Review – Nad Sylvan – The Bride Said No – by Tony Honour

(All artist pictures by Tom Wild)

After deciding that he wasn’t busy enough touring with Steve Hackett, in 2015 Nad Sylvan signed a Solo contract with InsideOut music to bring us his first solo album, the excellent ‘Courting The Widow’. May 2017 sees the arrival of the eagerly anticipated follow up, ‘The Bride Said No’.

Whilst ‘Courting the Widow’ contained heavy overtones that were firmly routed in 1970’sBritish Progressive Rock, perhaps not surprisingly heavily influenced by Genesis, Nad has fairly and squarely put his own stamp on this new album whilst still acknowledging those influences. The album opens with Bridesmaids, a haunting melody played by Nad, with backing vocals from Jade Ell and Sheona Urguhart, which is used as a recurring theme throughout the record. It segues directly into The Quartermaster, a powerful song based around Nad’s exquisite keyboards which acts as an introduction to the Bride’s suitor and sets the plot for the story. It is also to be released as the first single and contains a very abrupt ending which caught me completely by surprise on first listen!

When The Music Dies is considerably more melancholic and shows off Nad’s vocal range to its imperious best. The story continues with The White Crown which has very strong Medieval overtones. Jonas Reingold’s distinctive guitar riff gives the song a harder edge and is a great contrast to Nad’s guitar throughout the rest of the track. What Have You Done is my personal highlight. It opens with gentle piano from Nad and backing vocals from Jade and Sheona with Jade also sharing the lead vocals with Nad beautifully. Steve Hackett and Guthrie Govan share the guitar duties with Steve starting the incredible soloing and they complement each other magnificently. Crime Of Passion follows and is a much more powerful song that still retains a wonderful melodic balance. A French Kiss in an Italian café begins with a tasteful guitar intro, Nad’s vocals then set the scene and we are led to a meeting with a stranger. Wonderful guitar work from Steve and Nad accompany the vocals along with Tony Levin’s  ever expressive bass and there is a beautiful saxophone solo from Sheona to close the track.

The Bride Said No is the albums finale and at first glance is a nigh on 20 minute magnum opus. It lasts however 12 and a half minutes and magnificently concludes the album. Tania Doko this time shares the vocals with Nad who also contributes with a wonderful “Emersonesqe” solo added to more splendid guitar work and an incredible solo from Steve.

Drums and percussion are shared throughout by the excellent one-time Jethro Tull drummer Doane Perry and Big Big Train’s Nick DiVirgilio. Bass is provided by Jonas Reingold (of Swedish progsters Kaipa) and Tony Levin. The vinyl edition is three sided with the fourth being occupied by an etch in the manner of his stablemates Kansas’ last album. Doubtless, in the 1970’s, the likes of Todd Rundgren would have squeezed this on to two sides of plastic but I for one am ecstatic that we have three sides of pure listening pleasure which I am counting down the days to receive.

Released 26th May 2017

Pre-order ‘The Bride Said No’ from InsideOut Music

 

 

Review – Steve Hackett – The Night Siren – by Rob Fisher

The bewitching call of the Sirens is reported to have been irresistible. Mesmerised by the enchanting beauty of their songs, sailors were lured to their inevitable destruction on the rocks surrounding Scylla and Charybdis. Only two people are recorded as having escaped the compelling singing of these beautiful hybrid creatures: Odysseus returning home from the Trojan War who ordered his men to fill their ears with wax whilst lashing himself to the mast of his ship and Jason, leading his Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece, who overcame their siren call with the equally enthralling playing of Orpheus.

The parallels between the mythological narratives of the Sirens and Steve Hackett’s 25th solo album ‘The Night Siren’, are as fascinating as they are disconcerting. The two rocks, starkly framed on the album cover against the captivating aurora of the northern lights, may well be a nod to Scylla and Charybdis but it is also a clarion call to the need in these present dark times to carefully steer our way between the rocks and the hard places which threaten to engulf us.

