Album Reviews http://www.progmeister.com//reviews.php CREDO...AGAINST REASON 10/29/2011 6:44:48 AM



I compose this review as a very impressed Credo newbie. Until now I had only heard Credo by name, I had until today actually never heard their music. This CD, their third is a shining example of 21st century progressive rock. It has all the hallmarks of classic prog shifting time signatures, exemplary playing, good varied material and solos none of which are overstated and entirely relevant to the feel and timbre of the music.

The album begins with a nice keyboard intro and were off 'Staring at the sun' a cracking opener in which an addictive chorus and some great guitar playing take us on a journey to a place on the edge of destruction. Mark Colton weaves a tale of apocalypse, his impassioned vocal enraged by what is happening around him. This is an excellent opening track with its it's blend of musical accessibility and a stern warning to us earthlings to think about our planet and our future.

The following track Cardinal Sin is another very strong track, this song discusses blowing the whistle on abuse . Its a superb rollercoaster of a listen, twisting moods an epic piece indeed. Intimate Strangers follows its a slower paced track with a heartfelt vocal performance embellished by some lovely keyboard and guitar work.

Next up is the instrumental title track Against Reason mystical and eastern influenced, it reminds me very much of another favourite instrumental track of mine Arboressence by Ozric Tentacles, absolute quality.

Insane follows with its themes of religious and political extremism. The band deliver a very strident and powerful musical backdrop (listen to the guitar in the latter part of the track) while space is allowed for the musical flexibility which is the cornerstone of the prog genre. Another great vocal performance gets the message across no problem The theme and performance of this song are very strong, once again Credo makes you think.

A shorter track Reason to Live brings the pace down a little but this doesn't mean that any power is lost. This is a nice melodic song that makes you feel that at some point the music will break loose but the band keep it restrained achieving a beautiful warm musical atmosphere.

Conspiracy (MCF) deals with exactly that, conspiracy theories Did man walk on the noon? What happened at Roswell? How did Marilyn die? This ten minute track is a full on album highlight featuring another great vocal and excellent keyboard and guitar work throughout.

The album reaches its peak with the epic closing track Ghosts of Yesterday. Not as instant as some of the other tracks, it starts off in a laid back mode gradually building to an anthem like finale and features some really nice acoustic piano playing mid-way through the track. This track will benefit from repeated listens.

A very good ending to a very good album.

 

J.W. Godbluff,

 

Playing time 69:51 mins

festival Music CD 201104CD

www.progrock.co.uk



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THE TANGENT...COMM 10/9/2011 9:52:03 AM



Well, Comm finally arrived at Progmeister towers and not a moment too soon.  The package under scrutiny here is the 180g vinyl LP which contains three of the major pieces from Comm and includes a cd of the whole album with two bonus tracks.  Also included is Andy Tillison’s intriguing solo album Murk. At £29.99 including postage it may seem by some to be a little steep, however this is a high quality collection of merchandise and I fail to see anyone being disappointed. We can confirm to you from the outset that after listening to the CD and then the vinyl album, the latter is simply sublime.

Everything about this album has been thought long and hard about. From the amazing art work courtesy of the extremely talented Ed Unitsky, who is without doubt the modern day Roger Dean to the internet campaign drip feeding tasters and information about the albums content and meaning.  Even after hearing hints of what was to come, the experience of listening to the album in its entirety was a revelation. Having watched the interviews on youtube with Andy Tillison’s explanation with regard to the various tracks on the album it became evident that no such explanations were necessary, such is the clarity of the lyrical content.

Better still than all of this was the music itself. This is full on, high octane music for those who love the highs and lows of what I would shamelessly refer to as proper prog. Yes folks it’s all here, ripping synth solo’s, blinding guitar excursions with a big hearted sound. Keeping with tradition the album opens with “The Wiki Man”, a twenty minute epic that to be honest blew my socks off. Moving through six different segments beginning with Prologue emanating CB radio frequencies at you to Andy Tillison’s delightfully rich sounding synthesiser flourishes and organ to the lightening attacks of Luke Machin’s million miles an hour guitar throughout the whole of The Wiki Man suite.

Moving on through the powerful Wiki Man into “Competition Watershed”, Competition winner Andrew Roussak plays an inspiring piano/synth solo which he submitted to the band as part of a competition they had set for musicians to record a solo to be included on Comm. A deserving winner if ever I heard one. “Edit Me Out” slows the pace down for a brief moment just long enough for you to get your breath back before launching into a very Greenslade like organ and Mellotron outing passing swiftly through “Car Boot Sale” and reprising the main theme.

“The Mind’s Eye” is a song I had encountered before whilst watching Tangent’s superb “Going Off On Two” DVD which I would also heartily recommend if you haven’t yet already bought a copy. I can describe this song as a romp. It really gets the feet tapping. I would recommend however that air guitar should not be attempted whilst listening to this song; you could do yourself an injury. A vast range of styles and influences are displayed throughout this amazing song and I hear a lot of jazz creeping into this and other songs on the album.

Jonathan Barrett takes a turn with vocal duties on “Shoot Them Down”, a moving ballad about the real people affected by Cameron’s austerity measures. I must admit to being moved by this beautiful song and it brought home the decay in our towns and cities due to the incompetence of overpaid bankers who will never share the poverty they have caused. This is very much a blues song methinks, Barrett’s poignant lyrics set against a steely organ and Luke Machin’s soulful guitar really hits the spot and demonstrates the dexterity of each member of the band.

“Tech Support Guy” is very much a caravan pastiche if ever I heard one. It did cause me to smile whilst listening to Andy Tillison’s enunciations bemoaning the lot of those saintly individuals frequently  called upon to right all the wrongs of our information technology systems. Guitar and organ interplay are nothing short of astounding and had me performing my Keith Emerson impression. Thoroughly enjoyable, a light hearted view of the tech support guy’s life.

On to more serious matters “Titanic Calls Carpathia” consolidates the whole album highlighting just how much communication systems have evolved since that fateful night when Titanic collided with an iceberg.  “Titanic Calls Carpathia is like the opening song divided into six parts. The opening “Millpond” is a haunting prelude created by the talented Theo Travis who played flute and sax throughout the album. Here he and elsewhere he gives an almost orchestral scale to the piece. Giving way to the main theme of the song “Titanic Calls Carpathia” highlights the futility of communication as it was then.

The plight of Apollo 13 expressed in “Lovell Calls Houston” further demonstrating how important a simple thing like a two way radio is. I found myself using the beautiful full sized booklet as a programme whilst listening to Comm which contains interesting facts heightening the enjoyment of the listening experience even further. Theo Travis’s sax and Jonathan Barrett’s fretless bass give an almost west coast feel to musical interlude between “Lost Souls Calls Antares” and “Fire In Your Fingers” which moves into full on jazz fusion. The song melts into the thought provoking conclusion “Earth Calling Anyone”.

Bonus tracks on the CD only include “Spirit Of The Net” and a cover of the Genesis classic “Watcher Of The Skies”. “Spirit Of The Net” was originally recorded by Andy Tillison as a demo for the Comm project. It’s a rocky little number that would be right at home on a Bryan Adams album. It lacks the depth and breadth of the main recordings though enjoyable none the less. “Watcher Of The Skies” is performed for fun utilizing the oral skills Pete Greenwood and Phil Bernia both members of Yes tribute band SEYES. Some may view this as heresy; I would council that it should be treated as it was intended as a bit of fun.

Comm represents The Tangents best and most powerful work to date. The CD is beautifully packaged complete with a gatefold sleeve containing a superb 20 page booklet. The vinyl album contains the full sized version condensed version of the booklet and for the optically challenged such as myself is a joy to own and use. It also makes the best of Ed Unitsky’s magnificent art work.  I was pleased to read as part of the acknowledgements a reference to one of my favourite musician’s martin Orford. Yes martin, I fully agree with Mr Tillison, “the world still needs you despite COMMania”.

Whichever package of Comm you go for I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. However, if you have a decent turntable you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Comm to play on it. I wouldn’t hesitate for too long though. I have a feeling they will sell pretty fast. This is an essential purchase for anyone who adores full on prog. It's worth spending a little extra and getting hold of a copy of Andy Tillison's solo project Murk. If you like electronic music you love it. But, that's for another day......

 

www.thetangent.org

www.insideoutmusic.com

www.edunitsky.com

 

 



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STEVE HACKETT...BEYOND THE SHROUDED HORIZON 9/25/2011 12:04:12 PM



Continuing the multicultural musical landscapes of “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth, Steve Hackett returns to the more elaborate environment of a recording studio in which he created a diamond of an album “Beyond The Shrouded Horizon”. Recruiting extra musicians apart from the usual suspects Steve really has drawn from his own musical heritage as well as continuing his passion for including textures and rhythms from other continents to further extend the boundaries of his previous masterpiece.

Given Steve Hackett’s proven track record with classical acoustic guitar pieces and delicate touch with such an instruments it can become very difficult to pin him down to any given genre. What we have here is Steve revisiting some of the most inspiring eras of his entire career whilst remaining true to his most recent approach to structure and scale. Realising the need to retain quality, trusted personnel around him as core members of his team, Steve sensibly augments this latest project with musicians exerting their own influence and flavours on what is an already winning formula.

