Well, this is very different! this set details the first, post-covid, expedition for The Neal Morse Band and was recorded in Hamburg in 2022. Unusually for InsideOut, the set has no accompanying live DVD, which is a pity as the band are on fire for this show. Maybe it was because of them being lockdown totally because of covid but they definitely rose to the occasion here in Hamburg. The show was in the latter stages of the tour so the band were very comfortable with playing these two sets, one of the ‘Innocence and Danger’ album and the second set of longer pieces, The GreatSimilitude Medley, which features highlights of the band’s previous two albums, ‘The Similitude Of A Dream’ and ‘The Great Adventure’ in an extended sequence. This allowed space for extra parts and for some great improvisation to happen, no doubt all pre-rehearsed and ordered, a band like TheNeal Morse Band cannot afford to make errors of judgement and so would have sorted things for such an event.
The album kicks off with a brief overture of about 2 minutes before leading into the opening track Do It All Again, which faithfully reproduces the album version, adding nothing new except the excitement of the live arena, which is itself very good, as is the reception it receives. Obviously the end of lockdown and the return of live shows was important for the band and for the German crowd, who are solidly behind the band. The album continues with excellent recitals of Bird On A Wire, Your Place In The Sun and Another Story To Tell before we are treated to a superb version of The Way It Had To Be with a brilliant, extended guitar section from EricGillette, who can sure plank the plank, combining elements and touches of DavidGilmour, amongst others. His playing is graceful, melodic and utterly engrossing and captivating. He is a rare talent amongst an outstanding ensemble, also noticeable are the fabulous keyboards of both Neal Morse and Bill Hubauer, whose performance throughout is equally solid and exciting.
Next up is an epic version of Bridge Over Troubled Water (yes, the Simon andGarfunkel classic) which is skilfully delivered, staying true to the original but with prog flourishes like the wah-wah guitar that plays in the opening part. This really is a fabulous version of a really great song, delivered beautifully and with conviction. We are then treated to a rare outing for Waterfall, from ‘The Grand Experiment’ album, this delicate acoustic number also closes the first set.
The second set is spread across discs 2 and 3 and covers Not Afraid Pt. 2 and Beyond The Years from ‘Innocence and Danger’ and also the The GreatSimilitudeMedley. These three track last for over eighty-five minutes so you may need to dig deep for these epic tracks! Expect odd time signatures, excessive soloing and many impressive moments as these pieces are modern day prog at its finest from a group of seasoned professionals. There is a lot going on here including the growling bass of Randy George and the metronomic precision of Mike Portnoy (the man never misses a beat!). This is all highly accomplished and delivered with sincerity and style, the vocals are strong and also clear, the sound is exceptionally defined and focused. Unusually for Neal Morse, these songs are not overtly Christian in their lyrics, which may or not be a good thing depending on your own viewpoint. Rather these songs are possibly more spiritually attuned but open to interpretation by the listener, if so, that is a decision I approve of, no one wants to be preached at, especially at a celebration of music like this.
Not Afraid Pt. 2 is an interesting track with lots of moods in the music and some great sections that together make for a really strong song, it is really an epic performance and there is even more to come, how good is that? The song ends with notes of triumph and resolution, it’s an earnest track that is very well developed and delivered with style. Beyond The Years is another epic, multi-part suite that together make sone song. As you would expect, this is no shrinking violet of a track it, it has seven parts, one of which is an instrumental section, and lots of words. The song is somewhat oblique in its meaning, although there is religious imagery mentioned in the track. The whole song is complex and takes some listening and attention really. Whilst that’s not a bad thing, it does require effort on the listeners part as it’s not background music, it warrants and requests your full attention to get the most out of it really. This effort is rewarded though with some really inspired playing and sentiments expressed that are within the song.
The final track, The Great Similitude Medley, is a skilful amalgam of songs from ‘The Similitude Of A Dream’ and ‘The Great Adventure’. This encore is just shy of thirty minutes in duration and is a concise distillation of what the NMB are all about. Epic music, usually with a Christian message at the heart, all played with panache and seldom boring or understated. For those who follow the NMB there is so very much to enjoy in the epic concert and 3CD set.
‘An Evening Of Innocence & Danger – Live In Hamburg’ is rather stirring stuff all told and is an unqualified success for the group who have played flawlessly and with real passion on this track making it a remarkable feat. Now, either you like Neal Morse and his band or you don’t and, if you do, you are in for a feast with this album. If NMB aren’t your thing then you will miss out on a great performance of some quality musical statements.
Downes Braide Association (DBA) announce the release of their long-awaited new album Celestial Songs on 8thSeptember. Following their previous critically acclaimed studio albums, Celestial Songs will be the fifth DBA studio collaboration for Geoff Downes (keyboards) and multi award-winning songwriter Chris Braide (vocals). The album will be released in 3 formats: CD, 2LP and Box Set.
DBA also launch the first single from the albumClear Light – listen to the song and watch the video here:
Celestial Songs marks another musical leap forward for DBA. “As we were writing the songs for the album, they started to become thematic in emotion and feeling,” says Chris Braide, “more classic rock than the predecessor ‘Halcyon Hymns’. The songs were about life and death, time, love, nostalgia, spirituality. Very DBA in fact.”
“I know that Chris really likes the depth of chord sequences that I put together,” Geoff Downes explains. “This particular collection just really grabbed him and he got it up and running very, very quickly, so I was really pleased about that.
“There’s a lot of variety on the album, too. We were aiming to get quite a bit more dynamics into this album because there were some very quiet pastoral moments. I think it makes it a more interesting listen for people to get their heads around and enjoy. I hope people will appreciate it and get behind it, not just the songwriting and vocals but the overall instrumentation and musicianship is very high on this album.”
The high quality of musicianship is because of the exceptional core of musicians with which DBA have surrounded themselves including Andy Hodge (bass), Dave Bainbridge (former Iona guitarist and keyboardist), and Marc Almond who adds a brief vocal appearance.
“It’s very useful having this core of musicians that are ready to enhance our music,” agrees Geoff Downes. “Andy Hodge is very much an integral part of this unit. When we send him stuff to play, he has incredible feeling and creates a more interesting bass part than we could have thought of ourselves.
“Having Dave Bainbridge with us has added another dimension to the DBA-sound and I’m very happy with that. Dave’s got his own stamp and that’s something that we appreciate having on board.
“Marc Almond makes a cameo appearance on ‘The Darker Side Of Fame’ and Marc and Chris’s voices blend really well. It tells a story, a theme that a lot of people, and a lot of musicians, can relate to – certainly musicians that have had any kind of success. The lyric is very poignant, whilst you have all the glory, the accolades and the adulation, it can go away and you’re left with nothing. It reflects life in general, I think, as people go through all kinds of ups and downs throughout their careers and throughout their lives.”
The closing track cements DBA’s prog credentials as Chris Braide explains. “What happens to love when we die? ‘Beyond The Stars’ was a tune that began in 2015 and really shaped the way the artwork was to develop. Something bigger than us, something astral and heavenly, it grew from a 3-minute ditty to an 11-minute epic.
“That’s what the song Beyond The Stars is really asking. Celestial Songs was a title we came up with in 2020 and Roger (Dean) made it manifest in his wonderful sleeve painting. A beautiful, heavenly, rainbow sky full of stars.
“DBA’s music has always been about the big questions, the beauty of love and the tragedy of loss, but always with hope, I suppose. ‘Celestial Songs’ is the latest chapter in that series. I hope people enjoy listening to the album as much as we enjoyed writing it and making it.”
You can pre-order all formats of Celestial Songs here:
CD version: Downes Braide Association: Celestial Songs, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records
2LP version: Downes Braide Association: Celestial Songs, Vinyl Edition – Cherry Red Records
Box set version: Downes Braide Association: Celestial Songs, Deluxe 12″ Box Set Edition – Cherry Red Records
Celestial Songs Track Listing:
1. Look What You Do (6.17)
2. Clear Light (5.00)
3. Keep On Moving (6.36)
4. Darker Side Of Fame (3.56)
5. Hey Kid (3.28)
6. Will To Power (6.23)
7. Heart Shaped Hole (9.06)
8. Dear Petra (3.56)
9. On The Run (5.09)
10. Goodbye To You (Sister Shame) (7.30)
11. Beyond The Stars (10.19)
(Total running time: 67.40)
All tracks written by Chris Braide and Geoff Downes except Keep On Moving (Chris Braide/Francis Dunnery/ Geoff Downes) and Goodbye To You (Sister Shame) (Chris Braide/Andy Partridge/Geoff Downes)
Produced by Chris Braide and Geoff Downes
About Downes Braide Association
Downes Braide Association was formed as a studio-based project by Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and has previously produced four studio albums: Pictures Of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015), Skyscraper Souls (2017) and Halcyon Hymns (2021) and a live album Live In England (2019). The project draws on Downes’ and Braide’s rich musical heritage to create a delightfully accessible brand of progressive rock.
Keyboard wizard Geoff Downes was thrust into the limelight with the worldwide success of Video Killed The Radio Star in 1979. The single topped the charts chart in 16 countries for The Buggles duo of Geoff and Trevor Horn (vocals, bass guitar). They briefly joined prog legends YES before Downes became a founder member of the supergroup Asia with YES guitarist Steve Howe, ELP drummer Carl Palmer and the late John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar).
The Wetton-Downes composition Heat Of The Moment became a world-wide hit in 1982 heralding many years of success for Asia with their FM radio-friendly brand of rock. Downes later rejoined YES in 2011 and remains with the band alongside Steve Howe.
British singer-songwriter-pianist Chris Braide has recently returned to UK shores after many years based in California. He enjoys enormous success writing and producing music for film scores, advertising campaigns and working closely with artists including Sia, Lana Del Rey, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears and Marc Almond.
An Ivor Novello award-winner and Grammy-nominated, Braide has recently won a BMI Pop Award in Los Angeles for co-writing Sia’s Unstoppable, her eighth US Top 40 hit after making a surprise, and long, rise to the top having been released in 2016, becoming the biggest selling single in the USA.
This highly impressive album will land in September and is already hotly anticipated and I’m sure will be well received as, over the past few years, this Cornish symphonic prog outfit have been wowing crowds from Penzance to North of the border. Quite rightly so too as they have a unique sound, excellent musicianship and offer music of class and quality. Everything is self-produced and they even do their own artwork, although they have a formidable and talented artist in Tree Stewart who has the ability to create artworks that really draw you into the musical adventure.
This album is their fifth and, once again, you are taken on a magical musical journey. This journey is about the passage of time and how it goes past so quickly that we should make the most of the time allotted to each of us. The album has just three tracks of eight, fourteen and twenty three minutes in duration. Within these tracks lie much skill and invention, take the track Out Of Time, which combines a haunting graceful piano motif with wah wah guitar lines and elements of world (Arabian music) and jazz rock into a unique melting pot but a pot that cooks up a hearty meal. I could go on and on about how exciting and captivating the middle section is with its complex rhythmic sections showing the depth of talent, imagination and skill the group have and exhibit on this track but I think you are best hearing this for yourself when the album is released in September. You will enjoy the recurring melody that carries the song along so very gracefully. It is simply exceptional. Around all this are floating layers of sumptuous keyboards, a jarring Sax and the fluid guitar runs of Ally Carter. Add the breathy vocals of Tree Stewart, the subtle and solidly inventive bass work of David Greenaway and the sturdy and effective drums of Tom Jackson and you can see that this ensemble really know how to create an atmosphere for sure.
I really love this track and the sentiments that it addresses, making memories that matter and that can sustain you. As one who is personally afflicted with dementia, this music is important and crucial and much needed, although I suspect most of the western world will fail to appreciate and catch the beauty contained in this album but, for those that do, you will find a veritable pot of gold here. Truly impressive and staggeringly wonderful a real joy to behold, I suggest you reserve your copy now and await your time to hear this masterpiece.
