FOCUS ANNOUNCE NEW STUDIO ALBUM ~ FOCUS 12 – CD, Vinyl and Digital Release : JULY 5th

Spirit of Unicorn Music are pleased to announce the forthcoming release of FOCUS 12, the brand new studio album from Focus.

Founded by Thijs van Leer, Focus have been at the forefront of the progressive music movement since 1969, yet they still continue to deliver engaging, innovative and skillfully crafted music.  Focus 12 exemplifies this and proves why they are still a firm fan favourite, the world over.

For Thijs van Leer (75) and Pierre van der Linden (78), age is nothing more than a number.  Both continue to contribute to Focus with a passion.  Thijs, who has written the majority of the new album, rises at 4.30am every day in order to work on his compositions.  Whilst the album boasts some of Pierre’s greatest and most energetic drum sequences to date.

Allowing the younger guard to take the audio reins for the first time, Focus 12 is produced by band members Udo Pannekeet and Menno Gootjes, who also contribute two compositions on the album.

Thijs commented “How beautiful life can be when a band plays so easily and so together.”

Focus 12 was recorded at the world-renowned Wisseloord Studios, in the band’s native country, of the Netherlands.  A first for Focus, the album features a completely improvised piece which was captured as it spontaneously took place in the studio, during the recording process.  Thus proving that more than 50 years on, the band are still excited by undertaking something new and different.

Van Leer continues “Thanks Pierre, Udo and Menno for so much musical passion!”

The band continue their long association with legendary artist Roger Dean whose stunning artwork graces the front cover and packaging.  The vinyl version features a stunning gatefold sleeve.

Focus continue to be one of the hardest working rock bands on the planet, regularly touring the globe playing live.  This July, they undertake a string of live dates across the USA and Canada, as part of Asia’s Heat Of The Moment Tour.

Thijs van Leer concludes “After all these years, Focus is in the here and now; the triumph of survival!

Focus 12 will be available on CD, Vinyl and on all good streaming services and can be pre-ordered here:   https://burningshed.com/store/focus

Track Listing

1.    Fjord Focus

2.    Focus 13

3.    Béla

4.    Meta Indefinita

5.    All Aboard

6.    Born To Be You

7.    Nura

8.    Bowie

9.    Positano

10. Gaia

Focus are:

Thijs van Leer : Flute, Organ, Piano, Synths

Menno Gootjes : Guitars, Piano, Synths

Pierre van der Linden : Drums

Udo Pannekeet : Bass, Synths, Programming

Produced by Menno Gootjes and Udo Pannekeet

Recorded by Danny Sykes, Udo Pannekeet and Geert Scheijgrond at Wisseloord Studios and Wedgeview Studios, Netherlands

Mixed by Udo Pannekeet

Mastered by Sander van der Heide

Heat Of The Moment 2024 Tour Dates:

Wednesday, 3rd July          : Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield

Thursday, 4th July               : Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls

Saturday, 6th July                : Chevalier Theatre, Medford

Sunday, 7th July                  : The Paramount, Huntingdon

Tuesday, 9th July                 : Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood

Wednesday, 10th July         : Count Basie Center, Red Bank

Friday, 12th July                  : Tropicana Showroom, Atlantic City

Saturday, 13th July              : Wind Creek Event Center, Bethlehem

Sunday, 14th July                : American Music Theatre, Lancaster

Tuesday, 16th July              : Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg

Wednesday, 17th July         : Ryman Auditorium, Nashville

Thursday, 18th July             : Columbia County Performing Arts Center, Evans

Saturday, 20th July              : Hard Rock Live, Orlando

Sunday, 21st July                : Pompano Beach Amphitheater, Pompano Beach

Monday, 22nd July              : Seminole Hard Rock, Tampa

Wednesday, 24th July         : North Charleston PAC, North Charleston

Thursday, 25th July             : Macon City Auditorium, Macon

Friday, 26th July                   : Saeger Theatre, Mobile

Sunday, 28th July                : VBC Mark Smith Concert Hall, Huntsville

Tuesday, 30th July              : The Armada Theatre, St Charles

Wednesday, 31st July         : The Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

Review – Gallowstreet – A Trip Worth Making

Named for Amsterdam’s Galgenstraat (literally translated Gallows Street), Gallowstreet has grown from a street parade band to a show-stopping festival favourite in the Netherlands and beyond. The 8-man band of brass, saxes, and percussion, straddles the worlds of hip-hop and dance music with cinematic scores and hard-hitting beats. 

Explosive. Contemporary. Creative. Electric. Danceable. Often covered, never copied, seldom paralleled. All of the above are applicable to Gallowstreet, ‘A Trip Worth Making’ torpedoes the concept of brass groups straight into the 21st century. Blurring the lines of the genre, the Amsterdam-based group dedicates the record to over a decade of touring and setting dance floors on fire across Europe, blending brass, beats and electronics.

On ‘A Trip Worth Making’, Gallowstreet explores more electronics, different beats, and a radically different dynamic than on 2023 offerings ‘Laaglands’ and ‘Gallowstreet’ EP – truly, the group’s energy is about as high as their productivity.

When a lot of people in the UK hear ‘brass band’ they think of the colliery bands from mining communities, like The Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band, made famous by legendary radio star Sir Terry Wogan and the film ‘Brassed Off’, starring Ewan McGregor so I was a little intrigued when the promo email for Gallowstreet landed in my inbox.

After having quite a few listens now, my intrigue has turned into outright admiration and wonder. ‘A Trip Worth Making’ has given me an appreciation for the amazing and intricate musicianship of this ever so impressive collective. When I first read ‘blending brass, beats and electronics‘, I cannot say I was excited but I am now utterly convinced by the music, it is energetic, upbeat, uplifting and just shedloads of fun!

The album is chock full of killer tracks where the energy never lets up, opener Assemble! gets the party started with infectious rhythms and beats and the ever so delicious sounding brass that marks Gallowstreet out as something exciting and different. Phoenix adds a cinematic element as it builds elegantly before becoming something uber-cool where jazz lounge sensibilities mix with a fresh sounding drum and bass vibe and then you get the musical punch to the jaw with the wondrous Proper Hired Guns that starts off with a poppy feel before turning into an addictive thrill ride that has a updated feel of the them to Hawaii 5-0 to these ears, I just love it!

