Review – Montrose: I Got The Fire – Complete Recordings 1973-1976

‘Montrose: I Got The Fire – Complete Recordings 1973-1976’ is a new 6 CD box set from from the ever impressive Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Recordings label and is a fabulous overview of a legendary band whose sound and style was to make a huge impression in the world of heavy and hard rock in the mid 1970’s and whose influence still makes waves, even today.

Their debut album ‘Montrose’ was issued in 1973 and its 8 tracks were monumentally important and really changed how rock music was perceived around the world. You can trace the evolution of Van Halen back to the first Montrose record, it’s a direct line between the two, certainly sound wise, and you can see the link. That album was to yield such monsters as Rock The Nation, Bad Motor Scooter and Space Station #5, which still sound mighty some 40 years on.

Sadly the resultant albums were a case of diminishing returns amidst a desire from Ronnie Montrose to explore new sounds and approaches. All of which is bold but not always successful, and the sales faltered as a result. ‘Paper Money’, their second album, was the first casualty of this approach as it failed to gain critical appreciation for its bold sounds. For many the album lacked the muscular sound that had enlivened the debut and despite some fine songs, like I Got The Fire and Starliner, many considered the album light-weight, which adversely affected sales.

This led to dissatisfaction between Sammy Hagar and Montrose and Hagar walked out to be replaced by the relatively unknown Bob James who actually had a good voice but not as powerful as Sammy Hagar’s. The new line up released the ‘Warner Bros. Presents Montrose!’ album in 1975 but, again, the critics did not like its light-weight sound, although 40 years on, it does have some gems in the form of Matriarch, Whaler and Dancin’ Feet, all of which have aged pretty well.

The band’s next album was to be a return to form with hotshot producer Jack Douglas recruited to beef the sound up and to add his magic. Unfortunately the resulting record, ‘Jump On It’, was not a great success although it did have some good tracks like Let’s Go and Music Man. It’s a tragedy that the band failed to live up to their original promise but Ronnie Montrose could be a difficult leader and he got bored easily, always wanting something new to explore.

The second CD in this set kicks off with six demo tracks, as well as their excellent debut performance, recorded for KSAN radio at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California in 1973. The band would cut a further live set for KSAN that was focused on their recently released ‘Paper Money’ record, although the inclusion of I Got The Fire, Bad Motor Scooter and a storming extended work out of Space Station #5 really work well in a live setting.

These 2 sets make a big impression and show that Montrose really could deliver the goods, sadly public perception was not on their side and the band broke up, Ronnie to more experimentation sound wise, Hagar to a succesfull solo career before joining Van Halen as a replacement for David Lee Roth. Ronnie Montrose then formed Gamma and put out several albums of fine AOR.

This box set shows the potential they had and also how they failed to capitalise on it and sadly translate that into sales. It definitely has it moments but can be patchy in parts,  the live shows are excellent though. I’m glad to have heard it but feel, in reality, a decent best of and the magnificent debut are really all you need.

Released 29th July, 2022.

Order from Cherry Red Records:

Montrose: I Got The Fire – Complete Recordings 1973-1976, 6CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

COMING IN FALL 2023 THE NEW ALBUM BY BUILT FOR THE FUTURE.

2084: MANIFEST DESTINY

PART ONE OF A TRILOGY/SERIES BASED ON ORWELL’S DARK FUTURE.

BUILT FOR THE FUTURE LAST RELEASED ‘BRAVE NEW WORLD’ IN 2020, WHICH GARNERED VERY POSITIVE REVIEWS FOR BEING A MORE EXPANDED PROG EXPERIENCE. THE ALBUM WAS A SATISFYING RELEASE AND EPIC IN NATURE.

FOR THE NEW ALBUM, BUILT FOR THE FUTURE HAS DECIDED TO RETURN TO THE SHORTER SONG FORMAT THAT THE DEBUT ALBUM DEMONSTRATED, AND TO FLAVOR THE PROG WITH A FULL CONCEPT AND A THREE ALBUM ARC. 