Timeless is a slow burner of a song that tells of a day too quickly over and a day that never ends, our state of mind exudes the pulse on which our time depends! Which are pretty sobering and honest words really. This is a shorter track, well if you call fourteen minutes short! The final track The March Of Time is about how time waits for no man, it merely marches on, nothing lasts forever except the memories you have saved. Running for just over eight minutes, this is a fabulous conclusion to the journey you have undertaken and this album truly is a journey into enlightenment. I feel it calls us all to be responsible stewards of our own time, to seize the day and also to make the most of our time whilst we can. These are welcome sentiments in a busy modern world where we are always hurrying against the clock and yet never winning, somehow this album is a message to us all. The song works to a strident marching track and has an epic guitar solo at the where Alan channels his inner Gilmour whilst Tree sings behind his playing reciting the line, “As time goes marching on.”
This is all delivered in style and alongside some really great music which, when you take the album as a whole experience, offers a very profound and moving musical journey. Tome, it’s totally different to their previous albums but with enough in common to let you know who they are. This is a really, really good album with great songs and performances. It is all beautifully produced with glorious artwork and I’m sure the vinyl version will look exquisite but, for us shiny disc lovers, this will do just fine.
Released 23rd September, 2023.
Pre-orders provisionally open on 4th August, 2023 here:
Progradar: So here we are with Matt and Kev from The Fierce And The Dead ahead of the release of (new album) ‘News From The Invisible World’ in July, so guys, first question, why vocals?
Kev (Feazey): Funnily enough, we get asked this quite a lot recently! I think that anybody who has followed us knew that the thing about not having vocals was never an idealogical stance, we never sat in a room and said that. We just got together and we played a lot of the stuff that was around when we were kids, a lot of rock music, from the kind of underground ‘Don Caballero’ kind of world, it wasn’t a huge leap to NOT have vocals, it just suited.
Then it was never like, literally, “We need to do something different with this album…”, we got these ideas and we mucked around for quite a few years after (previous album) ‘The Euphoric’ with vocal samples but it just never felt quite right. With this one it was literally like, “Shall we stick some vocals on that…”, and that was it, we thought, “Yeah, we’ll give it a go…” and we did and it worked!
Matt (Stevens): I think that, with the ‘The Euphoric’ album, we had done the best instrumental album that we could, we took that as far as we wanted to take it and then it was just a question of trying new things. It’s just not repeating yourself, doing things that are exciting to you and, hopefully, other people will be interested and, if they’re not, at least you’re doing what YOU want to do and you’re enjoying doing it, that’s the main thing.
Progradar: The only lyrics we’ve had on a TFATD release before were “Palm Trees!”
Matt: I remember our good friend Spike (Worsley), who is sadly no longer with us, coming up with those lyrics at a gig, Spike was a diamond. It was just a question of developing it really and this was the way to do it.
Kev: We were very keen because it was an experimentation to see how they would fit and we had a lot of discussion about how they’d present. We trusted each other implicitly, that’s one good reason why this band works, we can work on stuff and bring it back. There are no egos in this band, people play different instruments on recordings, it doesn’t matter.
The one thing that we all agreed on was that the vocals needed to sit in somehow, they needed to be part of the whole thing. The way we write music is still relatively similar, it was just really important that they (the vocals) sat inside of that and didn’t disrupt it.
Progradar: You guys know my opinion, it’s seems natural to me, the way the band should go forward. I think it’s a fantastic album, the vocal side of it is brilliant. It’s not majorly out there yet but you’ve had some feedback from the three singles you’ve released, what’s the feedback from your, shall we say, regular fanbase, has it been, on the whole, positive?
Kev: Yeah, I’d say, overall, it’s been really positive. Matt made a point the other day, you can see at what point people ‘got on the bus’ with us. If you’ve followed us all the way through, whilst it always sounds like us, ‘Morecambe’ and ‘The Euphoric’, if you listened to them both out of context then they wouldn’t sound like they came from the same band. It’s a case of this is where we are right now, this is what we’re writing and this is what we are going to do.
I think some people got on at certain points and might have a perception of us as a certain thing and have tied their flag to that mast, so to speak, they might not get it. Overall, though, we are over the moon really, we put it out there and most people have loved it. Matt said the other day that we seem to attract a lot of very broad-minded people.
Matt: It’s self-selecting, it’s a sort of filter. If you look into our Facebook group, the people who are there are open-minded about stuff. There are always going to be people for who the vocal sound doesn’t work and that’s totally cool. Certain vocalists just don’t connect with people and that’s not them being close-minded, it’s just that it doesn’t do it for them. The most commercial thing we could have done would have been to have made Truck ten times because that was our most popular song.
We could have gone around and played stoner rock festivals for the rest of eternity and had a lovely time doing that but, in the end, the reason we didn’t do that was because we wanted to do new things with it. What the music industry tends to be, and what the algorithms on Spotify want you to do, is make one song and then make that same song over and over again so you build a massive audience. At the end of the day, some people just aren’t into that and that’s fine. So far, in terms of our audience, they seem to be enjoying the tracks and the reviews that have come out so far have been positive. Ask me in two months time, it might be a different story. So far so good is probably the best answer I can give, to be honest.
Progradar: Do you think the new album will attract new fans to the band?
Matt: What tends to happen with The Fierce And The Dead records is that people get on and get off. There are people who loved ‘Spooky Action’ and didn’t like ‘The Euphoric’, there’s people who liked ‘The Euphoric’ and won’t like the new one. There’s people who liked the first E.P, the really long song we did, that haven’t liked anything we’ve done since because it’s not proper ‘post-rock’!
We’ve always lost and gained people, there’s people who came in when we played ArctTangent and from us supporting Hawkwind. There’s people who came in from Cardiacs and my solo stuff. They come and go all the time and I think that’s healthy. If you look at all the bands that changed radically sound-wise, it’s happened to all of them, hasn’t it? I still think there’s an attitude and a spirit that’s come from where we were to where we are now and we’re having a lovely time doing it.
