1994 (SI Music)
“Moonshine” is the third studio album by the Polish neo-prog band Collage. The work is released in 1994 and partly due to its worldwide success the band manages to build enormous popularity, especially in their own country, and rightfully so.
I find it a great challenge to discuss this album as the music hits me with the impact of a kangoo on the run. Honestly I was a bit apprehensive about describing what the album does to me. I don’t want to exaggerate but “Moonshine” contains 67 minutes of superb music. Well, try explaining that.
Of course I have words of praise for the bombastic nature of the album and I must not overlook the lyrical melodies and solos sprinkled by guitarist Mirek Gil. I also want to emphasize that “Moonshine” is the best neo-prog album ever. However, what makes “Moonshine” a magnificent masterpiece is the intuitive interaction captured during the music-making process. What chemistry flows out of the speakers! The album showcases a group dynamic that can be described with the letters XXL. Collage has five highly skilled musicians at their disposal and once again it becomes evident that the sum of the parts is much, much greater.
The inventive drumming style displayed by Wojtek Szadkowski and the smooth bass work of his tongue-twisting companion, Piotr Mintay Witkowski, allow the often orchestral keyboard parts and hypermelodic guitar playing to take center stage without overshadowing themselves. The beautiful vocal performances by Robert Amirian are always filled with emotion and almost complete the picture. The icing on the cake is the pristine production of the album which consistently adds a warm and ethereal atmosphere. You can hear that everything has been executed with the utmost precision to showcase the musical performances as optimally as possible.
We hear countless tempo and mood changes all encompassed within eight songs. Don’t expect the tracks to be tightly structured. Of course there is a solid composition underlying them, but above all, you can hear a lot of spontaneity and joy of playing. In that regard the choice to open with Heroes Cry is magnificent. Striking keyboard tones receive support from a monumental drum rhythm followed by six minutes of blissful neo-prog without any brakes. In the subsequent In Your Eyes your breath is almost taken away for nearly fifteen minutes by the beauty of the music. Not only is there a beautiful piano but Collage also presents the most sublime moments that rock music has ever produced, in my opinion. What happens between the third and fifth minute is so cunning. The phenomenon of building tension and resolving it manifests here in a guitar solo of unparalleled class. The rest of this captivating track demonstrates what a tasteful drummer Szadkowski is.
Next comes Lovely Day which lives up to its title every time it plays. Living In The Moonlight is the most accessible track of the eight, a fantastic pop song with a sparkling chorus that showcases Collage at their best. I have the song on various playlists and it always touches me.
With The Blues, Wings In The Night and the epic title track Moonshine, the band takes a formidable turn by increasing the intensity. The Blues features delightful up-tempo sections while Wings In The Night has beautiful soaring passages that form the album’s highlight. Mag-ni-fi-cent. In the title track there is a touch of bombast of a grim kind. It signifies the protagonist being freed from the demons that torment him. Amirian sings ‘No more disillusions, no more screaming silence, no more tears, no shadows in the dark’. The final track, War Is Over, perfectly aligns with this theme, not just in terms of the title but also in the lightness of the song and the use of the mandolin, which brings the circle to a close.
The original “Moonshine” may no longer be available but the Polish label Metal Mind reissued the album in 2003 including several bonus tracks. There you have it.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022