Tall Tales

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Released at the very end of the 1990s, Tall Tales, the first album by the Connecticut-based group Crucible, is a highly representative example of third-wave progressive rock of the purist kind. The music draws strongly on both the British and American traditions, aiming at reproducing the vintage sound of the genre (including Hammond B3 organ and Mellotron). Results are mixed. The musicians are obviously talented and to their credit they don't play the virtuoso card too often. On the other hand, some pieces are overtly complicated -- "Lords and Leeches" gratuitously accumulates time signature changes -- and the 20-minute suite "An Imp's Tale" stumbles upon each and every cliché of the genre. But the production is impeccable and the group has a knack for good melodies. Singer Bill Esposito allies the charisma of Kansas' Steve Walsh and the power of Rush's Geddy Lee. Other references include Genesis; Van der Graaf Generator; and contemporaries like Fig Leaf, Discipline, and the Flower Kings. The opening track, "Over the Falls," enjoyed a bit of airplay on college radio prog rock shows, but the real gem is buried in the middle of the disc: "The Salamander" has a beautiful reggae feel and a melody somewhere between early Police and Phil Collins-led Genesis ("Behind the Lines" comes to mind). In short, Tall Tales stands as a good album of '90s Americana prog and held many promises, but it holds its influences like a flag.

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