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Babylon - 1978 Babylon




ARTIST: Babylon
ALBUM: Babylon
LABEL: Mehum Music
SERIAL: 4641
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1999, Syn-Phonic, SYNCD 18 * 2010, Belle (Japan), BELLE 101690

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Rick Leonard - bass, vocals, bass pedals * Doroccus (Rod Succo) - lead vocals, synthesizers, electric piano, orchestron, omni * J. David Boyko - guitars, muted variations thereof * G.W. Chambers - synthesizers, acoustic and electric piano, orchestron, omni, vocals * Rodney Best - drums, percussives

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Mote In Gods Eye * 02 Before The Fall * 03 Dreamfish * 04 Cathedral Of The Mary Ruin


Background
Babylon were an Americn progressive rock band from St Petersburg, Florida. They kicked off in 1976, with their music and lyrics centered around extraterrestrial intelligence. I guess you knew that, by simply looking at the cover of their one-off LP. Of course, this was the era of Star Wars (the movie) and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, so the subject matter was kinda topical back then. Babylon's personnel were all alumni from the University of South Florida, and their references were the typical prog connections from the 70's. Genesis, Gentle Giant, ELP etc, but Babylon's sound goes way beyond those calling cards. This is very much centered in the tradition of Ameriprog, with a hint of the slightly unusual and wacky. The closest band which comes into focus are Massachusetts strange-lings Hot Flash, who released the equally wacky extraterrestrial referenced 'First Attack! They'll Never Take Us Alive'. Though Babylon are different in that their songs are very long, and there's only four of them on the LP.


The Songs
The title 'The Mote In Gods Eye' was taken from the 1974 novel co-written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I have actually read this book, and though the music is free-form, I don't think there is any direct connection to the book. Rod Succo's (aka Doroccus, name spelt backwards) vocal warbling gives it a theatrical like atmosphere. The music builds appreciably to something very melodic and likeable. The 10 minute epic 'Before The Fall' is perhaps the most laid back and mellow of the four tracks. It eventually builds to a crescendo toward the end, but complex time changes shuffles the dynamics of this song as if spun through a washing machine. There are some interesting musical passages on 'Dreamfish'. Stylistically, it's all over the place. Doroccus' theatrics appear once again, there's more time changes and keyboard improvisation which should appeal to hardened prog fans. When first listening to 'Cathedral Of The Mary Ruin' you'd think it was a jazz fusion workout, judging by all the fleet-of-finger drum work from Rod Best. It does phase in and out of busy periods then lulled to a near stand still on others.


In Summary
The band didn't last long after this release, with stifled creativity and equally stifled finances killing off any chance of a future and a follow-up. Quite a few so called prog experts have lumped Babylon into the same battleground as early Genesis, and that might be the case for some of the time, but they are a bit more expansive than that. They don't make LP's quite like this anymore. If you enjoyed Ameriprog bands such as Ethos, Happy The Man, Starcastle, the aforementioned Hot Flash, Fireballet and Zazu, then you probably need to investigate this 1978 rarity, or CD reissue. 'Babylon' has since been reissued twice in the digital realm. Syn-Phonic's 1999 reissue features a different cover. Instead of what was a woman looking like an alien on the original 1978 jacket, this time we've got a full-blown alien grey on the cover. Cool!


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Comments

#1 | Eric on May 10 2014 03:56:53
Nice to see this here. There are a couple live albums released by Syn-Phonic recorded at a Florida club called the Empty Keg around the same time this LP came out. Horrible quality but housed in beautiful covers.

Too much Genesis IMHO, but Babylon were very good for what they were.

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