Every so often an album like this appears, that is so left-field, so out of kilter with the way things are, that it is extremely difficult to listen to and be totally objective.
Not that it is totally unlistenable – heaven forfend – but merely the fact that it’s such a colossal piece of work with more facets than the Koh I Noor diamond which makes it so perplexing.
X11 Alfonso are a genre-busting, but essentially progressive rock band from France who have embarked on what is a paean to the life and work of Charles Darwin – a musical homage to one of history’s greatest scientists.
In order to achieve this the band have enlisted the help of a cast of thousands including prog luminaries such as Tim Renwick, John Helliwell, John Hackett, Iain Bairnson, Robin Boult and Maggie Reilly.
They have also spared no expense in the execution of this task either as this is a sumptuous triple CD set beautifully packaged in a 76 page hardback book wherein lie fifty two tracks: thirty instrumentals and twenty two songs telling the story of Darwin’s life, concepts and work.
That they are massive acolytes of Darwin is beyond question as evidenced by the amount of work that has gone into this and the sheer diversity of the music – swinging from jazz to folk to world to rock and all stations east.
And a lot of it is very good. There’s some wonderful acoustic guitar, some, at times, mesmerizing keyboards and plaintive piano and generally exemplary musicianship throughout which would be a shoo-in anyway given the talent assembled.
There are two aspects unfortunately where the whole thing falls down.
Firstly, clocking in at over three hours, it is far too long. Attention drifts while listening to just one of the discs, never mind all three and by the end real fatigue has set in, not just with the music but also with the subject matter.
Second – and this is the real killer – is the libretto. Basically they have taken Darwin’s words from ‘The Origin Of Species’ and just tried to force them to fit the music – so basically what you have is prose sung to music with no rhyming and no pattern or structure, meaning one line might have five words, the next twenty seven.
This is really unfortunate as it makes the whole work sound both disjointed and, in all honesty, amateurish.
One can appreciate what is being attempted here and the effort put in by all the combatants, but whilst the album certainly has its moments (exclusively on the instrumentals) sadly, the end result fails to live up to the sum of its parts.
I wonder what Darwin would have thought about how this album evolved?
Review by Alan Jones
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk was streamed on Sunday 22 November.
More about Josh: http://getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/?s=%22Josh+Taerk%22
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Featured Albums w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 JEFF SCOTT SOTO Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 LAZARUS DREAM Alive (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 RONAN FURLONG The King Of Leaves (Thoroughbred Music)
Power Plays w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)
L.A. GUNS All That You Are (Golden Robot Records)
THE DUST CODA Limbo Man (Earache)
EBBA BERGKVIST & THE FLAT TIRE BAND 68 Twin (indie)
IRON SAVIOR Souleater (AFM Records)
IVY GOLD This Is My Time (indie)
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