Review – Nick Fletcher – Quadrivium – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Quadrivium’ is the latest solo release from Sheffield based, highly acclaimed guitarist, Nick Fletcher who, as anyone who has seen him can testify, is a very accomplished player who can not only shred with the best of them but is also a player of taste and style. So, it is with little wonder that even Steve Hackett regards him very highly, possibly sensing a kindred spirit and, finding in Nick, a musician who strives to be the best he can be, whatever the situation in which he is found.

Well this album is particularly fine, it is entirely instrumental and it is very fusion focused. Within its tracks you can find many references and nods to those gods of fusion, from Al Di Meola, Alan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny and, of course, Jeff Beck, to point out the obvious ones. There are also a whole slew of others that Nick has drawn upon in his style and playing and this is all put together perfectly into a melting pot with this album emerging as the result. This release is a musical journey that demands listening to as a whole, you need to clear fifty-five minutes in your schedule and settle down to enjoy this masterful slice of fusion pie. It is also an album that uses lots of atmosphere and nuances to punctuate is dreamy sound, in between the bluster there are gentle moments of almost serenity occurring, this gives the album an even pace and allows individual contribution to shine, like the excellent bass work of Tim Harries who is there at every turn, propelling or  pushing the bear along as needed. His sympathetic playing adds greatly to the overall dynamics and sound, he also provides a solid platform for Nick’s fiery guitar flights of expression and frees him to really soar,

This is fusion for today with nods to the past but generally forging ahead in new directions and pathways, it is extremely musically strong and focused. I doubt if you will hear another fusion album that burns this hot, it is almost incendiary such is the firepower contained within its grooves, this is blistering in its intensity and depth of vision. Now, if fusion doesn’t usually grab you then, don’t worry as this is more than just fusion, it has great rock sections as well and some truly jaw dropping guitar playing, enough to make you sit up and even to put away your own guitar in envy. The album has eleven tracks ranging from the very brief Ziggurat Of Dreams Parts One & Two to the longer tracks like Aphelion and The Journey To Varanasi, the songs changing in style, often within the same track.

Nick is aided by several of his good friends like Dave Bainbridge and the aforementioned Tim Harries, who provide excellent keyboard and bass support. On the drums Nick has enlisted Anika Nilles (who was previously in Jeff Beck’s last band and is also a drum teacher and has her own band as well). She is very much an up and coming fusion star in the making and adds strong syncopation and delicacy along with the powerhouse drive as required. Anika is like a young Billy Cobham in style at times, in short, she is a truly exceptional talent and really makes her mark here.

The album has a theme as Nick is very interested in philosophy and especially the works of the Greek masters, Plato, Aristotle and the like. This record is based on Plato’s four noble arts, these being mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy.  Well, the music relates to either mathematics, geometry or astronomy and the whole album is music, the fun is spotting which track relates to which! There  is a lot of fun to be had by doing that, so I won’t actually tell you and leave you to find out for yourself but look at the track titles for clues. The use of Google might be of use in this task, at least you will learn something new in the process.

I always feel that, for me personally, knowing and understanding the background to a music piece aids my enjoyment and enriches it significantly. Not for nothing is the maxim that knowledge is power quoted. However, don’t let the concepts behind the music stop you from listening to this extremely masterfully delivered release, instead let knowledge lead you onwards in your journey from the inner soul to the edges of the universe, life and beyond, onwards into eternity. A very entertaining and illuminating concept for certain but also a very worthy one for our modern age.

There are so many highlights on this album from the gentle introduction of A Wave On The Ocean Of Eternity that had me in mind of Beck’s The Final Peace, with its emotive guitar lines. The Indian styled The Journey To Varanasi has some very heavy guitar parts featured prominently, in all it is a very rewarding listen and does bear repeated listening thereafter as it has many depths to be uncovered as you absorb the music fully. I also appreciate that this album ends as it begins, delicately as the circle is completed.

This album is really rather a revelation in sound as it sounds absolutely gorgeous and is extremely well recorded and produced, with a full and clear production that allows room for everything to be clearly heard. There is excellent definition with good separation between the instruments, alongside which you have really great sympathetic and skilled performances from everyone that all combines to make this an astonishing musical accomplishment. Kudos must also be given to Nicks co-producer Caroline Bonnett who aids him in this crafting so diligently and adds some fine keyboard work too.

‘Quadrivium’ is an absolute stormer of an album, most impressive and very highly recommended and is my fusion album of the year so far. There is so much to discover, to embrace and to enjoy in this mighty fine stew.

Released 15th September, 2023.

