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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 75 - 11/20/02

The Hills Are Alive
Excursions Into Unknown Territory
FakeFolk Records

Romantic piano playing, voice in a posh English accent:
"Life's like that, isn't it? I mean, the other day I was walking in the West End and suddenly I was set upon by hordes of fans and admirers who wanted to touch my clothes. So I took sanctuary in a nearby cinema. Normally, of course, I don't go in, but that day I saw something that really moved me. I'd like to share this wonderful experience with you. It was The Sound of Music."

Now if I'd been colleague waiter Alice Kenner here at Luna Kafé, I'd probably stop the review at this point. Maybe the best thing to do, too, just tickle the reader's curiosity. Instead I go on with a tedious attempt to describe the wonderful sounds. I don't know why the above particular track by the Bonzo Dog (Do Dah) Band (from Gorilla, Liberty 1967) tends to pop up while thinking of The Hills Are Alive (THAA). It certainly has little to do with THAA's music. Maybe it has something to do with the name of the band? By the way, after the monologue the Bonzo gang let mayhem break loose with banging and out of tune screams and instruments (also little to do with THAA's music).

THAA's excursions are not into that unknown territories, if you ask me. We're back in a pre-punk Britain, the early and mid 70s, the era of progressive rock when synthesizers are beginning to substitute Hammond organs and mellotrons. This is certainly THAA's own original music. But in tiny glimpses the songs bring back memories of flutes of the Jethro Tull and Gong kind, guitars of Steve Hackett from Genesis, electric jazz-rock piano of Colosseum II or Hatfield And The North, synths and guitars off Pink Floyd's Wish You Had Hair etc. A few guitar licks of "I'm The One I've Forgotten" make me remember Manfred Mann's Earth Band's version of Manfred Mann's (the 60s pop group's) hit version of Bob Dylan's (the beat singer-songwriter's) song "Mighty Quinn". Only minor glimpses, mind you!

THAA is a great little quartet with a superb guitarist up front. The songs show lots of variation and gives space for individual instrumental skills. The contributions by guest artists playing flute, violin, trumpet and female backing vocals etc. have made the album even better. And best of all: the individual excursions don't disturb the entirety. Some drum parts sound a bit grey and some vocal parts might have been improved in another take or two. But these are minor objections. Excursions Into Unknown Territory would've made the headlines in 1973 and is probably a bigger surprise in 2002. I especially enjoy THAA's wilder sides. The favourite "You Changed My Mind" is one example with a section where the violin strings are beginning to glow. The song also demonstrates THAA's softer sides. Pretty explosive ballad potential along with "Dog Nigh". "The Enemy Within" is another goodie, a melodic instrumental for guitar fans in particular.

We're most certainly in for more! Check out The Hills Are Alive to get in touch.

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You may also want to check out our Hills Are Alive article/review: A Circular Triangle Making A Square.

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