And so we come to Freedom's Children's last and what I believe is their best album, the enticingly-titled Galactic Vibes. With group founder Ramsay MacKay out of the picture at this point in the band's history (and replaced by the solid bassist Barry Irwin), this LP should not be as thoroughly excellent as it is. However, it indeed deserves such accolades as it effectively takes the experimentation prevalent on Astra to the next logical level. Guitar god Julian Laxton and vocalist nonpareil Brian Davidson ably fill the void caused by MacKay's absence, helping make Galactic Vibes the band's heaviest album. Whereas Laxton at times sounds almost overwhelmed by the guitar effects and electronics on Astra, here he has clearly mastered his customized echo box and other innovations. Davidson also sounds less tentative than he did before with his voice often coming on like a force of nature. Such a combination of talents will, of course, invite comparisons to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, regardless of the fact that Freedom's Children were far more imaginative than the supremely overrated Led Zeppelin. Moreover, group biographer Nick Warburton unfairly dismisses Galactic Vibes as "pal(ing) in comparison with its predecessor," and in doing so neglects to provide any details about the songs or production of the LP in his otherwise superlative history of the band. I don't disagree that Astra is an outstanding album, but Vibes is at the very least its artistic equal.
Laxton displays some amazing guitar pyrotechnics on "Sea Horse" that are superbly complemented by Davidson's wailing vocals. I still can't get enough of the former's wah-wah and cutting lead lines on this one, and that's why it can still be found on my iPod some seven months after being downloaded there. The epic live version of "The Homecoming" - again, featuring Laxton's guitar work that is seemingly capable of moving mountains and parting seas - suffers in comparison to the original on Astra only because of sole founding member Colin Pratley's somewhat tedious drum solo. This, however, is a very minor criticism. The knobs get turned up to 11 on the awe-inspiring "That Did It," which is such a powerful performance that additional words fail me. Just listen to it and be amazed. There's a certain orchestrated grandeur to "Fields and Me" and "About the Dove and His King" that nicely contrasts with the amplified fury of the album's harder tracks, while the electronically-enhanced instrumental "The Crazy World of Pod" and haunting "1999" (a piece written by Ramsay MacKay) would not have sounded out of place on Astra.
In short, an extraordinary listening experience.
1. Sea Horse
2. The Homecoming (live)
3. That Did It
4. Fields and Me
5. The Crazy World of Pod (Electronic Concerto)
7. About the Dove and His King