Monday, October 26, 2009

Ring Of Hands


Once upon a time, when Rob Zombie was most likely still in diapers, there was a band called The Zombies. Honest. Keep in mind, this was back in the days of the British Invasion – the mid-1960s – when you could actually call your band The Zombies and get away with it. The Zombies had a handful of big hits, before finally laying it to rest (if you’ll excuse the pun) later in the decade. While these grateful undead all went their separate ways, keyboardist Rod Argent became intent on forming a new group…his “personal dream group of musicians” as he wrote on the back of the first Argent album cover. It would be made in his image and his image alone. He would hand-pick each member, getting just the right combination of “ability, creativity and enthusiasm.” What the hell, he’d even name the band after himself – Argent. An exercise in blatant ego-mania? Not really. A-Rod truly was the brain – not to mention the heart and soul – behind Argent. The debut album, simply titled Argent, was a decidedly Zombie-like affair, probably a little too close for comfort. So, it was with Ring Of Hands that the true Argent group persona would fully emerge. The original liner notes described Argent music as evoking a feeling of sitting alone on a back pew of an empty church. Mysterious and melodic, the album showcased a more experienced, idealistic young band willing to explore more esoteric, keyboard-based musical territory than previously. “Celebration…an invitation…to come and join in…a ring of hands together…” sing A-Rod and guitarist Russ Ballard in beautiful, crystal-clear harmony on the hippy-dippy opener “Celebration.” Elsewhere, fantasy and Tolkien-ism rear their proggy heads on the extended keyboard workout “Lothlorian.” Other standout tracks, like the pew-worthy “Rejoice” and the piano-pounder “Pleasure” merely reinforce the notion that it was time to bury The Zombies once and for all. Sadly, Argent would never sound this good again, wandering aimlessly throughout the prog wilderness of the ‘70s (although scoring a huge hit with the single “Hold Your Head Up” in ’72). By their final album, 1976’s Counterpoints, Argent would explore a vapid jazz-fusion approach with little success. RIP Argent.

Essential Tracks: “Celebration,” “Lothlorian” “Pleasure” “Rejoice” “Where Are We Going Wrong?”

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