Review – Dinesen/Christensen/Sonne – Blessings – by Progradar

Saxophone player Jakob Dinesen and bass player “AC” Christensen have been household names on the Danish jazz scene since the nineties, where they played together in the now legendary Once Around The Park

On this recording they are joining up with drummer Laust Sonne. He is one of the most versatile musicians in Denmark and he has been the drummer in the popular Danish rock band, D-A-D, for over 20 years. He played drums in the avant jazz rock outfit, Bugpowder, and also made a career for himself with his solo project, his own rock band, Dear. He has even made straight pop music in his own name on two albums, in 2011 and 2016. In 2007 he received the prestigious Danish music award, Ken Gudman Prisen.

The three musicians have known each other for many years. In their younger days, they often ended up together, playing late night jams and gigs at parties. It went so well that they made big plans of doing more stuff together. But it never happened.

The corona outbreak in the first half of 2020 finally brought the three musicians together again, as other plans were cancelled because of the virus. As a blessing in disguise, they began to play together again, in the rehearsal room. They found, and created, a space for their thoughts and ideas. A space for listening and playing. 

In the picturesque gardens of Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskab in Frederiksberg in Copenhagen, a series of jazz concerts were held, as a compensation for the cancelled Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Among the concerts were one by this trio. It is the sounds from that concert that we can hear on this album. Peacocks were walking around in the garden when the audience was listening to the trio. 

For those of us relatively new to a ‘serious’ jazz album, ‘Blessings’ can seem a bit impenetrable at first with its complex and sinuous musical mosaics and tendency to run off at right angles at any moment but, given time and space and, crucially, the right atmosphere to take in every note and nuance, the album opens up and gives its treasures freely.

Free Eddie, written by Dinesen, in honour of his good friend and fellow music lover, Eddie Michel, is a soul searching track that invites you to join three like-minded musicians on an intensely personal journey.

The jazz standard I’ve Told Every Little Star was composed in 1932 by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. It was introduced in the musical ‘Music in the Air’ and, with their version, the trio are giving an honorary nod to saxophone legend Sonny Rollins who often played it live in the late fifties. Jakob Dinesen has a more leisurely tone in his playing, giving the track breathing space to grow and Laust Sonne has swing down straight and imbues the music with grace, assurance and clarity.

Sonne wrote Anouar as a tribute to the Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem. There’s a laid back and enigmatic desert atmosphere to the music and a whole boat load of soul to Sonne’s drum playing which, allied with Jakob Dinesen’s deliciously dark tone, gives an exceedingly mysterious aura to proceedings.

Tyk Vals is a tune written by Dinesen, and is dedicated to the late Master Fatman (aka Morten Lindberg), who was very close to Jakob. The track invokes the warm and touching kindness that inspired many musicians and is smooth and sophisticated at heart, allowing a warm glow of contentment to settle on the listener.

The Charlie Haden penned Sandino allows fellow bass player Christensen to demonstrate his perceptive and slick bass playing skills on a lengthy solo that tops off this utterly compelling piece of music.

Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance was a Miles Davis standard, featured on the album, ‘Miles Smiles’. It allows the three musicians here to just play with an utter freedom of expression, as if they are just jamming for a group of friends and not playing a concert in a prestigious location. You are completely drawn into the minds of the musicians as they intertwine their instruments in a classy musical spectacle.

‘Blessings’ is a recording that allows everyone to join the trio on a wonderful celebration of jazz as an art form but also as one with an utterly relaxed atmosphere. Three musicians playing at the height of their powers and obviously enjoying every moment, it is a party we should feel highly blessed to have been invited to.

Released 9th April, 2021

Order the album here:

Blessings | Jakob Dinesen/Anders Christensen/Laust Sonne (

Caravan Announce the Release of Who Do You Think We Are? A 37 CD Deluxe, limited edition box set on 20th August.

The Canterbury scene combined elements of jazz, folk, rock and melodic pop into a sound that bridged the gulf between psychedelia and progressive rock, and ultimately shattered all genre barriers. At the heart of the Canterbury scene was a group of musicians whose career has now spanned more than half a century: the legend that is CARAVAN.

