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Czar

Czar

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Album Review

In kind of the same way some Nektar tracks can't fail to bring a smile to your face in their close-but-no-cigar similarity to Pink Floyd, Czar's sole and obscure album sometimes sounds like an earnest if inferior emulation of King Crimson's first album. Nowhere is that more apparent than the opening track, "Tread Softly on My Dreams," which comes off a bit like King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "In the Court of the Crimson King" with perhaps a dash of "Epitaph" thrown into a blender. It may be derivative (and Czar guitarist Mick Ware does acknowledge King Crimson having had a huge impact on the band in the liner notes to the 2007 expanded-CD edition), but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable for those with a yen for early keyboard-heavy British prog rock. Certainly few other tracks by anyone came as close to re-creating King Crimson's ominous Mellotron sound as "Tread Softly on My Dreams." And while the King Crimson influence (especially via that Mellotron, though also with foreboding crunching guitar riffs) is heard on the rest of the album as well, it's not as blatant on the other tracks. Czar has a greater tendency toward songs with a West Coast psychedelic influence, and a greater willingness to use vocal harmonies and organ that echo Keith Emerson as well as King Crimson. It is, however, those passages that stress the creepiest aspects of Bob Hodges' accomplished keyboards (whether Mellotron or other instruments) that are most impressive, if not among the more original such things to be heard in British prog rock. A nifty curiosity on its own terms, its length is doubled by the expanded edition, which adds historical liner notes and eight bonus tracks. One, the heavily classical-influenced (but rocking) outtake, "Ritual Fire Dance," would and should have fit in fine on the LP; the non-LP 45, "Oh Lord I'm Getting Heavy"/"Why Don't We Be a Rock and Roll Band?," in contrast, is far more straight-ahead rock than the material on the album, and far less distinguished. The five final tracks, all previously unreleased 1971 demos, could almost be the work of a different band, the keyboard prog rock menace having been jettisoned in favor of so-so period good-time rock with a slight rootsy/country influence (and, on "I Laid It on the Line," an apparent attempt to follow in the steps of T. Rex).

Czar, Czar
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