Review – John Petrucci – Terminal Velocity – by John Wenlock-Smith

This is the second solo album from Dream Theater’s stalwart original member, and guitarist, John Petrucci. It arrived after a brief time delay of merely fifteen years or so after his first solo album, ‘Suspended Animation’, released way back in 2005.

Mind you, a lot has happened in John’s world since then, firstly a major change occurred when his buddy and drum legend Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater (the band he had formed with John in their Berklee College of Music days in the 1980’s).

This was a major upheaval and change, although it was one that all parties survived and consequently flourished. Mike got involved in Neal Morse’s musical career (after Neal himself left Spock’s Beard). He also joined Flying Colors, successfully created several albums and concert videos with the outfit. Latterly Mike formed a new band, Sons of Apollo, with whom he has recorded two studio albums and one live set.

Well, it has been nearly two decades since that initial split but this album sees John, and Mike reuniting, with Mike providing the thunderous drumming that accompanies this album. Mike reached out to John during lockdown and they convened at Dream Theater HQ to track and record this all-instrumental shred fest with John on guitars , Mike on drums and Dave La Rue of Flying Colors and G3 providing the bass support for the album.

So, what is it like you may reasonably ask? Firstly, it is all instrumental, playing out as a guitarist’s dream and the album is, as Jordan Rudess told me, all heavily focused on the tonal qualities of John’s guitar,

All the songs are succinct and brief apart from two tracks that are over 7 minutes in length and each piece of music balances John’s searing guitar work with some fine melody. Some of the tracks are rather heavy but melody is not forgotten, John can certainly play, and is not shy on that score either, the playing is showy when required but it the song that matters most here.

John is playing as well as I have ever heard him play, he bends, taps and plays flurries of notes at will on these pieces, all ably supported by the superior rhythm section of Mike and Dave who are revelling in this music that they are a part of. I think there is a good mix to the styles being used and a good use of dynamics, light and shade that really makes the guitar tones stand out clearly, as most of the tones used are clean with sporadic use of effects.

Happy Song, for instance, opens with a very joyous bounce to it, with John doubling guitar parts making this song very Satriani-esque at times but it echoes Joe’s use of styles well. This track is a total winner to these ears and is aptly named as it is a very happy piece of music indeed. It is possibly my favorite track on the album as it is so upbeat and excellently executed, John showing just how fluid he is as a player.

Gemini opens strongly as well with a flurry of notes dancing across the fretboard and great rhythm support in a harder edged piece that has some fine guitar with delay used to great effect. The song branches out with an acoustic Flamenco part in which Johns show some real skill before the electric guitar once again takes centre stage to deliver a blistering guitar solo. There are some strong techniques used that sound utterly fabulous.

The bluesy sounding Out of the Blue is superb, John getting the chance to lay back and play with some real feeling and tap into the blues to prove just how versatile he is in that arena too.  The first of the longer tracks is The Way Things Fall, which is, again, a rollicking little number that fair pulses along on a good bass line with John laying down a very melodic guitar line. Snake In My Boot has a great riff to it, all accompanied by some utterly mesmerising guitar playing.

The final track, Temple of Ciradia, has even more fine fiery playing at hand with some very Ritchie Blackmore like tones being used to great effect. The playing is fast and flawless towards the end of the piece and ends on an excellent drum beat from Mike.

This collaboration has been a winner all round, whether it leads to any further activities has yet to be seen but, it is a first step in restoring a relationship that was fractured if not fully broken. The fact that they used Lockdown and this virus to make it happen is remarkable. Much respect must be given to all parties for making it happen and for making such a great album of fine guitar led musical mayhem.

Released 28th August 2020

Order from Amazon here:

Terminal Velocity by John Petrucci: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Glass Hammer Unveil New Vocalist And Become First Prog Act To Announce NFT Drop

Fred Schendel (Left,) Steve Babb (right) Glass Hammer co-founders

Veteran US prog band Glass Hammer  have announced their new vocalist and their debut NFT drop.