These brass renegades hit you hard with the high energy beats of My Two Cents, an enigmatic, funk filled, dive into jazz and electronic beats. Consider It A Calling brings 70’s soul to the party, the brass intro like something from a Chic track before an edgy, irreverent vibe takes over, the uplifting brass adding heart and even more soul! There’s almost a storytelling element to the music of Hungry as it ducks and dives and jinks its way around you, jazz and brass surround-sound if you like, the brass talking to you in a wonderfully musical fashion.

A cinematic jazz live lounge emerges out of the intro to title track A Trip Worth Making, the music building in intensity as we get further in. Innovative and inspirational at once, it’s a wonderfully eclectic piece of music. Spirited Away is full of a soulful nervous energy that just seems to seep into your very being and become part of you, the music is uplifting and joyful and just makes you feel good! Everything comes to a close with On Borrowed Time, a laid back and low key track full of nostalgia, a wistful look at a life well lived or a journey well travelled.

With ‘A Trip Worth Making’ Gallowstreet have leaped straight into my musical affections,. It is such an infectious, upbeat and addictive experience that you forget just how technically impressive these musicians are because you are just enjoying the joyful brilliance that they bring to each of these compositions, the energy just free flowing and imbuing in you a fabulous joie de vivre.

Released 1st March, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

A Trip Worth Making | Gallowstreet (bandcamp.com)

Review – Rob Harrison – Explode My Head – by John Wenlock-Smith

One of the best things about writing reviews are the opportunities that I get, on a fairly regular basis, when an artist sends me an album that is not generally available for a few months yet. I consider such acts to be very satisfying and rewarding in that I feel that I am entrusted with their creation to listen to and, possibly, review. This is a honour I accept with sincere gratitude as it means that the artist feels secure enough of my opinion to offer me their creativity, as it were. Which is why I am pleased to be able to write a review for  Z Machine’s sax player Rob Harrison, whose solo album, ‘Explode My Head’ is due to emerge in June of this year.

This is a  very personal  album for Rob as he gets to play the music he wants to and on his own terms and, in addition, he gets to play the guitar (something he seldom gets to do with Z Machine). The album is mostly instrumental, although there are a few vocal tracks. In all it has just six tracks with the longest being just short of nine minutes long. Rob is joined by cello and violins on several tracks, alongside flute and bass clarinets. Rob himself plays all guitars, bass and saxophone, as well as supplying the vocals and sound effects and I suspect he plays the uncredited keyboard parts as well. The album is really rather good, although it is not always an easy listen as the sound is quite dense in places. It has touches of artists like King Crimson, Gong and many others of that ilk.

Opening track A Severe Lack Of Gravitas has some delicate Cello from Polina Faustova and violin from Julia Stein (Who Knows Sound), in between which is Rob’s bass and heavy saxophone parts. The song changes tempo constantly and has great guitar fills and runs along some great sax parts too. I especially like this track as it is very inventive and musically driven. A Bountiful Surplus Of Grace is an intriguing instrumental that also contains some spoken word parts to it. These tend to be a bit  low in the mix so it’s not always easy to hear what is being said. I detect that it is about Rob’s own struggles that are being talked about here. It is a very interesting and musically strong track which really impresses greatly.

A Profound Throb Of Dread is an odd tale of an old man. After the opening section, it moves more to be an instrumental piece, although the vocals are repeated at various points in the track, another compelling and thought provoking piece of music. An Absurd Case Of Iguanas is mostly instrumental with almost Middle Eastern sounding notes at the beginning, later superseded by a different tone and melody. There is some sumptuous bass on this track too, really strong, vibrant and funky at times. The pace increases as the track gains in tempo and intensity with some strong, fluid guitar lines emerging to deliver a quite captivating song indeed.

The penultimate track is An Acute Sense Of Being which sounds similar in style and tone to Starless by King Crimson but without that guitar line. However, it does have similarities to these ears, again, some engagingly fluid guitar lines run throughout and it is all rather impressive really. The record closes with A Fragile Harmony Of Desires, this is the track that possibly explains everything within it’s lyrics, which appear to be almost a stream of consciousness about the difficulties encountered in Rob’s life. The music is fairly jolly for such a deep song, Rob says that he is not good at expressing feeling and talking about things, preferring to let his music speak for him, as it were.

The cover art is brilliant as are the short stop/start Aardman Animation-like clay model videos that accompany the album. ‘Explode My Head’ is a really stimulating, complex and compelling album and one that repays repeated listens, Rob writes music for the mind that also stirs the soul and I highly recommend it.

Released 28th June, 2024.

Pre-order from bandcamp here:

Explode My Head | Rob Harrison (bandcamp.com)

Review – Storm Deva – s/t – by John Wenlock-Smith

Trawling the prog-rock related sites is always an interesting experience for me as I am friends with many of my fellow reviewers and their thoughts, opinions and recommendations are always worth taking note of. One such trawl led me to the band Storm Deva and their self-titled debut album as it was garnering some very positive comments indeed.

I got in touch through bandcamp and offered to write a review of the album as I liked what I had heard. Storm Deva replied in the affirmative and wheels were put in motion with a full download and a physical CD being sent to me. I was very grateful for this and for the kindness offered to me by the band. The album arrived mid-week and I sat down to really have a good listen at my leisure. Armed with the lyrics and the biography of the band, I was all set.