THE TEMPLATE FOR THE NEW ALBUM HAS KENNY AND PATRIC FOCUSING ON MORE DIRECT DELIVERY AS WELL AS A HEAVIER ALTERNATIVE SOUND. THE MELLOTRON IS THE DOMINANT KEYBOARD FOR ITS EMOTIONAL TEXTURE. PATRIC IS USING A FENDER JAZZ BASS THROUGHOUT, AND THE RICKENBACKER 12-STRING IS THE HEAVY HITTER THAT PROVIDES A RICH TEXTURE TO EACH SONG. THE FOCUS IS THE SONG.

THE CONCEPT IS THE INTERESTING PARALLEL BETWEEN ORWELL’S 1984 AND WHAT WE ARE EXPERIENCING IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY. THE THEMES OF 1984 RUN THROUGHOUT THE ALBUM BUT WITH A NEW TARGET FOR DYSTOPIA: THE YEAR 2084(AS THAT IS STILL AHEAD OF US). 

FOR THIS ALBUM, PATRIC WROTE THE MUSIC AND KENNY PROVIDED VOCALS/MELODIES. 

INFLUENCES FOR THIS INCLUDE: STEVEN WILSON, FAILURE, RPWL, THE PINEAPPLE THIEF, PINK FLOYD, ULTRAVOX, TEARS FOR FEARS, AND EVEN FLAVORS OF NIN.

THE THREE ALBUMS PLANNED:

2084: MANIFEST DESTINY

2084: OCEANIA

2084: THE EMPIRE STATE

THE FIRST INSTALLMENT WILL BE TARGETING A NOVEMBER RELEASE DATE 2022. THE OTHERS MONTHS APART TO GIVE EVERYONE TIME TO DIGEST.

2084:MANIFEST DESTINY(TRACK LIST)

MEMORY MACHINES

THE THOUGHT POLICE

ARGOT

PROLETARIAT

SUPERNATIONAL

DIASPORA

ZEIT

HERETIC

SUBTERRANEAN

101

MANIFEST DESTINY

B4TF:

PATRIC FARRELL-GUITARS/BASS/DRUMS/MELLOTRONS/E-PIANO/VOCALS

KENNY BISSETT-VOCALS/GUITARS

LALO-DRUMS

THE COLLECTIVE/SINGLE IS THE FIRST RELEASE TO BEGIN THE JOURNEY. THE SONG IS SLATED FOR THE THIRD ALBUM(THE EMPIRE STATE). 

The Wynntown Marshals Announce New Album – ‘Big Ideas’

‘Big Ideas’, the fourth full-length studio album by Edinburgh-based The Wynntown Marshals, will sound immediately familiar to those who know the band, and serves as the ideal introduction for those who are less familiar with their output. Four years in the making, the album features ten tracks covering jangling, forthright, radio-ready power pop, rugged, rootsy rockers, moody guitar workouts and stately ballads – all underpinned by the heartfelt, poetic wordplay for which the band are well- known.

The Wynntown Marshals were proclaimed ‘Europe’s best Americana band’ following the release of their debut full-length album ‘Westerner’ in 2010 and, in the years following its release, the band garnered significant praise and support from the likes of Bob Harris (whose BBC Radio 2 show was one of three BBC sessions the band have performed). The band’s second album ‘The Long Haul’ was featured in the Glasgow Herald’s ‘Top 10 Scottish Albums of 2013’ and Uncut magazine awarded it an 8/10 review, a feat they repeated with the follow-up ‘The End of The Golden Age’ in 2015 – with Uncut describing the band as ‘colonising the shadowlands between Tom Petty and Teenage Fanclub’.

