Spirit Of Unicorn Music 2021
Producing aural imagery out of rage, stellar cast of ongoing rock opera deliver a lackluster tapestry.
Having always felt more like franchise than a loose framework for songs that don’t fit Alan Simon’s stage-set projects – such as “Tristan & Yseult” or "Big Bang" which seem conceptually grander in comparison with the fifth chapter of “Excalibur” – it’s being further and further removed from Arthurian lore here, and this album’s very title and first piece suggest there’s a lot of meta elements here, with a behind-the-scenes, cinematic aspect to many of the numbers on display. Still, the diminished cast of “Move, Cry, Act, Clash!” should create a tighter space and firmer flow for the drama to unfold, as a few tracks feature Bernie Shaw‘s voice and Martin Barre‘s guitar – the latter also a fixture on "The Dark Age Of The Dragon" – so the French composer’s new venture into rock opera may look solid.
This time around, folk strands give way to heavier strands, and even Jerry Goodman’s vigorous violin that cuts through the choral roar of “The Prisoner” and the touching balladry of “The Last Bird” – voiced by Michael Sadler – can’t add much nuance to the overall picture, whereas gentle acoustic strum and passionate vocals on “Heaven” and “Messaline” do manage to link the tunes to the troubadours’ art. However, John Helliwell’s sax and female backing infuse the blues of “The Lady Of the Lake” and the serenade of “Wake Up (Before The Last War)” with Gallic sentimentality, while Steve Hackett‘s solo on the Simon-sung “Hey” elevates the entire performance and the mélange of English, Hebrew and Arabic words render “A Brand New Day” a standout here.
On the other end of the exquisiteness spectrum lies “The Vision” in which FAIRPORTS meet Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer who back the late John Wetton: a tremulous, if understated, sonic tapestry that got dusted off for this record as though to signal the time for “Excalibur” to be buried in stone again – for good now.