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Main Category: Mood Music
Also applicable: Prog Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day



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Nobody knows anything at all about this band, which is a relative shame - it's no great shakes, but it's at least better than Kansas. Quick rundown: one of the few, if not the only, German prog-rock band, Eloy were very derivative (borrowing a lot from Jethro Tull in the early phase and even more from Pink Floyd in the later phase), and very pompous (like all Germans, they took themselves extremeley seriously - if you thought early King Crimson or ELP were pompous, wait till you hear these guys), but they were derivative and pompous in a sometimes good and justified way. At least they didn't exactly steal melodies, and could be pretty nifty experimentators. A proper interview will come later.



Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating =

Hey, all they need is a better lyricist, a better singer, a couple professional composers and a guitar virtuoso. Other than that, we're all set!


Track listing: 1) Today; 2) Something Yellow; 3) Eloy; 4) Song Of A Paranoid Soldier; 5) Voice Of Revolution; 6) Isle Of Sun; 7) Dillis Roady.

Zis album such much laugh, I forget make rating real small. (Putting down the unforgettable lyrics sheet, more on which see below:) Everybody starts out according to his own degree of wickedness, and Eloy were wicked enough so as to rip off whoever they could as long as said proto-inspiration wasn't too professional (because Eloy weren't), too smart (because Eloy weren't), yet was exceedingly ambitious (because Eloy were). The answer? ELOY WERE THE FIRST BAND TO OPENLY RIP OFF URIAH HEEP. If you don't believe me, check the last track on here, 'Dillis Roady' or whatever it's called. Tell me it doesn't outright steal the riff from Uriah Heep's 'Gypsy' which must be the single stupidest riff on Earth. And that's not the only indication.

I suppose this is the place to interrupt me and politely inquire whether I have completely lost my mind, wasting my time on a band like that. Well, no, I haven't. Just as it goes with their "prime" period, even right here at the start Eloy have some weird, dumb, crude, but attractive force which kinda sucks me in and interests me in those guys. They have a knack for sniffing out melodies that stick with you. And they rock pretty well when they want to, although you won't really find anything like this on their subsequent records: the self-titled album is a prime example of "hard-art" rather than of their pretentious brand of space-rock which they started to elaborate a year later.

In 1971, though, Frank Bornemann was only one of Eloy's founding fathers; the other was keyboardist Erich Schriever, who also sang all the lead vocals, by the way. Compared to Bornemann, he's got the advantage of having much better English pronunciation, but in terms of range and power, he's not as strong, and very often, it hurts bad. Power ballads like 'Isle Of Sun', for instance, could actually go somewhere and woo me over if they had somebody of Greg Lake's caliber to give them the necessary majesty, but every time this guy opens his mouth and whines 'darkness pass awai-e-e-e-e-e, sun's gonna shine', it's always "somebody carry him back to music school, please!" for me.

Also on the down - but at least, on the hilarious - side, I have no idea who's actually responsible for the lyrics (I have to assume Erich did write most of them, since he was the one politically active member of the band, and their parting had something to do with this), but they gotta rank among some of the clumsiest ever written by anybody in the rock world. Let me give you just a few examples, I can't wait: "You feel that there's something in the air/Something you've never seen before/Something tough, something yellow/And your lungs begin to melt/During chimneys smoking everywhere (sic! - G.S.) / ... You hear the voice of your president/We must do something against the smog'. Or: 'People sitting 'round a river/Consumptive, nice and with garments on (SIC!!!!! - G.S.) / They are eating fruit/And do love the peace/And feel so happy all their time'. 'Dillus Roady, come on here/Dillus Roady, we need some beer/He's like a mother without a breast (I'M NOT KIDDING YOU! - G.S.) /When we get tired in the night/He's the one who looks so bright'.

Next to these absolute chef-d'oeuvres of lyrical art, insignificant banalities like 'I'm a soldier in a land where cruel things never end' or 'I'm sure the day will come when we shall overcome' are almost impossible to notice. Ah, the glory and wonder of a small, independent German label - no solid record company with a puffed-up sense of dignity would have let a record with lyrics like these slip through their hands, not if it were targeted at the English-speaking market, at least.

You can see now why I don't give this album a 1 out of 15 or anything like that. It'd be like wringing the neck of a blind kitten. It's too friggin' easy. They were little innocent German kids, reared by their mother without a breast. They meant no harm. They wanted to find the land of freedom. Who can blame them for that? And besides, some of the actual music is real good. 'Something Yellow', for instance, is almost a fine proggish epic! Who cares if it's about, err, the smog? It's got this really pretty piano introduction; then comes this hard-rocking main part, with a riff that's actually interesting (slightly Blue Oyster Cult-ish in nature, I'd say, although Sabbath were the actual influence, probably), then comes the fast instrumental boogie, then comes the mid-tempo instrumental shuffle, and none of these are really less competent than, for instance, Sabbath's own "pointless" jamming on the second side of their debut LP.

The riffage on the title track is also competent, and for all of its naive propaganda, 'Voice Of Revolution' is a tolerable three-minute rocker that has its say, goes away, and leaves no hard feelings. No, it's only when they commit real anti-musical crimes like the already mentioned feeble singing on the power ballads or the stupid, totally unnecessary 'Gypsy' rip-off, that my blood reaches the boiling point. At other times, it's more like... 'uhhh, ok, nice'. (Hey, I'm not a strict teacher, I'm just a gracious listener). It's also important to put this into the proper context, both chronological and geographical: 1971 was a year when these naive, starry-eyed prog declarations were still moderately acceptable; and Germany was a country where art-rock didn't as of yet dare to take off, and you have to actually consider the boldness of these kids. I know I usually don't make excuses for historical context, but this is an elbum that sort of drags its context along with itself.

