John Wenlock-Smith’s ‘Best of 2023’

This is a list of the albums that have made a big impression on me this year. They are not in any order although several marked☆ are my favourites and I will nominate one as my album of the year.

Here is the list:

1.OrionThe End Of Suffering – This came out of nowhere and it is a testament to one man’s vision and willingness to create music that he wanted to.

The End of Suffering | Orion (

2. Tribe 3 – Self Titled- This recent release most definitely impresses with its progressive, inspired take on fusion.

CD ‘Tribe3’ | Tribe3

3. John Greenwood  – Dark Blue ☆☆ This arrived, again largely unnoticed, but what a brilliant release, thoughtful, emotional and an utterly captivating listen.

DARK BLUE | John Greenwood (

4. Material Eyes  – Inside Out excellent prog from the North East of England.

Inside Out | Materialeyes (

5. The Michael Dunn ProjectBridge Across The Years ☆ Canadian musicians superb debut release, 40 years in the making.

The Michael Dunn Project

6. The Drinking Club – Really??? ☆ Very Marillion like in places, another great release.

…really?!? | The Drinking Club (

7. Pryzme – Four Inches – Superb French band release excellent album with a fondness for Rush stylings.

Four Inches | Pryzme (

8. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Light Of Ancient Mistakes ☆ Amazing next adventure for impressive North London duo.

The Light Of Ancient Mistakes | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (

9. Downes Braide AssociationCelestial Songs ☆ Excellent new album of epics from the DBA Team.

Downes Braide Association: Celestial Songs, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records

10. Nova Cascade – The Navigator – A musical tribute to Eric Bouilette after his passing, beautifully done.

The Navigator | NOVA CASCADE (

11. Southern Empire – Another World ☆ A strong return for Australian favourites.

Another World CD – GEP

12. Ruby Dawn Beyond Tomorrow ☆☆ A deeply emotional album from Wokingham’s finest.

Beyond Tomorrow | Ruby Dawn (

13. Tiger Moth TalesThe Turning Of The World ☆Deeply Personal album from Peter Jones, largely acoustic but very satisfying.

Tiger Moth Tales (

14. Nick FletcherQuadrivium ☆☆☆ My album of the year. Fusion for today, an album forging forward and beyond while embracing the past.Unbelievably fine music that is beautifully realised.

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

15. Pattern Seeking AnimalsSpooky Action At A Distance – Fourth excursion from some-time Spock’s Beard men along with John Boegehold and a further step forward.

Spooky Action at a Distance (

16. CyanPictures From The Other Side – Second album from Rob Reed’s excellent young project, with Peter Jones and Luke Machin firing on all cylinders.

17. The Emerald Dawn  – In Time ☆ – Beautiful album themed around time and memories and how we perceive them.

In Time | The Emerald Dawn (

18. Dave Foster BandGlimmer ☆ The year’s ‘grower’ album that just gets better with every listen.

Glimmer | The Dave Foster Band (

19. DamanekMaking Shore – A splendidly exciting album from the early part of the year, epic, melodious and really strong.

Damanek – Making Shore – GEP

20. Swan ChorusAchilles and The Difference Engine – My favourite vocal led album of the year, especially the wonderfully poignant track Being There about Peter Sellers, a beautiful song.

Achilles and the Difference Engine | Swan Chorus (

It’s been a tremendously fine year for music. A post-covid boom has inspired some stalwart activities with some excellent and impressive releases, here’s to an even better 2024!

John Wenlock-Smith.

EchoVerse Debuts with a Bold Reimagining of The Beatles’ Classic ‘Eleanor Rigby’

Emerging from the progressive rock scene, EchoVerse announces the release of their first single, a distinctive cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” EchoVerse, born from members of the Christian Prog Rock band Ascher, blend influences from progressive rock giants like Spock’s Beard, RUSH, and Dream Theater.

The track was mixed by renowned producer Rich Mouser, noted for his collaborations with bands like Weezer, Spock’s Beard, and Dream Theater. The music video, inspired by the iconic Yellow Submarine film, was directed by Christian Rios, a prominent name in the Prog Rock scene, known for his work with Neal Morse Band, Flying Colors, and Jethro Tull.

EchoVerse is thrilled to release their debut music video for their cover of “Eleanor Rigby”.

You can watch the video on YouTube here:

EchoVerse’s interpretation of “Eleanor Rigby” transforms the timeless song with a progressive rock perspective, preserving the essence that made the original remarkable while aiming to enhance the musical setting. This approach results in a creation that is both sharp and grand, offering a fresh take on a beloved classic.

“With ‘Eleanor Rigby’, we wanted to pay homage to The Beatles, but also put our own twist on it, maybe with a little more punch,” says Kyle Graves, the lead singer. “Our aim is to create music that’s enjoyable to listen to but also makes you think and feel, both with the sound and the stories we’re telling. And what better story than Eleanor Rigby?”

EchoVerse has a distinct sound, mixing complex music with experimental features. Their recent cover is more than a simple version of a song; it introduces their musical identity. Their first album with original songs “Whispers Between Worlds” is coming in 2024, and this cover gives a sneak peek at the fresh and inventive music EchoVerse will bring to Progressive Rock.

Kyle Graves: Lead Vocals
Doug Bowers: Vocals, Keys, Bass, Guitar
Rob Perez: Lead Guitar
Kyle Fagala: Drums, Vocals

Progradar – Review Of The Year 2023

2023 has been a fantastic year for music with an absolute plethora of superb albums that I have reviewed. It’s always very difficult indeed to pick out my favourite twenty releases from such a stellar year but here are the ones that have really left a mark for me.