The album opens with Carpe Diem which has a fabulous guitar riff and strong keyboard textures, the riff is the chugging sort that propels the song along. Carolynn Eden’s vocals are a thing of real beauty and class, very operatic at times but with a noticeable hint of Kate Bush, amongst others. The dynamics between vocals, guitar and piano are exceptionally good, at times the guitar following the piano, interweaving and dancing all around the melodies. A fine, if short, guitar solo adds further dynamics to what is a very strong opening track indeed, a really great song and a fine opening statement of intent. Alchemy is next and this one has a very impressive video:

The track has a very nautical theme and good sound effects providing real atmosphere, as does the fine cello of Hannah Reeves that adds great colour to the piece. It is an excellent song with some fine acoustic guitar from Stuart Clark who captures the essence of the song wonderfully. I recommend that you watch the video for maximum impact. Title track Storm Deva is hinged on a strong bass line that is doubled with guitar, which then switches to some fluid arpeggio lines. I like the crunch of this track, it is so well delivered, powerful and yet well constrained and contains a fine fluid guitar solo alongside Carollyn’s excellent piano. Another well executed and delivered song with a theme of overcoming adversity (one that is repeated several times on this fine release) and hope.

Free opens with ambient birdsong sounds, the song is about a journey to wholeness, contentment and, ultimately, to freedom from the past and any hold it has on one’s current happiness. We are treated to more excellent vocals from Carolynn on this powerful track. Come Back To Me begins with a descending piano motif and solo vocal from Carolynn before the band all join in. The song has a fine acoustic guitar solo from Stuart, the song calling for a lovers return. A rather gentle, but no less powerful, song of lament. The Garden Of Wisdom has a longer running time giving opportunity for some extended parts to emerge. This is a really great track and the parts are both interesting and cohesive. There especially fine dynamics from the piano leading to an excellent guitar part from Stuart, who plays a blinder on the whole album, he is a player of both taste and brevity, as a second solo later in this track shows fully. This song has an epic feel and a very good build in its intensity, making it my favourite track thus far, it is about finding personal freedom through overcoming situations.

The Dance is a celebration of life, especially the new life that occurs in the spring time. There are references to the power of the sun and of connection, it’s a song calling for support to being stopped from falling. Believing is the album’s penultimate track and is a fairly gentle song about seeing things afresh with new eyes. It is a very hopeful track with another lovely cello part from Hannah Reeves that adds depth to this fine piece of music, another winner here. The final track is the album’s other epic, the almost eleven minute long Journey, which is a strong finishing track with more sound effects of nature to start before it both gains intensity and momentum, fairly charging along in a very spirited manner, some very fine guitar fills and exciting piano parts following, The song is about a journey into self-realisation and fulfilment, it is quite an emotionally charged and exhilarating ride too with some strong ensemble playing, a fiery guitar and a great rhythm section that certainly adds strength to this great track. Again, another excellent and succinct solo from Stuart leads us to the final closing sections of this song where the momentum and drive is revived to good effect. Strong orchestral elements adorn this track, in fact the entire album is tinged by classical chamber music, albeit with a rock edge. The album ends with the sound of the sea and surf and then the journey is complete on what has been a really fine song and album.

I must also point out the sheer beauty of the album’s artwork, possibly the best I’ve seen, apart from Roger Dean, it is simply sumptuous and very satisfying on the eye and shows Storm Deva to be a very accomplished and talented new group. In addition, they have great taste and style, the bookmark that came with the album is a lovely addition.

This is a really good and fine album, I really liked it and think that others will too. It will especially appeal to Big Big Train Passengers as various BBT alumni are thanked for their input and support.

Released 1st December, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

▶︎ Storm Deva | Storm Deva (bandcamp.com)

Review – Kyros – Mannequin – by John Wenlock-Smith

Kyros have been around for well over a dozen years. Originally a solo project formed in 2009 under the name Chromology by Shelby Logan Warne whlist undertaking an undergraduate degree at Middlesex University. In 2010 Warne began writing a debut album that would be released under the name Synthaesthesia. It was as a self titled album in 2014 and was well received. However, after releasing the album Warne began to put together a band to play the material live and for future activities.

This line up was composed of Warne on keyboards, vocal and production along with another University colleague Samuel Higgins on second guitar, guitarist Ollie Hannifan, drummer Robin Johnson and bassist Peter Episcopo. Hannifan decided he wanted a leave of absence and was temporarily replaced by American guitarist Joey Frevola who eventually joined as a full time member, replacing Hannifan. After recording ‘Mannequin’, Episcopo left to be replaced by Knifeworld member Charlie Cawood.

Anyway enough history and biography, let tell you about what this album is like…

Kyros specialise in an updated progressive rock version of classic 80’s Synthpop. Which, actually, they are really rather good at performing with this resulting album, ‘Mannequin’, being chock full of some familiar sounds and styles. Think ABC, Duran Duran, Propaganda and Japan, you wouldn’t be a mile off. The music is all performed so fabulously with style and conviction that you wouldn’t think this was recorded in 2024, it sounds so much like a lost 1980’s album and I mean that as a compliment.

I really have warmed to this album the more I hear it, the songs are strong and well delivered, the production is flawless and sonically spot on. All in all, it’s a remarkable achievement from the band and is definitely on my best albums of the year list, it is that impressive musically. This release plays like roller coaster with a series of tracks with ferocious drumbeats, a fiery guitar and thumping bass lines. I am seriously impressed with it all, especially Showtime which is full on, relentless and rather hi-energy in style, Shelby’s synths are all over this track all, it is simply glorious! Illusions Inside is another fine track with heavy elements of Propaganda’s Dr Mabuse track, this song really grabs the attention, especially the excellent bass from Charlie Cawood.

Esoterica is another stunning track with a running sequence of an ambient electro beat driving the track along. Lots of intense guitar chords add to the great rhythm of the track and, again, superb heavy synthesisers are present. A great chorus adds dynamics to this excellent track and I love how it mixes up the sound, a glorious, blistering, thunderous sonic assault. It is truly remarkable stuff, seven minutes of magnificence. The End In Mind has lots of intricate and dextrous bass lines giving another powerful groove that has strong echoes of Duran Duran, especially in that luscious bass, the spirit of John Taylor is definitely present and correct here. The guitar work of Joey Favola is superb too, driving a heavy groove offset by the Sonic the Hedgehog type keyboard sounds (the Sega Mega Drive game more than the movies though). It’s a fairly long track and that gives it time to proceed through its different sections which, taken together, form a very cohesive whole.