The wonderful thing about reviewing any work by Steve Hackett is that any comparison to his latest works can only be made to his own repertoire as he is not only unique he is an innovator, less an influenced musician more a musician who influences others. With this said, how does the progression from “Out Of A Tunnels Mouth” sound like? To say that it’s pretty good is selling it short.

“Loch Lomond” is the first of many memorable songs and from the outset this growling opener hints at where the rest of the album is going. Much of this album is reminiscent of 1999’s Darktown and this song is one of the songs that attest to that. Despite Amanda Lehmann’s sweet Harmony vocal Loch Lomond is very much a balls to the wall piece, reminding me that despite its astounding beauty it can be a very dramatic place too.

“The Phoenix Flown reminds all Steve Hackett fans why they return time after time to his concerts. This song represents another great anthem superbly executed by a guitar genius flanked by some of the best musicians in the business and is followed by the mellow tranquillity of “Wanderlust” which sets a trend of introducing larger scale pieces using atmospheric tones of acoustic guitar. The scene already set, “Till These Eyes” finds Steve in a more romantic mood and exudes a man who now finds himself in a very good place. Not a bad idea to include a ballad amongst such diverse proceedings.

“Prairie Angel” is what we have all by now come to expect from Mr Hackett, blues with depth and weight. Steve makes it large with his harmonica and treating his trusty Les Paul to a severe thrashing flows into one of the highlights “A Place Called Freedom”. As Steve states himself via his website there are hints of Americana on the album and no more so than here. “A Place called Freedom” is without doubt an uplifting and optimistic song much needed in a world with so much pessimism.

In fact throughout the journey from Voyage Of The Acolyte to this bejewelled performance I found myself intrigued by the lyrical as well as musical content. None more so than “The Sunset And The Coconut Palms”. One of the first songs apart from “Blood On The Rooftops” which has made me sit and listen to the words. All credit to him. It is evident that all has been meticulously put together and as much thought gone into lyrical content as the compositions.

Moving into a more ethnic direction, “Waking To Life” has a very distinct Asian feel to it with Amanda Lehmann’s voice sounding reminiscent of Madonna’s. The climax of this song could be described as a modern day “Land Of A Thousand Autumns” which then morphs into the majesty of “Two Faces Of Cairo”. Actually written by Steve as he was sat at the foot of the sphinx “Two Faces Of Cairo” can only be described as massive. Not the first time an Egyptian theme has been explored by Steve Hackett, The forerunner being “Valley Of The Kings” equally as dramatic and equally as evocative of the culture, history and imagery of this once great empire. From such a grand musical  gesture to that of perhaps the sweetest song on the entire album, “Looking For Fantasy”. The melancholy vocal presentation of this song could well have been sung by someone like Van Morrison such is its timing and gorgeous lethargy. The orchestration and depth of this song is give further depth and reality by Richard Stuart’s subtle cello. Breezing into “Summer Breath” a lush and tranquil acoustic guitar piece bridging a trickle of a musical stream into a the mighty Tundra of “Catwalk” which is all out blues with a feeling (No approximate pun intended). I found myself holding onto the chair arms during this baby. Take it easy with the Jack Daniels it’s very easy to get sucked into the vibe!

Just when you think the last of the electricity has been used, the grand finale of this Hackett travelogue terminates with a science fiction concept in the form of “Turn This Island Earth”. Drawing to a close a very busy recording filled with musical know how, this thunderstorm of a conclusion to what is very much the produce of a seasoned and open minded team player who gets better with each passing year. “Turn This Island Earth” Yet again revisits the Darktown era with its use of low and terrifying bass notes courtesy of the cello and Roger King’s keyboard and programming skills.

My enthusiasm for this album is evident throughout my observations in this review. Aficionados won’t need such views to decide whether or not to buy this aural diamond merely a guide to compare it to previous Hackett heritage. What will appeal to many die-hard fans is the nod and a wink to salad days whilst maintaining poll position in today’s prog scene. This has been done by keeping up with technology, re-invention and belief in what he does.

Beyond The Shrouded Horizon will be available in in three formats. CD, double vinyl record with gatefold sleeve and a limited edition media-book with nine bonus tracks.  Price was unconfirmed at the time of review. Pre-orders will be taken soon via www.hackettsongs.com release date in Europe will be September 26th. My advice is to keep your eye on Steve’s site. I’ve got my heart on an LP whatever you do don’t miss out on this masterpiece.

Steve Hackett…Electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, harmonica

Gary O’Toole & Simon Phillips…drums & percussion

Chris Squire…Bass

Nick Beggs…bass & Chapman stick

Dick Driver…double bass

Roger King & Ben Fenner…Keyboards & programming

John Hackett…Flute & vocals

Rob Townsend…Sax, whistle & bass clarinet

Amanda Lehmann…vocals & guitar

Christine Townsend…Violin & Viola

Richard Stuart…Cello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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COSMOGRAF...WHEN AGE HAS DONE ITS DUTY 9/16/2011 10:42:19 AM



Cosmograf is to all intense and purpose Robin Armstrong a gifted multi-instrumentalist from Waterlooville near Portsmouth who sites Steven Wilson, Roger Waters and David Gilmour as some of his inspirations. This becomes evident when listening to the many effects throughout this interesting and thought provoking album which is based around the aging process and its effects on both mind and body. Some of the songs also convey Rob’s personal life experiences. For anyone like me who now find themselves more likely to be past the half way mark of their life the album does leave you pondering and even persuade personal reflection.

After the initial impressions have subsided and you stop judging events as an attempt to recreate Pink floydisms, this really is an excellent body of work. Porcupine Tree fans will hear a lot to like about this album as it does resemble some of their earlier work and Steven Wilson’s influence plainly obvious on Rob Armstrong’s style. All songs were recorded and mixed at Rob’s recording studio in Waterlooville with the exception of “White Light Awaits” which Lee Abraham mixed at his dockside studio in Southampton. All drums throughout were recorded at rob Aubrey’s infamous Aubitt Studio also located in Southampton and with the exception of one song played by It Bites drummer Bob Dalton. These West Country boys sure stick together.

Taking the CD out of the box the excellence of the booklet artwork is further extended to the disc itself. The Roman numerals of a clock face around its circumference it exudes the Hypnosis style and quality.  All credit must be given to Graeme Bell for making the superb illustrations not only great to look at but relative to the musical content of the album. Both lyrics and credits are clearly legible against the dark colours of the cosmos.

A ticking clock, a telephone ringing and a crying baby give way to muted piano and Robin Armstrong’s cynical tones as “Into this world” opens the proceedings in a fairly bleak way. It really showcased Robin’s musical competency and talent. As well as keyboards, bass and vocals he played some mean guitar making for a wonderful finale. “Blacksmith’s Hammer finds Robin in fine song inflecting folk like tints to this much lighter lilting song.  Electric and acoustic guitar complemented each other nicely. I couldn’t help thinking that Robin sounded very much like Nick Barrett of Pendragon, none more so than his reflective ramblings of “On Which We Stand”. Again, electric and acoustic guitar set against a huge church organ pad. It even had me thinking of Barclay James Harvest.

Amidst the various sound effects and memories of the seventies “Bakerlite Switch” despite its darkness reminded me of better days. Lyrics and themes of the day were included to great effect and a guitar solo from The Tangent’s axe man Luke Machin make for a special moment.

“Memory Lost” finds Hugh Lloyd Jones on vocal duties. I found this to be a rather sad song and Robin Armstrong’s guitar was literally bleeding backed by a huge keyboard orchestration. I seemed to identify with this song and its message. Bob Dalton’s drums sounded powerful and passionate, very impressive. The recital of a poem entitled “Growing Old by Tom O’Bedlam makes for a solemn beginning of “When Age Has Done Its Duty”. At 13:02 it is the longest song on the album. A master stroke was getting Steve Thorne to sing both the lead and backing vocals on this masterpiece. Many would consider this song to be morose and to be honest I think if you are of a certain age you may find it a little disturbing, however, the aging process is by its very nature disturbing. Thought provoking and interesting is how I would describe it. All credit to Rob Armstrong for putting his heart and soul into the guitar solo here.

The sound of a draft coming from somewhere actually made me shiver as the fading tones of an ECG machine signalled the beginning of “White Light Awaits”. Headlong into neo-Prog laced with electronic overtones, Robin is joined by lee Abraham playing slipknot-like guitar and bass whilst The Tangent’s Dave Ware gives it large with a slightly heavier hand than his predecessor. Concluding this powerful yet poignant opus is a more delicate piece “Dog On The Clee”. Quite haunting and what is I think a fitting finale to an album that kept me engrossed from start to finish. I would thoroughly recommend that you check out the Cosmograf website www.cosmograf.co.uk should you want to know more about this intriguing musical journey. At £9’99 including P&P it is worth every penny. There are two more albums available by Cosmograf and we will be checking both of them out. This one is definitely worth adding to your collection though.