They are in no particular order for the first nineteen but I have debated long and hard about my number one album so read on and find out what has taken the honour for 2023…

This Winter Machine ‘The Clockwork Man’

‘The Clockwork Man’ is modern, neo-tinged, progressive rock at its finest and most involving, perfectly created and performed by a band who have found their feet after three accomplished releases and have delivered their finest work yet. This Winter Machine now stand at the forefront of modern neo-progressive rock and can be rightly proud of a concept album that can stand the test of time with some of the best that have gone before.

Released 6th October, 2023.

Order from White Knight Records here:

This Winter Machine – The Clockwork Man CD (pre-order) | whiteknightrecords (

One Sided Horse‘My Favourite City At Night In The Rain’

So, there you have it, ‘My Favourite City At Night In The Rain’ is quite possibly one of the most important albums you will listen to this year. If you want an example of why music is so wonderful and moves people in so many ways then you cannot pick a better example than this utterly triumphant work of art, Mark Whiteside and One Sided Horse please take a bow, I thank you from the bottom of my heart…

Released 8th September, 2023.

Order here:

My Favourite City At Night In The Rain | One Sided Horse (

Hekz ‘Terra Nova’

Well, what can I say, I knew that a new Hekz album would be something pretty good but I had no idea it would be this special. With ‘Terra Nova’Hekz have given us the ultimate involving musical thrill ride and I just don’t want to get off. To tell the truth, it’s the best progressive-metal album I’ve heard in many a year and, if this is the future of the genre, I’m completely sold!

Released 3rd November, 2023.

Order from the band here:

Terra Nova | HeKz 2/3 (

Comedy of Errors‘Threnody For A Dead Queen’

‘Threnody For A Dead Queen’ is Comedy Of Errors at their very, very best, the music builds, almost as if alive, it has moods and emotions and captivates from the very first note. This band just get better and better with each wonderful album they create and, without exception, this release is up there with the very best of the year so far. Hell, in my opinion, it is Comedy Of Errors’ best yet, their Magnum Opus if you like and you should just go out and buy it!

Released 2nd June, 2023.

Order the CD direct from the band here:

Comedy of Errors : Shop

Order the mp3 from bandcamp here:

Threnody For A Dead Queen | Comedy Of Errors (

Zeelley Moon ‘The Author And The Dreamer’

‘The Author and the Dreamer’ connects with you in your sub-conscious, the songwriting and performances are second to none and Zeelley Moon’s innate Englishness and idiosyncracies are what make this music so appealing and enjoyable and one of my albums of 2023. Do yourselves a favour and get your hands on it as soon as you can!

Released 20th November, 2023.

Download and streaming on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube Music and the usual others.

Physical Album sales available on or direct at

The Round Window – ‘Everywhere & Nowhere’

Everywhere & Nowhere’ takes everything that was great about the band’s debut and just lifts it several levels. It is lush, classy, insightful and so melodically impressive and is an album that The Round Window should be mightily proud of. Difficult second album? not for these highly accomplished musicians!

Released 8th December, 2023.

Order digital from bandcamp here:

Everywhere & Nowhere | The Round Window (

Order CD’s direct from the band’s website here:

Everywhere & Nowhere – The Round Window

Moon Safari‘Himlabacken Vol. 2’

Music has the power to move you and impact on your life in a positive manner and, with ‘Himlabacken Vol. 2’Moon Safari have delivered the most wonderfully uplifting collection of songs I have heard this year. A joyous, mood enhancing release that just makes this world we live in a better place to be, if only for a short time. Trust me, you need this album in your life!

Released 8th December, 2023.

Order digital at bandcamp here:

Himlabacken Vol. 2 (24-bit audio) | Moon Safari (

Order physical product from Burning Shed here:

Himlabacken Vol. 2 (

The Twenty Committee‘The Cycle Undone’

With ‘The Cycle Undone’ The Twenty Committee have not only returned triumphant, they have also delivered one of THE musical experiences of 2023. Highly emotive songwriting allied with musicianship of the utmost quality, the band’s sophomore release builds on the enormous promise of their debut all those years ago. It may be ten years after but, boy, what a way to make a comeback!

Released 12th December, 2023.

Order the digital from bandcamp here:

The Cycle Undone | The Twenty Committee (

The Oculist‘Cautionary Tales’

‘Cautionary Tales’ is one of the freshest sounding albums you will hear this year, it is prog-metal for the thinking music fan and has real heart and soul at its core. I for one am intrigued to see what this talented duo come up with next.

Released 8th December, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Cautionary Tales | The Oculist (

Southern Empire‘Another World’

Southern Empire record is always just more than an album release, it’s a hugely significant occasion and one that I await with bated breath. Their music has been a soundtrack of my more recent years and is very, very important to me on a musical and emotional level. ‘Another World’is an absolute masterpiece of musical theatre and, possibly, the band’s Magnum Opus, one of the best albums you will hear this or any other year, and the perfect accompaniment to my life.

Released 4th September, 2023.

Order CD from GEP here:

Another World – Pre Order – GEP

And the vinyl from GEP here:

Another World Orange Marbled Vinyl – Pre Order – GEP

John Greenwood‘DARK BLUE’

It’s not often we hear a truly progressive release nowadays but, almost from out of nowhere, John Greenwood has entered the fray with one of the finest releases of 2023. The musicianship and songwriting are top notch and, like all the best albums, I find this on almost permanent rotation, it is, to put it simply, utterly superb!

Released 1st July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

DARK BLUE | John Greenwood (

Blue Rose Code‘Curios 2009-2020’

There is nothing better than music that connects with you at a basic level, music that moves you and music that almost becomes part of you and Ross Wilson and Blue Rose Code create music that is all that and more. This collection of B-sides, varieties and singles is something that should be cherished and I, for one, cannot wait for 2024 and a new album from this incredible musician. Ross Wilson, my friend, I wish you peace in your heart…

Released 3rd November, 2023.

