A Perfect Circle have been revealed as the headliners for Be Prog! My Friend festival 2018. The band who recently shared new song’ The Doomed’ will release their first new album since 2004 next year. The festival comment:

‘With A Perfect Circle’s new album out in 2018 it is the ideal time for them to play at Be Prog! My Friend, where we cannot wait to see them live. Really, we could not be more excited with having them as our biggest ever headliner. You cannot miss this edition of the festival. Tickets are going to sell fast!’

Named as the ‘Event of the Year’ at this year’s Progressive Music Awards the Barcelona based festival, sponsored by Inside Out Music, have also announced that Swedish melancholic metallers Katatonia will perform their 2006 album ’The Great Cold Distance’ in full, continuing the trend of special band sets at the event. Drummer Daniel Moilanen states:

‘In the quiet cold of late June we fix our eyes on the scorching Catalonian sun as Katatonia return to Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend. To celebrate this and to increase coldness, the wings of ‘The Great Cold Distance’ will once again unfurl. Are you in or are you out?’

They will also be joined by Finnish psychedelic black metal outfit Oranssi Pazuzu. The festival organisers have described seeing them live will be like ‘diving in to an unlit and terrifying ocean, and we really recommend you come and live the experience with us.’

With more artists to be announced soon the line-up for Be Prog! My Friend 2018 now features A Perfect Circle, Sons of Apollo, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, Plini, Gazpacho, Oranssi Pazuzu and Persefone.

Be Prog! My Friend which has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ulver, Animals as Leaders, Ihsahn, Alcest, Jethro Tull and Marillion will take place on 29th and 30th June next year.

Held in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive artists.

Tickets are on sale now priced at 130 Euros alongside exclusive hotel deals from the festival website:


And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend has to offer’ – Prog Magazine

‘The leading festival for progressive music in Spain, showcased avant-garde music in a magnificent location’ – The Independent

‘Set in the hazy sunlit square of Barcelona’s historic and quite stunning Poble Espanyol, it certainly beats the sodden mud of the British festival season’ – Total Guitar Magazine

‘If nothing else, it proves that prog is alive and kicking. Especially in Catalonia’ – Classic Rock Magazine


Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.


Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate Release Video Of First Five Songs From New Album

In a change from the norm, snappily named progressive rock act Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate have released a video with the first five songs from their new album ‘Broken But Still Standing’.

This part of the album is predominantly ambient and progressive rock. The tracks include Vent, Almost Familiar, Luca To Lucy, Advancing On Snailback and Lucy.

Music written by – Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland, Kathryn Thomas. Lyrics by Malcolm Galloway and James Galloway. Performed by Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland, Kathryn Thomas. Produced, mixed, mastered and engineered by Malcolm Galloway and co-produced by Mark Gatland.

Order links are in the video.

Review – Charlie Cawood – The Divine Abstract – by Emma Roebuck

This landed in my inbox and I will admit to anticipating this with a huge amount of glee. Knifeworld are a personal favourite (hint new album please), Mediaeval Baebes and the wonderful My Tricksy Spirit album released not long ago appeal to my love of the leftfield of music. The publicity from Pachyderm Central (a hidden cave on the coast of Yorkshire) leads with:

“A veteran of the London music scene for over a decade, Charlie is best known as bassist of critically acclaimed psychedelic octet Knifeworld, and instrumentalist/co-arranger for Emmy-nominated Classical choir Mediaeval Baebes. He also plays stringed instruments in Bad Elephant Music stable mates My Tricksy Spirit”

Charlie must feel great pressure to deliver something very special and on the more eccentric side of the esoteric. In truth I had no idea what to expect as all three of the projects that Charlie is involved in were so different and not really all him but more where he is a contributor or guest of the primary writers. The list of musicians he has on this album is massive and listed at the end of this review. There are instruments that I had no idea what they were let alone what they sounded like.

To the actual music, which is after all what folks really want to know about. Imagine a place in heaven or another world or plane of existence where you have access to living and dead masters of their instruments jamming in a space.  From Ravi Shankar, John Mclaughlin and George Harrison to Vangelis, Mike Oldfield and many others, I think this is what is in Charlie’s head in this album. He has sat and heard all these and has filtered what he has heard and made it The Devine/Divine Abstract ( both spellings are used on my copy).

Shringara, the opening track is a melee of Sitar and guitar instrumental music yet has clarity and lilting tone. I assume it Comes from the Rasa, meaning the love of art and beauty, because it does channel that feeling to me.

The Divine Abstract is next falling into 4 subsets –  Echolalia, an endless repetition of someone’s speech often associated with mental health issues is just that, a refrain shared with instruments with a sonorous cello linking the music.  The Earths Answer picks up the theme and carries it to an acoustic modern quartet classical piece, Fearful Symmetry carries on balancing the sonic journey but lifting the pace with a violin taking the lead and finally Western Lands is carried by a melodic drifting connection of the three previous pieces into a final whole to complete the journey. I don’t know a great deal about Charlie but it feels like he is channeling or commenting on the human condition with music, no words just the honesty of his composition.

