“A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.” Colbie Caillat.
A simple caveat to an art form that transforms our daily lives into something utterly different. If you’re like me than music can take you to a much better place, my life would not be what it is without the joy and enrichment of music and, every now and again, an album arrives that completely blows me away, there is only music that can have this effect on the human race.
Before I tell you why I think Galahad’s eleventh studio album is just so good, let us delve into the background of the band and the album with some of the PR blurb:
‘The Last Great Adventurer’ has been several years in the making and many of the songs on the album actually pre-date the previous ‘Seas of Change’ album from 2018! Plus, due the constraints of the recent Covid emergency, the album was recorded at several locations over the last couple of years by the various band members and finally edited, mixed and mastered, as usual, by engineer/producer extraordinaire Karl Groom (Threshold/Dragonforce/Pendragon/Arena/Yes etc.).
As well as the long established nucleus of Stu Nicholson (vocals), Dean Baker (keyboards) and Spencer Luckman (drums) ‘The Last Great Adventurer’ is also the first Galahad studio album to feature Mark Spencer (Twelfth Night/Alan Reed) on bass guitar throughout as well as making some great contributions on backing vocals and triangle!
Lee Abraham, now very much established as the band’s guitarist, also adds his own inimitable stamp to the album with some great guitar playing and a few blinding trademark guitar solos.
The main album consists of five tracks plus two bonus tracks on the CD including, at long last, a new version of Another Life Not Lived originally written by the late and much missed Neil Pepper and Stu back in 2009.
Alive opens the album in fine, dynamic and powerful style with Dean’s pulsating keyboards and Spencer’s pounding drumbeat before Lee’s crushing guitar riff precedes Stu’s elegant vocals. This towering, fast paced track is charismatic and compelling as it flies along and the catchy chorus will have you singing along in harmony. It really is a fantastic, eye opening start that sees the band hit the ground running, Karl Groom’s influence as producer adding a fine polish to proceedings and new boy Mark Spencer showing he knows his stuff with his superb bass playing, add in a potent, pulsating solo from guitarist extraordinaire Lee Abraham and you just about have the perfect mix. Omega Lights sees the band leaning on their lengthy progressive heritage and the opening has a strong feel of 80’s nostalgia to it with its pared back, calming synth sounds and their wistful note. There’s an almost sombre feel to the song, an anticipation of what is to come, the music feeling as if wrapped in the mists of time as a low bass note enters proceedings followed by Lee’s purposeful guitar. Stu’s dignified vocals see the tempo rise before the song flowers into a glorious chorus. This contrast of refined verse and uplifting chorus continues and delivers a rather fine track full of determination and confidence. There follows an intricate section where the band put their prog chops on show for everyone to see and do so in fine fashion, just a brilliant piece of music. There’s a middle-eastern influence to the opening of Blood, Skin and Bone, like an Islam call to prayer and it works exceedingly well. Lee’s strident guitar combines with the forceful rhythm section to add some polished aggression and Stu’s slightly menacing vocal adds some mystery to the song. I really like the way this track flows with subtle intensity and Dean’s keyboards give a real mystical undertone and make it into an unstoppable force. Lee contributes a deliciously potent solo that just leaves me smiling in admiration, what a stunning song!
Enclosure 1764 has a theatrical, almost operatic quality to it, Stu’s vocal delivery wouldn’t be out of place in the cast of Les Miserables if you ask me and the tension created by the keyboards is hair raising. It is the shortest track on the album but is no less important and I find it bewitching and spellbinding as the drums and guitar add to the intense atmosphere, Lee is absolutely on fire again on this scintillating song. The magnificent title track, The Last Great Adventurer, is a very personal tribute to Stu’s father, Bob and is a highlight among a collection of very high quality songs. There’s emotion, passion and sympathy entwined throughout its ten minute plus running time and Stu’s vocals are at their best. This is a band at the height of their powers, one that is working in perfect harmony and you can hear it in every word and every note, add this to the epic songwriting and you just cannot go wrong. Full of sentiment and warmth, this song will leave a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, spellbinding and enthralling.
The two bonus tracks are no mere throwaways, included just to flesh out the album, they add to already engaging experience, Normality of Distance is wistful and endearing, a calming influence running throughout, Stu’s vocals heartfelt and harmonious, a beautifully nostalgic and contemplative feeling song, I loved it. There’s obviously a lot of history behind this new version of Another Life Not Lived and you can almost feel it in the atmosphere as the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise. The slow paced opening and the melancholy guitar note make way for Stu’s soulful vocal that touches your very soul. The beautiful chorus is full of a sorrowful passion, there’s a story spanning many years being told here and being told perfectly, I’m not crying, you’re crying!
When music is as good as this and touches you in a very personal manner, it can’t really get any better. In my opinion Galahad have returned with what can only be described as a modern progressive masterpiece and one that will stand the test of time and should be remembered as being one of the best albums of recent years. It’s my album of the year and I really can’t give it any higher praise than that.
Released 24th October, 2022.
Order from bandcamp here: