“When you can no longer count the peaceful moments in your day, and life becomes a wonderful place of clear thoughts and calm. You know things are as right as they should be.” ― Ron Baratono
Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Gustaf Ljunggren has teamed up with Icelandic Bass Guitar player and composer Skúli Sverrisson (Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, Blonde Redhead ) to create an album that wishes to offer the listener private musical spaces to dwell in for a while.
Ljunggren’s musical language is clear, gentle, and melodic, and the pieces chosen for this album all share a sense of weaving past and future together into the present. Gustaf Ljunggren reflects about the music on ‘Floreana’: “I listened inwards, and it sounded like this. Melodies came to the surface, and I chose to say ‘yes’ to them, embrace them, carry them forward. My musical partner on this album, Skúli Sverrisson, has been with me throughout this process; embracing the music with both profound dedication and artistic boldness.”
‘Floreana’ is one of those rare things, something unexpected that turns out to be something quite wonderful. Eleven beautiful pieces of music that engender a feeling of calm and peacefulness. The whole album just brings harmony, tranquility and serenity to you, no matter how stressed or worked up you are. You could call it modern classical or ethereally cinematic, I just think it is possibly the most graceful collection of instrumental tracks I’ve ever heard.
Highlights abound, celestial Leading Somewhere, the soothing pastoral charms of Kongens Mark, the haunting and wistful Bottomless Siestas and the spine tingling exquisiteness of closing track Vi Overlever, every track is a perfect moment of reflection and contemplation. The music is slightly spiritual in nature and puts you in touch with your inner being.
Philosophical and meditative, ‘Floreana’ will leave you in place of utter calm and leave you ruminating on life, the universe and just about everything. It’s as much about the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves and the state of mind that your are left in. To me, it is one of the surprises of the year so far and an album that I implore you to listen to at least once, trust me, it will be worth it…
‘Random Karma, Fate And Destiny’ is the third album from Last Flight To Pluto. The band, led by singer/songwriter Alice Freya and drummer/songwriter Darren Joseph, are joined on the album by longtime guitarists Jack Parry and Ryan Barnard, with appearances from bassist Ed Rees and Son Of Man guitarist George Jones.
A riotously enjoyable mix of rock, metal, pop, indie and a tasty slice of rock infused prog, this latest album is a hugely impressive listen. Alice’s vocals are quite unique and she is able to lend her superb voice perfectly to the melting pot of genres employed by the band on the record.
There’s a hard, funky edge to the guitar and rhythm section on opener Stop Yourself From Turning Into Dust and second track Some Of Us, both fast paced, high energy rockers with a truly infectious feel to them. The guitar playing, especially on the latter track, is striking and pretty superb and adds to an octane fuelled introduction to the album. We’re Being Rewired, with its slow burning opening, adds a darkly delicious feel to the music, Alice’s velvety vocals cloaking a honey soaked touch of menace. This track really reminds me of Magenta, especially their album ‘The Twenty Seven Club’, as it opens up into something much more involving and complex, a gorgeous piece of music.
Around The Corners is almost balladic in its composition, a sun soaked, wistful and sepia tinged song where Alice’s ethereal vocal compliments the delicate piano perfectly. Contemplative and dreamy before breaking out into an uplifting chorus, it really salves the soul and calms the nerves. Thunderous riffs and crashing drums signal the hard rocking dynamics of the excellent White Noise, a classic rock infused song that invokes the spirit of the late 70’s and early 80’s, there’s some seriously good songwriting on show here and, as you delve deeper into the album, it just gets better and better. There’s a potent and staccato intro to Feed The Machine, another fine piece of music that sees the band delivering an uptempo, blues and soul infused, performance.
There are pop sensibilities at show on Any News but Alice’s silken vocals and the elegant musicianship lift it above the mere norm. Quite an emotive track that wears its heart on its sleeve and has a slightly melancholic overtone. There’s a thoughtful and sombre mood to Stay Out Of My Head, a reflective yearning in the vocals imbuing it with a slightly sorrowful edge. The guitar then kicks in and Alice’s voice takes on a distinctly intimidating timbre to finish the song in a very enigmatic way. The album closes with the driving tones of Game Over, a powerful tune that’s full of mystery and subtlety. The primeval guitar riffs and thunderous drums delivering a prog edged piece of sublime classic rock that just delivers on every level.
