Arc Angel - 'Harlequins Of Light'

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Arc Angel - 'Harlequins Of Light'

Wonderful songs from the first track to the last.

There are a select number of names in the world of melodic rock that can only be spoken in revered, hushed tones, and even then only once you have donned special ceremonial garb and made sure that all the common folks have been locked out of the citadel for fear of being driven insane by the mere mention of Arc Angel...

Thirty years since he first delivered a self-titled offering overflowing with pomp bombast and melodic rock goodness, Jeff Cannata serves up only his second full album as Arc Angel, 'Harlequins Of Light' (although 'Tamorok' came close in 2002, being credited to Arc Angel/Cannata). In between these albums Cannata hasn't been idle, although he's hardly been prolific either, releasing a further five records revealing a penchant for relaying styles as varied as pure AOR to complex, if melodic, progressive rock. Rather than revert to the pomp-rock that Arc Angels devotees still worship so much, 'Harlequins Of Light' instead takes a broader sweep, almost feeling like a career overview of Cannata, with a mix of AOR, melodic prog and pomp showcasing the many strengths this songwriter and multi-instrumentalist possesses. Those hoping for a complete return to the classic Arc Angel sound may be disappointed, but those who have been seduced by this man's music over the years will be delighted and in truth so will anyone looking for a wonderful piece of melodic rock assured enough to avoid being one dimensional.

Delve into 'California Daze' and you'll find a jaunty strum-along reminiscent of a less fluffy Nelson, fire into 'As Far As The Eye Can See' and you'll be dazzled by the brilliant progressive melodies, where a collision of Magnum and Yes shimmers and explodes joyously. From there grab onto the brooding pomp of 'Voice Of Illuminati', the wonderful 'Get To You' where again Yes are alluded to with a chorus to simply die for, or the smooth, atmospheric AOR of 'Fortune Teller 2', a reworking of a song originally found on the Cannata album 'Images Of Forever'. It is a scintillating ride, with Jeff providing captivating trademark vocals across the whole album while also handling some of the bass, keyboards and guitars, and all of the drums (he still considers himself a drummer first and foremost!) The likes of Jimi Bell (House Of Lords), Tony Spada (Holding Pattern) and Jesse Jay Johnson all also lend a pair of six-string hands, but Cannata is the star here from start to finish as much through his tight, focused songwriting as his excellent performances.

Whether 'Harlequin Of Light' will remove the self-titled Arc Angel album from people's sacred places of affection, I very much doubt. However that's more due to its slightly more rounded and diverse musical view than any slight against the songs it contains, which are wonderful from the first track to the last.

Steven Reid

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