Review Summary: This is one of the best albums in the same vein of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Still, this is neither The Nice nor a copy of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
“Refugee” is the eponymous debut studio album of Refugee and was released in 1974. The line up on the album is Patrick Moraz, Lee Jackson and Brian Davison.
Refugee has born from the ashes of The Nice. When Keith Emerson left The Nice, Jackson and Davison found themselves on their own and went in separate ways. Davison formed Every Which Way and Lee formed Jackson Heights. In 1973, Jackson approached Moraz and asked him if he would be interested in joining his band. He refused, but proposed instead they form another band. Jackson called his old band mate Davison and thus, Refugee was born.
“Refugee” is the only studio album released by Refugee. Moraz was asked to join Yes later the same year and that lead of course to the breakup of Refugee. However, a live album was released in 2007, “Live in Concert - Newcastle City Hall 1974”, containing two songs from the earlier era of The Nice. This is also a very good live album. I recommend it too.
So, in many ways, Refugee resemble Emerson, Lake & Palmer, because they are as pompous and classical influenced, like Emerson, Lake & Palmer were, which wasn’t really a great surprise, according with their story. But at a technical level, and apart from the unavoidable comparisons with the inevitable Emerson and Wakeman, and not forgetting that all had learned from very similar booklets in which the chapters dedicated to the classic were pontificated, Moraz soon reveals himself from the opening theme to the ending, an effective conjurer to draw sounds from Moogs and other synthesizers, and his soon to be hailed virtuosity is expressed without hesitation or fear throughout the album and as he makes use of the arsenal of keyboards at his disposal. No wonder that he soon claimed the attention of Yes.
As for Jackson and Davison it’s inevitable to hear how they have grown since the days of The Nice. They sound relentlessly powerful when it comes to making any of the long suites and reach apogees of electrifying intensity, not forgetting that both have the opportunity to diversify their contributions, the first with an occasional but interesting moment of electric cello beyond the usual rhythmic guitar, the second with eardrums, gongs, chimes and other percussions that enrich the sound spectrum. But the weak link of the album is, as had happened at certain times in the past, Jackson’s voice. Still, it doesn’t have a bad voice. Even in certain parts, he is much more than acceptable, as in the more melancholic landscapes of the “Grand Canyon Suite”. But, his voice isn’t an acquiring taste for everybody.
So as you may be able to figure out, Refugee was your ultra typical, classical influenced keyboard driven 70’s progressive rock trio in the 70’s, in the same vein of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Their first and unfortunately only album is, in my humble opinion, one of the best albums Moraz ever played on, next to “Relayer” and “Story Of I”. He had moved on from the primitive heavy prog of his former band Mainhorse to the keyboard sound that he would later use in Yes. I think this is especially apparent on “Someday”. The keyboard arrangements in this track sound like it could have been taken straight from “Relayer”. Despite Jackson wasn’t the most talented singer the world has seen, he sounds on my ears better here than he ever did in The Nice. I think he even manages to deliver some true emotion on some of the vocal parts. The instrumental opening track “Papillon” is complex, a classical influenced keyboard prog track of the kind most of you will love, if you’re a real prog fan. The other instrumental number “Ritt Mickley” is kind of funky, but still with lots of classical influences. But the two long suites are the best tracks here. First, we have the 16 minute “Grand Canyon Suite” that starts with a quite mystical and atmospheric part where the mellotron slowly builds up to the main theme. The vocal part in the middle reminds me slightly of Triumvirat on their album “Spartacus”. The whole thing returns to the instrumental main theme at the end, but now played real fast and energetic. The 18 minute “Credo” follows much of the same structure, but fortunately, without becoming too similar. These are really two excellent tracks.
