I first came across Stewart Clark via a link on his Facebook page on which he stated that he had recorded ‘Lets’ Go There’ during lockdown following his earlier album ‘And Then There Was Me…’ I contacted Stewart and he kindly offered to send me both CD’s for a possible review on Progradar, I then also found that the song How Much Fear? was included on the latest Prog Magazine CD.
I also discovered that Stewart’s wife Heather had taken an online painting course with Roger Dean and, as such, she had designed and painted the cover art on the new release, which has distinct nod’s to Roger’s own work. She was also given consent to use Dean’s font for the sleeve ,which certainly creates an impression.
However , it is the music that matters, right?, Well, I am very glad to report that this album, although brief at just shy of 37 minutes, is an absolute gem. I know I have made lots of comments about lockdown being an outlet for creation of new music, well this one is another excellent example of that and the results are compelling, to say the least. I don’t know Stewart’s influences but there is a hint of Rush, especially with the use of bass pedals and some of the guitar tones are very reminiscent of Alex Lifeson. Stewart’s own playing is very accomplished and adds much colour to the proceedings.
The album opens with Almost 20/20, we hear radio excerpts about the virus before Stewart starts singing his thoughts about 2020 and how it has affected us all. There are great keyboards on this track and the vocals are mirrored by the oboe of Alison Brown and the delicate piano of Tom Potten before the track then takes a heavier turn and becomes more powerful as it moves forward. This is a strong opener with much happening during its shorter running time and it ends with some very Rush like guitar chords and keyboards.
What really stands out on this release is the quality of the song writing, this is really strong, giving us such great tunes as A Tree Has Fallen, which is utterly gorgeous. Stewart’s songs have good light and shade to them and his voice is well suited to these tracks. Stewart also plays acoustic and electric guitar on most of these tracks with some appearances from the likes of Oscar Fuentes Bills and Sepano Samzadeh (Days Between Stations), Dave Bandanna (Bardic Depths) and Charlie Mear (This Circus Life).
This album is a slow burner but its songs will stay in your head, given time. I have listened to this extensively in lots of different places, even in the bath via Amazon music, and I can say that it is one of the better albums that I have heard this year. The excellent guitar work of Sepano on How Much Fear? is one of many standouts.
When I tell You I Care is another fabulous song with great use of whistle, oboe and violin to create a somewhat Gaelic sound. The final song, Almost Got Away With It, has a very Rush sounding progression to the opening, reminding me of Cygnus X-1 in its pacing and the bass pedals that propel the piece along.
Though for me, it is the tracks Let’s Go There (with Amanda Lehmann singing harmony vocals with Stewart) along with the Wistful A Tree Has Fallen are the absolute standout songs. However, it is all particularly good and makes for an enjoyable listen. I also like The Empty Page, in which Stewart documents his struggles in translating thoughts into words, a constant issue for any writer, I am sure.
This is a laid-back album but one that has many strengths, not least in the songs themselves, but also the sympathetic production by Stewart and John Hannon.
‘Let’s Go There’ is for sale on bandcamp for only £6.00 for a CD and, if you buy it, this will both support John at this strange period and enable him to make some more fabulous music. I heartily recommend this brief but most worthwhile album which, whilst not overtly progressive in nature, certainly has influences of prog on its excellent cover and sleeve art too making it a real under the radar winner.
Released January 6th 2021.
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