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Mara - 1992 Poetry And Motion



ARTIST: Mara
ALBUM: Poetry And Motion
LABEL: Trespass, IRS/Bullet Proof
SERIAL: IRS 993.001
YEAR: 1992
CD REISSUE: 1994, Teichiku (Japan), TECX-25666

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Marty Farris - lead vocals * Jason Aronoff - guitars * Mike Tekulve - keyboards * Jim Questa - keyboards * Chris Mundy - bass * Todd Farler - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Sentimental Warning * 02 Justify * 03 1/2 Way Till Tomorrow * 04 Second Best * 05 Voices In The Rain * 06 Crimes Of The Heart * 07 Breaking The Silence * 08 Meet Me In The Mirror * 09 September Rain * 10 Heaven Never Knows... * 11 Nightmare * 12 Alone Here Beside You


Background
There is a little bit of a coincidence here, but I started to write the review of this album, the day of my daughter, Nadine, birthday. 15 years prior, the day she was born (OK one day before) this CD arrived on my doormat, along with Troy Newman. Doesn't time fly (by the way I have been tired ever since). Anyway I suppose what prompted me to discover this band again, was I picked up another copy at a recent fair as an offer for 5 for 3, (the others if you're interested were Bad English debut along with Blue Tears debut). So enough of the Charles Dickens opening lets get down to facts. Mara was a 5 piece band from the US, based in Cincinnati, even though one fanzine I dug out at home mentions Canada! Well this was one of three albums they released. The others being a version of a demo recording titled 'Breaking The Silence', which was subsequently re-released after 'Poetry & Motion' by Long Island Records, as 'Mara', plus a couple of extra tracks. The final showing from 1997 was titled 'America', which can be difficult to obtain, especially if, like me you missed the chance to buy it pretty cheaply, which I am now regretting. 'Poetry & Motion' displays the fine vocals of Marty Farris and instrumental skill of Jason Aronoff. One additional mention is the keyboard playing of Jim Questa who played the majority of the 'Mara' album, but not all of this album. He left their ranks before it was made available to the general public in 1992, his spot taken by Mike Tekulve, who subsequently featured on the majority of 'America'. Jim was a full time member of Mara since 1984 and was involved in the playing and songwriting before circumstance prevailed that led him to take an opportunity to join and tour with the Danny Morgan Band based down in Florida. This album made its way over to Europe by the German based Bullet-Proof Records, who also issued the Asia album 'Aria' in 1994, notwithstanding a few Stan Bush albums. It was also released in Japan, after distribution was arranged by David T Chastain, one time guitar extraordinaire. There may be some confusion with the release date, of course there is no doubt that both this album and the demo, 'Breaking The Silence' were both released locally before various distributions deals were set up. Flicking through the 'Poetry & Motion' booklet, many of songs are credited between 1989 to 1992, however my school of thought that it wasn't until 1994 that this reached different shores via Bullet-Proof and Teichiku in Japan. Further evidence shows that original reviews of this album hit the likes of Frontiers and Frontline during 1994. However just when I had a watertight case, enters TV's detective Columbo, with one last thread of information, AOR Classics, issue 4, dated July 1994 and one of the very first reviews, where it mentions a record label of 'Trespass' dated 1992 (Trespass was the name of Mara's recording studio, so could well have been released locally under that name before IRS and Bulletproof secured a deal to reissue it some years later.. Ed)!


The Songs
This album is pretty special and even though at the time of release, the melodic rock scene was pretty minimalist in terms of opportunities, a number of similar bands were kicking around, and managing to finally getting their demos released, after what seemed a lifetime. Bands that fall in these categories, which seem to have come from the similar stable as Mara are the likes of Stone Soup, Sunshine Jive, Stun Leer, Tour De Force and Shotgun Symphony. So I suppose it's that last named trooper that seems to have a lot in common with Mara. Take the opening, the gorgeous 'Sentimental Warning', the over the top pomp keyboards are a joy to behold, seductive vocals, together it provides the stand out tune, excellent. This is to keyboard laced AOR what Lionel Messi is to passing a football! So what does the rest of the album provide especially as it seems they have already played the Ace in the pack? Well I'm happy to report there are many more high value cards and safe to say no jokers.

