Argent/Ring of Hands

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Argent's back catalog remains in a parlous state 20 years on from the group's peak, with great swathes of the repertoire unavailable on CD, and even some of the band's best-known and loved recordings are still chained up in a vault somewhere. Thankfully, this two-fer rendering of their first two albums is an exception to that sorry rule, as the group's transformation from the logical successors to the Zombies into one of the finest prog bands of the early '70s is traced out across 19 songs, almost any of which would be a shoo-in for some future "best-of" Argent compilation. It is true, of course, that Argent was prone to excess on occasion -- what is remarkable is just how naturally the band approached that state, as songs build on their own momentum toward peaks that even the best oiled of the group's peers audibly struggled to approach. The combination of Rod Argent's keys and Russ Ballard's words and vocals is, of course, key to this success, and both "Dance in the Smoke" and "Lothlorien" offer firm pointers as to just how tight the union would become. Elsewhere, "Liar," "Schoolgirl," and "Celebration" all have "classic" stamped across them, even this early into the group's career. And as "Where Are We Going Wrong" brings the CD to a halt, one is left wondering what on earth the bandmembers were talking about...they weren't going wrong anywhere.

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