Conclusion: “Refugee” is one of the great albums released in the 70’s. It’s not inferior to the best musical works of The Nice or even Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It’s a very creative musical work, full of wonderful keyboards, which driven the symphonic progressive rock in all its pompous and glory. It leaves us a bitter taste in the mouth by not having the opportunity of see the group rejoined after the departure of Moraz of Yes. “Refugee” also proves that Moraz is one of the best progressive keyboardists ever and deserves to be better known and see recognized his great talent as a performer and composer. This album also explains the reason why he was invited by Yes to substitute Wakeman. This album is a great postcard of his musical contribution to the progressive rock music. But it’s incomplete without “Relayer” and “Story Of I”. In my humble opinion, these three albums are his great legacy to the progressive music.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)
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Album Rating: 4.0
So, after Rick Wakeman, the next gentleman as the keyboardist of Yes in my prog journey through the world of Yes is Patrick Moraz. As happened with Wakeman, Moraz also has a prog music past before he joined Yes. And as happened with Wakeman with Strawbs, it was Refugee who caught the attention of Moraz to Yes. Refugee is essentially the continuity of the band of Keith Emerson, The Nice, when he left it to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Thus, as happen with Strawbs, and despite the fleeting duration of Refugee, I really think that they deserve to be better known and have some more love here on Sputnik.
So, I really hope that you can enjoy this album too.
Album Rating: 3.5
I've listened to bits and pieces of The Nice in past few years, and it didn't hook me. To me it sounded like a poor man's ELP, out of what I heard, anyway. I own that Refugee album on vinyl, and i haven't listened that much to it. I found it original enough, and it sounded to me like a jazz rock and or jazz fusion album that had not much interest to me so it stayed under the dust. Great musicianship and few great passages, but not so many hooks, so I said to me it deserves a 3.5/5. Patrick Moraz leaves me kind of cold even if he knows his keys. Of course, he did a nice job with Yes' Relayer and with Bill Bruford.
Nice review, mate. I've seen a little mistake, but I can't find it at the moment, and i'm hurry for now, so I'll tell you later. Cheers, my friend!
Album Rating: 4.0
I agree with your diagnostic about The Nice. But we mustn't forget that their albums were composed in the end of the 60's, which means that they were released before prog. Still, I think their debut, "The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack" is a nice album. Personally I like it. Besides, I know that Moraz isn't properly your favourite keyboard player. But, as you know, I like his work in general.
About the mistake, tell me something latter, if you please.
Album Rating: 4.5
Nice to see a review of this album. It needed a review. I will read your review later.
Album Rating: 4.0
Yeah, it needed one. Tell me something later, if you want. Thanks.
Album Rating: 3.5
I really regard this album as a jazz fusion thing with an ELP, a classical flavour. I often hear echoes of Al Di Meola. Moraz and Di Meola seem to be from the same school, and/or the same taste. There are some majestic moments on this album. At 16;13 for instance. it's like ELP meets Triumvirat. And at 39:49, a kind of Procol Harum meets Van Der Graaf Generator. In fact, the only lowlight thing for me is the Moraz' choice of the synths/keyboards sometimes. It irritates my ears at places. I cannot give the album more than a 3.5, because for me it doesn't have much replay value. But don't get me wrong, I can see why you enjoy the album more than myself, and I consider it better than Story Of I.
Edit; I'm unable to put the finger on your mistake again. It's that small ;)
Album Rating: 4.0
About your comment I need to say several things:
1 - I completely agree with you that this album is a kind of a jazz fusion thing with an ELP and classical flavour, or if you prefer, an ELP thing with a fusion thing and classic favour. It depends of your point of view, really. In short, this a kind of a pre-ELP album with some jazzy influences.
2- I also agree that it has many common points with Al Di Meola fusion style. Still, that was never a true surprise for me, really. I always felt that Moraz was strongly influenced by jazz and his style always was very close to the fusion style, his favourite style, a common thing with Bill Bruford. Still, there always was a thing that astonished me, his capacity to play several styles, wich is perfectly noted on "Relayer" more heavy, on this album more jazzy on his debut solo album or more eclectic and with The Moody Blues more traditional.
3- About the common points with Triumvirat, I also agree. Who are acquainted with the classic prog era of the 70's, which are our case, know that Triumvirat was strongly influenced by ELP, to the point of being considered a clone of ELP, which I always thought to be unfair. Their music is much more than that, really.
