|In the very unlikely release of a new Pink Floyd album in the future or indeed ever, disciples need look no further. This is about as close as you are going to get. This wonderful offering manages to fuse Waters and Gilmour era Pink Floyd extremely well. Like many albums of this nature it is down to the listeners own interpration as to what it's all about. Given the state of the world's climate economically, politicaly and environmentaly there is plenty for you to put images to. |
Hole In The Sky opens the proceeding in two parts, part three being reprised later in the album. It really is a very suitable beginning for an album with such a title. I think it fair to warn those with small children that the F word is used in the opening sample. A very worthy,guitar lead opener and certanly memorable. I found this one dancing round my cranium for weeks.
Moving onto Who Do They Think We Are has a certain Beatles feel to it and along with a few of the tracks on this album is going to make it RPWL's Dark Side Of The Moon. I think it's going to be very difficult for them to better this one. In Your Dreams see's the band in full Floyd mode with what sounds to me like a re-hash of Sorrow. A little bit too close for comfort methinks.
The vocals on the album are very good and at times i thought i was listening to David Gilmour himself, however, towards the end of the album there is definately the angst of Roger Waters kicking in especially on the closing acoustic piece God Has Failed which brings everything down and puts the album neatly to bed. RPWL are a class act of that there is little doubt. God Has Failed can only be described as a peak in what they have achieved to date. The bands most recent concert DVD along with this excellent album should be high on any prog fans shopping list. It's terrific.
The Progmeister ****
|At this moment in time there is an abundance of great prog bands and music around. However, only very few capture the essence of the genre enough to allow listener to become immersed in the mood or atmosphere of the music's intention. Journey of the Yak is one of the few. For the lovers of Steve Hackett from Acolyte to Spectral Mornings will find this album a dream to listen to. No mean feat when you concifer the scarcity of guitar on this album. Martin Morgan's wicked pitch bending and clever keyboard voicing has all but the most critical nerd fooled into thinking that he has a Strat in there somewhere. |
When i first listened to this album i kept waiting for the singing to start and after i listened to these crafted pieces for the second and third time i was glad that it didn't. So many band are making albums now that brim with fantastic musical events yet marred by poor vocals, especially none English speaking bands. Yak's music stands up on it's own and does not need the accompanyment of vocal and lyric. It's nice too to hear real drums as so many musicians now place reliance on the virtual/software technology to represent their rhythm.
Dave Speight on drums along with Gary Bennett playing bass make a huge difference to the album taking the soundstage away from being of the modern manufactured sound. It can be heard that a great deal of attention to detail has been made especially to the careful selection of Mellotron sounds portrayed via Martin Morgan's Kurzweil.
From the opening drones of Gates Of Moria to the grand Hackett like outro of the title track "Journey Of The Yak" the whole disc seems to brim with gems. So many albums of this nature sound at their best when listened to via a good Hi-Fi and this one is no exception. However, i found that Yak's music lends itself equally to the car, i-pod or discman.
Litening to "Entangled In Dreams" reminded me of when i rushed home with a copy of Spectral Mornings and slammed it onto the turntable and was then transported to a better place. Yes folks it really is that good. "March Of The Huorns" begins with a little more of a sedate pace yet still manages to explode into an organ lead barrage of shear joy. Gary Bennett's bass playing on this track really carries the whole piece along beautifully. I was caught a couple of times in the kitchen playing air key's to this track. "Dearly departed" is the most sombre piece on the album openingwith a very warm solitary piano and moving into a slow and enjoyable conclusion with some great Mellotron sounds, not least the flute pad that brings it to a close.
I make no apologies for perhaps too many references to Mr Hackett who incidentilly said of this album "that it was beautiful music". But i am firmly convinced in my own little world that this is the album that Genesis should have made following Wind and Wuthering instead of trying to attract ladies. I was told by the gentleman who sold me the disc that proceeds from the sale go to the tower Hill animal sanctuary and that all production costs have been met privately. A brilliant cause methinks as it cost a fortune to keep the animals fed and clean. Check out email@example.com should you like to make a contibution via paypal.
All in all this album has a feel good factor in that it transports you back to better days. If you want a quick try before you buy click onto Yak's myspace site www.myspace.com/yaktunes and have a listen.
In the present world we seem to be no longer kings with regard to football, cricket,industry,politics or economy. Yak reminded me of a time when we where and that somethings can only be imitated. Prog rock as we know it is predominantly English and Yak demonstrate this point admirably. I hope that Martin and the boys don't sit on their hands and let this talent go to waste. I for one would pre-order any forthcoming Yak album.
***** On The Progmeisters top 10
|Every now and again a little gem comes your way. A few weeks ago i recieved a consignment of discs from an old friend of mine which included a CD by a Dutch band called Leap day. Their debut album entitled "Awakening The Muse" is quite simply wonderful. |
Some of the tracks from the album take a little longer to sink in, though some are instantly lovable and you will find yourself humming them soon after listening. Of these instantly lovable tracks i would site "What Would You Do", " Secret Gardener" and "Eyes Wide Open" as stand out songs that draw in the listener. Gert Van Engelenberg's keyboard work is terrific as is Eddie Mulder's gripping guitar. in fact the musician's who appear on this album are all of the very highest quality.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone who enjoys Camel, Pink Floyd and the older stadards of prog should order a copy of this album. The album comes beautifully packaged with some great artwork.Sit back and enjoy the muse.
***** The Progmeister.
|They say that all good things are worth waiting for and the new album "Children Of Another God" by prog stalwart Nick Magnus is no exception.Beautifully packaged including impressive art work the album is without doubt a prog masterpiece. For those of you au'fait with Nick's earlier work you will know that Nick's music invokes atmosphere. His latest opus relies more on direct communication of lyric and melody rather than atmospheric soundscape. |
I will attempt to draw not one comparison to others though i am sure that many listeners will identify the obvious. Though all of the retro keyboard sounds are faithfully replicated utilising modern software technology the authenticity is startling. It would be very easy to imagine Mr Magnus betwixed his elaborate 70's/80's keyboard rig armed with Mellotron, Moog, organ, etc,etc.
Children Of Another God is an operatic production in my opinion. This is the most song based album Nick has made to date, Hexameron being very close behind. This is no doubt to convay in full the story on which the album is based. Having been briefed on the idea behind the album by the man himself i have to confess that i am still as wise as anyone else. I am sworn not to give the game away even if i did fully understand it.
Between the the superb artwork and clarity of the songs all is laid bare for the listener's own interpretation. The songs themselves are a dparture from them to be found on previous albums due to their descriptive nature though none the less impressive. The opening song "Children Of Another God" sets the pace and indeed the stage for the rest of the album. Tony Patterson's voice is a little more on the mellow side on this particular piece yet brilliantly sets the foundation for all that follows.
Tony Patterson along with Pete Hicks, Andy Neve, and last but definately not least Linda John Pierre do a fantastic job of the vocals. Nick himself makes his oral debut (Oo er matron) On the sumptuous "Identity Theft" ably accompanied by the ex Enid man Glen Tollett playing upright bass. This really is an oasis of tranquility in the big tapestry of textures and overlayed songs and musical pieces like Doctor Prometheus, The Colony Is King, and Crimewave Monkeys. The brothers Hackett make their contribution to the afore mentioned The Colony Is King playing their now famous guitar and flute swathes. This is without doubt with perhaps the exception of Crimewave Monkeys the most powerful song on the album. I can definately hear echoes of Tigermoth in this track too (sorry Nick) which brought a smile to my face.
"The Others" brings to the fore the lilting yet powerful voice of Linda john Pierre who brings about a West End feel about this particular song. I could imagine this song being indluded in a stage show. The final two songs Babel Tower and Howl The Stars Down See Tony Patterson doing what he does best, giving notation and poise to the songwriters craft. A fitting if not explicit ending to a powerful story. To don my water repellant hooded jacket for a while. The piece that i enjoyed the most was the one that i have yet to mention, "Twenty Summers". Quite simply Progtastic pop pickers. This piece finds Nick playing as he does without restriction of vocal content. Twenty Summers is one of those musical pieces that you used to find on every Prog album that were probably there to fill up the vinyl tracks and ended up swimming around your head as one of the best tracks on the album. Hats off to Dick Foster who provided the fantastic narrative for this album and being bold enough to use the words needed to conclude the tail. Nick Magnus is without doubt a virtuoso of the digital age.
The work that has gone into the making of this album is evident from the first few bars. Exsisting fans will love this new offering and those seeking something to bring out the best of their expensive h-fi equipment will be well pleased. I have had as much pleasure listening to Children Of Another God in the car, i-pod and even the bath. Ladies and gentlemen, purses and wallets at the ready. Make your way to the counter.
The Progmeister Says...What the hell are you waiting for?
|A CD sized packaged from The Netherlands his my hall mat the other day and when i opened it there was a nicely presented disc within baring the moniker Nine Stones Close. What a lucky boy i hear you say, having CD's sent to him! The truth is, i knew it was coming. The man behind NSC is Ade Jones. I have heard Ade's guitar work elsewhere and thought it was excellent. |
I think it fair to describe this very dark sounding album as atmospheric prog metal. (Have i just invented a new genre? Atmospheric is just what it is. there is some fabulous pieces on this album which at times can startle you if listened to as i did on headphones. Powerful chords can eminate from very dark, inky atmospheres and shock you back into reality. many of the tracks seem inpired by somekind of hospital or emergency event. This is not only evident by the actual effects in the various recordings, an elaborate thank you to all manner of medical personnel is contained within the slipcase notes.
As no track list was included i cannot indicate which tracks sounded like what other than a numerical reference. Therfore i will wait until i have such information. Being as i am a very safety concious lover of prog rock i would say that this album is for the adveturous and not for the more stayed. However, I found it a compelling listen. An album that although would benefit the employment of a more soulful singer gets it's dark, moody message across very well. Some nice big chords in there for the metalic side of prog too. Check out www.myspace.com/ninestoneclose
|Wow! It's been a while since i attended a tribute band gig. I think it is a an injustice to describe Retrogenesis as a tribute band. Having been fortunate enough to have seen The real Genesis during their hay day with Peter Gabriel and unfortunate to be old enough to remember, i can't imagine that the original band could have performed any better than Retrogenesis. |
I have to confess that despite a very slight technical glitch at the beginning, the hair on the the back of my neck stood to attention as the first few bars of "Watcher Of The Skies" rang out. It would be very difficult to say what my favourite song was as so many old favourites were given a new lease of life. The rendition given of "Entangled" was simply the best that i have heard. If pressed i would have to say that my favourite songs of the whole evening were not Genesis pieces but Peter Gabriel songs. Snapshot and San Jancinto blew me and all like minded people in the audience away.
The whole evening was Fun, quality, nostalgic and a shear pleasure. I would recommend any Genesis or Peter Gabriel fan to check this band out. I would have happily paid twice the ticket price.
Fans of The Rotter's Club please form an orderly que. If you were growing a little bored waiting for a new Caravan album and needed a Canterbury fix then you're luck is in. It's just arrived. The Tangent have been around for a while now and are without doubt the best exponent of the ecclectic Canterbury sound since the late seventies. If like me you are a fan of the fat analogue sounds of The Mini Moog etc then you will simply adore this album, It's not for the faint hearted though. If you cast caution to the wind and want to hear some "all out prog" then this is very album for you.
Opening with the 10;10 minute opus "Where Are They Now" everything from King Crimson to caravan can be heard and most things in between. I must admit to feeling in need of a lay down after listening to this track, it certainly moves on swiftly. Paroxetine - 20mg has some nice keyboard texture in it though i was bemused by it's lyrical content. I think it fair to say that this is an album to me enjoyed more for it's musical content than it's messages. a difficult subject to get your head round really. Paroxetine, better known as "Seroxat" went through a fair bit of controvercy as anti depressants go and to attemp to put lyrics to such a subject within such musical accompanyment just lose's the point. Having said that it's a cracking piece of music as is the rest of the album.
Perdu Dans Paris is what you could probably say is the nearest thing to the title track. Head honcho "Andy Tillson dons his finest french accent to sing this cheeky little number. In fact this track had me comparing Andy to Rupert Hind in the heady days of "Quantum Jump". Andy really is a superb musician and his keyboards on this album sound the best they have ever sounded. Paul Burgess (ex Camel/10cc etc) too sounds magnificent playing the best drums i have heard him play. The Company Car is yet another diamond which is probably the most accessable track on the album for those unable to cobat the more complicated and lengthy pices on the album.