 

Available from…

 www.progrock.co.uk

   

 

 

                                      

 

 



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MANDALABAND4...AD-SANGREAL 9/13/2011 5:34:54 AM



Continuing from where BC-Ancestors left off Mandalaband4 collect some new contributors along the way. Steeped in historical intrigue and moving into the story of the Holy Grail but not as the booklet denotes one that we would know, AD-Sangreal (Holy Grail)  takes the listener on another fascinating journey. On a sadder note the album features the last recording of Woolly Wolstenholme who took his own life following a severe bout of depression. A very sad loss indeed, his contribution to this album makes it all the more special.

A fairly sombre beginning to the album is “A Bloodline Lost”, Marc Atkinson delivering the lyrical narrative clearly and concisely. What seems to be a delicate sonnet soon turns into a huge soundstage of chorale and orchestration which to be honest leaves you asking the question, How the hell have they done that with the resources available? Reading the credits of which there is a track by track inclusion in the luxury CD booklet, you realise that apart from having very gifted musicians on-board, David Rohl and cohort Jose Manuel Medina share between them a wealth of technical skill and know-how and it shows throughout the whole of the production.  

The scale and mood continues with “Magdalena” giving the song a very west end musical feel. The same can be said for many of the songs on the album and it would be very easy to imagine a theatrical production of both AD-Sangreal and its predecessor. This is testament to just how much imagery the delicate and powerful highs and lows of this extraordinary album invokes and plainly seen in the mind’s eye.

A fanfare heralds the arrival of “Palatium Britannicum” Hard to believe that the band themselves achieve such a huge chorale sound with only a few singers. Ashley Mulford singing the lion’s share of the words and some subtle inclusion of Celtic whistle and Uilleann pipes courtesy of the gifted Troy Donockley. Who also helps out with guitar duty on “England’s Heart and soul” where David Rohl’s rich, mellow voice relaxes you into listening avidly to every syllable he sings. A song for the patriotic methinks!

“Sancto Laurent” Finds David a little more upbeat and using lots of brass sounds to make this song stand out from all the others without losing the main theme and character of the whole for one minute. This song moves seamlessly into “Flight To Osca” which includes Ashley Mulford playing some excellent guitar licks as well as rhythm guitar too. There are some great moments on this album and this is one of them.

“Visigoths” has you reaching for a history book such is the shear want to understand what the song is all about. Another merit I think that makes the album a must have. Infact I found that there is two ways you can listen to this musical artwork, one is to just sit back and enjoy it’s splendour the other is to sit and read the sleeve notes or even further research the meaning of the various events portrayed. Ashley Mulford’s guitar again steals the show here.

“Saracens” is an all-out Arabic musical portrait and features Troy Donockley playing a myriad of instruments including a bouzouki. David’s voice beautifully augmented by the lilting backing vocals of mother and daughter Barbara and BrionyMacanas. Beware the scary voice towards the end of this song. My guess is that it is David Rohl talking through a vocoda. I was listening late at night and it frightened the life out of me.

“Al-Andalus” gives me the impression of being informative and is perhaps the least inspiring song on the album and still it’s pretty darned good. Moving headlong into “Unholy Orders” finds Ashley Mulford in fine voice as well as playing some great blues guitar. David Rohl  adding a little Hammond B3 to the mix, further adding to the blues tinge of this wickedly good outing soon moves back to the epic and grand scale of “The King Of Aragon”. A much more delicate vocal presentation by dave Durant makes for a very special moment here with some great keyboard additions by Woolly Wolstenholme.

“Holy Orders” had me thinking of enigma such was the use of Gregorian style backing vocals and even the Amen at the end. “Le Perche Val brings a massive band effort with troy Donockley’s Celtic whistle reminding me very much of Capercaillie. This spills into the next song “Anfortas Rex” which despite having less musical contributors maintains the scale and spaciousness of the other formidable pieces throughout.

Not detracting from what is an amazing album, the highlight for me was the inclusion of the Barclay James Harvest “Galadriel”. Not only was it a fitting tribute to the late woolly Wolstenholme but an amazing rendition of an already great song. The sweetness of woolly’s voice making it even sadder about the event that would occur shortly after recording it. A further tribute is the musical dexterity shown by the other musicians playing on this piece and I do have to admit to feeling quite emotional whilst listening to it.

In conclusion, both BC-Ancestors and AD-Sangreal are to me a musical adventure. Beautifully packaged with some of Ed Utisky’s best artwork and illustrations I consider the acquisition of both albums money well spent. Elaborate notes about the albums historical content can be found in the superb sixteen page booklet. Whether you become as captivated with its historical content as I did or simply love its themes and magnificence AD-Sangreal is an album exuding quality and sewn like a silk tapestry. Mandalaband5 is presently under construction. Who knows what to expect? I for one can’t wait.

want to know more about mandalaband or buy the album go to...

www.mandalaband.co.uk
or
www.legendrecords.co.uk

 



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BC-ANCESTORS...MANDALABAND III 8/23/2011 9:28:10 AM



Somewhere in my loft is a copy of a vinyl record given to me by a friend many years ago.  It is called The Eye Of Wendor by the Mandala band, the driving force and founder of whom is David Rohl.

My memory of this album has been somewhat jaded by the passing of time, though I can remember that I used to enjoy its content very much. It was only by chance on a recent visit to my friend and Muso Brendan Eyre’s house that he mentioned the new album by The Mandalaband or Mandalaband 3 in its latest guise. Brendan played me a couple of songs and i was smitten.

I decided to check out the Manadalaband website to find out more. Having contacted them to acquire a demo copy of their new album, a copy of the bands previous album BC-ancestors was sent to Progmeister towers for our perusal. We have since been assured by David Rohl himself that a copy of the latest production is winging its way to us. In the meantime I decided to hear what the Mandalaband of the millennium sounded like.

Looking at the package as a whole I have to report that it is not shabby. This is indeed a quality item with thought given to all aspects of the whole experience. Comprehensive notes and credits leave the listener wondering about nothing with regard to what the album is about or the myriad of musician’s contributions. The biblical mood is beautifully captured by Ed Utininsky’s formidable artwork and artist who by now must be heralded as the new Roger Dean.

BC-Ancestors Mandalaband 3was recorded 2007-2009 and is described unashamedly as symphonic rock. This became evident from the first few bars of the overture simply entitled Ancestors. Mr Rohl himself gainfully employed here on piano and synths aided and abetted by a Stella cast of quality musicians set the mood for the following thirteen fascinating musical excursions.

“Eden” finds David in fine voice sounding not unlike the late Eric Woolfson. Indeed the album does have a feel of The Alan Parsons Project.  Orchestration throughout the album is exemplary ranging from being eerie to downright epic. David Rohl and cohort Jose Manuel Medina blended huge orchestration with traditional instruments to make a massive historical picture in the listener’s mind’s eye.

Great to hear Woolly Wolstenholme Playing and singing on “Nimrod”. This song is certainly as good as anything he ever did with BJH and finds him assisting with the orchestration duties too. Woolly certainly left his mark on the album singing both this track and the finale “Roots”. “Shemsu-Har” puts you right in the middle of the desert gazing at the sphinx, pyramids and the grandeur of the Valley of the Kings. Such is its power and majesty. Indeed many of the tracks on this album fail in no way at all in sharing mood provoking atmosphere.

A perfect example of this would be “Akhiyawa” in which David Rohl again utilises modern electronica with traditional instruments demonstrating his vast experience in musical texture and timing to create a vision. The guitar playing throughout the album is nothing shy of spectacular. Ashley Mulford (Sad Café) Played some blinding guitar breaks throughout, yet showed a delicate almost blues touch on the delightful “Elissa” which finds David singing in Harmony with Barbara Macanas.

If you are interested in history, and like me become involved in the musical landscapes conjured up by composers who work with film and other such media, then BC-Ancestors by the brethren of musicians known as Mandalaband 3 is an absolute must have. It is a compelling listen and exudes quality both in its production and presentation. The songs on this album represent the history of the world 5,000 years before Christ. I can’t wait to listen to the next edition AD-Sangreal. Watch this space.

BC-Ancestors £11 Plus P+P from
...

www.legendrecords.co.uk

 

 

 

 



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SEAN FILKINS...WAR AND PEACE & OTHER SHORT STORIES 8/10/2011 4:55:04 AM



It’s taken me a while to get round to reviewing Sean Filkins war and peace & other short stories. I first heard excerpts from the album on ARFM’s Soundscapes and became instantly intrigued. From the outset this album holds the listeners attention and interest not only in the musical landscape painted by each ensemble the majority of which I would describe as epic.

In times of beige carpets and plain walls Mr Filkins has returned to rich tapestry and Persian rugs. By this analogy I refer to the use of every part of the soundstage utilising many talents and resources not least himself.  Ably and abetted by ex- Galahad bass player Lee Abraham playing everything but the kitchen sink as well as a host of Prog dignitaries and even family members, Sean Filkins  avoids revisiting the basic prog format and going in the opposite direction too and becoming a heavy metal advocate.