Order the album from the artist’s website here:

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

Review – Steve Hackett Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton

2022 Saw Steve Hackett fully re-emerging from the spectre of frustration over a few difficult years thanks to the pesky worldwide pandemic that affected much of the wield and disrupted how we lived and interacted with each other. It was, indeed, a turbulent, nay difficult, time for many, which saw lots of planned activities being thwarted.

So what did Steve do? he decided to mark the 50th anniversary of this ground-breaking album by touring it with his band, first playing a set of his solo material and then, in the second half, playing ‘Foxtrot’ in full and in sequence, along with a few other select tracks to round it out to a full two hour show. I have to say this set certainly makes an impression, you may ask why do we need another meander through the Genesis archives or do we actually want or need one? Well, on the evidence of this fine live document the answer is a resounding yes! We do both want and need this documented in such style.

On this album you will find Steve and his band are on top form and really making their mark with the sublime music and enthralling the added demographic audience of Brighton in the process. Okay, there is nothing new here, recent but not actually new, but still this is so beautifully recorded and wonderful sounding that it brings fresh insight and the realisation of the sheer quality of the material being performed. Steve especially is on very fine form here making his guitar sound sumptuous and masterful at the same time. His tone on Spectral Mornings alone puts many other players to shame, such is the clarity of the album. It is truly exceptional in sound, crystal clear with great separation between the instruments and clear vocals and harmonies bring heard, it’s almost like the band are in your front room, so good is the sound.

Standouts of the first set for me are The Devil’s Cathedral with it’s dark tones, hint of menace and some suitably gothic touches in the tale of an ambitious theatrical understudy who takes thing into his own hands to achieve success, a lively spirited take on Spectral Mornings and an urgent Every Day. Along with this are an effect laden A Tower Struck Down with all sorts of creaking noises occurring This has a swagger and muscular thrust to it missing from other live versions, it really crackles with energy and menace and it really sounds excellent and extremely well performed. There is also, of all things, a bass solo, thankfully this doesn’t overstay its welcome unduly and, in addition, it does reveal Jonas Reingold to be an inventive player, his addition of a well known riff will make you smile.

Camino Royal comes over very well, this song with it roots in New Orleans music and benefits greatly from the jazzy interludes of Rob Townsend’s woodwinds before a blistering guitar solo from Steve takes the track forward, a wonderful piece that most definitely impresses greatly. Then we have the final part of the short set of Steve’s own material with a shortened section of Shadow Of The Hierophant that features Amanda Lehmann on vocals. This is only a truncated version though, not the  full length one. However, even so, it is still great to hear this in any form as it is such a graceful number. The clever use of dynamics really makes this a memorable version of this slow burn of a song, it builds in its intensity very well indeed, all reaching towards its heady conclusion. Then oddly, on the CD, we have the evening’s final two songs Firth of Fifth and Los Endos.

Firth of Fifth needs little introduction really but here we receive another fine rendering of this all time classic song. Once again, the vocals are clearer than on many other versions, all of which lends a fresh appreciation for this majestic track and, as always, the manner in which it builds up to that guitar solo, possibly the most famous one in the whole Genesis canon, when it arrives you are rewarded not only by the solo but also the busy bass that underpins it so eloquently and adds to it impressiveness. This in itself is a new revelation to the jaded listener, another impressive take on a classic song, utterly sublime. We have the short but very impressive drum solo from Craig Blundell that leads into Los Endos which is faithfully reproduced here, with lots of input from Rob Townsend.

The second disc contains the rest of the ‘Foxtrot’ album in sequence and begins with the excellent and stylish power of Watcher Of The Skies with it’s menacing mellotrons that create an atmosphere of impending doom most convincingly and more than adequately. Nad Sylvan has been on top form throughout these sets and he really comes to prominence here delivering a near perfect vocal performance. At times a lesser known and certainly less celebrated track but here it is well covered and the eloquent bass from Jonas Reingold raises its profile dramatically in a really delicate and moving rendition. Next we have the ever relevant political comment of Get ‘Em out by Friday, about unscrupulous landlords evictions of undesirables (in this instance, refugees). Well, fifty years after it was written, nothing has changed, landlords are still doing the same things to gentrify and basically make even more money.

Can Utility and the Coatliners follows and this almost pantomime track is lively enough but I don’t really get it, somehow its meaning is hidden from me. The brief solo classical guitar piece Horizons is the forerunner to the album epic, and much loved, Supper’s Ready, which here receives a very warm welcome and we are treated to a wonderful version of this astonishing track with all its parts performed to the always high standards that Steve expects. This is a masterfully delivered take on the classic and brings this album and concert to a close.

The Blu-Ray is equally as fine and has a 30 behind the scenes sections which are well worth seeing. Overall this set is excellent and the Blu-Ray makes it even more worth the money. It is another fine milestone in Steve’s career and, with new music well underway, watch this space.

