July 23, 2024

Alan Simon – “Big Bang”    – a symphonic grand concept album

CHERRY RED RECORDS          Out now

Grand concept prog on a wide sonic stage. Pounding piano chords, strings and a bit of mock-Gregorian chant. For me, this is a little like indulging in a huge sugary meringue. A sax weaves above large-scale instrumental forces and decorates this rock symphony. The effect is a piece of musical theatre bigger than you could possibly find in a real theatre.

Alan Simon is a French composer, usually favouring Celtic themes and medieval romances, this time turning to space exploration, presumably as a commission, to soundtrack an event in Toulouse. It is a huge project, with 120 musicians and massive levels of multi-tracking (allegedly 200 channels per tune). The aforementioned sax comes from Supertramp’s saxophonist. And the few vocal tracks have luminaries from the prog and folk worlds. Leaning to the elegiac, the songs add a certain tone and the whole wraps up with the penultimate Fools, an angry lament for some sort of astrological misdemeanour (blowing up the moon?). The Soul Of The Stars has someone assiduously aping David Gilmour’s Stratocaster sound as the horn adds fills, making for a very nice Floydian experience. Woven into the tracks are star sounds from NASA and the whole effect is atmospheric and wide-screen

Portentous as this is and carrying a feel of something of great import, I am ultimately left without that promise fulfilled, yet enjoying the big sound. It is something to wallow in and admire the musicianship and production, without raising your heartbeat or firing the emotions.

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