 

Looking at the cover and elaborate booklet made me think that this really is a nice album to have in any collection. The artwork is all relevant and well presented, though, I was a bit surprised that Mr Filkins needed to display his gluteal attributes whist being stared at by a bewildered canine. As I said,  it all seems relevant.

 

Such is the content of this album that however lengthy this review may become it will be but a synopsis. One thing that was noticed is that this is one of those events best experienced on a good hi-fi to fully appreciate its content and grandeur.  I was very fortunate enough to have been sent track notations by Sean explaining what each track is all about and I must admit to being one up on the average punter. Still, it’s for the listener to decide for themselves and interpret as they feel.

 

“Are You Sitting Comfortably” is but a recording of someone enjoying a cup of tea with a biscuit accompanied by a brass band playing Jerusalem, and is indeed the first part of the following song “The English eccentric”.  “The English Eccentric” was the first of the songs that I heard from Sean and instantly fell in love with it. Leaping at you with a wasp like synth opening almost like a fanfare Sean’s voice is set within a myriad of guitar, electronic drum software and keyboards before being bolstered by the sumptuous bass of Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard).

 

For such a musical happening, all of the songs have a rich lyrical presence encouraging a constant revisiting of songs in order to grasp their meaning. This album really is money well spent.  Because some of the songs are so long it was found that  as much enjoyment could be had by playing songs in isolation as well as the album in it’s entirety.

 

Moving on to the Roger Waters type opening of “Prisoner Of Conscience” I was consumed by the depth and diversity demonstrated throughout this piece. The differences in musical styles and instrumentation make the story told by this rock operetta something rather special.  Using instruments such as Tabla, Garima, Sitar and even a didgeridoo brought about a “world music” feel to the opening segment of the song. I even found myself accepting the more grunge type guitar chops of which I don’t usually care for.  John Mitchell (Arena/It Bites) guitar playing is brisk and very much up beat although at times can become a bit Bill and Ted!

 

Split into two parts, part one being “The Soldier” and part two “The Ordinary man”, “Prisoner Of Conscience is about Sean’s maternal grandfather who went missing in world war two whilst out on patrol.  Should any more about the tales and stories need clarification I would suggest visiting Sean’s website www.seanfilkinsmusic.co.uk  . “The Ordinary Man has keyboard man John Sammes (Indigo Pilots) playing some fine synth and Mellotron sounds whilst John Mitchell brings the piece to a burning conclusion.

 

Sean’s daughter Abigail assists the dramatic beginnings of “Epitaph For A Mariner” by singing the traditional hymn “sailors Hymn” (for those in peril on the sea etc.) Another twenty minute job split into five parts, all the elements of which I found fascinating. The piece is all about Sean’s great grandfather William Pull who was lost at sea off the coast of Margate during a violent storm. There is a lot more besides to this tale, though again I would urge you to check out Sean’s website if you want to know more. Yet again I found myself using the word epic. The list of recruits on this song is endless, some well-known and some not as well-known like Gerald Mulligan who’s deft of touch with his drums made for some compulsive listening.

 

The beautiful finale of the album is an original instrumental piece from 1996 written by Geoff Webb who also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards not only here but elsewhere on the album. Originally entitled “Pastoral” Sean heard the piece whilst recording in the studio at which Geoff was employed. The slowest and sweetest of all the songs on the album it exudes optimism. I identified with this song as it is all about coming to terms with one’s past working towards a brighter future. Good to hear the reprise of the sitar and tabla drums linking the songs with the previous gems.

 

Bringing all to a satisfactory conclusion using Mellotron sounds, mandolin and other such Prog weaponry leaves the listener in no uncertain doubt in which genre Sean Filkins sits comfortably into. I commend him for thinking outside of the box. For utilising the talents of expert help and artistry, returning to the roots of telling great stories using music. I can forgive him for the public display of his ageing yet pert posterior but I would council against the wearing of yellow Dr Martin boots or indeed the promotion of such items.

 

If like we do you love prog rock then you would be ill-advised to miss out on this diamond of an album. My advice is to log on to www.seanfilkinsmusic.co.uk and order yourself a copy whist you still can.

 

No animals were hurt during the making of “War And Peace & other short Stories”.

 



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COMEDY OF ERRORS...DISOBEY 7/20/2011 4:15:28 AM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



Beguiling, bewildering and really very good is the way that I would describe “Disobey” the shape-shifter of an album by Glaswegian based Comedy Of Errors. Vocalist Joe Cairney brought the release of “Disobey to our attention a few weeks ago and promptly sent us a copy for review.

 The presentation of the CD and it’s packaging is very impressive complete with a booklet containing legible lyrics and credits and intriguing art work. The immediate strengths musically on this album are keyboards and guitar both of which are excellent. Whilst Joe Cairney does an sterling job of singing the at times somewhat contrived lyrics attention is drawn to the musicality of the compositions.

 The album was mastered down in Southampton at Rob Aubry’s Aubitt Studio and it is plain to see and hear that attention to detail has been paid to all aspects of the production. The opening effects laden title track “Disobey” fools the listener into thinking very early Marillion whilst in fact throughout the whole of the album it becomes very hard to define any one particular influence, though I would imagine it to be the usual suspects.

 A reverse tape effect backed with a rather nice Mellotron string sound launches “Disobey” into an aggressive and heavy style which sets out a distinct feel of the album. Ebbing into a tranquil conclusion keyboard swirls and electronica moves into “Jekyll”. What sounds like a full blown Genesis pastiche soon picks up speed with a dirty Hammond sound. It’s all here for the ardent prog head. Jim Johnston’s keys really shine on this epic and also Songs like “Carousel”.

 Listening to what has now been a pure prog extravaganza It came as a bit of a shock when someone pressed the ZZ Top button and American Rodeo ripped into my living room. Mark Spalding’s guitar playing took on a different style all together. Meanwhile back on Earth the following song “It Could Have Been Yesterday” lowered the listener into a false sense of safety. At first it could be thought that this is the kind of song that The Corrs would record. That is until Mark Spalding reappears with a meaty guitar brake in the middle reminding all that you are listening to a serious musical force.

 “Joke” finds the same guitar infusion amidst a slower pace which also lays bare Joe Cairney’s Scottish vibe apparent throughout a lot of his delivery. Though it is not exactly The Proclaimers go Prog, it is a very welcome honesty in the way that the songs have not been falsely Americanized.

 “The Student Prince” brings the band firmly back into traditional prog as apposed to the much over used category and phenomenon of Neo prog. Split into four parts beginning with “When Will I See You Again” and ending with the superb “Green Light Coda” “The Student Prince contains some great moments not short of pep and vigor from all members of the band.

 Throughout the album I must admit to becoming a little confused as to what the band were all about. Classic rock, Prog, Metal, AOR??? What ever they are I like them for it and heartily recommend this album which tends to creep into your head by stealth demanding that you keep revisiting it.

 

info@ifandnotif.com

 

 

www.comedyoferrors.org

 

 



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IQ30...LEAMINGTON SPA 25th JUNE 2011 6/29/2011 9:02:12 AM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



Travelling south to Leamington Spa from Teesside playing some of IQ’s vast back catalogue as we went paid off that evening of the bands 30th Anniversary show.  Many of the songs the band played that night had not been played for many years.

The Assembly Rooms in Leamington Spa is a fitting venue to hold such an event.  Beautiful architecture, a fairly large capacity hall, nice high stage surrounded by all the facilities you need to enjoy such an evening.

After collecting our free CD of remixes a vantage point was assumed and we waited for the performance to begin.

A 10pm curfew incurred by the management meant that IQ would be starting at 7.30pm prompt and prompt they were.  At 7.30pm on the dot with the familiar drones of electronica and the dimming of house lights the waiting crowd stood to attention.

Images of 30 years history of the band were projected onto the three screens counting down from 1981 to the present before the band launched into ‘Eloko Bell Neechi’ quickly followed by ‘Outer Limits’.  It was at this point that the crew’s contribution to the show became apparent.  The keyboards could be heard clearly.  Something that, in my honest opinion, had not been experienced at previous IQ gigs in the past.

This was more than just a celebration; this was a showcase of songs for the ardent of IQ fans.  A full set list can be found below. Peter Nicholls, forever the showman, managed the hecklers and quelled the lulls of Mike Holmes’ disappearances during his toilet breaks.

Tim Esau. A welcome return.


Neil Durant certainly showed his worth throughout the whole performance.  A worthy inclusion to IQ, Neil’s style, competency and enthusiasm lifted IQ’s performance to another level.  The welcome return of Tim Esau also gave a special feel to the proceedings given that it was a thirty years celebration and he was there at the very beginning.

Cookie, A man inspired.

It is very difficult to pick out high points as the whole show was rich with IQ heritage and all the fan’s favourites were played. However, The Darkest Hour, Guiding Light and Born Brilliant were played exceptionally well. Closer from the frequency album seemed to have greater clarity for some reason, indeed all of the songs played from Frequency were crisper and more enjoyable than previous performances.  It was good to hear songs like ‘War Heroes’ and ‘Stomach of an Animal’ played, rare indeed.  The latter actually closing the show as part of the encores.