The band are working on the follow-up to 2020’s well received ‘Dreaming City’  which will follow on from the previous release’s concept. Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have divulged that singer Hannah Pyror, who first featured on last December’s digital release, ‘Matter of Time’, will feature on the new album.

“Production of Glass Hammer’s follow-up to Dreaming City is underway,” bassist and vocalist Steve Babb tells us. “This will be Part II of a trilogy. Songs are still being written and rewritten, tracks are being recorded, demos obsessed over—you get the picture. The album is tentatively titled Skallagrim – At The Gates Of Deception.”

Concurrently the band are teasing the new album by joining the world of NFTs. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique files that live on a digital ledger called a blockchain and are able to verify ownership of a work of digital art (although not full ownership). Buyers can display the digital artwork they represent and may be able to resell later.

Ten Glass Hammer NFT’s will be minted of a pre-release mix of the track Anthem To Andorath, Hannah Pryor featuring as lead vocalist.

“Only ten of these will ever be released,” explains Babb. “The song will show up on the album, of course, but not in this form. The purchasers will find their names listed in the credits of our new album, and there may be other goodies attached as well. We’re really just learning about NFTs, but they’re very interesting as a new way to sell music, not only to crypto-collectors who may have never heard of Glass Hammer but to prog-rock collectors and superfans who’d like to own something truly exclusive,” Babb goes on to add. “I believe that Glass Hammer are the first prog act to use NFTs.”

Glass Hammer is not new to the idea of limited collectibles. Babb adds, “Our very first album (1993’s Journey Of The Dunadan) was first sold as a collectible—a limited edition art print and a gold foil CD on QVC, giving us a massive amount of exposure early on. Though I think it’s too early to say whether or not NFTs will change the music business, it still makes sense for Glass Hammer to make our music available wherever it can be sold.”

You can find the Glass Hammer NFTs at this link:

Glass Hammer Marketplace on OpenSea: Buy, sell, and explore digital assets

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF ANNOUNCE DETAILS OF THEIR ON DEMAND STREAMING EVENT NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

EARLY BIRD TICKETS ON SALE NOW

The Pineapple Thief have announced they will be releasing an “on-demand” live performance event, entitled Nothing But The Truth

The show will be broadcast on 22nd April from 6pm UK time and available on demand until 6pm UK time on Monday 26th April and tickets are on sale now – full details below. 

Having released their latest studio album Versions Of The Truth in September 2020, the band’s worldwide touring plans to support the release of the album had to be put on hold, but the band were eager to be able to still perform for and connect with their fans across the globe and so the idea for a full band performance event was hatched. The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord explains I’ve always said that The Pineapple Thief is equally about the studio and the stage so it was obviously disappointing that we haven’t been able go out on tour especially as we were excited to be able to perform the new album “Versions Of The Truth” live for everyone.  So being able to do this film, especially under the circumstances, was invaluable.

We all knew we did not want to shoot a film of us standing on stage staring at an empty room.  We wanted something special, something ‘cinematic’. So, together with George Laycock (from Blacktide Phonic/Visual who has filmed all our recent music videos) we hatched a plan. It was a lot of work for one show. But it was worth it. And it was great to be playing in the same room with the band again. We ended up making something unique and something very, very special that I am proud to have been a part of. I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Watch the trailer here:

Drummer, Gavin Harrison adds “Nothing But The Truth” is a highlight for this band in terms of captured performance. 

After many months of planning and rehearsal we went to a top sound stage studio and recorded the show that we were meant to do in Covid times (but had to cancel).

Filmed and recorded in the highest quality under controlled circumstances it does represent the band and the songs in a way that is so different to a ‘live gig’ or ‘live album’. We thoroughly enjoyed the process of making it and hope you enjoy this one-off very special event.”