Earth Dragon from the Chinese Zodiac is a three part piece using what sounds like a very classical Chinese music approach. There is nothing fiery about this dragon but a meditative repetition of musical themes using instruments true to the form. You are carried on the breeze of the music which is easy on the ears yet far from simple in its form.

The Garden of the Mind, this is a tranquil jazz fusion freeform piece that is the closest to Knifeworld in form but without the manic intensity of the band in free flow. I could drop this into a Weather Report or Miles Davis set and it would not be lost in the melee.

Skip two tracks because I like to leave a little mystery and we finish with Apotheosis. One meaning is to deify and raise to its peak. In this Charlie has drawn together the thematic musical strands of the album to create a piece that stands apart from the rest.

First the gripes, I want more exploration and testing of the limits of the music. Just as I get into a piece it ends and I feel there is more to hear.

This is an album that can be heard on multiple levels. Put it on in the background and let it wash around the room and a tonal pleasance will fill your senses and make whatever you are doing feel easier. Headphones on in a darkened room it is akin to musical meditation with layer upon layer of music to discover, clever sophisticated music that opens doors both spiritually and emotionally. Charlie has opened his musical heart in this album and it shows being very accessible and yet very varied in influence.

It will grow on you as you listen. I struggled looking how to get my feelings about it over but not because it is a hard album but the way it made me feel was complicated.

Released 3rd November 2017

Order ‘The Divine Abstract’ from bandcamp here

Charlie Cawood: acoustic, electric & classical guitars, Fender VI, acoustic & electric bass guitars, sitar, pipa


Katharine Blake: treble & sopranino recorders
Lucy Brown: French horn
Flora Curzon: violin
Hannah Davis: vibraphone, glockenspiel
Julie Groves: flute
Chlöe Herington: bassoon
Steve Holmes: piano, celeste, Minimoog, bass synth
James Larcombe: piano, dulcitone
Dennis Kwong Thye Lee: xiao
Nicki Maher: clarinet
Ben Marshall: oboe, cor anglais

Magnum To Release 20th Studio Album ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ On 19th January 2018

The release of their latest album ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ sees British hard rock band Magnum celebrate a very special anniversary on 19 January 2018. It will be the 20th studio recording by the group surrounding founder members Bob Catley (vocals) and Tony Clarkin (guitar) since their 1978 debut ‘Kingdom Of Madness’. At the same time, Clarkin, Catley and bassist Al Barrow are set to introduce their current line-up featuring new additions Rick Benton (keyboards) and Lee Morris (drums). Benton joined the Magnum camp in December 2016 to replace long-standing member Mark Stanway, while Morris took over from Harry James only a few months ago.

‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ contains eleven new songs, among them the first single release Without Love and a duet by Catley and Tobias Sammet on the title track, a kind of artistic thank you by the Edguy /Avantasia frontman in appreciation of Catley’s guest stint on a number of Sammet’s releases.

The release will once again be complemented by Rodney Matthews’s atmospheric cover artwork as well as a total of four live bonus tracks on the CD digipak version (´Sacred Blood – Divine Lies`, ´Crazy Old Mothers`, ´Your Dreams Won`t Die` & ´Twelve Men Wise And Just`) recorded at Magnum’s 2017 performance at the Leyendas Del Rock festival in Alicante, Spain.

‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ has been scheduled for release by Steamhammer/SPV on 19 January 2018 as digipak version incl. bonus live disc, 2LP coloured version, download and stream.


CD 1

1. Peaches and Cream 4:54
2. Show Me Your Hands 5:45
3. Storm Baby 6:13
4. Welcome to the Cosmic Cabaret 8:08
5. Lost on the Road to Eternity 5:54
6. Without Love 5:55
7. Tell Me What You’ve Got to Say 6:27
8. Ya Wanna Be Someone 5:56
9. Forbidden Masquerade 5:02
10.Glory to Ashes 5:35
11. King of the World 7:04

CD 2 (Bonus Live Disc)
1. Sacred Blood – Divine Lies  6:48
2. Crazy Old Mothers 5:35
3. Your Dreams Won’t Die 5:56
4. Twelve Men Wise And Just  6:21

Magnum are scheduled to embark on a major European tour from January to April 2018:


26.01.GB-Minehead – Giants Of Rock

20.02.18 GB-Bristol – Trinity
21.02.18 GB-Cardiff – Tramshed
23.02.18 GB-Holmfirth – Picturedome
24.02.18 GB-Manchester – Academy 2
25.02.18 GB-Hull – Welly
26.02.18 GB-Aberdeen – Garage
27.02.18 GB-Glasgow – Garage