Neil Durant. A welcome addition

Neil Durant earned his spurs on songs like ‘Guiding Light’ where his piano sounded deep and crisp with synth lines that demonstrated his vibrant dexterity. Whilst down in the engine room Paul Cook played his drums like a man inspired.

Mike Holmes. A man on fire!

Mike Holmes, well, he was Mike Holmes.  He played the whole gig like he was on fire.  Fans expect such vigour and vitality from him and they were not disappointed. Mike’s passion for performing live comes through in his playing which although can never be described as pedestrian moves into hyper drive in a live setting.

Peter Nicholls. Simply the best!

Closing the main part of the show was ‘The Enemy Smacks’ which was without doubt the best performance of it that I have seen and heard.  I was a little concerned about one of the band member’s children seeing scary saw-like images projected behind the band but Peter Nicholls’ performance was in a league of its own.

After the usual applause and slow hand clap the band returned to play ‘About Lake 5’, ‘Awake’ and ‘Nervous’ with Status Quo’s or should I say I-Quo’s ‘Caroline’ in the middle and concluding with the afore mentioned ‘Stomach of an Animal’ from the ‘Nine in a Pond is Here’ album.

Joined on stage by two of their entourage Pete Nicholls was presented with a 30th birthday cake whilst the party atmosphere was augmented by lots of balloons being punched around by the audience.

I, for one, was pleased to be a part of the celebrations and really glad that I made the journey to Leamington Spa. It really was a very special evening and one to be remembered. All the stops had been pulled out by both the band and the fans. This was evident by the attendance. I started an email thread the following day on ARFM’s Soundscapes show ending with ‘IQ, probably the best prog band in the world’.

After a performance like this, there is no probably about it.

 

 

The set list went as follows (Official source)

 

ELOKO BELLA NEECHI

OUTER LIMITS

THE DARKEST HOUR

STRONGER THAN FRICTION

BORN BRILLIANT

FREQUENCY

THE LAST HUMAN GATEWAY

THROUGH THE CORRIDORS

STATE OF MINE

WAR HEROES

NOTHING AT ALL

GUIDING LIGHT

CLOSER

THE ENEMY SMACKS

 

Encores…

ABOUT LAKE FIVE

AWAKE AND NERVOUS (With Status Quo’s Caroline in the middle)

STOMACH OF AN ANIMAL.

 

We have it on very good authority that The wake was about to be played when it was thought best not to break the imposed curfew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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MOG...JACK THE VICAR 6/11/2011 12:48:27 PM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



I am relieved that some bands don’t feel the need to put their feet harder down on the metal pedal to become known as a neo-prog act. I am very pleased to inform you that Mog are one such band and recorded an album that melts traditional prog ethos with interesting rhythms and lovable madness.

 

Drawing on their considerable experience gained with various bands from the late seventies and eighties , founder members Phil Swinburne and Lewy Richardson have created something very special to listen to. It is very uplifting to see a band putting theatre back into music.

 

Having witnessed Mog playing Jack The Vicar live I thought it would never lend itself to hard copy due to it’s theatrical production values. I am pleased to inform all how wrong I was. From the very outset of the album sensibly entitled “Jack, The Beginning” the journey twists turns never leaving time for boredom to set in.

 

“Big House” is shear joy to listen to with a bass line to die for. Indeed Gavin Bell’s bass playing throughout is rock solid and not for the faint of heart. Giving way to a chapter of the story representing Jack the Vicar’s disillusionment with war and all that goes with it “Glory War” and “War Boy” move the band into an area usually frequented by Roger Waters.

 

There are so many musical styles present throughout “Jack The Vicar”. You can hear traces of the damned and U2 as well as the usual prog suspects. Yes, it really is that varied. I praise the album for not being over polished and truthful. Mog have to be commended for spurning false dialect in place of originality in much the same way that The Proclaimers did all those years ago.

 

Holding true to their Northern roots, Mog enlisted the narration skills of Mick Crannage which adds another dimension to the delivery of the tale. It would have been very easy to have found a Richard Burton sound alike but in my view the honest earthy approach simply works a treat again making the whole project more original.

 

Mick Crannage’s Northern pronouncement gives way to “The Awakening” finding Mog in a more tribal groove.  After such an outing with heavy electronic percussion and almost chant the pace was lessened to make way for what is possibly the best song on the album “Mother Midnight”. On first hearing this lilting ballad the listener could be forgiven for thinking Moby had teamed up with Gerry and the pacemakers.

 

We are informed that Mother Midnight was indeed a witch dating back to the seventeen or eighteen hundreds. All very relevant we assure you. Hopefully we can be more clear about this when we track the boys down and get chance to interrogate them about the whole thing so watch this space. This song is far too short for our liking.

 

The title song is a great jaunty, music hall stomp of a piece and does justice to the albums title and concept. It is fun and light hearted adding just a little humour to the proceedings. “The Emperor” Slows things down a tad just in time for a suitable finale in “Kingdoms End” which is a suitably rousing end to a modern takes on a Victorian adventure. There is a lot of what used to be called music hall on this album. The songs are strong and very memorable. “Jack The Vicar” is an album of songs best listen to in their entirety and not in solitude. What the hell it’s all about is anyone’s guess. As soon as we find out we’ll let you know. In the meantime though, my suggestion would be to click on to Itunes and treat yourself. It’s ridiculous that you could download the whole album for less than the price of a couple of pints. Mog are in the studio working on their next album as we speak. If it’s half as good as this one you’ll find it at The Progmeister house. Check them out.

 

www.myspce.com/mog

 

 



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THE CURATOR...SOMETHING SOON 6/5/2011 1:07:33 PM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



Something soon is a dark and mysterious album by Alistair Murphy aka “The Curator”. Due to him working as the curator of a museum in Cromer. This isn’t an album that you would play at a soiree or indeed find uplifting. It seems to have Noel Coward quirkiness about it not unlike caravan or Quantum Jump’s “The Séance”. I found my time with my time with this album to be very mood driven.

 

Much of the quality pieces give the feel of improvisational and experimental. The downbeat dream sequences are very dark indeed in some cases totally contrasted by Steve Bingham’s chirpy violin and viola playing. The production quality on the whole is excellent.

 

I would council anyone looking for something a bit different to listen to, seek out a copy of Something Soon. I would advise however, that the more freeform pieces such as “Stuck In Traffic” and “On The Spanish Main” be listened to having first digested the more formal compositions.

 

There are some great vocal harmonies courtesy of a host of angelically voiced ladies including the very talented Judy Dible Julianne Regan and Lindsey Mackie. There are some eerie sax meanderings by Laurie A’Court and all underpinned by the solid bass lines ably executed by mark Fletcher.

 

Jazz meets prog! Alistair Murphy has succeeded in creating a neutral canvas for his talented cohorts and himself to paint upon. I can see King Crimson fans going for this album in a big way. Like many pieces of fine art it takes a little time to appreciate and given a little credence will reward with enjoyment and appreciation.

www.myspace.com/thecuratormusic.com



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JEFF GREEN...JESSICA 4/24/2011 3:38:35 AM

Hard to believe that when I received the promotional blurb along with a demo copy of this album that I nearly dismissed it out of hand. When I read that the album is about Jessica, Jeff Green’s still born baby daughter I wrongly misjudged the album suspecting that it would be a gloomy and/or sad acoustic guitar and vocal message of grief.

 

Placing the disc into my CD player I turned up the volume and walked away to go about my business. As the first drones of the opening piece “For The Future” filled the room I was compelled to return to my seat and there I stayed until the whole album had finished.

Make no mistake; this is high octane prog and not at all what I was expecting.

 

A lot of care and attention has gone into this album. Even the intro gives the impression that you are listening to a vinyl record by the cunning inclusion surface noise at the beginning and the atmosphere and pace being set out from the very start in a captivating soundscape. It isn’t long before Jeff’s guitar breaks the mood and moves the piece forward to a full and varied production which for me ticked all the boxes.

 

Following the rather brilliant opening piece is “Vision”. An all too brief acoustic guitar bringing down the scale and pace and showcasing Jeff’s ability and delicate touch with purity and feel following the soaring electric guitar textures demonstrated thus far.

 

“On This Night” finds Jeff in fine voice singing a song that wouldn’t be out of place on Pink Floyd’s Animal’s album. David Gilmour is sited as an influence and you can hear it in this powerful yet bitter song. Jeff Green manages to apply an edge to the music when needed without falling into the Neo-prog/heavy category. Mike Stobbie’s Mini moog and keyboards in general lift this song even further into a class of it’s own along with Pete Riley’s wicked drums.

 

With little pause for breath “Willing The Clouds Away” gives the impression of being born from a jam session. Mike Stobbie’s keyboards yet again make this piece very special indeed. Mellotron, Hammond and string sounds with a real Mini Moog (and yes, you can tell the difference) display a standard rarely set these days and one would be forgiven for thinking that a young Rick Wakeman had stepped into the room. Shear bliss.