PS. I also know it's probably inevitable that I'll get blamed for criticizing Uriah Heep while at the same time sort of "patronizing" these guys, so let me just put it blunt and quick: Eloy simply happen to have a better chemistry, a more acceptable balance between the professional and the amateurish, and just plain better melodies than Heep ever did. And besides, this entire record doesn't have one tenth portion of the Homeric pathos that Uriah Heep implant into one verse of 'Come Away Melinda'. Yes, that's probably due to Eloy not knowing how to cook up pathos (and if they'd known, they'd have cooked up plenty), but sometimes it's wiser not to know than it is to know.



Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating =

Well I'll take me a Tull rip-off over a Heep rip-off any time of day.

Best song: LAND OF NO BODY

Track listing: 1) Land Of No Body; 2) Inside; 3) Future City; 4) Up And Down.

Okay, let's all be frank (but for heaven's sake let's not be like Frank - Bornemann, that is). Inside, just like its predecessor, is little more than the obvious sum of its obvious influences. But, just as it was last time around - isn't it perversely cool to see an interpretation of, by 1973 already 'traditional', prog-rock motives by a bunch of stoned out/starry eyed German guys? Come on now, we've already had oodles and oodles of all that Krautrock bollocks (kiddin' ya, but there's a grain of truth in every joke), why not scoop out our brains and enjoy some derivative German music instead of some pioneering German music? Especially when the band's new vocalist (Frank Bornemann) sounds so much like a German version of Ian Anderson, with the same negligent nasal twang in his voice? And, in any case, sings much better than that leftist Erich guy? And also writes much better lyrics - well, perhaps not exactly better when it comes to subject matter, but definitely better in form; on the downside, I just don't feel like quoting them this time around - you won't find 'em funny. The only thing that distinguishes him is a thick German accent ("ze drrreams aRRR gone.... zen RReality is near..."), reviled by many critics and reviewers, but I myself find it kinda funny. With that accent, there's no way these guys can be taken too seriously.

The funniest thing, though, is that a lot of the music seems stylistically and even melodically close to Jethro Tull themselves. As 'Future City' comes in on us with its ominous-sounding cyclic guitars and Bornemann's nasal twang, you suddenly start to realize that it is extremely similar to 'Beggar's Farm'. Heck, it is 'Beggar's Farm', at least, until the mid-section kicks in, where you get crazy percussion solos and competent guitar passages and, well, the usual art-rock curiosity shop, before reverting back to basics, aka back to stealing. And what about the middle jam in 'Up And Down'? Don't you tell me it ain't a direct rip-off of the martial section in 'Thick As A Brick'. Maybe a subconscious one, but still a steal. Even the echo on the guitars sometimes emulates the exact textures of Martin Barre.

The weirdest thing, then, is that these rip-offs never sound offensive - somehow, Eloy are able to incorporate them smoothly into their own image and identity, which is certainly different from Tull's. To be more precise, it's different in that it also incorporates pieces and patches of The Nice, ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, and Pink Floyd, and then wraps it up in naivete and German accent. Why I don't feel like smashing this band to bits is way beyond me. But whatever be, it's obvious that Tull was their favourite English prototypical band at the time.

So what about the music itself? It's... well, it's very much spaced out, with almost all of the album flowing by you in an echoey, 'removed' environment (the production is excellent, by the way - ah, these Germans really know how to produce their music well, don't they?). The main instrument seems to be Manfred Wieczorke's pounding organ, but actually, all of the band's members are quite competent on their relative instruments, and play them with enough vigour and taste not to make anything sound boring. Like I said, the German accent doesn't annoy me at all, and as for the lyrics, well, they're not exactly down-to-earth (although Eloy would only start ascending the stairs of pomp here), but they make more sense than Jon Anderson anyway.

The central composition here is the seventeen-minute long epic 'Land Of Nobody', with its really great, spooky, bass-led intergalactic start ("we just leave the earth's ground on the way to see the new star...") and a lengthy jamming organ-led mid-section that isn't particularly necessary but is quite moody and enjoyable anyway. The band's 'astral groove' was certainly inherited by them from Pink Floyd (that spooky beginning is slightly reminiscent of 'Let There Be More Light', by the way), but here the band seems to concentrate on 'astral music' rather than 'astral noise', and throwing in that odd Jethro Tull flavour, it really works. Oh, and add in a couple mighty heavy riffs and an excellent, thunderstormy guitar solo on the way, too. The crescendo at the end owes a lot to Emerson's 'Rondo', by the way. I wish I could do these guys a favour and claim that one of the basslines on here has actually been reused later by the Police in 'Driven To Tears', but alas, I don't have a single shred of evidence that the Police ever listened to Eloy, so no dice.

The second side is then dedicated to three "shorter" compositions, all of them quite good as well. 'Inside' starts as a very pretty ballad, although Bornemann's accent fails him a bit on here (thus, it becomes obvious that his nasal twang is not so much of a natural thing as an attempt to disguise his accent, or, worse, to imitate Ian Anderson even further), and goes on to become a powerful guitar/organ jam. 'Future City', like I already said, is a groovy German updating of 'Beggar's Farm', with more solid guitar solos and an acoustic mid-section. And 'Up And Down' is a nice mini-epic to close off the album, although the flashy fade-in/fade-out gimmick at the end is pretty cheap.