01.03.18 GB-Belfast – Limelight
02.03.18 GB-Birmingham – Town Hall
04.03.18 GB-Preston – Guildhall
05.03.18 GB-Nottingham – Rock City
07.03.18 GB-Leamington – Assembly
08.03.18 GB-Cambridge – Junction
09.03.18 GB-London – Islington Assembly Hall
11.03.18 GB-Southampton – Engine Room
12.03.18 GB-Brighton – Old Market
14.03.18 NL-Leiden – Gebr de Nobel
16.03.18 SE-Stockholm – Fryshuset Klubben
17.03.18 NO-Oslo – John Dee
18.03.18 SE-Gothenburg – Sticky Fingers
19.03.18 SE-Malmoe – KB
21.03.18 D-Munich – Ampere
23.03.18 D-Nuremberg – Der Hirsch
24.03.18 D-Aschaffenburg – Colos-Saal
25.03.18 D-Berlin – Columbia Theater
27.03.18 D-Bonn – Harmonie
28.03.18 D-Stuttgart – Im Wizemann (Club)
29.03.18 D-Freiburg – Jazzhaus
31.03.18 D-Wuppertal – Live Club Barmen

01.04.18 NL-Uden – De Pul
03.04.18 D-Leipzig – Werk 2
04.04.18 D-Hamburg – Fabrik
05.04.18 D-Bremen – Aladin
07.04.18 D-Neuruppin – Kulturhaus
08.04.18 PL-Bydgoszcz – Klub Kuzinia
10.04.18 CZ-Prague – Nova Chemelnice
11.04.18 D-Memmingen – Kaminwerk
12.04.18 CH-Pratteln – Z7
13.04.18 I-Milano – Legend
15.04.18 E-Barcelona – Bikini
16.04.18 E-Madrid – But

Review – Glass Hammer – Untold Tales – by Progradar

There’s are some bands that have been with me since I first started really getting into progressive rock music and have stood the test of time because I like their music and how they have developed over the years. However, because I am what is classed as a relatively ‘late adopter’ to the genre it also means that there is a fair amount of back catalogue stuff and undiscovered gems that I have never heard.

When a band releases an album of ‘Previously unreleased tracks and more..’ it often only appeals to the completists among the fanbase and doesn’t tend to draw in new listeners or fans who have only started to like the artists later in their career. So, what would Glass Hammer’s ‘Untold Tales’ give us, I wonder? Starting with songs from 1993 and concluding with a live recording from 2017, it promised to be something a bit different from the usual archive offerings.

Comprising of 13 tracks in total, including instrumentals and the aforementioned live track, ‘Untold Tales’ offers the listener a sizeable chunk of never heard before Glass Hammer music. It opens with a couple of interesting instrumentals, Shadows Of The Past reworked in 2008, Fred Schendel reworking the opening track off ‘Journey Of The Dunadan’ using techniques unavailable on first release in 1993 and it has a suitable cinematic soundscape to its orchestral magnificence. Infusion is a piece of music originally released on the album ‘Love Changes – Featuring Glass Hammer’ by artist Tracy Cloud. There’s a pared back, ethereal wonder to the three minute instrumental with its haunting piano, flute and keyboards and stylish bass playing.

The heady Identity Principle is one of the standout tracks on the album and is pure Glass Hammer. Steve Babb literally found this song hiding on a backup drive. The band  were never quite satisfied with the mix on the ending. They recorded a new performance of the ending which matches up very well. Thus, this track was recorded in the early 90’s and just a while ago. A wonderfully involving track with great vocals from Walter Moore and an elegant guitar combining really well. It has that great Glass Hammer trait of taking you on a complex and involving musical journey, one that always holds you attention. The melodies entwine and the guitar takes on its own vocal note, to me this is one of THE great tracks from this enduring band and, as Steve himself says, it’s a crying shame it has lain hidden for so long. Glass Hammer appeared at Progscape ‘96 in Baltimore, Maryland and performed the classic Argent track Hold Your Head High. This studio version was certainly recorded around that time, probably in 1997 and is quite a bombastic version for a band noted for their Elfin lyrics and music. Steve’s bass is driving and dynamic and Fred seems to be having ball on the keyboards, add the stylish guitar of David Carter to a powerful vocal from Walter and you’ve got a rather excellent cover version.

I have to be honest, there are a couple of what I’d call ‘throwaway’ tracks on the record and we get both in quick succession. Actually they aren’t bad tracks but, compared to the prog-fest that’s going on around them, they do seem a little lacklustre. Babb’s Bach is Steve’s humble attempt to achieve something similar to tracks from ‘Switched On Bach’ by Walter Carlos and just feels throwaway. It is immediately followed by And Then She Sighed which feels like a pastiche of any medieval tune, admittedly with excellent vocals from Laura Lindstrom Davis and a Girls Choir of Allison Savard, Kaytie Mitchell and Kendra Roden. You are brought out of any stupor by the excellent 80’s synth-rock of Eiger Dreams, a charismatic and compelling track that bears comparison to Giorgio Moroder in my humble opinion. If you have seen the band’s ‘Live At The Tivoli’ DVD then you may recall this is the opening track. Included here is the never-before-released studio version recorded (or at least mixed) in 2008.