Who Do You Think We Are? is the ultimate tribute to the ultimate Canterbury band. It’s released on 20th August on Madfish. This deluxe box set runs to a staggering 37 discs. All the official Caravan albums – studio and live recordings among them – are joined by eleven discs of previously unreleased live performances. A Blu-ray includes remixer extraordinaire Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround sound mix of the classic In the Land of Grey and Pink album. In addition, a DVD includes vintage European TV performances from 1971 – 1981 (London Marquee, German TV’s Swing In, Bataclan, Paris & French TV show ‘Pop 2’).

The lavish packaging of the set reflects the band’s stature. A hardback coffee table book features rare Caravan photos and memorabilia, and a full discography. A second Fan Club book assembles historic press articles from across the band’s career, alongside a new interview with founder member Pye Hastings. Every copy of the box includes photos signed by the three surviving members of the original Caravan line-up: Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and David Sinclair. The celebration continues with a selection of memorabilia: a Caravan-centric map of Canterbury; a specially commissioned Caravan family tree poster, charting their long and circuitous progress; and two replica 1970s gig posters.

Put together with the band’s full co-operation, the full list of contents is as follows:












This box set will be limited to 2,500 copied worldwide and released on August 20th 2021 on the Madfish label. This deluxe box set is available to pre-order HERE


Taken from the forthcoming new album Departure Tapes released on Kscope on 2nd July 2021

Having announced his new album Departure Tapes and released the first single “Departure Tape”,  UK based Italian composer, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Giancarlo Erra has revealed his next single and video, the moving and poignantly titled “A Blues For My Father”.

Giancarlo explains the song’s touching significance “After my father’s passing, the mourning brought back the curiosity to go re-look at all the material I wrote during the previous months and I realised I had an album that made a lot of sense. It was dark, experimental for me, confusing but also a discovery, it was a mirror in music of what I was going through. Something was missing, ‘ A Blues For My Father”  the only track that I wrote once back home, and the mournful yet peaceful closure”. 

The deeply personal video he recalls came about after a visit to his father in hospital  “on this particular visit he seemed unusually happy and excited to show me a DVD”, he recalls  “The footage was from the 1950’s and of his family and childhood, sadly his memory was failing at this point but once we started watching these moments came back to him, the people and the places, he was laughing and genuinely happy. I love this footage as it shows my father with his siblings and is the perfect mirror for the peaceful and warm meaning of this closure, a closure to an album and to many other things.”

The new studio album Departure Tapes, the follow up to 2019’s Ends I-VII, consists of 6 contemplative recordings, written while travelling between the UK and Italy and reflect the extremely difficult year Giancarlo experienced due to the death of his estranged father. Erra comments “In 2019 my first solo album was just being released, and I already had the view that I wanted to be more experimental with the second one, but no precise idea how at that point. Then my father suddenly got ill with cancer, and everything changed. I found myself taking care of this man, someone who I have been distanced from for so long.  During this time both of us to came to terms with many things. I wanted to get closure, but a positive one, for him and for me. 

Creativity it was an interesting period for me – writing this album without realising I was actually writing it, as it is so intrinsically linked to one of the hardest and yet more healing parts of my life. The end result is the most experimental, and at the times, the darkest material I have ever written, without compromise or set plan. It contains all the elements of my music in a very unconscious free flowing way. “

Departure Tapes sees Erra play and record every instrument himself along with taking on full production responsibilities at his own studio ( 

Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and the more electronic / ambient recordings of Brian Eno may offer a reference point by which to enter Erra’s world, but the depth within his recordings is truly original.

Departure Tapes will be released on the following formats and is available to pre-order HERE (

·       a gatefold LP on oxblood coloured 180g vinyl

·       2-disc CD/DVD with the DVD-A/V including high resolution stereo & 5.1 mix:DVD-V: stereo 24/48 LPCM lossless mixes, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround and DVD-A: 5.1 Surround 24/48 LPCM lossless mixes

·       Digitally (with digital pre-orders receiving the single “Departure Tape” as an instant download)

Review – Tillison Reingold Tiranti – Allium: Una Storia – by Progradar

The Lineup of Andy Tillison (The Tangent/Po90), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings/Steve Hackett Band/Karmakanic) and Roberto Tiranti (New Trolls/Ken Hensley/Labyrinth) is a pan European Progressive Rock Band project and the album was recorded during lockdowns in Italy, Austria and the UK.

The album ‘Allium: Una Storia’ is a concept album which takes as its subject a real band, Allium, that Tillison saw play (and jammed with) in Italy when he was a teenager in the mid 1970s.