Order from band camp here:

Curios 2009 – 2020 | Blue Rose Code (

Glass Hammer‘Arise’

There’s no weak link on this album, it just ebbs and flows beautifully, although the last three tracks go together so well. They’re possibly the best triumvirate of songs that the band have ever done back to back. With the Skallagrim series Glass Hammer proved themselves masters of the dynamic and grandiose and ‘Arise’ gives the impression that the creative skills of Steve Babb have gone into overdrive, is there a better storyteller in modern progressive music?

Released 27th October, 2023.

Order direct from the band here:

Glass Hammer official website

Galahad‘The Long Goodbye’

I chose ‘The Last Great Adventurer’ as my album of the year for 2022 and, in a fast paced world that never stands still, Galahad haven’t rested on their laurels. They have returned with ‘The Long Goodbye’, another wondrous musical journey that mesmerises and bewitches from beginning to end, and even surprises in places. Could this be another contender at the end of the year, I definitely don’t see why not!

Released 23rd October, 2023.

Pre-order direct from the band here:

Galahad – GALAHAD Merchandise (

Beatrix Players‘Living & Alive’

Beatrix Players return triumphant with the mesmerising ‘Living & Alive’, a collection of songs that are bewitching and compelling and leave you in no doubt of their stature in the music industry of today. The sublime voice of Amy Birks and outstanding musicianship on show have created one of the most outstanding releases of 2023 and one that should be on your list of must buy albums, it really is that good!

Released 22nd September, 2023.

Order digital here:

Living & Alive | Beatrix Players (

Order CD at Burning Shed:

Living & Alive (

The Anchoret ‘It All Began With Loneliness’

One of the things I love about music is when it surprises you and this debut release from The Anchoret has been a revelation. ‘It All Began With Loneliness’ is an astonishingly good album, in fact jaw-droppingly so, and is already up there as one of my favourites of the year. As prog-metal albums go, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Released 23rd June, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

It All Began With Loneliness | The Anchoret (

EBB‘Mad & Killing Time’

When you listen to as much new music as I do, it takes something truly special to stand out and ‘Mad & Killing Time’ is just that, Ebb delivering a musical highlight of the year and one that is totally unique to this incredibly talented bunch of artists. Go seek it out, you will not de disappointed in any way at all.

Released 1st November, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Mad & Killing Time | Ebb (

Riverside ‘ID.Entity’

Riverside are a band who have always gone their own way and been proud to defy convention and after the dark melancholy and sadness of recent releases, the band have returned with a brightly shining beacon of light. ‘ID.Entity’ is a generally uplifting album that puts a huge smile on my face every time I hear it and one that, I’m sure, will still be lighting up people’s lives for years to come.

Released 20th January, 2023.

Order ‘ID.Entity’ here:

Riverside – ID.Entity (

The Tangent‘Pyramids, Stars & Other Stories: The Tangent Live Recordings 2004-2017’

Ah, to reminisce is a joy we should always hold dear and this wonderful live release from one of the UK’s most venerated prog bands is a sentimental journey down memory lane and one that will remind you why The Tangent are held in such warm regard and also why live music is something worth cherishing and preserving. We, the fans, hold it in our hands to make sure music stays live so albums as brilliant as this can still get made!

Released 27th January, 2023.

Order the album here:

Pyramids, Stars & Other Stories: The Tangent Live Recordings 2004-2017 (

And so it all comes down to this, the one album that just about reared its head above all others to be my favourite of 2023. It’s not a default decision, this release has really moved the game on for one of the UK’s most influential underground bands…

The Fierce And The Dead‘News From The Invisible World’

News From The Invisible World’– true fans will love it, there’s real maturity and creativity in this album, The Fierce And The Dead shift effortlessly between different styles to show they are no one trick ponies. You could say that this is a case of a band reinventing itself but staying close to their roots but it’s more than that, this is band raising their game to the highest level and that is really where they belong…

Released 28th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

News From The Invisible World | The Fierce And The Dead (

Thank you if you have made it this far and thank you for supporting Progradar through 2023, I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m pretty sure that 2024 is going to be another fantastic year of music so hang around for the ride, it’s going to be exciting!

Review – Anthony Phillips – Slow Dance 2CD Jewel Case Edition – by John Wenlock-Smith

Anthony Phillips is the forgotten former member of Genesis who was there at the beginning but due to his extreme fear of being on stage, quit the band after the ‘Trespass’ album, leaving the door open for a certain young Steve Hackett, whose story is widely known.

Anthony is not the first musician to quit or to struggle with stage fright as many others, like Eddie Van Halen and Ozzy Osborne have also suffered through its clutches. Andy Partridge of XTC is also a fellow sufferer, although that is more with anxiety though but still, it is similar in nature and has an a debilitating effect. Many others also are affected, more than you would imagine really. Anthony simply wasn’t able to function in this realm and he decided to leave the group he had helped found and devote himself to a more classical direction, he was also a qualified music teacher for a while and he also studied orchestration.

All of which leads me to this newly remastered and extended version of his 1990 album ‘Slow Dance’ which is heavily classically influenced and gives rein to his wonderfully inventive playing and orchestrations. There is more than a hint of 1977’s ‘The Geese And The Ghost’ album which has a similar style.

Whilst I am not a classical buff by any means, other than the basics and well known classics, I find there is much to appreciate in this fine reissue. I think of it more as a tone poem or score and as such, it is definitely a case of repeated listening to get the subtle moments of brilliance that are on display here. The main album is in 2 parts, although the extra tracks on the second CD are also interesting, mainly being edited portions of the entire main album.

I actually prefer Slow Dance Part One for some reason, I especially like the repeated gentle motif that reappears throughout the piece. This music is gentle, delicate and beautifully crafted, when you read in the accompanying booklet of the trials and tribulations that had to be stared down to enable its completion, you will, like me, no doubt be in awe of both the vision and commitment employed whilst making this album come to life. It really is a sumptuous piece of music, uplifting and life affirming in equal measure. It is a triumph of talent, perseverance and, above all, a towering testament to the grace and beauty of the music it contains.