Work on ‘Big Ideas’ originally started in 2018. The intervening years saw a line-up change and the confines of the global pandemic inevitably slowed progress, but the resulting album is arguably the highlight of the band’s 15-year career. Engineered and recorded with long-time collaborator Andrew Taylor of Dropkick, mixed by Garry Boyle at Slate Room Studios and mastered by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound, the record is sonically a step above previous releases, and the mix allows the lush, vibrant instrumentation to take centre stage, providing the ideal backdrop to the recurring lyrical themes of nostalgia, love and loss.

Once again, the lyrics often seek to explore disparate, atypical themes for the genre. Album opener ‘New Millennium’ – a euphoric tale of youthful abandon set against the backdrop of a strident, chest- pounding heartland rocker – sets the scene for the rest of the album, bringing proceedings vividly to life. The title track highlights the pitfalls of society’s relationship with social media, while ‘The Pocket’ is a heart-breaking story song inspired by the historic battle for Stalingrad. The seemingly whimsical lyrics of the pensive track ‘Keys Found In Snow’ unfurl into a tale of a relationship in freefall, and the downbeat album closer ‘Full Moon, Fallow Heart’ is still unrelentingly positive in its widescreen outlook. Nothing in our world is ever perfect.

The Marshals have, like the rest of the planet, been through some significant challenges in recent times – and some of the album’s lyrical content is inevitably shaped by the events of the past two years (the title track and ‘Disappointment’ in particular), but – like the protagonists in the middle eight of the bittersweet track ‘Tourist In My Hometown’ – the band have ‘emerged unbroken, smarting from the pain’.

You can pre-order the album from bandcamp now:

Big Ideas | The Wynntown Marshals (bandcamp.com)

Glass Hammer Announces New Album For October

Glass Hammer Completes The Skallagrim Trilogy with ‘AT THE GATE’

‘At The Gate’, the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy, is set for release on October 7th. The new album follows ‘Dreaming City’ (2020) and ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’ (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’  to its conclusion.

Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader Steve Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) will contribute as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.   

Babb says to expect another 70’s metal-influenced project but also promises a return to the symphonic-prog sound the band is best known for.

“An album can be both things,” he claims. “Since the inception of the trilogy in 2020, it’s been my intention to tell this sword and sorcery-inspired tale with appropriate music. And to do that, I needed the sound to evolve toward something grand by the end of the third album. Skallagrim’s story is one of lost joy, of grief, and longing, and ultimately of a worn-down swordsman’s coming to grips with what the world can and cannot offer him. It’s probably the most important story we’ve ever told through music, so important to me that it led me to retell it in novels.” Babb’s book, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna,” was released in March of this year.

Babb adds, “So, for those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums. I think it works, but the fans will be the ones to decide!”

Watch a short teaser video for the album here:

Review – VLMV – Sing With Abandon

“Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words.”Robert G. Ingersoll

Music is infinite, there are notes to come that have not been heard by any human ear yet, music is the one constant that everyone can cling on to and, with all that has happened in the world recently, music is more prominent in our lives than ever before.

VLMV have returned with their third album ‘Sing With Abandon’. The follow up to the acclaimed ‘Stranded, Not Lost’this new album is the result of years of collaboration, experimentation and crafting the music and sounds that make up VLMV.

Joined live by long time collaborator and fellow Code In The Clouder Ciaran Morahan, VLMV deploy loop stations, multiple delay pedals, piano and strings to create a slow-moving, high-flying soundscape of luscious gravitas. 

An ambitious yet concise album, ‘Sing With Abandon’ was born as songwriter and producer Pete Lambrou explored navigating life in the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a country deciding to break up with its loved ones. Lyrically focused on feelings of isolation and separation, from our shared collective human experience to the deeply personal and everything in between, ‘Sing With Abandon’ touches on the isolation found within the communal experience of a country locked down and in crisis. 

Dreamlike in its beauty and whimsical and wistful in its delivery, this new record is utterly captivating throughout. There are moments of stunning, ethereal brilliance like the plaintive wonder of opening track There Are Mountains Underneath Us, a strikingly elegant piece of music that left me welling up with emotion and the gloriously refined The Navigator with its plaintive piano and sultry, hushed vocals from Anja Madhvani.

