Friday, January 1, 2016

Triumvirat - 1973 [2002] "Illusions On A Double Dimple"

This German trio is often branded as a clone of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which is an unfair, if understandable, dismissal. Propelled by Jürgen Fritz's keyboard arsenal of grand piano, Hammond organ and Moog synth, the band were clearly versed in the science of Brain Salad Surgery. But what they lacked in originality they made up for with mind-boggling chops. Triumvirat's second LP, 1974's Illusions on a Double Dimple, is a prog-rock masterwork, incorporating operatic choirs and bursts of pop levity into two seamless, side-spanning epics. They softened their approach later in the decade in a quest for commercial stability — and failed miserably. But thanks to Illusions, Triumvirat's legacy among the prog firmament was secure.

Illusions on a Double Dimple is an album by the German progrock group Triumvirat. It was a breakthrough for the band, that started to open shows in a U.S tour for Fleetwood Mac playing it entirely, and made the band more popular in some countries. This popularity would be increased on their next release, Spartacus.

I've had a vinyl copy of this album for a long, long, time.  I bought it before I had ever heard the group, but the fact that it was on the Harvest label (like Pink Floyd) and the fact that the album cover was weird made me pick it up.  I'm glad I did, because I've gotten lots of enjoyment over the 30 odd years I've owned it.  One thing's for sure, they weren't afraid to cop styles from other Prog bands of the time.  Everyone points to ELP with their obvious heavy organ sound, and trio band makeup, but I also hear lots of Yes, Genesis, and Tull influence throughout the album as well.  At least they stole from the best.  And while not original, they were still very good!  This album follows a theme, but as so often is the case with me and 70's prog, I have no idea what the theme is, something about getting fired from your job, maybe forming a band, and drinking a lot.  The playing is excellent, and the lyrics, though hard to figure out, are nonetheless interesting.  I spend many a stony night in the 70's enjoying what these guys were putting out, I think you will too. by

In 1974 English Progressive Rock was over. Sure there were some late comers, but the masterworks that define the genre were all done, toured, and live-albumed. Most of the first line Prog bands were taking a breather around this time; Yes, ELP, and Genesis all had to stop for various reasons, mainly having recorded and toured for six straight years.
And into this gap came Jurgen Fritz. Fritz, had he been born in England, would have been regarded along with Wakeman as a competitor to Keith Emerson, but unlike other Proggy keyboard wizards, Jurgen Fritz did not quail from emulating his master. "Illusions on a Double Dimple" is one of the few direct decendents of "Tarkus" and compares rather well to that piece. Fritz and his interchangable bandmates don't create a science fiction vision here; side one is the story of a failure having a drink on a hopeless afternoon. You may debate whether the technical prowess of this band and the heavy-duty musical technology employed is what is called for, but "Illusions on a Double Dimple" manages to move along quite nicely, with snatches of strings, and even some soaring melodies.
Side two, another long suite, addresses the rock industry, and gives us more of Jurgen Fritz's Emersonalia.
Back in the day, I listened to this album with a religious intensity owing to this being the only thing out there that satisfied my desperate hammond/moog jones. Fritz had a solid background in classical music (which Emerson did not) and created succinct, useable, and variable themes that move through the highly orchestrated pieces in ways that are more Yes-Like than ELPish; however, the sonic landscape never vears away from the heavy percussive organ, piano, and overactive drums of the Nice or ELP.
The remix clears up the inherently muddy sound of these vintage instruments, and gives a vivid sense of depth to the music. Fritz had a lot of talent and this is his best work. "Illusions" is a classic progressive rock album, and one that should be part of anyone's collection of that much-maligned but secretly well-loved genre. By Mark D Burgh.

