Shroom Productions has once again found a unique progressive rock gem from the lost vaults of history, this time being the band Arabesque from Pennsylvania. Comprised of recordings dating from 1973 to 1979, Tales of Power is chock full of epic fantasy lyrics, and rich with the influences of such classic bands as Genesis, Yes, Caravan, Camel, National Health, Nektar, and Gentle Giant.
Most of the CD's seven tunes exceed 10 minutes, and allow for ample room for the band to venture into extended musical adventures. The opening track, "An Epic: Krall Mountain", is a sword and sorcery delight, featuring lyrics of serpents and castles, with melodic vocals and weaving organ, synths, and electric guitars. The instrumental "Cobbler's Knob" is a ripping jazz-fusion piece, very similar to what National Health was doing at the time. Featuring distorted, angular guitar leads, haunting organ, and manic percussion, this tune shows the true virtuoso musicianship within the band. "We (The Farmer Song)" is a more vocal based piece, with catchy lyrics centering on the ways of the common farmer, and how people essentially forge their own destiny's and guide their successes and failures. Keyboard lovers will get a kick out of the lengthy synth solo from Budd Kelly on this song, who also happens to be the lead singer for the band. Another instrumental, "The Forgotten Pond", is the CD's shortest track at just under 5 minutes, but happens to be a melodic beauty, with weaving guitar and keyboard lines amidst an atmospheric background that recalls early Genesis.
The last three songs end the CD in epic fashion. "As the Novelty Wears" has a chugging rhythm and complex Yes meets Gentle Giant keyboard/guitar lines, with lyrics dealing with inner turmoil and confusion. This is a good time to mention the acrobatic guitar work of August Smarra, whose unique style and tone add a lot to this and every song on the CD, yet he never tries to overshadow the rest of the band. His brief but tasty lead work adds just the right amount of edge and tension to the aforementioned song. The band goes for a more symphonic tone on "Arcanum of Atlantis", and this one features the vocals of Smarra, and furious rhythmic interplay from drummer Jim Renda, bassist Tom Ketterer, and percussionist/vibe player R.J. Ketterer. This is a great tune musically, but Smarra's vocals are pretty weak and should have been nixed in favor of Kelly, who has a fine voice. The closing epic is the 12-minute "Except for Dreaming", an ominous piece with doomy overtones and very unlike the rest of the CD. Much like early Genesis or King Crimson, the band here creates extreme drama and tension by slowing things down a bit and utilizing haunting organ and emotional guitar leads. The tortured vocals of Kelly recall a young Greg Lake, and perhaps if they would have thrown a little Mellotron in this song could have been a leftover from In the Court of the Crimson King. Check out the extended guitar solo from Smarra, who pulls out all the stops in true Steve Howe fashion.
The prog world is a better place with the release of this CD. As with the Hands and Carnegie CD's, Shroom has once again unearthed a lost treasure.