‘Random Karma, Fate And Destiny’ is a highly accomplished release that shows a band reaching maturity and the height of their powers. Excellent songwriting combined with outstanding musicianship gives something subtlety different to everything else out there and makes this an album that you really should seek out.
Released 10th May, 2022.
Pre-order the album from White Knight Records here:
It’s always a highlight of the year when a new album is announced by seminal British proggers The Tangent. ‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ sees the venerable and much loved outfit, led by esteemed musician, and fellow Yorkshireman, Andy Tillison, releasing their 12th studio album and sees the band focusing almost entirely on their long format songs or “epics” with only one song being less than 16 minutes long.
I have been a long time fan of The Tangent and Andy’s topical, witty and often acerbic lyrics which are weaved into their unique, funky, flowing musical style and this latest release sees Andy on absolute top form, both as an exceedingly clever lyricist and an amazing musician. Andy is joined, once again, by a distinguished cast of fellow musicians with Jonas Reingold (bass), Luke Machin (guitar/vocals), SteveRoberts (drums) and Theo Travis (sax & flute) reprising their roles from the previous two The Tangent albums.
The Changes uses a mini story about The Tangekanic band in Germany trying to find a hotel after a gig they didn’t get paid for – after a week of rehearsal and a journey of about 900 miles as a focus. It’s almost a metaphor for all the lockdowns that the world had to suffer and all the isolation and uncertainty that everyone was feeling. The thing about this fantastic song is that it uses that background as a positive metaphor. Trust me, this upbeat and quite wondrous song will leave you smiling as it uses a huge dose of The Tangent’s positive mental attitude to deliver seventeen minutes of buoyant optimism that’s all wrapped up with Andy’s astute lyrics and a band on top form. The music is an utter delight and fits the theme and mood perfectly, there’s a wistful and contemplative note to the middle section of the song as Andy tells the story of the German gig perfectly. This epic track ebbs and flows superlatively and the closing section is one of the best bits of music that The Tangent have ever delivered, if it doesn’t leave you in a really good mood and with a huge grin on your face then I swear you can’t have a soul. It’s quite possibly the best long track that Andy has ever written, I love it!
Highly influenced by Swedish artists from the 70s like Bo Hansson, Flasket Brinner – and also by Andy’s go-to influences in Canterbury Style fusion like National Health, Supersister and Egg, Prog/Fusion romp GPS Vultures is another in the series of outstanding The Tangent instrumentals personified by tracks like Doctor Livingstone, Andalusian Skies and Music Inspired by Music Inspired by The Snow Goose. A long (again, seventeen minutes plus) instrumental piece has to be really good and pretty ingenious to hold the listener’s attention throughout the track and it comes as no surprise to find that this particular track is clever and inventive enough to keep you entertained from start to finish. It’s almost like a musical story, each individual section telling its own tale to perfection as it snakes its way through Canterbury style fusion to an almost Crimson and VDGG influenced improvisation, all with the band’s thoroughly modern interpretation. What’s evident from these first two tracks is how the musicians seamlessly work together and how LukeMachin is utterly on fire on the album, his style is simply perfect for this music.
The Lady Ties To A Lamp Post is a very sobering piece that returns to the theme of homelessness that Andy explored from a very short personal experience of that on the ‘Down & Out’ album. The “Lady” in question was a person that he encountered in Leeds on my way home from a Christmas party in 2012. Dressed in rescued council worker hi viz orange waterproofs repaired with Gaffa she was tying herself to the lamp post so that she could sleep upright without falling over. The temperature was in the low minus figures and the wind was biting like a Doberman. Andy had the briefest of conversations with her and only had cigarettes to give her. Andy treats the subject in a very sympathetic manner and, once again, the lyrics and fantastic music impress. I don’t know how they manage to do it but every note in this twenty minute song has its place, there is nothing superfluous and Andy’s vocal delivery, along with the intricate musicianship, is just right for this sobering tale. The skill of Theo Travis is well known and his sax playing adds a real sophisticated jazz influence throughout and Steve Roberts’ precision drum skills should be lauded in equal measure. This absorbing and impassioned epic shows Andy’s songwriting skills at their consummate best and is yet more proof that he is one of the best at this long form style of music, his keyboard skills, as evident here, aren’t too bad either!
