Space Hymns Review | Dutch Progressive Rock Page

From Dutch Progressive Rock Page

Tracklist: Life Child (6:39/6:25), Oh Mister (3:01/3:10), And The Whole World (3:48/3:44), Quaser One (6:45/6:40), You’re The Only One (2:20/2:25), Earth-People (5:28/4:45), Molecular Delusions (4:02/4:05), Balloon (4:31/4:28), Dying Swan Year 2000 (0:46/0:42), Jesus Come Back (4:01/5:03), Journey To The Inside (6:06/6:21) – The first set of timings is from the CD, while the second set is from the original vinyl

Musicians: Eric Stewart (lead guitar and moog synthesizer), Lol Creme (lead guitar and moog synthesizer), Kevin Godley (drums & flutes), Graham Gouldman (guitar & bass guitar), Martin Raphael (sitar)

All tracks were composed by Ramases except for And The Whole World and You’re The Only One, composed by his wife Sel, and Jesus Come Back, composed by Ramses and Sel.

The album is dedicated to the earth people who are unusual because they have begun to pause, look back, and wonder where they have come from and why, and where they are going to!

The earth is a living thing just as we all are and has a soul as we do.

You look at the heavens through a telescope. Reverse the telescope and you have a microscope through which (if powerful enough), you would see almost the same sight. (Electrons in orbit around their stars.) “In my fathers house there are many mansions.” (The Bible)

We are most probably existing on a molecule inside the material of, perhaps, a living thing the next size up.

The rocket ship shape of a church probably dates back to Moses’ visit to speak to God on the mountain and what he saw there.

The above bold typed-words are what one finds in the liner notes of the album, and could be considered a synthesis of what Ramases’ beliefs were all about. The album itself speaks little for itself in musical terms yet nonetheless still manages to incorporate some interesting moments coupled with others that are almost laughable.

The opener, Life Child, is possibly the best track on the album and induces the listener into thinking that the whole album is going to be based on these lines. The sound has a definite psychadelic tinge to it with the whole group involved in the track which has some great guitar playing accompanied by an acoustic-based band. Sadly this is a case of what could have been, yet, was unfortunately not. Nowhere on the album does the song-writing and musicianship scale the heights of this track.

Oh Mister is a sharp contrast to the musically stimulating Life Child. However, it is also the main musical medium that Ramses seems to want to use to be able to transmit his message. With a nice percussive backdrop, the track involves a repetitive chant utilizing the same words over and over again in a similar fashion that Middle eastern/Asian religions utilize tantric chants.

And The Whole World, is the first of two tracks that written by Sel and starts off with the track almost sounding as if Joan Baez was singing. The backing is totally acoustic and is something that you would expect to hear if you where present in one of the many popular sixties hippy communes. Quaser One, the single released from this album is also a relaxed affair with the introduction of synthesizers giving that faint psychadelic touch to the track.

Next up is the closing number to the first side of the album, You’re The Only One. This is the classic case of one being brainwashed. The line “You’re The Only One Joe, The Only One” is repeated ad infinitum in an arpeggio-like fashion with the progression of the track moving along a blues scale. The repetitiveness becomes decisively annoying, yet at the same time you remain hooked and unfortunately for those around you, you’ll spend the whole day humming this blessed tune! There have been suggestions that the cue for this track was taken from the film Midnight Cowboy which featured Dustin Hoffman and John Voight (who played the part of Joe). In a particular scene, Joe has a dream in which his girlfriend appears and repeats over and over again the same line  “You’re The Only One Joe, The Only One”, which is the line Sel repeats over and over again!

Onto side two and with Earth People the chants continue with alternations of Ramases asking What Can I Speak To The Earth People and What Can I Say To the Earth People. At least Molecular Delusions shows a certain amount of musical diversion with the vocals sounding something like a muezzin making his call to prayer though the backing vocals retain the chants. In this track Ramases poses further questions about where he is from and where to he is about to go. An interesting note is the fact that Ramases credits himself in his “earthly” name Martin Raphael as playing the sitar, which features prominently on this track.

Balloon has is a rare moment on the album wherein the whole band (that would later become 10CC) is involved together with the generation of a certain amount of rhythm. However, once again there is little ground-breaking material here with the track reminiscent of the sixties hippy scene. The short Dying Swan Year has Sel singing almost acappella sounding like a cheap version of Sheila Chandra.