The record does require some getting used to - this was my first Eloy experience and at first, I was very much tempted to dismiss these guys as an inferior take on their prog predecessors with twice as much pretention and ten times as less talent. But eventually, they do get under your skin - maybe it's the production, or that weird accent, or hell, maybe it's just the fact that they actually write good melodies. Or maybe just the fact that they find the best bits to steal? Or maybe because they have the audacity to combine so many different elements from so many different prog sub-styles? But most probably, it's just because they are goal-oriented and adequate: they stick in with their interpretation of 'astral rock', and it works. There's subtlety and there's energy, there's enough diversity and atmosphere - heck, what else does one need? Fish and chips? I have a slightly similar reaction to Hawkwind: it's all very stupid and cartoonish, but even stupid cartoons can come with a 'plus' mark provided their author has some sort of vision.



Year Of Release: 1974
Overall rating =

Now, there has to be the line where "amusing jamming" becomes "pointless noodling". And they just crossed it.

Best song: MADHOUSE

Track listing: 1) Floating; 2) The Light From Deep Darkness; 3) Castle In The Air; 4) Plastic Girl; 5) Madhouse.

Well, here's the biggest problem with derivativeness - no matter how inventive you turn out to be with your "derivation" on the first (second) album, it's the second (third) album that says it all. In this respect, Floating is a failure and shows Eloy already running out of steam before they even managed to accumulate it.

The sound hasn't changed a single bit: they're still hacking away in the same manner, with gloomy minor chords throughout and ominous, "evil" toned down guitar passages alternating with barrages of organ and drum onslaught, all seriously spiced with special "astral" effects, with a powerful, but routine bluesy guitar solo breaking out on occasion - pretending to be cathartic and mostly failing at that noble task. Perhaps the only difference is that I don't feel the Tull connection any more: none of this album's melodies remind me of the Jethroes, and even Herr Bornemann forgets to put on the 'nasal twang' and often ends up sounding like a... well, like a dopey German singing in English with a strong accent.

The problem, however, is that I don't actually see them trying. All the songs, without exception, set exactly the same mood and do it by exactly the same means (described above), so you never even notice one track ending and another one beginning. I'm serious - when I first put that on, at the thirtieth minute I was going, like, 'whee, that's one looooong song! Just how far could they have stretched out that vinyl format?' and imagine my surprise when I found out we were onto the last track already. To make matters worse, about 80% of the album is purely instrumental (apparently, Bornemann was ashamed of his accent), with lengthy 'space jams' crushing on one another in an endless series. Yes, I like that moody, 'grey' atmosphere which does start borrowing from Pink Floyd but is still rather idiosyncratic, and I admit that some of the riffs they try out are powerful (aka "loud"), but come on now, such things can't go forever if they all sound the same.

The album does start out and end on somewhat more credible notes - both the fully instrumental title track and 'Madhouse' are good showcases of the band 'rocking the house down' with their style. Particularly the latter, with its funny lyrical message of relativity (comparing the life of a rock band to the life of people 'outside' and wondering who of them is really mad). Its vocal section is, again, rather Tull-sounding - the nasal twang returns, and the bluesy 'sliding' cyclic riff could have been easily played by Mick Abrahams or by Martin Barre circa 1969. But the instrumental section rips off the fast part of Deep Purple's 'Child In Time', with Bornemann trying to play a crazyasss finger-flashing guitar solo a la Blackmore, which is amusing to me, because obviously Frank is nowhere near Ritchie in the technique department, and the result can't be perceived as anything more than a pale imitation.

As for the title track, I'm afraid the little thimble of attraction owes it all to its repetitiveness - there's a really simple, really obvious, really lame (from a "sophisti-lover"'s point of view) guitar/organ melody around which the extra parts are wrapped, the way the Nice used to do, except there ain't anything remotely resembling that band's virtuosity. Almost makes me ashamed to admit it, because when you're dealing with prog rock, it's hardly the simplest song on the album that should be your favourite, but what am I to do? Fake a case of Eloyitis? Still, both of the tracks do kick some ass if you get rid of the endlessly pouring comparisons, and hey, 'Madhouse' is a good way to close the album with a bang...

...because the other three tunes are unbearable - try as I might, even after repeated listenings I still can't understand what it is that separates the fifteen-minute monster 'The Light From Deep Darkness' from its shorter 'sequels', 'Castle In The Air' and 'Plastic Girl'. Formally speaking, the first of these is supposed to be an eerie cosmic saga of creation, the second is supposed to be an Easternish mantraic thing, and the latter is supposed to be a Tull-ish social critique. Sounds all pretty different from each other, eh? Well, in reality it's all much more complicated, because 'Plastic Girl' has its verses structured in the form of an Eastern mantra, 'Castle In The Air' incorporates some neat astral passages, and 'The Light From Deep Darkness' has some mastodontic organ outbursts that you'd normally encounter in a song of anger and rebellion. Of course, the same types of elements can actually be met in any of these three compositions, and that's why I get so muddled up and you probably will, too. If you're a prog diehard, you might like this, but somehow I doubt it. Prog diehards usually like "challenging" stuff - this stuff is not "challenging" you, it's just putting you down. Real good prog bands don't use that many power chords, for Chrissake! There's gotta be something subtler than that!

So I can't give this anything more than a weak seven - ya know. We do have to give credit where credit is due, though: a less talented band (and I'll never deny Eloy's talent per se) could have mindlessly plodded on like this for ages, recording album after album in the same monotonous "mock-prog" style until it ran out of fluids, members, drugs, or record contracts. Yet Bornemann at least had the guts to see they'd reached this critical dead end, sounding like quadruple parodies by 1974 (the year when prog really began to stifle), and, although with mixed results as usual, push the band in a radically different direction. By 1975, the changes would become obvious, and then they'd enter a new era - for better, of course, because "for worse" would have been unimaginable.



Year Of Release: 1974
Overall rating =

All they lacked was a nice coherent story about drugs and medieval France.