One afternoon spent with this band was enough to decide my career for the rest of my life” says Tillison, who subsequently spent a long time searching for any information about them.

It was the first time I saw and touched a synthesiser; it was the first time I ever saw an electric band play. It was a golden moment on a holiday camp in Italy that has been an influence on every recording I have ever made in the past 46 years.”

The new band –TRT-‘s album is an imagining of the record Allium might have made. Written in the style of the music that they played, the band were joined by Italian lyricist Antonio De Sarno (Moongarden, Barock Project, Mangala Vallis) who, in keeping with Tillison’s original music, wrote the kind of lyrics that might have been penned by Allium at that time.

All members of the band have contributed to the songwriting since inception. The album, whilst paying homage to this and many other forgotten Rock Progressivo Italiano bands, is all original material written in 2021.

Right, that’s the publicity blurb and the background out of the way, the main question is, is it any good?

The album consists of three tracks and is just over forty minutes long. I’ll give you my initial feelings first, the way I felt when I first listened all the way through and what I told Andy when I discussed it with him…

The feeling I get from the music is one of pure unfettered joy, it takes me back to when the world was a much more simple place. It literally does just take me away to a another place in my head and I just smile every time I listen to it.

Andy told me, “Like you, I find the modern world exhausting, I feel more and more like I’m in a dystopian story every day. So a bit of my own memory of more joyful times has helped!”

It certainly shows on this album, it just feels as if it was created naturally, with love and just a in a really relaxed way, it’s a feeling of freedom and no constraints, the album will be ready when it is done and not before.

“I have always found, at least since the Prog Glory Days that Italian Prog was almost the “real thing”. It’s not that Crimson and Yes and Emerson didn’t develop the style, they certainly did, but it was the Italians who really coalesced the style into the most diverse and free thinking forms. Even bands I love like Camel, Genesis, even ELP themselves were often left standing by The Italians. They hadn’t had much truck with Rock Music.. but when Prog arrived, we were on their turf.”, Andy went on to say.

So it’s that Rock Progressivo Italiano vibe brought right up to date for our modern times but music to give you some relief from the complexity of modern life. The swirling, sweeping keyboards that are are signature of Mr Tillison are present and correct and Jonas’ bass is as smooth and stylish as ever, his excellent electric guitar playing skills are also much evident on the album too but what makes this hugely different from what has gone before are Roberto Tiranti’s mesmerising vocals which, like all the best foreign language singers, make the lyrics less important than the actual way in which they are delivered, his voice is like an additional instrument. They add a bit of innocent naivety to the songs and take you back to the sepia tinged hue of a nostalgic 1970’s and, boy, have I longed to be somewhere like that quite a few times over the last eighteen months!

The three songs are the side long epic Mai Tornare and the two shorter tracks Ordine Nuovo and Nel Nome Di Dio and usually at this point, I would go into further detail about each one but, this time, I’m not. This album is a listening experience that should be consumed in one sitting, in the fashion of the 70’s and not dipping in to one track and going back later to listen to another.

Is ‘Allium: Una Storia’ an antidote to the lockdown and everything associated with it? Well I wouldn’t want to make a claim that huge and I don’t think Andy, Jonas or Roberto would thank me if I did! No, it is a joyous expression of music, as, deep down at its core, it should be. Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

The album is set for a SUMMER 2021 release and is available on Reingold Records. pre-orders are available at Jonas Reingold | Webshop

Review – Esthesis – The Awakening – by Progradar

Esthesis is a French progressive/alternative rock band, their music is characterised by many different influences (70’s british rock, film score, ambient, metal, pop…) and is primarily based on emotion and ambiences. 

Created and led by French multi-instrumentalist Aurélien Goude (music, lyrics, keyboards, vocals, guitars and bass), the current line up is completed by Baptiste Desmares (lead guitar), Marc Anguill (bass) and Florian Rodrigues (drums).  They released their first EP ‘Raising Hands’ in January 2019.

The band’s highly anticipated debut album ‘The Awakening’ is a thought provoking, intense musical experience full of ambient, cinematic soundscapes. The band allow the music to grow and expand in your conscious as the melancholic chords and Pink Floyd like electronica lead you on a mysterious musical journey.