"Illusions On A Double Dimple" is Triumvirat's masterpiece, and the high point of their recording career. The band, formed in Cologne, Germany, in 1971 by Jurgen Fritz (keyboards), Hans Bathelt (drums), and Hans Pape (bass, vocals), had previously released an album, "Mediterranean Tales" in 1972, to mostly poor reviews and lukewarm response by the public. After Pape left the band, they returned to the studio with his replacement Helmut Kollen (guitar, bass, vocals) to spend five months recording "Illusions" with horns, a string quartet and choir. The resulting record, released in March of '74, was a resounding success, earning Triumvirat an audience among prog fans world-wide. As a "concept" album, "Illusions" is breathtaking in scope and ambition, incorporating classical elements, pop balladry, joyous rock riffs and even occasional strains of jazz. Hard-core prog enthusiast will find plenty of dazzling musical interludes, and mainstream rock fans will enjoy the melodic movements encapsulated as conventional songs.
Sadly, and perhaps with a grain of truth, Triumvirat never quite shook the mantle of "Poor man's ELP", though the discerning listener will find them far more accessable and less heavy-handed. As well, they came on the scene during the waning days of the prog movement, and were thus forever in the shadow of established acts such as ELP, King Crimson, Yes, Rush, Genesis, and Jethro Tull.
They quickly recorded their following album, "Spartacus" (1975), another concept piece, which is itself a masterful work, more confident and assertive than "Illusions", but relying more on synthetic textures and instrumental virtuosity than "Illusions". "Spartacus" was followed by a series of albums "Pompeii" (1977), "A La Carte" (1978) and "Russian Roulette" (1980), each of which contain a few brilliant moments surrounded by mostly mundane attempts to recapture the magic of their previous success.
Triumvirat never again caught the lightning in a bottle of "Illusions". They didn't have the radio-frindly songs of Yes or Genesis, the instrumental virtuosity of ELP, the quirky arrangements of King Crimson, or the rock appeal of Tull or Rush. Nonetheless, in "Illusions" they captured perfectly a previously untapped balance of musical styles unheard-of before or since. "Illusions" and "Spartacus" deserve a spot on the top shelf of any prog rock fan. I've waited years for this record to be released on cd, and it's been well worth the wait. The bonus tracks are not up to the quality of the original album, but they're interesting to hear, if only to expound upon the direction the band was attempting to forge. I wish the cd allowed for individual selection of passages rather than album sides, so new listeners could skip to "songs" they enjoy rather than having to fast-forward through instrumental movements they may not appreciate. But when all is said and done, "Illusions On A Double Dimple" is as magnificent as it was when it was first released, and I'm glad to finally have it in my cd player. GET THIS RECORD NOW!
By G H .

Tracks Listing

1. Illusions On A Double Dimple (22:59)
- a. Flashback (0:54)
- b. Schooldays (3:20)
- c. Triangle (6:55)
- d. Illusions (1:40)
- e. Dimplicity (5:28)
- f. Last dance (4:42)
2. Mister Ten Percent (21:22)
- a. Maze (3:01)
- b. Dawning (1:01)
- c. Bad Deal (1:40)
- d. Roundabout (5:49)
- e. Lucky Girl (4:32)
- f. Million Dollars (5:19)

Total Time: 44:32

Bonus tracks on EMI remaster (2002):
3. Dancer's Delight [Single] (3:34)
4. Timothy [Single] (4:10)
5. Dimplicity [Edit] (3:17)
6. Million Dollars [Edit] (2:35)

Line-up / Musicians

- Hans Bathelt / drums, percussion
- Jürgen Fritz / Hammond organ, moog synthesizer, electric piano, Steinway grand piano, vocals
- Helmut Köllen / vocals, bass, acoustic & electric guitars

Guests:
- Hans Pape / bass
- Peter Cedera / spoken words on Illusions On A Double Dimple
- Hanna Dölitzsch, Vanetta Fields, Brigitte Thomas, Ulla Wierner / backing vocals
- The Cologne Opera House Orchestra
- The Kurt Edelhagen Brass Section
- Karl Dewo / saxophone solo on ''Mister Ten Per Cent'' 
 

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