It’s about building a community over making money and things, we are rubbish at making money for the band but we’re good at building a community around the band! The priority for me is to build the audience and to try and treat people really well, make it a nice thing to be part of and show how much we appreciate that audience. Hopefully we can continue to grow it, that’s always been my concern, it’s never been about making money. Just trying to make it better, nicer, make the shows bigger, just to keep it going really.
Kev: I’ll just add to that that, when we get together in a room to rehearse or play, that feels just like it did ten years ago. That, realistically, has been our aim through all of this, we really enjoy each other’s company, we like being around each other. It really sparks us creatively and that’s the thing that we want to keep going. We don’t TRY to be authentic because we just are, we do what we want to do.
We’ve never had any decisions to make when starting an album, Matt just walks into the room and goes, “I’ve got a riff!” and off we go! I think the audience picks up on that. If we were constantly chasing some rabbit down a hole because, as Matt said, it was really successful or making another Truck, then we’d be doomed.
Progradar: Because you guys are professional musicians but it is not your main source of income, does that give you the freedom to do what you want?
Matt: The Fierce And The Dead couldn’t work if we were trying to make it our main income stream because we wouldn’t be free to do what we want. That’s why you see a lot of artists doing the same thing, release the same album every eighteen months and go round the same gigs doing the same things. We are free to do EXACTLY what we want. If we wanted to release an ambient album or an acoustic album, we could do that, the main reason is because we have a small audience that support us.
We couldn’t afford to do this without making the money back, we are in a very lucky position that we have a core audience that buys enough of our music to keep it going. It’s the best of both worlds really, we’re musically free, our gigs sell out, we can put out the records that we want to put out and all the costs are covered. As long as that core fanbase continues to support us then we’re great.
Kev: Whenever we’ve had outside influence within the band, we have been very lucky that it’s always been positive. For example, working with David (Elliott) and yourself at Bad Elephant Music was a great experience. You can imagine, we have a lot of friends from the very bottom to the very top of the industry, you hear all these stories about expectations and all this kind of stuff and it’s weird. I have often spoken to Matt and we’ve mentioned about wanting play at certain places and to so many people but, when you look at what we’ve actually got, we’re fantastically lucky. We have enough self-awareness to understand that.
Progradar: How do you think the music industry has changed since you released the ‘Part 1’ E.P. back in 2010? Streaming and digital music were both in their infancy then, is that the major difference, do you think?
Kev: Me and Matt have very long, philosophical conversations about this, not just in context of the band but because it’s really interesting, like a cultural phenomenon. We seem to now be entering the era of ‘everything, everywhere, all at once’, to copy a phrase. Where things used to move in kind of like in waves, you’d have Nirvana wiping out hair metal and then you’d have britpop wiping out grunge, you’d have like a lens, people were having to look at what was available to them.
That was through what was curated by record labels or magazines, what was on TV, all that sort of stuff. Where as now, people can curate for themselves, I can introduce someone who’s never heard Neil Young and, by the next day, they can have heard everything that he has ever done. They can find a fairly brief but in-depth Wikipedia entry, they can know just about anything about this person. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s massively beneficial to us while also being a massive pain in the arse!
Matt: We’ve managed to go along doing what we want without anyone trying to interfere or cause us any problems. Look at the Cardiacs in the 80’s and 90’s, they had that core audience but they struggled to go any further than that. If you look at people like Faith No More, they got in there, with the metal scene and built an audience like that but, after they got to a certain point, it was almost like they weren’t the flavour of the month any more. Now, it’s just a case of building that audience one person at a time and hoping that, eventually, it will continue and become sustainable.
To answer your question about downloads and streaming, when I first started releasing my solo records, you sold a lot of CD’s and a lot of digital downloads. Streaming killed the digital download market, in terms of posting physical products out from the UK, that’s a bit of an issue now, with Brexit changes and postage costs going up massively. That makes it quite difficult to sell CD’s and vinyl mail order. It has radically changed and physical product has become quite difficult but, live wise, people are very keen to go to gigs, we’re not struggling to sell tickets. Certainly, people are still interested, if you look at the story of music over the last 40 or 50 years, it’s just a story of constant change.
The 90’s where bands on indie labels could sell ten thousand CDs, that world has gone and isn’t coming back, there’s more competition now, people have to accept the cards they’re dealt with and just get on with it. Count your blessings and realise that to have an audience is a massive privilege as most musicians haven’t got an audience, they’re making records in their bedroom to no one. We’re very lucky and I’ve got nothing to complain about, I can only see positives really.
Kev: Because we’re not looking at things through the lens of commerce, when we get a message from a fan in Brazil, that blows my mind, this is something that we laboured over in various studios and houses and it’s got that breadth without major distribution and all that kind of stuff. In that way, that’s amazing and, for a musician, that’s the payoff.
Progradar: Talking of the new album, what goes into writing an album for TFATD? How does it begin? Is it a collection of ideas from all four of you or does one of you come with more ideas than the others?
Kev: Because of Covid, the way we work radically changed. The way we normally work was that somebody would come in, 95% of the time that would be Matt, with a riff or something they’d put together and that would be then filtered through all the members of the band. It would be very rare that Matt would come in and say he had a bass line or I’ve got a drum beat to go with it.
Matt: Yeah, I probably do bring in the majority of the riffs but, by the time we finished it, very little would sound similar, most people wouldn’t recognise it as the same part. Whilst that’s kind of the spark, I wouldn’t say in any way that it’s me dominating the writing process.
Kev: That’s right, Matt would have brought something in and eventually it just sounded like us because everybody developed it. We all grew up together, we have this language that we can talk together in . That’s how we kind of put all the songs together in the past. On ‘The Euphoric’ we started demoing stuff, which we’d never really done before. Me and Stuart (Marshall) went into a studio and we demoed stuff but, on this one, because we obviously weren’t actually able to go into a room together, we had to think about it differently.
