Ashqelon Quilt, The - The Event

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Headline
Catalog Number: HDL 506
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:09:00

This cheerful release from Israeli band The Ashqelon Quilt has shades of The Moody Blues, The Beatles, all put through a syrupy filter that previously strained out Oliver's "Good Morning Sunshine." There is some very nice guitar work here on The Event, but unless you are endlessly and cherubically happy, or flying as high as kite on some trippy acid, man, you will find this? well, endlessly and cherubically happy. So much so you might have to do an internal check to make sure someone didn't slip you a tab while you weren't looking. In other words, the psychedelic 60s have returned, channeled by this trio of Ori Hendel on guitars, mandolin, charango, darbuka drums (and lead vocals on one track), Shachar Hendel on lead vocals, keyboards, synths, grand piano and drum programming and Sharon Renat on vocals (for two tracks), soprano recorder and alto recorder. They joined by a number of guests on vocals, flute and violin. In trying to find a more singular term to describe this music, I found the word I was looking for in the blurb about this band and album at the label's website: Canterbury. Oh, I won't go so far as to say it is Canterbury, but certainly that is a good reference point. This lacks the wryness and cheekiness of, say, Caravan (though "Tel-Aviv Stress" comes close), but I'll have to admit that I'm not a studied Canterburian, so those more versed in the style would better be able to judge how apt the categorization is. However, the Ashqelon Quilt have contributed a track to Mellow Record's Canterbury tribute CD, so they at least have an appreciation for the style. And, their psychedelic style is not by accident, but by design.

From a music only point of view - versus vocals - this is quite good, bringing in various elements, including an Irish influence via the trilling flute and quick-paced drumming on "The Event" (like something from Riverdance), and a Middle Eastern flavor via a Buggles-like quirkiness in "Tel-Aviv Stress." Vocalist Shachar's soft and clear, though accented, are adequate, but neither he nor Renat are strong vocalists -- Shachar does a more pleasing job of it to my ears, however. But as I began, the musical aspects to this release are quite good, Ori's stringed instrument playing being a particular highlight. That said, "Crown" moves at a very plodding pace, at an almost funeral march pace, and is the gloomiest piece. The tight and restrained vocal performance on the first part of "The Coin" reminds me of Paul McCartney's similar performance on "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." It is a sparse, acoustic based piece with occassional piano and the sense of swelling strings at times. This piece features a middle passage that features a burst of ethnic percussion and rhythm. "Twilights" brings in a heavier and rockier feel, though the mellow, measured style that has been established from the get go is in the majority. And I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but there is a brief vocal passage that reminded me of another song with a simiilar name - ELO's 1981 hit "Twilight," though this "Twilights" isn't as free wheeling as the prechorus passage of the ELO song. "Introduction To The Event" begins with a solo piano passage that has a ring of familiarity to it -- at least part of the piece is based on Bach's "Sonata For A Flute Solo In A Minor" (but that isn't what I'm thinking of). "The Well" is catchy enough that it becomes an invitation to dance, the main percussive rhythm hiding the rather complex guitar work at play beneath, until, of course, it is invited to the center of the circle (that is, put in the solo spot). The revelry of the music stops abruptly and eases into a slightly somber, wary arrangement. This ends on an even somber note eventually leading into a chaotic finale (though there is a brief epilogue that truly ends the piece) -- here we can make reference to early Genesis (vocals aside), and, if you listen carefully (and maybe it's just me), hints of King Crimson's "Court Of The Crimson King" (mainly here in the elongated keyboard passages).

In the end, though it does seem, as I said, endless happy and cherubic, a more careful listen reveals that it is more than that. I do wish the vocal performances were stronger -- I didn't mention earlier and will now that the the vocals are also recorded, for the most part, very dry and well in front of the music. While the latter gives the album a more intimate feel, a little further back maybe would be better, or little "wetter." Musically though, The Ashqelon Quilt are very good and this more than makes up for what I feel is lacking.

One By One (3:27) / Crown (6:36) / The Coin (8:41) / Twilight (3:30) / Introduction To the Event (2:12) / The Event (4:24) / Tel-Aviv Stress (3:21) / Substitute (3:49) / The Well (11:29)

Ori Hendel - electric, acoustic, and 12-string guitar, mandolin, charango; darbuka drums, backing vocals; lead vocals (8)
Shachar Hendel - lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizer, grand piano, drum programming
Sharon Rinat - vocals (4, 6), soprano recorder (6), alto recorder (1)
Guest musicians - Merav Ben-David - vocals (7)
Hagar Dagan - flute (9)
Nohar Rosenthal - backing vocals ( 9)
Corrine Schlomovitch - violin (1)
Benny Hendel - vocals (5)

The Event (2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: May 18th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 959
Language: english


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