Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Broken But Still Standing – By Progradar

A brooding, damaged cube, like something from The Borg of Star Trek fame, mysterious and enigmatic, a lone, shadowy figure walking towards it. I’ve long been a fan of great album art and the cover of the new album from UK Art/Prog rockers Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate is another one that really caught my eye.

Cryptic and original, like all the best album art, it really does invite you to wonder about the music behind it and knowing what this imaginative and inventive set of musicians are really capable of, I was very intrigued to find out more about ‘Broken But Still Standing’.

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway, on his own, or with his colleagues Kathryn Thomas (flute), Mark Gatland (bass), Rudy Burrell (drums) and Ibon Bilboa (guitar). They are based in London, UK.

Malcolm and Mark have been playing together since they were at school. Malcolm and Kathryn are married. This album also includes spoken word and backing vocals from their children James and Ethan Galloway, and James co-wrote two of the tracks.

Their music combines progressive rock, classic rock, acoustic, blues, metal, folk, funk, minimalism, and electronica and often explores scientific and philosophical themes.

‘Broken But Still Standing’, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s third album, is a science/science-fiction themed concept album. It follows the story of human evolution, from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor of all current life on earth, via Lucy, one of the possible precursors of our species, to conflict and eventual symbiosis with artificial intelligences. The general theme of the album is that life has progressed by forming coalitions, whether between the primitive cells that engulfed each other to become the cell and the mitochondria (the power stations of the cell), between individuals to form communities, or between different forms of life in the future.

This band really know how to deliver a seriously complex and yet ultimately rewarding concept album, this is what I had to say about their previous release ‘When The Kill Code Fails’,

“I love it when new music lands on my desk with no fanfare or previous knowledge. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate may have a brilliant name but they also produce excellent music. Sometimes progressive, sometimes more rock orientated but, overall, it is an enthralling listen.”

So, without any further ado, let’s dive in…

(Photo by Jaz Dhillon)

The opening instrumental Vent is dark and almost elemental in its low brooding delivery with the haunting flute making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and an apprehensive feeling seep into your mind. There’s a seamless segue into the deeply atmospheric Almost Familiar with its vocals that drip with passion and longing, ethereal flute and the achingly bluesy low-down guitar. Unashamedly progressive in its outlook, it’s a slow-burning piece of musical storytelling for dark nights and open fires. Kathryn’s emotive flute solo is a piece of genius and closes out the track to perfection. There’s an alien, science fiction tone to the next two tracks, Luca to Lucy opens with an uneasy, unerringly off-kilter soundscape before the music seems to creep in like an ancient dawning of time, all measured, deliberate and low-key. An exact and infallible life force that has only one motive, to exist. Lucy sees Kathryn’s flute take centre stage on this short piece, all mysterious and enigmatic with its late night jazz feel, asking questions of the listener.

There’s nostalgia in spades about Last Man On The Moon, a wistful, almost melancholy song that gets under your skin with its elegant music and heartfelt vocals, especially the excellent harmonies between the male and female voices on the captivating chorus. Thoughtful and yet somehow forlorn, it’s a great track with a wonderfully plaintive and meandering guitar solo that leads you on a reflective musical journey. Advancing On Snailback is a trance-like ambient instrumental that gets inside your head and mesmerises you with each well considered note, Serious, discerning and meditative, it leaves you lost in thought. That reverie is broken by the edgy, almost punky guitar, drums and bass of Anywhere, Malcolm’s vocal has an angsty tone to it and the whole song seems to have discordant, uneasy feel. A short, sharp shock after the more refined and gentle feel of the first few tracks. There’s a jazz lounge aura to the opening of One Day When before the vocals begin and the energy builds to another catchy chorus, to me there’s a real vibrancy and energy that has infiltrated the music now, an addictive and harder note more akin to modern punk and alternative rock.

I love the intoxicating ambience of I Fell In Love With A Mechanical Dragon, rock infused electronica with high octane keyboards and a vibrant guitar note that combine with the urgent vocals to give one of the grin inducing highlights of the album. It does feel slightly absurd singing the chorus out loud in the middle of Morrison’s but that’s what great music does to you! The most overtly heavy track on the album, Let Me Out is dark and deliciously dangerous in its outlook. The in-your-face riffs and impassioned vocals drive the song on towards the dissonant flute solo and special mention must go to the superb drums and funky bass that are the engine room of this song. More electronica that almost verges on drum and bass underpins Under The Skin with its clever use of female spoken vocals that almost break into rap. A really inventive piece of music that makes me nod in appreciation every time I listen to it. That electronic vibe really comes to the fore on the retro grooves of Lucid Assassin. A high energy song with some rather excellent synthesisers that work on a  hard working drum and bass foundation to give a special 80’s ‘laser show’ ambience.

