I don’t know if it was planned, or if it is just a coincidence, but “Nostradamus” has the appearance of being a big farewell to grandiose ’70s prog. Being that it was released in 1977 (the golden age of punk), and it is First+Aid’s only release, leads me to believe this. The classic prog bands were already adjusting their sounds by this time. However, this one album band decided to record a pompous, ultra-pretentious, symphonic, concept album. I think it was their way of giving one last bombastic blast.
As you may have already guessed, the concept is based on Nostradamus, and his prophecies. In the middle, it shifts to a bit about Catherine de Medici. Sometimes it works quite well, at other times it is downright cheesy. The lyrics in the title track are especially trite. The compositions, however, are very strong. The instrumentation is also worked out very well with a blend of straight rock, and a studio orchestra. The vocalist has a strong voice, but I wonder if this might have worked better as a strictly instrumental affair. With the absence of the lyrics, it might have been a very powerful musical interpretation.
There is keyboard straight out of the Keith Emerson playbook, guitar grooves, and lush strings. Oh, and the pomposity, I can’t forget the pomposity. It would be easy to immediately write this one off as a result of listening to “Tales from Topographic Oceans,” and “Brain Salad Surgery” one too many times, if it weren’t for the fact that it is good music. Forget the concept, and listen. There is much to enjoy here.
Alan Wormald – guitar & vocals
Norrie Tennet – bass
Keith Parkison – keyboards
Dave Freeman – drums