Jesus Come Back is an acoustic sixties tinged track that could easily fit on one of these Born Again Christian albums as there is an obvious religious inclusion (the title says it all!) which could irk some listeners. Journey To The Inside is probably the most musically adventurous track on the album with Ramases chanting “What Are You Gonna Do With Me” over a drone of sound effects that seem to be a loop of the band played backwards. As the music dies down, the album draws to an end with Ramases talking about his belief in the theory that the universe is just a number of atoms making up a larger body. Even as he talks, he is abruptly cut off, somewhat like the musical world did to his music.

As the title implies, this album is extremely spacey and sixties influenced. From a musical point of view there is absolutely no groundbreaking material, yet on the other hand it is another Western musician trying to incorporate Eastern sounds into the rock world. As I have mentioned a number of times, this album is of particular interest to those who also are fans of the group 10CC, as this album was recorded with four of the members of this group, prior to the band being formed.

Nigel Camilleri

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One Response to Space Hymns Review | Dutch Progressive Rock Page

  1. Mike Kiker says:

    I do agree with some points of this review. I’d like to offer a few slightly differing opinions on it if I may.

    I just discovered this album recently, yes “Life Child” is definitely the best song on the record, but “Quasar One”, “Balloon”, “Hello Mister”, & “Earth-People” stand on their own as well. I do agree that pretty much all the songs on the album suffer from 1 major flaw. Ramases can definitely write a good hook, but those hooks can get pretty repetitive and it makes most of the shorter songs feel longer than they really are. “Life Child” and “Quasar One” are the only tracks that don’t suffer that as much, despite being the 2 longest tracks on the album. Thanks to the production by 10cc, there’s more dramatic musical and lyrical tension to be had on those 2 songs. That quality is missing from the rest of the songs on the album unfortunately. The intro and outro of “You’re The Only One, Joe” is indeed really annoying, but the rest of that song has great multi-layered harmonies that almost make up for it. Almost. “Molecular Delusion” is by far the most repetitive song on the record, and the one I’m most prone to skipping. That’s not to say it’s a bad song, there really isn’t a bad song on this record, but the repetition can be too much at times. The last song on the album “Journey To The Inside” for me is a complete and utter letdown. For a song with that particular title, it pretty much goes nowhere, I expected that opening droning line to build to something a little more climactic, but alas, that’s not the case, and in a way it reflects the entire album as a whole. The bonus tracks, especially “Muddy Water”, aren’t really essential either.

    At times it can sound like the precursor to contemporary Christian Rock (of course with “Jesus Come Back”, but also reflective in “Hello Mister” & “And The Whole World”), but on the other hand, the music and the production is very well played and the lyrical palate isn’t anywhere near limited to the usual “lord my god, Jesus saves” rhetoric. I suppose I had a similar upbringing to Peter Stormare’s story. I went to Catholic school and while I wasn’t actively discouraged from listening to rock music, I hated the bland Christian rock dreck that they forced us to listen to in school, not because of the Jesus content as much, but more because of the bland songwriting and production choices that plagues that kind of music. Even though it was the late 90’s-early 2000’s when I was growing up, thanks mostly to my parents and a few hip relatives, I got hooked to 60’s & 70’s psychedelic and progressive rock as an antidote for that horrible music, and I much preferred how those musicians expressed their spirituality in tandem with their great musicianship. I’m no longer a Catholic for a multitude of reasons, I became an atheist for a time, but I’m glad to say that I’ve gravitated more towards the side of musico-spiritual belief, based on a bit of Buddhism, experimenting with psychedelics, the Golden Rule of course, and mostly through actually being a musician and getting more out of listening to great albums and playing and seeing shows and connecting with an audience through honest expression. Anyway, back to “Space Hymns”.

    10cc’s production and performance is indeed the saving grace of the album. They really breathed life into these songs. The instrumentation stays interesting throughout, and they greatly improve a few of the tracks when they use that same great vocal blend that made “I’m Not In Love” such a smash. At the same time, this album seems to be a bit more forward thinking than some of 10cc’s later material. I certainly think that “Quasar One”, “Balloon” or “Life Child” would fit in well on an early 10cc album, but also seems to reach towards more progressive territory than their bigger hits like “Things We Do For Love” or “Dreadlock Holiday” (and I’ll bet money that Gouldman and Stewart completely nicked the ‘don’t burst your bubble’ melody of “Balloon” for the chorus of latter song).

    Overall, it’s just an OK album with a couple of really great songs, but a few lyrical and musical missteps that keep it from being a lost classic, but still worth checking out if you have the time.

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