|Greg Northrup||12-August-2002||Sacred Baboon|
Yezda Urfa were an American band that recorded and performed during the 70s, but unfortunately broke up after experiencing no record label interest for their second album Sacred Baboon in the decidedly prog-unfriendly waters of the later 70s. However, Greg Walker's Syn-Phonic label managed to dig up the album and gave it proper release in 1989. The band can can actually be fairly easily described as an eccentric amalgamation of Yes and Gentle Giant. The bass player sounds like Chris Squire, the guitarist plays like Steve Howe and the singer sounds somewhat like Jon Anderson, but the song structures are much more reminiscent of the angular and overtly complex territories of Gentle Giant, including complex vocal harmonies, though perhaps approaching the fiery intensity of Relayer at times. Still, the band lacks the same kind of compositional variety of either of those two bands, instead relying on superbly intense and frenetic playing that can be utterly jaw dropping throughout the album. For the most part, the band doesn't vary from their impressive attack, but occasionally moments of traditional Yes-like beauty provide some breathing room.
"Give 'em Some Rawhide Chewies" is immediately impressive, and
rocks out from the first second of the album. Songs like "Cancer of the
Band" and the beginning of "Boris and His Three Verses" illustrate a more
plaintive melodic side to the group, before breaking into dazzling
instrumental portions. The aforementioned "Cancer..." as well as "(My Doc
Told Me I Had) Doggie Head" also feature great multi-part vocal harmonies
that are directly out of the Gentle Giant book. Vocals are actually the
weakest link in the band. I've never been a huge fan of Jon Anderson
anyway, but it seems like Rick Rodenbaugh ends up rushing a lot of phrases
to keep up with the breakneck changes and playing. To me, the vocals just
don't fit in a lot of points where they are used, and only rarely serve
their function as an attractive centerpiece to a song, generally
distracting from the great instrumental work instead. Still, this is one
of the finest examples of American progressive rock from the 70s. Superb
musicianship and on-the-dime, well-executed playing is the definite
highlight. A fun album, if not the most original thing I've ever heard.
Unheralded in their day and basically only known now for their belated second album Sacred Baboon, Yezda Urfa were one of the finest American progressive rock groups of the 70s. Their extremely rare debut album Boris has long been an in-demand collectors item and for good reason. It shows the band in a slightly rawer early stage performing five tracks that would later be rearranged for Sacred Baboon. Sacred Baboon, of course, is a very fine album in its own right, but I prefer Boris for its more immediate intensity. Yezda Urfa's brand of dazzlingly complex, Yes-influenced symphonic rock is an exercise in mad genius and rare dexterity. Often played at frantic speeds, the quintet rips through long (except the banjo stomp "Texas Armadillo") compositions of key and time changes like they spent every minute of those years practicing them. Suffice it to say that there isn't a second of this that doesn't awe you with their prowess, as they tear mercilessly through 32nd note speed riffs, contrapuntal craziness and jagged start/stops. It all leaves one completely breathless in the end and ready for more. Although the album is a $1500 collectors item, CD-Rs are starting to become widely available which means that a legitimate reissue of this is sorely needed. One of progressive rock's last unreissued masterpieces.
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