Honestly, there is wonder and amazement in every note and every word throughout the criminally short thirty-six minutes running time, the instrumental tracks, If I Could See Your Life Reverse with its edgier, slightly psychedelic feel and Steady Thyself (the first single released from the album) exquisitely sublime in its execution, the piano and strings so achingly beautiful, are moments of pure wonder and calm.

There’s no way to pick any highlights from this album as it flows best if you listen to it in one complete sitting. For Empire bleeds a melancholy emotion throughout, the haunting vocals a particular highlight, the imaginatively titled We Were Landed, We Were Landing Gently We Landed is another graceful instrumental, title track Sing With Abandon has a darker aura to it and Solus Ipse the feel of a babbling brook as its gentle notes and subtle vocal meander their way across your mind.

DearFearHere is impish and almost celestial in the way the ghostly, almost intangible vocals brush your mind while the rarefied, supernal musical notes dance along in unison. The album closes with the luxurious refinement of Our Corners (Reprise), a track that leads you by the hand to a place of calm solitude and reflection.

There are times when you hear a piece of music that leaves you open mouthed in appreciation and, when I first heard ‘Sing With Abandon’ I was utterly stunned. Albums like this are more than mere music, they pervade your very soul, take over your life and almost bring you to tears at their beauty. VLMV have created something so good that it almost becomes a state of mind and I thank Pete Lambrou from the bottom of my heart for doing so.

Released 19th August, 2022

Pre-order from bandcamp here:

Sing With Abandon | VLMV (bandcamp.com)

King’s X launch ‘Give It Up’; second single from the bands forthcoming album ‘Three Sides of One’

The legendary King’s X, comprised of dUg Pinnick, Ty Tabor & Jerry Gaskill, recently announced the release of their 13th studio album ‘Three Sides of One’ on the 2nd September 2022, representing their first new music in 14 years. 

Today sees the release of the second track taken from the album, and you can listen to ‘Give It Up’ here: 

dUg comments: “After I turned 71, death was on my mind every day, Chris Cornell killed himself, and I was thinking of that. Lyrically, it’s about not giving up until you naturally die. I want to ride it out until it’s over. I’m laughing about how I haven’t gotten a will yet, but I should have one. Musically, I wanted it to be really simple, so you can dance to it.” 

Listen to the bands previous single ‘Let It Rain’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWUrrCB_Ulo 

‘Three Sides of One’ will be available as Limited CD Digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP+CD+LP-booklet & as Digital Album. There will also be a Limited Deluxe 180g Orange/Red Marble 2LP+CD+LP-booklet that also includes a poster and a hand-numbered print, as well as an exclusive variant of the front cover artwork. Pre-order now here: https://kingsx.lnk.to/ThreeSidesOfOne 

During 2019, the members congregated at Black Sound Studio in Pasadena, CA with Emmy Award-winning producer Michael Parnin to bring ‘Three Sides of One’ to life. Despite consistent touring, they hadn’t cut a new LP since 2008. Nevertheless, the guys picked up where they left off. Creative confidant and collaborator Wally Farkas rolled through, and they channelled their incredible chemistry on tape.

Of the new album, dUg Pinnick comments:

“When I think of it, King’s X feels like a couple of old best friends coming together, shooting the shit, and having a good time, it’s instinctual. When I would listen to demo tapes of Jerry and Ty for the record, it gave me a great perspective on how blessed I am to be in King’s X. What they did on Three Sides of One sounded so good. For as familiar as it is, it’s like I’m in a new band.” 

Ty adds:

“This time, we sat around, listened to each other’s ideas, and would collectively say, ‘Let’s work on that’. It was the most enjoyable album I’ve personally ever recorded in my entire life, period.” 

Jerry continues: “I’ll cherish what we did in my heart forever. Everything lined up perfectly.”