Did I mention that it is totally instrumental? That said there is a wealth of creativity here. Slow Dance Part One is of twenty four minutes duration whilst Slow Dance Part Two is twenty six and a half minutes in length and has more orchestrations, strings and synths than part one does. The synths are all very 1980’s in tone and, whilst good, sound slightly dated in parts. I also feel that part two lacks the same emotional depth as part one, although that may be my perception having heard part one more than part two.

Let’s explore each part in greater depth shall we?

Part One begins with washes of synthesisers laying down a great sound and setting the stage for a delicate acoustic guitar motif that will be repeated at frequent intervals. The synths swell again before a fingerprinted guitar line is played and the opening melody is played on synths. I really like the gentleness of this pastoral sounding section, it is very satisfying to hear such gracious and gentle tones amidst all the synthesised backing. A stronger note then ushers in an almost pizzicato played part along with woodwind and a chopsticks sounding piano section that returns to the main melody played once again. Lush strings return to the chopsticks sounding part and a clarinet leads to orchestrations. There is then a sectionis reminiscent of the main theme of ‘The Geese And The Ghost’ album as it has a similar sound to it, not identical but definitely similar in sound. We then enter a section of syncopated percussion elements which is very effective, after which we return to the main theme once again. The final section of part one is a keyboard along with a drum machine playing and whilst it doesn’t affect the quality, it does date the music to the era in which it was recorded, this piece then ends with a few more syncopated piano notes.

Part Two is decidedly different and more keyboard focused with the major portion being concerned with keyboard orchestrations, there are less guitar parts in this as a result, although this does give the whole piece room to evolve naturally, again the drum machine plays its part in keeping the pace of the piece. As we get further in a sequenced section begins with woodwind playing alongside it most effectively, the theme from part one reappearing in a slightly different form. The vast orchestrations are introduced to the sound interspersed with the sequenced section and a harder section with guitar fills is added but soon gives way to the orchestrations once again. This is where I feel the piece lacks a little focus and is merely using synthesisers to swell the sound without much substance. The sequenced part returns with string flourishes which actually sounds really good, although a bit like 1980’s Tangerine Dream in places. After this section ends we return to the main theme through sweeping strings and synth orchestrations, I’m hearing the open sweeping soundscapes of ‘Stratosfear’ by Tangerine Dream once again but this proceeds at a stately pace. It is all very epic and measured, the final section returns to little piano and keyboard runs to good effect. Part Two ends on gentle notes before fading away in the distance with a final play of the central melody.

In summary a most interesting but, possibly for most, not essential release with a great booklet explains the background to the album. I am very glad to have heard this for myself as I really enjoyed it even it lies outside of my normal listening material.

Released 26th January, 2024.

Order from Cherry red Records here:

Anthony Phillips: Slow Dance, 2CD Jewel Case Edition – Cherry Red Records

Review – Blue Rose Code – Curios 2009 – 2020

“I see you on the road, trying to find your way home and I wish you peace in your heart…”

A new (old) album from one of my favourite artists Blue Rose Code, ‘Curios 2009 – 2020’ is a collection of B-sides, rarities and singles, including several unreleased tracks. Strictly limited edition and, furthermore, only available on Bandcamp or the band’s website, its release is being used to finance the band’s sixth studio album, slated for release in May 2024.

Blue Rose Code is Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson’s music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records.

When I heard there was a new studio release in the offing I was straight in to order this limited edition CD, Ross is one of the best songwriters around at this moment in time and any music he writes is always something to savour and take with you for ever.

I wrote these words about Blue Rose Code’s album ‘With Healings Of The Deepest kind’;

“When it comes to music that salves the soul and gives joy to the heart, this album has few peers. An utter musical joy and one that everyone should listen to at least once, it has an honesty and innocence that is rare in the music industry these days.”

I always consider it an honour to able to review music as special as this so read on to see how I feel…

Chasing Sunlight (2016) is a single that came shortly after the release of ‘…And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing’, the album that introduced me to Blue Rose Code, but was too late to be included on the record. It’s a wonderfully breezy and light stepping piece of music with elegant, intertwined male and female vocals and a stunning horn performance from jazz legend Colin Steele. There’s a fine acoustic guitar solo and the lap steel playing just adds to the easy going and uplifting atmosphere. Love (2009) was BRC’s first ever single and features utterly gorgeous vocals from Samantha Whates and Ross that just add to the wistful, laid back and ever so lush atmosphere created by the elegant string arrangement, what a beautiful piece of music! November’s Ghost – Live At The Queens Hall (2017) was written by Ross after the death of his grandmother and moving to London. This touching version is taken from his homecoming show at Edina’s Queens Hall in 2017. There’s a tender, loving feel to Ross’ vocal on this pared back track. Aided and abetted by some delicate guitar playing, you can feel the feeling of loss in his voice and it makes this simple piece ever so poignant. Polaris – Live At Gloworm Studios (2017), this is a haunting, dreamlike version of a favourite track from the 2017 release ‘The Waters Of Leith’. The piano and echoing strings meander mystically through your psyche, never really touching you but always leaving its mark on this meditative journey. I thought I’d heard everything that Ross could deliver since I first became a fan but (I Wish You) Peace In Your Heart (2020) is rapidly becoming one of my favourite BRC tracks. Written coming out of the pandemic, it’s a song of hope for reconnection and an embracing of human interdependence. It just sings of hope, faith and optimism in such a beautiful way. The sublime horn and Ross and Karine Polwart’s spiritual vocals, added to the graceful piano, just leave a warm feeling in your soul and a lump in your throat, an utterly stunning piece of music.

