Space Hymns - Review
This album is dedicated to the earth people who are unusual becausethey have begun to pause, look back, and wonder where they have come fromand why, and where they are going to!
The above 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 psychedelic 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 Ramases 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 psychedelic 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 "How 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 2000 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.
This review originally appeared on the Dutch Progressive Rock website and is reprinted here by the kind permission of Nigel Camilleri.