Saturday, 16 April 2016

"The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes" by FRUUPP (2009 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Crystal Book..."

Hailing out of Northern and Southern Ireland’s notorious show-band circuit – Guitarist and Vocalist Vince McCusker of Co. Derry dreamed of bigger and better arrangements (formerly with Blues Of Five). So he turned his back on cover versions of insipid chart hits and formed his very own Progressive Rock unit delightfully called FRUUPP - taken from a Letraset Sheet that didn’t have the letters FRUP used (he added the extra U and P).

"The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes" is the third of four albums FRUUPP made for England's Dawn Records – all of which are held in Proggy affection by those who bought the platters at the time or witnessed FRUUPP as a band in their impressive live form (they backed up huge acts like Supertramp, Queen, ELO, Man, Focus, Hawkwind and the Peter Gabriel line-up of Genesis).

This February 2009 CD reissue/remaster of "The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes" by FRUUPP on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2103 (Barcode 5013929720329) gives us their 8-track third album plus two bonus single sides and even reproduces the very rare 'The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes' 6-Part Story Booklet by PAUL CHARLES that came with only some of the original vinyl LPs (it centres the 24-page booklet). This CD reissue is also available digitally at losttunes.com. Here are the knapsack details (48:40 minutes):

1. It's All Up Now
2. Prince Of Darkness
3. Jaunting Car
4. Annie Austere
5. Knowing You [Side 2]
6. Crystal Brook
7. Seaward Sunset
8. The Perfect Wish
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 3rd studio album "The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes" – released November 1974 in the UK on Dawn Records DNLH 2

BONUS TRACK:
9. Prince Of Heaven (3:32 minutes)
10. Jaunting Car (Single Version) (2:26 minutes)
Tracks 9 and 10 are an October 1974 UK 7” single on Dawn Records DNS 1087. The demo for "Prince Of Heaven" lists 4 October 1974 as its release date - although trade adverts talk of 11 October 1974.
NOTE: Prior to the album’s release – Dawn Records was supposed to have issued "The Prince Of Darkness" b/w "Annie Austere" as their first ever UK 45 – but I've never seen a copy of it and even if it is listed in discographies - I've never been able to find a catalogue number either.

FRUUPP were:
VINCENT McCUSKER – Guitars and Vocals
PETER FARRELLY – Bass and Lead Vocals
STEPHEN HOUSTON – Keyboards, Oboe and Vocals
MARTIN FOYE – Drums and Percussion

Organised and Co-ordinated by MARK POWELL - the 24-page booklet reproduces the text of the Paul Charles ‘POHE’ story (in six parts), the beautiful hand-drawn gatefold artwork of Peter Farrelly (front and back pages) and the inner gatefold with its photos of the Northern Ireland lochs. The affectionate, witty and highly informative liner notes are by PAUL CHARLES who was their "Manager and general fixer" at the beginning - and is today a published author of the Christy Kennedy mystery books (Charles in fact wrote the original liner notes for the LP). Charles continues the FRUUPP story from the previous two CDs (Part 3) and there’s some concert fliers and press clippings. But the big news is a BEN WISEMAN remaster from original master tapes that brings out the dense playing of all eight originals (Stephen Houston wrote Tracks 1 to 4 and 7 and 8 while Vince McCusker wrote Tracks 5 and 6).

It opens with "It's All Up Now" - a complicated 7:23 minutes of beautifully produced Prog Rock which settles into a moving piano lead in and vocals – it’s very YES circa "Fragile" or Genesis on "Foxtrot". "Prince Of Darkness" has McCusker sounding like a strangulated Peter Gabriel circa "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" where he's "...dancing with witches and fairies..." The album cut of "Jaunting Car" runs to 2:24 minutes – the 7" single version is 2:26 minutes (different mixes). The ‘jaunty’ instrumental simulates Toad of Toad Hall in his motorcar out of a sunny day having a blast. Side 1 ends with "Annie Austere" – 5:17 minutes of guitar and piano that impress – but the poor-man's Focus vocals kind of ruin it.

Side2 opens with the album’s most ambitious piece – the 10:47 minutes of “Knowing You” – all Spanish Acoustic Guitars and fey vocals from McCusker (who wrote the song). A ways in and it changes pace – ups the Prog breaks and feels like a lengthy Chris Squire solo passage. Once again that ethereal piano-playing of Houston gives “Crystal Brook” a truly gorgeous feel as he hits those high notes – clearly moved by nature and waves lapping up against rocks. “Seaward Sunset” is another Houston composition – 5:25 minutes of piano-led Prog with the most amazing playing – feeling like a great Moody Blues instrumental passage that you’d forgotten about. It ends on "The Perfect Wish" – very Greenslade. The stand-alone 7" single "Prince Of Heaven" feels like a "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" outtake with lyrics about "...a thousand secrets..."

So there you have it – Hairy Ulstermen and Celtic Legends ahoy – FRUUPP were/are an acquired taste for sure. But if you were a fan – this fab-sounding CD remaster will remind you and your receding hairline why you loved em in the first place...

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