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Harlequin Mass - 1978 Harlequin Mass

ARTIST: Harlequin Mass
ALBUM: Harlequin Mass
LABEL: Mass Production Records
SERIAL: Mass 333
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1994, Mellow Records, MMP 236 (with bonus tracks)


LINEUP: Nancy Kaye- lead & background vocals, bass synthesizer * Lyle Holdahl - lead & background vocals, bass guitar, acoustic & electric guitars, string ensemble, piano, organ, bass synthesizer, flute, percussion * Jeff Pike - lead guitar, classical & acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizer, saxophone, clarinet, background vocals * John Reagan - drums, percussion, background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Introit (A Mass For The Harlequin) * 02 Love & Death * 03 One Step Home * 04 Space Cats * 05 Loss Of A Friend * 06 A New Song * 07 Sky Caller

Long before the CD reissue and downloading; Harlequin Mass' eponymous debut was one of the easier to locate Ameriprog collectables. Why, I've never been sure but paying 20 to 40 dollars for a sealed copy as opposed to the ridiculous four figures commanded by the likes of Chalis, October and MacArthur made it an attractive purchase, especially with its stylish black and white sleeve. Emerging from Portland, Oregon in the early '70s; Harlequin Mass went through line-up changes typical of so many bands before settling on the foursome who appeared on their only LP. They performed sporadic local concerts, even landed a spot on a radio station compilation, but a move to neighboring Seattle for better gigs proved to be a disastrous decision and the band split in late 1979 citing audience indifference and music's changing direction.

The Songs
It's a pleasant, if somewhat average album which might be a partial explanation for its affordability in the collecting heyday. Vocalist Nancy Kaye has a sweet voice that for lack of a more suitably progressive reference, are sometimes comparable to Karen Carpenter although her range is noticeably limited while both late period Renaissance and Genesis are links to Harlequin Mass instrumentally but nowhere as complex. It's a short record and runs at a pretty good clip with some fine moments to absorb including the spacey mid-tempo 'One Step Home', the folky pop of 'A New Song' which reminds me of early Heart and 'Sky Caller', the set's most overtly prog track clocking in at ten and a half minutes. On the downside the odd and ultimately throwaway 'Space Cats' should have been left off and in the end after repeated listens, nothing about Harlequin Mass strikes me as essential. Well played, just lacking that something special, that bit of oomph in the production department and a dose of much needed adrenalin.

In Summary
In 1980, Nancy Kaye and guitarist Lyle Holdahl reformed as Stubborn Puppet with a new set of musicians, recording five songs in 1981, four of which were added as bonuses on Mellow Record's 1994 CD reissue. Here Kaye is much more in her element as Stubborn Puppet dipped into the new wave-ish AOR waters similar to Sue Saad & The Next and Noel and The Red Wedge. The best of the foursome 'Jeopardy' was remixed and engineered by none other than Pavlov's Dog Doug Rayburn. That song appeared on yet another radio station compilation and although Kaye left, the band carried on recording and releasing a six-song cassette which is next to impossible to find these days.

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#1 | super80boy on May 19 2013 20:18:53
A very much prog influenced set but there are some redeeming qualities and songs present. The redeeming quality is the female voice, which has a folk inspired charm. The two standouts for me are back to back on side 2 - the slow build up folk AOR rock of 'Loss Of A Friend' and 'A New Song' with it's infectious female pop delivery. The album jacket artwork is very cool and a bit cheesy at the same time.

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