Hackett believes that “it seems the world has been plunged into darkness. Wherever you look, extremism and intolerance are dominant, and people are getting fed up with politicians. They are losing faith in the way they behave.” We live in a time of discord, animosity, fighting and bitter divisions. ‘The Night Siren’ is a wake-up call, an unsettling shaking of the foundations on which we stand designed to open our minds, rouse us from our complacency and heed the urgent call to empathy, unity and peace.

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

To that end, much like the Sirens themselves, the album is a hybrid mosaic of songs featuring instruments, collaborators and musicians from around the world. Indeed, the graceful, elegant beauty of T’he Night Siren’ lies precisely in the delightful diversity of its songs as well as the endearing variety of the instruments and sounds heard within each song. The sound of the Indian sitar, the strings of a Peruvian charango, Celtic Uilleann pipes along with the tar and oud originating from the Middle East all contribute to the wonderful montage of musical voices which inspire hope and the desire for peace.

The album openly elevates, celebrates and embraces our unity within diversity. Unlike other recordings on which he has worked, ‘The Night Siren’ took Hackett well over a year to make.  Recording took place in multiple locations, in a variety of different countries, using studios, rooms, wherever they could get the musicians together. “What I wanted to do was show that we can all communicate through the universality of one language – and that is music. It brings us all together.”

Making the album in this way not only adds greater flexibility to the music but also brings people together – and sometimes people who are unnatural allies – to demonstrate in a simple fashion that the multi-cultural approach offers us light in the darkness. Hackett is adamant that the album “represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit”. Bringing together singers and musicians from Israel and Palestine, the USA and Iraq he firmly believes the spirit of cooperation, collegiality and the bonds of friendship which can be formed through music make this his best album yet.

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

It is hard to disagree. If the Sirens of war, division, destruction, envy, spite and brutality are seducing the world in which we live, Hackett’s performance on ‘The Night Siren’ is no less akin to the enthralling musicianship of Orpheus leading us through these troubled waters. Music, he believes, “breaches all defences” and there is no doubting that his playing exudes an assured, masterful confidence and authority which is as infectious as it is inspiring.

There is an exhilarating sense of anticipation in hearing the way his guitar work interacts with and responds to the unique and dynamic combinations evolving within each song. Even with all the different styles, rhythms and tempos, he displays a blistering, stand-out musicianship which is wholly organic to, and of a natural piece with, the flow and momentum of the music. It feels right. Each and every time, it feels so right, so perfectly suited to the context of the other instruments and immaculately aligned with the way the song unfolds.

This has always been Hackett’s singular gift; a magical combination of exceptional talent and a nuanced insight which allows him to draw on the momentum present in the natural flow of the music and then rise above it with a passion and brilliance that often defies imagination. At times his playing is simply sublime. The space opens up for the guitar to speak and he fills it with riffs and solos that are beautifully refined, deftly played and charmingly sumptuous. He brings an understanding to the music which is movingly perceptive, poignant and evocative.

When you listen to music which is this articulate, played in ways which carry an unrivalled eloquence and charm by virtue not just of the central figure but also because of the virtuosity of those who surround him, the message he wants to convey cannot but be heard – and heard with a persuasiveness that only music can achieve. Forget about the boundaries, the walls, the frontiers, the borders. ‘The Night Siren’ will shake the ground on which you stand and make you feel the world anew through music because of the coming together of people from across the world who show the way to us all exactly what humanity can achieve when we come together in the name of unity and peace.

Released 24th march 2017

Pre-order ‘The Night Siren’ from Hackett Songs

 

Steve Hackett – The Night Siren – Released 24th March Through InsideOut Music

Guitar virtuoso and rock legend, Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis), releases his latest album The Night Siren on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony).  As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division.

The Night Siren showcases Steve’s incredible guitar playing as strongly as ever, along with regular Hackett collaborators and also musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity. This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together. There are also instrumentals from the USA and Iraq and a multiplicity of sounds, including the exotic strains of Indian sitar and Middle Eastern tar and oud, the ethnic beauty of the Peruvian charango and the haunting Celtic Uilleann pipes.

