There is just no way that this can be the third album from a Greek band, as surely this is a long-lost British act from the early/mid Seventies. I mean, the obvious reference points straight out of the hat are Gryphon and Gentle Giant, they don’t get more British than that, with some elements of Renaissance, Tull, Hatfield, but never a whiff of Vangelis or Aphrodite’s Child! I just made a quick check over to ProgArchives to see what the most highly rated Greek progressive album of all time is, and I was somewhat surprised to see that it is actually this one! I really thought it would be ‘666’, but rather aptly that is currently at #6 on the list. Ciccada are Dimi Spela (vocals), Evangelia Kozoni (vocals), Yorgos Mouhos (6- and 12-string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, vocals), Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute, clarinet, tenor & baritone saxophones, recorder, piano, electric piano, organ, Mellotron, synthesisers, harpsichord, Clavinet, glockenspiel, backing vocals), Marietta Tsakmakli (soprano, alto and baritone saxophones, backing vocals), Aggelos Malisovas (fretted and fretless basses), and Yiannis Iliakis (drums, percussion, backing vocals). I guess they either use backing tracks or bring in additional performers when they play live, as there is no way Nikolopoulos can do all that is being asked of him, as this is multi-layered, and he is often providing multiple instruments at the same time.
There is just so much going on here, with complex arrangements, yet at times the music also feels quite gentle with plenty of folk elements also being included. They also mix the vocals, using male when the time is right, which gives a different feeling to the music, yet it is the classic sounds from the keyboards combined with the multiple elements of woodwind and brass which makes this stand out. It really is as if Gryphon have been reincarnated, and part of me really wishes they had brought out the crumhorns. There is a huge depth and breadth to this music, and it reminds me so much of why I started listening to this style of music more than 40 years ago as there is just so much going on, combing musicality with versatility and melody to create something that is both enjoyable and awe inspiring all in one go.
I have always been a huge fan of David Elliott and the work he does with Bad Elephant Records, but to my ears this is his most indispensable release yet.