BANZAI – Hora Nata

Banzai are one of the best progressive rock groups to come out of Belgium, and their sole 1974 effort contains some first rate prog rock in the style of Gentle Giant and Fruupp, with flashes of Yes and early Genesis thrown in for good measure. The music is complex, but not overly so, and the lyrics are in English, so the band could have had more international success than they did, which is a shame as this kind of music is exactly what we in the UK were lapping up in 1974. ‘You Always Like An Entree’ is a short instrumental piece to introduce us to the band, and shows that Belgians can have a sense of humour. The first full track is the seven minute ‘Try’, which crams in time and tempo changes, some groovy organ soloing and some lush vocals on a superb progressive rock song. Most of the tracks on this album could be described as mini-suites, with each song having many elements, and so the instrumental ‘Obelisk’ adds a jazzy element to the mix, with some nice organ-work, but also has an orchestral string section leading into a French horn solo, and some great blues guitar soloing. This might sound a bit disjointed in print, but it works extremely well in practice, and ‘Obelisk’ is a superb track. ‘Hattrick’ follows the same blueprint, once again being instrumental, and comprising a variety of different styles in the same song, but this time adding a touch of Focus to the mix. The twelve minute ‘Three Magicians’ ends the album with the only other vocal track on here, although this is only a few minutes at the beginning before the band veer off into the numerous musical sections that make up the song. The Gentle Giant influence is most evident on this track, with each section only seeming to last a minute or so before the next one comes along, so we have heavy rock followed by classical strings followed by blues guitar followed by jazz organ, but all flowing together to produce something that is so much more than just a sum of those parts. This album has been re-issued on CD with the addition of some non-album singles, but this release seems to have vanished some time ago, which is a real shame as this is a truly outstanding prog rock album which deserves to be heard.