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Strange and Beautiful- 1991
So now we come to one of my personal favorites in my CD collection, Crimson Glory’s 1991 masterpiece “Strange and Beautiful”. This album was special in many ways. It marked a stylistic departure into somewhat of a Queensryche meets Robert Plant- esque musical style. There is definitely a lot of heart and soul poured into this record by the core members of the band, Jon Drenning and Midnight. The way I acquired this CD is quite a funny story actually. I was up in Escanaba MI, (Upper Peninsula) and I stopped into this record store and browsed through their selection with my dad who used to work for and knew a lot of the guys in CG. He actually was friends with them because he mainly worked for a band that opened up for them a lot of times around the Detroit area called “Halloween”. But after a disappointing run through of their selection, I returned to him and he had, what I would later find out is a German imported Digi-pak, gold CD copy that fetches quite a pretty penny nowadays. I popped it into my CD player and I must tell you that I was not all that impressed by it. It was not the CG that I knew and loved. But after a few days, it began to grow on me. To this day this recording, along with the debut and Transcendence, have to be my favorite CD’s of all time
Strange and Beautiful - this is quite an atmospheric song. It opens up with a sort of a reverberating, echoing acoustic guitar and around 15 seconds into it, Midnight’s eerie vocals just make it an awesome listen. The electric guitars kick in around 45 seconds or so and they just kick ass. Some amazing work if you ask me. This album is really one of the best guitar albums of all time to me. The drumming is hard hitting, seeing that it is probably a drum machine like the one used on Transcendence. Most people do not know that it was a machine but it was. It was a hell of a good machine too. It sounded like a real set.
Promised Land - it starts off with some sort of freaky tribal chant and tribal dance beat. It is definitely not my favorite CG song, but it is alright. The guitar work on this song is AMAZING! There is some heavy picking going on in this track. The vocals are loud and clear. It also features some gospel-style vocals in the background which make for an all around good song. My only complaint is that it could have done without all of the tribal chants at the start, but I usually fast forward through that part anyway so it would not make any real difference.
Love And Dreams - it’s pretty good. It starts off with a catchy acoustic guitar riff. The lyrics, from my point of view, are about a person and his/her lover. I could be wrong, but that is the way I put it. Hell, I borrowed the lyrics to ask a chick out. I even told her that it wasn’t written by me, yet she still loved it. It is mainly an acoustic track with a cool laid back solo in the middle. I've always thought that this kind of sounded like Queensryche a bit.
The Chant - PURE PERFECTION!!!!!! It is just amazing. It hits you in the face and continues to pound!!! It features a riff that is groovy as fuck, simplistic, yet extremely enjoyable. The Wurlitzer organ is a bit loud, but who the hell cares? The gospel vocals are also a prominent feature in this track, giving it dynamism and distinction. The drums are loud here, making it even more pounding. Drenning’s production is extremely clear and has stood the test of time very well.
Dance On Fire - to tell you the truth, I have never really listened to this one at all. I just do not like it all that much. It is nothing really mind blowing or amazing, but just a song with a good, crunchy riff and that is about it.
Song for Angels - again, PURE PERFECTION, yet slowed down to a ballad speed. I love this song. What is there not to love about this track? Midnight is on the piano and it just makes for an amazing show-stopping ballad. My jaw was on the floor when I first took a listen to this song. I LOVED IT! The main guitar is just soft acoustics that just makes it a really emotional song. The solo is also real good, just to mention.
In The Mood - again, I never really gave this track a true listen. I just skip over it every time it is on, but it is really a good heavy track. Then it breaks down into a freaky Arabic beat after about 20 or so seconds. It is really nothing to rave about. The guitar, as always, is amazing, being very groovy and catchy. They drumming is heavy and loud, but other than that, no real stand out moments, and also very Robert Plant solo-esque in some places, I must mention.
Starchamber - at last the eerie 7 and a half minute epic. It is very Queensryche-influenced. It starts off with a clean guitar playing against some sort of freaky, spacey sound effect, then almost suddenly explodes into a fully-fledged, heavy metal masterpiece. It is a very odd song that can never really jive with me, yet despite its weirdness I still find it to be a smashingly great song.