Now onto another favourite on the album,the band’s cover of the Beatles track It’s All Too Much is great slice of prog-rock infused AOR music that has you rocking in your seat with its energy, dynamism and hooks. Steve’s funky bass drives the track along, aided by swathes of Fred’s potent keyboards and the familiar vocals of the classy Susie Bogdanowicz. With a nod to a Steve Hillage’s version, the song was recorded during sessions for ‘Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted’ in 2009. It was used as an encore piece for a few live shows, but never released. Here Steve and Fred replaced a pipe organ with a Hammond organ and the bass line with something a little more fitting than Steve had originally done. A track that I can only really describe as ‘Glass Hammer do Sabbath’, Troll is dark and deliciously dangerous. Steve describes it as:

“Partly about recording a track with a super-fuzzed-out bass guitar. It was also partly about letting off some steam regarding the trolls who inhabited certain progressive rock internet forums…”

It features some incredibly angry guitar and keyboard playing and some amazing harmonica from Tim Starnes and is as far away from a typical Glass Hammer track as you could possibly get, I love it! Steve’s final words on the song:

“We have discussed recording more music in this vein, if only we thought our fans would let us get away with it!”

A Grain Of Sand brings you back down to earthy with its airy and laid back simplicity. Three minutes of delicate piano and Kamran Alan Shikoh’s graceful acoustic guitar layered with the minimalist hues of Fred’s keyboards. Recorded in 2010 as a possible track for ‘IF’, you can certainly hear strains of If The Stars if you are paying attention. Jon Davison’s vocal track was lifted straight from that song as a matter of fact. The next song is another powerful and dominant piece of progressive rock. Cool Air is an enigmatic and serious track which seems to have some real tension bubbling underneath. Steve explains:

“Ever the Lovecraft fan, I readily agreed to work on this track for its ultimate inclusion on a Colossus (Finland) Lovecraft-themed album. We chose the tale Cool Air, one of the more gruesome stories and one I thought we might easily set to music and lyric. Recorded in 2012, my son, who was only ten at the time, joined me in the studio for a sound effects session. Fred wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics, with much help from the original text of the story, of course!”

I wasn’t a big fan of the vocals when I first heard it but repeated listens have shown me that they fit this dark and eerie tale perfectly. Disturbing and sinister in parts, it creeps under your skin and becomes quite addictive, like a horror film that you can’t take your eyes off. Doctor Who for the more cerebral of us perhaps?

The Impulsive Type is a more straightforward rock infused track and reminds me of Frost* or even Rush with it’s catchy chorus, edgy, staccato guitars, stylish rhythm section and Carl Groves polished vocal performance. Was that Rush I said? well Steve explains all:

“In 2014 Dave Kerzner of Sonic Reality asked us to perform a track with Neal Peart. What’s that you say? Well, actually it was a request to write a song on top of Neal’s drum tracks that were recorded during the making of Sonic Reality’s “Neal Peart Drums” sample library. The tracks you hear are live drum tracks however, not the samples. Was it possible to write a song over Neal’s tracks without it sounding Rush-influenced? No. Enjoy!”

The album closes with a fantastic live rendition of No Mans Land (from the 2016 album ‘Valkyrie’) recorded at The Camp House in May 2017.  A fan favourite from its first release, it is utterly involving and enthralling as a live track and finishes this stellar collection on quite a high.

Another archive release for those completist fans then? Absolutely not!! ‘Untold Tales’ is an excellent collection of rarities that has lots of appeal, both to the dedicated Glass Hammer fan and those new to this exceptional outfit, a group of musicians who are definitely one of the best progressive rock bands around today.

Released 20th October 2017

Buy ‘Untold Tales’ direct from Glass Hammer’s website here



Review – starfish64 – An Altered State Of Joy – by James R. Turner

Martin dropped me an email, as is his wont, and asked me to have a listen to these guys and see what I thought. Instead of the massive introduction that I wrote and then deleted, I am going to go straight in, after all, this is about the band and not me, and at the end of the day all you want to know is what this sounds like and did I enjoy it?

Starfish64 is the musical project of German guitarist and vocalist Dieter Hoffman, who has been working with a musical collective since 2006 as Starfish64, and this is the band’s second full-length album. The collaboration has been fleshed out by Henrik Kropp on drums and Dominik Suhl on guitars and keyboards.

It snuck out towards the end of last year, and whilst the name and music is new to me, I will never say no to listening to something different and original.

There’s only 4 tracks on here, and musically this is very much at the melodic end of the music scene, reminiscent of the more chilled out parts of Gilmour era-Floyd, south coast Americana, ‘Summer Teeth’ era Wilco and if you’d like a more contemporary comparison, they occupy the same song focused area that Fractal Mirror sit in.

Here the album is all about the song, and the melodies, so if you’re expecting chaotic time signatures, prog metal, or something that sounded like it was recorded by Yes or Genesis back in 1974 then you’re in the wrong place.

If you’re looking for a more contemplative, chilled out, mellow vibe man, then this is the journey for you.

I have spent the past few days immersing myself in this album on my commute to work through the cold winter mornings, and it feels like a perfect autumnal album, one to be listened to inside the pub, with a roaring fire, a leather armchair and nice glass of something alcoholic and relaxing.

The opener is the longest track on the album, and is nearly the title track, Altered States ebbs and flows with some sublime guitar moments, musical breaks and Dieters impassioned vocals that bring the whole piece together, his warm vocals have a hint of Mike Scott (from the Waterboys) about them, and they match the music perfectly, and even though it’s a 20 minute plus piece with great musical peaks as it pulses and flows, the greatest knack is that it doesn’t feel like you’ve listened to 23 minutes of music, you feel like that no sooner has it started then it’s stopped, and listening on headphones, phone away, really immerses you in the music.