Digital Fear is a fairly short track with lots happening musically. It takes a while for things to really kick in on this track which is good as it’s and instrumental and a great one at that. Ghosts of You is so 1980’s that it is unbelievable! It reminds me a little of Go West or The Blow Monkeys as it has that sort of swing to it, or possibly Breakout by Swing Out Sister but it is one hell of an excellent track. Liminal Space puts us in prime a-ha territory, albeit with a very heavy bass line, or maybe it’s Roxette I’m hearing here? either way, it’s mightily impressive.

Technology Killed The Kids is the album’s penultimate track and there is a more moody delivery on offer here. Another powerfully pounding track, I’m sure it will be barnstorming live. More spidery guitar lines from Joey are propelled by Charlie’s strong bass work. I love the way the sound distorts like the tape has broken down, whether this is deliberate or not I can’t say, either way it is effective. The final song Have Hope opens with a very upbeat synthesiser sound, an all round excellent sounding track with shades of Kajagoogoo to my ears.

Whilst this album is heavily reminiscent of the New Romantics, it really is more of a celebration and homage than a carbon copy for within its grooves are some very fine tracks and exciting and committed performances that are really well delivered. ‘Mannequin’ is a wonderfully expressive and exceptionally bold release that you really need in your life. If Steven Wilson can gain kudos for his 80’s sounding albums then why shouldn’t Kyros?

Released February 2nd, 2024.

Order direct from the band here:

Merch — KYROS (kyrosmusic.com)

Kaipa release first single & share music video of upcoming album “Sommargryningsljus” / now available for pre-order 

Sweden-born, folkloric progressive rock band Kaipa proudly announce their new album Sommargryningsljus. 49 years after the release of their debut album, the band is set to reveal the 15th longplayer of their musical journey, Sommargryningsljus, which will be released via InsideOutMusic on June 28th, 2024.  Sommargryningsljus is now available for pre-order:

Sommargryningsljus (Single Edit) (lnk.to)

The announcement comes with the release of the first single of the album, which is a mélange of both the opening and closing track of Sommargryningsljus, subsequently named “Sommargryningsljus (Single Edit)”. Two of the songs from the album, the opening track Sommarskymningsljus and the ending track Sommargryningsljus, can be heard together in this single edit version, as they were originally written.

The song is about dusk and a journey through the night to meet the light again at dawn. The single comes with a lyric video that showcases the mystical vibes of twilight and gives a glimpse of the album aesthetics and illustrations.

Watch the video for Sommargryningsljus (Single Edit) here:

Listen to Sommargryningsljus (Single Edit) on your favorite DSPs here:

Kaipa – Sommargryningsljus (lnk.to)

Hans Lund comments:

I had written all the songs for the album and the total playing time was 70 minutes, but then something unexpected happened. One day when I was recording with Aleena Gibson, we took a break and went out into my garden to have a cup of coffee. Suddenly Aleena started singing some notes and I said it was beautiful. Okay, let’s write a song, she said. So we returned to the studio and 15 minutes later a new song had been born. We were both delighted with the result and said that this song must be on the album and the lyrics must be in Swedish. I developed the song and created an interlude built on the same chords. The melody was hovering around in the studio and it landed gracefully in my fingers when I started to play. One early morning a few weeks later, the words suddenly came floating down and landed in my consciousness.

Sommargryningsljus will be available as

·      Ltd. CD Mediabook with extensive 24-pages booklet

·      12’’ Gatefold 180g 2LP black vinyl

·      digital album

Tracklist:

1.    Sommarskymningsljus 00:01:30

2.    Seven Birds   00:09:50

3.    Like Thousand Dawns 00:11:08

4.    Revelationview 00:09:28

5.    Chased by Wolves And Burned by The Sun 00:10:17

6.    Spiderweb Train 00:15:29

7.    Songs In Our Hands 00:13:00

8.    Sommargryningsljus 00:03:58

9.    Sommargryningsljus (Single Edit) 00:05:24

Kaipa are:

Hans Lundin – keyboards & vocals

Per Nilsson – electric & acoustic guitars

Jonas Reingold – bass

Darby Todd – drums

Patrik Lundström – vocals

Aleena Gibson – vocals 

Review – HFMC – Eternal Snapshots

The wonderful Swedish band HFMC (Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion) formed in 2008, out of an idea by Flower Kings singer and guitarist Hasse Fröberg. The idea started to take shape and in 2009 HFMC started to play and prepare for what later became their debut album ‘FuturePast’.

HFMC also consists of Sampo Axelsson (bass guitar), Kjell Haraldsson (keyboards), Anton Lindsjö (guitar) and Ola Strandberg (dums). The band members have played together with names like Glenn Hughes, Michael Schenker, Jeff Scott Soto and Joe Lynn Turner amongst others… HFMC has a warm and unique sound of their own with influences from progressive rock, classic rock and even a hint of pop.

2024 marks the forty-year anniversary since Hasse released his first full length album. What can be better to celebrate forty years as a recording artist than to release a new one? The new HFMC record ‘Eternal Snapshots’ is the band’s sixth studio album.

It’s a concept album that deals with questions such as how do we become who we are. Is everything predetermined? Is destiny involved in our lives? The title ‘Eternal Snapshots’ reflects over the fact that new fate of lives is being born every second and here we get to follow two of them.

I will admit to being a big fan of HFMC, I made their 2021 release ‘We Are The Truth’ my album of the year saying, “This superlative gem of release is worthy of all the praise that is being heaped upon it and finishes 2021 on an utter high for this reviewer, the finest of a wonderful crop of albums released this year? You’ll have to wait and see but it is most definitely right up there with the very, very best.” So I had high expectations of this album and, being up front and central, Hasse and the guys have not let me down!

There’s just something immediately recognisable about Hasse’s vocals, maybe it’s because I am also a fan of the Flower Kings, I’m not sure but his vocal delivery is pretty unique and perfectly suited to the music and, in Anton Lindsjö, he has a superlative guitarist who can turn his hand to pretty much any genre he wants to and, in Sampo Axelsson and Ola Strandberg, a rhythm section as sharp and as cool as they come. What they have created is a masterly collection of brilliant, catchy songs that flow superbly and make a wonderfully cohesive album of progressive tinged hard rock that even has some poppy moments. It’s a record that makes you smile, tap your foot and sing along too and I love music like that!