Sunday (2019) was written to be included on ‘With Healings Of The Deepest Kind’ but was released ahead of UK and Ireland tour as the album’s writing stalled. Another delightfully upbeat song akin to Chasing… there’s a wonderful feeling of belief and optimism to this graceful track and the music is just superb. Ever since I first heard the music, Blue Rose Code have had a sort of defined sound to me and Acquainted With The Night (2012) is the first piece I’ve heard where they take a major detour from that. A Robert Frost poem put to music, late in the ‘North Ten’ sessions, it has a low down, darker hue than most of Ross’s other tracks and stands out because of that, but in a very good way. The insistent guitar and Ross’ low vocals, combined with the contemplative, almost psychedelic, keyboards, give some real drama to this impressive song. Sallyann (2017) is an ode to two people who were like Ross’ surrogate parents during his tumultuous time in London. A story of two childhood sweethearts, Terry and Sally, in East London who were reunited after following their own journeys through life to spend twenty years together before Sally died of cancer in 2016 with Terry by her side. It’s a beautifully poignant piece of music that really tugs at the heartstrings with Ross’ patient vocal and some more of that gorgeous lap steel. Another memorable track with power and passion, (I Will) Lay you Down (2018) is a love song and a plea for peace and relief, written for a woman suffering with severe post-natal depression. There’s a heartfelt feel to the vocals and a peaceful air to the guitar and piano as this graceful song glides effortlessly along, highlighted by some sublime guitar playing. It’s a very compelling piece of music that builds in intensity as it continues and finishes with a profoundly moving solo. 100 Years (2019) was written for Ross’ performance at No Man’s Land at Perth Theatre, a special concert commemorating 100 years since Armistice Day and follows a young Scot who lies about his age to sign up for the Blackwatch and go to the Front to give his life. A melancholy and plaintive track that lays bare the feelings of loss and of doing your duty, it is a profound statement that bleeds a wishful yearning.

Written in a little cottage just outside Biggar, like most of ‘The Waters Of Leith’ and recorded during those sessions, Lonely (2018) shows a clear line-of-sight to where Wilson will take his music and band in the years to come. There’s a proper feeling of Americana to this song, the vocals and music having a definite country feel to them but that Scottish brogue always means it never strays completely that way. I love the harmonised female backing vocals and the stunning performance on lead guitar from a young Lyle Watt, a track I keep returning to. Now we get to THE song that defines Blue Rose Code for me, the sublime, wonderful Grateful (2015). Up until hearing the version on this release, I’d only ever heard the abridged version on ‘…And Lo!…’ or live versions and this full version, featuring Nashville Gospel legends, The McCrary Sisters, just absolutely blew me away. Written by Ross upon leaving rehab in Bournemouth, its simple message is delivered with class and the music has a laid back, jazzy refinement to it that is just brilliant. The vocals from Ross and The McCrary Sisters are just perfect and lend this sublime song all the gravitas it could ever need, just stunning! Ardroil (2012) is perhaps the most Celtic track on this collection, especially with the striking fiddle playing and subtle vocals. A little known gem, released as a b-side to Julie (from the album ‘North Ten’) all those years ago, Ardroil is an other-worldly beach in Uig, Isle of Lewis and this marvellous piece definitely has that other-worldly feel to it. Scotland Yet (2017) was written by the late, great Davy Steele and commissioned for the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Ross gives this simple tune a feel of grace and refinement, realising that it needs no embellishment and it closes out the album with pride and dignity.

There is nothing better than music that connects with you at a basic level, music that moves you and music that almost becomes part of you and Ross Wilson and Blue Rose Code create music that is all that and more. This collection of B-sides, varieties and singles is something that should be cherished and I, for one, cannot wait for 2024 and a new album from this incredible musician. Ross Wilson, my friend, I wish you peace in your heart…

Released 3rd November, 2023.

Order from band camp here:

Curios 2009 – 2020 | Blue Rose Code (

Big Big Train announce new studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’; launch first single ‘Oblivion’

The award-winning progressive rock band Big Big Train will release their 15th studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’ on 1st March 2024. The album is the internationally-based group’s first full collection of songs since the unexpected passing of long-serving lead vocalist David Longdon in late 2021. Besides marking the debut of new frontman Alberto Bravin, a former member of the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi, ‘The Likes Of Us’ also heralds the beginning of a new relationship with InsideOutMusic, the group having self-released their music for almost two decades. 

The band comments: “We are delighted to announce the release of ‘The Likes Of Us’. After the events of the last few years, this is a particularly important album for us, both as a band and individually. We’re very proud of the new songs, which we recorded principally in a studio in Italy. Working together in one room brought additional inspiration, real energy and a clear sense of purpose. We’re thrilled with the results.”

To coincide with this announcement, the band have launched the first single from the album, a track titled ‘Oblivion’ which the band were seen performing on their UK and European tour in August and September 2023. The video was filmed by Tim Sidwell of Toward Infinity at Urban Recording Studio in Trieste, and you can watch the clip here:

Big Big Train – Oblivion (

‘The Likes Of Us’ will be released on several different formats, including for the first time as Dolby Atmos mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, while the stereo mixes were undertaken by the band’s regular engineer Rob Aubrey together with Alberto Bravin. The Dolby Atmos mix will come as part of the Limited CD & Blu-ray Mediabook edition that also contains the album as 5.1 Surround Sound & 24-bit high-resolution stereo. The album will also be available as a Gatefold 180g 2LP (available in black, sky blue, olive green and orange formats), Standard CD Jewelcase and Digital Album. The stunning artwork was created by the band’s longstanding collaborator Sarah Louise Ewing, with layouts by Steve Vantsis. 