We all got ourselves little set-ups, Stuart had like a MIDI drum kit, Matt, Steve (Cleaton) and I all had little recording things then Matt would send me riffs, Steve would send me riffs, I’d send them ideas and there was a lot of file sharing. The beauty of being able to have MIDI parts, on a track like Photogenic Love, Matt sent me a piano piece, because it was MIDI, I could change the sound. He doesn’t give it to me with context, I might hear something different and I can then filter it and send it back, it’s a constant back and forth, almost like evolving the song.
Doing it this way actually allowed us to spend time individually, especially Stuart. I could send him tracks with rough drum machines on and he could then spend time at home on them. As any drummer knows, in a rehearsal room, trying to work your parts out is not that easy. He was able to sit back and come up with ideas, like flipping the beat on the choruses of Golden Thread, which is something I would never have thought of.
It’s really exciting when you get something that you’ve been working on, you send it off and it comes back different, it’s almost like you’re not in the band anymore and you’re hearing it again. It was all built up like that and then we went back over it with the real instruments, some of the parts on the album are literally demos. Again, on Photogenic Love, the guitar melody over the chorus is the original part that Matt sent me with all the effects on it and everything.
Matt: We couldn’t quite get the same sound again, could we?
Kev: Exactly, we’re not purists in that sense at all, if it sounds good then it’s good! What I’m trying to say is that filtering system has just become a bit bigger, where as before it used to be us in the room. It was a bit quicker but with less time to stand back from it and reflect on it, now it’s a lot slower but we have a lot longer to reflect on stuff.
Progradar: The album is going to be released later in July and you’re already working on album five, is it strange to be promoting ‘News From The Invisible World’ while you’re also writing new music?
Matt: When we were doing the fourth album, because Covid happened, we had a lot of time to write and we ended up with lots of stuff. For the first time ever, we had more music than we actually needed so we just carried on. Obviously we’re doing all the production of the physical stuff at the moment and all the PR, which has slowed it down a little bit but we’re still just carrying on writing. Each track we do is a progression of the last one, rather than each album, if you listen to ‘Invisible World’, although it sounds like us, there’s no dominant thing going on.
It’s lots of different ideas, you’ve got stuff that sounds like Radiohead and Pink Floyd, you’ve got stuff that sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, The Flaming Lips, there’s loads of different influences in there. I think as we develop the material we’re currently working on, that’s kind of an extension of what we were doing. I think that, now we know the vocals are going on, it’s a different thing because we didn’t really know where we were going with them.
We’re also using more strings and stuff, I really liked that, and the pianos. I think the ‘Invisible World’ has made us feel quite confident and we’re trying different things and just trying to be braver really. The last song on the album, Nostalgia Now, has got lots of strings and piano and on it and it just makes me think that I want to keep trying new things.
I think people can hear when you’re excited about things yourself and I think that comes across on the record, that enthusiasm and joy comes across to the audience. We don’t really know where we’re going with it yet but it will be a continuation of what we’ve done, we’ve probably got all the bits ready for album five, haven’t we?
Kev: Across the years we’ve never stopped writing, we’ve always got instruments around us and we’ve got WhatsApp groups and voice memos of Steve at two o’clock in the morning quietly trying to play us his ideas. It could be literally two years and then one of us will go, “I’ve just found this…”, an email I sent you and it’s really good and just been sitting there waiting to be discovered!
Matt: I think the writing process for the last record was so broad, Non-Player was Steve’s idea initially, I think it’s given Steve a chance to be more of a song writer which is really good for me. The Start was mainly Kev’s, there’s all of us putting parts in and, like I said, it’s Stuart having a chance to work at home on stuff. It’s been really interesting, we’ve put a lot more thought into this one.
Kev: Being able to demo properly, it’s like you can actually go and listen to it and realise it’s fine where as, in the rehearsal room, it sounds great because it’s loud. You’re going to play it seventy-five times and think it sounds great but, when you take away the volume and put it in a different context, is it still fun?
Progradar: I think I know the answer to this but, how much are you looking forward to getting out there and playing these songs live?
Matt: Yeah, can’t wait, really looking forward to it. We’ve got a friend of ours who’s come down to help us with backing vocals and a bit of percussion and keyboards. We could play to click or play to a backing track but I’d rather not, if we can help it. I’m not averse to it but, if we can play it live, I’d rather play it live, it’s more exciting. We just can’t wait to play live again, the gigs we do are not necessarily about us, they’re more about the community of people that come to the gigs.
All those people in the Facebook group and all those people we’ve met over the years coming together, that’s why I love it. There’s no egos, it’s more important than trying to be a show off, it’s more about developing that sense of community. Treating people with decency and respect and being grateful for the support we get so, yes, can’t wait to play it live. We love playing and I love a Premier Inn breakfast, it will be fantastic!
Kev: For us, it’s just given us a new twist, new challenges and things we’ve got to work out how to do, how we present it and that makes it interesting for us. We always want everything to be joyous and a celebration, the last few rehearsals we’ve had have been really good fun, it’s really exciting.
Progradar: It’s time for the last question, to both of you, please recommend one band that you’ve been listening to a lot recently…
Matt: A metal band called Svalbard, they go really heavy and then really melodic and then really screamy. They’re great and have som excellent tunes, for the last few years I’ve gone back into a metal phase again. It was the music I grew up with when I was a kid and, for the last few years, a lot more experimental metal bands have come through and Svalbard would be the one I recommend.
Kev: Literally, what I’ve been listening to this week, there’s band called BadBadNotGood. I’m not sure how you’d describe them, jazz/funk? I’m not sure what you’d call it? They’ve got an album called ‘IV’ that I’d highly recommend to everybody. There’s a lot of sound design in it, it’s all very simple instrumentation but it’s how the instruments are presented, it’s very similar to a lot of what we do. We think about how we make the instruments sound, there’s a lot of bands that have influenced us that people may think are a long way from us, like TheFlaming Lips.
Progradar: Thank you guys, it’s been a pleasure as ever to chat to you and I wish you the best of luck with the new album and will hopefully catch you live somewhere soon!
Matt & Kev: Cheers and thanks for everything!
