago Transit Authority LP. And so, the wide-yet-flowing variety continues. The lengthy “Catwalk” is surely laid-back, but it’s no cocktail lounge fair. Whitaker’s insistent vocals and the great key work keeps it an interesting 7:40. Elsewhere there’s lots to hear. “No Surprises” actually has several. While opening with a chord progression a tad like Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded,” the band quickly (and smartly!) move onto a song-proper that’s more in line with some of the later Crimson material. “Re: Bootsy” could for all the world be a prog-fusion child of “I Ain’t Superstitious,” DiMarco’s bass lines paying a nice tribute to Mr. Collins. The album continues to spread it’s wings, finally ending with a wonderful “Golden Feast” in which Stan Whitaker lays out a devastating, scalding axe solo, his most metallic on the disc.

Like I say, sometimes I’m a freaking fool. But at least I found this kick-ass prog gem within a couple years of it’s release and am going to get to see the band in the flesh. I’d recommend you do the same. 9.5

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