Steve is widely travelled, making friends everywhere he goes and has always embraced multicultural diversity.  In these times of unrest, he has been inspired to express his belief that the world needs more empathy and unity. His wish to involve a range of musical sounds, instruments, musicians and singers from different parts of the world is both a development of his eclectic approach to music and shows how people can be brought together, even from war torn regions.

Talking about his latest work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world.  From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide.  But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”

The musical journey takes us from ‘Behind the Smoke’, focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages, to the penultimate track ‘West to East’ which reflects on the damage of war and the hope for a better world. From personal to universal, the themes celebrate the life force, breaking free from chains of repression.

The album features: Steve Hackett (guitar & vocals), Roger King (keyboards & programming), Nad Sylvan (vocals on Inca Terra), Rob Townsend (all things wind), Amanda Lehmann (vocals), Gary O’Toole (drums), and Benedict Fenner (additional keyboards & programming). Also featured are singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), Nick D’Virgilio (drums) from the USA, Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland. Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass), Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann) and Leslie Bennett (keyboards on The Gift).

Full Track Listing:

  1.      Behind the Smoke
  2.      Martian Sea
  3.      Fifty Miles from the North Pole
  4.      El Niño
  5.      Other Side of the Wall
  6.      Anything but Love
  7.      Inca Terra
  8.      In Another Life
  9.      In the Skeleton Gallery
  10.    West to East

Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett for a 15-date UK tour in April 2017.  Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band including ‘Inside & Out,’  ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Anyway’ as well as material from The Night Siren.

Tickets available from www.myticket.co.uk and venue box offices.   Steve onstage at 7.30pm.

www.hackettsongs.com

@hackettofficial

https://www.facebook.com/stevehackettofficial/

Steve Hackett: The Night Siren – New Album

Guitar virtuoso and rock legend, Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis), releases his latest album The Night Siren on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony).  As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division.

‘The Night Siren’ showcases Steve’s incredible guitar as strongly as ever, along with musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity.  This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together.  There are also instrumentals from the USA and Iraq and a multiplicity of sounds, including the exotic strains of Indian sitar and Middle Eastern tar and oud, the ethnic beauty of the Peruvian charango and the haunting Celtic Uilleann pipes.

Steve is widely travelled, making friends everywhere he goes and has always embraced multicultural diversity.  In these times of unrest, he has been inspired to express his belief that the world needs more empathy and unity.  His wish to involve a range of musical sounds, instruments, musicians and singers from different parts of the world is both a development of his eclectic approach to music and shows how people can be brought together, even from war torn regions.

Talking about his latest work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world.  From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide.  But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”

 The musical journey takes us from ‘Behind the Smoke’, focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages, to the penultimate track ‘West to East’ which reflects on the damage of war and the hope for a better world. From personal to universal, the themes celebrate the life force, breaking free from chains of repression.

Full Track Listing:-

  1.      Behind the Smoke
  2.      Martian Sea
  3.      Fifty Miles from the North Pole
  4.      El Niño
  5.      Other Side of the Wall
  6.      Anything but Love
  7.      Inca Terra
  8.      In Another Life
  9.      In the Skeleton Gallery
  10.    West to East
  11.    The Gift

In addition to singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), also featured on the album are Nick D’Virgilio (drums) from the USA, Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland, along with regular Hackett collaborators: Roger King, Nad Sylvan, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend and Amanda Lehmann.  Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass) and Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann).

Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett for a 15 date UK tour in April 2017.  Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band including ‘Inside & Out,’ ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Anyway’ as well as material from The Night Siren.

 

Tickets available from www.myticket.co.uk

‘The Night Siren’ will be released through Inside Out Music on 24th March in the following formats:

Special Edition CD/Blu-Ray Mediabook featuring 5.1 surround sound mix & making of documentary: 88985410452

Standard Jewel case CD: 88985410462

Gatefold black 2LP vinyl + CD: 88985410471

Digital Download

www.hackettsongs.com

@hackettofficial

https://www.facebook.com/stevehackettofficial/

 

Steve Hackett Announces 2017 Tour including tracks from Wind and Wuthering, new album & Genesis revisited

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Former Genesis guitarist and prog legend Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show for a 15 date UK tour next spring after his outstanding performance at this year’s inaugural Stone Free Festival.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band such as ‘Inside & Out’ and ‘Anyway’.