Released 15th September, 2023.

Order direct from the artist here:

Steve Hackett | Steve Hackett (

Review – Tiger Moth Tales – The Turning Of The World – by John Wenlock-Smith

This October sees the release of this latest album from Tiger Moth Tales which is, of course, the moniker under which multi-instrumentalist Peter Jones operates and releases his own music. Peter is a highly respected and regarded musician who also fronts Red Bazar as keyboardist and vocalist while also doing the same for Cyan and, more recently, Camel. He is also a member of Francis Dunnery’s It Bites and, in addition, Peter also has a dedicated following and has performed several Mothster parties as warm ups to Big Big Train shows (usually in London at venues near to where the BBT shows are taking place.)

All this is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that Peter is totally blind and yet still strives to create new music, usually labouring by multi-tracking and mixing using an old 8-track recorder. His music really is a labour of love for him, it must take him a long time to get the sounds he envisages in his mind on tape when recording, but this he does and then shares these fruits of his labours with the world.

‘The Turning Of The World’ follows a different tack to earlier Tiger Moth Tales‘ albums in that it was composed mostly on acoustic guitar and, whilst this lends a softer tone to proceedings, it is abundantly clear who it is performing this music such is the uniqueness of Peter’s voice and the sound is easily recognisable as  a Tiger Moth Tales release.  

For this album Peter is in a fairly upbeat mood and it is clear that Peter, once again, is in a happy place and this comes across in the more personal, and even intimate, songs about friendships, family, love and life, several of which are autobiographical in their lyrics.

Proceedings commences with a short scene-setting instrumental, The Getaway, that  represents the madness, discord and overall business of the modern world in which we live in a post-covid age. The album’s first proper song, per se, is The Turning Of The World which concerns itself with Peter’s fear that, with the world being in the state it is, revolution is on the cards, although whether Peter’s fears are justified or merely baseless is as yet unknown. Peter is concerned about how a victory would look and how its winners would behave, this song makes good use of a melodica to make the song sound plaintive. This is in complete contrast, in terms of emotions, to So Wonderful To Be Alive, which is a composite of childhood memories that Peter holds dear. This song name-checks his grandparents fondly and the adventures they shared together, it also talks of Peter’s teenage years. The track is hinged on a fine acoustic riff, played with the style and progresses onto Peter’s memories of a very happy wedding day with his wife, Kimberly. He sings with real love, gratitude and fondness for her presence in his life. This is followed by the albums longest track, The Snail, The Horse And The River, which concerns itself with using nature to look at how you are feeling. This is possibly mindfulness in practice as Peter says it represents three instances where looking at nature really helped his mood. The first was as a child when a beloved pet had died and Peter felt a Snail moving beneath his fingers helped him to be able to move onward. The second was an interaction with a horse. Peter has a timbre that has tones of Peter Gabriel, his voice is rich, warm, gentle and mellow, it is quite remarkable in fact, there is also good use of a zither alongside the melodica.

Try is about perseverance, resilience or, as we used to call it, gumption! The ability to keep trying and carry carrying on with something, this is a clarion call to keep trying and is a lesson we can all learn from, I think! We’ll Remember is a song that is written about the unexpected and sudden death of David Longdon of Big Big Train with whom Peter recorded a version of Spectral Morning that was recorded in 2015 in aid of The Parkinson’s Society. When the sad news of David’s death was announced, Peter wrote this song in response and, to help him work out his emotions, he bought in Rob Reed and Christina Booth of Magenta to assist him in this touching tribute. Pass It On has another taste of the smooth sound and is again based of his memories of people who have passed on. This song mentions some of those folk, and how we should pass on the kindnesses we have received to others. The Good People Of Munchwald recalls the positive memories that Peter has of a house concert that he was invited to play at in Muchwald in Germany and the friends he made and excellent hospitality that he and his wife received whilst there.

You reached for My Hand is a very personal song, one that details the time that Peter’s father was in hospital and held his hand for support. Thankfully his father made a full recovery but this tender song recounts that time. The Lock Keeper is  ostentatiously about a lock keeper but, in actuality, it is about The March Of Progress and how, in that quest, skills are being lost, never to be replaced and how this, in effect, can make the world a poorer place as a result. It’s very interesting and realistic song that really makes good use of that softer toned. The track has a lively sax and melodica section to it but, for me the song doesn’t really go anywhere special. This is definitely not the case with the last song of the album, All I Need Today, which begins with open guitar chords and sounds not unlike Genesis’ more acoustic moments. The track has underlying keyboards and what sounds like a clarinet but is actually the returning melodica playing and makes for a very full sound. It is a warm song and Peter expresses how his wife and marriage help him to realise the good things he has in his life, in part because of her presence. It is a positive and touching note on which the album concludes.