The one short track on the album is the utterly sublime, soul infused and totally funky Wasted Soul and shows that, while The Tangent do the long form epic to perfection, the band can still rock with the best when it comes to catchy shorter songs too. Harmonised vocals, hammond organs galore and a brass section to die for, this song is like a total beacon of light and will have you rocking in the aisles (metaphorically speaking of course!), it’s uplifting and just, well, bloody good! Jonas’ bass playing is top notch throughout the album but, on this stellar track, he just shines.
Early editions of the album and the Vinyl Edition will include the bonus track In TheDead Of Night which is, of course, a cover version of the classic song by UK and the band give it a little dose of The Tangent magic to deliver a track that sounds as if it could have been written by them in the first place. A particular highlight is Luke’s ever impressive guitar playing and here he just seems to have been given free rein to deliver a lengthy solo that has you nodding furiously in appreciation.
I had a discussion with Andy about the new album and the one quote I will take from it is this; “There was a lot of hope in my heart when writing it (the album) and I think it forced its way through”.
‘Songs From The Hard Shoulder’ is just a wonderful piece of work, The Tangent at their brilliant best. People need some cheer in the world and music has the power to lift people, after just one listen to this amazing album I was smiling again. Andy and the band could just have released their most important record yet…
Multi-platinum selling English supergroup ASIA recently announced they are to release ASIA In Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983, as a Deluxe box set containing: 2LP, 2xCD, 40 page 12” book, Blu-ray video, printed memorabilia and ‘ASIA’ pin badge, through BMG Records on 10th June 2022. Also available as a 2LP Gatefold, 1CD and Digital Formats.
Here’s a link to a live performances of Sole Survivor and Here Comes The Feeling from the concert:
ASIA, Geoff Downes (The Buggles & YES, keyboards & backing vocals), Steve Howe (YES, guitars & backing vocals) and Carl Palmer(Emerson, Lake & Palmer, drums) with special guest Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, bass & lead vocals), visited Japan at the end of two years of touring to promote their phenomenally successful eponymous debut album (1982) and the follow-up Alpha (1983).
The second of three shows at the historic Budokan arena in Tokyo, on 6th December 1983, would make history as first live broadcast between Japan and MTV in America, an amazing achievement for its time. This performance has previously only been available on VHS. The concert featured some of ASIA’s biggest and most memorable tracks including, Time Again, Only Time Will Tell, Sole Survivor, Wildest Dreams and the global hit single Heat Of The Moment.
Greg Lake stepped in, at short notice, following the sudden departure of ASIA’s founder member John Wetton ahead of the Japanese dates. Despite a short period for Lake to learn the songs, and some changes to the arrangements to accommodate Lake’s different vocal range, the Japanese shows were hailed a great success.
Carl Palmer was proud of his former ELP bandmate for performing exceptionally in the situation. “Greg Lake did a great job jumping into John’s shoes. So many songs to sing, he did it so well. It was impressive.”
Geoff Downes, too, was pleased with the event, especially given the massive undertaking. “It was a grand and sumptuous affair. The stage was the iconic ‘A-frame’ shape we had for the US tour. I think we pulled it off admirably in the end. There were some good people behind us: crew, lighting designers, cameramen and backing singers, it was quite a production.”
“The show was an important global commitment,” says Steve Howe, “so we had to rise to the occasion, which we did, with Greg’s help. We couldn’t have done it without him, for sure.”
For Downes, the release stands as a testament to the band’s resilience. “It deserves its place in the Asia catalogue. Aside from its musical strengths, it demonstrates the level of professionalism that we have always striven to bring to the ASIA name.”