Broken But Still Standing Till I Fall is another hard-edge, punk rock soaked track with a take no prisoners attitude. The vocals have attitude to them and the music just rocks, especially the dynamic and vivid guitar solo, another short sharp shock to the music system. The metaphorical lights are turned down low as we segue into the melodramatic All Alone Together, the heartfelt vocals give real poignance to the song and the music adds not a little tension to proceedings. Take some 70’s jazz funk, add some 90’s Happy Mondays Madchester vibe and you’ve got Host, one of the more upbeat songs on the album. The blues-rock imbued guitar solo is worth the price of entry on its own and the restless energy of the song soon finds itself manifested in your dancing feet. Transient Stars is an intelligent instrumental with a cinematic quality to it, you could imagine this as being part of the score for a high-brow, cerebral science fiction film. An enlightened piece of music that had me musing about all sorts of unfathomable things. Things come to a close with the astute progressive rock of Close My Eyes, dextrous musicians showcasing their skills and a contemplative vocal performance culminating in the simple but eminently memorable chorus. A cultured close to  what has been an engrossing musical experience.

‘Broken But Still Standing’ is a brilliantly perceptive and original work of art that enthralls with every listen. Taken as a whole it is an utterly immersive musical experience that will captivate and enlighten the listener, Hats Off Gentlemen Its Adequate has to be one of the most creative and innovative artists out there today.

Released 7th October 2017

Find links to order ‘Broken But Still Standing’ at the band’s website here:




Review – Iconic Eye – Into the Light – by Progradar

“I was ten when I heard the music that ended the first phase of my life and cast me hurtling into a new horizon. Drenched to the skin, I stood on Dunoon’s pier peering seawards through diagonal rain, looking for the ferry that would take me home. There, on the everwet west coast of Scotland, I heard it: like sonic scalpels, the sounds of electric guitars sliced through the dreich weather. My body hairs pricked up, each one a willing receiver for the Thunder-God grooves. To my young ears, the sound of these amplified guitars was angelic (although, with hindsight, I don’t suppose angels play Gibson guitars at ear-bleeding volume). A voice that suggested vocal chords of polished silver soared alongside razor-sharp overdriven riffs. I knew that I was hearing the future.”
― Mark Rice, Metallic Dreams

Good rock music has always appealed to me, not that bland soft rock rubbish but music with drive and ambition that rocks into town, blows everyone away and then leaves in a blaze of glory, THAT sort of rock music! Vibrant, heavy riffs, a powerful and dynamic rhythm section and gilt-edge vocals all combine to give a listening experience that is like a shot in the arm or a musical kick up the arse.

I spend so much time listening to, and writing about progressive and alternative rock that I rarely have time to listen to good rock music apart from when I’m running and I use it as a motivational force through the headphones. However, my friend Jane Gould joined UK rock band Iconic Eye last year and they have a new album out so it would be remiss of me to not spend a bit longer with ‘Into the Light’

Iconic Eye burst onto the rock scene in 2015 when they self-released their debut album, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’. They leapt straight onto Jake’s Stage at that years Download festival, then on to support the Treatment at Rockingham’s Pre-party in the same year and then to Hard Rock Hell (HRH) in March 2016. A truly remarkable start! Since then the band has seen many changes and has also been struck by tragedy. However, the band refused to give up and made the bold move to become female fronted with the addition of the amazing Jane Gould. This change has lifted the existing songs and created the right environment for the band to start writing again.

The album title says it all. It contains 5 of the bands favourite songs from ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’; re-worked with Jane and Robin Mitchard (the bands new youthful lead guitarist) to the fore. Together with harder guitars from Greg Dean and a more aggressive mix, this is classic Iconic Eye, updated!

Added to these existing songs are 6 new songs, mainly written in partnership between Dean and Gould, but also with Mitchard adding to the songwriting credits on two of the songs. On the new recordings you also have ex Max Bacon and Dante Fox bassist, Michael Dagnall and on drums, Adrian Scattergood. This is Iconic Eye as it is now, and at its best.

(Jane Gould)

The album opens with two properly hard rocking tracks, Am I The One and You Make It are both edgy, fast paced and in your face, basically hard rock as it bloody well should be! Jane’s vocals are powerful and dynamic and lead the rest of the band in a merry roller coaster ride across these two energetic openers. The guitar playing is slick and dextrous with a couple of smoking hot solos from Robin Mitchard thrown in for good measure. I love the chorus on You Make It which rapidly becomes an addictive earworm and Greg Dean’s keyboard add a lush touch of AOR magic, I’m hooked already!

