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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….


























4/14/2011 6:47:54 AM

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


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.
4/7/2011 10:18:03 AM

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.






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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