Wistfully indulgent guitar tones overlay the elegant brush stokes of the sombre piano and elegantly delivered bass and drums while Goude’s pensive vocal leads the way. Listening to tracks like opener Downstream and the stylish High Tide, you find yourself immersed completely into the album’s concept of the notion of identity (awakening, quest and loss of identity), the intelligent songwriting and excellent musicianship allowing exquisitely refined progress.

No Soul To Sell is deliciously dark in its subtle atmosphere and Chameleon, with its graceful acoustic guitar, is polished and precise. Title track The Awakening is an apprehensive instrumental that has me on the edge of my seat with its repetitive key strokes and random sounds that wash over you as the tempo increases and a harder, strident guitar tone takes over. The album closes with the powerful and dramatic track Still Far To Go, a riveting and mesmeric song full of emotion that stays with you, holding your attention, until the last note fades away.

What with lockdown and real life getting in the way, it has taken me quite a while to write this review and, in a way, I’m glad it did. ‘The Awakening’ is one of those albums that grows on you with more and more listens, you find little nuances after every play that give it more soul and depth. Esthesis have produced a seminal slow-burning debut that, in my opinion, is one of the best in recent memory and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t add it to your list of must have albums.

Released November 14th, 2020

Order the album here:

Esthesis – The Awakening (

Review – Joe Devine – One Foot Forward

Lockdown has seen an explosion of music created by people with time to explore their creative side, be they experienced musicians with a huge back catalogue behind them or relative novices.

For us reviewers this has also meant a vast increase on music that we receive to review so, on top of the fact that my real world job is increasingly busy, it has to take something pretty special for me to get my fingers dancing across the keyboard.

Some musical genres just don’t hit the spot for me but, if I even have a tiny tingle of anticipation about something, I will at least give it a listen to see if it resonates with me and, hopefully, find the time to put some words down on the MacBook.

Joe Devine is an Independent solo artist from London. Having spent almost 20 years playing a huge range of different genres for numerous different artists and bands, he is now taking the leap into producing his own body of work in the hope of creating and capturing his own personal sound that fuses all aspects of his eclectic influences.

Joe sent me an email to see if I would be interested in reviewing his first solo EP, ‘One Foot Forward’. I was intrigued by the minimalist cover and the information contained in the email and, after a quick listen, the absorbing music.

“The project started out purely as a journey of self discovery throughout Lockdown, however after sharing initial concepts with friends and musicians I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the past 20+ years as a session player, the project team rapidly grew; including Daniel Said on drums as well as Henry Green on bass and Produced/Engineered by Ivo Sotirov at The Friary Studios that houses the iconic 48 channel SSL G4000 desk previously used in Studio 1 of the legendary Olympic Studios by artists such as Prince and The Rolling Stones.” Joe explains,

“After a year of graft and collaboration the sounds and tones we were able to achieve on this recording and the subsequent tracks to follow surpassed anything I could have imagined when I began and I cannot wait to share the end result.”, he goes on to say.

The album contains five tracks of superbly written and delivered instrumental guitar music that contains influences of jazz, prog and straight up rock. Each of the tracks tells a story and takes us on Joe’s musical journey, including the evolution from his early days playing acoustic folk through to more contemporary guitar playing throughout his 20s.

What we get is a gloriously laid back and lush selection of tracks that just ooze class and a polished sophistication. It brings to mind the criminally underrated Neal Schon solo release ‘Beyond The Thunder’ to these ears on One Foot Forward and Baby Steps and I find Joe’s style comparable to Schon’s, a mixture of note precise technique along with lashings of heart and soul.

It is all utterly uplifting from the start to the finish with a gloriously atmospheric and wistful feel throughout. Utterly infectious and catchy riffs trade places with fiery dynamism and a monstrous groove that Joe Satriani would have been proud to call his own on the brilliant Giant Leap and modern Math Rock notable Plini can be heard in the staccato notes of the stylishly edgy A Perfect Contrast.

This way too short EP finishes with Too Far Gone which starts with an intricate guitar that reminds me of legendary guitarist Andy Summers before opening into another snazzy, clever piece of music with a deliciously restless undertone.

Listening to this album for the first time brought a smile to my face and there’s a lot to be said for that in these times we are living through. Technically brilliant but with soul and a sense of humour and just a huge amount of joie de vivre, ‘One Foot Forward’ is a very bright musical light at the end of a dark tunnel and I implore you to seek it out.