This is a very different type of Tiger Moth Tales‘ album but its deep subject matter and its thoughtful words and sentiments are actually very worthy and act as a good counterpoint to the downbeat ‘Whispering Of The Wind’ of 2020. Whilst this album has some darker songs there is a prevailing sense of gratitude and warmth within and around these songs, which are a bit more direct emotionally.

It is good to hear Peter singing these songs as, from the heart, this emotionally direct approach pays rich dividends here indeed. I’m pretty sure that Peter’s next album will see him return to the style we have come to know and love but for now he asks us to embrace this different and yet deeply compelling album. Different? Yes, Enjoyable still? Definitely! Embrace it now, I think you will enjoy it if you do.

Released 6th October, 2023.

Pre-order the album from White Knight Records here:

Tiger Moth Tales (

Review – Psychoyogi – Brand New Face – by John Wenlock-Smith

Psychoyogi are a band who hail from London and who describe themselves as ‘left field, punk jazz’ and their music as being a diverse mixture of instrumental colours, melodies and words. Their songs offer current social and political critique alongside personal moments, which is a way of saying that they are a little different and, possibly, an acquired taste for many. I personally like them a lot but I can understand why some would struggle to get the drift.

In Chris Ramsing they have a talented and imaginative guitarist and vocalist who has a different view of the modern world and feels strongly that persons who upset the apple cart should be held accountable. One thing that will definitely assist in getting to the heart of this album are the very clever and intelligent lyrics for the songs which can be found on the band’s website:

PsychoYogi Leftfield punk jazz

So, what this latest album all about? First, the details, ten tracks in total and an approximate forty-two minute duration. The five band members are Chris Ramsing (Guitar and Vocal), Izzy Stylish (Bass), Justin Casey (Drums) , Toby Nowell (Sax and Trumpet), Ben Woodbine- Craft (Violin) and there is a guest, Tim Smart from The Specials who provides trombone, all of which makes for a great sounding album.

The album opens with Destitution, which is about the gulf between the have and the have not’s, i.e. the rich and the poor. In the lyrics there is the call for a redress of the balance, which isn’t on the cards for the foreseeable future but at least the opinion is clearly stated here. Musically this song fuses Zappa-ish guitar along with trumpet and violin to create a pleasing soundscape. In fact, the interaction between the brass and the strings is very fine indeed, a different but pleasing sound that lends itself well to the music being played. I am reminded of 80’s jazz outfit Working Week who took a similar musical approach. Arts and Farces is about creating art and the issues that raises in being true to yourself. Again the brass is sympathetic and supportive and makes for a lovely track. The Process opens with a languid and sneaking guitar line, which is supplemented by that excellent brass section once again. Even I can find the music of Psychoyogi challenging at times but I am also very aware of its ability to stay in your mind for days, usually it’s a little melody of line that achieves this effect. The track itself is about the relentless onslaught of change that is all around us. Whether we like it or not, we are all caught up in the endless march onward, all in the name of progress There is a great section where the use of percussion interludes marry up with the guitar to create some moments of almost peace and serenity before everything gallops forwards once more, a most interesting song indeed.

A Happier Song actually isn’t that happy at all, rather it, once again, points out the disparity in today’s society. It’s a common theme for Psychoyogi and makes their music that rare beast, intelligent but also unafraid to challenge and question, which I feel adds to its validity. Hence the left field punk tag, as wasn’t that what the punks were trying to do in the late 70’s? We then have The Chase, nothing to do with the quiz show but rather more of an instrumental that allows the violin to perform a longer part and take centre stage There are parts that almost sound like a Celtic jig with brass interjections playing in harmony. The drums are mostly using deft touches and brushes rather than powering ahead, this is a very welcome change and allows the musicians to really showcase their imagination imagination and skills. All this make this the album’s standout track thus far for me as it is very musical with great performances from all parties. The album’s title track, Brand New Face, has interesting and questioning lyrics, there is a lovely trumpet part that leads to a brief flurry of Chris’ guitar, a real flight of fancy. There is also a brilliant recurring guitar motif the underpins the track and makes it yet another impressive song that definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

We are then on the final stretch home for the album with Opportunity, Everything Before and Open Season. These three songs continue the questioning and challenging nature of the band again to good effect, showing that Psychoyogi’s music is never less than interesting, difficult, uneasy listening for sure, but still wholly worthwhile. The final track, Find Peace Within, is superb, again brass heavy but not overpowered. It has a slinkiness to it that greatly appeals. This song is about coping with modern life and urges us to find peace within when all around us is tumultuous, again worthy sentiments for sure but, possibly not always within our grasp!