Fans can expect to see The Pineapple Thief at their very best performing songs from across their illustrious catalogue including for the first time live, the new album Versions Of The Truth.

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SHOW & TICKET DETAILS

WHERE: https://www.pineapplethief.com/thetruth 

EARLY BIRD TICKETS:  $14.25 (that’s 25% off ) for Early bird tickets purchasers available now until Monday 12th April at 11pm UK time – available here https://www.pineapplethief.com/thetruth

GENERAL TICKET PRICE: Ticket Price $19 (or the equivalent in the local currency, the streaming platform supports every currency). Tickets will remain on sale until 4pm UK Thursday 22nd April  – available here https://www.pineapplethief.com/thetruth

HOW MANY TIMES CAN I WATCH THE FILM? Ticket holders can log in and watch the concert as many times they wish within the on demand period.

The Pineapple Thief, one of the leading lights of Europe’s experimental rock domain, led by post-progressive mastermind Bruce Soord and reinforced by Gavin Harrison (King Crimson) on drums, released their latest studio album Versions Of The Truth on September 4th through Kscope.

Their 2018 anthemic release Dissolution garnered worldwide acclaim from both media and fans, earning them their highest UK album chart entry to date (#36), #1 UK Rock and Metal, #22 German album chart, #4 Netherlands Platomania album chart and #14 Finland album chart. It took them on two extensive European headline tours (including many sold-out nights), and their biggest headline show to date at London’s prestigious O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, plus a first ever and hugely successful tour of North America.

With the release of their new opus, The Pineapple Thief have raised the standard yet again by delivering, quite possibly, one of the most important albums of 2020. Versions Of The Truth created a conceptual progression from Dissolution – a contemplation on our ‘post truth’ world. Lyrically the album tackled a more personal reflection on how there can be more than one ‘version of the truth’, the impact it can have on our lives and the people we love.

Versions Of The Truth is Gavin Harrison’s second album as a full creative member of The Pineapple Thief alongside Soord, bassist Jon Sykes and keyboard player Steve Kitch. His presence has again helped bring writing and recording into sharp focus – a fresh dynamic added to the band’s previous creative process.

MAGNUM: EARLY CLASSIC ALBUMS REISSUED ONTO VINYL – Available For Pre-Order

The melodic hard rock band Magnum was formed back in 1972 by Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley. They developed a hard rock sound that sat somewhere between heady art rock and commercial pop.

They released their debut album, Kingdom of Madness in 1978. Though their debut album charted at #58 in the UK charts and received positive reviews. It wasn’t until the release of their third album, Chase The Dragon in 1982 that they saw commercial success. The album spawned a handful of hit singles in the UK, notably “Soldier Of The Line”, “Sacred Hour” and “The Spirit”.

After decades of live performances and twenty-one albums, later their early albums plus an additional live album will be reissued onto deluxe vinyl by Renaissance Records.

The albums Kingdom of Madness, Magnum II, Marauder, Chase The Dragon, and The Eleventh Hour are due to be released on April 28th. These deluxe 180-gram gatefold LPs will include extra incentives such as trading cards of the original band, lost photos, lyric sheets, and a poster that comes with the albums when you purchase them directly through Renaissance Records.

Pre-orders for these Magnum reissues are available now from renaissancerecordsus.com.

About Renaissance Records

Founded in 1993 by former Aerospace Engineer John W. Edwards who had a passion for music and a new idea to form a recording label. He focused on the reissuing of classic rock and classic country LPs on CD for the first time. Renaissance Records soon signed licensing deals with EMI-Capitol, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and BMG/RCA/Arista. The record label has released recordings from artists such as Rick Springfield, Pure Prairie League, Blue Oyster Cult, Gamma, Roxy Music, and Judas Priest.