'Justify', strangely starts with a Testament technical thrash style but soon the keyboards flow and take a dominant presence. The feeling of the song soars to more melodic tones of Queensryche.

'1/2 Way Till Tomorrow' again vocally very like one of my heroes, Tracey White, it even has the same song title as Shotgun Symphony, except that Mara is more into fractions than words. Obviously great detail has gone into the formation of this tune, while the vocals and keyboards flow as expected, the other bright star is kept alight by the guitar riff, it doesn't follow the standard path, as it contains lots of quirks, little passages going off on their own journey, a bit like a group of argumentive ramblers.

'Second Best' has an acoustic opening with Farris providing fine vocals, he reeks of emotion. 80's hair based ballad, but in a good way, like the more obscure bands like Concrete Jungle and Tuff Luck, immensely pleasing.

'Voices In The Rain' just has to be a cracker with a song title like that and it is a summersault of major stars, Nelson and the unknown Ellis Island. I was particularly impressed with the keyboard display towards the end, this is real fluffy shirts stuff and very much victorious in pomp.

'Crimes Of The Heart' has ringing melodic tones of keyboards and heart filled lyrics and so you know it's going to end in drops of metallic tears. Again Queensryche and the Shotgun boys pass over a pomp majesty influence, guitar caressing an object of love, pure heaven. 'Remain a mystery to me' and 'rescue me' is a selection of the lyrical content, which gives these guys the crown after knocking off Robbie Valentine. It easily find a place on the first side of Icon's, 'The Night Of The Crime' and miles better than anything on side 2 of that album (I would love to know what actually works well on that flip side?).

Ok, I'll make no excuse because the old ears have to work harder on the second part of the album, as probably not as familiar to me as it should be. This is kicked off with 'Breaking The Silence', the title of the group's original demo. This shows a change in method with more in common to the once covenanted Fifth Angel (whatever happened to them?) and even a bit of early Dokken. Although there is still a plentiful bounty of keyboards on offer, just a tad lame compared to others especially the chorus.

'Meet In The Mirror' is another well-defined tune and probably only after repeating listens the hooks sink in and you come to appreciate it. I suppose for anyone else it would be an outstanding track, but Mara has set high standards, but you cannot doubt the exceptional guitar spot.

The next two tracks provide a quick return to show a renaissance to AOR splendour with 'September Rain' with a lovely AOR opening and is a very sumptuous tune. Lukather style guitaring, positioned well to give maximum affect then it just breaks into an additional verse that strikes of Heart. Melodic rain? More like a thunderstorm of melody.

'Heaven Never Knows' floating into Prophet era and not for the first time, Mara are still playing the AOR field. Technical guitar tendencies are missing and replaced by more melodic streams. Farris is superb and screams of Fergie Frederiksen, excellent, another tune that shines so bright.

'Nightmare' is an instrumental, so not a lot of good asking my opinion on this, as a once fledging guitarist who could only muster the 3 chords that made up Black Sabbath 'Paranoid' before my hands and brain split up due to musical differences (I was rubbish!). The song? Quality of course.

'Alone Here Beside You' begins quite balladry then after swathes of keyboards it picks up the pace, with Farris carrying the tune vocally. Lots of ideas take root in the song and take its time to flower, an interesting finish.


In Summary
A follow up was released in 1997 named 'America', which I mentioned earlier that I never picked up. After that it seems the guys went their separates ways, although Jim, Chris and Todd still meet from time to time, while Jim still plays in a local group with his Mara replacement, Mike Tekulve. A particular fine album released at a time Melodic Rock was fighting a relentless battle with poor support from major record labels and musical tastes. An album that has real moments of amazements, and is a serious tragedy that after 3 albums it was all over.


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Comments
#1 | rkbluez on November 23 2011 16:20:06
All the Mara albums are great but 'America' is easily their best...a great album...I have the Jap CD...not sure if it was ever released elsewhere...if you find it buy it ASAP...it's that good!!
#2 | Eric on November 23 2011 17:05:27
Agree- "America' is the best- very early Kansas-like. I have the Jap CD too, but it did get a U.S. release as well. Can't remember the label though..
#3 | windsofmarch on August 25 2014 19:03:28
Inmigrant Records, Eric.
Good melodic laid back prog effort. IMO America sounds like a mix of Lightspeed, Shotgun Symphony, Jadis and Novella.
 
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