Pre-order now here:

The album’s full track listing is as follows:

1.     Light Left In The Day 06:10

2.     Oblivion 05:27

3.     Beneath The Masts 17:26

4.     Skates On 04:28

5.     Miramare 10:17

6.     Love Is The Light 06:11

7.     Bookmarks 06:23

8.     Last Eleven 07:55

In May 2023, six members of Big Big Train left their homes in England (bassist Gregory Spawton, guitarist Dave Foster and violinist Clare Lindley), the United States (drummer Nick D’Virgilio), Sweden (guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom) and Norway (keyboardist Oskar Holldorff) to gather for a week in lead vocalist Alberto Bravin’s home town of Trieste in north eastern Italy. They convened at Urban Recording, a studio recommended by Alberto, to lay down the basic tracks for the band’s new studio album ‘The Likes Of Us’. Being face to face in a room, as opposed to emailing sound files, the intimacy of the process generated moments of inspiration that would otherwise have gone unheard.

The process would prove emotional. “There were some tears; I cried a few of my own,” recalls D’Virgilio. “There are many reasons to explain why we hadn’t worked that way in quite a while, but the process brought out the best in everybody.”

“These were stories from our lives and we have a deep, personal connection with them,” Spawton remembers. “If there was blood on the tracks, we did everything possible to let that sink into the music.”

On the group’s most recent tour, two selections from ‘The Likes Of Us’ – first single ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Love Is The Light’ – were introduced to an ecstatic audience response. During a tidal wave of rebirth and celebration for Big Big Train, Alberto Bravin was accepted as one of the family. Indeed, the chemistry of the band’s latest line-up has delivered mouth-watering results. “We’ve got a great mix of people that want to be here and go the extra mile to do something very special,” D’Virgilio concludes. “There’s a big world of talented musicians out there, and luckily some of them want to hang out with us.”

ALBERTO BRAVIN – Lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

NICK D’VIRGILIO – Drums, percussion, vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar, vocals

DAVE FOSTER – Guitars 

OSKAR HOLLDORFF – Keyboards, vocals

CLARE LINDLEY – Violin, vocals 

RIKARD SJÖBLOM – Guitars, keyboards, vocals

GREGORY SPAWTON – Bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string acoustic guitar, Mellotron



Order the album HERE (

Listen to Throne HERE

Watch the video here:

After the release of their new album ‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’ earlier this year, Godsticks unveil a new video in celebration of the album’s next single ‘Throne’. 

‘Throne’ itself exists very much in the heavier sphere of the band with downtuned chugging guitars forming the driving of the verse before the song opens up for a melodic and memorable chorus, culminating in a euphoric finale. The video, produced by Martin Holmes ( @ohmzfilm ) brings the ferocious nature of the band’s live performance to foreground. 

Frontman and guitarist Darran Charles had the following to say:  

“Throne was one of those tracks that had been taunting me for a number of years. I had the verse and intro nailed years ago but every time I tried to develop it further, I just hit a creative brick wall. I’m sure that wall gets higher and thicker for some songs more than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever given up on a song if, deep down, I knew there was potential there.

Thankfully with the help of the rest of the band, I broke through that goddamn motherfucking wall and as soon as I hit upon that chorus melody, everything flowed easy. It’s become one of my favourite songs on the record and also the hardest to play live, but given that we never shirk a challenge you can expect this song to feature in every setlist from now to eternity.”

Darran expands on the meaning behind the track as well:

“Lyrically, Throne is about the bottomless pit of someone’s narcissism when they have a position of power. Where they’re both absolutely sure minded and also the most fragile person ever, and how those two states usually go hand-in-hand. So as with the half of our songs, it deals with my frustration with other humans .. the other half of course dealing with my frustration with myself.”

To support their recent album the band will also tour the UK in 2024 

31/1/24 – The Lousiana, Bristol

1/2/24 – The Peer Hat, Manchester

2/2/24 – The Hope and Anchor, London

3/2/24 – Planet RockStock

09/02/24 – The Bunkhouse, Swansea  

The band is determined to do as many live performances as possible in support of ‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’, especially because it was live performance itself that provided the initial creative spark that spawned so much of the music on the album. 

Darran Charles commented that:

“We asked and listened to where our fans want to see us play, so as well as returning to happy hunting grounds like London and Manchester, we’re doing our first ever headline show in Bristol. Plus there’s not one, but two chances for our Welsh brethren to come see us live again! We love being on tour so we’re very excited to be playing more headline gigs, and to be working with the good people at Planet Rock again for the Winter’s End festival.”

Their love for writing and productivity had been reignited simply by being able to perform live. Experimenting with electronic sounds and delegating writing duties in the band allowed ‘This Is What A Winner Looks Like’ to be their most collaborative album to date. 

YES Announce European Dates For The Classic Tales Of Yes Tour in 2024

Following their recent acclaimed tour in the USA, progressive legends YES have announced European dates for The Classic Tales of YES Tour 2024.   

Tickets go on sale on Friday 8th December at 10am GMT/11.00am CET

Buy UK tickets from

The Classic Tales of YES Tour 2024 will include many iconic tracks from the YES back-catalogue covering fifty-plus years.    The tour will also include a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Tales from Topographic Oceans as well as music from their current album Mirror To The Sky.

YES are: Steve Howe (guitars, vocals), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals and acoustic guitar), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar, vocals) and drummer Jay Schellen.

The evening will begin with an on-site presentation by world-renowned artist and designer Roger Dean, whose masterful artwork of striking other-worldly landscapes has graced classic album covers and posters, most prominently by YES and Asia. Every show will feature a Roger Dean gallery in the venue’s reception/foyer area. His work – which also appears on the cover of their current album Mirror to the Sky – has sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide.

We’re all excited to be bringing our show home to Europe and the UK!”  says Steve Howe, “We’ve selected a new playlist of Yes music but with some firm favourites in there too, of course! To keep our performances fresh, we ‘now’ carry our own lights, so we can present a consistent show each night, designed for us by William …….. Looking forward to seeing you out there!” 