My verdict on this very clever release is, if you like quirky, intelligent and questioning music then this new Psychoyogi album might just be your thing. I liked it for sure, especially the fabulous interaction between the guitar, violin, trombone and trumpet that all meld into a truly glorious sound.

Released September 29, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Brand New Face | PsychoYogi (

Review – Duncan Parsons – I’m Here, All Weak – by John Wenlock-Smith

I don’t know how these musicians manage to do all this, Duncan Parsons is not only the drummer for the John Hackett Band, he is also the bass player for author Joanne HarrisStorytime project, along with which he is a composer of his own musical journey bridging progressive music and mixing it up with elements of jazz, funk, ambient and whatever else takes his fancy! All that is before his main work role of software development for GForce Software where he recreates classic analogue keyboards for the digital age, specialising in Mellotrons and String Machines, quite an impressive C.V. really!

In the midst of this activity he has self released six solo albums, mainly via bandcamp. This new release is actually a compilation of those albums and it is an eclectic selection of music ranging from story song Ladybird through to the flute led J: Oi!, which features both the Hackett brothers, John and Steve, along with Nick Fletcher and Gary Boyle and a spoken piece from Bill Bruford, a grand collection of prog luminaries gathered in one glorious piece of music.

F: lower is another imaginative track in which Pink Floyd tones meet Canterbury whimsy and it all ends with John Hackett and Nick Fletcher doing what they do so well, I just wish it were much longer! Furry Leaves will most probably make you smile with its simple well known melody(Fleur De Lis) being developed well, with some fiery guitar from Nick Fletcher really hitting the mark and the more you hear J: Oi!, the more you realise how excellent a track it is. Lavender Rose is also an interesting track, mixing funk and progressive in a new style but all done with taste and aplomb. The Last Mango In Powys takes an approach of mixing ambient electro-folk, like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, in space to create something both minimalist and also rewarding at the same time.

Variety is definitely the space of life for Duncan on this collection, his voice may be an acquired taste for some (not to me, I love it) but his imagination and how he applies it to this music is certainly not in question. He is truly progressive in his approach and thinking and whilst this doesn’t always make this a straightforward easy listening experience, it is one that will refresh parts that other prog musicians daren’t venture to explore, which I think validates the bravery Duncan exhibits so well. He is not afraid to try new things and new ways of working. I personally feel his way of approaching and applying his musical vision bears great fruit, the performances are good and the guests all contribute worthwhile ideas in their parts and, overall, make this 17 track album a highly interesting and very well realised set of songs.

This Day benefits from the sultry clarinet of John Helliwell, whose touch is delicate, profound and captivating, all at the same time. This track is an edit from his album ‘On Earth As It Is’. Also worthy of note is the almost mariachi style of Gonville, with Raul D’Oliveria’s trumpet leading the way over a sumptuous background of bass and synth sounds, all very sprightly and impressive sounding. Duncan’s willingness to reinvent during this album is very refreshing and appealing, he is one that likes to reimagine and re-envision his own music, thus retaining its freshness for him. This is very laudable and few would be so bold and for this we should applaud him and recognise his efforts to this end.

I for one find this release one that will given space in your music collection with very rich dividends indeed. I admire its balance of thoughtfully considered songs and its sympathetic use of guest musicians, whose touch greatly enhances these efforts of Duncan’s. The booklet is informative and gives a fine insight into what the music is about. I think that all this makes this a very worthwhile listen and I commend it and, indeed, all of Duncan’s music to you as you find within it all a plethora of wonder and imagination. It’s a collection very fine music indeed, everything from folk to funk, via jazz, ambient and even classical. Minimalist ideas abound and there is truly something for every taste, so why not check it out for yourself? You might thank me for the recommendation!

Released 6th October, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

I’m Here, All Weak | Duncan Parsons (

Review – Steve Anderson – Journeyman’s Progress Part One – by John Wenlock-Smith

Steve Anderson is one of the founding members of The Room and is also a part of Grey Lady Down and Sphere3, ‘Journeyman’s Progress Part One’ is his first solo album and explores his musical ideas from a completely blank canvas. This release is naturally guitar focused with the instrument taking centre stage but Steve also provides good bass work and keyboard support throughout the whole eleven tracks, which range from acoustic sketches and interludes through to the epic title track.

It all begins with a brief acoustic moment, Solus, which is swiftly followed by Coda which introduces Steve’s electric guitar lines as they slot over a delicate keyboard sound. This is a very melodious sounding track with a strong organ sound that gives way to a more up-tempo section alongside a solid beat, taking the track forward, an exciting part, the pacing steady and well thought through. This allows space for the guitar to stretch out a little which is done in great style. A Glimpse Of Light opens with a gentle acoustic guitar and great playing that delights, as does the sensitive backing supporting and enriching the track. The piece moves along most satisfyingly, it is a good track with lots of imagination at work. Hellebore is an acoustic vignette, almost like a track from the likes of Will Ackerman or similar. This is followed by the further short soundscape of Circlet which is suitably imagined and engaging.

