ELOY – “Visionary” CD ’10 (The Laser’s Edge, Ger) – I walked into the record store awhile ago and came across this disc with some surprise, thumbing through the ELOY section (great to have a record store that would even have and “ELOY section,” but that’s another matter). I wasn’t even sure, despite the “2010” imprint, whether this was a new release or a re-issue of something from several years back, having lost touch with the German progressive band sometime during the late ‘80’s. I decided, “What the hell?” if this is in fact new, I’ll see what Frank Bornemann and company are up to these days. With that thought in mind, I approached the young lady at the counter and asked if she could look it up in their system. She took the CD from me, began typing in the name and, as God is my witness, said these words: “Let’s see, ‘Visionary’ by ELROY!” ELROY. Ok, I know. The girl was probably 20 years old and we’re talking about progressive rock band that opened for customers some 40 years ago. Still, ELROY! That’s fucking funny!
But anyway, that 40 year thing and the first ELOY album is something that’s always been a bit of an obstacle for me. See, ELOY’s debut in 1970 hit right in my wheelhouse at the time. By far the heaviest rock album the band ever would do, it featured that “Conny Plank” sound. Think Scorpion’s “Lonesome Crow” & the first Sabbath as references, or more obscurely, Nightsun’s “Mournin’.” So, with my heavy rock heart embracing this style, I was always liable to perhaps unfairly compare everything ELOY would do to follow with that blaster. The real truth is that this band (always the brainchild of guitarist Frank Bornemann) would develop a very consistent vibe, involving dreamy Floyd-like space explorations, strung together on Bornemann’s jazzy guitar and lush keyboard travels. Occasionally, Frank’s guitar would raise up to distorted levels, not as the destination but simply as one of the vehicles. And, this theme would carry the group through some simply superb records during their mid-period: “Inside,” “Floating,” “Ocean,” etc. which saw them achieve what most artists dream of. They were able to play music that they loved, under no pressures to change or conform from the outside and established a loyal fan base all the while. Even I, with my predilection for the more metalized debut, dug what Bornemann & crew were doing and I picked up nearly ever record they did, up to around “Metromania” in ’84, when my forays into thrash, death and the like saw me skew away from the more melodic stuff.
Which brings us to 2010 and “Visionary.” I may be handicapped in a sense, admittedly having not heard the 4 albums that came during the years 1988 – 1998. Still, even with that in mind, “Visionary” picks up very nicely where I left off with ELOY. Are there any massive surprises here? No. There are 7 lengthy cuts here, mostly in the 7 minute range and they all glide along at the Waters/Gilmour pace that implies no one is rushing to catch a train. Frank B. has enlisted some old ELOY names from the past to join him here: Klaus-Peter Matziol (bass), Michael Gerlach (keyboards), Bodo Schopf (drums) and Hannes Folberth (keys) as well as a handful of other assorted musicians. As is generally the case, none of them takes center stage for long, each simply becoming part of a tapestry that’s often dream-like. I’ve heard some say that they wish for more of Bornemann’s lengthy guitar solos, and that would be ok with me too, but in truth I never thought of the man as the next coming of Robin Trower. In fact, probably the most dominant single instrument on “Visionary” is Frank’s vocal delivery. Often considered an acquired taste, his somewhat reedy mid-range actually hits me on these tracks like meeting an old friend after a long absence and is quite welcome. While most of the cuts here blend, again, like the “Atom Heart…”-era Floyd work, I do find the within-the-album bookends of “The Secret” and it’s 9-minute sister, “Mystery (The Secret, Part 2)” to be highlights.
Bottom line? “Visionary” is not going to have most prog hounds frothing at the mouth, nor is it the album that will get your punk-only friend to set aside his Jay Reatard records to begin his new foray into progressive music. Still, for me, it’s been and continues to be a very nice listen and one that takes me back to some good old days with fresh tunes. That’s a cool thing. Frankly Good