Out from Illinois and into oblivion: prog-folk heroes who never happened unearth their masterpiece.
Today, Michael and Tom Salvatori are well-respected artists – the former famous for cowriting soundtracks to the “Halo” and, alongside Paul McCartney, “Destiny” games; the latter known for composing music for classical guitar – but back in the ’70s they merely aspired to find success in this field, which didn’t prevent the youngsters from dreaming big. The result of their reverie was a reel-to-reel tape they laid down in a basement studio in Elmhurst, with the help of Tom’s classmate, drummer Scott Magnesen, and Mike’s fiancée, Gail, and credited to a collective that never existed, because the younger brother and his buddy went to college, and the older brother married his sweetheart. Forgotten for decades, their debut gathered dust, and then a fire destroyed it – or so they thought as the recent discovery of the artefact proved them wrong.
Demo it may be but the recordings’ quality is quite brilliant as befits a concept album where the siblings’ progressive leanings meet folk sensibilities on a stunning array of mini-epics whose motifs flow into each other logically and melodically via various strands of the Salvatoris’ electric strum and Gail’s Mellotron waves. That’s the way “The Spirit” will drift into the listener’s view before the betrotheds’ vocal harmonies emerge from behind a steady groove, punctured with Tom’s bass and hypnotic, otherworldly wooziness to cast a spell spreading across stereo panorama until only Mike’s voice is there to focus on the lyrics and give the number a new momentum and refresh both singers’ cosmic stamina.
Once a pastoral scene is properly staged, passionate piano passages arrange the platform for “Only The Children Know” and let idyllic imagery fill the interstellar space which could be defined by quasi-orchestral synthesizers if baroque organ didn’t take the now-playful piece down-to-earth, and guitars didn’t sway the overall dynamics to impressive extremes. This is is why there’s a need for a simpler simplicity offered in “Turning Around” over an instrumental background that ripples like a medieval tapestry, and gets pierced with a stinging six-string solo, preparing the vista for a violin-scented titular ballad – very idealistic even for the mid-’70s yet enchantingly elegant in its elegiac flutter.
And then there’s a wondrously protracted finale “All The People” which, gradually shifting through the ensemble’s stylistic facets, ties all their tiers into a magnificent whole – soft but angular, alien but comforting, understated but bright, nuanced interplay-wise but blunt in terms of riff-laden vigor – and signs off with triumphantly rocking flourishes and an a cappella weave. What’s left is more than a mere artefact of yore: after all these years, “The Castle” has all the makings of an art-fortress worthy of admiration of the young Americans’ aspirations.