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Articles Home » 1977 Articles » Surprise - 1977 Assault On Merryland
Surprise - 1977 Assault On Merryland

ARTIST: Surprise
ALBUM: Assault On Merryland
LABEL: Carousel Records
SERIAL: TS77-743/744
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1995, Zarathustra Records, contains bonus tracks


LINEUP: Mark Biehl - lead vocals, flute, trumpet, piccolo * Rick Bess - electric guitars, acoustic 12 string guitar, bass * Blair Blake - hammond organ, grand piano, mini moog, moog taurus bass pedals, arp string ensemble, celeste * Dave Kelly - drums, tympani, orchestra bells, gongs, triangles, gyro

TRACK LISTING: 01 Eve Of The Assault/Merryland * 02 The Acrobat Between The Stars * 03 Palace Of King Ferris * 04 Tyrangatang * 05 Dance The Tarantella * 06 Tournament Of Love * 07 March Of The Squatamauders * 08 A Day Without Light * 09 The Wonderful Sunshiner/Grand Finale

Another in a long list of independent American progressive rock albums released in the mid-70's that now fetches in its original form at least four figures or more. Thank the gods for the sake of my wallet, the band reissued the album to CD from the master tapes in 1995 otherwise I would never have heard it. Unfortunately, the accompanying booklet for this long out-of-print reissue while beautifully presented didn't share much information on the band other than they were originally from St. Louis, Missouri - the epicenter of classic & progressive rock thanks to KSHE radio's groundbreaking play lists and support for the local scene.

The Songs
Housed in a gorgeous and whimsical cover, 'Assault On Merryland' is a concept album based on the eternal conflict of good versus evil and the band pull it off without getting too heavy-handed. Immediately noticeable is Surprise stayed true to their Midwestern roots by using more guitars i.e. Kansas and Styx rather than their Euro counterparts of the day, which makes for a refreshing listen. No doubt hailing from St. Louis, Starcastle whose management was based in the river city carried some weight in their sound and this comes through loud and clear on 'The Acrobat Between The Stars' both structurally and vocally. On the heavier side there's plenty of pre-1976 Blue Oyster Cult madness to be found on 'Tyrangatang' and 'Dance The Tarantella' with heavy guitar playing a major role while splashes of Uriah Heep and Genesis dot the remaining album culminating with the excellent 'The Wonderful Sunshine/Grand Finale' making 'Assault On Merryland' one of the more satisfying Ameriprog releases I've had the pleasure to own.

In Summary
The CD reissue contains a heavier updated remake of 'Tyrangatang' which doesn't thrill me nearly as much as the original, but it is what it is. Many years ago I made a couple trips to St. Louis that included their supposed best record stores. You know - collectors shops with big buck LP sleeves hanging on the walls. I asked the clerks and in one case an owner who looked remarkably like Tommy Chong about Surprise and no one knew who they were, which was very disappointing but in the end - not surprising.

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Tags: Surprise 
#1 | gdazegod on February 14 2010 04:27:13
You can add this to the Zazu, Fireballet and Ethos collection of 70's prog!
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