My copy of this album was a limited edition and contained a bonus track entitled "Everyman's Forgotton Monday". It contained fairly strong language and was decribed as being "In Memory Of Richard Wright". Why? i don't know! I could find little reference in the lyrics to suggest any thing about Richard or comment about his life. I suppose it must be dedicated in the same way that you would a park bench to someone recently past away.
The final 12:55 minute track needs no description. The simply title "The Canterbury Sequence Volume 2 concludes where volume one began on the Tangent's first album and is given the full Caravan with the brakes off treatment. Absolutely wonderful. Send your better half to the Bingo, crank up the CD player have a beer and enjoy!
Big thumbs up from The Progmeister.
I am constantly amazed by the advances in musical technology. This wonderful album by Steve Hackett is testiment to just how far things have come in that respect. Recorded without the elaborate surroundings of a studio it suffers no ills what so ever. If anything the recording quality puts to shame a couple of Steve's earlier albums. I sense that some of the lyrics are of a personal nature none more evident than the opening track "Fire On The Moon". All the traits of a bygone era are here with a different edge to them. Gone are the huge soft Mellotron passages and fat bass pedal sounds. This is a cleaner more focused sounding album majoring on variation. Something of which Mr Hackett does extremely well.
There's something in here for everyone. Listen to Nomads and you realise that Steve has blended his virtuoso classical style directly to his more rock influenced style, rather than individual classical or rock pieces. Nomads takes you from a haunting round a campfire, through flamenco, to rousing drum cressendo. Emerald And Ash reviels a gentle side to Mr Hackett, whilst heard before he captures a new grace. The following Tubehead is just to make sure that you know you're listening to a Steve Hackett album. No finery here, this is not to be listened to as back ground music. Not for the faint hearted. Sleepers on the other hand brings about a dimention to Steve that was explored on the Wild Orchid album.
I honestly think it's the violin and viola playing of christine Townsend that make the first part of this song a little special. It does however change pace with Steve's nightmare sequence type playing halfway through. The following "Ghost In The Glass" seems to have taken over where "Spectral Mornings" left off. A showcase of Steve's abilities. The penultimate Still Waters reminds all that Mr Hackett does the blues. With a little help from his more feminine friends he manages to cut through iron bars with the searing nature this wicked tour de force. Last but not least, "last train to Istanbul". heavily influenced by Turkish music a dark mood of Eastern promise is set by Roger King's deep impacting drum pads and patches and Rob Townsend's eary soprano saxophone.
The guest list includes, Chris Squire, Nick Beggs ( Kajagoogoo), Anthony Phillips, John Hackett, and not forgetting the superb Roger King.
Musically there has been no tunnel's for Steve to imerge from, though it seems he has suffered some personal dark times. This album is a credit to his professionalism and determination to continue recording and playing quality music. It goes without saying that this album is a must for all Hackett fans but in my opinion it has a much wider appeal than some of his other work. It's a diamond. If youv'e just bought yourself some new hi-fi equipment and want something to play on it, look no futher. Well, what yer waiting for?
Progmeister say's, "Definately"!
Mark Blake. Pigs might fly. The inside story of Pink Floyd.
I got book for Christmas and i am still reading and re-reading it. Like many floyd fans i own just about everything written about the band and it's history. However, this rather understated little paperback purchased from zavvi just before it's demise is by far the best. I have alway's thought that i know most things there is to know about Pink Floyd until i read this book. It is without doubt the best and most in depth literature yet published about the band that i have read. An absolute steal for £5. From the early days at the UFO club through the Barrett years right up to the turbulence of more recent times. The best Chronicle of the band yet. An essential item for any Pink Floyd fan.
IQ Frequency Special Edition !
