Duncan Mackay – Chimera

Duncan Mackay is a sadly forgotten British keyboardist who recorded two solo symphonic prog rock albums back in 70s along with few disks together with such little known bands like Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel & 10cc, while in 80s he joined Camel to record “Nude”. It’s a pity that his discography usually isn’t so well known for prog lovers ‘cos he’s surely one of the best keyboard players out there.

Anyway his debut album “Chimera” is undoubtedly the best and most representative record of Duncan Mackay. I still wonder why he didn’t become as big as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or Patrick Moraz, because “Chimera” is a truly remarkable statement of pure & powerful symphonic prog rock which should be checked out by all keyboard-driven music fans!

Duncan’s debut is a wet dream of all ELP and The Nice fanatics who always wish to find more Hammond drenched staff. Maybe in 1974 this kind of music starting to become a bit out of dated (you can check synth-led albums of “Yes” or “Genesis” from this time) but I don’t care at all. Prog-rock dominated by blasting organ sounds is always a great pick for me and “Chimera” is definitely one of the best albums I’ve been ever listening to.

This LP originally included only 3 long suites:

1. “Morpheus” – first epic track is the only one which featuring more vocal parts & I’m really surprised why Duncan didn’t decide to sing more, ’cause his vocal abilities are not much worse than his keyboards skills. Really nice, “British”-style voice. But of course singin’ isn’t the most important factor on this epic, the main entertainment value is the HAMMOND ORGAN! Sometimes joyful & rhythmic, sometimes dirty and gritty, sometimes wild & unstoppable but always highly entertaining. Except organ Duncan also use ARP synthesizer & sparkling piano, all of them in suitable doses to not overshadow incredible B-3 solos & mean riffs. His ability to often change between symphonic passages and more pop or jazz oriented fragments but still keep everything in proper order is astonishing. References to ELP, Refugee and Trace are obvious, but I can also hear some Caravan influences, especially in Mackay’s vocal delivery.

2. “12 Tone Nostalgia” – this instrumental is called “12 Tone Nostalgia” but only in the beginning we can hear a little nostalgic tones, while later it became a groundbreaking symphonic prog composition almost completely dominated by muscular Hammond organ passages. I really love Mackay’s style, especially those flashy slide effects which reminds me about Terry Howells, little known organist who played with art rock formation Still Life. Currently Lalo Huber from Argentinian group Nexus seems to continue bombastic style of organ playin’. Brilliant!!

3. “Song For Witches” – the longest, 20 minutes mastodon track begins with rather psychedelic, enigmatic piano & organ performance, but after a while Duncan proceeds to long, jazzy piano part. Very similar to Patrick Moraz’s style on “Refugee” album or some Keith Emerson piano instrumentals. About 7th minute Hammond organ comes back to life to entertain us with another bunch of memorable, classical-like melodies in the vain of Alan Park from “Beggar’s Opera”. In the middle there is a short vocal fragment, which sounds really good too. Especially clavichord, synth, organ & piano rich background for Mackay’s voice is splendid. Near the end we can also witness crazy, Emerson-inspired (a la “Pictures at an Exhibition”) synth soloing with many wild, dis-harmonic noises and squeaks. This madness is followed by another one, this time Duncan seems to make an attempt on destroying his Hammond organ by hitting it, stabbing and God only knows what else! Simply: highly recommended for ELP geeks.

Bonus from 2009 remastered CD:

4. “The Opening” – remastered CD finishes with track recorded in 1990 which completely doesn’t suit the rest of this album. It’s a very electronic sounding piece dominated by modern, high-tech synthesizers & some saxophone. However one fragment with jazzy piano is not so bad. Anyway I don’t count it as a proper part of “Chimera” at all.

I can summarize this review saying that “Chimera” is a really obscure gem, forgotten white crow in progressive rock world. If you consider yourself as keyboards-driven rock aficionados, you simply need to listen to this album. It’s highly recommended if you also like such formations like: ELP, The Nice, Trace, Triumvirat, Collegium Musicum, Refugee, Le Orme, Beggar’s Opera, Amos Key and so on. But I can also add that “Chimera” bare many similarities with later prog-rock LPs, like Quill – “Sursum Corda”(1977) or Covenant – “Nature’s Divine Reflection”(1993). Both seemed to be inspired by this Mackay’s debut.

Best track: “12 Tone Nostalgia”.


1. Morpheus [11.29]
2. 12 Tone Nostalgia [8.23]
3. Song For Witches [19.56]

Bonus track

4. The Opening [7.03] recorded 1990


* Duncan Mackay – Vocals, piano, Hammond B3 organ, Denon electric piano, clavichord, ARP synthesizer
* Gordon Mackay – Violin, electric piano, piano
* Mike Gray – Drums



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