(Robin Mitchard)

Those Tears Won’t Last adds a huge dose of melodic melodrama to the music, soulful and full of passion with driving riffs and compelling drums. I’m detecting a touch of the legendary Anneke Van Giersbergen to Jane’s vocals, they really are that good, silky smooth but imbued with a deep seated power and fervor. The solos are coming thick and fast, each one iridescent and hard-edged and giving these tracks proper drive and direction. Jane and the band show us a sultry side with the heavily soul infused Let It Rain Down. A sensuous piano joins the vocals at the opening before the accelerator pedal is pressed and the intensity increases with a forceful riff and those all-powerful drums. Another chorus that is just asking for you to sing along with it and the emotions are just set free with the delicious guitar that closes out the track.

(Greg Dean)

Get the lighters (or mobile phones) out ready, Black Country Lady is a moving and hauntingly beautiful ballad come anthem and one that leaves a big lump in your throat. The elegant guitar and Jane’s elegantly melancholic vocals are stylish and wistful in equal measure. This is definitely going to be a live favourite and the band have the necessary chops to carry this off in any venue. It’s as good, if not better, as anything you’ll hear in the charts and is topped off with another stunning piece of guitar work from Robin and Greg, backed ably by Adrian’s drums. A funky, bluesy guitar opens Better Place, a high energy filled track that definitely treads the blues rock path and does it with aplomb. The vocals take on an Alannah Myles hue showing Jane’s versatility and downright potency. A catchy chorus and suitably fiery solo complete this punchy track.

(Michael Dagnall)

A fast paced hard rocker Black Heart has the requisite heavy riffing, influential rhythm section and in your face vocals that take you back to the height of the 80’s peak of the genre. Greg gets inventive on the keyboards and I’m kind of reminded of a female fronted Magnum around the ‘Wings of Heaven’ period. Damn these guys can write some serious hooks and songs that become downright habit forming! Bluesy, soulful, dynamic, powerful, I’m running out of words to describe this compelling and captivating group of musicians and All She Needed just carries on the superlative music experience. The riffing guitars drive the song on at a breathless pace, a really electric and intense piece of music with superb vocals that flies headlong to its guitar solo inspired close.

(Adrian Scattergood)

The pace is notched back a bit on the AOR classic Thanks For The Memories, a nostalgic track with its contemplative vocals and reflective guitar tone. Another memorable chorus and polished solo just leave me shaking my head in disbelief at how good Iconic Eye are at what they do. Jane’s tastefully emotive vocal being the final layer of class and style on this refined song. Don’t Stop Me From Leaving has a simple sadness at its core, another anthemic song that will be a sure fire live hit. Jane’s poignant voice sings of a sorrow and heartbreak that may come and the music fits the mood perfectly with the plaintive keyboards and the wishful and reflective guitar solo. The last song on the album is the enigmatic Never Get Through The Light, a proper hard rock track with a heavy touch of AOR in the guitar , drums and vocals. A compelling piece of music that never lets up, keeping you on the edge of your seat, another standout chorus and some simply superb guitar playing close the album out in suitable style.

Iconic Eye should soon be a name on everyone’s lips, a byword for sumptuous hard rock stamped with their own unique style. An outrageously talented group of musicians with one of the greatest female vocalists I’ve heard in a long time, in ‘Into the Light’ they’ve produced a rock album of rare quality from beginning to end.

Released 4th November 2017

Order ‘Into the Light’ direct from Iconic Eye here

(Featured image by Samantha Lloyd)




Review – Misto – Helios – by Progradar

One thing I really like about working with independent musicians is the fact that I get to see how their musical projects develop from start to finish, often being the first to hear the end product or asked for my input as to how I think it is developing.

Last year Italian multi-instrumentalist Mirko Viscuso contacted me to ask if I’d review the debut release from his project Misto, a one man band based in Genoa, Italy. After different experiences with several local bands, Mirko decided to compose, record and produce his first solo album, ‘Infinite Mirrors’, featuring instrumental music inspired by personal experiences.

I was suitably impressed saying that, “…ultimately I feel relaxed and as one with the world as I listen to this beauteous offering. Trust me, you should do yourselves a favour and listen to it too.”

Out of the blue Mirko contacted me again asking me if I would review his second album, ‘Helios’, due to be released in November. I was intrigued to see what musical direction he had taken on this new record so it was a bit of a no-brainer really!

Calling himself a ‘One-man post rock instrumental project’, that’s what you got from the first album, chilled-out, laid back and relaxed but ‘Helios’ sees him blend that original style with something a bit heavier and more aggressive at times.

