Review By Olav Bjornson Date 21 / October / 2016
Prolusion. The UK band RED BAZAR was formed back in 2007 by Paul Comerie, Andy Wilson and Mick Wilson. The outfit released two studio albums and one EP as an instrumental trio, but by 2013 the more frequent use of keyboards in their material led to the addition of keyboardist Gary Marsh towards the end of that year, and then collaborative work with composer and vocalist Peter Jones eventually led to him becoming a part of the band as well. "Tales from the Bookcase" is the first album by Red Bazar as a five-man strong unit, and was released by the UK label White Knight Records in the spring of 2016.
Analysis. While I vaguely recall Red Bazar's 2013 EP as a well made and fairly interesting affair, at that point this wasn't a band that left a large impression on me. A good EP, but one among many good productions I have come across that lacked that extra little bit of something that made it stand-out in any major way among the few hundred albums that come my way during the course of a year. But the 2016 edition of the band is a different story. I kind of guess that neo-progressive rock is where I'll categorize this band, as that is probably the best indication of the kind of material that is at hand here. This isn't a typical example of that kind of music however, so those with a passionate feeling about this niche in the progressive rock universe better read on a bit. The main element that makes me place the band in such a context is the liberal use of atmospheric keyboard arrangements, with occasional flurries of more daring and challenging details brought in to the mix. In addition, calm, elegant passages, featuring floating keyboard textures and plucked wandering guitars in more of a typical neo progressive manner, are a recurring feature as well. Some of the best moments of the album are when the band explores these calmer and more delicate shores, although that has a lot more to do with the lead vocals than the instruments and arrangements as such. Elsewhere these musicians aren't strangers to venture out into darker, majestic realms either, as there are plenty of hard hitting, richly textured guitar riffs to enjoy on most compositions, sometimes used in more of a hard rock manner, even bordering metal at its most intense, but also as a tight element with more of a classic rock sheen to it, as well as in rich, majestic passages combining elegantly with keyboard textures and details. On occasion, both in some of the more delicate sections, but occasionally also in a few of the more hard hitting ones – the manner, in which the bass guitar is used in particular, reminds me ever so slightly of the veteran German progressive rock band Eloy, which, if anyone should have a doubt, is meant as praise. But the key element throughout here is the vocals of Peter Jones. He doesn't have an amazing, breathtaking voice as such, at least from what he shows here he won't ever be Freddie Mercury. He does have one of those Peter Gabriel-like vocals though, but slightly more melodic, a voice that adds melody with a slight edge to it, and able to convey emotions in an effective manner that at best really hits home in the heart and the soul of the listener. A good and strong vocalist, by the way; he is able to use the voice in a manner that fits the music just about perfectly at all times, rather than one that impresses solely with range and natural talent.
Conclusion. One might describe Red Bazar as of 2016 as heavy progressive rock or neo progressive rock, both of which would fit equally well, I guess, but some of the core recurring elements used throughout the album make me consider that the latter is the most appropriate. As long as you can stomach a neo progressive band that plays around with dark, hard guitar riffs at times, this is an album that is worth checking out though, and then especially due to the lead vocals by Peter Jones and how well they fit into the musical universe explored by Red Bazar at this point. While not a match made in heaven just yet, Red Bazar with its current line-up comes across as a band that has the potential to become a big fish in the relatively small progressive rock lake. "Tales from the Bookcase" is a very well made album that deserves recognition and commercial success.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: October 21, 2016
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