This newly packaged box set includes: · Exclusive new artwork by Roger Dean
· Colour vinyl 2LP of original MTV Telecast concert audio, remixed 2022 from the master tapes, with two previously unreleased, post broadcast encore tracks
· 2 x audio CD:
· Live at The Budokan Arena, Tokyo, Japan, MTV satellite telecast concert (6 December 1983, USA time), remixed 2022 from the master tapes by Matt Wiggins and Rick Nelson
· Live at The Budokan Arena, Tokyo, Japan, previous night’s show (6 December 1983, Japanese Time), remixed 2022 from the master tapes by Hiroki Furutani
· Audio-visual Blu-ray of restored original broadcast concert with 2022 remixed audio (Duration: 1hr 20 mins), plus restored original concert laserdisc featuring alternate camera angles (Duration: 1hr)
. 40 page, deluxe 12” book with rare and unseen band photos, memorabilia and extensive new sleeve notes new quotes from the original band members
· New, bespoke metal and enamel ‘ASIA’ logo pin badge
· Printed memorabilia:
· 2 x exclusive new Roger Dean artwork A3 posters
· 2 x reproduced live broadcast original concert tickets
· Replicated, matt laminated original AAA backstage pass
· Original concert VHS advert
· 3 x glossy 8” x 5” rare band photos
ASIA In Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 Tracklist (2 x LPs, CD1 & CD2)
1. Introduction From Mark Goodman (MTV)
2. Time Again
3. The Heat Goes On
4. Here Comes The Feeling
5. Eye To Eye
6. Steve Howe Solo (Sketches In The Sun)
7. Only Time Will Tell
8. Open Your Eyes
9. Geoffrey Downes Solo (Ihiri – The Setting Sun / Bolero)
10. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
11. Wildest Dreams
12. Carl Palmer Solo
13. Heat Of The Moment
14. Sole Survivor
15. Cutting It Fine
ASIA In Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 is available as a Deluxe box set containing: 2LP, 2xCD, 40 page 12” book, Blu-ray video, printed memorabilia and ‘ASIA’ pin badge, as well as 2LP, 1CD & Digital formats on 10th June 2022 through BMG Records. Pre-order here: https://asiaband.lnk.to/budokanPR
ASIA was a true rock ‘supergroup’ bringing together the talents of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe who had already amassed tens of millions of record sales with their collective bands of the 70s.
Leaving behind their progressive roots, ASIA embraced the commercial FM rock sound that dominated US airwaves and took that, and the new MTV video channel, by storm. The single Heat Of The Moment was a world-wide monster smash and their eponymous 1982 debut album spent an incredible 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart as ASIA became the biggest selling album of the year and world tour dates sold out.
A second album, Alpha, was released in 1983. The four original members reconvened in 2006 for a world tour, to celebrate the 25thanniversary of that incredible success, and the album Phoenix followed.
While the members were still heavily involved in other projects, they came together again to record Omega in 2010 and XXX in 2012, both albums were acclaimed by their faithful fans and supported by more world tours.
Steve Howe stepped back from ASIA to concentrate on his work with YES and was absent for 2014’s Gravitas. Following this tour came the news of John Wetton’s treatment for cancer, a fight he sadly lost in 2017.
Big Big Train have recruited Alberto Bravin as lead vocalist following the tragic death of David Longdon in November 2021.
Based in Trieste in Italy, Bravin’s career includes performing around 200 shows with progressive rock legends PFM between 2015 and January 2022, both in Italy and internationally, singing lead and backing vocals and playing keyboards.
Alberto Bravin says: “I am extremely honoured to have the opportunity to join Big Big Train. I was already a huge BBT fan and am looking forward to play my part in taking this great band forward while also honouring the memory of David Longdon.”
Big Big Train bassist and founder Gregory Spawton comments: “Before Covid-19 hit, Nick D’Virgilio and I had both seen Alberto perform with PFM. We were very impressed with his abilities as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist and therefore approached him earlier this year.
“We know that David is irreplaceable and we miss him deeply both musically and personally,” Spawton continues. “We were very clear that we didn’t want to bring someone into the band who would seek to mimic David; that just felt fundamentally wrong. Instead we wanted someone who could do justice with their own musical skills and personality to the songs that David sang for Big Big Train as well as being able to help to drive the band forwards. From his first audition singing some BBT classic songs and subsequently his work on some new material that we’re working on, we’re confident that we’ve found the right person in Alberto.”
“Aside from Alberto’s great voice and all round musical skills, it was also vital for us to find the right personal fit, particularly after being struck with David’s sudden death,” drummer Nick D’Virgilio comments. “We flew Alberto to London several weeks ago so we could hang together for a few days and the chemistry immediately felt right.”
