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19 Sep 2016

Windchase “Symphinity” 1977 Australia Prog Symphonic












Windchase  “Symphinity” 1977 Australia Prog Symphonic
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“WINDCHASE was created in the mid-seventies by Mario Millo (guitars, vocals), and Toivo Pilt (keyboards), former members of the famous Australian band SEBASTIAN HARDIE, one of the most talented Australian bands of the seventies, and one of the rare progressive ones (both albums, "Four moments” (1975) and “Windchase” (1976). 

If you enjoyed the melodic and orchestrated approach of Sebastian HARDIE this is a treat. Beautiful lyrical melodies, musical emphasis, lyrical guitars and keyboards, mix of sung and instrumental sequences, positive lyrics… , in the vein of ‘70s CAMEL in this rerelease of the 1977 album “Symphinity”. A live bonus track, engineered in 1998, is included here. Like I said, a very good to great obscure gem from Australia. If you haven’t had enough 70’s prog such as CAMEL or GENESIS then check this out!“ (ProgArchives) …. 

After the success of "Four Moments” in 1975, Australian band SEBASTIAN HARDIE issued “Windchase” the following year. After the band split-up, its leader, guitar player, and singer Mario MILLO recorded “Symphinity” (1977), adopting for his new line-up the name of this last album. Far from being a copy, this magnificent album is slightly different from the quartet’s releases, due to the fact that they added to their typically lyrical and romantic music, a certain GENESIS-like influence that is most welcome. There is also the integration, as natural as it may seem, of a guitar and of percussions that sound as if they had directly come from a album by SANTANA. The musicians even go further by getting close to a relatively dark (!) jazz-rock fusion on the track “Lamb’s Fry”. However technique and a little show-off as well as sounding as an heir to COLOSSEUM II, this composition that lasts about ten minutes manages to remain accessible and in the same category as the previous albums…….. 

I still don´t know why some albums get so much flak from reviewers. When I got this album I was waiting for something really bad or at least boring, considering some nasty remarks I read on PA. So I was quite surprised to find the music on this CD to be anything but. Actually after repeated spins I´m convinced that this is another long lost prog gem. Ok, not perfect (see more about that below), but still much more than I expected. Windchase was an australian prog group founded by ex Sebastian Hardie key members, Mario Millo (guitars & vocals) and Toivo Pilt (keyboards). They recruited a bassist and a drummer and Winhdchase was born. 

Symphnity was their only album and the sound is not very different from Sebastian Hardie, although I see some development here. There is also some new technology involved (string synthesizers instead of melltrons for exemple). But the songwriting is top notch. In fact I liked it better than SH´s second offering (which ironicly the new group is named after). The perfomances are also exceptional, with beautiful guitar and keyboards interplay, backed by a strong and versatile rhythm section. The album´s main problem seems to be partly the third track: Glad To be alive with its lame strings and also lame vocals is clearly out of place here and almost ruined the album´s continuity. The instrumental part of that tune is not that bad, but the damage was done. Fortunatly, it is the only weak link . It seems that this song (along with the pretentious title) is the main source for the vicious attacks this CD got. 

A pity, since the remaining tracks are simply great. Nice symphonic rock that mixes very well influences from such classic bands of the 70´s like Focus, Camel and Yes. Millo´s guitar playing is gorgeous, with a very melodic feeling that is so rare to find nowadays. Pilt´s vintage keyboards are also a highlight complementing Millo´s guitar to make a real fine tapestry of sounds that I can hear for hours and hours without getting tired of or less moved. My favorite number is Gypsy, one of the best prog instrumentals I heard recently. As usual, nothing here is avant guard or groundbreaking. Just very good music, well written and played. Production is ok. 

Conclusion: a very strong release from those Aussies, that deserve more atention that it got until now. If you like melodic symnphonic with simple, but tasteful, guitar and keyboards, welcome aboard! I´m really sad that those guys did not release a follow up. But the times were changing (1977 was really a bad year for prog!) and they moved on. At least they left an excellent work for music lovers like me. I´m glad to have found such prog gem. Four strong stars….. 

Windchase is the shadow of Sebastian Hardie that produced some of Australia’s most progressive 70s albums. Mario Millo on guitars and vocals moved onto a solo career in later years but before this he was an essential part of Windchase. He was also joined by ex- Sebastian Hardie keyboardist Toivo Pilt. Both were integral to the Sebastian Hardie albums “Four moments” in 1975 and “Windchase” in 1976. The following year in 1977 Windchase was formed as a new project, equally progressive but a fair amount more rhythmic notably with the addition of Doug Bligh on drums, and Duncan MgGuire on bass. 

Mario Millo is a great smooth vocalist on the sole Windchase album “Symphinity”,and he also plays mandolin, acoustic guitars and tubular bells. His colleague and good friend, Toivo Pilt, has a powerful presence on Hammond C3 L-111 organ, grand piano, Mini Moog, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, Arp 2600, Solina, Omni string synth, clavinet D6, handclaps and vocals. 

The music is organic and flowing throughout on such wonderful songs as 'Horsemen to Symphinity’, a mini epic that moves in a myriad of musical directions, and the instrumental 'Gypsy’ that showcases the beautiful guitar work of Millo. I like the way this sounds like Camel in places and has an uplifting tempo and melody. 

For a more rhythmic feel we can turn to 'Glad to be Alive’, a sheer optimistic poppy approach, and the heavier tempos of 'No Scruples’ which is replete with magical keyboard wizardry and some Yes-like harmonies. Pilt’s keyboards are precise and have that atmospheric 70s spacey texture in tone; a bit like the style of Emerson. He is joined by a stirring lead guitar solo in the lengthy instrumental section; simply incredible music on this highlight track. 'Lamb’s Fry’ is the longest track at 9:39, an instrumental beginning with sizzling fry pan, and then bubbles along with chiming keys, a lamb bleating, and locks into a smooth groove with Omni string synth. The spacey sound of Moog takes over along a 2 chord jangling rhythm guitar motif. Pilt is in his element on keys but allows Millo to inject one of his trademark lead guitar breaks. This is one of the best pieces of music from Windchase, a veritable jam session where the musicians are able to unleash their talents as they desire. 

To close the album there is a brief Hackett-like acoustic piece, 'Non Siamo Perfetti’, and then 'Flight Call’. The return to vocals is startling after all the instrumentals. I always find the vocals relaxing, and this has some beautiful Mellotron strings. The CD has the bonus 'Horsemen To Symphinity (live performance - Mario Millo & men from mars 1998)’ which is the excellent album track with extra filling clocking almost 12 minutes, featuring extended drum solo and dynamic lead break; a great bonus. 

Overall it is a very relaxing album, though not without some flaws, and a wonderful example of 70s Aus prog. The album cover is one of the best for Aus prog, with mystical imagery, psychedelic colours and trippy artwork; UFOs and Ancient Egypt always works for me! Well worth seeking out as a vinyl treasure, quite rare, and a terrific one off album showcasing these very talented musicians…… 

Line-up / Musicians 

- Mario Millo / vocals, guitars, mandolin, acoustic guitars and tubular bells 
- Toivo Pilt / Hammond C3 L-111 organ, grand piano, Mini Moog, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, Arp 2600, Solina, Omni string synth, clavinet D6, handclaps and vocals 
- Doug Bligh / drums, percussions, backing vocals and handclaps 
- Duncan MgGuire / bass 

Guest musician: 
- Doug Nethercote / bass guitar 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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