“I’m excited to bring my latest show involving a new set of Genesis and Hackett numbers to the UK in 2017!” – Steve Hackett

 With an established solo career spanning over 40 years, Steve will also be performing some of his popular hits such as ‘The Steppes’, ‘Serpentine’, ‘Every Day’ and the first ever live performance of ‘Rise Again’ from his 1999 album Darktown. Steve will also be introducing fans to new music from his forthcoming album, which is due out early spring 2017.

Joining Steve on the tour are musicians Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums/percussion), Rob Townsend (saxes/flutes), Nick Beggs (bass, stick & twelve string) and Nad Sylvan on vocals.

Since the 1970’s Steve has had a remarkable musical career, releasing more than 30 solo albums, seven Genesis albums and working alongside Steve Howe of YES with supergroup GTR. Renowned for being one of the most innovative rock musicians of our time, in 2010 he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame.

Continuing to impress with his outstanding live shows ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ is a tour not to missed in 2017.

Tickets for UK shows go on sale on Friday 7th October at 10am from myticket.co.uk and venue box offices.    Dublin tickets go onsale on the same day at 9am.

2017 TOUR DATES

 April

 Wed 26th        Dublin, Vicar Street

Fri 28th            Cardiff, St. David’s Hall

Sun 30th         Reading, Hexagon

May

 Mon 1st           Birmingham, Symphony Hall

Wed 3rd          Sheffield, City Hall

Thurs 4th        Bristol, Colston Hall

Fri 5th              Manchester, Bridgewater Hall

Sun 7th           Liverpool, Philharmonic

Mon 8th           Portsmouth, Guildhall

Wed 10th        Southend, Cliffs Pavilion

Thurs 11th      Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall

Sat 13th          Oxford, New Theatre

Sun 14th         Cambridge, Corn Exchange

Tues16th        Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall

Wed17th         Sage, Gateshead

Fri 19th            London, Palladium

www.hackettsongs.com

stevehackett_-tour-poster-2017-a3-lo-res

Review – The Gift – Why The Sea Is Salt – by Leo Trimming

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Let’s get straight to the point – ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ is a truly exceptional album, and deserves to propel The Gift in to the higher echelons of current British Progressive Rock Music. Simple as that – it really is that outstanding. Very few albums indeed have the potential to attain the status of a potential ‘classic’ album, which will live long in the memory like ‘Why the Sea is Salt’. This is a work which greatly appeals to the heart and mind in equal measures, and similarly beguiles and stimulates in its beauty and drama.

This album is a considerable step up in ambition and achievement by a band that has evolved very significantly over the last year. Commencing as a studio project by Mike Morton and Leroy James in 2006, The Gift released promising debut anti-war album ‘Awake and Dreaming’, then went to sleep for a few years due to other life commitments. Morton then teamed up with talented song writer David Lloyd to re-form The Gift and record the excellent album ‘Land of Shadows’ in 2014 as one eclectic label Bad Elephant’s first ever releases (The third to be precise). This hard working band has been playing live over the last couple of years to develop their sound, skills and audience at venues across the UK and even a first trip to Europe in 2014 to play in the Netherlands. Stalwart Stefan Dickers has been their rock on bass for that period. They successfully appeared at last year’s Summer’s End Festival in Wales, and it was clear then they were on an upward trajectory.

The Gift have wanted to take a different and more ambitious musical approach requiring some changes in personnel, with no disrespect to their able predecessors. They recruited new drummer Neil Hayman from BEM label mates progressive hard rockers, Konchordat. He definitely adds more experience, creativity and power to the band. Leroy James also ‘came home’, rejoining the band late in the writng process of this album and just before recording started, adding his deft guitar skills and a more rock oriented approach to David Lloyd’s subtle flowing guitar work. The last but possibly most significant piece in bringing The ‘New’  Gift Jigsaw puzzle together was the recruitment on keyboards of an Italian bona fide Classical Music star, Gabriele Baldocci, who performs piano recitals around the world, alongside teaching at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich. Morton heard that Baldocci loved Genesis, Queen, Yes, Beatles, Crimson, Camel and Tull, and wanted to use his classical skills in a progressive rock band. The Gift were delighted to recruit him, and on the evidence of this album it is clear that his undoubted incredible keyboard skills, eminent classical background and love of great rock music adds something really special to the mix. He is a real gift to The Gift!