I procured the Frequency special edition album on it's release and to be honest on first hearing it i was disappointed to say the least. However, in the fullness of time and many reappraisal's my opinion is shifting. This album may well have been too much for the older, more seasoned IQ fans to adapt to though it has many merits. The title track Frequency and Stronger than friction (Previously entitled crashed and burned) are known to the many and have become standards in the live set. The lesser known songs on the album are of the usual high standard and many of us will make of the lyrics what we will. I think anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the second cut "Life Support" is about recent events and parting of the ways of crucial and original band member. Musically the album is very good though this particular track contains one of the worst synthesizer breaks i have ever heard from the band. I was reminded of the statement that the late Eric Morcombe made to Andre Previn "I'm playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order. With that said, a minor quibble, the rest of the album is very musically pleasing. As i have already said, the lyrics are all open to interpration and i am reminded of the movie "Tatal Recall" whils listening to Ryker Skies. For me the track that maintains IQ's prog status is "The Province". Classic Genesis for the 21st century as far as i am concerned. Classic use of organ and Mellotron sounds (No matter who is playing them) and great time signitures.
The concluding piece "Closer", would not be out of place on a Peter Gabriel album and demonstrates a maturity in the band. Dark Matter was always going to be a hard act to follow and the move in direction was a wise one though i fear may have been at the price of losing an important band member. Interestingly Martin Orford wasn't credited on the album and yet he had contributed to the album quite significantly before his departure. An oversight perhaps???
The accompanying DVD with the special edition version of the album is definately worth having. Picture quality is hardly Blue Ray standard though it is a good visual record of the bands live show at the time. Of the tracks on the DVD, The very last song "The darkest hour is absolutely brilliant. It's worth mentioning the artwork and packaging too. It's the best that IQ have produced.Go for it Progster's. Swich cards at the ready!
GENESIS 1970-75 vinyl box set
I must admit to being a little disappointed when my five album box set of the most essential Genesis albums arrived well after their planned release date. I was expecting something a little more elaborate. I was torn as long standing fan of the band which box set to buy, and in some respects may still have made the wrong decision. Given the fact that the SACD/DVD box set contains not only the afore mentioned albums with differing audio options, but rare DVD footage of the band and a book. Some 13 discs in all. In my naivety i thought that despite being a vinyl box set, it would have included the DVD's with the footage and extra tracks on them. A little remiss of the record company i have to say given the difference in price. The retail price of the vinyl set was originally £160 echoing what must be manufacturing costs and the SACD?DVD set £89. However, i made my choice and i will probably end up buying the SACD set too at some point. The albums have all been remixed by Nick Davies and have been half speed mastered. As written elsewhere in other reviews, i was also a little surprised that Genesis live was not included in the new sets. Though it wasn't the best of recordings it was an important document of the bands live sound at the time. After deciding to listen to the albums in chronological order i settled myself with a nice glass of scotch and removed the first of the LP's "Trespass" from it's heavy card sleeve. These beautifully crafted pressings are 200g and benefit significantly from it. I must admit that when the first few bars of "looking for someone" first rang out i was simply smitten. As a 50 years old prog head i was transported back to the most exciting years of my life musically. Having worked my way through Trespass and being totally blown away by the rich textures of organ and Mellotron, i unloaded "Nursery Cryme from the sturdy slip case and give it a spin. Whilst the obvious favorites on this album sounded every bit as incredible as the previous album, it was songs like "Harold the barrel, Harlequin, and for ascent friends" that seem to have been given more impetus and given the same status as the epic pieces on the album. Just one more before bed i thought. Out came "Foxtrot". Simply fantastic! From the first of the massive Mellotron chords of "Watcher of the skies" to shimmering crescendo of "Supper's ready" The whole album was a joy to listen to. It was when i listened to "Foxtrot" that i became even more disappointed that "Genesis Live" hadn't been included. There is something about "Get em out by Friday" on the live album that simply can't be bettered. Bedtime came and went so what the hell, Time for my favorite Genesis album, "Selling England by the pound" (and they certainly have). I must say that despite this album still sounding excellent, it seemed to benefit the least from the half speed mastering and heavier vinyl. A testament to just how good the original product was. "The cinema show" still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and no other version of it more so than the original. This is now the best version of it and should be heard on a good turntable to be fully appreciated.
A week or so went by before i revisited the 1970-75 vinyl box set to complete my journey down memory lane by listening to "The lamb lies down on Broadway". Having listened to the album in it's entirety i compared the new version to my trusty old somewhat well traveled copy. Sonically the 200g copy has an extra octave of bass and much more information to be heard. The whole album was a dream to listen to. From the delicate, crisp piano intro to the pacey climax of "it", the recording has been injected with life and energy. Notable tracks being "Fly on a windshield", "In the cage", "Hairless heart", "The chamber of 32 doors" and "Lillywhite Lilith".