Deep Inside Your Heart - sadly, this song has been called many things. “Deep Inside Your Fart” and “Lonely Part II” just to name a few. Like 'The Chant" and "Song for Angels", this is PURE PERFECTION! This song is perhaps my favorite on the album. It starts off with the sound of a clean, reverberating guitar with the ride cymbal chiming it in. Then Midnight’s vocals slip in with the opening line. If that is not enough to persuade anyone in the right mind to love this song, it features a very bluesy, emotional guitar solo. What is there not to love about this track? Come to your senses and just open up your mind.…
Make You Love Me - another one of those ones that I just never listen to. I find myself skipping this once “Deep Inside Your Heart” is over, but it happens to be a pretty good track overall. It clocks in at a little over 4 minutes. “Make You Love Me” has somewhat of a constant groove. It tends to stick on you like a leech on your brain. I have found myself walking up and down the hallways of my school, humming the main riff and the riff at the chorus line. Overall, a truly great song.
Far Away - what a way to end an album. On this track it is just Midnight and Drenning. It is somewhat reminiscent of “Someone Else?” by Queensryche except instead of a piano, it is an acoustic guitar while Midnight’s vocals just soar here. They are just excellent. Whenever I hear this track I think of Midnight who sadly passed away from a stomach aneurysm in 2009.
Final Thoughts - overall, this is a truly underrated classic by an amazing metal band. It marks a true stylistic change. Jon Drenning’s crystal clear production surely stands the test of time. The groove-based riffs may get annoying to some, but this is indeed a lost gem in the CG catalog.
Best Tracks: Strange And Beautiful, Promise Land, The Chant, Song For Angels, Deep Inside Your Heart, Far Away.
If you are considering purchasing this album, you should check these tracks out first, seeing that they are perhaps the strongest on here. P.S. steer clear of "Ass"tronomica. It is not classic CG and is just terrible when set up against the first three records.
A lot of people know when looking at Crimson Glory's discography to keep the first two and screw the last two. But why is Strange and Beautiful really that bad? Well it depends on who is listening to this album. This album came out in 1991. I think we can all agree that Crimson Glory "sold out" and commercialized on this album, a lot of because of the time period. On the first two album there was heaviness and awesome guitar riffs. Now it just sounds like low budget glam rock. Safe to say this isn't metal? Yes. Safe to say it's not good album, well it depends on who is listening. Whether or not you want to believe it; Crimson Glory has a lot of guitar riffs, songs, vocal performances, etc. on this album that hints toward bands like Lynch Mob. Note I picked Lynch Mob since the timing is appropriate.
Let me just make a short list of some of the glam moments in this album and you can decide for yourself. The chorus and verse (specially lyrical content) on Strange and Beautiful. After the strange intro and the riffs and drum style of Promise Land. Song for Angels represents the glam ballad, with piano playing and never real heavy guitar riffs with a moving, touchy guitar solo. The whole song In the Mood, specially the beginning (George Lynch anybody with the pinch harmonics???). These songs aren't really bad, I enjoy them.
But there is one reason why I kind of enjoy this album, and that is because I am into some glam metal. It's kind of like this; allow me to give an analogy. Metallica came out with the black album, which wasn't good but still had some decent songs. Then they came out with Load, which in my opinion was still kind of good, but they sold out -commercialized if you will. Same thing with Crimson Glory. Awesome metal to wanna be glamsters. So if you are the type of metal head that is unforgiving to bands that sell out, you know to stay away. But if you enjoy glam rock with a mix of semi-prog, then check it out and decide for yourself.
First of all I would like to state that it is my opinion that this particular album is not a metal album, but closer to along the lines of what a band like Mr. Big or Firehouse would do. The screeching guitar duos from the Self-Titled album and Transcendence are no more. Without Ben Jackson contributing, the guitar work and song writing has been very week. From the band that gave us Mayday and Red Sharks, we are forced to sit through virtually an entire album about cheesy sentiments of love.
This album isn't all that horrible though, mainly because the production is incredibly good, especially for the drums, which have been taken over by another drummer who has a very similar style of that of Dana Burrell from the Transcendence album. Not even the production to this album can make Midnight's voice sound like it used to. There is no shrieking on this album, nor are their any remotely aggressive songs.