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‘Why the Sea is Salt’ is a rich presentation of musical styles and sounds, social commentary,  mythological references, and touching expressions of personal feelings of loss and mourning. This is an album with very strong and distinctive individual songs. However, ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ has even more impact if consumed as a whole with lyrical and musical themes threading through the tapestry of the album, producing a remarkably consistent and resonant piece of work. The focus is upon man’s sad disconnection from life’s real meaning, with the poetic sense that in human existence our collective tears ‘salt’ the sea. This description may make it sound like a ‘weighty’ piece of work, but crucially The Gift never forget that the Song is Key, and it is filled with memorable melodies and harmonies which make it accessible, entertaining and interesting for a wider audience. In fact, this album is notable for the balance between lyrics and music. They compliment each other, but crucially the lyrics allow enough space for the music alone at times to breathe and convey the spirit of the song.

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The song which may inevitably attract the most attention from some is The Tallest Tree, featuring contributions from Anthony Phillips and Steve Hackett of Genesis fame, alongside the more recent emerging talent of Peter Jones from Tiger Moth Tales. Anthony Phillips provides characteristically beautiful and shimmering 12 string guitar with Peter Jones playing a touching Irish whistle to add suitable pathos to the intro. This is a heartfelt song of loss about the passing of vocalist Mike Morton’s father with deeply felt and succinct lyrics, based on a poem Mike Morton wrote for and recited at his father’s funeral. Towards the end Steve Hackett perfectly reflects the elegiac feeling with a tasteful and distinctive guitar solo, and then perhaps appropriately the song fades away wistfully into the distance. I do not mind sharing with you that the first hearing this song reduced me to tears as it touched on my own parallel loss of parents with Morton. Memories of holding my own mother’s hand as she passed away were reflected in similar images of Morton taking his father’s own hands towards the end:

‘I Take Your Hands… Now as Fragile as a sigh,

As through this Veil of Tears, We say our last Goodbye

 Now the Tallest Tree is Falling, Our Faces Feel the Rain,

As Darkness Turns to Morning, Love is What Remains’

It is unusual for this reviewer to share such a personal memory in a review, but it is done to show how The Gift’s lyrics and music can truly touch the listener. Such is the simple beauty of the music and honest expression of deep emotions, which will touch many listener’s hearts, that it seems clear this song could become regarded as a classic.

To go back to the album’s beginning, ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ commences aptly with the suitably nautical and mythical At Sea, premiered to great acclaim at the recent ‘Power of Three’ gig in London. Mainly written by David Lloyd, this acts like an overture for the album as Gabriele Baldocci shows his classical piano excellence with a softly undulating piano solo with hints of Ravel as we start our musical voyage, leading onto Lloyd’s gently floating guitar. Like a sudden storm rising, the tempo and power suddenly builds with Hayman pounding away and Baldocci running a sinuous synth line above the backing in a scintillating instrumental section. The guitars and keyboards intertwine to great effect, and then Dickers’ melodic bass line leads us into a short but expressive guitar solo, before we settle back into a piano section… and after six minutes a ‘Becalmed’ singer Mike Morton finally enters the fray. Quite an opening to an album.  This is Morton as Greek chorus with sonorous  but vulnerable vocals, setting the scene including some mythic images (… but have no worries, this album is no corny ‘sword and sorcery’ epic!) The finely judged concluding guitar solo completes the ‘overture’ and takes us on into the main body of the album.