Kingdom of Madness’ Track List

1.In The Beginning

2.Baby Rock Me

3. Universe

4.Kingdom Of Madness

5.All That Is Real

6. Bringer

7. Invasion

8.Lords Of Chaos

9.All Come Together

‘Magnum II’ Track List

1.Great Adventure

2. Changes

3.The Battle

4.If I Could Live Forever

5. Reborn

6.Everybody Needs

7.So Cold The Night

8.Foolish Heart

9.Stayin’ Alive

10. Firebird

11. All Of My Life

12. Lonesome Star

‘Chase The Dragon’ Track List

1.Solider Of The Line

2.On The Edge Of The World

3.The Spirit

4.Sacred Hour

5.Walking The Straight Line

6.We All Play The Game

7.The Teacher

8.The Lights Burn Out

‘The Eleventh Hour’ Track List

1.The Prize

2. Breakdown

3.The Great Disaster

4.Vicious Companions

5.So Far Away

6.Hit And Run

7.One Night Of Passion 8.The Word

9.Young And Precious Souls

10.Road To Paradise

‘Marauder’ Track List (Live Album)

1.If I Could Live Forever

2.The Battle

3.Foolish Heart

4.In The Beginning

5. Reborn

6. Changes

7.So Cold The Night

8.Lords Of Chaos

OLIVER WAKEMAN & CLIVE NOLAN Launch Lyric Video for Coming to Town from Jabberwocky Tales by Gaslight 3CD Box Set Out 23 April

Oliver Wakeman and Clive Nolan release a lyric video for Coming to Town taken from their box set, Tales by Gaslight – out on 23rd April. The track is taken from the first album in the box set Jabberwocky and features Bob Catley (Magnum) on vocals and the late Peter Banks on guitar. Oliver says: “This is a fun upbeat track which I have always enjoyed playing live and it became an ever-present song in my bands live set. Revisiting the original for this box set reminded me of what a great job Bob Catley did with his vocal performance, and it is always lovely to listen to Peter playing a wonderful guitar solo.”

Watch the video here:

Jabberwocky, released in 1999, was based on the famous Lewis Carroll poem. It was followed by The Hound of The Baskervilles (2002), inspired by the Sherlock Holmes novel penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The project was always intended to be a trilogy of musical interpretations of literary classics, but an album inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was shelved because of a lack of record company funding.

Oliver Wakeman reunites with Clive Nolan after 20 years to issue a 3CD Box Set – Tales by Gaslight featuring remastered versions of their ‘future prog classics’ Jabberwocky and The Hound Of The Baskervilles along with a new disc Dark Fables.

This box set package also includes a third disc, featuring previously unreleased pieces that were intended to complete the trilogy. This third disc, Dark Fables, contains over 30 minutes of music conceived for the abandoned Frankenstein album.

Unusually for the time, the first two albums featured a host of guest performances, including narration by Wakeman’s father Rick and actor Robert Powell. Former YES guitarist, the late Peter Banks, Magnum vocalist Bob Catley and singer Tracy Hitchings appeared on both albums. Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen lent his talent to The Hound of the Baskervilles along with members from the bands IQ and Threshold. The unique artwork was created by Rodney Matthews for the original Jabberwocky release. Peter Pracownik was the creativity behind The Hound of The Baskervilles artwork 20 years ago and has returned to this trilogy by lending his talents to the new Dark Fables artwork.

In keeping with the spirit of the two previous albums, the new recordings feature the talents of, amongst others, Gordon Giltrap, Paul Manzi (Arena, Oliver Wakeman Band, Sweet) Andy Sears (Twelfth Night) and David Mark Pearce (Oliver Wakeman Band). Also included is an original reading of the Jabberwocky poem by Rick Wakeman.

The Tales by Gaslight box set contains 3 CDs each with 16-page booklets including lyrics, previously unseen artwork and many stories behind the creativity from both Wakeman and Nolan. The first 250 box sets will also include a 4th limited edition numbered art print of the box set cover signed by Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman. 

