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Eloy - 1988 Ra



ARTIST: Eloy
ALBUM: Ra
LABEL: ACI
SERIAL: SPV 85-4802
YEAR: 1988
CD REISSUE: 2001, ACI/Steamhammer, SPV 210-48022 CD

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Frank Bornemann - vocals, guitar * Michael Gerlach - keyboards, drums, synth bass

Guest Musicians: Achim Gieseler - keyboards on 'Invasion Of A Megaforce' & 'Rainbow' * Stefan Hls - bass on 'Invasion Of A Megaforce', backing vocals on 'Dreams' & 'Rainbow' * Darryl van Raalte - fretless bass on 'Dreams' * Paul Harriman - bass on 'Sensations' * Anette Stangenberg - vocals on 'Rainbow', 'Dreams' & 'Invasion Of A Megaforce' * Diana Baden - whispering vocals on 'Dreams' * Tommy Newton - additional guitars on 'Sensations' * Udo Dahmey - drums on 'Invasion Of A Megaforce' * Sue Wist - vocal intro on 'Voyager Of The Future Race'

TRACK LISTING: 01 Voyager Of The Future Race * 02 Sensations * 03 Dream * 04 Invasion Of A Megaforce * 05 Rainbow * 06 Hero

WEBLINKS: www.eloy-legacy.com


Background
After 1984's AOR triumph 'Metromania', Frank Bornemann and the rest of Eloy were not getting along anymore despite growing success and recognition in England. The band splintered, yet some of the Eloy members resurrected the moniker without Bornemann for the 'Codename Wild Geese' soundtrack around early 1985. Obviously quite a controversial and debated release in the Eloy canon, and must have ruffled a few feathers. By 1987 Bornemann was restless and joined forces with Michael Gerlach to begin work on a new Eloy album, with an assortment of session musicians in tow. Having started life as a pure prog band, the dawn of the 80's had seen Eloy venture further and further into AOR. Hardcore prog supporters felt betrayed but the AOR legions were only too happy to welcome Eloy into the fold. With a pre release album teaser released in late 1987, the new album 'Ra' hit shelves in early 1988.


The Songs
A look at the tracklist of only six songs, and some of the long running times would have given prog fans some hope of a return to 70's values. As it turns out, 'Voyager Of The Future Race' begins with some spacey synth overtones, nature sounds and a female monologue relaying some gibberish about immortality for two minutes. Evolving out of this, a determined midtempo crunch and classic AOR hook put any doubts about the album's direction to rest. Bornemann's vocals sounding here like a more AOR version of Klaus Meine, and this is not only due to the German accent. Something in his timbre and pitch is very similar, along with a dash of Jon Anderson into the mix. The song builds through the expected verse/bridge structure before dropping the tempo for one of those plaintive guitar solos you'd find Neal Schon delivering on any 80's Journey album. The chorus comes off the bench late in the game, a soaring AOR victory lap to match late 80's Kansas. Terrific Euro AOR espresso to get the blood racing, great start to the album. Sensations only continues this trend, no long winded intro this time, we're straight into another midtempo AOR dream with a serious pulse going on. The bombastic bridge and another trademark Eloy AOR chorus are on the runway and cleared for takeoff, very satisfying guitar power keeping the fires burning here. In the comparison stakes, 'Power' era Kansas would be a great fit, with a side order of Omega and Magnum. This is where Eloy excels at shaking free of their prog past - more so than other similar bands like Yes, Rush and BJH managed, Eloy not only rocked but rolled as well, Bornemann's fiery Gibsons and flying V's coming to the fore. Only Omega can match Eloy in this regard, I can best describe it like this - I can play those two bands together with the likes of Y&T and Kiss and they fit. Having said all this, Eloy deliver their only slight concession to prog with 'Dreams', a lengthy number that never gets above a plodding tempo and sounds to me more like sections from two or three different AOR ballads fused together into a mosaic. Not my favourite on the album, but there are some exalted choruses to enjoy.

'Invasion Of A Megaforce' sounds like they got Phil Ehart into the drum booth and told him it's 1978, a cavernous drum sound achieved here! The superb off centre midtempo lays the foundation for more Kansas styled AOR combined with some influence from Yes circa 'Big Generator'. The chorus is immense, grinding out the most intense coffee beans of melody. Certified and stamped AOR that will keep you returning for repeat listens. 'Rainbow' was the hit on this album, a keyboard driven mid ballad of extreme class, aquatic sounding guitar relegated to supporting role only. It's the chorus that nails it down though, pure distilled AOR wrapped in a melody that doesn't sound 'composed', but more like it was always there and just waiting for someone to unwrap it. Classic song. 'Heroes' ends the album, again a pulse is in place but the cutting guitar is providing the momentum - there's hardly a snare drum in place but when listening you can hear the midtempo crunch that should be there! This leaves the track more as a smouldering slow burning rocker than a ballad, containing yet another outrageous chorus. How many times can I use 'soaring' in one review? And yet that's what it is, a fountain of melody and hooks that can't be described any other way. Deeply affecting AOR despite the missing tempo, a wonderful finish to a polished AOR disc from Germany's finest.


In Summary
Bornemann had no intention of taking this album on the road, but when it charted and gained momentum on the charts, he was convinced to form a live band with Gerlach and some of the musicians who had played on the album. Eloy performed the album live at a German rock festival, clips of this are readily available on YouTube. Two singles were released, 'Sensations' and 'Rainbow', containing respective b-sides 'Hero' and 'Invasion Of A Megaforce'. These versions are obviously edited, further heightening the AOR impact of the songs and it wouyld be great if a reissue label would remaster this gem with the four single versions as bonus tracks. For the meantime though, Bornemann was vindicated in resurrecting the Eloy moniker and, flushed with this success, paved the way for the equally essential 'Destination' in 1992.


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