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The Gift next take us into a horror story with Sweeper of Dreams, a baroque intro leading into a powerful song full of characterisation reminiscent of Alex Harvey.  This is a dramatic ‘story’ song with lyric writer Morton singing menacingly in character as ‘The Sweeper’. One can only imagine what Morton will do to portray this scary character in concert. Baldocci and Morton wrote the majority of the musical themes, Gabriele showing that he can really rock alongside his classical skills, as the song alternates between hard rock and scary ‘evil clown’ carousel sounding interludes. Writer Neil Gaiman was pleased to permit The Gift to use the theme and name of one of his short stories for this song. Fittingly, the images evoked by the memorable music and lines such as ‘Dispose of the Debris, Lying around in your Brain’ may well enter the dream worlds of many listeners.

The Gift take us in a very different direction with the touching and delightful Tuesday’s Child , based on a lyrical idea from Baldocci, shaped and developed by Mike Morton, telling a personal story of an older sad man woefully looking back to the beautiful but forsaken joy and innocence of childhood. The Road of Ashes instrumental opening draws us in beguilingly with keyboards creating a lovely soundscape for an emotionally delicate, floating guitar line. Acoustic guitar then takes us into a beautiful sung lyric in the First Flower section. This is subtle, intelligent and heart felt lyric writing, characteristic of Mike Morton, and for which he should become much more well-known. He makes the connection between emotions and the sea in touching but catchy choruses :

‘Someone’s been waiting for me, somewhere not quite light enough to see

Is this the one I used to be? Cast adrift amongst the Shadows and Salt Waters, That Flow from Me’

Alongside such insightful and emotive lyrics this song of redemption and self-realisation is also expressed perfectly with finely crafted music  as the bass and drums deftly back Lloyd’s flowing and sensitive concluding guitar solo – demonstrating the skill of The Gift in marrying words and music together with skill and insight in conveying the ‘feel’ and message of a song.

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The main inspiration for the album title ‘Why the Sea is Salt’ comes originally from a Norse legend in which a man finds a mill that grinds out anything he wants. However, he gets too greedy, and when he asks it to grind out salt for his food, the power behind it grinds endlessly, swamping him and everyone. The mill then falls into the sea, where it still churns, thus making the sea salty. This mythological source is re-interpreted by The Gift on this album as modern man’s  greed for ‘stuff’ which consumes and hurts us.  Nowhere is this better expressed than on the epic song cycle of All These Things, a piece largely written mainly by Lloyd and Morton. Apparently this song cycle was originally called Black Friday but that title was felt to be too specific as the piece had a wider perspective. Lloyd’s love of Jethro Tull and early Strawbs is demonstrated by the opening acoustic guitar and vocal harmony section in The Vow, portraying marriage as a transaction, a swapping of rings, underlining society’s pre-occupation with possessing things, including each other. Church organs resound as a slight dig at organized religion before we flow into the Harvest of Hollow. The use of understated flamenco guitar shows that The Gift are not afraid to stretch their boundaries. Indeed, it appears that this is a band who wanted to avoid simply repeating previous patterns as they used previously unexplored sounds and styles.

The Gift are not afraid to make political points of social commentary, with Morton particularly animated by his distaste for the current politics of the UK as a ‘crop of bitter weeds’. The Gift direct their focus on the futile emptiness of materialistic consumerism, leading to endless acquisition but never enough to satisfy:

‘So which of us is satisfied? Tell me, are you satisfied?

The Roulette spins in empty eyes, Our Hungerbeasts prowling and growling inside

It’s an unhealthy appetite, Take another bite… Having is Nothing, Hunting is All’

This song cycle takes an ever darker turn as we enter Feeding Time in which The Gift have never sounded so brutal and menacing with an angry and coruscating guitar duo between David Lloyd and Leroy James – the instruments cinematically telling the story as powerfully as any words. In contrast, the next lilting section The Jackdaw, Magpie and Me commences with bird sounds and a gentle acoustic guitar motif as Morton intones with such clarity about the selfishness and emptiness of collecting things trinkets like magpies.  Dickers and Hayman’s subtle bass and drums underline the piece with skill, showing that they are not all about power. The animal imagery is carried on into the gentle re-birth or turning point of the Swan and Butterfly section, with perhaps even a subtle or subconscious reference to previous album’s highlight The Willows.  The lyrics encourage the notion that if we reconnect with Nature, both its external aspects and our inner selves, we have no need to complete ourselves through ‘things’.  The gentle pastoral feel of this section with piano and flute sounds accentuate this as a more meditative section in which the song’s protagonist realises he is as free as creatures of both water and air if he chooses to free himself of the distractions of the media and possessions and reconnect with the earth he walks upon.