Tales by Gaslight will be released by Burning Shed on 23rd April. Pre-order it here: https://burningshed.com/store/oliverwakeman

About Oliver Wakeman
Eldest son of prog legend Rick, Wakeman filled the keyboard role, once held by his father, with YES from 2008 to 2011. His work with YES includes the triple live album In The Present – Live From Lyon, Fly From Here and the From A Page box set featuring recordings from his time in the band and released in 2019. During his tenure with YES, Wakeman also toured and recorded as a member of The Strawbs.

Wakeman’s debut album (1997) Heaven’s Isle was inspired by the island of Lundy, and he has since released a number of solo and Oliver Wakeman Band albums. He has also released several collaborations with renowned musicians, including Steve Howe, band mate to both Oliver and his father in YES for The Three Ages of Magick album, as well as uniting with another guitar legend Gordon Giltrap for the award-winning Ravens & Lullabies album, both of which are set to be part of an upcoming box set. 

About Clive Nolan
Aged just sixteen, multi-instrumentalist Nolan became the youngest musician (at that time) to gain an A.L.C.M. composition diploma from the London College of Music. At university he studied composition, orchestration, musical arrangement and conducting, gaining a BMus and MMus. He has played a prominent role in the development of progressive music, as a member of Pendragon since 1986 and as a member of Shadowland (1992 – present), Strangers on A Train (1993 – 1994) and by forming his own band Arena in 1995.

Nolan’s interest in rock opera extends beyond his collaborations with Wakeman. In 2008 he wrote She, based upon the novel by Sir H Rider Haggard, and two musicals Alchemy and King’s Ransom. This year will also see the release of a new ‘Viking Inspired’ album Song of the Wildlands, as well as the new Arena album The Theory of Molecular Inheritance.

Tales by Gaslight – Release 23rd AprilPre-order the boxset here: https://burningshed.com/store/oliverwakeman

Review – The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event – by Martin Hutchinson

You’ve got to love a good ‘balls out’ Prog-Metal album, one that comes flying at you like a monumental behemoth and knocks you into tomorrow.

Irish guitar vistuoso Graham Keane’s project, The Vicious Head Society, did just that with 2017’s debut release ‘Abject Tomorrow’ and, after much soul searching and a difficult gestation, he returns with ‘Extinction Level Event’, an absolute leviathan of a release, full of music of maturity and a primeval brilliance.

This collection of nine epic tracks takes me back to the anticipation of new albums by Dream Theater and Haken in their early days and shows just how far Graham has come in four years.

Nathan Maxx returns on vocals. Graham adds that “his voice was the perfect fit for this more modern sound. He was able to deliver versatile and very emotive vocals for every song.” Likewise Klemen Markelj is back on drums along with Pat Byrne of Hedfuzy on bass. Nahuel Ramos is also back to offer some keyboard solos and there are guest appearances from Australian virtuoso Chris Brooks and violinist Shelley Weiss. In addition, Graham wanted to have a dedicated growler for this album and after hearing Andy Ennis’ work with Overoth, he reached out and asked him to jump on board.

Graham discusses his new album, “In very basic terms, Extinction Level Event is an album about the end of the world. This is a concept that has been explored in various other forms of media but on this album, I wanted to explore personal stories about how people might react to knowing their demise is imminent.”

“It tells the stories of 7 different people facing the end, how they process the event, what meaning or impact their lives have had. It asks what they cherish, what grudges or ill will they hold on to. Will they face the end with dignity? Essentially, the album asks the same question of us, the listener. Grief and loss are never far away… are we willing to carry bitterness, anger and resentment to our death or are we willing to let go? Conversely, are there people in our lives that are deserving of forgiveness?”

‘Extinction Level Event’ is most definitely a prog-metal album for modern times, taking all that was great about the genre in the early nineties and noughties and bringing it bang up to date with scalpel sharp guitar and potent vocals. The energetic and compelling rhythm section drives the album along, giving it an almost widescreen and visceral feel and scope.