Track listing: 1) Introduction; 2) Journey Into 1358; 3) Love Over Six Centuries; 4) Mutiny; 5) Imprisonment; 6) Daylight; 7) Thoughts Of Home; 8) The Zany Magician; 9) Back Into The Present; 10) The Bells Of Notre Dame.

Not much better the second time around, but at least the songs are shorter (just two lengthy marathons instead of... well, you count), and there's a bit more energy than before. Although the production still sucks, mind you. The drummer sounds as if he's got serious health issues with picking up anything heavier than a willow twig - what kind of "power" are we talking about if the sound of my toe-tapping adds more rhythmic drive to the tunes than this wimp? Similarly, the rest of the instruments also seem to have all been recorded inside the same dollhouse and then run through several low-quality tape recorders. This is partially the fault of producer Jay Partridge, of course, but that's no consolation for those who fell prey to the album's title.

Power And Passion is usually called a 'transitional record' by Eloy cultists, and their last 'un-atmospheric' record that hunts for a dynamic sound rather than pure astral/cosmic/Floydish atmospherics. It also marks the last implement of Eloy's first stable lineup: soon after the album's release, the band dispersed and Bornemann had to find himself an entirely different crew. Supposedly, these two changes are related. Or maybe he just got fed up with the wimpy drummer.

As for the record itself, it's a concept album that actually tells a story which is so dumb it makes the plotline of Tommy look like Odyssey-worthy material. In fact, it's so dumb I don't mind briefly retelling it. There's a boy called Jamie, and he's heavily on drugs, and for some reason he ends up in a time machine that takes him directly to 1358, where he falls in love with a French girl named Jeanne and turns her onto drugs, but then he gets arrested, thrown in jail, and only by some pure chance, with the aid of a magician, escapes back into his own world. The moral, if I'm not mistaken, is that mankind pretty much sucked in 1358 and things haven't changed much since. If it ain't a coherent moral lesson for all you youngsters out there, I dunno what is. The only thing that makes me sad is the year choice. If it were up to me, I'd have chosen the 1430s instead, and then, of course, "Jeanne" would be Jeanne d'Arc and the stoned guy's arrival would have settled the burning question of visions of angels and voices from the sky once and for all. 'S all in the mushrooms, you see. Always the bloody mushrooms.

Not that Eloy are guiltier of cheesy storytelling than lots of their contemporaries. 2112, anyone? Eh? Eh? And let's not forget that sometimes a silly, but coherent story is still miles better than just random generic D&D imagery. There is a certain whiff of wacko-land primitivism here that does pitch Eloy against Uriah Heep one more time, but hey, Uriah Heep's popularity in Europe was slowly dying, and maybe these guys thought they could form a perfect alternative to the Heepsters. There are some big differences between this album and something like Demons & Wizards, though. First, the Heepsters actually wrote better melodies - nothing on P&P is paritcularly outstanding - yet second, the Heepsters pretty much sucked when trying to marry their primitive melodies to overimportant 'vibes'. Eloy have a far more interesting sound to them, particularly because all the band members were nifty experimentators, and while the subject matter here might be just as cheesy as in Heep's case, the actual aural effect is better. The drummer is nothing special, but Wolfgang Stocker's bass is a major trademark of the early Eloy - it sounds more Krautrock than Brit-prog, verstehest? And that Wieczorke guy is pretty good with his keyboards, too, obviously going after Keith Emerson and even adding more nifty synth twirls, not as accomplished as Keith, but even more spaced out.

That said, the songs themselves aren't tremendously interesting. 'Journey Into 1358' is their first Floydish ballad, although I actually feel that the complaintive style of the slow part is closer to The Wall than to early Floyd, so there's no "ripping-off" as such. I do take objection to Bornemann's screaming, though. He's not a good screamer. Not convincing. At least you can't tell he screams with a German accent - Indo-European languages do share common scream technologies. (Now if he only were Japanese...)."

'Love Over Six Centuries' is a lengthy ten-minute drone, over which Bornemann and some other "staff personal" recite strange pieces of dialog, apparently related to time travel and other mystical matters. I dunno - it's supposed to sound stupid, but perhaps it's just that ridiculous Bornemann accent that does it for me? And the tune itself is very soothing, with a lush synth background and restrained, lonely guitar chords somewhere far far away. Just a humble, minimalistic piece with no dorky metallic solos or pointless synth thunderstorms (Mick Box and Tony Banks - I mean you!). It does drag on for far too long, though, and then leads into 'Mutiny', where the relaxative, yet menacing minimalistic atmosphere is replaced by something that's neither good nor bad. The subject matter is supposed to be aggressive, but the tune's mood is surprisingly mild, and... and... what else? Stocker lays on some wonderful bass lines which are my main point of attraction throughout.

The second side consists of several shorter numbers, where, to be fair, only the particularly dorky-soundin' 'Zany Magician' is an 'outstanding' track, and I sure don't mean 'wonderful', oh no. An atrocious pseudo-metallic number where Bornemann truly sounds miserable as he imitates an evil being's barf. Whoah. Now, aren't they ripping themselves off with 'Daylight'? Didn't 'Madhouse' have practically the same melody? Worse, all the ballads on here (as well as on the first side) seem to share one and the same pattern as well: Bornemann singing very similar 'accentuated' melodies over moody gothic organ and an echo that's deeper and mightier than all the band members taken together. I like the general style - and with better production, it could be a true atmospheric delight - but dammit, I'd like some diversity too. When they rock, they don't convince me, though, and I'd certainly take the classic Rush sound if I wanted my prog rock to have a true metal ring to it; so supposedly it all comes down to the problem of "superating your own capacities". Doesn't it?