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.         Let It Rain 04:28

2.         Flood Pt. 1 03:03

3.         Nothing But The Truth 06:03

4.         Give It Up 02:59

5.         All God’s Children 05:32

6.         Take The Time 03:45

7.         Festival 03:30

8.         Swipe Up 03:46

9.         Holidays 03:22

10.       Watcher 03:43

11.       She Called Me Home 03:57

12.       Every Everywhere 02:40 

King’s X background:

Along the way, they architected a catalog of seminal releases. KERRANG! famously scored their 1988 full-length debut, Out of the Silent Planet, with a rare “5-out-of-5-stars.” On its heels, the landmark Gretchen Goes To Nebraska continues to inspire think pieces with Ultimate Classic Rock going as far to proclaim, “no one else has crafted anything remotely like it.” They notably appeared on the soundtrack to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Guitar World christened the self-titled King’s X one of “The 30 Greatest Rock Guitar Albums of 1992” (a year notably highlighted by Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, Alice In Chains’ Dirt, Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, Dream Theater’s Images and Words, and many more). Following Dogman, the group graced the stage of Woodstock 1994 and toured with everyone from Pearl Jam and AC/DC to Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden. They also attracted one of the most diehard fanbases in music with Ear Candy [1996], Tape Head [1998], Please Come Home… Mr. Bulbous [2000], Manic Moonlight [2001], Black Like Sunday [2003], Ogre Tones [2005], and XV [2008].

Their first full-length studio offering in 14 years, Three Sides of One, represents the culmination of this trip and of a bond forged way back in 1979.

Review – starfish64 – Scattered Pieces Of Blue

starfish64 was established in 2006 by German singer-songwriter Dieter Hoffmann. Originally intended to be a vehicle for his solo-work, starfish64 began recording and publishing in the singer-songwriter genre at first. Over the years, however, sound and compositions shifted more and more towards progressive and new art rock.

‘Scattered Pieces Of Blue’ is the latest album and has been described by the band as ‘Somewhere between prog, pop, rock and outer space. And all in blue…’. To be fair, it is quite a fitting description as starfish64 have their own unique sound that does have touch of sc-fi soundtrack to it in places. The deliberate, almost monotone vocals work perfectly with the spaced out feel of the tracks and then the sublime guitar playing arrives to add that real touch of rock to the music.

This new album has been the band’s most successful yet, which is testimony to the strong songwriting and seamless flow between the often disparate styles of music. These musicians are masters of the segue in a way, which, on other albums by different artists, just doesn’t work. Here it becomes the signature of a band supremely happy with their musical style.

There’s the dreamlike contemplation of album opener Blue Piece Of Something In The Air, the sharp suited brilliance of Birdsong (I really like this track!) with its rather fine sprawling guitar solo at the end and the more upbeat Sunrise Over The Weathered Roofs Of Platania, a song that should be the musical definition of ‘sunny disposition’, three tracks that open the album in fine style.

Forget Me Not brings authority and seriousness, a stylish song that brings to mind a more laid back Kraftwerk to me, the plethora of synths and keyboards is wonder to behold. The short and sweet Blue Piece (Reprise) is like a rather appealing palate cleanser before an elegant piano opens the wistful and thoughtful Happiness, the dreamlike quality of this song is utterly charming.

Perhaps the most interesting and thought-provoking piece on the album, Time’s Up Utopia has a calming and engaging extended instrumental opening that lifts the anticipation perfectly. Tangerine Dream soundscapes wash around you, interspersed by the more direct vocals, a perfectly judged combination. This song is possibly the best that the band have ever written, in my humble opinion, it ebbs and flows in an utterly compelling manner and leaves you completely satisfied, the guitar solo is a piece of genius too! Intersection One sounds like a sci-fi soundtrack in composition and name and contains a cavernous dynamism, Number Forty-Five has a powerful edge to it, harder than most of the other songs, the echoing guitar imbues it with a forceful, potent, energy. The album closes with the surreal countenance of Space Junk, a nostalgic, almost mournful feeling piece of music with an honest and determined outlook and the best guitar solo on the album, all fire and brimstone. It’s an impressive way to close out what has been a rather brilliant album.

starfish64 have been around for a pretty long time and definitely know how to make music but, with ‘Scattered Pieces Of Blue’, they have raised their already considerable level to a new high. Often thoughtful and contemplative but also at times vivid and intense, it is an album that they should be truly proud of and contains their very essence as musicians, I highly recommend it.

