When the Zombies disbanded in 1969, their keyboardist and songwriter Rod Argent formed the band “Argent,” incorporating jazz, classical, and art rock influences. The other members included guitarist and songwriter Russ Ballard, bassist Jim Rodford, and drummer Bob Henrit. Their earliest releases received a fair amount of critical acclaim, but the real breakthrough came later on with their album “In Deep” with their minor hit “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You.” The group rode the crest until 1974 when Ballard left for a solo career and was replaced by guitarist John Verity and string player John Grimaldi. However, without Ballard, focus waned and the band broke up in 1976. What we have here is a double SACD set that contains both stereo and quadraphonic versions of three of their mid-career albums: “Ring of Hands,” “In Deep,” and “Nexus.” The first two are available in both quad and stereo, while the last album is available in stereo only.
For those in the know you are well aware that Dutton Vocallion has been masterfully re-issuing classics like this over the past few years. When I kicked back and listened to the masterfully done 2 SACD set, I was generally impressed. Considering the fidelity of the source recordings were a bit marginal, the transfers may sound a bit flat to many listeners. Even more to the point, the audio quality varies from song to song and even within a given song, still the sound quality and mix heard on the SACD’s are still nearing excellence, and a vast improvement over the Q8 cartridge tapes released back in the 70s. From an immersion perspective, I find that the mix is very good overall, with some unexpected subtleties and surprises that add to the listening experience. The opening anthem is a darn good showcase of these mixes.
There are a variety of genres across each of the three albums, moving from hard rock to progressive rock and touching on the blues. Each track has its own unique sound, and although the style varies from track to track, due to my own preferences I naturally find myself drawn to the proggy pieces, especially when the band channels early Yes or even Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Keith Emerson.
Despite the slight unevenness in fidelity, the sound quality is acceptable for the genre and the age of the tapes. These albums are a true cornucopia of riches, and I highly recommend them to any music lover who appreciates discreet quad mixes and high-resolution audio quality. These SACD’s surely beat the old school versions and have been nicely packaged at a very reasonable price.
Released December 18, 2019.
SACD 4.0 quad and 2.0 stereo dual layer hybrid disc.