Melange - Viento Bravo

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-11-17
Melange - Viento Bravo
Melange - Viento Bravo

Who would have thought Clive, Iowa (of all places) would be a motherload for used progressive rock music? For those who care, imagine Minimum Vital’s Pavanes and The New Trolls’ Concerto Grosso The Seven Sessions in the $2.00 bin? Sanguine Hum’s Now We Have Light and Diving Bell for $3.00 each? Three albums by Yleclipse for the same price? Agusa’s Hogtid…La Maschera Di Cera’s The Gates of Tomorrow…Il Tempio delle Clessidre’s alie Natura... Logos’  L’Enigma Delia Vita…and about twenty five other gems, all for a couple of bucks!

I know what you are thinking: This is too good to be true! All of this was smack dab in the middle of Iowa’s corn belt and just there for such easy picking? You bet. It’s unbelievable. It’s like one of those sexy Penthouse letters: Let me tell you about the beautiful woman next door who really likes King Crimson, early Genesis, and Gentle Giant…

And all of this (which is true!) is a prelude to my current affection for Melange’s Viento Bravo (Brave Wind), an excellent Spanish progressive rock album which was recorded all analog in the studio live, hence the organic sound. It all begins with “Rio Revuelto,” and a guitar bit that sounds like a Jade Warrior intro from their Vertigo days. Then the keyboards and bass pulse forward into a Yes Album/Fragile groove. The Spanish vocals are subdued. The guitar enters the mix and, truly, the music recalls the great playing of Wishbone Ash, in their Argus days when they blended rock, folk, and jazz into a seamless sound. Somehow the song morphs into Hatfield and the North-style Canterbury prog. This is, indeed, well played and carefully arranged music.

“Cotard” is an excavation of everything wonderful about that prog from the 70’s. The drama is subtle. This isn’t ELP or (the great) Atomic Rooster. If anything, Melange’s music reminds me of the softer prog sound of, say, Premiata Forneria Marconi (aka PFM) with their Storia di un Minuto album (more about whom later).

 “Oxi” ups the folk influence. This one almost quotes that Wishbone passage between “Warrior” and “Throw Down the Sword.” But there is a very Spanish feel to the melody. And “Ruinas” recalls the beautiful guitar work of Andy Powell and Ted Turner’s “Leaf and Stream” and “Sometime World.” Oh, and the vocal harmonies are sublime. Sorry about all the Wishbone references, but the guitar work on this album is consistently melodic, and this tune, in particular, echoes the beauty of Argus, which (true confessions time) is one of my all-time favorite records.

Oh—and that Clive, Iowa musical goldmine was hand on the Bible truth, but that beautiful woman next door who really liked King Crimson, early Genesis, and Gentle Giant…well, not so much and that was the stuff of youthful fantasies.

The thing is, you see, this band progresses in the true sense of that ethos from the 70’s. This is not a neo-prog band that plays to a formula and somehow always finds a singer who sounds like Peter Gabriel or Jon Anderson (which I sort of like). It has nothing to do with the metal/prog hybrid bands with their Thor’s hammer guitar and cookie monster vocals (which I don’t like). The music is quite complex, but it never ventures into fusion. And it’s not the Hammond organ Uriah Heep sound (which I love). PFM was mentioned before, and perhaps, Camel may also be a reference point.

And there is nothing post-rock about this music.

Now, it may be my imagination, but the song “Haftraum 25” sure does sound like an abridged homage to Caravan’s “Nine Feet Underground,” replete with Dave Sinclair’s organ sound. Trust me. I love that record. There’s nothing wrong with that. This is great stuff.  But then the keyboards venture off into burbling sonic space in the song “Armas Preparadas” (Prepared Arms) and give Hawkwind, Eloy, or the great French band Pulsar, a run for their money.

Ah, but all love stories end sadly. Just ask Romeo and Juliet. My infatuation with the Clive, Iowa store did not last for better or for worse. Initially, I thought they were happy with my progressive rock buyer’s zealous enthusiasm. You know, one music lover to another. But then I sensed they were just really thrilled with the prospect of getting rid of all this prog stuff, which they had marked down for the quick (and no returns possible) sale. As they searched their files to find all the discs (thirty-five in total!), nobody could locate a remastered PFM disc (see above). I suggested in all sincerity that the cd may have been stolen. The guy behind the counter simply said, “I don’t think so.” Then the he laughed.

All right. We’re a weird group, we prog rockers. We should all go trick or treating on Halloween night. Prog music and autumnal bonfires share a common soul. And the final song “Splendor Solis” punctuates this flame. There is a bit more of that Jade Warrior mystic, a huge bass line pulse, and percussion that reveals the Spanish heart of this music. It’s been there all along, but this is open heart love.

This one is an easy call: If you dream of a beautiful neighbor who would be both captivated and fascinated by a thorough knowledge of classic Spanish prog bands like Fusioon, Bloque, Atila, Crack, or Granada, then this is a tasty cup of coffee. Yeah, we prog people are a strange bunch, but we are a happy bunch, and to quote Henry V, we are a band of brothers who every once in a while, even after all these years, stumble into a weird goldmine of discounted discs that are, for some odd reason, just ripe for the picking.

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