It’s well known that I’m not generally a fan of growling, ‘cookie monster’, vocals but they work on this album and I actually like them, look, I’ve never said that before! When I mentioned this to Graham he told me that, “I only use them as part of a story telling device and, writing a song about a serial killer requires it!”

Each track is a perfectly crafted piece of music where every note and every word has its place but Graham never fails to let loose with some utterly amazing guitar work and Nahuel’s keyboards give everything a coat of pure class.

The album contains two superbly immersive instrumentals that give a bit of tangential musical exploration to the album but, generally, it is as in your face as you could ever want from a prog-metal release. Of the other tracks, it is difficult to pick favourites as they are all superb but, if you pressed me, I’d have to go with title track, and opener, Extinction Level Event, the sublime On a Silver Thread and Hymn of Creation, an utterly perfect way to close out the record.

The best music is always a journey that envelops the listener, gathers them up and takes them on a hell for leather adventure of the mind and soul and this album is no different. Graham’s songwriting abilities are top notch and he has gathered a stellar set of musicians around him to make his vision a reality, they are surely a creative force to be reckoned with.

‘Extinction Level Event’ is shaping up to possibly be the best prog metal album of the last few years at least, I honestly don’t think I’ve had a prog metal album hit me so hard since Haken’s ‘The Mountain’. It is a rare occurrence to get an album nowadays with not one track on it that I don’t love but Graham and the rest of The Vicious Head Society have absolutely nailed it with this release.

Released 28th May, 2021

Order direct from the artist here:

Home | The Vicious Head Society (bigcartel.com)

John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Jordan Rudess

John Wenlock-Smith – Good afternoon Jordan, how are you doing now?

Jordan RudessHello John, yes, I am doing fine thank you. We are all safe and well as can be at this moment in time.

JWS – Lets talk about ‘LTE3’ (The forthcoming new album from Liquid Tension Experiment) that is due out in April, I have a download of it and I think it is a fabulous set of pieces, I really like it.

JROh I am glad that you like it. I was not quite sure what you were going to say but I like a lot too. I am enormously proud of what we managed to get done, especially with this pandemic. It allowed us a window of opportunity to allow LTE (Liquid Tension Experiment) to be once more. It has only taken us twenty years in which a lot has changed but some things have not changed much at all really. We are still the same musicians, just a bit older now but still willing to try this experiment once again. Hopefully the response will be positive from all quarters, like the Dream Theater fans and the fusion fans too.    

JWS – I Like it, the opener Hypersonic is certainly fast and furious, was that deliberately so?

JRYes, we wanted something that would either attract or dispel the listener, I think that we succeeded on that score.

JWS – I agree, I think it set you up for all that is to come. I especially like the track Rhapsody In Blue, a reworking of a piece previously played live.

JRI have always liked that Gershwin piece, although it has been so long since we last did that song that I had to rethink my approach on keyboards to do it.

JWS – Well I think it is a stunning take on what is a classic musical piece. What other songs do you especially like? I see you have your piano right there, play me something please will you?

JRWith pleasure, this is the song Shades Of Hope (Jordan then proceeds to play this jaw droppingly fantastic piano line from the song, his playing is impeccable and for an audience of one!)

JWS – Wow! thanks Jordan, that was fabulous. I have just bought an 88 key digital piano for myself ,although It will be years before I am anywhere near proficient.

JRWell, keep playing, is what I would say to you. I started when I was 9 years of age and I am now 64 but I still love music as much now as when I first started, possibly even more so truth be told.

JWS – I am looking forward to getting the new album. I am going to get the 2CD version with the extra tracks on it, those sound interesting, although I’ve yet to hear them.

JROh you will like those I think, we got to do even more wild playing for those.

JWS – So how did those sessions work out?

JR Well, we recorded it at Dream Theater’s New York base of operation. I kind of thought it might be odd for Mike (Portnoy) as he’d not been there since he left the band but he was totally cool with it all and even offered some memorabilia for the complex. But, overall, it was just great fun, four friends who value each other musically and socially. Tony (Levin) brought his famous coffee machine again to keep us going, it was all such a great vibe. I think the results honour the commitment made by each member to the proceedings.