The album continues a pace with the brilliant and beguiling The Black Dot, with some suitably wistful and mournful trumpet from Christian Wahl, and the brass adds so much to the track, (I’m a Yorkshireman, the sound of brass stirs something primeval in our hearts) and the beautifully reflective and ominous lyrics about the mysterious ‘Black Dot’, I think its about one subject, but I’ll let you make up your mind, and it builds and finishes with a superb ending arranged by collaborator Jan Thiede (guitars/flutes).

So Is Life, with it’s wistful feel, pulls a Beautiful South trick of a melodically haunting track, with some fantastic keyboard work, and dark lyrics, that have more of an impact tied to a melodic tune, this is again a sign of the bands fantastic craft.

The closing track Dusk, with it’s melancholic feel, it’s 70’s style synth sounds and laid back guitar vibes is one of those brilliant happy/sad songs, you can feel the mournful regret seeping through the lyrics, whilst the music is uplifting and soars with a sublime beauty. This simple, but potent mix encapsulates the feeling of dusk for me, and is one of those songs that have anthemic quality, another blinding solo, and that touch of late 70’s FM rock, mixed with something more as it builds to it’s haunting climax.

This is one of those deceptive albums, one that feels shorter than it should be, and yet gives you a good 40 plus minutes of music, ideal for one side of a C90 tape to listen to, on your way to work. Yet you don’t feel musically short-changed. There is plenty going on here, and like a well written book or TV drama, it reveals more and more of it’s magic as you listen to it.

This is not a revolutionary album, and it’s not meant to be, instead it’s an evolution of intelligent melodic rock, that gives you songs you can sing along too, melodies you can hum, and a feeling of pleasure and emotion that lasts long after the album has finished, and after all, when it comes to evocative albums, who can ask for more than that?

Released 28th October 2016

Buy ‘An Altered State Of Joy’ from bandcamp



Review – Blue Rose Code – The Water Of Leith – by Progradar

Music never ceases to amaze me with its capacity to delight and its ability to lift you up when you are down and to perfectly fit your mood when you are happy and on top of the world. I know for a fact that my life is so much richer and rewarding because of my love of music.

There are artists, however, who stand out even more for me, musicians whose songwriting talents elevate the songs to another level, able to move you and alter your life with just one note. I have been very lucky to have had some of these very people come into my life and I am a better person for it.

Once again, I have my great friend Iain Sloan to thank for introducing me to the mercurial talents of Blue Rose Code (aka Ross Wilson). Iain contributes pedal steel to several tracks on the new Blue Rose Code album ‘The Water Of Leith’.

A nomad both geographically and musically, Ross writes from the heart eschewing any specific genre and the twelve new songs on ‘The Water Of Leith’, addressing themes of love, loss, travel, home, accepting the past and embracing the future, are painted with colours of folk, jazz, soul and pop; an eclecticism that has become a hallmark of Blue Rose Code and has seen him compared to John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits.

Underlining the sense of movement and place in Ross’s work and ‘The Water Of Leith’ is rooted in his return to his Scottish homeland. There, he reconnected with the stellar musicians who were to become an integral part of the new album’s sound: multi award-winning singer Julie Fowlis, celebrated Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, BBC Folk Award Winner, Ross Ainslie, 2017’s Scottish Jazz Awards’ instrumentalist of the year Konrad Wiszniewski, leading violinist Seonaid Aitken and three of Scotland’s finest jazz musicians; John Lowrie, Colin Steele and James Lindsay, to name just some of the contributors. Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman features on the opening track. Ross co-produced the album with Angus Lyon.

(Image by Mark Archibald)

Music at its most simplistic has the power to move you and the twelve tracks on ‘The Water Of Leith’, despite being simple and charming, generate such a wide range of emotions. The incredibly tender Over The Fields (For John) is a touching tribute to Ross’ friend John Wetton (of Asia fame and more) who died earlier this year. Sparse instrumentation and the incredibly emotive vocals have a bleak and yet uplifting feel to them. There’s a sadness that is lifted by fond, nostalgic memories and I challenge you to not be wiping a tear from your eye when it comes to its gentle close. Bluebell has an upbeat, soulful vibe, Ross’s vocal has warmth and compassion at its core and Konrad Wiszniewski’s sax and Iain’s pedal steel add a touch of culture to this sophisticated piece of music. Wistful memories float along with the lilting tone of the music and draw you into its sincere embrace. Toe-tapping, feelgood music is at the heart of the wonderful Ebb & Flow with its great harmonies and superb brass, just under three-minutes of music that leaves you in a much better place than before it arrived. The Gaelic tinged hues of Passing Places is haunting in its brevity and beauty. Kathleen MacInnes mesmerising vocals are accompanied perfectly by the childlike innocence of the violin of Seonaid Aitken and Angus Lyon’s accordion with the mournful tone of Wild Lyle Watt’s acoustic guitar adding the final folk-infused touches.