Opening track Buried Under Remote Lands has a repeated, chilled out guitar line reminiscent of the sound of Sanguine Hum, an addictive melody that runs throughout the song. The dynamic rhythm section adds some stylish drama to everything and you get the feel of floating on a cloud of elegant music that takes you away from the stress and worry of life in the fast lane. That darker edge is first heard on the rather frenetic and energetic tones of Polemic Guy Wants To Fight with its crashing guitar riffs and superb drum and bass rhythms. A surprise from start to finish, Mirko has really extended his musical horizons with this track, I really like it, the spirited close is genius!

Daffodils Crashing Into The Water returns to the wistful and nostalgic tone with its chiming guitars and dreamy atmosphere. A gentle musical journey through a world of calm collection and reflection. It’s one of those pieces of music that really lifts your spirit. The addition of the delightful violin playing of Giulia Ermirio adds an ethereal grace to what is already a graceful and charming piece of music.

(Giulia Ermirio)

A pensive and sombre track, Set Your Firearms Against The Sun builds up from solemn beginnings with its absorbing guitar and keyboard note into something elemental and primeval. The sound turns ominous with the restless riff and the questioning guitar note, like a soundtrack to a sci-fi film about an apocalyptical future. It really gets under your skin with its deliciously dark and uneasy feel, Mirko is really stretching his musical boundaries here!

Mirko says that title track Helios is the most ‘proggy’ song on the album and, to a certain extent, I’d have to agree. It begins as all relaxed and laid-back post rock that draws you into its winsome and captivating world, relaxed, chilled and without a care in the world. Music for hot, hazy summer days that never end, looking back on the good times and forgetting the bad. A vibrant riff opens up, giving a more intense mood and atmosphere but still charismatic and engaging before a more subdued and thoughtful aura falls over the music, a nostalgic feel of looking back at how life used to be. The gossamer-like guitar notes landing randomly on your aural receptors, it’s actually a very cathartic and soul-cleansing piece of music that sees your pulse rate drop and your mind clear. Twelve minutes of music that could make all psychiatrists redundant..

The final track is Time To Destroy My Life Capsule and the opening takes the more ambient route again, harmonious melodies leaving an ambience of soothing tranquility in the air. There’s a short period of reflective silence before a more insistent tone takes over, never dark but questing, more demanding and with a slight touch of that new found aggression. Everything comes full circle once again though as the serenity returns to see this track and the album to a close.

Mirko told me he was worried about the fact that the few who loved ‘Infinite Mirrors’ might be in some way confused about this more aggressive sound. I can happily attest to the fact that this is not the case, that edgier and sometimes darker feel has added another level of innovation to Mirko’s music and produced an album of many sophisticated layers that intrigues and delights with every note. A superb return from Misto indeed!

Release date to be announcedon Misto’s Facebook page in the next few days, keep checking below:

You can listen to ‘Infinite Mirrors’ at bandcamp here



Review – Geof Whitely Project – Time – by Progradar

He’s a prolific fellow that Arny Wheatley, the creative mind behind the Geof Whitely releases an astounding amount of new albums, surely the quality will have to dip at some point? Well it hasn’t since I got involved with reviewing the releases and December will see the latest record from this musical project see the light of day.

In a break from the norm ‘Time’ will only be available in CD format and exclusively from the website only in CD format and a limited edition of 300. In a further change to the standard format, this album is shorter and features only 6 tracks.

We start with the dark and atmospheric Deadly Alliance. That signature base sound is present and correct but, carrying on from the slight deviation we heard in ‘The Blessed & The Damned’, Arny adds some subtle nuances. The keyboards and resonating guitar add a real sombre note and serious tone, it’s a great direction to take. A tasteful piano introduces Stay before the yearning vocal joins in. A wistful and slightly melancholy song of hope  and one that sees yet another sonic string added to this talented musicians bow. Within the loose strictures of the recognisable Geof Whitely Project sound are now thrown some really interesting variations and it works very well.

Title track Time has a seasonal, festive feel to it as it begins with its bells and horns and exudes a feelgood aura. Arny’s vocal adds some seriousness and authority along with the powerful guitar and dynamic drums to replace this almost pastoral tone with something a bit more rock influenced. An effective and compelling piece of music, it holds your attention as it takes its measured strides along a vibrant musical journey. Sometimes sees that contemplative and thoughtful feel return, the vocals have a pensive edge and the keyboards give a wintry sheen to everything. A polished and reflective song that certainly left me reflecting on my past, there’s a real maturity to Arny’s songwriting that is pretty evident on tracks like this.

An elegant guitar and reflective keyboard open Runaway Express before a heavier guitar stirs things up. The emotive vocals grab you straight away with their really meaningful delivery and give the song a thoughtful and determined mood. The occasional lighter feel of Geof Whitely Project albums has been replaced by a more serious and sober intent which is highly evident on this cultured and stylish track. All too soon we come to the album closer Out of Touch and Arny throws another little curveball in with its Floyd-esque intro, there’s intelligence and some not inconsiderable subtlety in the songwriting on this album and it manifests itself perfectly on this track. Measured and brooding in delivery, both the music and the vocals have an earnest honesty to them and make for a compelling listening experience.