JWS – Did you use your normal Dream Theater keyboard set up?

JRPretty much, although I did tweak a few sound settings. John (Petrucci) pointed out that my sound was a bit stale sounding and, as he is the master of tone, I listened to his suggestions and we got to the sound that we felt was what we wanted.  

JWS – So will there be any opportunity for some live LTE shows? Possibly when covid is over and activities resume normally?

JRWell I certainly hope there would be but only once we have sorted out activities for the main band. We are all busy, Mike is always busy with either Neal Morse or his own projects, as is Tony with all that he does. We are all remarkably busy hence the twenty years gap between ‘LTE2’ and this new album.

 JWS – Have you been active during lockdown Jordan?

JRYes, I have been busy with my sound company and I have also recorded a new solo album. I have also been busy with my Patreon site, using it to connect to other people. Depending on their support level, they can access tutorials and even have a one-to-one conversation. My latest solo album ‘Chapter In Time’ is on bandcamp only.

Check it out, it is just me playing mainly piano pieces and a few textural keyboard sounds to create some ambient type of music. I think you might like it, is mellow and chilled, good to relax to or listen to in the background. 

JWS – I also saw your performance of Tarkus on the recently issued Keith Emerson tribute concert. That was some performance of the whole of Tarkus!

JRThank you, Tarkus is an important piece for me, that is the track that stopped me being just a classically trained pianist and made me want to rock out. So I owe Keith Emerson a huge debt of gratitude for that song, it was a privilege to be able to honour him in that way.

JWS – I agree, I have also got that on CD and I have your own version on ‘The Road Home’ album.

JRThat’s a good album, I like that one, with some great players, Neal Morse, Rod Morgenstein and Kip Winger, Nick DiVirgilio, and Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, amongst others. I had a lot of fun with that album paying tribute to some of my influences.   

JWS – So what does the future look like for you, apart from this new ‘LTE3’ album? oh, very impressive artwork by the way!

JRYes, I think it is terrific too. For me, it’s more Dream Theater, once we can get back together safely and tour once again. I am 64 now and still love this life and I appreciate every day that I get to live it too.

JWS – Jordan, my time has gone so all that remains for me is to say a huge thank you for making the time to speak with you. I have really enjoyed my time with you, I wish you well for this album and hope to see you live at some point in the not too distant future.

JRThanks John for a great interview, all the best to you too, my friend.

You can order Jordan’s solo album here:

A Chapter In Time | Jordan Rudess | jordan rudess (bandcamp.com)

And you can pre-order LTE3 here:

LTE3 (lnk.to)

Review – The Emerald Dawn – To Touch The Sky – by John Wenlock-Smith

To Touch the Sky’ is the fourth and latest CD from The Emerald Dawn following on the heels of their earlier albums, ‘Nocturne’ (2019), ‘Visions’ (2017) and Searching for the Lost Key (2014). I have not heard these previous albums, which is something I really should rectify!

The Emerald Dawn are a four-piece group who play symphonic progressive music, their sound is full and lush, with enough space in the music to allow each member enough room to shine.

‘To Touch the Sky’ has just three tracks, all lengthy and complex. Their own words state that this album is, “A celebration of the voyage towards one’s goal, including the hardships and dangers faced en-route. Beginning with the night, the music depicts the process of walking up and coming to life, a moment of awareness or the experience of being awestruck, then provides the motivation for each traveller to pursue their quest. In the closing 22-minute epic, The Ascent, the metaphor of climbing a mountain can be interpreted as a psychological, spiritual, or physical attainment, just as the listener chooses”. All of which sounds very lofty and idealistic but, is it any good you may ask?

Well, the answer is not immediately clear and will require a degree of listener involvement, your time and possibly some headphones to get the best from this music. Oh, and possibly a glass of your favourite tipple might not go amiss either!

