Garšnek, Igor - Rock Oratoorium: Loomade Farm (Rock Oratorio: Animal Farm)

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Boheme Music
Catalog Number: CDBMR 010173
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Loomade Farm (or Animal Farm) is a curious but wonderful release from Estonia's Igor Garšnek. Based on the novel by George Orwell, the album is a keyboard dominated prog rock opera. The late Urmas Alender (of the band Ruja) provided the wonderfully rich vocals (and wrote the lyrics), sounding to me at times a bit like Banco's Francesco Di Giamcomo -- in "Prologue" and the more relaxed, beautiful, emotional, operatic "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better." Imagining Placido Domingo or Andrea Bocelli wouldn't be far off, either. At one point in the 80s-period Genesis-like track "A Grave Exposure," I thought of Desi Arnez. Not a name often on the lips of progressive listeners, I'm sure, but...well...there it is. In terms of the music and vocal approach overall to "A Grave Exposure", think of the chorus to "Mama" and Collin's demonic "laugh" in it. On a more serious and somber note, Alender died when the ferry "Estonia" went down in September 1994, the tragedy referenced in Marillion's "Estonia" (This Strange Engine).

Keyboardist Igor Garšnek (of Synopsis and Ruja) created this lively and spirited work, lively and spirited despite the dark subject matter. Some of the bright and brassy keyboard sounds made me think of ... Mannheim Steamroller (have they patented that sound?) or, actually, in the case of the opening track "Prologue" and "So Life Goes On" Disneyland's music for the Electrical Parade. It's bouncy and energetic ... happy, even...brassy -- though real brass instruments would have added just a touch of warmth, as the keyboard tone is a little dry. Also contributing to the album are Mihkel Raud on guitar and Tiit Aunaste providing the programming (drums and percusssion).

Boheme Music has reissued this late 80s release. In addition to the album's original liner notes, which are helpfully translated into English, Estonian prog expert Mel Huang (who provided the translation) has written an introductory essay, giving listeners a history of the band and commentary on the album. While the complete lyrics -- or libretto in this case -- are not reprinted, samples from each of the album's 12 tracks are printed in both Estonian and English.

Some of the pieces that especially standout are "The Great Animalistic June Revolution" - taut drumming and dark, rounded bass tones give this a defiant tone, somewhat militaristic. By contrast, what follows, "The Song Of Creative Work" is more upbeat, the drums/percussion having almost a dance, synth-pop feel. If you recall that pop-jazz sound of the 80s -- Icehouse come to mind, though in terms of the genre, not to this release specifically. Contrast this to the darker jazz-rock "Manifesto," as Alender snarls out the lyrics with an attitude. The Tower Of Power-like horn sounds brings to mind another side of Collins, that of his solo side. Distorted, grinding guitar is offset by high pitched, shrill keys, but only for a short passage. "So Life Goes On" is another standout, quite nice, even if with synthesized drums -- in some ways, Alender made me think of Fish, mostly in the clipped delivery. "Freedom Rock" is a fun track, another energetic tune -- Vaudevillian in some ways...

The album ends, as the does the novel, on a darkly, reverent note -- funereal drums are set against chiming percussion, deep choral voices against light keyboard tones. It's gloomy and depressing; towards the end Raud plays a thin, tight...constricted guitar. This ending leaves you sad. I haven't read the book (my Orwellian experience has been 1984, but you know anyway that the once spirited animals on the farm are now either dispirited, or worse, dead. Quite a contrast to Chicken Run, which carried the same theme but had a positive ending -- reflective of the times each were created, no doubt.

Even still, the album itself is enjoyable to listen to. Don't let my pop references put you off -- it's what makes this work. Yes, you will find yourself wishing that real drums, real percussion and real brass instruments had been used, as these would (as I mentioned) have given the release added warmth and made the ending all that more moving. However, it is silly to say "what they should have done was" after the fact, especially nearly 20 years after the fact. This album is what it is, and what it is is a very good release. This I'm giving a strong recommend.

Prologue (4:06) / Kuldi Kõne (The Boar's Speech) (4:29) / Loomarligi Hümn (Beasts Of England) (1:54) / Suur Animalistlik Revolutsioon (The Great Animalistic Revolution) (2:59) / Loovtöö Laul (The Song Of Creative Work) (3:10) / Ränk Paljastus (A Grave Exposure) (3:14) / Ood Napoleonile (Comrade Napoleon) (2:00) / Manifest (Manifesto) (3:17) / Neli Jagla Hea - Kaks Jalga Parem (Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better) (3:24) / Nii Läheb Elu Edasi (So Life Goes On) (2:47) / Vabaduse Rock (Freedom Rock) (2:04) / Täitsa Löpp (What An End) (5:22)

Urmas Alender - vocals
Igor Garšnek - keyboards
Mihkel Raud - guitars
Tiit Aunaste - programming
The mixed choir Olevine, conducted by Vello Rand

Rock Oratoorium: Loomade Farm (Rock Oratorio: Animal Farm) (1986/2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin EE

Added: April 21st 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1475
Language: english


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