Synthology - The Fairest Of Moments

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:54:00

I am sometimes reluctant to review a particular CD, though this is not why it has taken me so long to get to Synthology's The Fairest Of Moments, what could have been an excellent album, except... Well, I'll come to that. No, the hesitation comes in when I think I have something strongly negative to say about the CD, that otherwise has strong merits (that is, if it isn't thoroughly awful, which this is not). Not that I'm obligated to like a CD, nor only review it if I like it. And it's never stopped me from reviewing that particular CD and being honest in my opinion. But, being the person I am, who grew up on a philosophy of being considerate and kind, it doesn't come naturally to me to "slag" off an artist. But let me summarize this CD up front before I dig into the details - great music, bad vocals. And let further state that I can't sing worth a darn myself, and if I were to be recorded doing so, some reviewer would likely say the same things about me that I'm about to say here in a moment. Those who can't, criticize those who can, they say. But, erm, that isn't the case here.

It's a shame when the music is good -- in this case with a strong influence of ELP, and mainly the E part of the acronym -- and the vocals are awful. Vocalist Marysa Marini is a tenor, like Jon Anderson, and for the first few moments I thought she was going to maintain that. But, at least to my ears, she is far from being on key (something I don't think about with Anderson). My harsh thought -- and I'm rarely harsh (remember, considerate and kind) -- was "don't people know when they can't sing?" How could one not know that he, and in this case, she, can't? I winced when she hit the higher notes... strained for the higher notes, more accurately. And see, it's this aspect that causes the hesitation. I don't wish to hurt anyone's feelings, but this is singularly the worst aspect of this album. In fact, it's the only bad aspect, but because it is so very much present in the music, it overwhelms opinion. Oh there are a few moments where Marysa Mardini sings okay, and she does get the style and emphasis right for this kind of music, conveying the right kind of emotion to fit the lyrics (I'lI add that others who've reviewed this CD have had differing opinions on her vocals), but...

All of which makes it a crying shame because it does take away from the enjoyment of the music, which is great. Those who love the classic prog sound of ELP, Yes and Genesis all mixed together, along with a few snippets of Marillion-like elements here and there, though I'd say those snippets are Genesis influenced. My thought when I was first composing this review was, what would happen if Emerson had been in Yes. Oddly enough, the two CDs I listened to just prior to listening to this for the first time were ELP and Yes. But life works that way, which has me convinced that things sent to me or bought by me are listened to when they are supposed to be listened to, when "their time has come" so to speak. And, its telling that the band I thought of most often was another ELP, Yes, Genesis (and Kansas) influenced band Glass Hammer (who I've also reviewed this month at the same time as this).

The rest of Synthology - the talented heart of Synthology - is John Alarcon (piano, organ, electric piano, and synths), Peter Warren (bass, 12-string), Luc Hebert (drums) and Jon Graham (guitar, guitar synth, and pedals). Together they play some very nice symphonic, synth rock - as you might have guessed from their name. Which, ahem, makes the other element all that more disappointing. There is a beautiful organ passage on "Seven Wonders" that does veer into being a little too "organy"... I want to say like a less expensive model... but this leads into a much better guitar solo/keyboard solo trade off section evocative of classic Genesis. Genesis, and the parpy keys of Marillion and Styx are recalled on "Edge Of The World" ... you might think a bit of certain passages in "Supper's Ready" and "Grendel."

Aside from vocalist, the central element in the music is Alarcon, everything built around his lush and wonderful keyboards, all making for a classically progtastic experience. The Emerson influence is apparent from the opening piano, then organ, notes of "The Falling Sky." Later on, soft beds of keys surround you while Warren and Graham play lead co-lead for a passage or two. There are some "sour" notes during the instrumental "The Bridge," as one of the keyboards sounds "off" to my ears. "Seven Wonders" is the longest single track aside from the closing title suite and contains some great keyboard passages. "Lost In The Cathedral" is another instrumental that features whoopy Emersonian keyboards over some Wakeman-like, baroquely-styled keys that hint at what two together might sound like (a long rumoured pairing that has yet to materialize). The centerpiece is the title track, broken into three parts, the first of which contains the best vocal performance from Marini (where she sounds a bit more like early Geddy Lee than Jon Anderson) in "Days Of Innocence".

The reviews I've read compared this to is Tony Banks' first solo release A Curious Feeling. I didn't think it myself independently, but hearing it with that in mind, I certainly know what they mean. A certain song based slant to the music, though the pieces here seem longer than those on ...Curious.... They are certainly more involved.

While you may not have thought this where the review would end up, I am recommending this CD to those who love classic prog, despite the disappointment of the vocals. Frankly, the wonderful music far outweighs the vocals, and there are enough instrumental passages to keep one satisfied. Just know that all the points given below are for the music itself.

The Falling Sky (6.44) / The Bridge (2.49) / Seven Wonders (8.04) / Edge of the World (5.11) / Through the Doors of Time (5.20) / Lost in the Cathedral (3.30) / The Fairest of Moments (18:51) i) Days of Innocence - ii) Of Moon and Stars - iii) End Within and End

John Alarcon - piano, organ, electric piano, and synths
Peter Warren - bass, 12-string
Luc Hebert - drums
Jon Graham - guitar, guitar synth, and pedals
Marysa Marini - vocals

Between Day And Night (2000)
The Fairest Of Moments (2002)
A Requiem For Twilight (2004)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: February 9th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 858
Language: english


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