 

Bringing the pace down a little, Jeff uses a sumptuous sounding twelve string acoustic to represent “Pride”. I found this lilting, self autonomous song in Camel territory reminding me so much of their “Harbour Of Tears” album. The gentle vocal so deftly delivered lays bare the feeling of pride tinged with frustration. Phil Aldridge’s piano bridge “Essence” takes the listener into a finely honed masterpiece that is “Woman With Child”. This is a tour de force with both Mike Stobbie and Phil Aldridge filling out an already huge sound. All the magic of prog is here along with exemplary playing and production.

 

“Being” finds Jeff along with Illegal Eagle cohort Phil Aldridge further invoking the “Harbour Of Tears” mood before moving into “Jessie’s Theme”. As you would imagine, a great deal of care has been taken in the construction of this piece. You would be forgiven for thinking it was Larry Carlton playing guitar on this diamond of a track. Glen Sissons bass is solid all the way through it and turns even more so towards the end were there are some deep and sinister sounds going on courtesy of Jeff’s guitar synth and some great Mellotron sounds.

 

The use of guitar synth is carried into the next piece “Tomorrow Never Came”. Yet another powerful and mind blowing representation of anger and loss. The message certainly gets across with this incising and instantly memorable song. The passion in Jeff Green’s guitar playing here in its many forms and textures is tantamount to wearing his heart on his sleeve. He fully conveys his inner turmoil with the tools of his trade.

 

Beginning with the delicate beauty of acoustic guitar and flute patch “Prittlewell Chase” lures you into a false sense of security before the Paul Hardcastle button is pushed and Jeff returns swiftly to do what he does best which is making the hairs on your neck stand to attention. Nice to hear a clavinet sound too.

 

Arriving at the concluding “Live Forever” which is not only a personal message and channeling of emotions, I was compelled to believe that the whole album was not only a personal journey for Jeff Green but a lesson to many in what makes a prog album truly great? By recording Jessica with some of the best musicians in the business Jeff has demonstrated that he is not only capable of venting his demons and coming to terms with the tragic loss of his daughter Jessica through his musical talent and skill, he has also taken on the mantle of master craftsman. In my opinion Jessica is without doubt the best prog album I have had the pleasure of reviewing for a long time and sets a new gold standard.

 

In conclusion, Jessica is beautifully packaged with elaborate sleeve notes explaining the full story of Jessica as well as a superbly presented six page booklet which makes the CD a little more attractive than the download option. All proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to the bereavement room at Southend General Hospital. If you only buy one album this year then make this prog master class the one.

 

For more information or to buy a copy of the album go to….

 

 http://web.mac.com/jeffrgreen/Jeff_Green/Jessica.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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LEAP DAY...SKYLGE'S LAIR 4/14/2011 6:47:54 AM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



Leap day seem to be a band that we have developed a soft spot for. So when we received a copy of their new album Skylge’s Lair for review we were very keen to listen to it. Very little information was sent along side the album by way of promotional blurb etc so a cyber-interrogation was sent to Eddie Mulder Leap Day’s guitarist extraordinaire who promptly furnished us with everything we wanted to know.

 

It is worth mentioning before we go any further, That the informed and enlightened amongst us know that in modern term when referring to Hammonds, Moog’s, and Mellotron’s etc we are for the best part referring to the more than faithful digital reproduction of such instruments. This is a matter of convenience and a way of utilizing the sounds of such classic and now expensive semi obsolete equipment.

 

On receipt of this album I was struck by the packaging and artwork. It really is first class and caught my imagination immediately. The six page booklet really does its job invoking mood and feeling of the individual pieces included on the album. The images imply a story or concept to the album discounted by Eddie Mulder who assures me that all are individual compositions.

 

The title of the album was inspired by keyboard player Gert Van Engelenburg's family holiday on a small island called Terschelling to the North of Holland. The Frisian name for the island is Skylge. There are many coves and small inlets invoking the idea of a lair so beautifully captured on the front cover image of the booklet.

 

Down to the business. Gert Evert Waalkens made a great job of overseeing the production of this album. His use of sound effects certainly loaned a feel to the proceedings. “The Messenger” catapults you from the standing start of opening sound effects straight into the main theme of the album. Not wishing to dwell on nostalgia too much I do feel that Mulder and Engelenburg have a Latimer/Bardens synergy which is apparent all the way through this album. Jos Harteveld’s vocals are always enthusiastic and manage to deliver the lyrics with a commendable clarity despite his sometimes Dutch enunciation of certain words. After a while it becomes a signature of the bands overall sound. Hey, I can’t speak a word in Dutch let alone sing an album full of songs so who am I to judge.

 

On “Road To Yourself” the blues button was pressed to create a musical complaint about how we men are often made to feel by our partners. There are some lovely Hammond sounds in this track and brings about a different side to the band. I must admit to selling this album short when I first listened to it and made the age old mistake of constantly comparing it to the bands previous release. However, on a more informed basis and more than one listen this album transcends the bands previous achievement.

 

“Home At Last” is probably my favourite track on the whole of the album. Leaning towards the Canterbury prog ism this song begins with a somehow medieval feel about it. What makes a relatively intelligent man think that in medieval times people broadcast their music to the masses using banks of electronic keyboards and electric guitars is beyond me but I do! I did the same many years ago with “Bedside manners are extra” by Greenslade. This song really did tick all the boxes for me and had I heard this track on the radio I would have bought the album on the strength of it. Gert V Engelenburg’s superb keyboard work and his ability to choose just the right voicing’s steer this band well away from the European cottage industry of Prog to another level.

 

“Humble Origin” begins with a peaceful acoustic guitar/Mellotron intro and steers back to the main theme. It moves too rapidly into the next song “Walls”, without doubt the most powerful and emotional excerpt to the whole journey. It was nice to hear the crisp piano patch of the now sadly under used Yamaha electric grand which brought a freshness and clarity to the piece. Leading wistfully into Jos Harteveld’s The Willow Tree” which did at times remind me of “Secret Gardner from the bands previous album “Awakening The Muse”. This nicely crafted song brought down the pace for a short while and demonstrated a lighter approach.

 

Title track “Skylge’s Lair” builds upon the tracks that went before it. It is testament to the whole band that they got the running order of all the tracks just right and putting this song pen ultimately was definitely the right thing to do. Had it been the concluding piece I think it may have lost its impetus. Guitars and keyboards put this instrumental piece firmly in the Camel area of prog and will blow yer socks off. The rhythm section did an excellent job on this piece and added to the flavour of the afore mentioned influence by what sounds like a fretless bass courtesy of Peter Stel and blinding drums by Koen Roozen.

 

The finale to this excellent album comes in the form of “Time passing By” which brings a very human element to the whole proceedings. This song seems to lend a semi-folk ethos despite residing within a technologically driven recording. There are many elements to what we call prog these days and they are all here from caravan to Jethro Tull. All in all I found the whole of Skylge’s Lair a compelling listen and one that I will keep enjoying for a while to come.

 

As time goes by and all of our dreams fade to dust, there should always be someone left in my opinion to carry forward the musical lantern onto the next generation. Skylge’s Lair is one of those albums which do just that and Leap day are the band to keep a fast diminishing flame burning. Hats off to them.

I wonder what it would take to get them to play at the next Progmeister festival?

 Want to know more about Leap Day? Visit  www.leapday.nl

 



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VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR...A GROUNDING IN NUMBERS 4/10/2011 2:42:44 PM


A Grounding in Numbers.         Van der Graaf Generator.
Esoteric Recordings EVDGCD1001 
March 2011
Total playing time 48:51
 
 
Here it is, the second studio album from the three piece Van der Graaf Generator.  A thirteen track collection from a band who reformed with the intention of progressing rather than touring their greatest hits time and time again.  Anyone expecting Godbluff part two, dont read any further. The band members all approaching pensionable age have delivered a varied and interesting set which could easily knock spots off many a younger band, 
 
The album opens with Your time starts now, a slow paced song dealing with the notion that the older you get the faster the years pass and that if you want to do something, do it now as your time is running out.
 
Next up is Mathematics, offering a typically obscure VdGG paying homage to the equation or so it seems. This song features the very catchy chorus which goes ''e to the power of i times pi plus one is zero, e to the power of i times pi is minus one'' this is the stuff only Hammill and Co can get away with. I personally  cant wait to see this song performed at the X Factor -  Prog Covers week lol.
 
Highly Strung is a rockier song which brings Rikki Nadir straight back to mind. If the song is autobiographicall it shows Peter Hammill as a much more manic character than he would have us believe. Excellent stuff indeed.
 
Red Baron is a sort of ambient drum instrumental.  A strange as it sounds it is a very enjoyable link to the next track and my favourite track on the album Bunsho in which Hammill sings about how an artist can produce his finest work (in his mind) and have his public slate it as second rate while on the other side of the coin, feels his audience adored work he personally thinks is sub standard. This song features some lovely languid guitar work, and is all the more powerful for it. 
 
Snake Oil follows in this number VdGG rally against an artists need to constantly repeat a winning formula in an effort keep their audience sweet.  This track is classic VdGG condensed into a smaller time slot.
 
