For most lovers of progressive rock the name of Clint Bahr doesn't ring any bells. Also for yours truly the album Puzzlebox was the first encounter with this multi-instrumentalist, who mainly is the bassist and singer on this release.
He recorded this album with several musical guests. Guests including musicians such as David Cross (ex-King Crimson), David Jackson (ex-Van der Graaf Generator), Mike Hough (ex-Flash), Colin Carter (ex-Flash) and the late Peter Banks (ex-Yes, ex-Flash). While listening to this album you could easily say that with this release Bahr tried to revive the spirit of King Crimson's Lizard and that of the album Trout Mask Replica made by Captain Beefheart. But the album is also a tribute the Canterbury sound of the '70s.
Puzzlebox also includes influences of world music, psychedelic rock, noisy psychedelic avant-punk prog and jazzy progressive jams. All this together it might sound like a melting pot of different styles which certainly isn't everybody's cup of tea. And that is the case with this album. You need to spin it a couple of times to get into the musical feeling this musician tried to achieve with this release. The sometimes chaotic improvisations on the piano or saxophone isn't the daily progressive rock I play on my sound system. But as a reviewer you have to go through all the music presented to hear what kind of music is on this release. To hear who the audience is for which the music was composed and most of all improvised.
All this said it is very clear that here we have an album that reflects the spirit of optimism of the early seventies, whereby the stylistic chaos also indicates the class of those involved. The collective rushes back and forth between improvised free jazz (Triangles, Circles & Squares, Plate, Belt & Braces, As Tympani Melt In The Greek Heat), world music (Tabula Rasa) and heavy King Crimson kind of progressive rock (Fall From Grace, New Design).
I guess the name of the album, Puzzlebox, is well chosen. Because sometimes you have to puzzle to what kind of music this album can be labelled. Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle fit together to come to a fine sounding compositions. But at the same time it is for the listener not always easy to make a well sounding tune from all the jigsaw pieces. An album with several musical faces that's for sure. But one thing is certain. Those who enjoy King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, the Canterbury sound of the '70s and free jazz will have an enjoyable album to listen to.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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