OMEGA – Omega & III

Bacillus 1974-1974 / MiG Music 2022

The Eastern Bloc’s greatest progressive rock export extrapolate their past successes on home turf to set up international future.

OMEGA –
Omega & III

With one of their songs covered by many international acts, including SCORPIONS, and their opening act during 1968 concerts in the UK said to be THE NICE, this ensemble managed to place Hungary on the musical map in the class of rock almost in the same measure Liszt and Bartók had done in the classical category, and still the West remains mainly unaware of OMEGA’s artistic status. On the one hand, the band weren’t allowed to sing in English in their homeland; on the other, the records they released in foreign markets lacked the punch the pieces in their native tongue possessed. Despite such obstacles, the Budapest bunch build a solid fanbase abroad, and 2022 – the year marking the group’s 60th anniversary, and their first year after the untimely demise of three members of the decades-long line-up – sees the launch of the combo’s extensive reissue programme, started off with two discs that would define the Magyars’ style.

What they play here could have been typical for British ivories-driven collectives of the early ’70s, yet it’s difficult to deny the pop appeal of “Everytime She Steps In” which opens 1973’s self-titled LP and reappear, in slightly shortened form, on its follow-up “III” from 1974 whose other tracks – lighter on the infectious jangle and handclaps – seem to sound less innocent in their riff-laden slant. There should be no surprise, though, as the former platter comprised numbers from the band’s two previous albums, with newly updated lyrics and Dieter Dierks engineering, and the latter contained fresh cuts, but the madrigal-like voices and orchestral sway behind the romantic “After A Hard Year” or neurotic psychedelia of the hard-hitting “Delicate Sweep” – where László Benkő’s organ and György Molnár’s guitar vie for aural dominance to balance János Kóbor’s impressive voice – are as alluring as the funereal, folksy “Remembering” that aims for electric skies, or the gentle “I Go Away” that will melt even a cynic’s heart.

And if a Bach-inspired motif of “Parting Song” should betray a PROCOL HARUM influence while the vigorous funky figures and vocal harmonies of “The Bird” must indicate a URIAH HEEP impact on the quintet, the delightfully slick assault of “Stormy Fire” – propelled by Tamás Mihály’s bass and Ferenc Debreceni’s drums and spiced by cosmic synthesizer – and the anthemic uplift of “Spanish Guitar” are entirely the ensemble’s own. However, if “The Lying Girl” and “Live As Long As” go for a piano-directed boogie and fuzzy roll, which don’t pretend to be sophisticated, and the 8-minute “White Magic Stone” harks back to already-outdated, albeit attractive, proto-prog tropes, “Just A Bloom” unfolds into a series of elegantly restrained wigouts, whereas “Omegautó” eagerly embraces the glam template of the day and gets away with it.

Here’s a great beginning of the band’s reissue plan – and a great testament to the talents of Benkő and Mihály, who passed away, three days apart, in 2020, and Kóbor, who died one year later.

****

February 8, 2022

Category(s): Reissues
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