The second instrumental of the album comes next.  Splink is indeed a strange creature. It's probably the albums weakest link. Then again, if you like slide guitar set against haunted nursery sounding harpsichord this will definately be the one for you.
 
Embarrassing Kid is a bit of a wild one, but it sure grows on you. It's a blend of artrock, powerpop and musical tourettes. It sounds like an embarrassing kid should, disjointed, awkward and maybe even willfull  but after a couple of hearings you will understand this kid and love it dearly. 
 
 A darkness falls over the next track and Medusa places the listener in a gloomy foreboding place. The lyrics are sung eerily over background which spirals then loops back on itself like a moebius strip creating a musical impression of hopelessness. Once your in her lair theres no way out. Quality. 
 
Mr Sands is a theatrical code to warn theatre employees of a fire without frightening the audience. "Mr Sands is in the house" means that fire has broken out in the house. Another highlight of the album this would make a great single with its unusual time signature, catchy chorus and a great vocal to boot. 
 
Smoke is a warning to all users of the internet that your history trail can be traced, and if necessary used against you. Its a great track with a dislocated dance/funk groove that reminds me a lot of David Bowie's 1.Outside album. And that's no bad thing!
 
Back to mathematics again and we now have 5533 possibly the most unfathomable track on the album.  I havent got a bloody clue what this is about.  This aside, its pretty good.
 
The closing track on the album All over the place takes the theme of loss of identity as its subject matter.
It's a fairly subdued closer compared to the grandioise statements that have closed previous VdGG albums. It took me several listens to get into the track but patience has paid off.
 
I'd give the album as 4 stars.  The album wont be to everyones taste, but look at the album charts in any major record emporium and you will see that taste has almost disappeared.
 
JWGodbluff   2011.
 


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TONY PATTERSON...ALL THE WORLD (EP) 4/7/2011 10:18:03 AM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



I am constantly surprised by Tony Patterson’s diverse approach to music. Being as he is immersed in the more progressive groove he has without doubt removed himself from what is normally expected of him and donned a different cap.  “All The World” a mini album described by Tony as an EP will is available as a download from his website
www.tonypatterson.co.uk or from iTunes from May 3rd.

 

The EP consists of five very high quality original compositions penned and recorded by Tony himself. The version sent to me for review included a radio edit of the title track and a rather dapper looking Tony Patterson in jpeg format should you wish to adorn a CD jewel case. Something which I think you may want to consider once you have these five pearls embedded in your synapse. This will fully allow the listener to appreciate the production and scale of the recording when listened back through a good hi-fi or even in the car.

 

As I warmed up the valves in my trusty Hi-Fi system I sat back and pressed play expecting something totally different to what came out of my speakers. I was swept away by the lush carpet of orchestra and soothing semi chant of “All The World”.  I was left thinking to myself, “where the hell did that come from”. Tony Patterson has certainly come of age with this variety pack of songs. These are songs that hang around in your head and you find yourself humming whist doing other things. No slow burn songs here. All are immediate, accessible and instantly likable.

 

“Spiral” induced a Sergeant Pepper moment. Complete with treated vocal sounds and wheezy mellotron flute sounds, it really has that homely sixties feel to it. Tony captured a certain mood here which I thought was long gone in music of any genre. My personal favorite however has to be “Celebrate The Sun”. Easy to hear from this totally chill-out and feel good song that it’s creator has indulged himself and allowed another side of his talent to flow through in much the same way as other songs on this all too brief project has. All the normal comparisons I think we can safely take as read, however, I hear a lot of Morcheeba and Air in both “Celebrate the Sun” and “Mystic City”.

 

“Until The End” reveals Tony Patterson in romantic mode. Yes, romantic. This really has been written with someone very special in mind and utilizes the sumptuous timbral inflections of the orchestra. This song along with the title song gives more appeal to Tony Patterson’s music than the safe to assume predominately male aficionados. So to appease such an audience and ensure that there is something here for everyone There is a safe exit strategy in “Mystic City”.

 

This appropriate finale really does possess a set of cojones and serves all a reminder that the real Tony Patterson is still in the building and merely demonstrating other facets. Replete with cityscape sounds and haunting riffs it really is a compelling listen. I was shocked to find out that the download was only £3.99. A bargain when you consider a pint of Guinness is on average about £3.20 a pint and only lasts until the next expensive episode it makes you wonder what you are hesitating for? Do I have any criticism? Yes, I could easily have had another five of these quality pieces and still wanted more. I doth my cap good sir to five finely crafted songs all of which have a character all of their own. Hopefully this is but a taste of things to come.

 

 

www.tonypatterson.co.uk

 

 



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THE PROGMEISTER FESTIVAL...MARCH 26th 2011 4/4/2011 6:19:06 PM

I remember having a conversation with Steve Petch one evening at work in the late

Summer of 2010, we were discussing the idea of presenting a Prog Music evening to help promote his new Progmeister.com website.  The original idea, if I remember correctly was to have a couple of bands playing and some recorded music between acts.

Today I witnessed the fruition of this conversation.  The (1st) Progmeister Festival,  a full day event featuring six acts most of whom are accomplished recording artists for the almost unbelievable admission price of £15, that’s £2.50 per act.

 

I arrived at The Studio at around 14:00 and the first thing I noticed was the sound,  it was very clear, loud but never overpowering, this was the standard for the whole of the day.   Glacier the first band of the day had started their set.  There was some great guitar work going on in their songs. My personal favourite from their set was 'The City Gate' a longer atmospheric piece with several tempo changes, the sort of prog I enjoy. Their two vocalists complemented each other very well and their songs were concise and not overblown. It’s the first time I have seen Glacier and I intend to make sure it’s not the last 

    

After a short break of no more than 30 minutes local band MOG took to the stage with their entertaining mix of music and theatre complete with a semi gothic narrator who unveiled to us the story of Jack the Vicar, A prog opera?  Definitely a band to look out for.

 

Another short break  then Combination Head  were onstage and they unveiled a selection of material from their new album Museum, as well as a older material and a version of America by The Nice for Steve, which took me back a few years.  A great band that play classic prog with a very modern edge. Thyrotron and Turn me down, being two outstanding examples. Highly recommended.

 

Next up were John Hackett and Nick Magnus who added a touch of class to the event, providing a gentler but no less powerful set.  I don’t think you could call their music ambient, but it does take you to a higher place if you are willing to listen. Their performance of Hammer in the Sand was the highlight of the day for me. As well as an excellent unrehearsed performance of Howl the Stars Down, from Nick's album Children of Another God featuring a vocal by Tony Patterson.  During their set you could have heard a pin drop such was their hold over their audience.  I recon many of the audience must have been with me in that higher place. Wonderful stuff.

 

How Manning,  the penultimate band of the day all got on to the small stage I’ll never know but they did, all eight of them.  They provided the now very busy Studio with (in their own words) a set of songs about the sea and death.  My personal favourites being The House on the Hill and Ships.  The sheer range of musical styles within their repetoir had the audience enthralled during their performance.  I for one will be checking out their back catalogue.

 

After a slightly longer break  So/Gabriel made their presence felt with the dark iconic  introduction to Watcher of the skies.  Vocalist Tony Patterson made his entrance sporting the famous batwing headdress.  The choice of material was wide and varied as you would expect, the highlights (for me) being Mother of violence, San Jacinto and Here comes the flood.  I had to leave early after a brilliant performance of Sledgehammer but what I had seen was a band of accomplished musicians playing the music that they and prog fans worldwide love.  A must see for all Genesis/Gabriel fans and a great ending to an excellent day of music.

 

 Praise should be given to the sound crew and to the staff at The Studio. The stage management was excellent no overlong breaks between act.  A big round of applause should be given to Steve for enlisting such a very eclectic and interesting lineup of acts.  For all the hard work put in to make this day so great.  And as several of the artists stated, for having the insight to present The Progmeister Festival.

 

JWGodbluff 2011

 
COMBINATION HEAD...Highly recommended.


NICK MAGNUS...Hammer in the sand a highlight.


GLACIER...First time iv'e seen them! It won't be the last.



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COMBINATION HEAD...MUSEUM 3/7/2011 7:34:40 PM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4



I was recently asked in a radio interview if I knew any of new prog rock bands carrying on from where the traditional bands like Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis left off in their hey day. A few bands came to mind and Combination Head was one of them. It wasn’t until I listened to the latest album “Museum” that I realized how much so.

 

This seven track offering is not only steeped in prog tradition it cunningly lures the unsuspecting into believing that it is merely high quality modern rock music. Easy to think that given the fact it holds melody along with acceptable 2011 rock and pop criteria.

 

However, don’t be fooled for a minute. This is as prog as music gets. When we received the press release blurb, included within was the fact it was “themed around the idea of how quickly people, objects and ideas are consigned to history”. We were hooked. It was a subject close to our hearts.

 

Having recorded two very hard to follow success stories with self titled “Combination Head” and the sequel “Progress” how did their third album fare? Well, unlike the first two albums Museum is a slow burn. Whereas the first two albums were instantly loveable from the outset the new venture takes your soul by surprise.

