Purple Pyramid 2017
Giants of Hungarian prog get their catalogue foraged in search of gems and pearls.
Those whose familiarity with this group is based on SCORPIONS’ idealistic interpretation and Kanye West’s scandalous sampling of their 1968 classic “Gyöngyhajú lány” can hardly imagine OMEGA’s status on an Eastern European music scene. In the Cold War era when rock was largely prohibited in The Warsaw Pact countries, the Budapest band used to shine like a beacon, and now the time has finally come for the wider world to bask in their light.
Yet there’s a twist to the two discs of “Anthology” representing first two decades of the combo’s operation: most of the selections here are the ‘70s re-recordings, in English, of what had been cut earlier in Magyar. Even the aforementioned much covered classic isn’t included now in its original charming form, but in two drastically different ones, acoustic version sung in German hitting much harder than longer, quasi-symphonic rendition delivered the American way. Still, 1975’s “Time Robber” can be enjoyed now& almost in its entirety, including this album’s title track, a boisterous centerpiece of a “House Of Cards” mini-suite which wondrously crystallizes the ensemble’s cosmic aspirations. To file the ensemble under “Prog” would be wrong, though.
They explored it, of course. The heavy Hammond of “You Don’t Know” steamrolls a route in that direction, for varied elements of the Hungarians’ music to reveal their enchantment with URIAH HEEP, but the tight interplay under “20th Century Town Dweller” has a sweet veneer, and “Live As Long As” is indeed rocking like there’s no tomorrow. Yet there are vestiges of boogie innocence with a streak of psych in the exquisite likes of “The Jester’s Daily Bread” and “Petroleum Lantern” whose choruses are infectious even when the beat doesn’t invite incursions into samba, while “Spanish Guitar Legend” opens up to an orchestral scope to carry a baroque ornament before it’s stricken with spacey synthesizer.
Not as daring, ballads such as “Gammapolis I” and “Remembering” are impressive nevertheless, unfolding the band’s refined romanticism as opposed to standard guitar-driven elegant gallop of “Everytime She Steps In” or “Go On The Spree” where group harmonies reign supreme. Never afraid to foray into commercial space, the artists combine memorable melody with hefty riffs in “Late Night Show” only to elevate the song to renaissance heaven. They also shift “The Lost Prophet” towards transparent fusion, with Gyorgy Molnar’s guitar wandering upwards, and the flight of their fantasy in “Gammapolis II” becomes a majestic finale to this compilation.
It may not reflect OMEGA’s full landscape but as a map to their story these songs are as good as it gets.