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Strangers On A Train: The Key Part I: The Prophecy

The pedigree of the trio who made up Strangers On A Train - Shadowland pair Clive Nolan (Pendragon, Arena, etc, etc) and Karl Groom (Threshold), alongside Landmarq front women Tracy Hitchings, should you would think, make The Key Part I: The Prophecy a neo-proggers delight. Although to be fair, when have Nolan or Groom ever played to the crowd and simply done the expected?

Released back in 1990 this debut outing from Strangers... offers up something completely different from what might have been expected and in truth the three players involved should be commended for that. However there's no getting away from the thought that if you've drooled over Arena, Pendragon, Threshsold, or Landmarq, then there's a good chance that Strangers On A Train will be a struggle for you. Neatly packaged and re-released by those Polish masters of Prog, Metal Mind, the passing of a couple of decades still leaves this album (and its sister release The Key Part II: The Labyrinth) sounding more like a pair of well known musicians trying desperately to do something unexpected, rather than playing to their strengths. Groom is credited with guitar and bass, but in effect around 75% of this album feels more like Nolan working completely solo. No drums (real or synthesized) and long voiceless sections give the keyboards the room to roam, but oddly enough they don't, with each and every one of the fourteen tracks that make up almost an hour's worth of CD utilising a sharp (too sharp at volume) piano sound which harshly attempts to bring all of the light, shade, colour and darkness to life. There are quite a few inklings of how it could and should work, with the instrumental "Crossing The Wasteland" using the piano more as percussion, allowing the synths to reveal the variance sadly lacking elsewhere, or "Healing The Rift", where a church organ battles with Hitchings' powerful vocal to offer up a less film-score feel. But then that's the main problem throughout this album, with nearly all of the tracks desperately crying out for some sort of visual image to make them feel less lifeless and one dimensional.

Hitchings is an extremely fine singer, but few vocalists wouldn't struggle to really convince in such permanently stark and bare surroundings, leaving her Carol Decker (with more raw talent) like attack exposed and, like the music it fronts, singular in execution.

If you adore keyboard/piano albums where the mood is more important than the music itself, or you have endless time to lose yourself in seldom varying sounds - preferably through headphones - then you may find some comfort here. However followers of Nolan, Groom or Hitchings' other works would do well to sample thoroughly before you invest - and remember, if your initial impression is favourable, what you first hear is going to have to keep you happy for over an hour. Something The Key Part I - The Prophecy has never come close to achieving once for me.

Track Listing
1. Arrival
2. Sacrifice
3. New World
4. Silent Compassion
5. Crossing The Wasteland
6. Perchance To Dream
7. Lightshow
8. Occam's Tears
9. Losing A Hold On Life
10. From The Outside In
11. Duel
12. From The Inside Out
13. Healing The Rift
14. The Key

Added: February 9th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Metal Mind Productions
Hits: 1844
Language: english

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