Released 28th May, 2021

Order direct from the artist here:

One Foot Forward EP — Shop — Joe Devine (

Listen to the title track on Spotify here:

One Foot Forward – Single by Joe Devine | Spotify

John Wenlock-Smith interviews Ronnie Platt of Kansas

John Wenlock-Smith: Good day Ronnie, how are you doing?

Ronnie Platt: Hello again John, yes, I am very well thanks, how’s things with you these days?

JWS: All good here, we’ve both had our vaccinations and we can see things starting to open a little here now, which is good. We had our first coffee out on Tuesday which was good, no masks and almost normal even, have you had all your vaccinations yet?

RP: Yes I am all good, did you have any reactions, flu-like symptoms or anything?

JWS: No, all fine, my arm ached a little a few days after but, otherwise, nothing.

RP: So, is everything open again now?

JWS: It is getting there but not everything yet.

RP: What about travel, can you go freely yet?

JWS: Around the UK, yes but internationally, no. We still have a list of approved places that we can go to but everything is starting to open a bit. It will get much better in June when more restrictions are lifted.

RP: Yes, it is pretty much the same here. I am speaking from the suburbs of Chicago, from my den in the basement, which is full of old guitars and equipment, if you could see the mess that it is in!

JWS: Well this is my den (shows him guitars, CD’s and piano).

RP: Can you play John?

JWS: Sadly I am a one finger only type player. I can play most melody lines but nothing with the right hand really.

RP: Whether you are playing with one finger or are an established player, I always say that music is the best therapy, how long have you been playing guitar?

JWS: Years, however I cannot really play much, I can do chords and rhythm but nothing technical really.

RP: Well, keep at it, practice makes perfect I find.

JWS: So the new album is out next Friday?

RP: Yes, ‘Point of Know Return: Live and Beyond’, we could not be prouder of it.

JWS: Can I ask, why is there no live video of it?

RP: Into today’s world, when I kook out in the audience, I see everyone holding their phones up watching and it ends up on YouTube. It makes it all exceedingly difficult to do and compete really, hopefully, at some stage, we will be able to do something but right now our attention is focused on getting back out on the road and playing live again.

JWS: London next year for you (Kansas) isn’t it?

RP: Yes, hopefully we will get there next year as the last two times were cancelled. In the 7 years I have been in the band we have wanted to come, especially since ‘The Absence of Presence’ is doing so well there.

JWS: We are hoping to be able to get to it ourselves, my wife knows that I want to go and she is happy to come along with me. So how was it for you singing these songs from ‘Point of Know Return’?

RP: It is amazing to me to, and I will include the entire Kansas catalogue in this, these songs that I have just loved my entire life, being a huge fan for many years. It is really a dream come true and surreal to be doing it. For my generation, you would buy an album and memorise the entire sequence of songs. It is special how I bought these albums and also being such a huge Kansas fan for all my life. To play the album in its entirety in the sequence that it was recorded in is a real honour and privilege to do.

JWS: I grew up in the 70’s and first heard Kansas in 1975. I then got hold of the ‘Point of Know Return’ album and it was a favourite of mine for many years but I especially loved songs like Hopelessly Human and Closet Chronicles. Kerry Livgren was such an awesome writer, his material is always strong and good.

RP: So John, you are like me, you love the deep cuts, not just Dust in the Wind but the less celebrated tracks like Nobody’s Home, I love singing those deep cuts.

JWS: I used to have the album cover on a mirror but that has gone now, sadly. I like that this album has some rather obscure Kansas songs like Two Cents Worth which is completely different to Song for America. The only disappointment for me is that People of the South Wind does not have Phil Ehart’s fabulous drum fills on it but, even without the drums, you keep the groove going. Will it be the same set in London?

RP: We will possibly change a song or two but we will do all of ‘The Point of Know Return’ album but who knows what it will be? It’s one of the great things about Kansas, there is such a library of music to draw from.

JWS: I am really looking forward to that show, my wife is looking forward to seeing the band and she trusts my taste in music. We are also seeing Genesis in October this year.

RP: Another of my favourite bands, ‘Wind and Wuthering’ is one of my favourite albums along with ‘A Trick of the Tail’.

JWS: I spoke to Steve Hackett a few weeks ago, he has recorded three albums in lockdown!

RP: Wow, he has been a busy boy, that makes us look lazy! I believe that Genesis will be in Chicago sometime in November but we will be out on the road ourselves, so I will probably not be able to catch them.

