❉ The classic 1980 debut album by Hans Strobl, re-mastered from the original mastertapes.
Austrian Heinz Strobol recorded Journey To An Imaginary Land in his home studio in 1980 choosing the moniker Gandalf in the hope of securing a record deal. In all ways this was a success as WEA signed him and released the album, quickly finding an audience across Europe and a 30 album career.
Described by some as ambient music, this is definitely in the prog end of the spectrum and echoes the works of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and Mike Oldfield more than that of the likes of Brian Eno. There’s a conceptual basis to the pieces inviting the listener to travel through the dreamy terrain of Strobol’s imagination. Everything is played by Strobol who demonstrates his prowess as both a guitarist and keyboard player.
The journey begins with Departure and washes of synths gradually adding guitars and keyboards which set the album up nicely. After that it falls into two clear styles: travelling and points of destination. The travelling tracks have an episodic feel betraying a clear love of the works of Mike Oldfield. Both Foreign Landscape and March Across The Endless Plain shift and change throughout with overlays of electric and acoustic guitars and synths whilst the destination pieces, The Peaceful Village and Fruitful Gardens are slower and more contemplative in mood. The destination pieces have a distinctly melodic New Age feel – a genre which Gandalf has frequently been linked with throughout his long career. Closer Sunset At The Crystal Lake is full of dreamy washes of synth recalling Tangerine Dream and 70’s Vangelis as the journey reaches and end at sundown.
For a home 8 track recording this is an impressive sounding work from a man whose technical proficiency shines throughout – especially his guitar playing. The remastering, from the original tapes, brings the layers and textures vividly to life and demonstrates considerable sonic ambition, especially when one considers this essentially is a home recording.
For lovers of spacey instrumental prog this is an enjoyable listen. Some of the tracks suffer from their length, leaving the listener’s mind to wander slightly in places but its overall concept keeps the album on track. The journey pieces probably work best mainly due to their changes in mood and by shifting from keyboard to guitar whereas the other pieces occasionally suffer from their rather static nature. Yet when one considers its origins this is an impressive debut from a musician with an abundance of musical talent.
❉ Gandalf – ‘Journey To An Imaginary Land’ is released by Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records (WECLEC2571), RRP £10.95