Opening track All I Wanted To Be (Pt 1) has a big build up with some solid guitar and Kjell Haraldsson’s dextrous keyboards before it flies off with some thunderous drums and excellent bass play conducting the journey. Hasse’s almost plaintive vocal then joins in as the foot comes of the accelerator giving the song a more purposeful feel and then it segues perfectly into the upbeat and uplifting vibe of Deserve To be Happy, a track that showcases music with a sunny disposition. An earnest vocal with subdued music opens the song before it blossoms into something quite remarkable indeed, Kjell’s keys and Ola’s drums providing the driving force and Anton’s fine guitar playing the glue that holds it all together. Add in the wonderful, catchy chorus and you’ve got that joyous toe-tapper that just makes you smile, it’s just feel good music at it’s finest. I love the 80’s Asia/Boston vibe of the guitar, drums and keys that provides the musical palette for Hasse to paint his vocal lines on, “I deserve to be happy…”, you do indeed Hasse! Wistful and and nostalgic in feel, Wherever You may Go adds a quieter, inspiring feel to the album as the subdued acoustic guitar opens the track and Hasse’s poignant vocal begins. It is a beautiful song and one that just bleeds emotion, especially on the delightful chorus. It is a song that just stays in your head for a very long time, invoking sepia tinged memories that are almost melancholic but the music is just so spiritual that the feeling never lasts for long. Anton’s fabulous guitar work and Kjell’s Hammond organ are touches of genius, an outstanding piece of music indeed!

That 80’s vibe returns to grace another great piece of songwriting on No Messiah, an evocative mix of soaring keyboards, fiery guitar and a thunderous rhythm section that gets under your skin and drags you along on its emotive journey. Hasse said to me, “The lyrics might be a little “depressing” at times but as a whole it comes out as a positive experience listening to it.”, and I agree with him totally, they is a joy to the music and a real energising effect from the vocals, especially when harmonised as brilliantly as they are on this song! The sounds of a shipyard open Once In A Lifetime, a journey back in time with it’s 80’s hard rock feel. Powerful and reflective, a song that wouldn’t have been out of place on an album by Foreigner or Journey and it’s when I type the latter that an inspiration particle goes off in my head, that’s who Hasse’s voice reminds me of, the legendary Steve Perry! This is a song that lifts you up into its maelstrom willingly and you are captivated by the amazing musical journey. Only For Me and The Yard are two short interludes, the former having a feel of sunny shores and glimmering ripples in clear calm waters, “why can’t I see, this is for me…” and the latter could have come straight from a Spock’s Beard release and, despite being under two minutes long, possibly the most proggy track on the album!

The excellent songwriting continues with Searching For The Dark, which feels like a mix of classic Crosby, Stills & Nash and Yes with its gorgeous vocals and heavenly music that just floats suggestively in your psyche, the guitar is especially divine and helps make this engaging track something quite remarkable. A Sorrowful Marriner is another musical amuse bouche that has an almost choral feel to it, all church organs and heavenly voices. Just occasionally a band decide to do something quite left field from the other songs on the album, maybe just because they can and HFMC decide to channel their inner rock god with the utterly sublime Blind Dog, a brilliant, grin inducing, hard rocking song that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 70’s Led Zep album. I get the impression that everyone is having the time of their life on this fiery, thunderous behemoth of sinuous bass playing, primeval drums and Hammond organ to die for. Anton gets to cut loose and, boy, does he ever! delivering a lesson in classic rock guitar playing second to none, add in Hasse’s dynamic, ardent vocal and you have a superlative slice of rock music. The album comes full circle as it closes with the refrain of All I Wanted To be (Pt 2), the bells are ringing, the guitar is playing and we are coming to a tremendous tumultuous conclusion to an utterly exhilarating musical experience.

Music is written to connect with people, to move you on an emotional, spiritual and intellectual level. If it is done right then it leaves you in a much better place than when you listened to the first note and, with ‘Eternal Snapshots’, Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion have delivered one of the most superlative musical events of the year so far.

Released 6th June, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Eternal Snapshots | HFMC (bandcamp.com)

David Gilmour ‘Luck And Strange’, First New Album In Nine Years, Released 6th September on Sony Music

David Gilmour today announced his new album ‘Luck and Strange’, to be released on 6th September on Sony Music. The first track from the album, ‘The Piper’s Call’, will be released this Thursday, 25th April, following a world exclusive first play on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

NEW TRACK ‘THE PIPER’S CALL’

AVAILABLE THURSDAY 25th APRIL FROM DIGITAL PLATFORMS

‘Luck and Strange’ was recorded over five months in Brighton and London and is Gilmour’s first album of new material in nine years. The record was produced by David and Charlie Andrew, best known for his work with ALT-J and Marika Hackman. Of this new working relationship, David says, “We invited Charlie to the house, so he came and listened to some demos, and said things like, “Well, why does there have to be a guitar solo there?” and “Do they all fade out? Can’t some of them just end?”. He has a wonderful lack of knowledge or respect for this past of mine. He’s very direct and not in any way overawed, and I love that. That is just so good for me because the last thing you want is people just deferring to you.

The majority of the album’s lyrics have been composed by Polly Samson, Gilmour’s co-writer and collaborator for the past thirty years. Samson says of the lyrical themes covered on ‘Luck and Strange’, “It’s written from the point of view of being older; mortality is the constant.” Gilmour elaborates, “We spent a load of time during and after lockdown talking about and thinking about those kind of things.” Polly has also found the experience of working with Charlie Andrew liberating, “He wants to know what the songs are about, he wants everyone who’s playing on them to have the ideas that are in the lyric informing their playing. I have particularly loved it for that reason.”

The album features eight new tracks along with a beautiful reworking of The Montgolfier Brothers’ ‘Between Two Points’ and has artwork and photography by the renowned artist Anton Corbijn.

