Marscape’s Dreamy Landscape

marscape_lp_us_frontThe beautiful, haunting 1976 album Marscape, by Jack Lancaster and Robin Lumley, is available again from Gonzo Multimedia.  Except for Jack Lancaster (winds), Bernie Frost (voices), and Simon Jeffs (koto), the musicians on the work are also the founding members of the jazz fusion band Brand X who would release their stellar debut Unorthodox Behavior that same year.  Members that play on Marscape who went on to Brand X include Robin Lumley (keys), John Goodsall (guitars), Percy Jones (bass), Phil Collins (drums) and starting with their second release, Morris Pert (percussion).  Jack guests briefly on that debut album.  The fact alone that Marscape was written and performed by these musicians in that same year warrants a listen, which is well rewarded.

Marscape, Jack and Robin wrote: “was a magical journey to the planet Mars… a kind of soundtrack to an imaginary movie, our intention was picture-making through music, so we conceived Marscape as one piece, divided up into audio sketches of the events emotions that might be experienced by voyagers traveling from Earth to the red planet.  By the end, we surmise that the visitors realize that they are not visitors at all, but have actually returned home after a very, very long time away.”  This perfectly sums up what a listener could imagine from the evocative thematic piece.  Tracks include “Sail on Solar Winds”, “Homelight”, and “Dust Storm” each of which cbrandxoveys the nature of the lonely and angry red planet.  A standout track is “Hopper” which refers to the “machine for negotiating the rough Martian terrain” and which sports Phil’s signature skipping beat to a tune reminiscent of “Baby Elephant Walk.”  Also gorgeous then a bit chilling is “With a Great Feeling of Love” that is described in liner notes as two parts – one “an inner warmth and feelings of affinity” and the next an “outer cold and icy silence.”

Themes are developed early on and repeated to excellent effect, drawing the listener into the album and it’s concept.  And the musicianship is first rate – highlights:

  • John Goodsall establishes his searing guitar leads that later took Brand X to such amazing heights
  • Percy Jones lays down the groundwork for an amazing career playing his fret-less bass runs – always inventive and melodic
  • Phil Collins delivers a tour de force on his expertly tuned kit that will remind any listener of his best work – including with Genesis on Trick of the Tail recorded the same year
  • Robin Lumley had to be one of the most underrated keyboard players around – you can compare his synth leads to anyone hot from that era and his work on grand piano is beautiful
  • Jack Lancaster’s writing and performance on winds will make you look for more from this artist, including as a start his work with Blodwyn Pig

It’s a wonderful and compelling prelude to the work of Brand X and highly recommended for any fans of that band, or of acoustic and electric jazz fusion.

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