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but, as Arny keeps showing us, that doesn’t mean you can’t make little improvements to every release to keep on improving your music without losing its original identity. I personally think ‘Time’ sees the Geof Whitely Project at the zenith of their creativity so far and am intrigued to see where Arny will go next!

Released 4th December 2017

‘Time’ will be exclusively available from the Geof Whitely Project website here

Listen to ‘Deadly Alliance’ here

Review – Mother of Millions – Sigma – by Progradar

‘Sigma is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. It is the initial of the Greek word “Σιωπή”, meaning Silence. Sigma is also used as a symbol for the summation operator. “Silence has the sound of shame.” We are submissive to unspoken rules of obedience, which are sealed with a spiral of silence. Our chains are bound to break by speaking out as a mass, as a musical ensemble willing to sing out liberation.’

So says the PR information that came with the second album from the enigmatic Greek band Mother of Millions. I reviewed their debut release ‘Human’ back in 2004 and was impressed by  the complexity and diversity of their musical influences and the incredible talent on show. I summarised it as “An album that deserves the highest praise and leaves you slack-jawed in appreciation.”

So, unsurprisingly, I was very excited to get the promo of their sophomore album and see where this talented group of musicians had gone to next on their musical journey.

Mother of Millions is a five-piece progressive/alternative metal band from Athens, Greece, formed in 2008. Their sound of can be described as equally massive as cinematic. An intense experimentation involving elaborate rhythms, folk aesthetics and progressive rock tunes.

In 2014 the band released its first, critically acclaimed, concept album ‘Human’, during the spring of 2017, Mother of Millions finished the recording, mixing and mastering of their second concept album ‘Sigma’ which was released on 3rd November 2017.

Mother of Millions is George Prokopiou – Vocals, Kostas Konstantinidis – Guitars, Panos Priftis – Bass, Makis Tsamkosoglou – Keyboards, samples and George Boukaouris – Drums, percussion.

(Photo by  Panagiotis Tsalavrettas)

‘Sigma’ is, by today’s standards, a relatively short album, coming in at just under 42 minutes but at no time do you ever feel short-changed by what these guys have delivered. Mother of Millions jam so much incredible music into this release, there is absolutely no filler from the first note of Emerge until the final strains of Sigma drift away.

The slow burning introduction of Emerge sees the listener drawn into this deeply engaging story as the subdued voice-over grabs your attention. Haunting and full of tension, it is really setting the scene for what is to follow with its towering guitar, dynamic keyboards and dominant percussion. We segue straight into the vibrant and compelling riffs of Shine before everything calms down and Geroge’s passionate vocal makes its first appearance. Not progressive metal, nor alternative rock, these guys have forged their own sound to a certain extent and its one that demands your attention with its staccato riffs, vibrant keyboards, driving bass and edgy percussion. I have to say that this already seems a huge leap on from what was an impressive debut album, I’m not a fan of the so called growling or screaming vocals but the little bits that George delivers really catch my attention. I love the way that the next track flows seamlessly form the last, Silence is a towering edifice of music, eight minutes of sublime listening. The guitars have an elemental feel to them, powerful and compelling and the primordial drums seem add to the huge soundscape. The vocals are forceful and influential and all combine to give a monumental feel to this fine song, definitely one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year.

That funky, edgy riff returns on Rome, I don’t know if it’s really a technical term for music but there’s a density to the sound that these five fantastic musicians produce, almost a sonic viscosity and a feeling of permanency to every note and every word. A deliberate and measured piece of music with a memorable, captivating chorus, George’s voice once again stands out, if there’s a better hard/heavy rock vocalist out there I am yet to hear him this year. Fusing traditional and folk styles with hard rock Their Passage, The Light is a really mesmerising instrumental that intrigues and delights with its tasteful guitars and strings. A track to calm the mind and sooth the soul after the deeply affecting music that has gone before, it refreshes the musical palate ready for the next course. Another track that builds up from quiet beginnings, Collision simmers with intensity keeping you right on the edge before the enigmatic vocals introduce and increase in pace and emotion. This is music that seeps into your entire being and asks questions of you on every level as the vocals break out accompanied by the portentous music delivering quite a dark and potent tone to the end of the song. As the final notes ring out I’m left in an enigmatic silence.