In any case, this ain't as deadly dull as Floating, and shows definite signs of creative growth (at least, in the "find yer own face" department), but it's still not a major improvement. After a few listens you'll get into the concept, of course, and the songs will seem a bit closer because of that. But perhaps it was a wise decision for the group to fall out at the time.

PS. Goodness gracious, I just happened to learn that the original plan was to make this a double concept album, but apparently Partridge wouldn't let them have their way. Hmm, maybe being a totalitarian creativity-stifling despot does have its minor advantages.



Year Of Release: 1976
Overall rating =

If you think of this as "prog-rock for the little ones", you might even think it's really good!

Best song: AWAKENING and the ones it directly segues into

Track listing: 1) Awakening; 2) Between The Times; 3) Memory Flash; 4) Appearance Of The Voice; 5) Return Of The Voice; 6) The Sun Song; 7) The Dance In Doubt And Fear; 8) Lost? (Introduction); 9) Lost!? (The Decision); 10) The Midnight Flight; 11) The Victory Of Mental Force; 12) Gliding Into Light And Knowledge.

Let's start this off with an important preliminary technical note for all those odd people who actually possess this odd CD: the tracklisting on the official EMI edition is completely and absolutely wrong, showing just how much the record industry actually cares for pompous German prog rock. The above track listing indicates the correct running order - trust it rather than the hacks at EMI.

Not that anybody should really care, of course, because if you care for the names of these tracks, this might be an indication of your caring for the album's concept as well - and after the disaster of Power And The Passion, I solemnly swore that I'd never ever become involved in any of their sci-fi ventures again. Supposedly, Dawn has something to do with life after death and a ghost's reminiscences of its former glories or maybe not - I honestly wouldn't give a beaver's tail about that. Curse Tarkus and Tommy for their malevolent influences. But none of that should conceal the fact that Dawn is actually the first Eloy album, and one of the few Eloy albums, to be really interesting from a purely musical standpoint.

As already mentioned above, the appropriately titled Dawn marks the beginning of 'Eloy Mark III', with Bornemann left as the only founding member and three completely new players; curiously enough, the new drummer, Jurgen Rosenthal, was fresh out of the Scorpions! He also made his own mark by writing most of the lyrics - a good move, since for the first time in this band's career you can actually read most of them without cringing (Bornemann wasn't too bad, at least, as far as English grammar is concerned, but he seems to be totally unaware of such rudimentary literary methods as 'metaphor' or 'epithet' - you'd think the lyrics on Power And The Passion were specially designed for mentally unstable five-year olds).

And the music? It's not radically different, but it's much more involving. They have significantly toned down the guitar presence, opting for an almost completely keyboard-driven sound instead, courtesy of new member Detlev Schmidtchen. Now in a year like 1976, putting forward the keyboards on a prog album more often was an element of creative suicide than not - just look at Genesis' Wind & Wuthering or, well, just about any contemporary Kansas album. However, Detlev is smarter than that, and instead of going for super-modern technology, prefers to stick to the oldies: the majority of the keyboard sounds on here stem from the Mellotron, the Moog, the Hammond organ, and the good old forte-piano. This may give the record a slightly dated feel, too, but here's the trick: in, say, 1972 such an album could only be qualified as an inferior imitation of the "giants", but in 1976, with most of the "giants" either dead and gone (King Crimson, ELP) or severely re-qualified (Genesis), it only gives the impression of a pleasant throwback to the good old days.

Some have called this stage of Eloy "Pink Floydish", and there certainly are multiple points of similarity, but Eloy could never really pass off for Floyd clones - they might have been Floyd in some technical details, but they were Yes at heart: idealistic, romantic, utterly naive, and somewhat less adequate because they were less complex and less professional. Despite all the simulated desperation, there's still a huge deal of that starry-eyed idealism in Dawn that marked most of the prog movement in the early Seventies, and this, in my mind's eye, makes it much more interesting than the basic idea of such an album would be supposed to. Do I make myself clear? Am I being too sophisticated for an album so simple?

If yes, let's just cut the culturological crap and state plainly and openly - all of this 'interest' wouldn't be worth a damn if the music weren't worth it. And yet, much of the music is! Unlike the following Ocean, Dawn is an active, dynamic album, with musical themes changing all the time, so that nothing can bore you for too long, and ideas of all sorts, most of them subconsciously stolen from their predecessors (okay, this is a mere hooliganish assumption on my part, but can I be blamed for always holding Eloy guilty until proved otherwise?), but some possibly burgeoning within their weird German minds on their own, popping out from all the corners. If only they'd finally found someone other than Frank to sing this stuff, hey, I might even look forward to buying this on CD. (Oops!)

It's nice to see how the first part of the album is all comprised of these short songs glued with one another, each "movement" of their rock opera making its point quickly and firmly and giving way to the next one. Thus, 'Awakening' begins the proceedings with a nicely recorded classical intro and a mostly acoustic-driven initial narrative (with excellent strings embellishments as well) - and then immediately segues into the hard-rocking 'Between The Times', with one of their most memorable vocal melodies within a "harder" tune; and here's a good spot where they could have used a guitar solo, and yet, lo and behold, they preferred not to. 'Memory Flash' has one, though, and a traditional bluesy one. A good one.

I won't pretend that the album never ever deviates from the overall grade of 11; particularly on Side B, where the song lengths gradually soar up to the skies and some of the ideas start being repeated without any serious reasons, there's plenty of obvious weak spots. But the weak spots make the high points look even higher. 'The Dance In Doubt And Fear', for instance, is a dark, moody instrumental (well, there's some narrative going over it, but nobody's singing it anyway) that certainly goes for a bit of Floydish darkness, but is much more lively than your average Floyd epic, and totally wins me over with the ingenious "pseudo-harp" bit in the middle. 'The Midnight Flight' is overblown and derivative (hey, what Eloy song isn't?), but as far as the melody goes, it's a well-structured pop-rocker with nice use of strings, keyboards, guitar and vocal hooks, and nothing but Bornemann's accent to spoil the big picture.