Having heard the SACD recordings of the above and all their modern worth, they don't have the sheer musicality of this beautifully presented and sonically superior offering. Apart from the nostalgic interaction of hearing, handling, and enjoying the use of this product, the ability to see the images and graphics are a boom for people of a certain age who are optically challenged. This is an item of kudos for those who are a little more serious about the musical nature of the sound rather than the more mechanical and less organic sounding alternative.
In my view, most of Genesis's best work is contained herein and brought the end to an era of great importance to the whole genre of music. With the exception of "Trick of the tale" and "Wind and Wuthering", These albums are the culmination of an interesting, theatrical and ground breaking music that dissipated in order to give way to a larger audience. To enable Genesis to outlive the punk era and survive market forces they thrived on mediocrity and will never regain the originality of these first five pioneering albums.
Not for the faint hearted then? It's expensive and doesn't include all the bonus material of the SACD/DVD set. However, For those more serious about music than gimmick, i would heartily recommend this exquisite box set.
The Progmiester says Yes. yes, yes!!!!
Combination Head revisited
For those of us whom enjoyed the Hammond and fat Moog sounds of ELP in days of yore, a modern alternative is currently available. And having lived through the golden era of Emerson Lake and Palmer and other bands of a similar ilk, i can confirm that Combination head are a very pleasant update of the old vanguards. To date "The Heads" have recorded two excellent albums and play a wicked live set. Their first album simply entitled "Combination Head" is a music only event and a tonic to listen to. It contains eight beautifully crafted pieces of which it is very difficult to to form a preference. If pushed i would site "Fourteen" and the title track "Combination Head" as stand out tracks though the rest are as appealing and all very memorable tunes. The driving force behind the band is keyboard man and writer Paul Birchall. Paul get's about as close to the Emerson sound as you are going to get without actually being the man himself. Paul's compositions are quite simply refreshing in todays diet of benarl prog impressions and does not suffer from the digital home studio sound as extolled by so many up and coming Eastern block artists trying to get themselves heard on a limited budget. None of that evident here. Excellent production, seamless playing and the benefit of real drums courtesy of Phil Knight and Paul Burgess (Ex 10cc/Camel). Ranging from the simplistic piano of "Blue Waters" to the erratic organ chops of "The Bonk" The album represents all that is good about this type of music without lending itself to the pomposity of it's inspirations.
Their second album simply entitled "Progress" is a diamond. In contrast to the first offering this is a really up market item. Excellent art work and slip case c/w business card. The inclusion of some rather wonderful songs on this album prevent The Heads" from sounding stayed as so many bands do when attempting to create their own sound and image. It really is a breath of fresh air. The opening track "New City" could well have been included on a follow up to ELP's "Brain Salad Surgery" such is the pace and similarity of their "3rd impression". "Glass and Steel is probably my favorite song on the album and beautifully sung by Gareth Moulton. Of the ten tracks on this disc not one lets the side down. Once again just like the first album i struggled to find a piece that stood out amongst the others. If like me, you are a fan of the late Pete Bardens, then you will adore "liquid". Reminiscent of early Camel it is a perfect example of the CH sound. Interestingly Paul Burgess (Ex Camel) plays drums on it. It is when you listen to the rousing "Anthem" that you hear Paul Birchill's influences as a previous member of M-People and the anthemic nature of Heather Smalls vocal style. In this case it is Neil Fairclough and he does a brilliant job. The album concludes with "Cloud Cover", and a very fitting conclusion it is too. It would be very easy to compare Combination Head with so many bands of the seventies era though i have to say that the bands take on things are fresh and original. Check them out on the net. I don't think that you will be disappointed.
