I’ll start things off by casting the stage-lights on Fireballet, who I’ve been touting the virtues of throughout the internet since 1998. Here is just some of what I’ve said:
Fireballet had the most ornate, opulent and ostentatious sound that could possibly be reached, in full reverence of the grand pantheon of English art rock, pomp pop and prog. And that’s an excellence that few North American bands have ever achieved.
Their 1976 sophomore release, Two, Too…, is a buried treasure indeed! The “Chinatown Boulevards” suite is bedazzlement in through-composed form, punctuated by dotty xylophone loops amidst staggering metric twitches, whilst “Carrollon” is an apex of mind-boggling key tapestry that never quits (you’ll loose balance somewhere before the climax!) And then there’s “Great Expectation”, a sparking jewel of art pop creation that launches the whole adventure with gusto galore. Complimentary echoes of Gentle Giant, Yes, Kayak, and the Beach Boys abound, with a faithfully invigorating cover of the Left Banke’s baroque pop classic “Desiree” as an added surprise. One of my top 10 albums from 1976 (and that’s saying a lot, considering what a musically rich year ’76 was!)
Stepping back a year to Night on Bald Mountain LP, I’ll state that the compositions are best when they remain in the 3-5 minute range. “Centurion” and “The Fireballet” juggle anthem-like ensemble themes with abrupt metric shuffling and harmonic vocal crescendos. Soon this all gives way to fuzzy, sustained guitar breaks in the Hackett and Fripp mould (underpinned by tints of GG-like glockenspiel), and solo keyboard passages of the Emerson/Argent variety. Meanwhile, “Atmosphere” evokes “Lovers Leap” by Genesis as if it were performed by Gordon Haskell! Of the longer pieces, “Les Cathedrals” is about five minutes worth of good ideas inflated to ten, with the previously outlined approach interspersed with soporific stretches indicating length for length’s sake. And most of the criticism lobbied at Fireballet seems to be based on this album’s title epic, a redundant, drawn out expansion on the Mussorgsky composition.
To sum things up: Night on Bald Mountain is half good, whilst Two, Too… is of near total perfection, and the best in stateside 70’s prog bar none!
Now with Great Expectations, hear a little!