Machiavel - Anthology

Year of Release: 2001
Label: EMI
Catalog Number: 7243 5 34786 2 9
Format: CD
Total Time: 147:49:00

Looking back at the 25-year history of Belgian band Machiavel, one has to admit that they are still the number one prog band in Belgium regardless of the fact that they left the pure symphonic texture of their music in favour of a more commercial approach. As soon as guitarist Thierry Plas came to the fold, Machiavel steered itself towards a more commercial direction, flirting with new wave and the singles format, oddly enough giving them a couple of hit singles along the way. Taking in the entire history of the band, one should really divide it all into three segments. The first period would be from 1975 to 1979 which includes pure symphonic rock albums such as Machiavel, Jester and Mechanical Moonbeams. A second fruitful period commencing with the album Urban Games, the arrival of Thierry Plas, the release of the album New Lines featuring the hit single "Fly," the album Break Out produced by Deep Purple producer Derek Lawrence, and a tour with Alice Cooper. With the live album Valentine?s Day the band splits in 1982. Several offspring projects take place such as Beige Neige and Twilight. In the meantime, Thierry Plas is heavily in demand as a session musician. Machiavel decide to give it another try in 1987 with the album The Cry Of Pleasure, which includes famous Belgian artists such as Arno, BJ Scott, and Dani Klein, who will later on became famous the world over as the singer of Vaya Con Dios. 1991 sees a Best Of album hit the shops, but still there are no plans for the band to get together again. In 1995 Machiavel hits the stage for the very first time in a very long time. To coincide with the band?s 20th anniversary, they undergo a small tour and reach new fans.

The third major part in the life of Machiavel begins when keyboard player Herv? Borb? joins the line-up as a permanent member. Previously Herv? had been a favourite of the prog community as a member of Belgian band Now, whose Yes inspired music reaches enthusiasts all over the world through a couple of Musea releases. Herv? then marries bass player V?ronique Duyckaerts, starts doing loads of sessions, starts painting again, and, once his two children are "old" enough, decides to give Now a second chance, although remaining loyal to Machiavel. Meanwhile in 1999 a new studio album is released in the form of Virtual Sun followed by a double live album recorded way back in 1996 with Jean "Toots' Thielemans as guest.

Now Machiavel has been in existence for 25 years, which is the main reason for this Anthology release. It not only sports material from the band itself, but also songs by Beige Neige, Twilight, The Responsibles, and Purple Prose, as well as a brand new song, "Heaven?s Rules," recorded especially for this album. But is this release worthwhile for the progfan? One of the discs (the second) certainly is, as it aims more towards the first albums and the lengthy tracks, whereas the first CD focuses on the shorter, more commercial tracks, emphasising the New Lines album. So in a way you can compare it to Genesis and their The Shorts (18 tracks) and The Longs (10 tracks) albums. However it gives a perfect insight into the evolution of a band, starting out in pure Genesis tradition in order to evolve through new wave into a stunning rock band with an adoration of Led Zeppelin. To be honest, fans of true progressive rock will mainly enjoy the second disc in this package, and if you like what you hear, no doubt you will purchase the band?s first three full releases. That change in atmosphere is already there from the very first second of the splendid "Rope Dancer" dancing it?s way courtesy of the playful synthesizer. Then it?s time for lush strings and acoustic passages during "When Johan Died Sirens Were Singing" featuring the lead vocals of singer/drummer Marc Ysaye who stepped aside when frontman Mario Guccio joined the band to record the 2nd album. To be honest, hearing Mario?s voice for the first time needs some adjustment as he?s high pitched, giving the music a new dimension. It?s a daring experience when the band attacks "Down On My Knees," as if it concerns a new Led Zeppelin composition, yet with a fair dose of Mellotron injected at the right time. Marvel at one of the band?s most powerful melodies during "After The Crop" once again led by those soaring synths.

As said before, the first disc in this package is not that interesting unless, of course, you?re a fan of the evolution of the band regardless of the kind of music they produced. I won?t go into detail where the new song "Heaven?s Rules" is concerned, as this will be described separately. Another unreleased track is the short "Birds Are Gone," dating from 1974, is a Marc Ysaye demo which clearly has some Lagger Blues Machine influences. The rest of the material is rather "ordinary" unless you have another label for a song like "No Way To Heaven" which is the band trying their luck at stardom once again. One of the outstanding tracks however is the ballad "Something" from the Virtual Sun album where Mario?s voice gets close to that of Robert Plant. "Turn Off" sounds like ska on speed, especially in this fast live version, demonstrating the skills of guitarist Thierry Plas. An example that the band tried everything possible can be found in the reggae of "Over The Hill." With "The Rumour" they try to evoke a Belgian version of Zeppelin?s "Rock 'N Roll." The four bonus tracks on this disc illustrate the various productions some of the Machiavel members were involved in after the demise of the band. Beige Neige deliver electropop, Twilight a badly sung ballad, The Responsibles play country flavoured FM-rock, leading them to some support spots for Plant-Page, whilst Purple Prose is the short-lived band Dani Klein fronted after the death of Vaya Con Dias. All in all a weird selection.

Machiavel?s Anthology clearly illustrates what a long way the band has travelled incorporating all kinds of influences along the way. Lovers of long symphonic epics will be pleased with the second disc whilst lovers of good honest rock?n roll will choose the first disc, yet as a package, these 28 tracks show the evolution of a band throughout 25 years of its existence and, to end with an old clich?, they are like wine, getting better with age.

A la votre!

Disc One: Fly (3:25) / Heaven's Rules (3:38) / Lying World (2:48) / Drawn The Line (3:55) / Birds Are Gone (1:49) / No Way To Heaven (4:25) / Something (6:40) / Playboy (3:35) / Turn Off (6:36) / Over The Hill (3:16) / Relax (3:00) / Lay Down (8:30) / Children Calling (3:52) / The Rumour (4:50) / Bonus Tracks : Stranger (4:09) (by Beige Neige) / Only Five (3:45) (by Twilight) / Dear America (4:02) (by The Responsibles) / Who Wants To Be Lonely (4:09) (by Purple Prose)

Disc Two: Rope Dancer (3:40) / When Johan Died Sirens Were Singing (9:20) / Sparkling Jaw (7:00) / In The Reign Of Queen Pollution (6:52) / Down On My Knees (6:27) / Roc, Sea & Tree (9:20) / Rebirth (7:10) / Still Alive (5:35) / After The Crop (7:55) / Cheerlessness (6:40)

Albert Letecheur - keyboards, guitar
Jack Roskam - guitar
Roland De Greef - bass
Marc Ysaye - drums, vocals
Jean-Paul Devaux - guitar
Mario Guccio - vocals
Thierry Plas - guitar
Paolo Ragazzu - keyboards
Herv? Borb? - keyboards

Machiavel (1976)*
Jester (1977)*
Mechanical Moonbeams (1978)*
Urban Games (1979)*
New Lines (1980)*
Break Out (1981)*
Valentine's Day (1982)*
The Cry Of Pleasure (1987)*
The Best Of Machiavel (1991)
Machiavel (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Jester (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Mechanical Moonbeams (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Urban Games (1993) (enhanced reissue)
New Lines (1993) (enhanced reissue)
20th Anniversary Machiavel - The Very Best Of (1996)
Virtual Sun (1999)
Machiavel Live (1999)
Break Out (2000)
Original Hits (2000)
'Heaven's Rules' Anthology (2001)
Welcome To Paradise (2003)
2005 (2005)


Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin BE

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 906
Language: english


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