‘THE JOURNEY CONTINUES’ EUROPEAN TOUR 2022
Big Big Train are also pleased to confirm that their two previously announced UK shows in September 2022 will take place. In addition the band have scheduled six further shows for September in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France.
Keyboardist/vocalist Carly Bryant is unable to tour with the band in September 2022 for family reasons. “After over two years of being part of Big Big Train and involved in two studio albums, I was extremely keen to go on the road with the band. However a recent change in my family situation means that sadly I cannot be away from home in the autumn,” Bryant explains. “I love being part of BBT and will be on stage with the band at the earliest opportunity when my family commitments permit.”
Alongside Bravin, D’Virgilio, Spawton and longstanding guitarist Rikard Sjöblom, the Big Big Train line-up for the September 2022 shows will consist of guitarist Dave Foster, violinist/vocalist Clare Lindley, keyboardist Oskar Holldorff and the Big Big Train brass section led by Dave Desmond. Holldorff leads Norwegian band Dim Gray, whose debut album Flown was much acclaimed last year and who are preparing to release their second album later this year.
“Oskar came to our attention from his work with Dim Gray and is another tremendous talent to involve in Big Big Train,” Sjöblom says. “We’re very grateful to him for stepping in while Carly is unavailable. It’s also exciting that Big Big Train is becoming an increasingly international band – in September we will have an American, a Swede, an Italian and a Norwegian on stage with the Brits.”
During the September tour Big Big Train will be playing material from various stages of their career and also one new song.
“We were originally scheduled to play live shows in spring 2020 but then Covid-19 derailed our live plans repeatedly and since then we’ve prepared numerous different set lists,” Sjöblom continues. “We’ve released two full albums since we last played live and are spoilt for choice with the set list for September.”
“In addition to our UK shows, I’m really looking forward to getting back into continental Europe,” D’Virgilio adds. “As well as visiting the prog strongholds of the Boerderij and Z7, we thought it would be cool to play some smaller venues in France and Germany as we re-establish BBT as a live band. We can’t wait to get out and play again and show what this band can do!”
Big Big Train September 2022 tour dates Friday 2 September – Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, UK Saturday 3 September – HRH Prog festival, Leeds, UK Monday 5 September – Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands Tuesday 6 September – Harmonie, Bonn, Germany Wednesday 7 September – Kuz, Mainz, Germany Thursday 8 September – Frannz Club, Berlin, Germany Saturday 10 September – Z7, Pratteln (Basel), Switzerland Sunday 11 September – Café de la Danse, Paris, France
Support bands for all shows (except HRH Prog) will be announced shortly.
Tickets for the UK shows are on sale now. Tickets for the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France shows go on sale at 10am UK time on Friday 29 April. See www.bigbigtrain.com/live for ticket links.
Progressive rockers, Haken, are excited to announce the release of their brand new single, ‘Nightingale’. The latest single showcases the first new material the band have presented with returning keyboard player, Pete Jones, and the first since the release of their last album, ‘Virus’, back in 2020.
The band comments: “Nightingale was the first track Pete Jones presented to the band after rejoining Haken this year. The initial song idea quickly inspired of the classic Haken sound and naturally evolved into some new harmonic territory. The song ranges from delicate moments to monstrous riffs.
We enlisted Jens Bogren to mix Nightingale and, as always, he’s blown us away by capturing every detail while delivering power and energy. We couldn’t be happier with the finished product.
Lyrically, the song reflects on the creative process itself; with a message that although it may be difficult of late, we must remember to be thankful for the positives in life; be they big or small.”
In March, the band announced the initial details of ‘Nightingale’, as well as held a competition for fans to submit their own original artwork for the forthcoming single. The winning artwork as chosen by the band themselves, from Belgium’s Rein Van Oyen, can be seen below.
