While only the most academic of fans might remember Space Opera, the Texas-based quartet's self-titled debut certainly demands significantly more attention than it initially garnered upon its 1973 release. Because the album was both recorded and first issued in Canada, many assumed that Brett Wilson (drums, percussion), Philip White (bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals), Scott Fraser (guitar, keyboards,vocals), and David Bullock (guitar, flute, harmonica, vocals) hailed from the Great White North. However, Space Opera's synthesis of pop, rock, country, folk, jazz, and even classical builds on a uniquely American tradition. Although Space Opera was already headlining major music festivals by 1969, the combo took its time in crafting the ten selections for this long-player. Comparisons to the Byrds or the earliest sides by the Eagles are well founded. In fact, "Holy River" could easily be mistaken for a post-Notorious Byrd Brothers cut -- especially the warm and reedy timbre of Fraser's lead vocals. Conversely, they could let loose and unleash monster jams, such as the intricate and progressive "Guitar Suite" -- featuring no less than seven separate overdubs from Fraser and Bullock. Rather than coming off like an aimless Grateful Dead or Allman Brothers noodle, their interplay has the precision of Steve Howe, or Frank Zappa at times. The aggressive electric numbers are contrasted by the lilting and organic "Riddle," showcasing Fraser, Bullock, and White's expressive three-part harmonies. "Over and Over" is another standout, with a folk-infused vibe that glides beneath the flowing and rhythmic waltz. Bullock's electric 12-string guitar shimmers with exquisite yet penetrating beauty. In 2004, Collectors' Choice Music finally brought this masterpiece to CD, and hopefully also to new audiences.
Space Opera Review
by Lindsay Planer