‘News From The Invisible World’ will be released on 28th July, 2023 and you can pre-order the album from bandcamp here:
One of the best things for me in this strange world of progressive rock is the emergence over the past few years of folks who have revisited their musical dreams and have released their music to the world. Often with collaboration with established musicians, they create some often remarkable, confident and satisfying music. I’m thinking of the likes of Stewart Clark and John Holden who have both offered some truly fabulous music.
Well, to that list add the name Michael Dunn who, using the ‘project’ moniker, has delivered a prog associated album with lots of AOR influences clearly showing in its blood, think REO Speedwagon, Boston etc. and you’re in the right ball park. Michael, who is 64, is a late bloomer who, after retiring from many years in sales and marketing, has devised a system that allows independent musicians to make a good living from their craft. To test this system, he finally stepped up to make the music he had always wanted to make with assistance from the likes of Andy Tillison, Amanda Lehmann and Joe Deninzon, all of who lend their talents towards making this such a strong, interesting and varied album.
I came across the album via friends on Facebook who were raving about this great release and also saying what a gracious and splendid fellow Michael Dunn is. Being the person I am, I just had to hear this for myself and I can concur that Michael is a really great guy, friendly, open and passionate abut the music he has made and deserving of a wider audience that he would possibly receive elsewhere. As such, I consider it my duty to do what little bit I can to help this album receive the recognition that it is most worthy of.
In a year that has seen some great releases from bands like Yes, The Dave Foster Band and Ruby Dawn, to name but a few, this album can proudly stand with its head held high for its six tracks offer varied moods and styles but are all anchored in top notch songwriting and assured delivery with excellent musical support from Michael and his friends in the Project.
What shines through on this album is the commitment to creating a musical statement that is well conceived, crafted and ultimately delivered convincingly. For a first album to be that assured and confident is to be applauded and recognised. This album may have been 40 years in the making but the results are definitely spectacular and rewarding to hear, especially on the album’s centrepiece BridgeAcross The Years, which has three parts to it, how proggy is that?
The album kicks off in strong form and style with the excellent I Draw The Line, which also introduces the excellent vocals of Diego Viramontes, who sounds slightly like Klaus Meine of The Scorpions, his voice being clear and punchy and having great power to it. He is an excellent foil to Michael’s fluid guitar, also important is the rhythm section of Ginger Pimental (bass) and David Anania (drums) who drive the song along firmly. Better still is the second track Turn Of The Cards which has a great bassline to start with and crunchy guitars firing. This song actually is full of great guitars and has a fine solo that reminds me of Ronnie Montrose’sGamma albums, it has much power to it as it plays out, there is really something special here as the song ends on a sustained guitar note.
Then we have the song Let Me Be which features Andy Tillison on Hammond Organ where it sounds truly glorious. The organ swells really are most impressive, they make a song that grows into a slow burning masterful track. When the tune changes tack and the guitar is set free, the organ is there close by adding significant support and style. It really is most impressive, as are the bass of Joe Alvaro and the vocals of George T. Montebruno, whose style is a great fit for the track. Tomorrow Is Today, unsurprisingly, has more than a hint of Kansas (Joe Deninzon is their new violinist), I wonder if this album and track were instrumental in that? One can but wonder, it would be great if it was as his playing here is exceptional and adds gravitas to this impressive track. Another Day In The Modern World follows and this is another slow burn of a song, one with strong lyrics, agreat delivery and more of Michael’s fleet fingered guitar lines!
This really is an album that delivers on so many levels, strong impassioned music and performances, all of which make this album nothing less than interesting and often inspired. The three part epic album closer, Bridge Across The Years, opens with acoustic guitar and the keyboards of Marc Gladstone and the ever impressive vocals of Diego Viramontes with additional harmony from Amanda Lehmann. Part two of this epic is an instrumental featuring gentle guitar and swirling keyboards from Marc before the final section shows us how to rock once more with a touch of Styx and that great Hammond Organ of Andy Tillison again. This section also has superb harmony vocals from Catherine St Germain and Amanda. This is a fabulous closing piece with lots of powerful performances and great music.To me, what it does lack is a final guitar solo to finish things off but, even so, it’s a great ending section to a great album.
Its especially worth reading The Dream Team page on the website (link below) which details more info about the players on the album and you can see why he is viewed as being a great guy from his comments about his fellow musicians. In short this is a highly recommended release and will invariably end up in my best of the year list somewhere, it really is that impressive and special.
Over the past year, Swedish progressive rock legends The Flower Kings & InsideOutMusic have been reissuing the bands extensive back catalogue as newly remastered & partially remixed editions, with some being available on vinyl for the very first time. Today sees that campaign reach its culmination with the launch of ‘The Sum Of No Evil’ on Ltd CD Digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP+CD & as Digital Album.
Watch Roine Stolt discuss the most recent reissue and more in this new clip:
The band also recently announced a European headline tour for October 2023, in support of their as-yet-unannounced new studio album. This tour will also see the band digging out some old epics, following the recent reissues of the bands entire back catalogue.
Roine Stolt comments: “The Flower Kings are back to the world of touring, with a number of European dates later this year. We will be celebrating the early years as well playing tracks from our new album. For this tour the line-up will be Roine Stolt, Hasse Fröberg, Michael Stolt, Mirko DeMaio and include keyboardists Daniel Lantz (Spring & Summer) and Lalle Larsson (Autumn).”
The full list of upcoming dates is below, including some select dates this Summer.
Look out for more information on the forthcoming new album in the coming months.
SHERINIAN/PHILLIPSis the musical alliance of Derek Sherinian and Simon Phillips, whose parallel reputations in virtuosic sonic inventions combine on the backdrop of instrumental genre fusion. Though the two had written and recorded together in the past, commitments to other projects had kept them busy in their own circles for a time. Upon their reunion for the recording of 2020’s The Phoenix, the duo has been going strong with consistent new releases ever since. Now, they are pleased to announce the release of SHERINIAN/PHILLIPS LIVE, which exhibits the pair uniting once again for a collaborative effort, documenting a special concert recorded at The Grape in Ventura, California on August 29th, 2022. The set is due out on August 25th, 2023 on InsideOutMusic.
