Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Haze - C'est la Vie. 1984 England
CD reissue: 1996 Cyclops w/The Ember
Haze were one of the more known names from the initial New Wave of British Progressive Rock bands that emerged in the early 80s. They were often mentioned in the same breath with IQ, Marillion, Twelfth Night, and Pallas. Armed with this knowledge, when I arrived in London in the summer of 1984, it was my every intention to come home with their first full length LP C'est la Vie. But it was one I could not find anywhere, and the band's hazy moniker represented my own memory of them. C'est la vie indeed.
Fast forward to 1992, now touring my own country, and we're in Greensboro, North Carolina visiting a record store (as if I'd be doing anything else...). And there (of all places), staring me right back, was the ever elusive Haze album, with its unique blue vinyl cover design. It was there, I was there, and it was $2. Mine. Finally. Eventually arrived back home, played it probably twice, filed it.... and haven't heard it since...
...Since today, 24 years later. The vinyl still has its comfy spot in the collection, but now the CD just walked in the door. Time for a serious headphones listen.
To be honest, I was almost afraid to listen to it. I figured perhaps my quest had added a point or two to the overall rating, in my often fits of nostalgia. The good news is, I enjoyed it more now than I remember. The album very much reminds me of the cassette tape culture that was prominent at the time. So yes it's true, the production quality is lacking, and the performance is amateurish. The band weren't ready for prime time, and yet that's where its charm lies. In addition, Haze weren't your typical Genesis/Yes fixated neo prog outfit, but rather they represented a variety of English bands - anywhere from Iron Maiden to Duran Duran to Van der Graaf Generator. No, they weren't metal or synth pop in the slightest, but the songwriting was reflective. The other major influence that emerges obvious is that of Rush, which gives the band the surge of energy they most certainly needed.
The CD decided to reverse the sides of the LP, so the first track you hear is 'Mirage'. This composition goes back to 1979, 4 years before anything else on the album, and demonstrates that Haze started out far more progressive minded than they ended up. The other standout track is the now-closer 'The Load' which is where VDGG becomes the lead influence. In between are subtle prog tracks, a ballad, a bit of hard rock, and just general no-budget-but-cool sounding 1984 rock.
The liner notes inform us that the song, and record label, Gabadon comes from a translated form of the license plate of a Land Rover the band usurped from a friend to help with touring.
With history now in place, Haze were an early dropout in the neo prog sweepstakes. They were quick to move away from progressive rock, and made their stab at more commercial offerings. A typical failed strategy. The band has reemerged for one last recording, but I have yet to hear it as I write this.