Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

Illusions on a Double Dimple is the second album by the German progrock group Triumvirat. It was a breakthrough for the band, which started to open shows in a U.S tour for Fleetwood Mac. Triumvirat played the album in its entirely, and the tour resulted in increased popularity for the band in a number of countries. Triumvirat's popularity increased with their next release, Spartacus.

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.

Triumvirat was 70's German Symphonic Prog trio centered around Jürgen Fritz, a very talented classically trained keybordist. On Illusion on a Double Dimple, the group's magnum opus, there are some classical (e.g. baroque) influences and, besides the dominant organ, there are plenty of delicate grand piano and haunting synths for all lovers of keyboard-driven rock symphonies to enjoy. There is a constant wall of sound in Triumvirat's music, and it's hard to believe only three musicians could create it. Comparisons to Emerson, Lake and Palmer are of course inevitable. Besides the trio formation and keyboard-driven similarites, as well as Jürgen Fritz being very influenced by Keith Emerson, Triumvirat just happened to be another keyboard driven band. While there's some very notable differences in each band, there are some strong similarities too. Both Fritz and Emerson are the master of several keyboard instruments, and both have extensive classical music training. This is clearly reflected in their respective groups’ music.

During it's early years, Triumvirat played at local venues, and kept on covering top 40 songs, and some ELP and The Nice as well, both featuring a then-young-and-promising keyboardist named Keith Emerson. If you like ELP, Yes or Renaissance, you will probably also like Triumvirat. It’s a fact that every band have to be influenced by some others before finding their own sound, and Triumvirat developed a very own atmosphere, creating sweeter, more melodic and creative form of ELP's music: Catchy and complex at the same time. Triumvirat rapidly proved they were up there with all the well-known sympho prog bands. Unlike ELP, Triumvirat performed no jams, and don't look for any guitar solos either. Instead, they flirted with hard rock, jazz, and even honky tonk tunes. On the other hand, they had a killer music assault, led by Fritz, who could be furious, sensible, melodic and colorful. The whole thing was penned and very well orchestrated by the maestro himself. These aspects alone already make Triumvirat a unique band, not deserving to be labelled as an ELP clone.

Helmut Kollin was a very competent bass player and the lead singer. He also adds some acoustic and electric guitars here and there, nicely enriching the sound in general. The vocals might remind you some Beatles with Peter Gabriel’s voice. We also got an effective 6-women chorale. Hans Bathelt is an impressive, sure-footed drummer, very comparable to John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) in term of hard rock feels and 'locomotive' impact. He is highly technical and powerful. His drumming is sometimes light and jazzy, but sometimes he is rockin' like hell. Bathelt has nothing to envy Carl Parlmer for, grooving so well in grand 70's tradition. It's just a lot of fun to listen to. Kollin plays bass more feriously than Lake, quite akin to Yes' Chris Squire, and shows tremendous chemistry with Fritz. As a result of this, the trio reached a high quality level in term of arrangement and structure. One might see the influence of ELP right from the beginning, but Triumvirat has put an effort that made their music consistent from A to Z, each and every song flowing into each other perfectly. Every single note is calculated, and they’re extremely tight and talentuous. They have nothing to envy to ELP, really.

Especially pleasing is Million Dollars, the final movement of Mister Ten Percent suite (apparently dedicated to a recently fired manager) in which all Triumvirat’s talents are released in one electronic deluge. An especially Tarkus-like opening dissolves into a huge orchestral and vocal rush as Triumvirat bids farewell to their agent: ‘’Who’s going to work for you for the rest of your life?’’

Triumvirat offers interesting song structures, and some of the most beautiful melodies ever. The musicians are creative, imaginative and innonative, most of the times sweeter and lighter than ELP, but equally challenging. Any proghead will soon notice their personal original soundscape, and their ambitious, inspired arrangements. Melodic, tight, powerful and emotional, this German band does prog a bit less complicated and much more melodic and creative than ELP. Emerson, despite his greatness, has always looking for sensational solos, while Fritz playing is never excessive, and always integrated in the context of songs. The style here, while very technical is not as ego-laden as Emerson's occasional flippant follies. Also the entire disc is purely epic both in structure and in scope with a certain
'cinematographic' feel that is hard to put into words. Jurgen Fritz has certain similarities (mostly on organ) but his piano and synthesizer work are way more romantic perhaps even sligthly feminine as opposed to Keith's rather technical and muscular delivery. The keyboardist performed some gorgeous extended Moog solos as well, which bears a very deep Wakeman-esque vibe at times.

Illusions on a Double Dimple is in itself an excellent manifestation of the best that Germany had to offer the symphonic prog rock scene worldwide. With both this album and their second best Spartacus, Triumvirat catch the attention of wider audiences over the world. Jürgen Fritz is the captain and he and his band are brillant throughout the album. When listening, try to get over ELP similarities and then be prepared for a sensory journey to the world of maestro Jürgen Fritz. Illusions on a Double Dimple is the best way to get into Triumvirat.

Track listing:

01 "Illusions on a Double Dimple" – 23:25
 a "Flashback" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 0:57
 b "Schooldays" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 3:22
 c "Triangle" (Fritz) – 6:53
 d "Illusions" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 1:42
 e "Dimplicity" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 5:37
 f "Last dance" (Fritz) – 4:53
02 "Mister Ten Percent" – 21:33
 a "Maze" (Fritz) – 3:03
 b "Dawning" (Fritz) – 1:02
 c "Bad Deal" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 1:40
 d "Roundabout" (Fritz) – 5:49
 e "Lucky Girl" (Köllen, Bathelt) – 5:14
 f  "Million Dollars" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 4:42

Bonus Tracks (released together as a single):

03 "Dancer's Delight" – 3:32
04 "Timothy" – 4:08
05 "Dimplicity (edit)" – 3:15
06 "Million Dollars (edit)" – 2:35

Personnel:

Jürgen Fritz – Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, electric piano, Steinway grand piano, vocals, producer, arranger
Helmut Köllen – bass, acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
Hans Bathelt – drums, percussions, words & lyrics

2 comments:

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  2. Sweet. Haven't heard this in years. Brings back some nice memories. Thank You.

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