Released 5th June, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Scattered Pieces Of Blue | starfish64 (bandcamp.com)

VLMV SHARE ‘THERE ARE MOUNTAINS (UNDERNEATH US)’ FROM UPCOMING ALBUM 

 

NEW SINGLE ACCOMPANIED BY MOVING FILM FROM CINEMATOGRAPHER GABRIEL STANGER 

 

South ​​London ambient post-rock project VLMV have shared new single ‘There Are Mountains (Underneath Us)’  via Nice Weather For Airstrikes. A moving composition with an accompanying video from acclaimed cinematographer Gabriel Stanger, the song follows previous releases Steady, Thyself, For Empire and The Navigator in anticipation of their album release ‘Sing With Abandon’ next month. Featuring guest vocals from Anja Madhvani (Her Name is Calla) and Claire Knox (A-Sun Amissa), ‘There Are Mountains…’ is a creeping and beautiful piece of music, building carefully and slowly to a triumphant but melancholy crescendo.

London based cinematographer Gabriel Stanger has created an enigmatic video. A beautiful monochrome treatise,  tells the story of mother and son coming together – open for interpretation of their family bond and connection. The serenity in the video fits perfectly with the track, an emotive and poignant video to accompany closure in both music and visual. 

An ambitious yet concise album, ‘Sing With Abandon’ was born as songwriter and producer Pete Lambrou explored navigating life in the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a country deciding to break up with its loved ones. Lyrically focused on feelings of isolation and separation, from our shared collective human experience to the deeply personal and everything in between, ‘Sing With Abandon’ touches on the isolation found within the communal experience of a country locked down and in crisis. 

Formed in early 2015 by songwriter & producer Pete Lambrou (Codes In The Clouds, Monsters Build Mean Robots), VLMV released their debut mini album via Fierce Panda Records in August 2015, along with ‘Remixes & Reworkings’, a digital overhaul of their esteemed debut shortly after. Described as “heartachingly beautiful” by Prog Magazine, VLMV shared the follow up, ‘Stranded, Not Lost, in 2018, earning a nomination at the Prog Awards alongside critical acclaim.  

Hailing from London, VLMV have received widespread praise for their immersive live shows, gaining them slots across the UK and Europe including ArcTanGent, Dunk! Festival, Portals Festival, Post In Paris and many more.

VLMV will play The Lexington, London for their one and only UK headline show this year Friday 26th August. 

‘Sing With Abandon’ will be released August 19th via Nice Weather For Airstrikes and can be pre-ordered now 

There Are Mountains (Underneath Us)’ is out now

Pete Lambrou on ‘ There Are Mountains (Underneath Us)’:

“The album has been a long process for us after delays with session musicians and studio restrictions. We ended up going back and forth; writing and rewriting; taking a step back and coming at it from different angles so it feels comforting to know it’ll be out in the world so soon! The drum beat / synth loop was actually created by happy accident on my Korg ArpOdyssey. After manipulating lots of incoming audio, it spat out a chopped up beat with the tempo of 61.2567bpm. And that was that…”

Review – Ms Amy Birks – In Our Souls

Ms Amy Birks returns with ‘In Our Souls’, the follow up to her debut solo album ‘All That I Am & All That I Was’.

