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Saracen - 2011 Marilyn



ARTIST: Saracen
ALBUM: Marilyn
LABEL: Escape Music
SERIAL: ESM-230
YEAR: 2011
SPONSOR: S Eder (Connecting Music)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Steve Bettney - vocals * Paul Bradder - keyboards * Rob Bendelow - guitar * Richard Bendelow - bass, vocals * Paul Gibson - drums

Guests: Snake Davis - sax * Issa Oversveen - vocals * Robin Beck - vocals * Steve Overland - vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Girl: Norma Jeane * 02 The Orphan: Whither the Wind Blows * 03 The Dreamer: Hold On (ft. Issa) * 04 The Model: Make This Body Work (ft. Robin Beck) * 05 The Actress: Who Am I (Robin Beck & Steve Overland) * 06 The Wife: Love Like A Razorblade * 07 The Patient: Break the Spell * 08 The Mistress: Not For Sure (ft. Robin Beck) * 09 The Forsaken: Feel Like Going Home (ft. Robin Beck) * 10 The Witness: Unfinished Life * 11 The Woman: Marilyn (ft. Robin Beck) * 12 Hidden Track (ft. Robin Beck, Issa, Steve Overland)

RATING:

WEBLINKS: www.templarmusic.co.uk/


Background
Saracen rank right up there as one of my favourite British bands. In the past, I have enjoyed their bombastic 'knights of the realm' styled melodic hard rock, with their last effort 'Vox In Excelso' being one of my top 5 albums of 2006. It's certainly been awhile from the Saracen team, but they've struck back in 2011, albeit with an album's worth of material that moves them right out of their comfort zone and into the late 50's/early 60's era of Hollywood blonde bombshell/icon Marilyn Monroe. This is their third outing some reuniting in 2003 for 'Red Sky'. This is not the sort of concept album you would expect from Rob Bendelow and the boys, and you can be guaranteed there won't be one shield or sword in sight during the review of this album. Saracen obviously felt the need to create musical theatre with Marilyn as the center-piece, and despite the unusualness of it all, it would appear that the concept has won many friends! Joining the band as guests are Issa, Robin Back and Steve Overland. All three have solo spots plus they sing in combinations as a duo and trio. The album traces Marilyn's life from a child right through to adulthood, each of the songs represents a certain juncture upon her timeline.


The Songs
Where some things remain the same (use of pompous and grandiose arrangements), some things are markedly different too (the use of saxophone throughout). You hear this on the opening bars of the instrumental 'Norma Jeane (The Girl)'. But it's not all sax and sounds of the 50's, as the traditional Saracen pomp/prog is still retained thanks to the keyboard and guitar solos from the Bendelow brothers Richard and Rob. Lead vocalist Steve Bettney is introduced onto the album via the second cut 'Whither The Wind Blows (The Orphan)', it too is recognisable as a Saracen tune from past ventures. First point of difference is 'Hold On (The Dreamer)' featuring the dulcet tones of Norwegian hottie Issa. This one is a calming number based around acoustic guitar and saxophone. Robin Beck makes her first appearance on the rockin' 'Make This Body Work (The Model)'. It's an energetic track, which is probably a good fit given the equivalent timeframe on Marilyn's timeline. 'Who Am I (The Actress)' is a duet featuring Beck and Overland, starting off as a ballad, it changes to a blues-based riff fiesta. 'Love Like A Razorblade (The Wife)' is another bluesy and hard riffing affair, but things get far more interesting with the intense metal of 'Break The Spell (The Patient)' which sees Saracen shifting it up a gear. 'Not For Sure (The Mistress)' and 'Feel Like Going Home (The Forsaken)' are Robin Beck fronted ballads, while the intro JFK voiceover on 'Unfinished Life (The Witness)' is a bit of a put-off as the voice-clip is very fuzzy and crackly, though when the music kicks in, things are much better. 'Marilyn (The Woman)' is a reprise of the opening track 'Norma Jeane (Thr Girl)', but this time Robin Beck drives through the lead vocal in no uncertain terms. There is a hidden twelfth track which includes all three guest vocalists sharing in on the occasion.


In Summary
Saracen and guests have created something bold and unique as far as a concept story goes. Not many other acts would consider doing something like this. For me personally, I didn't find Marilyn Monroe interesting subject matter at all, and as a result I couldn't really get into the album as much as I wanted to because Saracen are ranked quite highly in my list of favourites. The often quoted acronym YMMV applies in this case.


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Comments
#1 | Eric on October 02 2011 22:43:24
I don't understand the infatuation with Monroe either. Its odd and I think there were prettier and more talented 'stars' from the era. All because of the Kennedy link which is always a favorite with American media types who wax and wane over a very average president and a totally dysfunctional family.

Anyway, Princes Diana or even Joan of Arc probably would have been better subject matter for this very English band...
#2 | gdazegod on October 04 2011 03:50:13
Now Joan of Arc.. there's a great idea for a concept album.. Joan and her famous legendary sword!
#3 | reyno-roxx on October 04 2011 08:13:10
So long as Joan looks like Jane Wiedlin as in 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure'..Grin
#4 | gdazegod on March 31 2014 14:17:36
I wish Saracen would crank up another concept album soon. Marilyn Monroe was an add choice. They should've done one on Diana Dors, UK's answer to Monroe, where legend has it, she used to throw wild sex orgy parties back in the 60's and 70's. Woah!
 
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