Joining Sherinian/Phillips are fellow creatives Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on guitar and Ric Fierabracci on bass to round out the lineup of the evening. Several tracks from the latest studio album offering, Vortex, made their way into the set, such as the title track “Vortex”, “Seven Seas”, and “Aurora Australis” (the original recording of which featured Bumblefoot), alongside other instrumentals.
You can check out the performance of “Aurora Australis” now here:
SHERINIAN/PHILLIPS LIVE has every note – planned or jammed – captured like lightning in a bottle, taking listeners to the moment these sounds sparked from their instruments. The live performance sits naturally in a rock context, while reminiscent of jazz fusion concert structures, with room for each musician to stand out in a solo space, each carrying and trading unique melodies along the way.
Derek Sherinian: “After 20 years of making albums together, it was a great pleasure bringing this music to life with Simon for the first time.”
The album will be available in the following formats:
Black Vinyl | Ltd. CD Digipak | CD Jewelcase (North America)
Sherinian’s background as a composer and keyboardist extends well beyond his familiar Dream Theater run, with a notable solo career creating a landscape for contributions from an array of acclaimed musicians, alongside performance credits with the likes of Alice Cooper, Black Country Communion, Billy Idol, Whitesnake, Kiss, Black Label Society, and Sons of Apollo (doubling on production credits), among others.
Phillips has equally rooted himself as a well-respected drummer and composer in the rock, metal, and jazz worlds, with credits ranging from Toto, Judas Priest, Jeff Beck, The Who, Whitesnake, and Joe Satriani, to a discography in jazz fusion with Protocol, movie soundtracks, and beyond.
The diverse range of this pair’s individual talents collectively emerges through each work they craft together; Sherinian and Phillips continue to evolve their joint musical endeavors in new directions.
Last year Cherry Red released a ‘Complete Montrose Recordings’ boxset over 6 CD’s with various single edits and two live studio recordings. After four albums with Montrose between 1973 and 1977, plus a solo album in 1978, Ronnie Montrose formed Gamma with Davey Pattison in 1979. So, in the same tradition, comes this 3 CD boxset of the three Gamma albums made for Elektra before RonnieMontrose called time on the band, (they did return for a fourth outing in 2000 with ‘Gamma 4’, not included here sadly, nor is there the live album that is currently about from a show in Denver in 1979 when the band were promoting their debut album).
What is here is good, although the booklet is a little light in background information, somehow it merely reproduces the various album artworks and details the musicians playing. The music is, however, truly sensational, I bought the first few Gamma albums on vinyl and thoroughly loved them, especially the first and third. For some reason. I never really clicked with ‘Gamma 2’ but certainly do within this boxset, the album being a revelation here, sounding crisp and punchy and rocks like a b*****d!
Gamma existed at a time when rock music was undergoing a dramatic remaking. After punk had done its thing, and before the 80’s got into gear, there was a new wave of rock music emerging on American radio rock, with the likes of Bon Jovi poised to change the airwaves considerably. That process was already happening with the likes of Foreigner and Boston taking over the airwaves.
Gamma were Ronnie Montrose’s own attempt to gain some commercial foothold and offered music that easy on the ear but still had an edge to it. Much of this came about because of his joining up with Glaswegian born Davey Pattison, who had relocated to Los Angeles to further his own career after a sojourn with Robin Trower. He was noticed by Ronnie and invited to join the project that became Gamma.
‘Gamma 1’ was released in 1979, Pattison’s muscular vocals giving restrained power to tracks like Thunder And Lightning and the awesome epic Fight To The Finish, alongside the twisted tale of streetlights in Razor King, a song possibly inspired by the Glasgow Pattinson had left behind, and a freak instrumental in Solar Heat. There was also the distinctly poppy I’m Alive that, despite its lightweight nature and it vocoder vocals, pummelled along at a cracking pace.
Pattison reveals himself to be a fine vocalist who has a great tone to his voice. RonnieMontrose is very active on guitar throughout with punchy rhythm and fills galore. Razor King is a dark tale of violence and some nefarious behaviour, again this song has lot of guitars in it, it is a good track with a great guitar break from Ronnie that powers it along, especially when the guitars compliment Davey’s vocals. Ready For Action is a solid rocker with atmosphere and muscle, the production is busy and bustling with space for great dynamics and muscular bass from AlanFitzgerald, another ex Montrose member and, once again, Pattison is in fine voice throughout. There is then a bluesy take on Wish I Was by MackeyNewbury and the final track is the brooding, sprawling epic Fight To The Finish which is full of energy and fire along with an epic guitar solo from Ronnie that peaks and the peaks again. It is a marvellous track that was always a favourite of mine back in the day and rounds out what is a varied yet consistent album, as does the second solo that draws the song to a close, a truly great song.
‘Gamma 2’ came out in 1980 and, straight from the off, it is a harder sounding album, still with lots of keyboard embellishments but also with muscular guitar work, MeanStreak being a particularly powerful opener. Again, Pattison is on cracking form, the months spent touring had definitely helped his vocal prowess develop even further. Here he is confident and assertive, with his voice soaring and floating over everything easily and gracefully and commanding respect in the process. The material he is working with is equally assured and the guitar work is fluid and powerful while also melodic and memorable to boot. Overall it makes for a winning combination.
Dirty City is another gritty number with a strong chorus and excellent keyboard textures that turn into a driving beat amid the lyrics of streetlights tales and the dirt of it all and another blistering solo makes the track fly. Voyager is different again, having, as it does, more of a blues shuffle feel to it. This allows room for lots of blues fills as the song details the loneliness of an astronaut away from earth for a long time. This, of course, was around the time of the initial space shuttle launches when space travel was a distinct possibility once more. The song is hinged on a walking bass line that rumbles throughout in a great manner, it is a great performance that really impresses. I used to have this album on vinyl but never really took to it as well as the debut. Well, the intervening 42 years have now revealed this to be a really strong record, one that has power, muscle, attitude and brawn in spades and makes for a really enjoyable and rewarding listening experience.
