UK band QUASAR, these days relocated to the US, was formed in the late 70’s. Following a just about total line-up alteration they recorded and released their debut album “Fire in the Sky” in 1982, a production that have subsequently been reissued on CD. The version this review describes is a digital promo for the latter, which in this particular case is worth noting.
Musically we’re dealing with a band bound to be placed in the neo progressive sphere whether you’ll like it or not. A UK band releasing their debut album in the early 1980’s with symphonic progressive rock as their chosen style will always end up with this categorization by way of history. In this case to some extent due to style too, admittedly.
Following a very nice, energetic symphonic introduction, Quasar heads straight into the more accessible field of neo progressive rock on this album. The compositions are light, soft and smooth in construction, with a fairly typical melodic lead vocalist supported by what appears to be a fairly traditional instrument foundation. No major alterations in pace or intensity, no drastic thematic developments or traits otherwise distinctly out of the ordinary. Apart from the keyboards that is. Richly layered, soft keyboards coat and cover the arrangements, sometimes opting for a few dramatic flourishes but first and foremost melodic, harmonic and accessible. At least as the music comes across on this edition. Epic length Mission 14 is the main exception to this description, and as such also a standout composition on this album as far as I’m concerned. I might also add that the compositions as such, even if of a kind and character that invites to the neo progressive tag, draws their influences from the symphonic progressive rock of the 70’s. Just like the majority of the other bands given the neo progressive description at that time.
What may be lacking in my own and others understanding of this version of Quasar’s debut album is that it appears to be lifted from a less than perfect source. The amounts of hiss and clicks that is a presence throughout suggests that the source for this CD has been a vinyl LP, and one played a few times at that. Which isn’t the perfect source to use when you want to reproduce the sounds of a sophisticated band. Details disappear, especially when I get the impression that this wasn’t a high budget recording in the first place.
The promo edition I got contained two bonus items: Fire in the Harmony, an alternative version of the latter two parts of Quasar’s UFO cycle (tracks 6-7 on the original LP) and UFO, all four parts of the UFO cycle combined into a single track. The former is the most interesting of the two, as the female vocalist present on this take and the subtly more guitar based arrangement (unless I’m much mistaken and misheard) does add more vitality to this composition.
As long as you can live with the technical shortcomings of the CD edition of Quasar’s debut album “Fire in the Sky”, it is a nice trip into the gentler parts of early 1980’s symphonic progressive rock, neo progressive or not, but if you want to get a presumably superior listening experience, the original vinyl LP is the one to go for. If you can find one of good quality and are willing and able to pay the price of such a presumably rare item that is. Be that as it may be, this is still a fine example of smooth, elegant and highly accessible early 1980’s progressive rock.
My rating: 74/100