Our journey begins with The Awakening which opens with some strident piano notes and a prominent bass from David Greenaway matching the piano along with swathes of keyboards from Tree Stewart. There are then vocals from Tree, who also echoes the refrain herself. We then move into a very spacious section where keyboards have lots of room and space to evoke their magic before a meaty guitar riff from Ally Carter joins in and the drums of Tom Jackson complete the mix. This section has some rather vibrant and lively guitar and synth lines, sumptuous all around. This all sounds really fabulous and all the time the bass is making its own patterns in the sound while Ally solos away wildly. The song returns to the opening piano motif while Ally lays a guitar line over the top of it all, bringing the piece to an emphatic conclusion. This is a really strong, symphonic and epic piece of music.

The second Track is And I Stood Transfixed and it opens with a solid drumbeat before a gently strummed acoustic guitar segues into the mix. Ally Carter lays down some very Pink Floyd-like guitar lines before switching to sax to play a flurry of notes that are all very evocative and otherworldly sounding. The drums pick up the pace of the song before keyboards enter, laying out a dreamy soundscape with some great bass underpinning it all. Ethereal vocals are added to the mix along with delicate piano notes. This section relates to the Eureka moment in the process of making the journey as thoughts coalesce into tangible activity so that the journey can be started.

The journey from the mind to the heart may only be 18 inches but it is a process we all go through when we are on the cusp of change. This section leads into some ominous guitar chords and tones as the piece takes a heavier stance with more random sounding saxophone notes being played. Calm is then restored as we are rewarded by a synthesizer solo from Tree Stewart whilst the rhythm section continue their own journey. This is all very spacious sounding and everyone is really working together to move this song along. A lovely bass line is played throughout by David Greenaway before Ally’s guitar once again takes flight, playing another Floydian type break, while Greenaway plays on before this epic song is ended with delicate keyboards and then total silence.

The last, and longest track, is The Ascent in which we start to ascend the mountain that lies before us. Whether this is a literal or figurative mountain is up to the listener to determine for themselves. The song opens with keyboard generated soundscapes in which one can imagine the mountain with the sun shining and clouds at the top. A piano and flute are then heard and flute and it all sounds very open before we get a searing guitar solo from Ally, very Andy Latimer sounding in both style and tone, before the keyboards return once again and Tree’s vocal begins.

The lyrics in the booklet will guide us as the ascent of the mountain begins, they tell us of the dangers you may face on the way. This song really gets to grips with the concept and the music makes it own journey through peaks and troughs of expectations and disappointments on the way. Another guitar break from Ally represents an eagle soaring effortlessly on the thermals as we continue to climb, the wind and the clouds move in and we get engulfed in a blizzard as we take a steady, onwards step.

We are lost in a whiteout, snow everywhere, and we cannot find the right direction to go forward, the music continuing hesitantly as we continue searching for the right path, the one that will take us higher. We sense the need to keep going, to risk death, and we proceed, once again, to the last ascent.

Ally’s guitar takes us onwards and upwards as the winds die down. The clouds part and we can see it; the summit! We’ve made it, we have achieved our goal. There is a palpable sense of relief in this section although we still have the downward journey to take us back to where we started from. Although we are invigorated again with a sense of completion as we have overcome the mountain and succeeded in the challenge it posed to us. We then enter a quieter passage as we make our descent. This song makes sense with the lyrics at hand and is a remarkable audio journey that The Emerald Dawn offer you to take with them.

This album will require your concentration but the rewards are many and exceedingly plentiful. There is much fine music here with some great passages and really fine ensemble performances from. ‘To Touch the Sky’ is a real pleasure to listen to and you can really absorb this music for yourself, I highly recommend that you support their efforts.

Released 20th March, 2021

Order from bandcamp here:

To Touch the Sky | The Emerald Dawn (bandcamp.com)