Gibraltar: Abacus was founded in 1971 and publishing 4 LPs on the Polydor label before breaking up in 1976 due to "musical differences". Some members regrouped again for 1982's Carribean Sun on the EMI label before once again splitting up.
Their 2001 release Fire Behind Bars released by Musea features multi-instrumentist Jürgen Wimpelberg who sings and plays keyboards and guitars. This album releases some of Abacus' unpublished works with some guest musicians. The previous GEPR entry on these guys said, "I assume that they only border the progressive genre." Judging only from Fire Behind Bars, I would say that this is a bit unfair, but I also can see why the reviewer would say that.
The music composition itself is oriented towards pop stylings, while the heavily symphonic orchestration and soloing are quite progressive in nature. Some of the songs, particularly "Avalanche Part 1", reminds me of an arena rock band like Styx, while others are in a more AOR ballad style like Toto or maybe even some Steely Dan. Several of the songs get so sappy (especially "Helping-hand-song" and "Loser") that I think they might be Barry Manilow pieces being played by a progressive band.
On the other hand, Wimpelberg is clearly a Keith Emerson fan ... the solos in "Don't Look Back" clearly sound like Emerson's style in both the organ and synthesizer soloing, while "Avalanche Part 2" might be fairly described as an ELP homage (or ripoff depending on your outlook), with organ and synthesizer phrases that are clearly quotes from Tarkus and ELP's concert renditions of "Peter Gunn". The ending even features a honky tonk piano similar to the bar room brawl sequence in "Benny the Bouncer" or "Bitch's Crystal".
From what I've already said, you may infer that I didn't like the album ... but that's not so. Actually, I quite enjoyed it. It's certainly not the pinnacle of progressive experimentation, but I actually enjoy listening to Styx in small doses too, so of course I thought this was a fun album, especially with the ELP style keyboards to spice things up. If you aren't too puritan about your prog, give this album of symphonic anthems a try. -- Fred Trafton
01 - Let's Face the Voices and Dance 3:24 02 - Including Revelation 1:18 03 - Me and You 4:26 04 - Fardon 2:09 05 - The One Love 3:47 06 - For the Moment 2:42 07 - Be Beholding 3:49 08 - Areman the Berman 3:21 09 - Here We Go 3:28 10 - Midway 10:32
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