The Rapture is a brooding and cryptic feeling instrumental that has a real dystopian aura that carries on over all its two minute length. Very haunting and quite disturbing. The introduction to Spiral is powerful and commanding before the song takes a step back to allow George’s stirring vocal to take centre stage, once again he delivers an authoritative performance aided and abetted superbly by the gifted musicians that surround him. Technically proficient but playing with heart and soul, the music is as much part of every brilliant track as the vocals and both combine to deliver an incredibly impressive experience. The subdued voice over returns to be followed by wonderful instrumental close out, one that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with its incredible intensity. This exceptional musical spectacle closes out with the title track Sigma and the level of performance does not drop one iota. Another deeply engaging song that slowly draws you into its embrace with great vocals and music that stays just in the background adding a mysterious and esoteric ambience, it’s a track that delivers a perfect conclusion to this fine album.

It’s been three years since the last Mother of Millions album and that time has seen this superb band develop and improve on what was already a very impressive sound. Powerful and dark at times and yet incredibly illuminating at others, it is a piece of music that entraps the listener on an astonishingly immersive musical journey. ‘Sigma’ is one of those releases that stands out immediately and then gets even better with every listen. One of the releases of the year, please do yourselves a favour and get your hands on this incredible piece of music as soon as you can!

Released 3rd November 2017

Buy ‘Sigma’ on CD from Amazon




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 – 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 – 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






Review – Gandalf’s Fist – A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer (Special Edition) – by Progradar

‘Cuprinol – It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’ – a now well known advertising slogan that can be equally as pertinent in real life. Describing how something doesn’t have to be complicated to work perfectly well and does the job that it was intended to.

This could be as equally a relevant term when it comes to music too. If you want a band that plays a particular type of music exceedingly well without over-complicating things then there will always be one that fits the bill.

If you’re want at ‘Medieval Space Rock’ (well, we all do at some point in our lives) then you need look no further than ‘your favourite time-travelling prog-warlocks’ (their words, not mine!) Gandalf’s Fist and their brand of Prog, Folk and Rock to get what you need.

This year has seen the band embark on a through revamp of 2013’s space-rock offering ‘A Day In The Life Of A universal Wanderer’.

The expanded album has been fully remixed and remastered from the ground up, utilizing new performance takes and bringing the release firmly in line with the sonic palette of 2014’s “A Forest of Fey” and 2016’s “The Clockwork Fable”.

The record also features new and re-recorded narrative tracks from British Actor Mark Benton, who had previously worked with the band on last year’s Triple-CD album release.

Completing the package is the brand new, exclusive track The Stowaway and the Endless Night, an 11 minute opus originally omitted from the original release, as well as brand new cover art commissioned from German artist Thomas Huth, the man reasonable for the band’s sleeves on the last two releases.

Gandalf’s Fist front man, Dean Marsh, commented:

“This is the album people seem to have been desperate for us to re-release on CD format and we were reluctant to do so until we could finally do it right and do it justice. This is not a pointless ‘CGI-Yoda’ retrospective tinkering, we’ve retained the main core of what we originally created, but now with a bit more sheen and more energy.  It now works as a cohesive piece. A real thrill for me was to hear the synth violin sections being re-recorded by orchestral musicians, It’s those little touches that have lifted the record to another level. I think we’ve finally got it to a stage where we’re proud to let it sit on the shelf next to our last two albums!”

Not only has the album been fully remixed and remastered, drummer Stefan Hepe has also re-visited and re-recorded the drums and percussion to all tracks and new violin and cello performances have been captured to elevate those songs and you can really tell…

‘The Universal Wanderer’ – who’s legend tells of a figure who has wandered the cosmos from the birth of existence to the end of time…

What Gandalf’s Fist have always been is brilliant storytellers, the duo of Dean Marsh and Luke Severn (now with the added teutonic skills of Stefan) have always been able to weave involving tales and set them to outstanding music and this revamped version of ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ is no exception. The opening Another Night On The Far Side Of The Universe sees the ship’s computer (voiced by Alicia Marsh) and the instantly recognisable dulcet tones of Mark Benton as The Captain, set the scene for the universal journey ahead. The Nine Billion Names Of God is a darkly bombastic track with doom-laden vocals and a slow metronomic beat that really gets under your skin. With a sound deeply rooted in early 70’s sci-fi it is eerie and disturbingly atmospheric and the chorus is an unexpected ear-worm that you find yourself singing in the most inappropriate places (like Church for instance!). Add in some ethereal flute, moody saxophone and some great twin-guitar work and you have a great start to the album. The next scene-setting interlude, Where’s A Bloody Escape Pod When You Need One?, segues straight into the powerful opening of Stowaway To The Mushroom Planet before things roll back into some seriously chilled space-rock with delightful female vocals. A serenity falls on the music, only broken by the superb melodramatic chorus, this is rather a fine track which is only enhanced by the excellent guitar solo.