Progmiester says "Credit cards at the ready" Form an orderly Que. *****
IQ at the Bury Met
How Pete Nicholls must have been feeling post event one can only imagine. His determination, courage and sense of humour pulled him through what must have been one of the most torturous IQ gigs that he has ever played. Plagued with a flu virus and obviously battling with the symptoms, Pete rallied right to the bitter end with JJ's healthy lungs giving more than a helping hand. Starting with the now familiar "Frequency"from the forthcoming album of the same name it became apparent that Mark Westworth has now settled more readily into a very difficult void to fill by Mr Orford. I suspect that Widges's keyboard settings are something he likes to keep to himself as Mark's boards don't have the same deep rounded textures as the Orford years. However, it is with the new material that Mark gets into his stride.The song which i think made the gig for me was "The Darkest Hour". Played with fantastic vigor it simply re-enforced IQ to be the force to be reckoned with amongst todays prog bands. All in all a fabulous gig. hats offto the whole band, though especially to Pete Nicholls for being such a stalwart.
Year of the Heads
Well, What a year pop pickers. There has been some highlights i have to say that i find difficult to place as the best. Some of you may recognise my writings in the CRS blog et al and other forums. Therefore i will make no secret of my enthusiasm for Combination Head. Having seen them thrice this year and fully promote their virtuosity, i fear larger mortals should bow with grace to their expertise with regard to pitching two amazing albums right between the older listener and the new. If ever there was an ambassador for prog rock it is "The Heads". In a much maligned genre of music to purport, Combination Head represent a new order and i appeal to you good folk out there to take heed.
I last witnessed the awesome sonic barrage of CH at Stokesley town Hall( North Yorkshire) a few months ago and they ripped the place apart.
With two diamond albums behind them i have to wonder what's coming next. I strongly urge you to sound them out. www.combinationhead.com or www.combinationheaduk Very strong Hammond organ and Moog type synth sounds prevail over he majority of the Combination Head sound.
Following strongly in the footsteps of ELP, Gentle Giant and Camel etc, The Heads make it easy for younger people to access an area of music that is fast becoming taboo to all but the steadfast. i won't bore you with details here with regard to who is who. However, Paul Birchill ( ex Heather Small, M People etc) is the main man. Paul plays keyboards and sings backing vocals on their two extraordinary albums and till of late in a live performance, demonstrated just how good his lead vocal prowess is. I have reviewed both the Combination Head albums for other sites/forums etc, though i intend to revisit them for my own blog here.
Despite there being one month left of 2008, three things stick out in my mind this year. In chronological order, Asia at The Carling Academy Newcastle Upon Tyne, Combination Head on all three occasions that i managed to attend and the release of the new Martin Orford CD "The Old Road". Stay chooooooooned for a review of both CH albums coming soon. The Progmiester say's " Watch this band, they're hot".
Willowglass. Book of Hours
Anyone who hasn't heard Willowglass yet are in for a treat. Willowglass is multi instrumentalist Andrew Marshall ably supported by Dave Brightman on drums. Based in Homefirth, Yorkshire, Willowglass can be safely described as sounding like Genesis from Trespass to Selling England by the pound. Book Of Hours is the second Willowglass album the first being simply entitled Willowglass. I have to say that for a small independent production the package is surprisingly good. A very elaborate 16 page booklet explains the concept of the album and is beautifully illustrated by Lee Gaskins. Lee's website is well worth checking out too. I would consider Willowglass to be chillout for prog heads and would make excellent company on you MP3 player whilst on holiday.
It is very refreshing to hear such beautiful pieces augmented with real drums. So many artists with limited recording facility opt for the e-drum route. Not Willowglass. And this is what makes this album something special. Right from the opening track Argamasilla to the heavily segmented Labyrinth, Strangely enough track 2 is simply called Willowglass, a title which i thought would have been used on the first offering. That is what i love about this genre of music, it is always steeped in mystery. The album is layered with sumptuous keyboard textures contrasted with crisp acoustic and electric guitar. None more so than the excellent "The Maythorne Cross"At first it is very easy to think that the pudding has been over egged with regard to the Mellotron sounds but after a while you are reminded that is everything you adored about early prog. The album is based upon Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza. A story which alas i am not familiar. Like other concept albums ( Gaudi etc) it has inspired me to want to learn more. The title track "Book Of Hours" continues the highly enriched quality every other chord and note on the album. It would be easy to say that all the tracks sound the same but when they are of this standard the listener simply can't get enough.
