Abel Ganz – Abel Ganz

2014 (Abel Records)

1: Delusions Of Grandeur (2:12)
2: – Sunrise (3:41)
3: – Evening (4:42)
4: – Close Your Eyes (5:01)
5: – The Dream (6:13)
6: – Dawn (3:49)
7: Spring (2:25)
8: Recuerdos (4:21)
9: Heartland (5:08)
10: End Of Rain (5:34)
11: Thank You (6:58)
12: A Portion Of Noodles (3:23)
13: Unconditional (14:05)
14: The Drowning (5:25)

Progband Abel Ganz, founded in 1980, is named after the French filmmaker Abel Gance (1889-1981) with a wink to the spelling of his name. Furthermore, there are no interfaces or other similarities, except that both Abels can boast of an erratic career. In the case of the Scottish band we see many varieties in the line-up, a number of style changes from neoprog via AOR to crossover prog and there were even a few interruptions and comebacks.

On this album, the self-titled snow landscape from 2014, the band seems to have found its way. There is a lot of warmth radiating from the music, wonderful and that while the snow forms a patchwork on the cover. Mark my words, this is warm snow, in a metaphorical sense.

In addition to the quality of the compositions, this warmth also has a lot to do with their organic interpretations. For example, singer Stuart “Mick” MacFarlane with his pleasant voice is often accompanied by acoustic guitars and various flutes but also by instruments like double bass and accordion. The many vocals together are beautiful, the Big Big Train-like horns also.

Abel Ganz presents this piece of art in 14 tracks or almost 73 minutes. While listening to the oboe, the violin and the piano of openingtrack Delusions Of Grandeur there is no turning back, curiosity and awe pins you down for the rest of the album. The subsequent Obsolescence is split into five tracks, the first of which brings you into Genesis atmospheres with its acoustic guitar. The second is catchy folk, the third makes your mouth water because of a great synthesizer solo, the fourth contains a church organ with playing towards Rick Wakeman and the fifth is a strong Focus-like piece.

In the songs Recuerdos, Heartland and End Of Rain a certain amount of quirkiness comes into play. The atmosphere is respectively rural with the sound of a cricket, world music-like and orchestral ambient with fretless bass guitar. A nice song in the last phase of the album is Thank You. It is somewhat reminiscent of a band like Runrig, folky in nature with accordion in the arrangement.

Absolute highlight of all songs is Unconditional, radiant for 14 minutes. Great guitar work and tastfull jazz here. The album closes with The Drowning. There are so many brass instruments in it that it took a conductor to steer things in the right direction.

Finally, I will rest my case. Time to listen.

Stuart “Mick” MacFarlane: vocals, acoustic guitar (2,4,5,7,8,10-13), electric guitar(3,6,13)
David Mitchell: electric, acoustic, classical, 12 string guitar
Stephen Donnelly: bass, double bass (5,11,13), fretless bass (10)
Denis Smith: drums, backing vocals
Sarah Cruickshank: oboe (1)
Frank Van Essen: violin, viola (1)
Jack Webb: keyboards (1,5,9,10,13), piano (2,3), Mellotron (2,3,6), Hammond (3,4,6), bells (5), drumcomputer (9), backing vocals
Fiona Cuthill: recorder (2,3)
Hugh Carter: backing vocals (3), acoustic guitar (10)
Ed Higgins: congas (3,10,13), percussion (10)
Iain Sloan: pedal steel guitar (3,11), 12 string guitar (13)
Stevie Lawrence: tin whistle (3), 12 string guitar (5), low whistle (10), dobro (11)
Hew Montgomery: synthesizersolo, programming (4)
David Carlton: flute (5)
Stephen Lightbody: churchorgan, synthesizer (5)
Alastair McGhee: trumpet (8,13), flugelhorn (8)
John Milne: tuba (8), trombone (8,13)
Joy Dunlop: vocals (9)
Malcolm Jones: accordeon (11)
Jerry Donahue: guitar (11)
William Barbero: guitarsolo (13)
Andrew Brodie: saxophone (13)
David MacDonald: saxophone (13)
Tom MacNiven: muted trumpet (13)
Brass Band Of Johnstone: brass (14)
Paul Kiernan: conductor (14)
Chris Brown: arrangements (14)

© Dick van der Heijde 2022