JWS: I spoke to Tony Banks last year and he said that with Genesis, it is always a case of never say never, we are always talking about reconvening activities.

RP: I used to open with Dodo in one of the bands I was in during the 80’s, I even took my mother to see Genesis.

JWS: Well Ronnie, my time has almost gone.

RP: Thanks John, it has been good to talk to you again, keep practising the guitar and keep playing the keyboard and we will hopefully see you next year in London.  

Kansas – ‘Point of Know Return: Live & Beyond’ is released on 28th May, 2021.

Order the album here:

Point of Know Return Live & Beyond (

Review – John Hackett – The Piper Plays His Tune – by John Wenlock-Smith

John Hackett is the flute wielding, multi-instrumentalist brother of Steve Hackett and the two share a musical, as well as a familial, bond. They have worked together on and off over the years with John popping up on Steve’s albums, alongside this John also is the leader of his own group The John Hackett Band and has released several albums over the years such as 2015’s ‘Another Life’ about a faltering relationship and 2017’s ‘We Are Not Alone’, which was a 2 disc set of the album and a live concert recording of a Classic Rock Society gig in Maltby in 2016 (which included tracks primarily from his ‘Checking Out in London’, ‘Another Life’ and a few pieces from the ‘We Are Not Alone’ album.

This new album is a little different in that a) It was recorded in Lockdown 2020 and b) John plays all the instruments that you hear and produced and mixed it all at home. The result is a rather mellow but seriously tuneful set of songs with progressive overtones and embellishments, which are all seriously fine pieces of music.

The album lasts for around 45 minutes but, within that, you will find some fabulous music, all very well realised and performed. Unsurprisingly, there is a fair amount of flute playing but also some very fine guitar playing, in the style of brother Steve. The drums are all from a program, not that it matters really.

The quality of the songs is high and they all have strong memorable melodies. Any solos are brief but fit the song and are not showboating in any manner. There are even bongos on the album but I will leave it to you to discover exactly where they appear. There are a lot of pop elements on show as John gets in touch with the 80’s vibe on a few tracks like In Love, which has a very jaunty beat to it, others have a more melancholy or subdued air about them.

Crying Shame has a brief but satisfying guitar solo, it’s worth remembering that John was originally a blues guitarist in his teens before seeing King Crimson and taking up the flute after being inspired by Ian MacDonald’s playing.  

Another pleasing aspect to this album is the sparseness of the arrangements and how John uses that spaciousness to work for him, this also allows his bass playing to really make its mark, anchoring each song solidly. You especially notice this on Broken Glass which is a phenomenal song, slow paced but full of melodic touches and great harmonies. It’s probably my favourite track here along with Julia and Too Late For Dreamers, which has a lovely summery feel to it with some fine sweeping guitar chords and rhythm driving it along. John is very proficient on each instrument, creating layers of sound to achieve a full sound on the album.

Julia is a song John wrote many years ago that now gets its first outing on this album. This is a great little song, very evocative, with a driving guitar riff and has great lyrics to it. Another song that works well for me is the closer, There You Go Again, with its jolly guitar lines and sympathetic keyboards. The track is a bit of a love song really and the chorus is upbeat and memorable and will stay with you long after the album has ended. It also has some jolly flute and acoustic guitar interchanges and a penny whistle solo, all very merry and fine sounding. This closes the album out in strong style and you are left with the option to simply press play and enjoy it all again. I know I certainly want to, this album is brim-full of strong songs, energetic playing and good lyrics.

For an album recorded under some difficult conditions, John has really crafted a fine low-key release here and one that is most certainly worthy of your time and listening. I really enjoyed it and it gets even better the more that you play it. Please buy it from John direct as, like all other musicians now, they need all the help they can get and every album counts. So why not splash the cash and support John at this time, you will get a great sounding album and John will appreciate your support. As Hot Chocolate once sang Everyone’s A Winner!

Released 18th November , 2021.

Order direct from the artists here:

The Piper Plays His Tune – Hacktrax

Interview With John Hackett – John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece John talks to John Hackett about his latest album, a collection of songs recorded during lockdown in spring of 2020 in which John plays all instruments and produced and mixed the album on his own. The album ‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ is the result, released on his own Hacktrax label.

John Wenlock-Smith: Morning John, are you keeping well?

John Hackett: Yes, I have been doing quite a few walks with my wife trying to lose the lockdown tummy that has emerged because of watching Netflix at night whilst eating chocolates!