4- About the low points of the album, we disagree. As you know, I always loved the keyboard style of Moraz. He his a classical trained keyboardist with the same school of Wakeman and Emerson. The style of them are different, of course, but all the three are amazling skilled in their own way. All three are different and equal at the same time. I think you can understand what I'm saying, in my perspective, of course. My only complaint about this album are the vocals, as I mentioned on my review, before. I don't dislike those vocals but I don't love them, either. As I wrote before, it's a question of acquiring taste, I think. This is perhaps why I don't gave to this album a 4.5.
5- Finally, about what is my favourite album of both mentioned by you, and according with my ratings, I continue prefering "The Story Of I". Despite the problems with the vocals about this album, I think "The Story Of I" is more eclectic, more ballanced, and above all, more original and exotic. I think it can satisfy better the prog rock scenary, because it develops more and is more proggier than this one is.
Sorry my friend due to my so lengthy comment. It's always a pleasure to cross ideas about the prog music with you. I think you can understand what I'm saying and that you can agree with me, I hope.
Cheers and keep on progging, my friend.
Album Rating: 3.5
Here's my lenghty comment;
Now that I've listen to Story Of I and Refugee still more, I agree with you that Wakeman, Emerson and Moraz are different and are equal at the same time, but I feel that Moraz borrows much to the bombastic, sharpness and nervousness of Emerson, and also borrows to Wakeman's synchronized, melodic, soft and fast sides. That being said, I also think that Moraz has his own style, but I confess that personally, it doesn't appeal to me as much as the other two when it comes to jams, musicianship and songwriting. Either Moraz takes too much room or not enough. I find he could use more organ and mellotron, and he often goes wild and compact with noisy keys...I wish he could be more sober, less nervous in his playing. He is more creative than I thought though.
I can hear you when you say that Story of I is more ecclectic. it's always hard for musicians to put tne music together when it's ecclectic, and I'm not a fan of the Brezilian parts. There are songs or parts of songs I enjoy a lot, but it doesn't last long enough. I absolutely love ''Indoors'' which is a blend of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. It's followed by ''Best Years Of Our Lives'' which is a good combination of The Tangent and Barclay James Harvest to my ear.
As for Refugee, it's true that the busy and nervous parts don't always fit with soft, melodic parts, but as a whole, I think it flows like an unique, fluid epic song. Story Of I is a more ''experimental'', song oriented album with a sonic surprise in every corner, that's why it deserves a bump up from me; 3.5. Both albums are well structured, risky and adventurous in nature, but I think my favorite parts come from Refugee. It moves me the most, and vocals are alright for me. In Story Of I, Moraz goes hard and takes more room. In Refugee, Moraz is also busy, but it's more a team affair, and arrangements are colorful.
You see, your devotion for Moraz made me wonder why i was hard headed about him. Now it's different, and I can consider him among the most talented prog keyboardist, finally. Like I said, I don't always like his choice of keyboards/synths. Other than that, he is rather pleasant to hear into an album context.
Cheers, brother in prog!
Album Rating: 4.0
Yeah, in general I can agree with you. Like you I also prefer Wakeman and Emerson. Definitely, I know the work of both much better than the work of Moraz. Still, I continue thinking that he was able to be part of three of the best and very different prog works in the 70's, "Relayer", Story Of I" and "Refugee". Besides, and I think I wrote this before on one of my reviews, Moraz always had a big problem. He always was the number two. He was the number two of Wakeman, Emerson and Michael Pinder. And to be the number two of this three gentlemen, it wasn't a simple and a small thing for him, surely. I would like that he could have had a better oportunity to be the number one of a big prog band. Maybe the things could be better and different to him in the world of prog. Who knows?
Cheers my friend.
Album Rating: 4.5
Nice review of a great album. Thanks for you make me listen to this album. The album is amazing. It reminds me ELP. Have a pos.
Album Rating: 4.0
Thanks Intruder. It's always a pleasure to see you on my comments. I'm glad that my review brought you to this album. You're right. This is a great album and reminds ELP. We can even say this is an ELP's album without Keith Emerson on board.