The Collectors

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Listening to this trippy psychedelic effort, one can't help but feel a certain sense of irony. Barclay James Harvest were known as a "poor man's Moody Blues," but the Collectors could just as easily have qualified for the label -- their attempts at serious (or pretentious, in the case of "Howard Christman's Older") composition, the soaring choruses, the flute noodling in the background, will all recall the English group. What's more, the two bands have surprisingly similar backgrounds, having evolved (or devolved) from R&B inspiration to art rock and progressive rock. Howie Vickers isn't half the ballad singer that Justin Hayward is, but this band does play hard, especially Bill Henderson's lead guitar, which tries hard for some engaging pyrotechnics. That would matter more if some of the music here were a bit more original -- "Lydia Purple" is such an "Eleanor Rigby"-influenced piece that you can practically predict the lyrics the first time around. The album's finale, "What Love (Suite)," is a rambling 19-minute piece marred by pseudo-Gregorian chant filler for several minutes of its opening, some vigorous playing (especially the guitar), and a cool tenor sax break about 14 minutes in that comes too late to save anything. It's all pompous and overblown enough to make "Legend of a Mind" sound like "Roll Over Beethoven," although these guys at least had the sense to play hard rather than pretty, which makes it a little more diverting than it might otherwise have been. Dave Hassinger produced, so it's not like the band didn't get every break making this record.

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