Cat On A Leash is the first sign of a track that promises but somehow fails to deliver, although the closing moments have a spark of life to them. Skin And Bone has beef and brawn to it. Great keyboard textures and more moody bass lines, with Ronnie’s sustained guitar lines, sound very effective indeed. The synth keyboard solo is a bit twee really but it is of its time and doesn’t distract to much. When the power chords charge in the song moves style and impresses greatly. A superb solo closes out the track well leading us into the riffing opening chords of Mayday, an instrumental opening section that Gamma do so well, with fiery guitar before Davey’s strong vocals begin, it closes the album in good form.
‘Gamma 3’ come out in 1982 and, this time around, there was more emphasis on keyboard textures and sounds. Although the guitar is still present, it plays a less upfront role, with the fireworks largely saved for solo sections. The sound is a lot more radio friendly and focused, although the solo on opener What’s Gone Is Gone is glorious, as is the long sustained note like in Don’t Fear The Reaper, both most impressive indeed. The album is a lot lighter in tone as a result, although there are undercurrents of power in play. Gamma we’re after a more commercial sound, one that would raise their stature beyond that of a perennial opening act, indeed I saw the band open for Foreigner in Birmingham on the ‘Tooth And Nail’ tour where they were fantastic. Sadly the change of approach failed to deliver any significant benefits with the result that Ronnie Montrose lost interest and split the band up to make more instrumental guitar albums.
The rest of ‘Gamma 3’ is all fairly lightweight, electronic new age pop music with only occasional moments of merit. It’s a pity that the band went off on a tangent that didn’t really work for them for, while Stranger is a solid instrumental, what we really want are more rocky vocal tracks. Still, you can’t have them all I guess?
The boxset is good but a bit of a missed opportunity really as, without ‘Gamma 4’, it feels incomplete but certainly of interest, if only for ‘Gamma 1’ and ‘Gamma 2’, both of which are excellent.
Homeward Bound is the third single from Isbjörg’s upcoming second full-length album which is expected to be released in early 2024.
Along with the latest releases ‘Ornament’ and ‘Afterglow’, ‘Homeward Bound’ marks a new era for the band who, since the release of their debut album ‘Iridescent’ in 2019, have welcomed Jonathan Kjærulff Jensen as their new front figure.
With ‘Homeward Bound” Isbjörg continues to push the boundaries of just how catchy and approachable math rock can be. ‘Homeward Bound’ is an energetic up-tempo track packed with catchy hooks, tight musicianship and the unmistakable larger-than-life Isbjörg sound.
‘Homeward Bound’ is available on all major streaming services from Friday the 14th of July 2023.
Isbjörg is a Danish math-stadium rock band centered around the piano.
The aim of the band has always been to surprise and break musical boundaries without compromising the songwriting. Odd time signatures and polyrhythms combined with catchy hooks and lush melodies captures the listener in an intense and captivating soundscape.
Following the release of two EP’s and singles, Isbjörg released their debut album ‘Iridescent’ in 2019. The album was very acclaimed by both fans and critics for its epic, piano-centered sound and the captivating songwriting.
After the release of ‘Iridescent’ Isbjörg have been touring around Denmark and played everything from small clubs to big festivals such as SmukFest in 2019. The last couple of years Isbjörg have worked intensively on writing their follow-up album. After the departure of singer Niklas Jespersen in early 2022, Isbjörg welcomed Jonathan Kjærulff Jensen (Lara Luna) as their new lead singer and are now standing stronger and more focused than ever with a lot of single releases planned for 2023 before releasing their second full-length album in early 2024.
Homeward Bound press release and bio (før release)
HeKz breaks new ground with their latest single release, ‘Sabotage’. This powerful, anthemic track showcases the band’s unique approach to progressive rock, which blends elements of classic and contemporary influences.
From its thunderous opening to its climactic finale, ‘Sabotage’ is a sonic rollercoaster that is a testament to HeKz’s ability to fuse intricate musicality with raw emotion. Combining soaring vocals, intricate guitar riffs, and a rhythm section that drives like a locomotive, ‘Sabotage’ showcases the band’s mastery of their craft.
Fronted by the charismatic and dynamic lead vocalist Matt Young, HeKz delivers an impassioned performance that captivates from start to finish. Guitarist Mark Bogert shows that his command of the instrument is awe-inspiring, whilst violinist Irina Markevich’s contribution to the track showcases her singular voice as a musician and cements her role as an integral part of HeKz’s sound. With an unwavering sense of precision and impeccable timing, drummer Moyano el Buffalo creates a rhythmic foundation that propels the song forward with relentless energy.
The song features a surprise appearance by special guest Nic Weaver, who provides a full brass section to ‘Sabotage.’ Weaver’s arrangements elevate HeKz’s sound to new heights, and his performance on ‘Sabotage’ is sure to leave a lasting impression on listeners.
The lyrics of ‘Sabotage’ depict a protagonist caught in the depths of their own struggle, yearning to break free from the shackles of their tumultuous reality and desperately yearning for a rejuvenating new beginning. Young’s versatile voice delivers the intense and introspective lyrics with conviction and depth. Inspired by Jules Verne’s timeless classic “Around the World in 80 Days,” the lyric video for “Sabotage” is a visual journey which begins in the suffocating grip of an oppressive city before soaring high in a vibrant hot air balloon, then finally venturing into the unknown in search of a fresh start. The video perfectly captures the essence of breaking free from the confines of everyday life and embracing the exhilarating possibilities of a new beginning.
With a growing fan base and a reputation for delivering captivating live performances, HeKz has established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the progressive rock scene. ‘Sabotage’ further solidifies their standing as a band that refuses to be confined by musical expectations, carving their own path with a distinctive and recognisable sound. ‘Sabotage’ is now available for streaming on all major platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp. This captivating new single will satisfy the cravings of listeners hungry for fresh progressive rock that they can bang their heads to!