“We are very much looking forward to the 2024 European leg of our YES Classic Tales Tour. Having recently completed the US, we are now really excited to bring that out to all our fans in the UK and Europe. It promises to be one of our most interesting sets to date, scanning through much of YES’s history and with some previously unheard pieces as well as music from our latest album, ‘Mirror To The Sky’. Bring it on and see you all out there!” Best, Geoff Downes

The Classic Tales of YES European and UK Tour 2024 dates are as follows:   Go to all ticketing information.


April 2024

Tuesday 30              Portugal        Lisbon Sabres        Sagres Campo Pequeno** 

May 2024

Thursday 2                Spain             Madrid                        Riviera 

Friday 3                     Spain              Barcelona                   Sala Paral·lel 62

Sunday 5                  Italy                 Rome                          La Nuvola 

Monday 6                  Italy                 Milan                          Teatro Arcimboldi

Wednesday 8           Italy                 Padova                      Gran Teatro Geox

Thursday 9              Switzerland  Zurich                        Kongresshaus**                               

Saturday 11              Austria            Vienna                       Simm City 

Sunday 12                 Germany        Berlin                          Theater am Potsdamer Platz

Tuesday 14               Germany        Halle                           Steintor-Variete

Wednesday 15         Belgium          Antwerp                     De Roma

Friday 17                            Netherlands Arnhem                     Music SacrumTheatre**

Wednesday 18        Germany       Moenchengladbach  Red Box**

Monday 20               France           Paris                          Salle Pleyel**

Tuesday 21              Luxembourg Luxembourg            Rockhall**

UK Dates 

Thursday 23 May                             Manchester               Bridgewater Hall*

Friday 24 May                                  Glasgow                    Royal Concert Hall*

Sunday 26 May                                Liverpool                    Philharmonic*

Tuesday 28 May                              York                            Barbican*

Wednesday 29 May                         Southend                   Cliffs Pavilion*

Friday 31 May                                   Bristol                         Beacon

Saturday 1 June                               Birmingham               Symphony Hall*

Sunday 2 June                                 Gateshead                Sage*

Tuesday 4 June                               London                      Royal Albert Hall

**European shows in bold are rescheduled from 2023 and tickets remain valid

*UK Shows rescheduled from 2023, all tickets remain valid.

European tickets go onsale on Friday 8th December at 10am GMT/ 11.00am CET from

UK tickets from

About YES

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 –1981, 1990–1992, 1995–present)
Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980–1981, 2011–present)
Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2012–present)

Billy Sherwood: guitar, backing vocals ((1994, 1997–2000), bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–present)

Jay Schellen: drums and percussion

Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes AlbumFragileClose To The EdgeYessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.

With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.

YES released their 22nd studio album in 2021, The Quest, produced by Steve Howe and which went to No. 1 in the UK Rock Albums Chart and entered the Official UK Album Chart at No. 20.

In 2022 came the sad news that drummer Alan White, ever-present in the YES line-up for 50 years, had passed away. The news came shortly before the band embarked on their classic, genre-defining album Close To The Edge 50th Anniversary Tour which they dedicated to Alan.

In February 2023, ahead of the news of the new studio album Mirror To The Sky, YES confirmed Jay Schellen as the new permanent drummer with YES, hand-picked to step into his mentor and friend Alan White’s role. “I had done the 2016 tour on my own for Alan,” says Jay. “From late 2017 onwards, we had a beautiful partnership. I learned and discovered so much about Alan’s style. His passion and creativity was phenomenal. The new album has Alan’s presence all over it. It is inside of us. So, this is still, in my heart, Alan just being present and with us, and with me, in a big way.”

Mirror To The Sky, YES’ 23rd studio album, was released on 19 May 2023 to universally positive reviews in the music press. ‘Mirror to the Sky is very much a band album, where all five members…  have been at the top of their game’, stated The Progressive Aspect. ‘YES will continue to have a role to play in shaping the future sounds of prog.’

Review. -Ashley Reaks – Winter Crawls

‘Winter Crawls’ is the 13th solo album from prolific English musician, collage artist and writer Ashley Reaks. Writing and recording started in 2018 but was repeatedly interrupted and delayed by divorce, relocation, the Covid-19 pandemic and a string of chronic health conditions. ‘Winter Crawls’ is the first of Reaks’ albums to feature the polyrhythmic talents of drummer Rob Hirons, which nudges the material into a more ‘proggy’ sonic soundscape, whilst retaining the genre-hopping influences of previous albums.

Influences include Stranglers, cut and paste, Rip Rig And Panic, bebop, Captain Beefheart, collage, Magazine, post-punk, Yes, Ivor Cutler, religious imagery, The Pop Group, Gee Vaucher, psychedelia, Gabriel-era Genesis, Dada, nature books, Devo, Francis Bacon…

The players on this collection of musical curiosities and hidden gems are Reaks himself (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards), Lucy Mizen (vocals), Nick Dunne (electric guitars, acoustic guitars and guitar solos), Joel Purnell (saxophone), Rob Hirons (drums) and Dan Mizen (percussion).

Where do we start on an album as diverse and wide ranging as this? It’s a cornucopia of musical brilliance in places and hugely disturbing (in a highly entertaining way) in others. Genre hopping with the best of them, I’m hearing psychedelic snippets of Lost Crowns, Gong, Knifeworld on one side, the Canterbury influences of Henry Fool, the sharp cutting edge of Bent Knee and even bits of Pink Floyd on the other! In some ways it just shouldn’t work but like some mad scientist, Ashley Reaks seems to be able to knit it all together perfectly to create something quite unique and, in places, utterly brilliant!

