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Protos: The Noble Pauper's Grave

It was something of a coincidence to get this album to review as my copy of the latest Classic Rock Society UK ( magazine dropped through the letterbox the same day with a compilation CD included of Rory Ridley-Duff's works. Protos is Rory's work with guitarist Stephen Anscombe and this is their third release combining previously unpublished and published compositions into new arrangements for a concept album.

A charming proto-prog styled organ sequence heralds the bluesy opening number, "Born a bit Blue". The album is broken into instrumental pieces interspersed with Moody Blues-like narrative about a rich nobleman who finds love among the poor and organises them into a movement (a bit like Osama bin Laden I guess but without the ruthlessness). The style is dominated by luscious keyboard and guitar arrangements in a romantic vein with the third composition, "The Rally", epitomising the style. This ten minute piece has a courtly baroque essence and good development with slow passages and rhythmic up tempo marches giving the back line something to do.

It is followed by the eloquent and at times rather chirpy "Final Dawn", with sax and flute joining in. A childlike female vocalist relates the next part of the tale before one of the finest parts of the album "Outcry", a sophisticated melancholic piece featuring rolling thunder and distant church bells. It builds steadily to the point where it breaks out like sunshine through the clouds in an emotional uplifting celebration. The arrangement then cuts back to delicate strings and light piano before building a second climax through organ and brass effects. A sad renaissance-era refrain closes this stunning piece with a subtle harpsichord score. Woodwind synths hold one of the two melody lines in "Aftermath", a faster paced number. The closing work, "Departure" has a few Celtic tinges among the harp and guitar arrangement.

Swedish band Grandstand would be a good comparison or some of Rick Wakeman's historical or fantasy albums and there are touches of the Enid at times. The only other album by Protos (although Rory has released other material under his own name and with others) was 25 years ago and is viewed by many as a minor classic. I see no reason why this album should not be held in similarly high esteem. If you are turned off by narrative tales then you can buy the album's 7 instrumentals from CD Baby download.

Track Listing (odd numbers are the music, even the narrative)
1. Born a bit blue
2. Pause for thought
3. Travels
4. Gathering Dreams
5. The rally
6. Long dark night
7. The final dawn
8. The noble pauper
9. Outcry
10. Turmoil
11. Aftermath
12. Last report
13. Departures

Added: December 28th 2007
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Protos Website
Hits: 3755
Language: english

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