 

Gone are the rich, polished songs and compositions, instead a more seat of the pants recording is evident which at first I was unsure about. I am unsure at this stage what the bands motives were when this album was recorded having already sprung two diamonds on the world, but let me tell you this is Combination Head's best work to date.

 

All the usual flavours of the band are here with a little added vim and vigour. Starting out with the bright and breezy opening of “The Curator” there is a creation of a 21st century Greenslade if ever I heard one. Crammed with some great Moog type sounds and real grimy Hammond I was blown away from the outset. From the medieval drum pads to the racy guitar riffs, I was after more than a few listens totally smitten.

 

Electronic swirls and soundscapes herald the arrival of “Particle Zoo”. At first it’s a bit of a culture shock baring in mind the band’s ancestry. I could only liken this song to driving a Ferrari with no brakes. The whole experience is exhilarating.

 

“Turn Me Down”! Wow! If ever Combination Head needed a single to release then this is it. The absolutely filthy gorgeous Hammond and blinding guitar is powerfully propelled along by Gareth Moulton’s energetic vocal. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Onto something a little more intriguing, “Thyrotron”. Utilising deep sound patterns like that of the 1929 Trautonium, this piece represents the most powerful piece on the album. Thyrotron is named after the gas filled valve found at the heart of such early  engineering of the synthesizer. A slow starter with some electrifying moments. I must admit that certain parts of this piece reminded me of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I was looking over my shoulder for a Slipperman. The breath taking drums on this tsunami of a track can be attributed to the Portnoy of Preston Wilton Minto who is without doubt a phenomenon.

Keeping up the pace, boards man supreme Paul Birchall throws himself into full Emerson mode here with “Truth Seeker”. Once the Tarkus-like beginning subsides there is no question who is playing? The Heads undoubtedly have their own manqué and it is evident throughout the whole of this wonderful montage of all that is good about this genre.

 

“Consumer Fool” certainly burns a message home about the state of today’s society. It hammers home a deep social message. I find it an alarming statement though a joy to listen to. This song represents the albums anthem. There are some interesting sounds and textures to be found here too.

 

In conclusion, Yvonne Shelton's gospel wailing  finishes the album with the title track “Museum”. Originally intended for the Progress album this sadly too short climax utilizes the extreme skill and deft of hand lay bare by Paul Burgess. The ex-Camel drummer pounds his way through this masterpiece of a climactic sound bite. Best to go out on a high and that is exactly what Combination Head did here.

 

For the nerds amongst us I must inform that as well as the soft synth technology, there is a wealth of the real I am on this album keyboard wise. Micro Moog, Prophet 5, and Hammond to name but a few. And you can tell. This album has been painstakingly put together for your enjoyment. Treat it like an antiquity. Enjoy it, revisit it, admire it and above all else treasure it.

 

A good start to 2011. One of the best albums I have heard for a while. Museum is only available as a download at the moment. CD’s will b available later this year. Available to download from CD Baby and reverbnation.

 

www.myspace.com/combinationhead

 

 

 

www.cdbaby.com

 

 

 

www.reverbnation.com



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DR0PSHARD...ANYWHERE BUT HOME 2/13/2011 9:35:18 AM
On the strength of this, their debut album Italian band Dropshard looks as if they could in time be joining the ranks of the Italian prog cognisenti alongsides of PFM and Le Orme as a major progressive band.

For this their fist album the band have recorded a thirty five minute, eight pardt song cycle "Anywhere But Home". For fans of progressive metal this album should tick all the boxes with it's choral vocal passages, strident and interesting riffs, excellent and guitar/keyboard interplay and soloing throughout.

There are some lovely etheral keyboard textures which add an otherworldy feel and depth to the songs. The band have a stellarvocalist in Enrico Scanu, he sings with passion and has a clarity in his voice which is lacking in so many bands theses days.

The concept of the album is based on a theme that we are all searching for something that we may feel is unobtainable, when all the time what we are wanting could be staring us in the face.

A must for fans of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theatre and other classic rock acts such as Rush and Judas Priest.

DROPSHARD - ANYWHERE BUT HOME.
Sonic Vista Music SVRCD017. Available as CD or download.
Total Playing Time 40:02
Release date - February 15th 2011.

JWGodbluff  2011



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MATT STEVENS...GHOSTS 2/1/2011 3:59:46 AM At a time when so many talented artistes lean towards the prog metal edge of prog it is a breath of fresh air when something just a bit different comes along. At the present time Matt Stevens represents the antithesis of prog metal. The North Londoner has put together ten compelling tracks that can be listened to whilst driving to work in the car, at low level with yout dinner guest or cranked up for ultimate musical posture on a good hi-fi system.

Matt's tightly strung acoustic guitar eminates a wonderful mood throughout the whole of the album. Cutting through the sparse fragility of mild electronica the crisp almost flamenco stays within the boundries of prog by a hares breath yet never betrays it's heritage.

On many classic albums by the likes of Yes/Genesis et al there is always a diamond little track before launching into an epic. "Mood For A Day" is a good example or Steve Hackett's "Horizons". Matt Stevens seems to have recorded an album of such gems.

Being as it is an album of the download generation, Ghosts would be missing the splendor of it's chic artwork and packaging should it be purchased as a download. However, the music is enough to stand up on it's own without such candy and artistic luxury, it's worth spoiling yourself though.

Opening with "Into The Sea" Mr Stevens slight of hand with regard to his chosen weapon is evedent from the outset. Both Matt's appearance and technique point towards early Genesis though the overall sound is more contemporary. I am unsure whether Matt or one of his cohorts are using a pair of spoons for some of the percussion effects hear or utilising technology as part of the backing here. Either way it's a joy to listen to.

"Big Sky" is just that, big and bold. A bit of power strumming to lift the spirit. The tune breezes along into perhaps my favorite piece on the album "Eleven". One of the few tracks that Matt picks up an electric guitar on. There's a bit more jiggery pokery going on in the background and it does leave you wanting to hear more.

Bass and drums feature heavily on "Draw" thanks to able helper Stuart Marshell with Matt's chiming guitar sound propelling it along nicely. It's worth buying the album just for this piece. There seems to be quite a bit going on with this particular track thanks to assistance Kevin Feazey who takes care of programming, keyboards and suchlike throughout the whole album.

Moving on to "Burnt Out Car, this really is the bed of Prog with nice clean sheets on it. Fresh, lively and open. In contrast "Late Man" returns to the darker side of things which i simply adore. Matt Stevens has atalent for timing and intrigue, this tune oozes private detective at me. Wonderful stuff.

"Glide" is yet again bright and breezy as wash day. Matt's use of Glockelspiel is a subtle touch and lightens the whole piece, just as it does elsewhere on the album. Keeping in the same vein "8:19" lays bare just where Matt has drawn his influences from. Another gorgeous, crisp soundscape bathed in effects pedal and/or ebow backing. Mmmm, where have i heard that before? Some interesting percussion sounds too.

The tilte piece "Ghost" is a sinister very dark offering which i fear may have repeated it's main theme to often and i have to confess to not enjoying it as much as the rest. However, this is down to my own inability to cope with repetition and could well be more enjoyed by others.

Concluding "Ghosts "is "Moondial". A gentle melody re-introducing the glockenspiel and drums which round off what i would suggest is a must have album. Yes, it really is that good. Want something different in the prog genre?  ghost might just be the ticket. Treat yourself.

For more information visit  www.mattstevensguitar.com 






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MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY 1/28/2011 11:19:00 AM Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4


MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY.

 

 

 

The illustrated history of prog rock. By Will Romano

 

 

 

 

This book is a large format full colour size guide to prog rock past and present. Most of the bands featured in the book the diehard aficionado will know and love but there are sections on Kraut rock, the Canterbury scene, Italian prog and prog folk.

 

The book is well written and has a wealth of information on all bands included. Each bands history and recorded output is discussed and reviewed as well as an interesting piece on the roots and beginnings of each genre.

 

There is a section on American bands Kansas and Styx which I personally consider to be AOR rather than prog. This being said, both bands have produced some good music. The same applies to a section on rush who I think became a really good all round rock band rather than a prog band.

 

Genesis, King Crimson and Pink Floyd each have two sections, Gabriel and post Gabriel, Waters and post Waters and the 70s and the 80s/90s Crimson. These I feel could have been discussed in a single section and space been given to other bands.

 

There are a few errors in the naming of album covers which are shown at the foot of each page. In one section Porcupine Tree’s albums are named but Pink Floyd’s album artwork is shown. In the second article on Genesis, albums are incorrectly named and Voyage Of The Acolyte by Steve Hackett is named Invisible Touch. (Confusing to new comers to prog? Not arf)

 

These errors aside the book is well worth a read. The qualities of the pictures are good. Articles about IQ, Gentle Giant, and The Alan arsons Project are most welcome but why no Van der Graff Generator?

 

Paperback: 246 pages, full colour throughout.

Publisher: Backbeat books; original edition (1st December 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0879309911

ISBN-13: 978-0879309916

 

G W Goodbluff.

 

 

 

 

 



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