Hailing from Glasgow Abel Ganz started playing in the first half of the 80’s, quickly becoming one of the most important bands of the ‘progressive rock revival’ wave on the British Islands. To this day they are referred by some as ‘the Scottish Marillion’. It’s hardly surprising since on their first three albums, released back in the 80’s, Abel Ganz have justly worked for such a tag. As time passed, however, they were more and more often compared with another band which was popular at the time – Pallas. This was mainly because of Alan Reed, who moved from his native Glasgow to London in 1985 and started his adventure with Pallas, which naturally led to line-up perturbations in his original group. Anyway, practically speaking, these problems lasted to this day because apart from two long time members of Abel Ganz (Hugh Carter, Hew Montgomery), the stability of the line-up is definately not the band’s strength. This is probably the reason why they release their albums with such a low frequency. Since their cross-section album “Back From The Zone” (which was intended to be a comeback to the musical activity after more than a decade of silence and which mostly included some older compositions) saw the light of day in 2001, Abel Ganz stayed silent – up to now.
And here it is! Recently the album with completely new material of Abel Ganz has been released – something which we haven’t seen virtually from the time immemorial. It’s entitled “Shooting Albatross” and it comprises only 4 compositions, each of which is, however, a considerably long suite. The first one is “Looking For Platform”, sung by Hugh Carter. I’d say that despite its 15-minutes playing time, it’s probably the most accessible track of the album. Nice, smoothly intertwining melodies, mature atmospheres, great instrumental work, pleasant vocals – all these elements make listening to this track a real pleasure. One can hear some echoes of the Big Big Train’s latest albums – “The Difference Machine” and “Gathering Speed”. The atmosphere in this track might not be perceived as especially original, but it is undeniably charming.
The second suite is the longest one on the album (over 23 minutes) and on vocals we hear… Alan Reed. A comeback or rather a guest appearance of this vocalist is the biggest surprise of “Shooting Albatross” CD. “So far” is an epic story connected with “American dream” topic. It’s a great musical epopee, a journey throughout the history of the US. There are references to the discovery and conquest of America, the Civil War, Vietnam War, invasion in Iraq and civil rights movement. This is a beautiful epic fresco played and sung with momentum and flow.
The third composition is entitled “Sheepish” and the main vocal part is carried out by Hugh Carter again. This recording is the mellowest and the most dreamy part of the album. The bar, already set very high by the two preceding tracks, does not fall by an inch. The band give an awesome display of wonderful play which exposes the interesting construction of this 13 minute composition, peacefully leading a listener through the meanders of art rock complexities of style.
“Ventura”, the last track on “Shooting Albatross”, is a new version of the composition already known from the album “Back To The Zone”. In “Ventura” A.D. 2008 it is Stuart “Mick” MacFarlane who is playing a main vocal part. He joined Abel Ganz the previous year during the final stage of “Shooting Albatross” production. His performance is a comprehensive success – in “Ventura” there are freshness, brightness and new power. I have no idea whether Stuart is going to stay for longer in the band, but it seems that at the moment Abel Ganz have two, if not three (let’s remember the sentiments that Alan Reed still has towards his original band) very good vocalists. So, there is a huge potential here and it’s a good forecast for the future. Let’s hope that Abel Ganz won’t make us wait for their new album another 8 years or so.
However, in case of “Shooting Albatross” CD, the waiting for so long was certainly worth it. I haven’t heard an equally successful album, so full of references to the best traditions of British progressive rock, since ages. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to it, especially to everybody who loves sounds a la Pendragon, IQ, Pallas, Big Big Train and early Marillion.
P.S. The line-up of Abel Ganz on “Shooting Albatross” is completed by Steve Donnelly (bg), David Mitchell (g) and Denis Smith (dr)
Translated by: Katarzyna Chachlowska