Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 24 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website
It took a whole eight seconds for Coogans Bluff to grab me. Sure, the guitar and kazoo (that is a kazoo, right?) sounded intriguing, but then an almighty crash kicks in like someone had taken an ancient gong outside and shot it to death. It's glorious and the rest of Gadfly continues to be interesting. It has a real urgency throughout most of the song but it still finds time for a mellow out saxophone section. Earlier sax over a weighty stoner riff is even more arresting.
Its so much fun that I was all set for an album of songs like this one but I have to point out that Coogans Bluff clearly aren't interested in revisiting old ground when they've covered it properly to begin with. At forty minutes, this isn't an incredibly long album but they do travel down a whole bunch of musical roads within that running time.
Sincerely Yours is loose psychedelic rock with a southern edge, kind of like what Lynyrd Skynyrd might have sounded like had they formed in San Francisco in 1967. I'd throw out Blind Melon as a comparison too but this is a little more soulful and a little less perky than No Rain. Hit and Run does much of the same, making this pair of bookends around Zephyr the only two songs here that really play in the same ballpark.
Zephyr is a jazzy workout introduced by that sax of Max Thum but which moves firmly into krautrock, with a searing Willi Paschen guitar solo, the driving bass of Clemens Marasus and more wailing sax as the track builds. It's seven minutes long but it's over before we blink, even with a quiet introspective section. There's a lot of King Crimson in here, quiet or loud, because while Coogans Bluff play in a lot of genres, prog is at the heart of what they do.
Soft Focus is a soft rock song but with depth, so think more Steely Dan than Jimmy Buffett. The organ behind the lively beats is delightfully subtle and there's a lot of keyboards here. Drummer Charlie Paschen also plays Farfisa and Mellotron, while Stefan Meinking is credited on Moog. It's another seven minute song but this one feels a little longer because it's far more relaxed instrumentally.
And that brings us to The Turn, in two parts, which announces its intent to be memorable from the very beginning. It turns out to be memorable, but not so overtly as the opening suggested. The first part is entirely instrumental and it's Marasus who shines again here on bass. As things progress, I'd add Meinking for special mention, not for his Moog work this time out but for an engaging trombone. Part two is a real tease of a vocal piece that builds the way a Joe Cocker song would but with different vocal tones. I love the drums on this one, partly for their patience and partly for releasing their energy in glorious fashion when the moment arises.
The obvious question at the end of this is whether it holds together as one album and I think it does. Whatever road the band are travelling, they don't ever lose track of being Coogans Bluff. The biggest problem the album has is that Zephyr has so much sheer intensity to it that it dominates that part of the album so firmly that it's easy to lose the peaceful material around it. It took me a couple of listens through to really register Hit and Run, as it feels so quietly inoffensive by comparison.
All in all, this is a strong prog rock album, worth highlighting at a point in time where strong prog rock albums seem to be bleeding out of the walls.