The music segues straight into Sandaig where the sparseness is fleshed out with Ross’ stirring vocal. A song straight from the heart, this peaceful spot was immortalised as Camusfearna in ‘Ring of Bright Water’ – the famous book by Gavin Maxwell telling of his life with his pet otters at this lonely spot. Ross imbues the song with love and affection and a kind of longing and with Kathleen adding her distinctive vocals, it’s charm and beauty hypnotise you from the first note. A touching song full of jazz imbued soul, Nashville Blue has a real feel of the roaring 20’s about it. Its passionate feel and elegance cut right through you and the vocal performance is stirring and just a little sad. The incredible playing of all the musicians comes through to give a stellar, if slightly sombre, performance. A perfect slice of modern Scottish folk, On The Hill remains A Heart is a serious piece of music that has you enveloped in tte story, imagining yourself on a windswept hill as a certain part of your life’s journey comes to a melancholy close. The vocals have a more hushed and sincere tone to them and end the song with a thoughtful atmosphere, increased by the superb violin and cello. An open letter to the world that getting basics right is where we should start, Love Is… touches you right in your heart with its poignant vocals and bluegrass inspired music with Seonaid Aitken’s wondrous violin leading the way. A tenderly wistful song with a compassionate belief at its core.

Polaris is one of those delightful songs that you just keep returning to again and again and show that Ross is a modern singer/songwriter of huge talent. The tender yet powerful vocals are key here and bring an uplifting emotion to the chorus. A compelling piece of music that you can lose yourself in and forget about the worries of everyday life. Innovative and inventive, like a cross between free from jazz and traditional folk, The Water is nine minutes of utterly captivating music, an involving soundscape on which John Lowrie’s wandering piano and Colin Steele’s original trumpet playing are joined by the adroitness of James Lindsay’s double bass to lead you on a spiritual musical journey into your own psyche and everyone’s journey will be different.  You stop and listen to every note and every nuance and each playing reveals more of this incredible track. There’s no let up to the brilliance as the haunting delta blues and jazz-tinged hues of To The Shore work their way into your mind. A darkly meaningful song that seems to glide effortlessly into the room with a knowing aura, Ross’ vocal has the requisite husky tones to leave you imagining yourself in a dimly lit jazz club in the American depression. The musicianship is staggeringly good, turn the lights down, open a glass of something strong and red and just lose yourself in the wonderfully enigmatic music. The album closes out with the wistfully plaintive Child. Another sublimely simple song that touches the heartstrings with its affection and love. The piano of John Lowrie is the perfect accompaniment to Ross’ heartwarming vocal and the sax adds its stirring tribute and, as the track comes to its uncomplicated close, I just find myself smiling and at one with myself.

In the dark and complicated world that we live in we all need something to escape to, something that makes our lives better and richer and, for me and many others, it is music that has the capacity to do that. ‘The Water Of Leith’ is a poignant, moving collection of songs that have come straight from the heart of one of the best songwriters of this or any generation. Ross Wilson and Blue Rose Code have given us a definitive piece of music that will last the test of time and we would all be happier having it in our lives.

Released 27th October 2017

Buy the CD from Navigator Records

Buy the limited edition vinyl from bandcamp


Review – Nordic Giants – Amplify Human Vibration by Kevin Thompson

There have been many claims from people saying they have discovered our sixth sense and what it is.

For me it’s the sense of wonder.

From the moment I was old enough to remember, I have been imbued with this sense, from the warmth of the sun on your face on a hot day, to the light reflecting on rippling water. The power of nature in all it’s structures, climbing high mountains, cloud formations, waterfalls, all drawing amazement in their natural beauty. Whether it’s exploring caves from which creatures never leave or will ever see the light of day, diving beneath the waters of our seas and oceans to find fantastical beasts or simply observing the colours on a butterfly’s wings, I will never cease to wonder.

If it could be given a chemical symbol on the periodic scale it would probably show as ‘Awe’ and a combination of all the elements from Alkali Metals to Noble Gases, with all the others in between.

Age does not wither this sense, in fact as I reach a more mature age I feel an intensification of the sensations, a heightening of the sensory perceptions. Man’s own achievements leaving you breathless at the daring bravery of such as astronauts and those who risk everything for the sake of others.

Perhaps that is why music holds such fascination and plays such a huge part in my life as it tries to encompass all that wonder and project it through instrumentation.

(Picture by Neal Grundy)

Nordic Giants formed in 2010 and are described as an instrumental post-rock duo and despite their misleading names I am led to believe they are from Brighton, and it’s said  they include prominent cinematic aspects into the performances and videos. I find it difficult to come up with an explanation that fully captures the essence that is this duo but will do my best. Dressed in masks and feathers, duo Loki (Keys, Synth,Trumpet & Loops) and Rôka (Cymbals & Skins, Bowed Guitar, Samples) combine award-winning film footage and speeches with piano, bowed guitar, drums and brass alongside smoke/strobe effects and, when playing live, they create engulfing, emotional experiences of wondrous art.

