Jack Lancaster (woodwinds, lyricon) and Robin Lumley (keyboards) are two British musicians who formerly started together with a studio band called The Soul Searchers. The line-up included musicians like John Goodsall (guitar), Gary Moore (guitar), Percy Jones (bass) and Bill Bruford (drums). Lancaster and Lumley are mainly known for the two albums they wrote and recorded in the mid-seventies. One of them was based upon Sergei Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf (1975) and the other one was Marscape (1976), an album containing their vision of men's journey to Mars. Recently both albums have been reissued on CD.
Lancaster and Lumley recorded Peter And The Wolf with a line-up that only consisted of famous or well-known musicians. This classical piece of music is worldwide one of the most favourite to make children acquainted with classical music. In 1936, during the dictatorship of Jozef Stalin in the Soviet Union, Prokofiev was asked to write a musical symphony for children with the intention to cultivate the musical taste with children during their first school years. Fascinated by the invitation he completed this piece in just four days. The original story tells about the adventures of Peter and his friends the bird, the duck and the cat, and what happens when they meet a vicious wolf.
The rock adaptation of this classical composition uses several times Prokofiev's original themes. This works rather well in combination with the music written by Lancaster and Lumley. The story is told by Vivian Stanshall (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band). Peter and the animals are very well represented by several famous musicians. Peter is interpreted by the synthesizers of Manfred Mann who plays a superb solo on Peter's Theme, while the bird is done by Gary Brooker on synthesizers. Chris Spedding and the late Gary Moore both represent the duck on the electric guitars with a lot of wah-wah effects. The cat is performed by Stéphane Grappelli on the violin. His jazzy kind of playing provides the music a kind of gypsy sound. The role of the wicked wolf is represented by Brian Eno's synthesizers. The other musicians are amongst others Phil Collins (Genesis), Bill Bruford (Yes), Jon Hiseman ( Colosseum) and the late Cozy Powell on drums and percussion, Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) on guitar and Percy Jones (Brand X) on bass.
Peter And The Wolf is a rather entertaining album. Especially the musical conversations between the animals on Duck And Bird, Cat And Duck and Wolf And Duck are very enjoyable. The 21 compositions on this album show an eclectic musical style comprising progressive rock, jazz-rock, fusion, classical music and gypsy music. At the time blending these styles was rather risky and that's probably the reason why the music never got the attention it deserved!
In 1976 Lancaster and Lumley teamed up for the second project Marscape. This time around it was a complete instrumental album, except for some wordless vocals, based on a loose concept about mankind's first journey to Mars. Musically the album comes pretty close to the music created by Brand X, the side band in which Phil Collins was playing next to Genesis. This band made instrumental music generally known as jazz-rock and fusion mixed with progressive rock elements. The music on Marscape is in the vein of Brand X and that's not strange at all if you know who are playing on it. Alongside Jack Lancaster and Robin Lumley we hear John Goodsall (guitars), Percy Jones (bass, electronic percussion, water gong) and Phil Collins (drums, percussion), who were all members of Brand X at the time, although they didn't have released their debut album Unorthodox Behaviour (1976) yet! Furthermore we hear contributions of Bernie Frost (voices), Simon Jeffes (koto) and The Simon Jeffes String Quartet.
It seemed as if the musicians couldn't use the name Brand X for Marscape possibly due to contractual issues. It was released almost simultaneously with Unorthodox Behaviour, but the first was thrown into the shade of the latter and was ignored, quickly winding up in the waste bin before vanishing altogether. Too bad, if I may say so, since the music on Marscape is outstanding. It differs a bit from the regular Brand X albums as the music is more progressive and contains less fusion elements. You'll hear more ambient passages and great piano work as well. The contrasts in the music are therefore clearer; this way you get a rather strong feeling of the things that happen during the journey from Earth to Mars. This imaginary journey sounds excellent thanks to the superb musicianship of the people involved. The compositions contain no weak parts and sound rather recognizable thanks to the different themes used throughout the concept.
I guess it was a wise decision to reissue both albums. There are still many devotees of progressive rock who have never heard one single note from Peter And The Wolf or Marscape, while both albums are worthwhile listening to. They should finally get the attention they already deserved in the seventies. Hopefully these records will be picked up at last, almost forty years later!
**** / **** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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