LINEUP: Mark Biehl - lead vocals, flute, trumpet, piccolo * Rick Bess - electric guitars, acoustic 12 string guitar, bass * Blair Blake - hammond organ, grand piano, mini moog, moog taurus bass pedals, arp string ensemble, celeste * Dave Kelly - drums, tympani, orchestra bells, gongs, triangles, gyro
TRACK LISTING: 01 Eve Of The Assault/Merryland * 02 The Acrobat Between The Stars * 03 Palace Of King Ferris * 04 Tyrangatang * 05 Dance The Tarantella * 06 Tournament Of Love * 07 March Of The Squatamauders * 08 A Day Without Light * 09 The Wonderful Sunshiner/Grand Finale
Another in a long list of independent American progressive rock albums released in the mid-70's that now fetches in its original form at least four figures or more. Thank the gods for the sake of my wallet, the band reissued the album to CD from the master tapes in 1995 otherwise I would never have heard it. Unfortunately, the accompanying booklet for this long out-of-print reissue while beautifully presented didn't share much information on the band other than they were originally from St. Louis, Missouri - the epicenter of classic & progressive rock thanks to KSHE radio's groundbreaking play lists and support for the local scene.
Housed in a gorgeous and whimsical cover, 'Assault On Merryland' is a concept album based on the eternal conflict of good versus evil and the band pull it off without getting too heavy-handed. Immediately noticeable is Surprise stayed true to their Midwestern roots by using more guitars i.e. Kansas and Styx rather than their Euro counterparts of the day, which makes for a refreshing listen. No doubt hailing from St. Louis, Starcastle whose management was based in the river city carried some weight in their sound and this comes through loud and clear on 'The Acrobat Between The Stars' both structurally and vocally. On the heavier side t's plenty of pre-1976 Blue Oyster Cult madness to be found on 'Tyrangatang' and 'Dance The Tarantella' with heavy guitar playing a major role while splashes of Uriah Heep and Genesis dot the remaining album culminating with the excellent 'The Wonderful Sunshine/Grand Finale' making 'Assault On Merryland' one of the more satisfying Ameriprog releases I've had the pleasure to own.
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