One Day A New Horizon


Airship Records, 1982



Protos formed in 1979, from humble beginnings, and ended in much the same way in, I believe, about 1982. A three piece unit, comprising Rory Duff, a self-taught keyboardist of no mean skill, Steve Anscombe, a competent guitarist in the style of his namesake, Steve Hackett and finally, Neil Goldsmith on drums. There are no vocals. Not appearing on the album, but present in later incarnations was Nigel Rippon, playing bass, and Iain Carnegie, who replaced Goldsmith on percussion. The band's influences are not tricky to guess, being Genesis (Gabriel-era), Camel, Yes, ELP and Supertramp. In short, a progressive band, but, it must be said, a group that formed ten years too late to achieve any form of commercial success. As a result, only one album was released, and not in very great numbers, either.

I think I last listened to this album about ten years ago - in turning to it now for review purposes, I rather expected a painful experience and an opportunity for me to express disdain and derision in a variety of interesting ways, but, lo, I was in for a surprise. This album is actually very enjoyable - rough, naïve, lacking in polish and in production values, but a treat all the same.

"The Fugitive" is the longest track on the album, with epic aspirations much in evidence. A somewhat cheesy synth-sound, possibly Rick Wakeman-inspired, spells out some rather attractive melodies, with an able accompaniment by Anscombe's smooth guitar-play. I am a sucker for all things Steve Hackett, and any like-minded individuals will probably appreciate this track in the same way. Duff employs a Korg synth, if I recall correctly, with a horn sound with a somewhat irritating decay effect, however, there's a welcome piano break in there which is greatly appreciated. Drums, especially cymbals, are too high in the mix, and detract from the overall quality of the song. All in all, the sound is a little thin, as Duff's bass pedals are no replacement for a decent bass guitarist (a complaint that I could repeat for each track, although I won't). On the plus side, the melodies are great, and when the song is good, it's very good.

"Thing Of Beauty" is a pretty tune, if a little twee. The acoustic 12-string guitar is rather pleasant, and Duff's strings synthesiser effective (and a welcome change from the Korg, which makes another jarring appearance here). A rather shorter track, but would have benefited from being shorter still. The band's need for a bassist is especially highlighted here (oops, I said I wouldn't keep saying that).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The highlight of the album must be "The Maiden". It kicks off as a smooth, rocking sort of piece, energetically played. The band, up until now perhaps a little tentative and unsure of itself, plays with great assurance and confidence. Indeed, I can attest to the power of this song when heard in live performance, where it was always a crowd-pleaser. Thoughtful, introspective interludes are punctuated by the rousing main tune, a motif repeated several times using different pairs of lead instruments. The textures thereby achieved are very satisfying. I am particularly fond of the treble-boosted electric guitar used by Anscombe on this track. Overcoming an earlier hesitancy, there are welcome guitar flourishes that really complement the piece. There's a simple piano break part-way through, a splendidly pompous, quite jazzy riff that is very fun.

I had to remember how to flip an LP over at this stage - too used to the comforts of CD I guess, but this album only exists in vinyl form, so …

I nearly regretted the effort - "Panamor" starts off as an awful, grim piece of twaddle. A sickly, trite acoustic guitar intro, followed by an irritating piping synth sound, the effect was jarring. Don't despair, though. The intro is a red herring, as the song undergoes a complete metamorphosis. An expansive, growling synth sound seems to mean business, followed by string synth and 12-string acoustic describing a simple, yet appealing melody. I suddenly became aware again of the drummer during this track, when he started banging a bass drum in a way reminiscent of The Strawbs' "You Won't Get Me, I'm Part Of The Union". The treble-boosted electric guitar is once again used to great effect, but overall, this is the weakest track on the album.

A song that seems to have improved substantially over the years is the tongue-in-cheek, "Hunting Extremely Large Animals". An opportunity for the keyboardist and guitarist to showcase their skills, this is a deliberately plodding piece, meant to simulate the slow, heavy movements of the eponymous beasts. Years ago, I hated this song, but it has grown on me. An enduring memory of mine is Duff on the stage during performances of this song, yelling at the other band members, "SLOWLY! PLAY SLOWLY!".

There's a short, yet fascinating piece next called "New Horizons", only forty or so seconds in length, barely an introduction really. I really like it, and wish it had been developed further, but I suspect that is, in part, the nature of its appeal - it leaves you wanting more. The piece it introduces is named simply, "Protos". This is quite a catchy number, very Camelesque. The guitar work is Andy Latimer-ish, and a little plaintive, but effective all the same. The tempo ebbs and flows, and I recall that the band would struggle to keeps things even during the fast parts during live shows (things often got right out of hand), but their restraint in the studio is admirable.

I haven't used a lot of adjectives here that I might have done in respect of One Day A New Horizon. Uneven, jangling, derivative, cheesy (actually, I did use that one), amateurish. The album was produced by a rather small label that since went out of business, and was mixed by the band itself. In fact, the band went onto become a rather tighter, more polished outfit when a different drummer and bass player joined the group, but the album shows the gaps and the shortcomings. Execution and polish demands a D, but the songwriting and ideas, and sheer listenability, are all worth a B, so I offer a compromise grading below. Finally, I would love to hear from anyone who has this album or who has heard it - there are not that many of us around!

Rating: C+

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