The percussion sounds that open Mr Mekano are contained within angular and jagged riffing which creates an atmosphere of unease. It is certainly a bit darker sounding in tone, a good bass part runs through this track and when the sound breaks out into a harder sounding and jarring rhythmic section, one cannot fail but to be impressed by its sheer musicality that really captures something special. This then morphs into Descent, which definitely has a feel of going down that is conveyed by the music. The tone is almost bleak sounding, well it conveys that feeling to me, and the low bass part adds depth to help reinforce the sentiment. All in all, it is a most impressive track and guitar effects add to the mood. For Nancy is much lighter and was written for Steve’s wife. This piece is both joyful and also beautifully realised, it conveys warmth and contentment and satisfaction in its brief running time. Glass Quartet returns us again to the percussive sounds, similar to clocks but that are actually wine glasses being hit with wooden skewers. The First Step sees Steve getting all ambient and using synths to create a track that could easily be used for a science fiction film, with its nods to Blade Runner and Jean-Michel Jarre really hitting the mark. It is a most interesting track, very well delivered and imaginative in its scope and ambitions. The Title track Journeyman’s Progress concludes the album with its extended ten minute running time that allows space for its many sections to emerge fully, from acoustic to full flights of electric guitar passages, it is a very good track indeed. I especially like the use of counterpoint harmony where the keyboards soar over the main melody and how the build up for the extensive guitar segment is introduced, and subsequently delivered, all with very solid backing. It really is a glorious section of the track, the synths really take this track to great heights, it is most satisfying to hear the degree of craftsmanship that has gone into making this music.

Nothing here overstays it’s welcome in addition the variety of styles and approaches utilised throughout help to create a very solid and engaging sound palette. The whole album is served up in a classy looking package which includes some intriguing artwork from Ruby Anderson and a good logo design that would look equally as fine on a T Shirt. Additionally the album was mixed and mastered by The Tangent’s Andy Tillison (a man who certainly knows how to do these things) exceedingly well and to a very high standard.

‘Journeyman’s Progress Part One’ has many hidden charms and many fine musical passages and, overall, the album has a great flow to it as it moves through its many moods and emotions. The music has some most excellent dynamics that enliven and highlight the excellence of the compositions, I think it a very well realised musical statement and I urge you to check it out for yourself as it’s definitely one worth seeking out!

Released 4th February, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

▶︎ Journeyman’s Progress Part One | Journeyman’s Progress (

Review – Wegferend – En Autremonde – Chapitre Second by John Wenlock-Smith

One of the main issues with fans of progressive music is their general unwillingness to listen to anything that is new or out of their comfort zone and, whilst this is possibly an unfair generalisation, it does mean that many are closed off to exploring new bands and artists for themselves.

Social media, like Facebook or X (or whatever it’s called this week) has to take the blame as part of this problem. I hear that bands are finding it harder to get any publicity these days without having to jump through certain hoops, all of which means albums like ‘Chapitre Second’ from french trio Wegferend will struggle to find a market for what is a very interesting, and very different, prog related release. Which is really a shame as this rather quite gently layered album is full of some great music and moods.

Allow me to unfold this album a little for you. First a little background, Wegferend (which is olde English for wayfarer) are a trio composed of two sisters, Manon and Alexia Cazaméa on guitar and recorder respectively, both also provide vocals with Alexia being the foremost voice. They are joined by percussionist and multi instrumentalist Thomas Boisser who adds to the captivating melodies the sisters offer. This music is very gentle, yet intricate, and blends an almost world music feel with their use of ethnic instruments in their songs.

First track Gedim opens gently with guitar and percussive interjections and a high pitched voice. A Gedim is a kind of a spectral form of the deads in the Aramean mythology and this song is about the cycle of life and death following the cycle of the Sun creating days and nights and you can certainly enjoy the gentle mood. The music takes you on a journey of many moods, darkness and emotion with some delicate guitar from Manon in the middle section that really adds to the atmosphere and mood of the piece. It is a lovely track full of great performance and vision and ends with a bell chiming majestically. Holy Ghost is full of a Celtic sounding recorder and very lively rhythmic chiming guitar chords that work as a great contrast to the recorders and vocals. This piece has a lot of life to it and it impresses greatly, it’s so very musical and complete. Next is the albums centrepiece and almost title song, The Wayfarer. This stars gently with Irish low and high tin whistles and another delightful vocal from Alexia, the recorder parts really add greatly, creating an other worldly atmosphere. I am detecting elements here that have touches of The Emerald Dawn and their singer Tree Stewart as this track has that sort of feel to it, it is also full of great guitar playing, mainly rhythmic, but it is all well conveyed and the track works well as a result. When we get to Druide, I especially like how the music is layered to create a depth of sound, mostly on acoustic guitar with percussion fills for emphasis. A great vocal from Alexia brings the music to life, this is music you have to allow to settle in your sprit, although I can say the Celtic elements of the sound are very satisfying to these ears.

