Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1974-77)
- Mark Dahlgren -- keyboards. synthesizers, vocals
- Joe Guarino -- bass, vocals
- Mike Novak -- vocals
- Paul Roe -- lead guitar
Dana Williams -- percussion
- Puppet (Mark Dahlgren)
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Country/State: Rockford, Illinois
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Catalog ID: 4543
Here's another item that I occasionally see popping up on psych lists. It's usually shown with a mind numbing price tag (reflecting it's relative scarcity - reportedly 1,000 copies were pressed) and surrounded by the type of hype that sets my 'consumer beware' alarm blaring. That said, I stumbled across a relatively cheap copy and decided to give it a shot.
If you're in a hurry, I'll save you a couple of minutes via the rest of this review by just saying 'Yes wannabes ...'
As you've probably already figured out, 1976's "Albatross" had about as much psych going for it as your local Foot Locker store. Formed in Illinois the lineup consisted of keyboardist Mark Dahlgren, bassist Joe Guarino, singer Mike Novak, lead guitarist Paul Roe and drummer Dana Williams. Produced by Guarino, extended numbers such as 'Cannot be Found' and 'Humpback Whales' made it pretty clear these guys worshipped at the altar of Yes. As the owner of more than my share of Yes albums, I'll admit that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but then its probably not the smartest concept to base a musical career on. Okay, enough of the negativity. All five of the tracks, including the 14 minutes plus epic 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' were worth hearing. Novak's voice will be an acquired taste for some folks, but his delivery fit the material well. Lead guitarist Roe was quite impressive, but most of the spotlight was on keyboardist Dahlgren who effortlessly managed to span the gauntlet from tasteful synthesizer passages ('Devil's Strumpet'), to Keith Emmerson-styled wall of organ overload. Certainly better than other Yes-wannabees like the dreaded Starcastle, but not quite as good as Cathedral ...
The album quickly vanished, leaving the band to struggle on, trying out various different sounds, for another year and a half before calling it quits.
"Albatross" track listing:
1.) Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Mark Dahlgren - Mike Novak) - 14:19 rating: *** stars
I was born and raised Catholic and in spite of the song's apocalyptic title, there was something comforting in the Churchy opening section of 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'. Around the two minute mark the song momentarily headed in to Focus territory, before finding its footing in the land of Yes synthesizers washes. Probably the song's biggest surprise came when you realized how commercial Mike Novak's vocals were. Strip away some of the progressive sound baggage and twists and turns and you actually had the makings of a catchy pop song buried here.
2.) Mr. Natural (Mark Dahlgren - Mike Novak) - 5:17 rating: *** stars
At least this wasn't a cover of a Bee Gees tune, but I'm not sure basing a song on an R. Crumb character is any wiser ... With producer Tom Lehman providing the growling voice, 'Mr. Natural' opened up sounding like a mix between a WWF match and something out of a Star Wars movie. The band then briefly trotted out there funkier side, complete with plenty of cowbell.
Ah, 'Devil's Strumpet' found the band going back to a Church organ opening. After that they were apparently required to trot out a song that showcased their Yes infatuation and their keyboard and synthesizer technical virtuosity. Yawn ...
2.) Cannot Be Found (Mark Dahlgren - Mike Novak) - 3:34 rating: *** stars
Showcasing Mark Dahlgren on piano, 'Cannot be Found' was a completely unexpected straight ahead, conventional ballad. In spite of Novaks' less than inspired vocals, the song sported a very pretty melody. But it sure sounded out of place here.
3.) Humpback Whales (Mark Dahlgren - Mike Novak) - 4:26 rating: *** stars
'Humpback Whales' was another aural mess - complete with whale sound effects and nautical whistles ... Oh well.
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