It’s very divisive, and that’s even for people that like it, and I do! There are days when I can’t go near it as it does require you to be in the exact mood to listen to it and get the most from it but, when that inspiration particle and the mood hits you, it is really rather marvellous. Nick Dunne’s guitar playing is of a seriously high calibre and he flits from intricate, fusion, left-field and straight up rock with ease and Ashley’s vocals are highly individual and distinctive in a very good way, especially when paired with the heady, delicate voice of Lucy Mizen, it’s haunting, mysterious and almost supernatural in places. One of the highlights for me is the superb saxophone of Joel Purnell, I do love a saxophone and Joel’s playing is utterly sublime, his jazz/fusion style being perfect for Ashley’s incredibly innovative and perhaps overactive mind. And we must take our hat off to Rob’s superbly intricate polyrhythmic drumming which gives a proper dynamism to the music.

The songs are as mad and brilliant as their titles, The Murmur of Things Divine, Fundamentally Christ Like (with it’s Pink Floyd Money style intro), Homesick at Home and Early Ripe Early Rotten are real standouts, magnificently over the top and proud of it but there’s no lull or drop in standards anywhere on this superb release. If I had to pick a favourite then it would probably be Homesick at Home (especially Nick’s superb solo and Joel’s uber cool sax) but that could change tomorrow when each song has its own delights to discover.

You won’t hear anything else quite like ‘Winter Crawls’, it has a mind and life of its own at times and that’s testament to the complex, inventive and ingenious imagination of Ashley Reaks. It’s not for everyone but when everything clicks and you get what he is trying to achieve, there’s some serious musical nirvana going on here and I love it!

Released 15th August, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Winter Crawls | Ashley Reaks (

Review – AshFeathers – World Building

AshFeathers is a new acoustic project by singer-songwriter Tom Slatter. A mixture of one-man-and-a-guitar acoustic songs with synths and electronic percussion, ‘World Building’ is 10 tracks about getting lost – deliberately or accidentally – in fictional worlds.

“Part of the motivation in starting AshFeathers was that I wanted to do something quite different in tone from the melodramatic, sometimes dark prog-rock I’m known for. There are still hints of the things a prog rock fan might like – one track is in 7/8 for example. But this album owes more to my love of Thom Yorke, Tori Amos and Jon Gomm and lots of other singer-songwriters,” Tom said.

“Plus, i got a new acoustic guitar, and wanted some new songs to play with it…”

Tom’s a friend (at least I think he is?) and I’ve been a fan of his music since I first heard ‘Through These Veins’ way back in early 2014, he is a musician who continuously reinvents himself and the genre he chooses to work in. His steampunk sensibilities aren’t always to everyone’s taste but, if you don’t try something different, how do you know if you’ll like it or not? His irreverent and extremely clever music suits his bandcamp site’s description of, “A latter-day Victorian street-theatre barker with a guitar promising tales of mystery, imagination, ‘orrible murders and bloody great waving tentacles”.

Well, as Tom says, he’s gone from the dark and deliciously melodramatic to the wistful and contemplative with his new AshFeathers project and it is a direction that I think suits him a lot.

The opening two tracks Nothing You Can’t Buy and Mirrorworld both have their roots in Tom’s musical past, especially the lyrical content of the former, a clever tale of an assassin who has hidden his identity and taken refuge in a bizarre city where you can buy anything – including abstract concepts like broken promises. The music has a deep down honesty amidst its wistful delivery, Tom’s new acoustic guitar proving a very canny purchase but, for me, it’s how his unique and distinctive vocal seems to marry perfectly with the music that makes this something completely different. At once both dreamlike and yet mournful and forlorn, it is stripped back and rather lovely. The latter piece, Mirrorworld, is about losing a friend or family member to online propaganda and you can feel that feeling of loss throughout the track. There’s a halting edge to the guitar and the timbre of Tom’s voice all delivered in a candid emotive and soul searching song, painful, raw emotional wounds laid bare. Cuckoo has a serious tone to the music, a slight tension in the guitar and vocals, emphasised by the electronic vibe of the synths. Sad, reflective and thoughtful, it music that tests the grey matter and makes you think and there isn’t enough of that about nowadays. Driftwood is a song that takes after it’s title, seemingly wandering aimlessly through your psyche with no distinct purpose but it does so with a grace and elegance that is just so appealing. The sublime instrumental In Between is a haunting, ethereal piece of music where Tom’s acoustic guitar plays on nostalgia and sentimentality to leave its mark on your soul, it’s calming and reflective and just a delight to listen to.

Title track Worldbuilding is rather impressive, a song about getting lost in a fictional world, having lost hold of the thread that was supposed to guide you – Theseus – style – back to the real world. The guitar playing is intricate and precise and the vocal has a searching edge to it, it’s a serious feeling track with an eerie atmosphere that is really addictive. Another stand out track is the charismatic and engaging Every Word I Write with it’s jazzy electronic percussion and catchy chorus, “Everything I write is an ode to you..”, has Tom written a pop song? Don’t let him hear me say that! The music on My Love Is Bigger Than The Sky shimmers and shines and lights up this pensive song, it’s rapidly becoming an earworm for me with its irrepressible guitar line and that ever classy electronic percussive beat. Add in another contemplative vocal and you’ve got yet another quality track. A more upbeat track, making full use of the electronica, Map Of Scars could be straight from a recent Radiohead album, excellent musicianship and a banjo, if I’m not mistaken, giving this song a real storytelling feel and more than a little hint of prog. The album closes with the haunting brilliance of We Can Be Anyone, Tom hitting the heights with his songwriting on this dark feeling song. There’s always something positive to be found in the dark and that shines through in this pensive five minutes plus of music, Tom’s vocal leading the way.

With ‘Word Building’ Tom Slatter has introduced his new AshFeathers project to the world from a pretty exalted position. The more relaxed, laid back feel, full of airiness and space really suits this talented musician and has culminated in a highly enjoyable release that I think may introduce him to a wider audience and that may go someway to helping him pay for that new acoustic guitar…

World Building will be out on January 17th 2024 at If Tom can get himself sorted by then.