Day 16 of the #mayvinylchallenge celebrates the halfway point of the endeavor and asks for a random pick from your collection. I shuffled through my recent acquisitions and came upon Mainhorse, whose sole eponymous album from 1971 begs a certain question: there are so many lost or forgotten bands out there, are all of these band lost gems, or is there a reason they’re buried? Is this really as good as a lot of the more successful and popular prog rock bands out there, or is it that I’ve heard the popular stuff so much that something relatively obscure sounds like a diamond? I think with Mainhorse the answer is a little of both.
Formed in 1969 by Patrick Moraz who would later find some find as Rick Wakeman’s replacement in Yes and then later joining the Moody Blues, Mainhorse is keyboard-heavy prog rock in the vein of what was popular at the time. is that a bad thing? Take a listen to “Introduction” and tell me that’s not a rockin’ combo. It’s a heavy jam, filled with Moraz’s organ chords chunking in the background when he’s not ripping some serious runs or a classical solo break in the song’s middle, but he also cedes the limelight more often than not to the guitar wizard of Peter Lockett. Combined with Bryson Graham on drums and Jean Restori on bass and cello, they make for a formidable unit.
And if everything was as explosive and high energy as that opening track maybe they would have had a better run. As it is, “Passing Years” is passable…an acoustic ballad that really just sits there, does its thing and leaves. Things pick back up with “It’s Such A Beautiful Day” which grabs pieces of Yes and Jethro Tull and never forgets to rock hard. It’s not enough to stand against the best of those bands, but taken on its own it’s a fun number, plenty of solos backed against some great drumming by Graham, not to mention some really gnarly low-end synth work from Moraz. The sole tune not penned by Moraz is “Pale Sky” written by Ristori. It’s a slower, blues-drenched track that really works as a counterpoint to the faster songs, again with some searing solo work by Lockett and Moraz.
Side 2 starts to run cold, with the lackluster “Basia” failing to rise above the stronger tracks on the first side. It’s okay, but you can start to see the pattern of how Moraz was constructing his tracks, and there’s not a lot here show how the band could potentially bush their songwriting. After the brief exercise of “More Tea Vicar” there’s “God” which at just over 10 and half minutes is the longest track on Mainhorse, and shows where the band could have possibly went if they stayed together longer. There are shades of the main melody that remind me of Caravan’s “Gold Girl” but maybe I’m crazy…
Right now Mainhorse is still new enough to me that I’m really enjoying digging into its solos and rock prog extravagance. Will I feel that way a year from now? I hope so, but I’m under no illusions about this being a lost masterpiece.
It does rock though, and that’s enough for me.