Musicians contributing to the record include Guy Pratt & Tom Herbert on bass, Adam Betts, Steve Gadd and Steve DiStanislao on drums, Rob Gentry & Roger Eno on keyboards with string and choral arrangements by Will Gardner. The title track also features the late Pink Floyd keyboard player Richard Wright, recorded in 2007 at a jam in a barn at David’s house.

Some contributions emerged from the live streams that Gilmour and family performed to a global audience during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021; Romany Gilmour sings, plays the harp and appears on lead vocals on ‘Between Two Points’. Gabriel Gilmour also sings backing vocals. 

The album’s cover image, photographed and designed by Anton Corbijn, is inspired by a lyric written by Charlie Gilmour for the album’s final song ‘Scattered’. Of working with his family on ‘Luck and Strange’, David says, “Polly and I have been writing together for over thirty years and the Von Trapped live streams showed the great blend of Romany’s voice and harp-playing and that led us into a feeling of discarding some of the past that I’d felt bound to and that I could throw those rules out and do whatever I felt like doing, and that has been such a joy.”

‘Luck and Strange’ will be released on 6th September on Sony Music.

Available for pre-order now:

Luck and Strange (lnk.to)

DAVID GILMOURLUCK AND STRANGE VINYL

Gatefold sleeve and booklet with photography and design by Anton Corbijn

SIDE ONE

Black Cat*

Luck and Strange

The Piper’s Call

A Single Spark

Vita Brevis*

Between Two Points** – with Romany Gilmour

SIDE TWO

Dark and Velvet Nights

Sings

Scattered***

CD

Album plus two bonus tracks.

Digipak and booklet with photography and design by Anton Corbijn

Black Cat*

Luck and Strange

The Piper’s Call

A Single Spark

Vita Brevis*

Between Two Points** – with Romany Gilmour

Dark and Velvet Nights

Sings

Scattered***

BONUS TRACKS

Yes, I Have Ghosts

Luck and Strange (original Barn Jam)*

BLU-RAY – AUDIO ONLY

Album in Dolby Atmos and high-resolution stereo mixes plus four bonus tracks.

Digipak and booklet with photography and design by Anton Corbijn

Black Cat*

Luck and Strange

The Piper’s Call

A Single Spark

Vita Brevis*

Between Two Points** – with Romany Gilmour

Dark and Velvet Nights

Sings

Scattered***

BONUS TRACKS

In Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res stereo

Yes, I Have Ghosts

Luck and Strange (original Barn Jam)*

A Single Spark (Orchestral)*

Scattered (Orchestral)*

Deluxe LP & CD boxsets will be announced in the coming weeks. 

DAVID GILMOUR‘LUCK AND STRANGE’

All songs Music: David Gilmour. Lyrics: Polly Samson.

Except *Music: David Gilmour.

**Music: Mark Tranmer. Lyrics by Roger Quigley.

***Music: David Gilmour. Lyrics: David Gilmour, Charlie Gilmour and Polly Samson.

Produced by David Gilmour and Charlie Andrew

Engineered by Matt Glasbey, Charlie Andrew, David Gilmour and Damon Iddins

Mixed by David Gilmour, Charlie Andrew and Matt Glasbey

Additional engineering by Andy Jackson and Luie Stylianou

DAVID GILMOUR‘LUCK AND STRANGE’THE NEW ALBUM RELEASED 6th SEPTEMBER ON SONY MUSIC.

ABOUT DAVID GILMOUR
David Gilmour is guitarist, vocalist and writer with Pink Floyd, but is also renowned for his solo work. David Gilmour and Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett met as children in Cambridge, UK, and later began playing guitar together. In 1965 Syd co-founded Pink Floyd, while David continued playing with a succession of his own bands. In 1968, David was asked to augment the Pink Floyd line up as the singer and guitarist, only for Syd to leave the group five gigs later. David’s guitar playing, singing and songwriting became major factors of Pink Floyd’s worldwide success, including his distinctive vocals and guitar playing on The Dark Side Of The Moon, the third most successful album of all time.

In 1978, David released his first solo album, David Gilmour, which charted in the UK and the US. His second solo album, About Face, was released in 1984, again hitting the Top 20 in the UK.
David assumed control of Pink Floyd in 1985, creating the new Floyd album A Momentary Lapse Of Reason with Richard Wright and Nick Mason. It was followed in 1994 by The Division Bell, which contained the instrumental Marooned, composed by David and Richard Wright, which won a Grammy Award. Both albums charted at Number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic and were supported by sell-out world tours.

In 1996, Pink Floyd were inducted into the US Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, followed by the same honour in the UK in November 2005.

David is one of the all-time guitar greats, with an instinctive and distinctive sound; he was voted ‘Best Fender Guitar Player Ever’ in a poll in Guitarist magazine, beating such greats as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. In 2005, David was made a CBE for services to music.

On 6th March 2006, David released his third solo album, On An Island, which entered the UK Charts at Number 1, subsequently hitting the top position in the pan-European Charts, as well as hitting multi-Platinum around the world. The tour for the album included a one-off performance in the historic dockyards of Gdańsk, Poland, with a 40-piece orchestra and a show at London’s Royal Albert Hall was filmed by director David Mallet and released in 2007 as ‘Remember That Night – Live At The Royal Albert Hall’, which topped the charts upon release.

In May 2008, David was awarded an ‘Ivor’ for Lifetime Achievement by the British Association of Composers and Songwriters. In September 2008, Fender Guitars made available their David Gilmour Signature Black Strat model, in ‘Relic’ and ‘New Old Stock’ models.

In 2009, David was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from East Anglia’s Ruskin University of Cambridge and Chelmsford for his outstanding contribution to music as a writer, performer and innovator. 

In September 2014, Pink Floyd released The Endless River, and David confirmed that it would be the band’s final album and it topped the charts in over 20 countries.

David’s next album Rattle That Lock was released in 2015 and went to Number 1 in 13 charts around the world and Number 2 in a further eight, hitting the Top 5 in a total of 25 listings. The accompanying world tour saw David perform two spectacular shows at the legendary Pompeii Amphitheatre in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, 45 years after he first played there for Adrian Maben’s classic film Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii.

