Outpost Recordings, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not often I find myself speechless when trying to describe a band to a person who's never heard of a group. But in the case of Vaganza, while some comparisons are easy to make, it is very hard to say what I think the group is about.

The duo of David Longworth Wallingford and Quigley, both of whom are multi-instrumentalists, make up Vaganza, whose debut album merges all the bombasticness of Queen with the vocal style of Frankie Valli, occasionally throwing in a Latin beat to make sure you're paying attention. Their self-titled debut has some incredibly good moments on it, though they aren't able to sustain the momentum through the entire album.

When you hear the guitar work on songs like "She's Crazy," you'd swear that Freddie Mercury and Queen were playing on this disc. However, Wallingford and Quigley manage to take such a classic sound and make it their own, albeit much more campy than Queen in, say, 1975 would have done things. Other songs like "Wedding Day" are painfully beautiful, diving into a human emotion that many have felt and put it to words of sad acceptance. It's a slice of pop culture that must be heard, and is a logical pick for a single.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There's even a touch of David Bowie-style bombast on the album's closer, "Rock n' Roll Apocalypse," a song which doesn't seem like it runs for over nine minutes. And just when you think you've heard it all, there's a bit of spice thrown into the mix on songs like "Margherita," a twist which seems to hit at just the right time.

For all this so far, one would think that Vaganza is a debut album that is near perfection. However, the formula of the songs gets a little threadbare as the disc runs on, as evidenced by tracks like "Too Darn Good". And maybe it's just me, but I think I could live without song lyrics such as this one from "Start Liking Yourself": "When you see all the love we share / Can't you see it's going straight into my derierre?" Oh, please.

But where Vaganza's strengths lie are in the performance of this music. Both Wallingford and Quigley are more than competent musicians, and both are strong enough vocalists that either could handle lead vocal chores comfortably. It is nice to hear the tradeoff among them, as each song seems more suited to a particular voice. And the instrumentation is so strong, it's sometimes hard to believe that, with rare exception, this music is coming from only two people. (Quite possibly the rich orchestration helps the image - I don't want to say illusion, because Vaganza gives fair credit to all their backing musicians.)

In fact, the music on Vaganza is so strong that it might seem overpowering at first. There is definitely a camp attitude towards the music, something I would think that Wallingford and Quigley would happily admit to. I would dare to say that it is this "to hell with it all, let's be gaudy" attitude that helps to make Vaganza an interesting, enjoyable listen, and I'm willing to play along with Las Vegas.

Once you get over the initial shock, Vaganza proves itself to be a pleasant surprise of this year's new releases. And with a little stronger songwriting (though they're not far off the mark), this band will definitely be one ready to invade your radio in the very near future.


Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Outpost Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.