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Maestoso: Caterwauling

After an odd but brief intro, Caterwauling opens with angular, Crimson-esque passage that will lead you to expect very progressive things to come. But about three minutes into "Soldier Of Fortune", the standout 11-minute epic, those old Barclay James Harvest tones settle on you like your favorite old blanket. Slow melodic guitar over Mellotrons, mostly instrumental, pleasing and laid back. The vocals are introduced further into the song - relaxed, clear, perfectly controlled, with light backing vocals in select areas.

These are simple tunes with big melodic hooks and lyrics that actually mean something rather than your garden variety cop-out esoterics prog lyrics, and it's a welcome change to hear modern prog conveying a message. The "Soldier Of Fortune" epic tells the sad story of a soldier, a theme Woolly Wolstenholme ex-Barclay James Harvest keyboard wiz - has visited in the past.. It has a sort of singer-songwriter sincerity and a lyrical clarity reminiscent of the Strawbs, the Moody Blues, or in places, Caravan; yet more than half of the song is instrumental. Eight minutes in, a wailing guitar heralds an instrumental bridge that is straight out of the BJH style-book, tailing off in that band's well-loved classically-oriented style. It ends with another section of out-of-character chaotic Crimson-esque dissonance that makes you realize that - much as you'd love to - you just can't pigeon-hole Męstoso's music.

The rest of the record is song-oriented, although several tracks lead directly into one another adding to the album's cohesion. Fourteen tracks across 59 minutes, all band members contribute compositions, and most songs are straightforward and pleasant. Several even have an approachable radio-friendliness that is unusual for modern progressive music. The depth of these artists is clearly evident. Each track is well-crafted, nicely structured, faultlessly performed, and all-round, Caterwauling is a very professional body of work. "Shoes" features an elegant viola line from guest artist Geoffrey Richardson, best known for his work with Caravan. If you've visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC, you might find a certain poignancy in that song's lyrics. The album ends with a corny joke / skit piece that moves into a broadway-like song that is mercifully short and could have been left off the CD.

Caterwauling has a lot in common with 2004's Grim, far less in common with 2003's One Drop in a Dry World. This is symphonic prog with a folksy bent. It won't knock your socks off and it isn't the most aggressively progressive piece you'll hear this year. But if you ever wondered what Barclay James Harvest, the Moody Blues, or Strawbs et al would sound like if they were still actively releasing new music in the modern era - Caterwauling will answer that question.



Track Listing:
1. Caterwauling
2. Soldier Of Fortune
3. The Road To Nowhere
4. Matilda Yarrow
5. The Collector
6. Closure
7. Always
8. I Don't Like You
9. Tonight Could Be The Night
11.Strange Worlds
13.Blossom Hill

Added: October 6th 2008
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: Woolly's Section Of The BJH Site
Hits: 2003
Language: english

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Maestoso: Caterwauling
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-10-06 07:18:20
My Score:

Maestoso is the band of former Barclay James Harvest keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme. Following his departure from that band and the release of the album Maestoso under his own name (reviewed here in its remastered form at: xxxx), Woolly took a twenty-year sabaticcal from the music industry before reforming his band under the name Maestoso in 2004. caterwauling is their third studio album, following One Drop in a Dry World (2004) and Grim (2005).

caterwauling is the music of a band at the peak of its form. Confident, rich in melody, at times adventurous and at others just plain beautiful, it is music that many fans of 1970s period Barclay James Harvest and other similar bands (in particular of Procol Harum, who this album reminds me of on at least a couple of occasions) will thoroughly enjoy.

The album is a bit of a sandwich of songs between the two bizarre "book-ends" that the first and last tracks form. "caterwauling", the opener, is as the name might imply the band shouting/singing/saying the word in a variety of cat-like ways - mercifully it is short! "pills", which is off-set in the album's track listing perhaps as an indication of its whackiness, is a cross between a Month Python sketch and an Andrew Lloyd-Weber musical: daft as it is, it's musical moments are gorgeous!

Of the songs the major opus is the combined "soldier of fortune" and "the road to nowhere" - whilst distinct songs, these are clearly meant to be heard as one seamless piece of music. Combined they from one of the strongest, musical and lyrical, condemnations of warmongering from the standpoint of the common soldier that I've ever heard. The music veers from dynamic, at times excruciatingly loud, sections of battle-like playing from the whole band, to wistful, musically ironic, ditties in the style of popular folklore war-songs, chosen expertly to accompany the similarly ironic lyrics. It's a powerful statement, musically and lyrically, as strong a 15-minute section of music as you're likely to come accross.

After this tour-de-force, another musical coup: a melodic song, so sweet that it's almost blissful, that acts as the perfect emotional palliative to the force of the preceding two-track combination..Subsequently, the album's dynamic balance is well maintained with beefier numbers such as "the collector" and "tonight could be the night" balanced with quieter, symphonically influenced numbers such as "always" and "shoes". There is one other instance of Woolly's zany English sense of humour: "strange worlds" humourously boasts lyrics about planets with different physical laws to ours amidst some sumptuous keyboards, but the music is better integrated into the album than the "book-end" tracks.

Maestoso's brand of music is difficult to pigeon-hole: for those of you familiar with the Harvest label era Barclay James Harvest then that is as good a link as any; for the others, then it's a mix of keyboards (including mellotron) driven rock with influences from English folk and European classical music - a kind of pastoral symphonic progressive rock if you like! In one sense, it is music that would sit very comfortably in the early 70s period: however, it is also music that will never sound dated because of its rich melodic content. Also, it is music that deserves a wider audience than it has ever managed to attain through the whims of record companies and pop-friendly radio stations. Why don't you give it a chance?

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