If you’re a keyboard fan like myself, then an album like ‘Free Angel Express’ played by one-man band Mark Mangold as American Tears is an easy sell.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: American Tears
ALBUM: Free Angel Express
LABEL: Deko Entertainment
CD REISSUE: Not listed on Discogs
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Mark Mangold – keyboards, vocals * Alex Landenburg – drums
Additional Musicians: Barry Sparks, Doug Howard – bass * Charlie Calv – keyboards
TRACK LISTING: 01 Sledgehammered * 02 Set It On Fire * 03 Free Angel Express/Resist/Outta Here * 04 Not For Nothing * 05 Glass * 06 Everything You Take * 07 Roll The Stone * 08 Blue Rondo * 09 Can’t Get Satisfied * 10 Woke * 11 Shadows Aching Karma * 12 So Glow * 13 Rise To The Light * 14 Tusk (Blood On The Ivory)
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This latest release from Mark Mangold under the American Tears banner is the second album released in the last two years; the other being ‘Hard Core’ which came out in early 2018 on Escape Music. A similar approach is taken on this one with keys and synths being the main instrument of choice.
If keyboard wizards like Jan Hammer, Jeff Lorber, Eric Norlander, Neal Morse and Jordan Rudess appeal to your ivory laden tastes then this album should be on your sonar.
American Tears offer up a lot of music here, 14 tracks all up, starting out with ‘Sledgehammered’ which is a brazen copycat of AC/DC‘s’ Thunderstruck’. Interesting though not really essential. The near 9-minute extravaganza of ‘Set It On Fire’ cooks up an aural workout that goes into jam mode halfway through, particularly the loose-limbed drum work and fancy synth fills.
Another mammoth effort is the 10-minute three-part ‘Free Angel Express/Resist/Outta Here’. The first section has older Genesis elements combined with a faint hint of Pink Floyd. The second section is full of quacking synths being ground up in envelopes and noise filters. The third section is a bit more musical, with melodic keyboard lines and vocals. A varied trio for sure.
‘Not For Nothing’ is very fusion-based with some odd drum signatures to give it a point of difference. The sequencer gets a good workout on ‘Everything You Take’, another track that is very musical rather than being a loose jam-fest.
‘Roll The Stone’ has a cool vibe though it does go slightly obtuse through the middle section, but the overload of synths coming from all directions will surely knock you off your compass! ‘Blue Rondo’ is another fusion fest with relentless drum work for a friend. It’s only short by comparison: 4 minutes.
Power organ is the name of the game on ‘Can’t Get Satisfied’, the vocals make it more of a song than a keyboard only affair. There’s more organ to be found on ‘Woke’ (isn’t that an overused term in 2020?). The subdued start eventually develops into a sound-in-motion pallette built up over 6 minutes.
‘Shadows Aching Karma’ is my favourite track on the album, where everything sounds so melodic, and the tempo is kept upbeat. I wasn’t quite sure what ‘So Glow’ was all about lyrically, while ‘Rise To The Light’ was a very subdued affair. The plight of the elephant is the obvious story to be told on ‘Tusk (Blood On The Ivory)’, a mostly synth based instrumental with some elephant calls at the start and finish.
If your a keyboard fan like myself, then an album like ‘Free Angel Express’ is an easy sell. I quite like to dissect albums like this from a technical perspective, though synth technology has moved on a lot from my heyday.
Kudos also for the artwork, it reminded me of that recent movie ‘Snowpiercer’ with the train that went all around the world after an apocalyptic event. So next we stand guard awaiting the forthcoming Touch album with Mark and the original gang. Can’t wait.