Latest album ‘Amplify Human Vibration’ is a soundtrack, they say, to a documentary that explores the kindness of humanity, aiming to decipher what drives these people as a thought-provoking exploration into the human spirit. Consisting of seven tracks this is an ambitious and audacious attempt to push their music further.

The Taxonomy of Illusions is a speech given by Terence McKenna at UC Berkeley in 1993 and forms the basis around which the Giants build the first track with the similar title. Piano led, featuring some great percussion from Rôka and Trumpet from Loki, this is a powerful track that has the ability to conjure up the images of McKenna giving his speech as they seek to use the music to describe what he is saying. Thoughtful and uplifting it sets us on course for track 2 and informs us of what’s to come.

There is no speech on First Light Of Dawn, it doesn’t need it as once again it paints a picture in the mind’s eye, this one of the sun creeping over the horizon to waken the day. It’s exquisite and I have promised myself, that one day I am going to sit and watch the sunrise listening to this hauntingly beautiful track, the equivalent of watching Turner paint the sunrise.

One of the greatest men to walk this planet as an inspiration was Martin Luther King Jr. His compassion for his fellow men and women and his tireless efforts in trying to seek justice against untruths in a hope that all mankind could live as one knows few equals. ‘Beyond Vietnam’ is a speech delivered by him, on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City. It is from this speech that Loki and Rôka draw inspiration for the third track of the album, with with a wave of bowed guitar lifting the Spirit  and joined once again by haunting piano. You can’t really listen to this without feeling a profound effect on yourself, a reviewer’s words sometimes seem insufficient and it is often best with this music to listen as it forms it’s own description in your mind.

Featuring the allure of guest vocals from Frejya floating through your consciousness, Rewake allies itself with “The Mystery of Change” which is a motivational speech by Alan Watts, a renowned British-born philosopher, writer, speaker and theologist. Having for a time been an Episcopal priest he eventually joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies, in California. Piano chords and percussive structures accentuate angelic singing, as Watts strives to spiritually inspire.

‘We are power’ is a speech given by John Trudell at the Survival Gathering in the Black Hills of South Dakota on July 18th, 1980. The speech talks of ourselves in terms of power, that we are energy and an extension of the Earth and should not abuse it. As Immortal Elements the music poetically illustrates the words and the speech returns the compliment.

Sat in the church of instrumentation, resting on the pews of chords and bars, we can embrace the blissful notes from the organ playing sweetly on Autonomous, the final track that will guide us into the light of understanding on a wave of musical euphoria. With bubbling energy the sound grows to a rousing, magnificent climax leaving us with a palatable silence of contentment.

Some people may find the speeches detract from the music on ‘Amplify Human Vibration’ but for me there is a symbiosis ’twixt the two and I feel neither would be better served without the other. Taken in isolation the album is a wonderful collection of instrumentals which when combined with the newly proposed stage performance for the upcoming tour could create a Force Majeure. But don’t just take my word for it, I am already a convert, listen for yourself and make up your own mind.

Released 20th October 2017

Buy ‘Amplify Human Vibration’ direct from the band



Beatrix Players – Prog Awards Winners 2017 Release New Single with Fertility Network UK

London-based all-female trio Beatrix Players have been announced as winners of the Prog Magazine Limelight Award for 2017 at the ceremony last week. The band are celebrating the win with the release of their new, double A side single All That Thinking / Hurt; with All That Thinking being released in support of Fertility Network UK to help raise awareness of National Fertility Awareness Week which takes place on 30th October – 5th November. This year they are celebrating 40 years since the first successful IVF treatment.

This is a campaign that especially resonates with Beatrix Players’ vocalist Amy Birks: “I was told today that 1 in 6 couples experience difficulties with fertility. A fact that took me right back to the NHS waiting room, a very beige room filled with pensive faces; couples and individuals of all ages from all walks of life and all with one thing in common, fertility difficulties”

All That Thinking begins with these lines
‘Sometimes I’m scared, at the end of another wait. All that thinking for nothing because nothing ever came, and I don’t mind if it’s you but I’ll weep if it’s me…’
and those sentiments clearly resonated with the charity –

 ‘Fertility Network UK are very much looking forward to working with Beatrix Players during this year’s National Fertility Awareness Week. Their single, All That Thinking is incredibly emotive and is something we believe will connect with anyone who is struggling, or has, struggled to have a family.’  Susan Seenan, CEO, Fertility Network UK  

Review – Findlay Napier – Glasgow – by Progradar

Music and singing has been used to tell stories for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Those ancient troubadours spread the news of mighty deeds and wars won or lost, crossing mighty oceans and huge deserts to spread the word to the far corners of the earth.

Thankfully for today’s balladeers and poets, the digital age and the internet means their tales of escapism or gritty realism can be on anyone’s hard-drive in seconds and they don’t have to use donkeys and ancient ships to reach their audiences.

Folk music has always been at the core of telling the stories of the man on the street, the fisherman, the steelworker and folk singers have never hidden the darker side of these stories, tales that on-one else would tell, leaving audiences hooked on every word.