Where as the first album could draw on many early progressive rock influences, Book Of Hours sounds very much like Jethro Tull meets Greenslade. It would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking this album is starved of lyrical content or narration. I am a firm believer that each piece on this album is strongly represented by the music and would simply become another attempt to be Genesis should it be included. A recommendation then? Definitely. I would suggest the spouses and partners are well out of the way whilst playing this album though. It will give you the freedom to play your air synth in peace. In conclusion i would have to say that Messrs Marshall and Brightman achieve what is quintessentially a very English sound because they are British and whilst American bands like Glasshammer are superb, they fall short of an element that is quintessentially British, being British. Both Willowglass are essential purchases in my opinion. If you liked Voyage of The Acolyte (Steve Hackett) Book of Hours will blow your socks off.
If you haven't heard of Riversea i would urge you to check them out pop pickers. I have just been listening to a demo ep given to me by their keys man Brendan Eyre. There are some wonderful moments on this disc and it's left me wondering what the forthcoming album has in store. `The first song on the ep is a piece called "all around the world". A very haunting song about the worlds decay and misery. Should you click the appropriate places on the Riversea myspace you can see the accompanying video. I defy you not to have a lump in the throat after watching it. The next song is a lilting song called "Lift your soul". Mark Atkinson's voice seems to coast through this polite and inoffensive little number and his acoustic guitar is sumptuous. Prog for the ladies methinks. If there is one particular track that steals this little demo aperitif it's track 3, Eden. An absolute stunner. Made all the better by Paul Cusick's hard edged electric guitar which steered the band away from the sedate nature of these beautifully crafted songs. The Great Divide puts the band into the slower mid years Genesis type pieces. Last but not least "out of an ancient world" would not be out of place on a Tony Banks album. Delicate, soothing, haunting with a feeling that there is a lot in reserve. These were my findings with the five beautifully sculptured tracks included on this taster of an up an coming band teetering on the edge of prog. Songs that get into your head and stay there with strong lyrical content supported by some fine guitar and nicely textured keyboard and piano. have a listen for yourself, i don't think you will be disappointed.
Richard Wright R.I.P
As a fan of progressive rock i have been shocked by the recent passing of Richard Wright. As most fans of the genre will know Richard formed the basis of the original Pink Floyd sound. As a loyal and devoted Floyd fan i can only participate in what will surely be a mass homage by Pink Floyd fans all over the globe. having read tributes on many of his peers websites not least Mr Emerson himself, it is evident that Richard's contribution to one of the most important bands and albums went largely unappreciated outside of there staunch fan base. The world and the music industry have lost a diamond, a gentleman and an unassuming innovator. His legacy remains for us all to enjoy and remember him by.
Martin Orford. The Old Road
I have been listening to this wonderful album for a couple of weeks now. And to be honest it has blown me away the more and more i listen to it. Having spoken to Widge on more than one occasion about his feelings on modern day England and all who sale in her, i was in tune with a lot of the sentiment included in most of the tracks. For those who bought Martin's first album, brace yourself. It's a step away from what he did before and though he stipulates in the the booklet that "This is not a progressive rock album" I would leave it to the listener to make up their own mind. Opening with the opus "Grand Designs" we're off at a gallop. And along with the next piece "Power and Speed" (Instrumental) John Mitchell's guitar is blinding. There are so many brilliant flavours to this album that some boarder on the west coast GRP sound whilst a passing comparison to Steve Hackett will be made by some. However, an original and full body of work it is and getting into the next song "Ray Of Hope" David Longdon's voice via eerily towards that of Mr Collins in a time when the said drummer singer sung about things that mattered. Totally exquisite! Mr Wetton Makes his entrance on the next two pieces "Take it to the sun"and "The old road" which are abridged by "Prelude" featuring Martin's able fingers on piano. John Wetton's voice on this album is the best it has been for a while. I am glad that Mr Orford performed the vocals on the title track himself as i feel that it was his message to give. The remainder of the songs are as strong as the rest though i have to admit that whilst the album came to it's conclusion i had a little lump in my throat as i listened to "Endgame". Perhaps it's because i am 50 years old and lived in better times when Genesis, Jethro Tull, Camel etc ruled our minds and souls that this album holds something a little more special for me.
With musician's like John Mitchell, John Wetton, Gary Chandler, The rhythm section of Spocks Beard and not forgetting Martin Orford himself you can't afford to miss this one. Five stars and a gold medal for the man that in my opinion has made one of the best albums of the year.