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Epidaurus (band)

Epidaurus (band)

Epidaurus were possibly a studio project only, assembled for the recording of Earthly Paradise in 1977. A classic in the genre of symphonic rock, it featured dynamic musical progressions and refined arrangements. There were five long tracks on the album in all. The moogs, mellotrons, organs and pianos performed long solos in turn, played with great virtuosity by Gunther Henne and Gerd Linke. In general, the album featured a beautiful, fragile, dramatic and melancholic music with influences from the instrumental music of mid-seventies Genesis evident. Epidaurus' music was also graced by the highly talented vocals of Christiane Ward. Her singing style was in the mould of Jenny Kaagman (Earth & Fire) or Jo Meek (Catapilla, Julian Jay Savarin). Heinz Kunert played bass while Manfred Struck and Volker Oehmig played drums on half the album each. Earthly Paradise is now a mega rarity, selling regularly for more than 500 DEM

While many people most familiar with the German scene are familiar with bands such as Can, Faust, Neu, Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, and the likes, the country had quite a few more or less conventional symphonic prog acts out there. Like Eloy, Novalis, Grobschnitt, Ramses, many of these bands of course, influenced by the likes of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Camel (many of them you can't exactly call original, but then most ofthese found their greatest success in their homeland in the mid to late '70s). Epidaurus is another one of these bands.

The band basically revolved around the duo keyboards of Günther Henne and Gerd Linke, with bass and drums rounding things out. Christiane Wand handles the vocals on the first two songs, but her unintelligible and high-pitched voice really threw me off, as she sounds like she doesn't even really fit in with the kind of music being presented here (luckily the rest of the album is all-instrumental). Earthly Paradise, recorded in mid-1977, was their one and only album, until they reunited in 1994 and recorded the supposedly not-so-memorable Endangered. Anyway, back to Earthly Paradise, aside from the singing, this is late '70s prog rock at is best. Many times people simply compare them to Genesis and leave it at that, which is really unfair. Certainly the opener "Actions and Reactions" features some organ work much in the style of Tony Banks, and bassist Heinz Hunert used the Moog Taurus bass pedals, like what Mike Rutherford had used in Genesis, but a lot of the album also reminds me of such other bands as Renaissance (for the occasional use of classical-style piano), Eloy, and Ramses (for the heavy use of synthesizers).

"Silas Marner" is the second song on the album, which starts off with some great use of acoustic guitar (which is too bad this is the only song it's being used) with some stunning synth work, before Christiane Wand starts singing again (for the last time on the album, that is). "Andas" is the closest the band gets to jamming, with the use of electric piano and Moog solos. But the last song, "Mitternachtstraum" is a largely electronic piece, mostly revolving around synthesizers, but drums and Mellotron are used. And speaking of Mellotron, the whole album is loaded with Mellotron, so if you're a fan of that instrument, you can't go wrong here (the 'tron, which was the small, white 400 model, was set to strings and choir, although the flute heard on the album is a real flute). And for an album so obscure and released on an obscure label, one might expect rather sloppy performances and sloppy production (like the Norwegian prog band Akasha), instead the production is first rate, and same for the performance.

The original LP isn't exactly easy to come by, but a German label called Penner Records (which later became Garden of Delights) had reissued this on CD, from the master tapes (and it sounds it too). So just ignore the hype that Epidaurus is just like Genesis, there's a lot more going on with this band than that.

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