The concerts were the first-ever rock performances played to an audience in the ancient Roman amphitheatre, which was built in 90 BC and entombed in ash when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. The film of these shows directed by Gavin Elder, topped the box office In Italy, Germany and France and was Number 2 in the UK. David Gilmour Live At Pompeii was released on Blu-ray, Vinyl, CD & DVD in September 2017 and reached #3 in the UK and #1 in Italy.

In June 2019, David raised $21.5m from the Christie’s sale of more than 120 of his instruments and artefacts. He gave the proceeds to ClientEarth, a charity which uses the power of the law to protect the planet and its people.

Gilmour and Nick Mason reactivated Pink Floyd to record ‘Hey Hey Rise Up’ on 30th March 2022 with Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the Ukrainian band Boombox. All of the net proceeds have gone to charities to help alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian people.


Review – PreHistoric Animals – Finding Love In Strange Places – by John Wenlock-Smith

Bad Dog Promotions are proving themselves to be a most worthy PR resource for modern prog bands and associated artists. Okay, not everything is to my liking, however, I find more to my liking that ones I don’t like. There definitely a lot more ‘hit’ than ‘miss’ for me. Take, for instance, ‘Finding Love In Strange Places’, this fourth album from Sweden’s PreHistoric Animals. It certainly mixes things up blending, as it does, a love of progressive rock, alternative rock and brilliant pop music, a concept that shouldn’t work but somehow here it manages to pull of fthis feat in style.

Quite frankly I’m most thankful to have heard this album, as it is an album of depth and great songwriting and performances in a very clever concept, delivered and realised to a very high standard indeed.

The band are: Stefan Altzar (guitar, lead vocal and keyboards), Samuel Granath (drums and keyboards), Noah Magnusson (bass and keyboards) and Daniel Magdic (guitar, vocals and keyboards).

The album begins with The City Of My Dreams which opens with a Blade Runner type sequencer before heavy guitar and soaring synthesisers join in. The singer sounds reminiscent of someone who I can’t quite identify but sounds really good to me, The song has a compelling narrative and strong musical sections, all very well produced. I like this track a lot, it has lots of elements that together work hugely in its favour. A Bad Day For The Neon Gods is a brief interlude before Living In A World Of Bliss storms along with a fiery pace and drive. It’s a strange story about a girl who is a killer and eventually falls to her death. Her death inspires a follower to continue her work with a different outcome. I feel it is quite a hopeful song really but definitely an interesting one and another quality track.

Unbreakable is a longer track, opening with sequenced keyboards before a soaring guitar line plays. This track is about a couple who meet in a bar and commit to each other, getting married and both taking an implant to their brains which makes them attain a higher state of realisation of life. They sign the rest of their lives away in exchange for this heightened state, it’s an interesting premise and story and great musically as it has a lot going on throughout. Strange Places is a portentous, looming interlude that just builds up the suspense before He Is Number Four, a story of how two employees fall in love in a factory environment and how that single act saves countless others as the this stops an act of terror from even happening. It is the start of love that warms the female protagonist’s heart so much and deters her from the act of violence she had planned. It is a remarkable track bout how the power of love can change us as individuals.

Come Home is a very brief acoustic song, it’s all rather good and pleasant and doesn’t outstay its  welcome. This followed by The Secret Of Goodness, which appears to be about being watched by aliens, I could be wrong as it is a little unclear, it is very strong musically again though and another compelling tale. The final track on the album, Nothing Has Changed But Everything Is Different  is also a fantastic track rich in imagery and invention. This is a plea that that we should be loved for who we are. An epic guitar solo helps complete this very fine track with its simple themes and request. It is an emotionally laden song with much meaning and concludes what is quite frankly most interesting and accomplished album.

I really appreciated the level of imagination that is contained within these songs and the theme of finding love in strange places as told here on a brilliantly realised concept album of great songs and strong musical performances from PreHistoric Animals. With the excellent cover art, ‘Finding Love In Strange Places’ is an album that both looks and sounds good with real substance and definitely one to look out for on end of year ‘best of’ lists.

Released 16th May, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Finding Love In Strange Places | PreHistoric Animals (bandcamp.com)

Review – Blue Rose Code – Bright Circumstance

“Lord, you have called my brother home, will you guide him gently, Lord, you have called my brother home to that sacred rest. Jesus, you’ve called my brother home would you give him shelter, now the big man has gone on…”

Ross Wilson (Blue Rose Code) is, at once, one of Edinburgh’s favourite sons and still one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. A decade-long career has seen Wilson work with the great Danny Thompson, Eddi Reader, and most recently, co-write with English folk royalty – Steve Knightley.

Unusually, four years since Blue Rose Code’s last record, the songs on ‘Bright Circumstance’ were written between Galson in the North of Lewis and the Whitstable sea-front in Kent. Four years has seen new fatherhood, a dropping anchor in Liverpool, and (once the pandemic allowed) extensive national and international touring with Wilson’s seven-piece band.

Last Summer saw BRC play mainstages at Cambridge Folk Festival, Shrewsbury festival, Tonder in Denmark, and Black Deer. The experience of playing to the big crowds with the big band has developed the Blue Rose Code sound into an unmissable live show and that energy has been taken into the studio for the new record ‘Bright Circumstance’.

I feel that Ross has reached a creative nirvana with this new album. A completely wonderful melding of folk, roots, soul, country and Americana that touches your very soul and is reflective, uplifting and just a musical breath of fresh air but, before we delve into the review, Ross explains more about the new album:

How do you go about creating/writing the songs for a new album? Do you have a bank of songs or are they new experiences that you use to help with the idea behind the songs?

For me I always give time, that’s where the songs begin. In a space where there is no pressure, no expectations. Deadlines are great for work or otherwise but I think music ought not to be held to an artificial timeline. It walks its own path. Often songs will come in twos or threes for me, when I feel creative I’ll pick up the guitar or sit at the piano and they fall out in their own good time but mostly as a team. It’s always happened that, over the course of writing an album, at least one song will be written that is a last minute edition. This time it was ‘Now The Big Man Has Gone On’. Written for my dear pal Gordon’s funeral. 