Lost In Reveries is an instrumental track built on wordless voicings and acoustic guitar that Manon plays with great feeling and good style, using the guitar to make and establish a rhythm which is maintained by Thomas’s percussion, an approach that pays good dividends. I really like the simplicity of the style and it defines and elevates the great musicianship of the trio. This is an album that really grows on you as you begin to appreciate it’s fine crafting and unique style. Jos L’Uelh De La Breissa is full of recorder flourishes and has a distinct touch of the folky side of Led Zeppelin to it (not a bad thing in my opinion at all). I really like how they work so well together to make something of note and value, it makes for a really good listen. Final track En Autremonde is also striking with it slow, almost funeral march, beat and time along a deep cello aiding the melancholia. It is very moving, dark and deeply atmospheric in tone and really impresses, as does the whole album with its mood and dark ambience. It is really rewarding to hear something that is so well imagined and delivered with such grace and style, it is simply a beautifully crafted track.

This album has grown on me so much that I have no hesitation in recommending it to the more adventurous prog listener. Within its songs you will find a world of wonder and enchantment. I urge you to check it out for yourself, the album is available on Bandcamp and the band will appreciate your interest and support, a truly wonderful and enchanting release.

Released March 31st, 2023

Order from bandcamp here:

En Autremonde – Chapitre Second | Wegferend (

Review – Headstone: Bad Habits/ Headstone – by John Wenlock-Smith

How much music is known to us because of our friends and families is something I have often pondered. For me personally, I grew up with parents who listened to light classics and easy listening like James Last, Johnny Mathis, Herb Albert and the like. When I became a teenager Virgin Records was very much still in its infancy, selling most of its music through adverts in Melody Maker. I had friends who bought albums that way and they would talk about their purchases regularly.  

I seem to recall ‘Who Will Save The World? The Might Groundhogs’ and ‘Hogwash’ by The Groundhogs being discussed and recommended in this manner. Shortly after this, around 1975, a good friend of mine, Peter Bonner, introduced me to musical nirvana when he took me to Reddington’s Rare Records in Birmingham (behind Marks and Spencer’s) where I began my aural journey into proper music and not the chart music normally heard. This was grown up music, with Reddington’s being my mecca, a place where you could learn both the art and the thrill of crate digging. This also introduced the concept of album trading, something I began to do on a very regular basis.  

When I started my career in shipping and forwarding (or logistics as we call it now) this meant a whole new world of friends and acquaintances to deal with. For me, being a puny, weak but feisty youth, this meant finding common ground was crucial and music became the access key I would use frequently in conversations. I was an avid learner who scoured the music press weekly for news and information that could help me with this. 

During this time I met a friend called Trevor Hopkins, whose brother Micky was a guitarist in local Birmingham band Quartz and who had released a live album, ‘Live Quartz’, via Redding tons own label. Micky was also friendly with Jeff Lynne of ELO and Trevor used to sell me albums of his. These included an album that came from Polydor signings Rare Bird, it was a prog album, only I was not educated in that realm at the time, more’s the pity as I definitely missed out there. He also introduced me to Little Feat’s ‘Sailin’ Shoes’ and ‘Dixie Chicken’ and sadly, again, I didn’t really get it. My main sphere of musical reference being ’24 Carat Purple’, ‘Made In Japan’ and Yessongs

Nowadays, of course, it’s different, my tastes have broadened and developed much further. In 2012 I began, at the age of 53, reviewing music and this opened up even more opportunities and musical vistas! Which is a very long preamble to this review of Headstone’s Polydor albums!

Headstone were, you see, related to Rare Bird as Mark Ashton had been Rare Bird’s drummer for their first two albums. When he left (musical differences no doubt), he formed Headstone with Steve Bolton, previously with Atomic Rooster, with him the main writer and singer. Headstone were touted as a super group but failed to really establish any kind of form, they only recorded two albums, ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘Headstone’ in 1974 and 1975 respectively. The albums are not too bad really but failed to make any great impression. There is a strong almost soul and funk style to them and most tracks are short ones leaving little room for much improvisation.  

