In 1983 I discovered the music of Gandalf by hearing his album To Another Horizon. Soon I found out that Gandalf was the pseudonym of Heinz Strobl, an Austrian composer, musician, multi- instrumentalist, and producer who had taken his name from the good-hearted wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy Lord Of The Rings. I bought the album and also the next release Magic Theatre came into my collection later. After that it was only a matter of time that I became addicted to his music and bought all of his albums. Now 33 years later Esoteric Recordings strangely enough released the first two albums that made me a fan of this excellent musician. They have come up with newly re-mastered editions of both To Another Horizon and Magic Theatre. Both have been unavailable for some years, and are now re-mastered for the first time from the original source masters. The booklet of the new editions features exclusive new interviews with Gandalf and fully restored original album artwork.
For those who are not familiar with the music of Gandalf it is good to tell them that his first two albums Journey To An Imaginary Land (1980) and Visions (1981) are rather mellow-a musical style which could be described as a mix between new age, ambient, folk music and electronic music. With the release of his third (To Another Horizon) and fourth album (Magic Theatre) his music moved more towards progressive rock. Also the albums that followed such as 1984's Tale From A Long Forgotten Kingdom contained a definite prog rock edge. With artists such as guitarist Steve Hackett on Gallery Of Dreams (1992) and vocalist Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq) on To Our Children's Children (1994) his love for our beloved genre became very clear. After the release of the last mentioned title Strobl moved more towards a style which could be labeled as new age and ambient music. With the release of Visions 2001 in 2001 he went back to his early days and progressive rock was again on the menu. How his musical style is nowadays I can't tell you because I haven't listened that much to his albums released after this fine album. Even his 2016 album All Is One - One Is is one I haven't heard yet!
To those who do not know what to expect music wise on To Another Horizon and Magic Theatre, I almost would say shame on you! Both releases are albums that should feature in the collection of every proghead. For me they are the best albums Gandalf has released in his entire career. Both albums contain lots of splendid Mini Moog solos. Many times they do sound like a mix of Rick Wakeman and Manfred Mann. Moreover, you can enjoy a lot of amazing Mellotron parts. As for the guitar parts, you have to think about a combination of Mike Oldfield and the earlier mentioned Steve Hackett. Of course Heinz wasn't the only musician on both albums who was responsible for the amazing music. He could be heard on synthesizers, Mellotron, organ, sitar, vocoder, rhythm machine, wind chimes, percussion, electric and acoustic guitars himself. The contributions of Robert Julian Horky (flutes), Peter Aschenbrenner (grand piano, organ and saxophone), Egdon Groger (drums) and Heinz Hummer (bass) were without a doubt very important overall.
I will not go into detail what you can hear on every track separately. You just have to believe me every composition available is of a very high level. The combination of electronic music with progressive rock is a great marriage on all of them.
I guess Esoteric Recordings did a splendid job with the release of To Another Horizon and Magic Theatre. Even if no bonus tracks are included they are both a must have for all lovers who like progressive rock with elements taken out of electronic music. Hopefully more remasters will follow after the release of the first two amazing Gandalf albums. Highly recommended and therefore only the highest score of five stars can be given to these two masterpieces!
*****/***** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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