‘In Our Souls’ represents Amy’s second time around as a producer and mixing engineer. She recalls the process as being “a time of solitude, of many a late night, exploring ideas and losing myself in the books and poetry of the Bronte’s and my own personal journey over the past few years, developing my ears, skills and confidence as a composer. My first record, ‘All That I Am & All That I Was’, was very much about deeply personal experiences but with this album I wanted to extract more strength and feeling from the musical palate and have more fun with it, which has enabled me to step back a little from the lyrics and put more faith in my ability to write not only songs but pieces of music.”

Amy, lead singer and lyricist of Beatrix Players, is joined on the album by Helena Dove and Tom Manning , two co-writers from the original line-up of that award-winning band. Manning also composed and played all the guitar parts on the album. Amy is once again accompanied by flautist John Hackett while introducing violinist Frank Van Essen and cellist Clare O’Connell to what is a virtuosic line-up.

For ‘In Our Souls’, out of the twelve tracks on the album, Birks, a long-standing fan of the Bronte sisters, sets the words of three Bronte poems to music. Birks furthered her knowledge of the sisters and their personal musical leanings through several trips to Haworth and the Bronte’s parsonage prior to selecting poems that would provide inspiration for the album.

Ms Amy Birks takes the beautiful sound that she developed on her first album, that, in itself, an extension of the Beatrix Players’ amazing combination of chamber orchestra and popular music, and elevates it to an even higher level of brilliance. The whole album is just under fifty minutes of sheer musical wonderment where Amy’s stunning vocals blend perfectly with the consummate musicianship of her amazing group of players.

There are no highlights really but only because every song is an exquisitely crafted gem of ethereal grace and wonder. The opening, title track, In Our Souls, commandeers the words of Charlotte Bronte’s poem, ‘Evening Solace’ and creates a song that just oozes sublime calm, Hold On is a song about a transformation, at soul level, which is what Amy thinks nature can do for a person, if they are open to it and has more urgency engendered by the vocal and a superbly improvised violin from Frank van Essen. There’s a powerful dynamism to Elsa, a song Amy wrote when at university about a woman who is aware of her desires and her attraction and of the wife she knows exists but cares little for, the music creating an aura of drama and tension.

Brothers is without-doubt the most personal track on the album, Amy explains; “I have two estranged brothers and those tumultuous relationships have been the subject, or at least the undercurrent of many a song. For whatever reason, we have never seen eye to eye, hence the opening words of ‘I don’t understand why. Do you? Do you know why?’ and the build-up of aggression through the instrumentation. This, I suppose, is my therapy.” It makes for truly thought provoking piece of music, full of tension and emotion. There’s a delicate, if melancholic, refinement to The One That Got Away, a sad sort of love song about a relationship that almost was something more than friendship but was more of an awakening and a red flag. Wistful and rueful, its artistry belies the plaintive undertone that the track’s subject engenders. A Death Scene takes the words from the wonderful Emily Bronte poem with the same name to create a contemplative and slightly dark piece of music with a thoughtful edge and features some spellbinding guitar playing from Tom Manning and the remarkable flute of John Hackett.

The Woman In White, a song where Amy looks back at herself as a young bride and not really recognising who that person was anymore, is possibly the darkest track on the album from a lyrical point of view and this lends a brooding quality to the piece. With the layers of driving strings and guitar, this is Amy enjoying herself. It’s a highly visual piece that takes her back to an earlier time. The third Bronte poem on the album, The Dream, is from the greatly underappreciated (in Amy’s opinion) Anne Bronte and has a lighter, more frivolous and sweeter feel though, in keeping with the woman who wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the mid-section has a power and authority all of its own. Goodnight For Now is another song that Amy wrote while at university. A gentle, graceful, acoustic piece that, once again, showcases Amy’s amazing voice, it’s about a woman gently letting down a man for she is out of bounds and shows that Amy has always had her head in the romance of Austin and the Bronte’s.