My good friend, the excellent musician Iain Sloan introduced me to the music of Scottish folk singer Findlay Napier last year and I still thank him for bringing this brilliant artist to my attention. This October sees the release of Findlay’s ode to his home town Glasgow and a collection of cleverly observed and written songs that reveal his love affair with this most gritty of cities.

There’s no need for fanfare or overindulgence on this album, Findlay’s vocals and guitar are joined on this emotional journey by long time collaborator Boo Hewerdine (high strung guitar, piano) and the delicate voice of Donna Maciocia on backing vocals.

‘Glasgow’ is a whimsical collection of songs from a musician with a quick wit and a ready eye. Findlay has lived in Glasgow for twenty-one years, having been born there originally, and his intimate knowledge shines through.

” I remember the people and their patter. I remember it like the first time I watched Blade Runner. I remember it like the first time I saw Billy Connolly.

Mostly I witnessed Glasgow from afar. On the telly it was a place full of humour: Francie & Josie, Naked Video and Rab C. Nesbitt. Taggart, bookended with Maggie Bell’s ‘No Mean City, was Glasgow’s darker side.”

The delicate guitar and subtle vocals that form Young Goths In The Necropolis are used to give Findlay’s view of the Necropolis and its magnificent views to the west and the daily happenings a nostalgic hue. There’s nothing glamorous about life at the bottom in any cities and the dark humour of Wire Burners tells the tale of how the homeless in Glasgow sell scrap metal from building sites just to stay alive. Findlay’s vocals have a way of keeping you concentrated on the story and taking in every word to build a picture up in your mind. Marchtown (written by Emma Pollock) is an area that Findlay walks through every day and this sentimental song takes you along on that daily journey. It’s a wonderfully romantic song that is touched by more than a hint of melancholy as it looks at the changes that have happened to an area that has hundreds of years of history at its heart. The perfectly judged backing vocals are a particular delight.

The wonderful St Anthony’s Digging a hole is a tribute to the gravediggers of the West of Scotland and is based on a Radio 4 documentary about these essential workers called ‘How To Dig A Grave’ by Cathy Fitzgerald. A beautifully wistful piece of music, it shows how Findlay can take a sombre subject and turn it into such an exquisite piece of music. St Anthony is the patron saint of gravediggers. On Julia Doogan’s wonderfully written and evocative track Glasgow Findlay’s elegant vocal paints a colourful picture of the heart of a City that lives its life around two great football teams and always makes him think of the Old Firm games when he hears it and the busy nights around the city’s many drinking establishments. A vivid and intense folk standard Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice, Findlay’s voice uses the guttural dialect perfectly to paint a gaudy picture on a wonderfully raucous pared-back track that just leaves me smiling all the way through. I actually laughed out loud at some of the lines,

“Then oot came her mammy – she was goin’ tae the cludgie, Oh-ho, I buggered of sharpish, Ah-ha, glory hallelujah, Cod liver oil and the orange juice..”

Findlay gives his take on the Blue Nile track A Walk Across The Rooftops, a song that always reminds him of days hanging out between the City Centre and the West End, barbecues, carry outs and late night sing songs in tenement flats. His tender vocal and the elegant guitar reminisce about sepia tinged times between receiving his final exam results and graduating.  There’s a hushed atmosphere about the track, a time when you felt on top of the world, unbreakable even. Never quite a protest song, There’s More To Building Ships is a poignant song that Findlay was moved to write after a conversation about reopening Scotland’s shipyards with his Dad. There’s a bitter sentiment tot he vocals, one that’s echoed by the solemn guitar. A wonderfully written piece of music that sees it as an ultimately futile endeavour, without a long term plan, there’ll never be industry like that again in Glasgow. A whimsical and quirky song, The Locarno, Sauchie Hall Street 1928 is a story about the first Scottish Professional Dancing Championships held in 1928 and won by Alex Warren and Cecilia Bristow. An unhurried, sentimental track, Findlay and Donna’s vocals give it a real warmth and affection along with a maudlin nostalgia.

King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow, written by ‘The Bard of Dundee’, Michael Marra, is about a dream that actress Caroline Paterson had. Her many vivid dreams were recounted to Marra when they were working on a show together at Dundee rep. A chilled, jazzy guitar and Findlay’s bright and breezy vocal give an upbeat feeling to this subtle and engaging song, a track with a real playfulness to it. The surreal lyrics about King Kong wanting to mend his ways and visiting Glasgow are quite genius and Findlay gives it a real engaging air. The final track is about unrequited love in a Glasgow chip shop (yes, really…) and The Blue Lagoon has an air of 30’s music hall to it with Findlay’s tender vocal and the haunting piano of Boo Hewerdine. Once again Donna Maciocia’s graceful backing vocals add anther layer of class to a superbly expressive song.

Some of the best folk music is coming out of Scotland right now. ‘Glasgow’ is a fantastic collection of sentimental and evocative songs imbued with a simple but engaging honesty because, after all, music is storytelling and here Findlay is telling the grandest story of his life.

Album cover and Glasgow street scene by Raymond Depardon, Magnum Photography.

All other photos by Richard Crawford, Precious Productions.

Released 13th October 2017

Buy ‘Glasgow’ direct from bandcamp