Finally, for once they really get the final track right - for once the final closing epic really looks like an epic ('Gliding Into Light And Knowledge'), with practically no vocals and no cheap stupid sonic gimmicks. One simple, but memorable bassline upon which they hang layers of organs, Moogs, guitars, and an occasional cowbell or something like that. Of course, some of the song's narrative eagerly looks up to 'Nous Sommes Du Soleil' (how well do you know your Tales From Topographic Oceans, brother?) for comfort, but in the light of bigger and better things, this minor attempt to profit through the achievements of others can be overlooked. It's a fine effort in its own rights.

Yet overall, Dawn is simply the quintessential "prog album not of its own making". It relates to the classic era of prog much like all those delicious second-hand Nuggets bands relate to their notorious prototypes: a respectable imitation that can be enjoyed once you're through with the originals. I certainly prefer my prog less laughable - but there have been precedents (most of ELP's albums, for instance) of seriousness on the brink of silliness that were nevertheless musically excellent. Dawn isn't excellent, but it's involving, and getting involved in music is, after all, the best thing that music can do to one.



Year Of Release: 1977
Overall rating =

Helpful for those who don't read Plato, but they should have included a comic book along. The album sleeve isn't much help.


Track listing: 1) Poseidon's Creation; 2) Incarnation Of The Logos; 3) Decay Of The Logos; 4) Atlantis' Agony At June 5th, 8498, 13 P.M.

This record, together with Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans and maybe a couple Rush albums, can easily hold the title of 'Most Pretentious Album Ever Recorded'. Of course, Eloy can offer an excuse by saying they're not truly creating here, but rather interpreting old mythologic conceptions. Not that it would be a good excuse - there's really less than one half-step from making rock operas out of Greek mythology to writing quadruple prog-metal oratorios dedicated to The Lord Of The Rings; such things are usually reserved for second-hand wagon-jumpers bereft of true creativity. (Hey, wait a minute, what band do I happen to be reviewing at the moment?)

That said, I find myself kinda puzzled, because once again, I don't feel any hate at all towards the album. Yes, everything about it presupposes it to be gruesomely inadequate, and it certainly is. The concept, as you already have understood, is to musically retell the history of Atlantis - its creation, its hypothetical existence, its degradation, decline and downfall. Okay, it wouldn't be too bad if it were something like a Rick Wakeman-style concept, fully instrumental so that the listener would have to guess what's going on. Alas, lyrics are present, and they are at best dull ('Poseidon's Creation', a rather dry informative account of the creation), and at worst look like a free-form retelling of Friedrich Engels' theory of the origin of Man ('...and by these fights they attain the grip on the weaker ones who become suppressed...'), seasoned with truly magnificent phrases like 'Intrinsic values awake!' or 'Overbearing secular creature, my worshipped king!'.

On the musical side, Ocean is often quoted in the same sentence as Dawn, simply because the two albums were released one after the other, featured the same lineup, and both managed to be relatively successful in the commercial and critical sense. But they are really quite different. Dawn was an album of short, loosely connected moments, with just a couple 'biggies' constituting the album's extra meat. Ocean, on the other hand, returns us to full-blown symph-prog, with just four lengthy tracks and the idea of multiple short movements rejected in favour of long build-ups and long endings a la Yes. This naturally leads to a scarcity of melodic ideas - and with a band like Eloy, this ain't a particularly good omen.

And yet, somehow, once again they manage to survive a few inches above unforgivable mediocrity, the way I see it. Thing is, I kinda like the general direction of this record. Laugh if you must, but if anything, Eloy, and Bornemann in person, are doing a thing here that only Pink Floyd did before them in England. They are making a rough, but workable, hybrid of "art rock" (in this case understood as "pop music with numerous elements of folk and classical") and "ambient", and must be given praise for that. This music - stately, majestic themes depicting all kinds of volcanic, oceanic, and aquamarinic processes - is seemingly 'powerful' and aggressive, and yet it doesn't have any true dynamics whatsoever, since both the instrumental and vocal passages are all monotonous and static. They just go on and on and on; sometimes they bore you, sometimes they lull you to sleep, but normally, they just create a feeling similar to the one you experience while meditating to some kind of trance-inducing ambient composition. For further comparison, Hawkwind had a similar principle of making music, only they were marrying "ambient" to "hard rock", so, naturally, they sounded nothing like Eloy.

Like, for instance, a particular guitar riff - not anything important, just a simple guitar riff - might be repeated over and over for ages, underpinned by an equally repetitive throbbing bass line and a broad synthesizer pattern in the background. Then Bornemann can throw in a couple calm solos, or he might chant the history of Atlantis in his mantraic, monotonous, German-accented way. The album is divided into four parts, but it doesn't really matter - they might all start out in different ways, but in the end they're all reduced to exactly the same atmospheric drone. Repeated and intent listenings bring out the dissimilarities in the tracks, of course ('Decay Of The Logos' is, presumably, a bit more violent and apocalyptic than the first two parts, for instance), but I seriously doubt that Ocean is an album destined for intent listening. You might just as well intently listen to the hum of your PC. It will be different, too.

Picking a favourite track is nigh near impossible when you're dealing with an album like this, but I'll just flip a coin... and yep, probably go along with 'Poseidon's Creation' in the end. Mainly because it has a very seducing coda; those last two minutes, with Bornemann's guitars quietly echoing in the background, truly evoke pictures of oceanic majesty - although the ocean in question doesn't look like a "real" ocean in my mind. More like some kind of a freakishly pink-and-dark-green faraway alien ocean. Something out of Solaris or even further than that. Greatly influenced by Floyd's 'Echoes', of course, but hey, everything will be influenced by 'Echoes' if you try to marry the static beginning with the dynamic one.