Strange and Beautiful is probably the best track, simply because of a rather catchy chorus, which is accompanied by a rather memorable bass groove. The lyrics to this track, just like many other tracks are about women, which seems to be the main lyrical them of the album, which is kind of odd to expect from Crimson Glory after hearing their previous work.
Promised Land and The Chant have got to be the most poppy songs I have ever heard from bands that are on the metal-archives. I am reminded of Tesla's midpaced songs for The Chant, and Promised Land fades to sounded eeriely similar to a Firehouse B-side.
Song for Angels, although not one of Crimson Glory's better songs, it is probably one of their only true ballads, and it is indeed quite enjoyable inspite of an abundance of love and cheese in the lyrics. If you have ever heard Timo Tolkki's Key to the Universe, i find it rather similar, except for there is no guitar virtuosity in this song.
Strange and Beautiful is not really all that bad of an album if you are a fan of pop metal, but if you're looking for the raw metal edge of the previous Crimson Glory albums this may make you want to question your own sexuality listening to this. If you cut down on the lyrics of love for just a moment, then this album would be rated rather higher. Not much has changed about the band line-up, so I'm assuming that the change of direction is related to the departure of Ben Jackson. But for those who have heard the Midnight solo albums, it is likely that he is the main influence.
Strange and Beautiful brought many changes to Crimson Glory as we mainly know them from their self titled Debut and Transcendence. This release brings a new drummer to the forefront named Ravi Jakhotia who does a fine job behind the kit, and Ben Jackson had left CG for this album for some reason or another. So basically this left Jeff Lords, Drenning, and Midnight to the writing and arranging of this album. With Jackson gone Crimson Glory almost seemed to take a different direction musically altogether, with their unique almost romeo and juliet esque masks off now and their faces revealed i knew the moment i saw the cd it was definatly going to be different just by skimming through the song titles.
Strange and Beautiful blends many different elements of metal and rock but yet still attains that classic Crimson Glory trademark sound, still extremly spacy in essence. Midnight's vocals are not nearly as powerful or as fitting as Transendence and their debut. At times he almost sounds like Robert Plant, due to some weird ass moaning (see Strange and Beautiful and Love and Dreams). This album really deserves more credit than the average Crimson Fan gives it. It more or less attains a bad rep because this is easily their least consistent album relatively speaking. There are "some" commercial elements on this one although this is not at all what i would call a commercial album. The emence creativity that Crimson Glory has always had, really jumps up on this one as it has in the past. This is almost kind of experimental, and thats probably what brought this amazing group to its demise after this album for nearly 8 years. Drennings guitar playing is some of the best and most outstanding riffery i've ever had the pleasure of listening too in my years of existence on another note.
This is really something to be heard, and OMG listen to the "The Chant" track that almost sounds like a classic Motley Crue type song. Gospel vocals are present for the background which is something really weird to be in a hard rock song, but somehow it fits nicely. The riffs on this album are groovy as hell and catchy as fuck. The vocals are also quite infectious, although not nearly as good as Midnights job on Transendence. Jeff Lords highly talented bass playing is as always a pleasure to hear and a great member to have in any band. Although this album has a bad rep SAB is by no means a bad record by this respected band. They wanted to try something different and that is all there is to say. I totally respect their choise to experiment with different types of metal and rock. If you want to hear some of the best riffs you've ever heard listen to the title Track, Promise Land, The chant, and Make you Love Me. Basically this is enjoyable from start to finish with no exceptions. It's really to bad Crimson glory has to disband after this was released but what they would unleash in the coming years would be highly worth the long wait. Clocking in at neary one hour of amazing solos, orgasmic riffs, pounding drums, groovy fucking lead bass, and great vocals most of the time, Strange and Beautiful is a must have for any Crimson Glory fan. With rumors scattering around of a reunion of all the original members I can't help be feel excitement in my body of whats to come.
p.s avoid Song for Angels its almost completly worthless
Best Tracks: Strange and Beautiful, Promise Land, Love and Dreams, The Chant, Dance on Fire, In The Mood, Deep inside your Heart, Make you Love Me