There’s a pleading Message Home delivered in a disconcerting manner and then then wonderful Melissa Hollick arrives to deliver a wonderfully emotive vocal performance on the grandiosely anthemic Somewhere Beyond The Stars. Along with the utterly captivating piano, Melissa’s vocals entrance and captivate to leave you utterly bewitched. It’s as good a piece of music that you will hear this year and always brings a lump to my throat and a moistening to the eyes, just listen to the enchanting guitar playing and you’ll know what I mean! Seriously heavy space-rock infused prog makes an appearance on the mighty Orphans Of The Sky, a lengthy and intricate homage to the 70’s heavy rock acts. A slow-burning verse erupts into the monstrous chorus with no apology and delivers a powerful and compelling performance with the measured riff and dynamic drums adding to the forceful vocals. The spacey, far out guitar that plays across your mind before the track breaks back into the chorus is pure genius.

The alien A Visitation Of The Mushroom People leads the way into the forgotten opus The Stowaway And The Endless Night, omitted from the original 2013 release. A seriously intensive and inventive 11-minutes plus of progressive rock that builds its atmosphere slowly with some rather fine guitar and drums grabbing and holding your attention before a menacing voice over intrudes. All hell breaks lose with a twin guitar riff of monlithic proportions. The song ebbs and flows with some superlative and convoluted music and some excellent vocals, the female voice again supplied by the sublime Melissa Hollick. The band will have their reasons for not including this track on the original release but I do wonder why as I think it is rather good and fits in with the rest of the songs perfectly. Universal Wanderer is a great space-rock track that takes the listener on a wandering journey through space and time in their own mind. The song seems to bubble under for a while with barely suppressed urgency before a superb riff flares up and gives real potency to the hard-rock feel. The guitar sound lends itself to 80’s heavy metal and the whole song just rocks mightily.

There’s a more measured approach with Nexus, a thoughtful song with almost a folk edge to the vocals and guitar. You feel you are involved in something mysterious and perplexing as this pensive track continues. The keyboard and guitar break in the middle of the track really feels like it could be on a Wings album with its high spirited creativity, throw in the moody sax and you have a really mind opening piece of music. Wistful and nostalgic, North of Wall puts breathy vocals and laid back instrumentation to good use to give something almost Celtic in flavour. The voice-over tells an involving tale before the song segues straight into the whimsical brilliance of The Battle for Tannhäuser Gate. Violins, cello and the beauty of the female vocals bring to mind heroic tales sung in medieval times, “I will die in my boots..”, songs sung of great battles and comrades lost and this gives a melancholic atmosphere to everything. There’s also a Celtic influence to the song and it works superbly, the guitar solo fits perfectly into the song and I can imagine myself sat round a roaring fire in a village tavern, seduced by the music and the beauty of the voices. Ghosts of Spacetime sees The Captain bring the whole storyline together and it’s a credit to the vocal talents of Mark Benton that you are left hanging on every prophetic word before the spell is broken by the opening bars of the final track The Wanderer Goes South. Some exquisite flute work gives added gloss and sheen to another great piece of Gandalf’s Fist music. In the background there’s a reprise of the guitar riff and beat from The Nine Billion Names Of God before Melissa’s great vocals begin again. A song of space-rock whimsy that perfectly sums up what has gone on before, the songwriting skills of these excellent musicians are entirely evident as we are led along a twisting path of musical enigma. A brilliant guitar solo and the repeated mantra of ‘Nine Billion Names Of God’ close out the track and leave you smiling with appreciation.

This is a collection of songs that you can lose yourself in and forget the worries that are glaringly evident in our everyday life. Superb musical escapism with a inventive storyline that you’ll keep returning to again and again. Cinematic in feel and scope my next question is, when will you be releasing the sequel?

Released 18th September 2017

Order ‘A Day In The Life Of A Universal Wanderer’ direct from the artist



Review – CIRCU5 – CIRCU5 – by Progradar

“But, is it Prog?”, it may have started as an innocent question but, boy, has it become the bane of everyone’s existence who is involved in that particular music scene! Why anything actually has to be ‘Prog’ to justify listening to it is quite beyond me but there does seem to be a hardcore group who define their music listening by that mantra.

Let’s face it, that is quite a ridiculous question, what they should be asking is, “but, is it any good?”, don’t limit your listening experience to that one particular area, broaden your horizons and you really will find some excellent music out there.

One such intriguing proposition was put to me earlier this year by respected British multi-instrumentalist Steve Tilling who started talking to me about his solo project CIRCU5, which is a concept album that harnesses hard rock, punk and alternative influences to create its own unique sound.

A concept album? Oh that must be Prog then! Nae, nae and thrice nae, it doesn’t have to be, all it has to be is a bloody good piece of music!