As this reviewer is rather melancholic at times I did have some initial reservations about the finale to this song section as Heartfire concludes this piece on a more celebratory almost hymnal note, an echo to the ecclesiastical hints in the opening part, The Vow. However, with repeated listenings it became clear that The Gift were right to conclude this remarkable song cycle with a more upbeat conclusion after the gentle pastoralism of the previous section. Morton urges us to ‘come to your senses’ , encouraging us to let the world outside fill our senses because there is enough joy and thrill in those experiences to keep us fulfilled all our lives. Cleverly, all five senses are lyrically engaged with the sight of ‘silver cloak of winter’, the touch of ‘summer heat’, the ‘taste of joyful tears’, the ‘scent of gardens’ and hearing ‘whispers in the dark’. These positive feelings are evoked by sun filled backing which skips along with a joyful synth line, and harmonic backing vocals, concluding ‘Take Heart’.

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The coda to this album is the haunting Ondine’s Song. Baldocci’s eerie synth soundscape backs Morton’s mournful vocals, bringing us full circle to the sea based and mythically imbued lyrics of the opening At Sea. Ondine is a legendary elemental being associated with water, whom has inspired an opera by Debussy, a ballet by Henze and even The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson… and now a song by The Gift! The story involves her marrying a human to gain immortality, but if the human is unfaithful they are fated to die. On a more fundamental level in this song Ondine stands for the essential nature of Water as Life itself, and a plea not to pollute the world – without water there is no life, leading to the elegaic fading refrain:

‘Every Mortal Breath, By Her Grace Alone…. By her Grace Alone…’

In the legend the man’s infidelity breaks Ondine’s heart, and in this song Ondine’s heart is broken by Man’s treatment of the world. Her sorrow and man’s sorrowful salt tears run into the oceans. Once again the music sensitively expresses the flowing almost wraith like feeling of this piece.

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The Gift have really stepped up a few levels with this remarkable album. They have not stretched the boundaries of music – very few artists truly do that. What they have undoubtedly done is skilfully and  beautifully draw upon a variety of influences, inspirations and ideas and artfully crafted them into an imaginative and enjoyable musical experience that touches the heart and stimulates the mind. What more could one want from an album?! Do yourselves a favour and just go and buy it!

Released 28th October 2016

Buy ‘Why The Sea Is Salt’ from Bad Elephant Music

 

 

 

 

Syndone announce new concept album – ‘Eros & Thanatos’ – featuring Ray Thomas and Steve Hackett

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The tireless rock band from Turin have announced a new concept album dedicated to the ‘Song of Songs’, with two great special guests: Steve Hackett and Ray Thomas! 

Eros & Thanatos: the “movierock” of Syndone!

“We make a very expressive and quite symphonic music, so that one day I began to define it movierock! “Sometimes it is really comparable with the “film scoring” composition’s style and founds itself on the idea of the concept album not on a more segmented speech of unrelated songs.”

Nik Comoglio is ready for a new season with Syndone and with the highly anticipated new album ‘Eros & Thanatos’, released by Altrock/Fading only two years after the excellent ‘Odysséas’.

Thanks to the success of 2014’s ‘Odysséas’, Syndone strengthened their six-piece line up with a string of well received live performances, combining the rhythmic power, the charisma and the energy of rock with the dynamism, the charm and nobility of classical music.

This time lead singer Riccardo Ruggeri has attemped  a re-envisioning of the Song of Songs:

“The human being’s journey through its tensions, passions and emotions is something deeply fascinating to me. When these elements join with Science, Research, the Ethnomusicology, the history of raped territories devasted by religious wars, the cocktail becomes lethal… and hit me. I’ve read the “Song of the Song” for a year collecting materials and information taken from internet and libraries; I  forfeited images, absorbed the point of view of Guido Ceronetti, lived my personal life experiences in the meantime… then I let this bag explode on Nik’s music. it was exciting, and it’s still a thrill for me to hear it.”