On the other hand, 'Atlantis Agony' is a bit of a disappointment: you could at least expect such a global catastrophe as the downfall of Atlantis to have a truly bombastic musical reflection... no dice. I never even noticed no catastrophe. Heck, if this is called 'agony', I can only wish the real Apocalypse would be so peaceful, gradual, and unnoticeable when it finally arrives. 'Liquid fire'? 'Flash of death'? Now there's a people that could really keep its cool in the face of destruction. On the other hand, if you're simply not paying any attention to the story's progression (and why should you?), 'Agony' won't be all that different from everything else. Maybe just a bit more dull.

So, of course, it's the easiest thing on Earth to throw the record away as a piece of overindulgent crap, but I wouldn't want to do that. If Eloy's early period was way too much based on ripping off Jethro Tull, then their second period is quite idiosyncratic - frankly speaking, I haven't heard any UK progressive rock band do something in this style. And I, for one, would really prefer to have this kind of 'progressive ambience' which at least has a definite aim and sense to it, to open crap like Kansas who don't have enough power or talent to be a true 'prog ROCK band' (with emphasis on ROCK), but try to rock out all the same. Ocean isn't really a rock album; it's a 'power-ambient' album, and requires the kind of tolerance you must have while listening to ambient stuff.

That doesn't mean it's a friggin' masterpiece, of course! Ambient or not, Bornemann still had no right to fill up forty minutes of this record with music that all sounds exactly the same. (Meaning that he has a right, of course, but I also have a right to say that he has no right to have a right, because each and every one of us has a right to say whatever we like. Isn't this freedom of speech a bitch? The freer you are, the less possible it becomes to understand what you're actually saying). As a result, I am almost unable to talk about the actual music - and true enough, I think I've only dedicated a couple of lines at most to musical matters here. Well, isn't it so much more fun to poke it (fun) at the lyrics? Yep. 'Extensive feverish stuff', these lyrics.



Year Of Release: 1978
Overall rating =

Uh... nice acoustics, I guess.

Best song: everything is, like, good enough.

Track listing: 1) Poseidon's Creation; 2) Incarnation Of The Logos; 3) The Sun-Song; 4) The Dance In Doubt & Fear; 5) Mutiny; 6) Gliding Into Light & Knowledge/Inside; 7) Atlantis' Agony At June 5th - 8498, 13 p.m.

Reviewing an Eloy live album is a pain like nothing else - but just because I have to do this (or else all these other much more "reviewable" records that have accumulated in my playlist will organize a Bonus Army March against my unfortunate ass), I do humbly submit myself to this medieval torture. Yes, lo and behold, these guys ARE playing live!

However, before I say anything else, there's really nothing preventing me from writing a really really long introduction about the importance of the live album in progressive rock. I have probably already said these things in a trillion other reviews, but who cares, I'm granting this page complete autonomy, and, after all, even most of the world's constitutions are just rewrites of one another. Basically, there are two types of prog-rock bands when it comes to playing live: the "Symphonic" type and the "Rocking" type. They sometimes overlap a little bit, but not too often. The "symphonic" type is the type that considers its studio work the pinnacle of perfection and is absolutely anal about reproducing it note for note onstage, although a few extra parts may at times be improvised. The "rocking" type is the type that somehow tries to remember that its roots lie not only in medieval folk and/or J. S. Bach but in kickass rock'n'roll as well, and thus go for a looser, more aggressive approach that often deviates from the "subtler" tones and patterns of the studio. Classic examples of the "symphonic" type are Yes and Genesis; classic example of the "rocking" type is Jethro Tull.

Pink Floyd, though not strictly "prog", also fall into the first type better than anybody else - their shows have more or less become the epitome of 'total reproduction'. And naturally, since Eloy, at this point in their career, learn more from Pink than from anybody else, they follow the same principle. Now I do confess that I have not conducted any serious scientific experiments on the exact amount of distinctions between studio Eloy and live Eloy, but my basic instincts insist on telling me any such work would have been gruesomely superfluous. There are no lengthy unpredictable jam sessions. No grandiose song extensions (most of them were already quite long in the studio). NOT EVEN A FRIGGIN' DRUM SOLO. At one point, I almost longed for a drum solo, despite normally hating them unless we're talking 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' or that cool bit at the end of Abbey Road. But nope.

The sound is good - yep, no qualms about that. The sci-fi atmosphere is recreated meticulously and quite successfully; they drag out all their synths and what-not and Bornemann's guitar playing is quite faithful to his artistic vision, whatever that might mean. The rest of the players are quite devoted as well - the bass flies, the drums scatter, the keyboards soar. And I'm pretty sure the audience had itself a real good time. But what's the goddamn point? Most of the time you couldn't even understand that this is a live recording (and actually, I don't have any proof that it's live - for all I know, they could have taken alternate studio versions and covered them with some applause. Heck, they could have taken original studio versions. You never can tell with bands like these). Sometimes such albums can be at least distinguished by having the band's frontman adopting a different tone and establishing some "extra personality", I dunno, through making mistakes, at least. But remember who we got here - a German guy with a so-so English pronunciation! Not only that, but a German guy with a so-so English pronunciation whose every line is supposed to have the potential of a mantra: change one sound of it and sacrality goes down the shitter. Thus, all hope be gone.

