Esoteric Recordings have turned their attention this year to the works of legendary keyboardist Patrick Moraz, steadily reissuing out of print titles from his back catalogue in chronological order and ensuring that they remain available to the many fans who might otherwise be shelling out for old, used copies online. The ongoing series begins with his debut solo album from 1976, The Story Of I, and has thus far also seen reissues of 1977’s Out In The Sun and 1978’s Patrick Moraz. The next title in the series arrives this fall with the reissue of the 1980 album Coexistence, which Patrick recorded with pan flautist Syrinx.
Esoteric like to do things right. Far from the detached, clueless cigar-chomping executives who churn out ‘product’ with no thought for the consumer, they are music fans first, and they know what fans want. Anyone already familiar with their attention to detail probably knows what I’m talking about. Each of these reissues is fully remastered with clear, sparkling sound for optimum sonic enjoyment, and contain bonus tracks as well as completely restored artwork and liner notes.
Most people probably already know the story of the great Yes solo albumfest of 1975-1976, so we’ll dispense with trotting out that story again and focus on the music. The Story Of I was in some ways the most creative of those solo albums and the most far-flung from the Yes mothership. Opening instrumental track Impact serves as not only an introduction to the album, but to Patrick’s solo career as a whole, particularly as it blends into the first proper song, Warmer Hands. These tracks sound spectacular on a good system or on headphones, with the myriad instruments attacking from the left and right channels. It’s no surprise that there is a strong jazz fusion flavour at times either, considering musicians such as a young Jeff Berlin and Alphonse Mouzon are laying down the rhythm parts – and Moraz is right at home here. But the Brazilian percussion is another major part of the sound of this album, and these two styles are blended very well. Intermezzo provides a taste of classical piano & vocal, before veering into complex progressive rock territory throughout that track and the ones beyond, each of them seamlessly flowing into the next. By the time we reach the closing one-two punch of Rise And Fall and Symphony In The Space, it’s apparent that Moraz was not only every bit as gifted as the musicians he has played with, but an incredibly strong composer and arranger as well. An album that demands to be played as one piece from beginning to end – these are not tracks to be plucked and played individually. As a whole, The Story Of I showcases dazzling and ferocious playing from all involved, with maestro Moraz gleefully at the forefront, as well as countless beautiful melodies, moods and quirky instrumentation.
Out In The Sun carries on the Latin sound found sporadically on the previous album, with a poppier approach on some tracks (certainly not all), and vocals that sometimes call to mind Jon Anderson’s solo albums – not in pitch or vocal range, but in style. Witness the opening title track for example, which practically oozes suntan lotion and poolside drinks. This is a supremely summery album, and not because of its title – rather, I suspect the title was chosen due to the feel of the music. Rana Batucada is a highlight – a terrifically fun instrumental track with the aforementioned Latin feel prominent in the relentless percussion, and Patrick’s nimble playing overtop. Silver Screen is a change of pace with an Elton John-like approach, while upbeat instrumental Kabala returns to the fusion sounds evident on the previous album. Love-Hate-Sun-Rain-You is another track that sounds like it would come from Jon Anderson – but only because of its title. This is a much more straight-ahead electric guitar rock song – or at least, as straight-ahead rock as a song can be with Patrick’s fluttering keyboards peppered throughout! A welcome addition to the album. The centrepiece though, surely, is the closing nine minute Time For A Change, a four-part mini epic that sees Patrick indulging in six minutes of wonderful keyboard playing before the vocals even come in. One of his strongest pieces of music, surely. And it all sounds great on this reissue. An album worth investigating, and much stronger than some reviews would indicate. It’s worth noting that ‘happy’ and ‘upbeat’ do not equate to bad music. Not when it comes from a gifted musician such as this.
Patrick Moraz (sometimes known as Patrick Moraz III) is the third album in a row to credit Patrick with a jaw-dropping array of keyboards – too many to list. Suffice to say that if it was a popular keyboard instrument in 1978, it’s probably there. And like the preceding albums, PM3 has a wide range of sounds and styles. The album tends to be viewed as far superior to Out In The Sun, particularly by the more prog rock-minded Moraz fans. It helps that the first three multi-part suites that formed side one of the original LP are all instrumentals of twisting and turning moods and colours – so no chance there will be cries of “Pop!” here. And truthfully, it is pretty far from pop. Those tracks, Jungles Of The World, Temples Of Joy, and The Conflict, form a pretty fantastic musical suite that is likely the kind of thing Moraz fans had in mind when they thought of what his solo music might be like. If Primitivisation is perhaps a weaker cut, and Keep The Children Alive a sort of odd man out, being a proper song with vocals and lyrics, the album returns to its instrumental side with Intentions, a solo piano piece, and the closing track Realization, a joyful piece of music rather unlike the moodier dramatic instrumentals of the first half of the album. This is a tremendously overlooked album that is once again available to the masses thanks to these reissues, and is every bit as worthy of picking up as the others are.
This is a good time to discover or rediscover the music of Patrick Moraz. This fine reissue series makes for a terrific entry point (or a splendid upgrade to old, ratty copies), and the outlook is good for the next in the series, coming this October. Check these out!