A child raised as a psychopath. Could this be the subject of an album that rocks and intrigues in equal measures? The answer’s a sinister ‘yes’, if a new album called CIRCU5 is anything to go by.

Five years in the making, the debut album features guest performances from Dave Gregory (XTC, Big Big Train), Phil Spalding (Mike Oldfield), Matt Backer (Julian Lennon), Alan van Kleef (Rachel Stamp), Johnny Warman (Peter Gabriel) and Andy Neve (Steve Hackett).

“The album mirrors the ups and downs in my life while making it,” says Steve Tilling. “There were dark times, but everything ended positively. I wanted to make an album that’s fun to listen to but has a good story for those who like to dig deeper.”

Clues to the story are dotted throughout the album, but Steve is happy to give away the essence: “It traces the life of a child raised as a psychopath in a secret government organisation, which aims to cure the condition while harnessing positive traits for certain roles. The character discovers the truth as a dysfunctional adult – with catastrophic consequences.”

Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced ‘Circa-5’

It’s a relatively short album, coming in at 49 minutes but Steve certainly packs a lot into that time, the edgy opening track, Coming Home, is punk infused and almost anthemic and really sets the album up perfectly with its delicate guitar and intense but pared back vocal delivery. Keeping you on the edge of your seat ready for the staccato riff of My Degenerate Mind, this is where the touch paper is lit and everything goes off with a bang. Crashing guitars, dynamic drums and Steve’s excellent vocals give you a song that sounds like ska legends The Beat collaborating with The Clash and the end product is just over four minutes off perfectly judged punk infused alternative rock.

There’s been a lot of mention about the Foo Fighters as an influence on this album and Stars takes that influence and runs with it. Heavy riffing, punchy vocals and a superb rhythm section drive this rollercoaster of a track along at full speed ahead. There’s even a touch of Nirvana to the guitar sound and the drums have a nod to Dave Grohl in his days in that band too. Powerful and edgy alternative rock that’s not for the faint hearted. Days Erased is a brief musical interlude with hushed and haunting vocals that add to the tense atmosphere and leave you wondering what’s coming next.

A mournful piano tone introduces Strings, an absorbing song that draws immediate comparison to Radiohead yet Steve stamps his own authority on the track. A graceful acoustic guitar and the wistful vocals bring a feeling of nostalgia to proceedings yet there’s always a sorrowful undertone that leaves a feeling of rejection and loss in your heart as this contemplative piece of music comes to a close. The spirited alternative rock returns with the fiery Blame It On Me, another breakneck track that powers along to a modern punk-rock beat. A funky guitar riff joins some intense drumming to leave you breathless as this runaway train goes merrily on its way. Steve Tilling has a great voice for this sort of music and he leads the song perfectly with his slightly husky vocals, another potent and compelling slice of rock.

The next track is one of my favourites, The Amazing Monstrous Grady is funky hard-rock at its very best and is catchy as hell. A circus organ opens the song, meandering along in no particular direction before petering out and allowing a fine bass line and drums to get things going. The addictive guitar riff and Steve’s excellent vocal all add to the offbeat, fast-paced groove and the chorus is as hook-ridden as they come. Kings X influenced? hmm, I’m not sure, I just think it’s great songwriting. I tell you what though, there’s some superb bass playing on this song and the brilliant instrumental section in the middle of the song needs to be heard to be believed. A track that just about has it all!

The album concludes with the five parts of The Chosen One. Baptism is elegant and sophisticated with acoustic guitar and passionate vocals at its core, singer/songwriter music done perfectly. Transfiguration is bombastic and grandiose with a hyperactive guitar and sonorous bass joining with the commanding drums to deliver a superbly involving instrumental that is one of the more progressive (did I just use that word?) tracks on the album. Crucifixion is a short and yet intense piece of music where Steve’s vocal literally bleeds emotion as he sings over a stirring, pared back guitar. Resurrection is an involving, dynamic and edgy song that demands your attention with its insistent riffing and the demanding tone of the vocals. Dark and potent rock that brooks no argument, its slightly off-kilter feel leaves you on edge and unsure of where to turn next. Everything comes to a close with Ascension, literally the polar opposite to the previous track. Calm and collected and utterly sure of itself, the delicate guitar and graceful vocals lead you to a serene place of tranquility. Simple and elegant, the music washes over you leaving you utterly relaxed and is reminiscent of ethereal, hazy summer days, the album concluding on an uplifting and hopeful note.

Ambition can often be a downfall but Steve Tilling has taken his ambition and given us a musical spectacle that will stand the test of time. Great songwritng combined with superb musicianship and a concept that works, CIRCU5 is a triumph. Is it Prog? I’ve no idea but it’s bloody good!

Released 15th September 2017

Buy CIRCU5 direct from the artist’s website