Skilled in uniting the stylistic continuity with the refinement and the addition of new elements, Eros & Thanatos has something more, as pointed Comoglio:

“The most important difference from Odysseas is now finally you can hear a real band. Thanks to the several gigs we played the line-up has now become so established to give an added value of unity and style to the new work, being more cohesive. Then the string orchestra, which opened a new, more powerful and interesting sound, the Arabic and Hebrew sung, which emphasizes the derivation from the ‘Song of Songs’.”

Syndone:

Nik Comoglio – all keyboards/pipe organ/orchestration
Riccardo Ruggeri – vocal/backing vocals/vocoder/12 string ac.guitar/lyrics
Marta Caldara – vibraphone/piano, mellotron
Gigi Rivetti – piano, hammond, moog, electric piano, clavinet
Maurino Dellacqua – bass/fretless/taurus bass
Martino Malacrida – drums/percussions

Special Guests:

Ray Thomas: flute in L’urlo nelle ossa

Steve Hackett: electric guitar in Cielo di fuoco

 

Also featuring:

Tony De Gruttola: acoustic guitars

Pino Russo: classic guitar/oud

Puntorec String Orchestra

Conductor: Fabio Gurian

Guest review – John Hackett – Another Life – by John Simms

Stepping into the chair and taking a break from his Flight of the Skypilot blog is my good friend John Simms.

JOHN HACKETT packshot

When someone steps out of their usual musical genre and produces something different, it can often spark some interest. John Hackett is well known in musical circles as an accomplished flautist, and has contributed to ambient and dance music as well as classical and progressive recordings.

The majority of his recorded output in recent years, in his own name, has been classical works – often self-penned and usually with classical guitar accompaniment. Indeed one of his biggest selling albums was ‘Sketches of Satie’ recorded with brother Steve in 2000.

The new album ‘Another Life’ is different in that it is a rock album – even a progressive rock album! Only once before has John done anything similar, with 2005’s ‘Checking Out Of London’, and here again he has called on the talents of Nick Clabburn to provide the lyrics for the 13 songs.

This is an album of contrasts: light and shade; rock, some quite poppy moments, and more quiet, meditative tunes. John plays not only his trade-mark flute, but also guitars, bass and occasional keyboards. His main collaborator is Nick Magnus, and this – along with the frequent appearance of Steve on guitar – gives the album, for me, a feel reminiscent of some of Steve’s earlier solo work.

The vocals are strong (without being overpowering) expressive and varied, with a good use of harmonies, and I couldn’t help feeling that maybe Steve should have used him in this capacity on some of his own solo albums, particularly when he was beginning to sing his own material.

John’s guitar work is not to be sniffed at, but it is with flute in hand that he really excels. In the opening song, Another Life, there is some haunting, swooping flute work which brought to mind his work on Tigermoth on Steve’s ‘Spectral Mornings’ album, and Life in Reverse, one of the quieter songs, uses the flute where others would put in another guitar solo, and does so to great effect. This song, along with Poison Town, has a definite sound of Tim Bowness about it, and I would love to hear Tim’s take on either of these tracks.

Satellite deserves some special attention, featuring as it does not only Steve – but on harmonica rather than guitar – and Anthony Phillips on 12-string. It has a blues-y, Neil Young vibe with a tinge of early pastoral Genesis that can only come with Phillips’ signature style.

For those who enjoy their music a little on the soft side, this is a collection which repays repeated listening: good, though not great, but still a worthy addition to John’s canon and repertoire.

Released 25th September 2015 through Esoteric Antenna

Buy direct from the artists website

About the author – John Simms

Welcome 5

John Simms is a long term Prog fan in his mid-fifties from Yorkshire, currently living in exile in Cumbria. By day (and sometimes at night too) he works as a Methodist clergyman, and when not doing that he scours the outer reaches of the Progressive universe searching for musical nuggets. This latter endeavour is slowly bankrupting him.

John’s blog ‘Flight of the Skypilot’