Imagine an album being recorded in 1985, and being released only 25 years later, in 2010. Sounds crazy? Well, this is exactly what happened with BunChakeze album Whose Dream?. The four people involved were Odin of London members Colin Tench (guitar, synthesizer and vocals), Gary Derrick (bass), Cliff Deighton (drums) and Joey Lugassy (vocals). The former three founded the band, helped build a studio in exchange for recording time and then hired the Lugassy to fill in the role of the until then missing vocalist. Studio owner Alex Foulcer fulfilled a guest role on piano.
After recording the album, the four disbanded. In 1992, they the album was remixed, but only in 2010, Colin Tench took the lead in releasing the album on CD, encouraged by Pasi Koivu, with whom he later founded Corvus Stone.
The album contains 9 tracks, which clearly show how these four men were influenced by late 1960s and early 1970s progressive rock . Music that was wanting air play and certainly of no commercial interest at the time of recording. However, times have changed again in the mean time, and this album is no misfit in the 21st century revival of progressive rock.
The opening track BunChakeze is an energetic, short instrumental with ‘swirling’ keyboards and matching guitar, to warm up for the rest of the album. Once this is done, the band slows down for the first part of title track Whose Dream? Keyboard and piano guide the fitting rock voice of Lugassy, in what sounds like a melancholic ballad until the guitar and drums come in to make it into a more powerful, almost marching track. The circle closes when we go back to the first line of the intro, which is also the last of the song, once again only accompanied by the piano: Whose dream are you dreaming?
Walk on Paradise then is a more guitar oriented track, although the synthesizer is quite present in the opening. Initially, this doesn’t feel like paradise music at all – but when the rhythm becomes more stable and prominent, the feel becomes more positive. Briefly only though, the instrumental midsection removes the happiness again – in line with the lyrics (‘I am a prisoner who lives alone, chains hanging from the walls‘). After a quite heavy guitar solo the song takes a more melodramatic turn, in music as well as lyrics, as the main character is looking for a way out.
After this, the album gets to what I think are its four best tracks, starting with Handful of Rice. The music is carried by a staccato guitar riff (by some referred to as latin or hispanic, but I don’t fully see that reference). This is haunting in a way, especially in the mid section where it is accompanied by a droning synth and metallic sounding drums. Near the end the track speeds up a bit, maybe signifying new hope? New hope that certainly belongs in the next track, Flight of the Phoenix, after all, a phoenix always rises from the ashes in which it perishes. This is a track that opens with wonderfully played acoustic guitar, accompanying a well performed vocal melody. It’s not a happy tune, matching the darkness of the lyrics. Halfway, the electric guitar comes in and the song becomes melancholic. After a nice, melodic guitar solo, the music speeds up and when the phoenix rises, the ‘Clock stops!‘ and so does the music.
After this, the band takes us to 19th century North America, with Midnight Skies, telling us about how the young United States dealt with the natives. On this track, which starts out with almost jazzy guitar and bass, the 1970s influences of the band really show. While the bass and guitar build a rhythm, the keyboards go into Genesis like patterns, and a Pink Floyd resembling guitar solo follows. All of this build up to the request to let the native Americans take back the prairies and run free under midnight skies….
With Long Distance Runner, the direction changes once again. With two vocals (both by Lugassy as far as I can tell), singing a sort of dialog, this track starts with a musical like feel. After this it speeds up gradually and a slightly staccato guitar seems to imply the runner is really running. The drums on this track are not continuous, in various places only fills and breaks are played, which really gives an unusual effect to the music. At the end, the piano comes in for a bit more. What keeps me wondering about this one is the question whether the line in the lyrics ‘A Cinderella Boy becomes a Marathon Man‘ is a reference to Rush: they have Cinderella Man and released Power Windows including Marathon while BunChakeze were recording.
And then – it is time for The Deal, yet again a track in which the 1970s influences return. There is a guitar riff underneath this whole track that is so close to something (go hear for yourself) on Pink Floyd’s The Wall that coincidence is impossible. It’s not a rip off though, the track works perfectly by itself, and it may be the easiest one to get into on first listen. After this, all that’s left is dessert, a short instrumental reprise of Whose Dream, which is mainly a slightly folky electric guitar tune.
I got this album almost 5 years after it was released, after missing it completely in 201o – and I’m happy to have it now. It’s by no means perfect, certainly production wise a few things could be improved (hollow vocals here and there, slightly sharp drums), but given its history that is something I can live with. I really like the last four tracks (not including the far from bad Whose Dream reprise), even if they are not as original in style in 2010 or 2015 than they were in 1985 I guess. Recommended for checking out for sure – and added to the regular plays a while ago over here.