JWS: We have been doing that as well. The dog starts barking at a pigeon outside and is removed out of the way, lockdown, thank goodness it is coming to an end eh?

JH: Yes, it has been a tough time for many people.

JWS: Unfortunately it has, especially for people like yourself who have been without any income for over a year.

JH: I have been fortunate as my wife works from home, so I have been able to do a bit from home.

JWS: Well, I am retired now as the result of a stroke which has left me with vascular dementia but I get support from my local stroke survivors group. I have heard your new album and I like it, it is quite mellow though.

JH: Well, it is a collection of songs that I guess you would say is quite melody driven as I have spent most of my life as a flute player, which basically means you are following the tune.

JWS: So your wife works from home you say?

JH: Yes, she is an administrator for the church and she is particularly good with technology, which has been especially useful.

JWS: I have been listening back to some of the older stuff you worked on, starting with ‘The Geese and The Ghost’ and ‘We Are Not Alone’, then ‘Another Life’ and ‘Sketches of Satie’ with your brother Steve, I like the live CD that came with that album.

JH: Well, that was early days for the band, I think that was about the fourth show as a band, recorded at the Classic Rock Society who were very generous to us as a band, allowing us to record that show for posterity. I suppose that album is a bit more ‘proggy’ than some of the more classical stuff I’ve been involved with, especially the opening track Take Control and also the track Winds of Change, in which Nick Fletcher, our guitarist, gets room to play a little. My Brother Steve said recently that he thinks Nick is the best jazz rock guitarist in the country at the moment. High praise indeed, I do not know if you have Nick’s album ‘Cycles of Behaviour’ but it is a real testament to his playing.

JWS: Yes ,I have that album, I have just done an interview and album review that will be published on Progradar shortly. I especially liked Philosopher King, the longest track on the album.

JH: I am glad you like that one.

JWS: I like long songs, it gives them room to stretch and breathe a little, give me a longer song anytime.

JH: Sounds like a song title, I might use that in a lyric sometime.

JWS: Go for it, you can have that one for free.

JH: Good, I will look forward to reading that John, he (Nick Fletcher) and I have a lot in common. He has spent a lot of time as a classical guitarist and I have spent a lot of my time as a classical flautist, although we both love rock music and we both feel comfortable working in both fields. I used to think that I had to make a choice, one or the other, but Nick and I both feel that they can feed off each other, in that you can apply some of the techniques used in classical pieces in the rock stuff. Really, the rock stuff benefits from playing the classical pieces too, with the rock stuff you are always thinking about keeping it strong and I think that background can really help in with the energy and direction you create.

Nick and I worked together on the ‘Beyond The Stars’ album and he had a vision for the album. It has a fabulous long track, That Ship Has Sailed, on which Nick gets a chance to really stretch out, it is his Pink Floyd moment, his Comfortably Numb, as it were.

JWS: So what was your first love in rock music?

JH: Well I started off as a blues guitarist, my brother taught me House Of The Rising Sun and showed me a few bits, then we saw King Crimson with Ian Macdonald playing the flute and Robin Miller on oboe. That got me into learning to play the flute, which I did at University in Sheffield. In 1978 I joined Steve’s band as a flautist/bass player, recorded ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’, amongst his other earlier albums, and toured extensively with him as part of the band. Good times! we still work together occasionally, usually doing a Christmas show at Trading Boundaries in which I play flute, along with Roger King on keyboards and Rob Townsend on sax, that is always a good venue as the audience are at tables near the stage.

JWS: Yes, we have not got to Trading Boundaries yet as it is too far from where we are in Cheshire, although I do have a Downes Braide Association album that has a live show from Trading Boundaries with it.

It certainly looks like a great little venue; we have seen you with Steve Hackett a few times on his more recent tours in Manchester, often with Amanda Lehmann in tow too. I suppose Sheffield to Manchester is only about an hour away?

JH: Yes, not too far at all and it is always great to be a part of Steve’s shows, I really enjoy those appearances.

JWS: Obviously gigging is coming back slowly,

JH: We have our first gig in August at the 1865 in Southampton.

JWS: Are you playing in Bilston at the Robin 2?

JH: Yes we are playing there as part of an all-day festival.

JWS: Will there be a new John Hackett Band album soon?

JH: Yes, I certainly hope so, we need to do something soon, watch this space.