The band was recently forced to announce the postponement of their European tour dates, with new dates soon to be announced. Their upcoming North American tour begins with ‘Cruise to the Edge’ leaving port on 2nd May, followed by an expansive trek alongside Symphony X set to go ahead starting 10th May, 2022 in New York City, running through the month and ending 12th June in New Jersey. Find the full list of dates here: https://hakenmusic.com/tour/
2nd – 7th May – Port Caneveral, FL – Cruise to the Edge
W/ Symphony X
10th May – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
11th May – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre
12th May – Worcester, MA – The Palladium
13th May – Quebec City, QC – Imperial Bell
14th May – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
15th May – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall
17th May – Cleveland, OH – Agora Theatre
18th May – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
19th May – Chicago, IL – Park West
20th May – St Louis, MO – Red Flag
21st May – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
23rd May – Denver, CO – The Oriental Theater
24th May – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
26th May – Seattle, WA – The Showbox
27th May – Vancouver, BC – The Rickshaw Theatre
28th May – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
29th May – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
You’re going to need time, lots of it too, to get maximum enjoyment from this pretty exhaustive and, at times challenging, box set of 6 CDs. If you do then you can evaluate the career of Sevenoaks born drum maestro William (Bill) Bruford. The box set covers the 40 odd years of his often-erratic career choices and defining drum work.
Bill was an original member of Yes, leaving them shortly after the success of the ‘Close To The Edge’ album for what could be considered more challenging music as offered by King Crimson, with whom he made several seminal albums like ‘Lark’s Tongues inAspic’, ‘Starless and Bible Black’ and ‘Red’, before Crimson fractured and took a hiatus for several years. This was considered an odd move by many, but Bruford wanted to challenge himself, rather than playing the same music ad-nauseum. He was also a part of the original U.K. project with John Wetton and Alan Holdsworth but, again, left after their debut album and tour to concentrate on forming his own band, Bruford, who made three excellent albums and played some fine live shows.
Bruford joined a reformed Crimson for their popular 1980’s reinvention, Adrian Belew and Tony Levin appearing alongside Bill and Robert Fripp for the albums ‘Discipline’, ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ and ‘Beat’, that tell the story of that era. When Crimson took an extended break, Bill started his own jazz project, BillBruford’s Earthworks, which was significantly different to all that he had done before. Much of this can be explored on the other four discs within this set along with his involvement as a supporting musician to the likes of Roy Harper, ChrisSquire, Al Di Meola, Steve Howe and David Torn. There are also a slew of collaborations with Patrick Moraz and Michael Borstlap, in their piano and percussion ensembles.
Bear in mind that a lot of this was improvisation at its rawest, so this is not always easy to listen to, yet there is much of worth and value to these discs. It’s not all about the big groups, much of Bill’s joy has been found in the less high profile works. This set is challenging and you can hear how Bill uses space in his music to fine effect and how he has a ‘less is more approach’ to making music. He is a skilled musician and he prefers to underplay as opposed to overplaying, subtlety being the key here, which is why he is so highly regarded by his fellow musicians and his contemporaries. Neal Peart of Rush says that the advancements that Bill made in the realm of electronics were a benefit to everyone.
The Bruford tracks are really fabulous music with a strong bass presence from Jeff Berlin and urgent sympathetic drumming from Bill. Tracks like Joe Frazier from ‘Gradually Going Tornado’ really show Bill’s skill as a band leader. In contrast, the Earthworks tracks are far mellower in the main but still with enough going on to make them of interest and investigation. The band’s revision of Downtown, as made famous by Petula Clark, is exceptionally inventive as they play around with a well-known piece to make it something rather different and exciting.
I really liked the spontaneous elements in the Bruford-Moraz tracks with just piano and drums playing together. The sound is full ,even though there are only two people playing and both Bruford and Moraz use the space in the music to create something pretty remarkable really. As are the tracks with Michael Borstlap which also fuse Bill’s drumming with piano in free form jazz tracks that again use the space to improvise across. This is especially the case on The 16 kingdoms of the Five Barbarians, with it’s thunderous drums and tense piano fills and flourishes, this track really makes an impression as does the highly rhythmic interplay on display on the Stand on Zanzibar, which features a graceful piano melody line and delicate yet informed drumming from Bill.
Equally fascinating are the trio of tracks from David Torn on which Bill appears as part of the rhythm section. Some of this jazz is pretty brutal and harsh, such is the way with the unconventional Torn, but it makes for interesting listening once you get used to it.