I spend most of my life away from ‘being an artist’, it’s the only way that I’ve found to garner experiences honest and authentic enough to write about. I forget that I’m a musician and, when we’re out on a sustained run of shows I’m all of a sudden like, ‘oh, yeah, *this* is what it’s all about’, because that connection when I’m performing, between myself and the band and the audience, that flow is the greatest sensation I’ve ever experienced.

Do you have a cohesive idea/concept behind the album or is it a collection of random tracks?

Any concept would be post-rationalisation and, while some people may like to be seduced by their musicians talking shite about what they’ve done, that’s not really my gig. Having written and recorded this record, and now with a bit of distance from it, the biggest theme that’s emerged (by accident) is one of Faith with a capital F. 

Faith is very unsexy nowadays, you’re either naive, stupid and/or very likely bigoted. Since becoming a father again and coming out of the dread and desolation of the Pandemic, I’ve realised the need for communion and connection in my life, nay, all of us are inherently interdependent, the Lockdowns convinced me of that utterly. God, gods, Yahweh, Allah, Yoda, Mother Nature, whatever you want to call (insert pronoun here), I’m pretty relaxed about the notion that there is a power greater than me that binds us. 

I think this is your best album to date and, while it is most definitively a BRC album, it feels slightly different than the ones that have preceded it, is that intentional?

Thank you! I made a conscious effort to take the band out to festivals and grow a bigger, more muscular, soulful sound. We’ve had a riot around the country, a lot of fun, lots of dancing and smiling and I was so determined to bring some of that raucousness into the studio. I wanted to grab, on record, what we sound like out there, with the counterpoint of some of what you’d expect from a BRC record. 

Now, let’s see just exactly what ‘Bright Circumstance’ is all about…

Jericho opens the album with a high octane injection of soul, a fast paced thrill ride where Paul Harrison’s piano and Paul Towndrow’s horn section drive the track along with a grin inducing energy, the kind of live energy that has wowed festivals and theatres throughout 2023. Ross’ vocals are dynamic and uplifting and give the record a rather enticing opening and a blistering statement of intent. The mood is turned completely on its head with Sadie, a heartfelt lament written from a very personal perspective, a song about generational trauma and addiction. A melancholic strummed guitar is matched my Ross’ sombre and wistful vocals but the star of the show here is Conor Smith and his elegantly played, respectful pedal steel guitar which just bleeds emotion, it is simply heartbreaking and plaintive, every note touching and beautifully delivered. The mood turns again with the wonderfully triumphant horn arrangement by Paul Harrison that opens Never Know Why, a song about Grace, about experience over knowledge. Soulful with an almost reggae feel to it, the funky trombone from Liam Shortall and Harrison’s dancing piano just add to the inspirational vibe and general feeling of good will, a song that just makes you smile!

The subdued atmosphere returns with the elegant and stately Thirteen Years, this song is about Tory Britain, about kids going to sleep hungry and waking up hungry, going to school hungry. It’s a powerful message delivered with passion and pride but in a most dignified manner which is only enhanced by the gorgeous, haunting violin of Greg Lawson. A powerful piece of music that makes you stop and think. Next comes a full-on Gospel version of Amazing Grace where Ross makes the song his own, a personal and jubilant reworking of the classic hymn, featuring a chorus of Eddi Readers in the background. The music is almost bluesy with a brilliant Hammond organ leading the refrain and Paul Towndrow’s soulful sax adding some real verve, it’s simply irresistible. My favourite song of the year so far from any artist, Peace In Your Heart was written coming out of the pandemic and in light of the mental health crisis that came about through lack of connection. A gentle, wistful piece of music that just gets under your skin and seeps into your soul with its love and compassion, bringing tears of joy and a feeling of hope welling up,“May this next year go easier on your soul, I love you and I wish you peace in your heart.”

“Take my hand my love, hold me in your arms. Love me like you do, easy as we go…”. A song of hope, of renewal, about the coming spring, Easy As We Go blends Scottish country and Americana perfectly, the yearning and longing for something new, something better is uplifting and optimistic, imbuing an aura of faith and brotherhood into the music and Ross’ words. A comforting song that speaks of a brighter future, Donald Shaw’s accordion and Lyle Watt’s mandolin adding a real authenticity to proceedings. Sultry and brooding with haunting vocals to match, Don’t Be Afraid speaks of faith and devotion. The bible features the phrase ‘don’t be afraid’ 365 times. One day at a time. The dark and light of Jungian thought, ‘the devil is fear by another name’, a song with a questioning nature at its heart, pure creativity and originality and a showcase for the songwriting brilliance of Ross Wilson. The song segues brilliantly into the stark McDonald’s Lament, a Gaelic preamble to Now The Big Man Has Gone, written for a close friend of Ross’ who died suddenly while the record was being finished in Glasgow. Written for the Big man’s funeral, it is Ross with his heart laid bare, inviting us in to his own personal mourning. Pared back, it is just Ross’ perfectly judged vocal with a gentle mandolin and his faith holding strong as he bids farewell to a loved one and asks that he be welcomed into heaven with open arms. A tender and beautiful piece of music that has all of this spiritual musicians heart and soul at its very core, the recording of the Big man’s voice a very poignant way to close the album.

Music can reflect life and accompany us on our very personal journeys and we should be honoured that Ross Wilson has invited us to join him on his own poignant and introspective pilgrimage through his faith. What he has given us is one of the most intense and intimate records released this year, with faith and devotion as its central themes. ‘Bright Circumstance’ is an utterly captivating triumph and should propel Blue Rose Code onto further and better things, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Released 10th May, 2024.

Order the album here:

Bright Circumstance (lnk.to)

Blue Rose Code is Ross Wilson

Drums – Stuart Brown, Trumpet & Flugel – Matt Gough, Keys – Paul Harrison, Violin – Greg Lawson, Vocals – Eddi Reader, Accordion – Donald Shaw, Trombone – Liam Shortall, Pedal Steel – Conor Smith, Bass – Gus Stirrat, Vocals – Naomi Stirrat, Saxophone – Paul Towndrow, Guitars & Mandolin – Lyle Watt.