 JWS: Have you had your vaccinations?

JH: Yes, I had those at the Sheffield Arena, I am not sure if the others have had theirs yet, I guess we will find out soon enough. I had to take my shirt off and I was wearing a John Hackett Band T Shirt and the nurse said what’s your T shirt and I said it’s my band, I said I’d always hoped to get to Sheffield Arena as a band appearing, not as an OAP getting vaccinated! 

JWS: You have some nice guitar playing on the album.

JH: Thank you, I was listening to an old Tamla song and heard some bongo’s and I thought I could do with some of those. I went out shopping and I found some in Lidl, I thought that was a sign to get on with it!

JWS: Would you do another album in that way?

JH: I would not rule it out but not yet. 

JWS: Well I think that’s all I must ask you about, thanks very much for talking to me and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

JH: Yes, Thanks for your time John, I’ll drop you an email later, so you have my email too, nice talking with you.

‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ was released 18th November, 2020.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

The Piper Plays His Tune | John Hackett (

Review – Kansas – Point of Know Return – Live and Beyond – by John Wenlock-Smith

I first came across the music of Kansas on an old episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test where a track from their then new album, ‘Kansas’, was played. The song in question was Journey From Mariabronn, this was played against the backdrop of a black and white cartoon and I was very taken with it.

It was not until a few years later that I managed to acquire a copy of that album and enjoy the fine music that its grooves contained. Quite a few years later I came across their new album via a promotional vinyl version of ‘Point of Know Return’ with its fabulous sleeve of a ship falling over the edge of the world.

Kansas have been one of my favourite American bands since those early days, I even used to have the ‘Point of Know Return’ album cover on an etched mirror that sadly is no more. Along with Styx and Journey these were the holy trinity of American Rock for me, I still relish any new material that Kansas make and I am eager to see them live again having first seen them at Walt Disney World in the early 1990’s when Steve Morse was in the band, as was Steve Walsh, both of whom are no longer involved. Nowadays the band is fronted by Ronnie Platt (ex-Shooting Star, another class US band in a similar style to Kansas). This live album brings the whole of the ‘Point of Know Return’ album together with some other deep cuts from the extensive catalogue that the band have developed in the last 47 years. Many of the songs have been staples in their live shows since the album was first released in 1977, but here you get the whole album live in one show played in the original order.

If you like Kansas then this album will not disappoint for it shows very clearly how excellent the calibre of material the ‘Point of Know Return’ album contained then and how well that it still stands up today, over 40 years after it was originally recorded. Ronnie Platt is in very fine voice throughout, okay there may be a few missed or muffled notes but, overall, this stands good comparison to the version on earlier live Kansas releases and can stand proudly next to all those albums.  

The album has a good selection of some lesser performed Kansas material including songs from the ‘Freak of Nature’ album from the 1990s and a rare outing for Two Cents Worth from the ‘Masque’ album of 1975 and a couple of more recent tracks from ‘The Prelude Implicit’ and ‘The Absence of Presence’, cramming 22 slices of distilled Kansas magic onto 2 CDs.

The album falls into 3 sections, Tracks 1-8 on CD 1 are the deep cuts, CD 2 Tracks 1-10 are the whole of the ‘Point of Know Return – Live & Beyond’ in order, Track 11 is Carry on My Wayward Son, 12 and 13 are acoustic versions of People of The South Wind and Refugee and the album concludes with an acoustic version of Lonely Wind from the first Kansas album from 1974.

Throughout you get fabulous and meticulous musicianship and exemplary performances and songs that are both meaningful and memorable and with fabulous melodies running through their veins. Kansas are not getting any younger so any chance to hear this band firing on all cylinders is an opportunity that should be embraced, music of this calibre deserves to be heard by all that will listen.

I especially like the reverence with which these classic songs are treated and respected, it is very fitting, and you can tell how much the band appreciate and value this momentous period of their history. This album reflects that with the care and diligence with which they perform these songs once again.

The artwork is as good as that which accompanied the release of the ‘Leftoverture – Live and Beyond’ and fans are in for a real treat. It is a pity that the show was not recorded for posterity on film as that would be something special and much sought after by many fans like me. My shelf is awaiting the arrival of this CD Set in the very near future where it will join the other masterpieces of this truly legendary US Band.

Released 28th May, 2021

Order from Burning Shed here:

Point of Know Return Live & Beyond (