The set is split into three sets, discs 1 & 2 represent The Collaborator, discs 3 & 4 are The Composing Leader, disc 5 is The Special Guest and disc 6 Is The Improviser. Much of the first two discs will be familiar, as this encompasses his time with Yes and KingCrimson whilst discs 3 and 4 cover the Bruford and Earthworks era, with everything else on discs 5 & 6. Either way this set is simply fascinating and one that will appeal to the more broad-minded prog fan as its grooves contain much very fine music indeed. The included book and poster are decent too and give a good overview from Bill himself, who was fully 100% involved in this project.
Guitarist and composer David King is a unique voice in instrumental music from Motherwell in Scotland. His CV is extensive and includes a recent spell with legendary Scottish proggers Abel Ganz.
Adding to his back catalogue of solo albums, David will release his new EP ‘Look For Stars’ next month, CDs will be available from May 6th and streaming platforms will have the new music from 20th May. The five track EP called was written and recordedat home from October last year till about 2 weeks ago – constant tweeting not withstanding. It was mastered by Steve Kitch who plays keys in The Pineapple Thief.
About the EP, David said; “There are some fine musicians joining me this time – all my previous albums were just me but I had a great drummer Max Saidi on all 5 tracks. Alan (Hearton) from Ganz plays some wonderful keys and piano on 3 songs and I had some additional bass and guitar from Brian Stewart and Alan Houston.
It’s all instrumental as you’ve seen on the video clips. In terms of influences it was more proggy than my previous releases but it still end up sounding like me, which is a good thing I suppose.
I’m a real champion of the clean tones on guitar – I thoroughly appreciate the weedly weedly guys but I like textures like Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers.”
When I spoke to David about the new EP I said that it reminded me of legendary Journey guitarist Neal Schon’s solo instrumental release ‘Beyond The Thunder’ and, coincidentally, David is a huge fan of that album himself and its phenomenal sense of melody and where every note is in its right place. He also stated that another big influence is a band called Acoustic Alchemy who have very similar arrangements and are not too self indulgent, as a lot of instrumental bands can be.
Putting it simply, ‘Look For Stars’ is an utterly sublime EP, five tracks of instrumental music that just impresses on every level, written purely for the love of music and you can tell with every note. There is a haunting beauty and wistful wonder to the title track, Look For Stars, it pulls on your heartstrings with its sheer elegance and perfect form. The Spaces Inbetween almost has a latin, jazz infused rhythm, one that gets your hips moving and your toes tapping and reminds me a lot of jazz guitar great Martin Taylor and his ability to grab your attention with his fluid guitar playing. Alan Hearton’s keys add a real touch of class to what is a really good track.
Wave After Wave has a more laid back feel and is as smooth as they come, a piece of music that takes away all the worries of the world and replaces them with a relaxed and restrained atmosphere and late night jazz lounge mood. The staccato opening to The Magic Music belies the delight that follows, an upbeat track that really energises and puts a smile on your face, there is joy at play here and a real sense of wonder. This EP is such an immersive pleasure that, in no time at all, we are at the final track and A Planet Of Playthings is a fitting close to the release. There is something underneath the surface here, something that gives the music life and its very own essence, it is simply breathtaking.
‘Look For Stars’ is the album that I have found most spiritually uplifting so far this year, I adore the whole EP, I just love the joyous, uplifting feel that permeates the whole release, it’s music that is written for the love of music and it shows in every note!
A musical portrait of the life of Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s Spanish Queen, ‘K of A’ is an instrumental album by English composer and keyboard player Geoff Proudley, drawing on orchestral, classical, filmic and rock elements to paint some of the key moments and emotions in Katharine’s life.
Geoff writes mainly for media but has had a number of flirtations with progressive rock over the years. Some with long memories may even recall his involvement with progressive outfit Coltsfoot in the mid-eighties.
