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Prog Round-up: April 2016

Geoff Barton on new releases from Lazuli, Galahad, Bruce Stringer, Soft Hearted Scientists and StarCrystal

Lazuli: Nos Âmes Saoules

With the exception of Trust (remember their politically charged 1980 LP Répression?) music from France rarely registers on Classic Rock’s radar. Hailing from the southern Gallic town of Gard, Lazuli formed in 1998 but this is likely their first mention in these pages. Their seventh album provides a heady, intoxicating listening experience – no wonder its title in English is Our Drunken Souls.

Central to Lazuli’s appeal is the interaction between brothers Dominique and Claude Leonette. The former’s vocals are as crystal clear as a quart of Evian, while the latter plays a unique, Chapman Stick-type instrument dubbed La Léode, which he invented when he lost the use of his left arm in a motorcycle accident. Les frères are most effective on the title track, where the infectious, chantalong chorus is enriched by spacey Outer Limits effects; truly spellbinding. Elsewhere, Vita Est Circus veers into classic Styx territory (Dennis de Jeune, anyone?) and the pulsing electronic funk of Le Mar Du Passé is anything but, er, passé. Leetle Bob Story, eat your heart out. (810)

Galahad: When Worlds Collide

It seems inconceivable that Dorset proggers Galahad are celebrating their 30th anniversary. This two-CD retro set includes (on CD 1) 10 all-new, re-recorded versions of old classics. This is often a very bad idea but sprawling songs such as Lady Messiah and The Chase are given new leases of life thanks to modern-day sonics – and some surprise tweaks along the way. (810)

Bruce Stringer: One

For this, his debut album, Australian guitarist Bruce Stringer has attempted to pick up where Be Bop Deluxe left off with their 1978 futurist album Drastic Plastic. Ambitious stuff indeed. But despite the absence of vocals, the damn thing works. There’s some very impressive musicianship on display; it could almost be described as Bill Nelson plays Vangelis. (610)

Soft Hearted Scientists: Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth

The Welsh psych wizards’ debut album has long been sold out and out of print. This 10th anniversary reissue includes the original record plus demos, and as such offers more whimsy than a library full of novels by Dorothy L. Sayers. (810)

StarCrystal: Follow Me

We’ll be honest. We were chiefly attracted to this, the debut album by Ukraine’s Star Crystal, due to their exotically named frontwoman Susanna Radimovskaya and her outrageously flamboyant tuxedo outfit (think Journey’s Steve Perry in fishnet stockings). Sadly, the music is enormously uninspiring, being watered-down, pomp-tinged AOR. Don’t even start believin’. (410)

Classic Rock 221: New Albums