Not that I'm complaining about the actual material. Since all of it was recorded on the Ocean tour, it is natural that almost all of that album (except for 'Decay Of The Logos') is reproduced, with most of the rest taken from Dawn, although Bornemann does go into the more distant past twice - with equally faithful renditions of 'Mutiny' and 'Inside'. (Granted, I seem to recall 'Inside' being slightly feebler in its studio incarnation; presumably time was a big helper here, as Bornemann could have gotten tired from playing the same song for five years and wanted to breathe some new life into it). And, apart from the VERY loud cosmogonic/eschatological announcements at the beginning/end of the show, there's little on here that makes me cringe. That's a plus, because there's plenty of true, straightforward garbage in Eloy's catalog, and fortunately, they chose all the best parts.

I am a little puzzled at how the bits and pieces from Power & The Passion and Dawn actually fit in with the subject of Ocean; aren't these supposed to be three different 'rock operas' that really have nothing to do with each other? There's always a possibility, of course, that they played all the three in sequence (no comment!), but then they did mix the tracks up so that these two stories look like bizarre interludes in between the various stages of the rise and fall of Atlantis. Which, by the way, reminds me that even live, on stage, said Fall of Atlantis isn't at all impressive, and twice not impressive when used as the culmination of the entire show.

I am not sure if the album is still in print; probably should be, seeing as how it's Eloy's "main" live album, their Yessongs and Welcome Back My Friends rolled in one. However, I am also not sure if it could be recommended as a good introduction to the band, as I sometimes do with live albums. All of its tracks run well over seven minutes, and some are twice longer than that; at their very best (Dawn), Eloy weren't quite that "epic", and they have their brief moments of short dynamic glory which Live does not reflect at all. However, it certainly captures their late Seventies' image well enough, and above all, it is inspired - you can see these guys are really diggin' their stuff, still propelled forward by an honest love for sci-fi rather than a simple realisation of the fact that they have nothing better to do with their life in the first place. Certainly no second-hand-prog lover should bypass this record.



Year Of Release: 1979

This one's not too good. You know, sometimes the critical fate of an album really depends on the way it begins - kick it off with an undeniable monster hook and the pleased critic will be able to forgive a lot of crap that comes next. But kick it off with something deeply offensive, and no amount of genius will be able to salvage the album's reputation in the long run. And Silent Cries couldn't have had a more offensive beginning for me. The pompously entitled 'Astral Entrance' is, pure and simple, a complete "atmospheric rip-off" of the intro section to Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'. That is, a lush, heavenly synthesizer background and soft cathartic guitar wailings a la Dave Gilmour in the foreground. Nowhere near as perfectly calculated and effective, either. What was Mr Bornemann and company thinking? I mentioned in the introduction that they were at least better than Kansas, but as far as I can remember, out of all "second-hand prog bands" only Kansas made a similar offense by recording 'Song For America', a tepid inferior rip-off of Genesis 'Firth Of Fifth'. Not a good sign!

Fortunately, the insulting intro soon goes away, replaced by arguably the best song on the album, 'Master Of Sensation'. As usual, all of the lyrics on the album should be chewn up, spat out and buried inside a container of radioactive waste. Typical example: 'We contain a light - it's a twinkling fire/We're in possession of the golden key/Enormous ignorance surrounds the liar/But our spirit could really tell us prodigy' ('Pilot To Paradise'). This time, there's even no particular concept, just a bunch of pseudo-mystical hogwash, delivered with the utmost seriousness and faith. But as you might have already seen, Eloy are a perverse band: what with all the pretentiousness and childish stupidity of their general approach, they aren't musically untalented. 'Master Of Sensation', for instance, has a couple excellent vocal hooks, and with its steady, decisive tempo, energetic playing and "astral" production, reminds me very much of a slightly milder version of Hawkwind. Just a simple rhythm track pounding along and various guitar and synth solos appearing 'on our way'. The same goes for 'Pilot To Paradise' and the slightly slower, even bluesier 'Mighty Echoes': interesting vocal melodies and extremely professional, inventive approach to arranging and instrumentation.

The actual solos never go on for too long, and Bornemann always pays attention that the overall mood be shifting from time to time, just a little, mayhaps, but enough not to get the listener bored that much. Again, this is mainly just mood music, of course, mainly static mood music with just a few dynamic twists along the way, but it's music that does manage to get me in the mood. Also, to Frank's honour, I should mention that he's managed to almost entirely get rid of the naggin', ridiculous German accent - if anything can bother us here, it's the very sound of his voice, because I can see how that murky nasal twang can get on one's nerves. But if you happen to tolerate Jon Anderson and Geddy Lee, your organism is solid enough to bear all that.

Speaking of problems with the record, they are, well, they're the same old problems. The songs go on for far too long. 'Apocalypse' runs for friggin' fifteen minutes, and it doesn't even justify its title, because it's a very tranquil, sludgy, mid-tempo shuffle that never even once becomes particularly climactic. It's a great showcase for Bornemann's guitar, for sure: he's a master technician, and without resorting to too much dentistry or special effects, he's certainly able to play some extremely pretty solos (some of them accompanied by female singing in the background - according to your tastes, you'll find it either beautiful or thoroughly inadequate), but every guitarist should have limits, and I set the maximum limit for Bornemann's solo at, say, three minutes. But ten? That's overkill.

Mind you, though, that as far as the German market goes, this album was an even bigger success than Ocean and is still revered as, if not Eloy's masterpiece, at least one of the very best records they ever put out. It is certainly very much in their own style, but I still don't see where it actually improves over the already limited formula of Ocean. An abbreviated version of 'Master Of Sensation' and maybe 'Pilot To Paradise' are certainly deserving of being put on an Eloy compilation; but everything else is just trudging on the spot or stealing from their betters. To Bornemann's honour, though, he wasn't so hot on rewriting the same record for fiteen times, and the Eighties were heralded with some new ideas and new changes in style.


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