As Geoff describes ‘K of A’; “It’s been a three-year labour of love. Starting with an original mysterious Spanish theme that came to me when I was reading about Katharine, I gradually started to write more, fleshing out episodes and moments of her life. I suppose it was a bit like writing for plays and getting inside the characters, what she was feeling and then painting musical pictures of events in her life’. It’s something I find I can do. It usually comes through in what I write, through my subconscious. For this album I think I wrote about 70% of the themes and main frameworks of the pieces in one weekend of piano improvisation. Again, thinking about the events in her life and capturing everything I played into Logic. Then going back and listening to what I had. I often write that way and I find it really productive.“
The wives of Henry VIII have oft been the subject of musical projects (Rick Wakeman’s ‘The Six Wives Of Henry VIII‘ being the most obvious) but I had a feeling that Geoff’s take on it could bring something different to the scene and I wasn’t wrong…
A much more orchestral take on progressive rock, ‘K of A’, also, is not a medieval romp of flirty harpsichords and merry men. It is an intense and thought provoking piece of work and one where this masterful musician really gets to shine. Telling the story of Katherine through twenty-three, relatively short, musical pieces, the album is at times contemplative and reflective and, at others, more strident and direct. The obvious Tudor musical influences are there as, in any story about the era, they must be but they are never used as anything but reference and every note has its place, whether it be from harpsichord, violin or something of a much more modern ilk.
Where the story is dark, the music provides a sombre and melancholy timbre to match the mood but, when the atmosphere is of a much more upbeat disposition, Geoff guides the musical narrative to a more luminous and lively delivery. Throughout its lengthy eighty minute running the time, the album never loses focus or the listener’s attention due to its intense, absorbing nature and, as this rich musical tapestry comes to a close, you realise just how much of yourself you had invested in the story.
Being able to tell a compelling story through music is quite a skill and, with ‘K of A’ and the engrossing life of Katherine of Aragon, Geoff proves he could be a master of the game.
Rod While is a guitarist, songwriter and producer who has played in a variety of bands including Trekellion Skyway and Sarajevo. In 2021 he embarked on a solo career with the release of ‘Open the Cage’, an instrumental album of diverse material from progressive rock to jazz fusion to electronica and orchestral. In 2022 he releases his second album of original compositions ‘Vigil’.
Rod is based in Buckingham, England where he has a recording studio. He is a guitarist of longstanding whose playing has been compared to Jeff Beck and David Gilmour. After many years of playing in bands and writing and recording his own music, he decided to take a break from full time work in December 2020 to complete his first solo album.
‘Vigil’ is an instrumental album, and its theme relates to being awake, alert, vision and sight, the incredible facility to see the best and worst of the world around us, not just humans but animals also.
On the album, Rod played electric guitars, bass and keyboards (a variety of drum and percussion samples were used with permission throughout) and he also wrote and recorded and mixed and mastered the record.
Throughout its ten tracks, ‘Vigil’ draws you in with its brilliance and glorious splendour. There are hints of electronica along the lines of Massive Attack and (massively) Tangerine Dream, the room filling guitar soundscapes of legends like Beck, Gilmour and Steve Hackett and the unique sounds of bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra. Yet every song has Rod’s signature feel to it, this is an album that invokes the peace and tranquility of nature.
Opener Shimmer has that 70’s psych-electronica feel to it and this segues into the excellent Sybilline, a song that just screams hazy days with its jaunty guitar running throughout. Viridian has a more serious tone, provided by a superb, Hackett-esque guitar tone that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Chimera takes you on a fantastical journey, aided and abetted by the elegant guitar and flute sound, an elegant, quixotic piece of music and Eigengrau takes the Tangerine Dream similarity to another level, a mystical and mind bending track that could have come straight from any of the great 70’s Sci-Fi movies.
Rod’s delicate touch is evident throughout, as is his songwriting skill, these tracks are each little gems in their own right but, put them together and you get something quite magical. The other-wordly, Sci-Fi atmosphere continues with the opening to Flicker, a track with a trance like rhythm and one that calms the mind and soul and then Olivine takes you deeper into the recesses of your mind with its Zen like countenance. I love the funky, world music infused vibe of the joyous Heliotrope, a track that seems to imbue you with a good natured warmth as the jazzy guitar sprinkles little notes of bonhomie. Portmanteau takes that jazz soul and adds sophistication and a playful sincerity, the pulsating sax is just wonderful to hear. Album closer Leonid is a quite sublime piece of music, solemn but with a refined nobility and the guitar is just outrageously good. It’s near six minutes of aural perfection and ends the record on an extremely high note.
Rod While is a musician of consummate skill and one who can write pieces of music that touch you on both and emotional and cerebral level. In ‘Vigil’ he has produced one of the most graceful, elegant and thought provoking releases of the year and one that I recommend you seek out at your earliest convenience.