Norway - Full Moon 75 - 11/20/02
The Hills Are Alive
Excursions Into Unknown Territory
Romantic piano playing, voice in a posh English accent:
"Life's like that, isn't it? I mean, the other day I
was walking in the West End and suddenly I was set upon by hordes of fans and admirers who
wanted to touch my clothes. So I took sanctuary in a nearby cinema. Normally, of course, I
don't go in, but that day I saw something that really moved me. I'd like to share this
wonderful experience with you. It was The Sound of Music."
Now if I'd been colleague waiter Alice Kenner here at Luna Kafé, I'd probably stop the
review at this point. Maybe the best thing to do, too, just tickle the reader's curiosity. Instead
I go on with a tedious attempt to describe the wonderful sounds. I don't know why the above
particular track by the Bonzo Dog (Do Dah) Band (from Gorilla, Liberty 1967) tends to pop
up while thinking of The Hills Are Alive (THAA). It certainly has little to do with THAA's music.
Maybe it has something to do with the name of the band? By the way, after the monologue the
Bonzo gang let mayhem break loose with banging and out of tune screams and instruments (also
little to do with THAA's music).
THAA's excursions are not into that unknown territories, if you ask me. We're back in
a pre-punk Britain, the early and mid 70s, the era of progressive rock when synthesizers are
beginning to substitute Hammond organs and mellotrons. This is certainly THAA's own original
music. But in tiny glimpses the songs bring back memories of flutes of the Jethro Tull and Gong
kind, guitars of Steve Hackett from Genesis, electric jazz-rock piano of Colosseum II or
Hatfield And The North, synths and guitars off Pink Floyd's Wish You Had Hair etc. A few
guitar licks of "I'm The One I've Forgotten" make me remember Manfred Mann's Earth Band's version
of Manfred Mann's (the 60s pop group's) hit version of Bob Dylan's (the beat singer-songwriter's)
song "Mighty Quinn". Only minor glimpses, mind you!
THAA is a great little quartet with a superb guitarist up front. The songs show lots of
variation and gives space for individual instrumental skills. The contributions by guest artists
playing flute, violin, trumpet and female backing vocals etc. have made the album even better.
And best of all: the individual excursions don't disturb the entirety. Some drum parts sound a
bit grey and some vocal parts might have been improved in another take or two. But these are
minor objections. Excursions Into Unknown Territory would've made the headlines in 1973
and is probably a bigger surprise in 2002. I especially enjoy THAA's wilder sides. The favourite
"You Changed My Mind" is one example with a section where the violin strings are beginning to
glow. The song also demonstrates THAA's softer sides. Pretty explosive ballad potential along
with "Dog Nigh". "The Enemy Within" is another goodie, a melodic instrumental for guitar fans
We're most certainly in for more! Check out The
Hills Are Alive to get in touch.
Copyright © 2002 JP