There’s a heart wrenching feel to the wonderfully dramatic Living In Sin, a song about transformation and having the strength to be who you really are. The sombre tone of the music and Amy’s downplayed vocal give real sentiment and fervour to the track. Amy wrote Cannot Contain about greed and how we can all get sucked in by wealth and ‘success’ if we’re not paying attention. It is quite a curt track with an edgy tension underpinning the whole song and the almost irascible tone to Amy’s vocal brooks no argument! The album comes to a rather satisfying close with the wondrous, almost elemental, joy of an instrumental version of the title track.

Well, what can I say, Amy is a rather prodigiously talented songwriter with a quite remarkable voice and when that is put together with musicianship of such stellar talent as is shown here, you are well on the way to musical perfection. ‘In Our Souls’ is a collection of wonderful songs that will delight, enchant and enrapture musical connoisseurs for a long time to come, it truly is that good!

Released 8th April, 2022.

Order the CD from bandcamp here:

In Our Souls | Ms Amy Birks (bandcamp.com)

Jethro Tull launch video for ‘Mine is the Mountain’

British Progressive Rock Luminaries JETHRO TULL released ‘The Zealot Gene’ earlier in 2022, their first new studio album in over 18 years. Garnering critical acclaim, as well as the bands first UK top 10 album since the 70’s, it also saw the band entering high in the charts in Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and more. 

With the band now back out on the road in Europe, they recently added the fan-favourite new track ‘Mine Is The Mountain’ to their live set. To celebrate, a new video for the track has been commissioned, created by Tom Hicks who previously did the clip for ‘Shoshana Sleeping’. Watch the video now here:

Of the track, Ian Anderson comments: “Mine Is The Mountain is, perhaps, a late-life partner to the Aqualung album song My God. I had, as usual, a strong visual reference at the core of the lyrics. A miserable, committed trudge up Mount Sinai by Moses to face an angry maker before he must deliver the goods to his followers below is a powerful image, best imagined unless you are a wilderness trekker and much younger than I.”

Watch the previously released videos below:

‘The Zealot Gene’: https://youtu.be/1APwlHY50vo

‘Sad City Sisters’: https://youtu.be/lsQJl8tXO1Y

‘Shoshana Sleeping’: https://youtu.be/uPTeqsBd1Ik

Jethro Tull have a busy live schedule over the next few months, visiting countries across Europe. Find the full list of dates here: http://jethrotull.com/tour-dates/ 

“Ripe with fresh inspiration and resonant of past glories, it belongs high in the Tull canon.” – Prog Magazine

“The music is light, bright, tight and recognisably Tull” – Classic Rock Magazine

A record that began to take shape as early as 2017, ‘The Zealot Gene’, in many ways, seeks to defy convention during a time when the business of being a touring and recording artist has never faced more uncertainties. Tull bandleader Ian Anderson holds no reservations about the role for which the mythos and themes of Biblical storytelling played in the lyrical content of the new album, saying:

“While I have a spot of genuine fondness for the pomp and fairytale story-telling of the Holy Book, I still feel the need to question and draw sometimes unholy parallels from the text. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly rear their heads throughout, but are punctuated with elements of love, respect, and tenderness.”

Looking back on the earth-shaking disruption of the Coronavirus pandemic, which ultimately ended the band’s touring plans and hopes of a 2020 release for ‘The Zealot Gene’, Anderson shares, “It was so sudden. Amidst the concerns and warnings of the scientific community and a few more enlightened politicians, we all retreated in disbelief to our homes to wait out the storm.”

Listen & order the album here: https://jethrotullband.lnk.to/TheZealotGene

With more than 30 albums to their credit and sales totaling more than 50 million, Jethro Tull are one of the most successful rock bands of all-time with a catalog that contains classics that still resonate today. Led by Ian Anderson, Tull still continue to tour throughout the world, entertaining audiences of all ages. 

The band currently consists of:

Ian Anderson – Flute, acoustic guitar, harmonica, vocals

Joe Parrish-James – Guitar

Florian Opahle – Guitar (album only)

Scott Hammond – Drums.

John O’Hara – Piano, keyboards and accordion

David Goodier – Bass guitar