Your Own Choice : The Doubtful Guests

Reviewlet Larry Pennisi [USA]

The Doubtful Guests barge directly into your hearth and ears without announcement on this alternatingly didactic/high-spirited version of Home’s Your Own Choice. Alternating rhythms and a fuzzy synth bass line, wholly dissimilar from anything on the definitive version, support the introduction of a synthesizer gambol that begins at the end, so to speak. The synth line reprises the famous harmonica solo section that surfaces at the end of the original rendering.

Pam Kaye is surreptitiously offering 'conclusion' and 'example' before the commencement of the primary vocal, as sung by the multi-musical Stephen 'Doc' Wallace. The melody line is altered significantly but not enough to obscure the original manuscript of the piece and is carefully voiced and enunciated by the good Doc who is in great vox throughout. Jane Clare's small subdivision of the 'draw your own conclusions' line slides beneath the main vocal so we actually have the original melody criss-crossing over the newly fabricated master vocal tag. It works seamlessly and renders a very pleasing effect.

Vigilantly-considered piano phrases by Roland Clare float fluently over the bass groundwork that he provides from the opening measure. Never overplayed, the piano is instead used as a delightful and teasing ornamentation flitting around the penumbra of the last track on Home. The big surprise is a very well constructed baroque mid-section using harpsichord samples as chosen examples with a pizzicato bass dancing and weaving its way around the main line – many quotations from different Procol pieces are compounded here.

A line, sounding like a section of Matthew’s organ part on A Whiter Shade of Pale, only played to fit in discreetly with this key and texture, confronts the listener as the baroque section is trespassed upon to bring us forward. An increasingly orgasmic Pam continues to remind us of the conclusions and examples and the resting forever. Roland steps out of his formal shoes for a synthesizer shindig of bubbly proportions: a delight to hear.

Beneath the solo are some eerily familiar harmonies: the ending piano chords to Pilgrim's Progress. But ... and here it comes, blasting, billowing, bursting forth with the power of a 20-year-old Barrie Wilson, comes Peter Clare on drums. His entrance is an almost-verbatim copy of the drum segue on A Salty Dog's finale track. Peter’s drums are superbly mixed, as is the rest of the track, and his wallop continues for several measures as the track fades away. My Homburg is certainly off to young Maestro Clare for this loving and faithful nod of recognition.

Your Own Choice seemed an odd choice to follow Whaling Stories on the original album: but perhaps not really. After that blistering attack upon the sensibilities, where could anyone go? Legend has it that the harmonica solo was played by session great, Larry Adler. At any rate, the innocent, ruminative quality of this song and its hummable melody and easy pace were just what the doctor must have ordered. In the case of The Doubtful Guests, the magic potions in Robert’s Box worked out just fine. As so many reviews in 1970 advised: 'draw your own conclusions'.

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