When I heard about this release I wanted to hear it as the Rare Bird set was very good and held good memories for me. This is a pity as the potential was certainly there it just was not captured and as such didn’t translate into very captivating music. Of the two albums, ‘Headstone’ is a better listen than ‘Bad Habits’, this is possibly because the line up was more stable and, being mostly younger players, was a little more hungry to make it, although they failed on that score. Even a Hipgnosis styled cover didn’t help shift albums either, the songs are quite good, the playing is proficient enough and the production is clear and uncluttered, it is just not that interesting and nothing really makes you go wow. 

The opening two songs on the ‘Bad Habits’ album do make a mark though, Don’t Turn Your Back and Take Me Down are both great songs and show a direction the failed to follow fully. One thing Headstone did have that increases interest is the violin playing of Joe O’Donnell who elevates the tracks substantially but, even so, are let down by the actual songs which really aren’t very good either and whilst musically proficient, they don’t make a lasting impression.  

Hard Road does a fair stab at being interesting with a Dylan-esque opening and some great violin flourishes that try to take the song somewhere new and fresh, but even this gets a little lost on the way and drifts into directionless, a missed opportunity it seems. Best track of the lot is actually both the longest and the last track on ‘Headstone’, Someone’s Got To Give, which has a sense of urgency sadly missing from most of the album. It has good violin parts, great guitar and some stylish dynamics that are missing elsewhere on the record. It is not a bad song overall and the middle section at least has a bit of fire to it, again, sadly lacking from what has gone before but it is more rewarding as they at least have to space to stretch out a little, which is really needed.

So, in summary, this 2 CD set has it moments although, in the main, these are few and far between and the band fail to capitalise on the potential and talent. As usual, the presentation by Esoteric is flawless and the booklet gives a good insight into their story. Sadly Headstone folded not long after the second album, despite support slots with Roy Harper, John Cale and Rory Gallagher. Ashton disappeared for a few years but resurfaced for a few albums made for 20th Century and Arista before the 1988 album ‘Modern Pilgrims’ on RCA whichreceived critical acclaim but he disappeared back into obscurity once more. Sadly Mark is no longer with us but this set allows us another opportunity to reconnect with his music once again.

Released 25th August, 2023

Order from Cherry Red here:

Headstone: Bad Habits/Headstone, 2CD – Cherry Red Records

Review – Downes Braide Association – Celestial Songs – by John Wenlock-Smith

Some albums you wait for eagerly only to be ultimately disappointed and let down. Well, that is certainly not the case here as this fifth instalment of the Downes Braide Association is a triumph in every sense, continuing on from the utterly wonderful and captivating release that was ‘Halcyon Hymns’ in 2021.

‘Celestial Songs’, due to be released in September, delivers a further eleven slices of perfectly concocted, aurally magical, progressive pop/rock brimming with melodies and inventiveness. It is a gloriously life affirming listen, with pretty much the same team that presented us ‘Halcyon Hymns’. With Geoff Downes adding his keyboard magic to a varied sound palette and Chris Braide providing vocals that are very expressive throughout, this material is possibly their strongest yet. They are joined by Dave Bainbridge who adds guitar to several tracks and Marc Almond, who provides a good vocal for Darker Side Of Fame, a tale of a faded rock star, possibly based on his own experiences? Also present is the stylish bass playing of Andy Hodge and Geoff had this to say about his fellow musicians;

It’s very useful having this core of musicians that are ready to enhance our music,” agrees Geoff Downes. “Andy Hodge is very much an integral part of this unit. When we send him stuff to play, he has incredible feeling and creates a more interesting bass part than we could have thought of ourselves.

Having Dave Bainbridge with us has added another dimension to the DBA-sound and I’m very happy with that. Dave’s got his own stamp and that’s something that we appreciate having on board.

This album has a lot of variety to its tracks, every song is different yet each casts its own spell and it all provides an interesting spectrum of colours and sounds and is wonderfully produced and delivered with style and commitment. As always, the artwork for the album by Roger Dean is lush and vibrant and is eminently suited to the music the album contains, the power of the music definitely elevated by the magnificent and deeply impressive artwork. A further pleasing aspect of this album is the clever application of knowing when a track warrants an extended running time or benefits from brevity. These skills come from experience really and on this album they have the balance about right This means the three longer tracks get room to reach their full potential, making this is a rewarding aspect of the album it is stronger for it.

Highlights include the fantastic, ballad-like, opener Look What You Do, a lush and gorgeous evocation of love with Chris Braide’s hauntingly elegant vocal front and centre, Clear Light, the first single, which is pure 80’s prog-pop excellence in the vein of Asia (no surprise with Geoff Downes involved!) and the aforementioned Darker Side Of Fame, a nostalgic feeling song where Marc Almond and Braide deliver a stunning vocal performance. Hey Kid is a more laid back and piano led track with breathy, hushed vocals and a wistful tone and Will To Power is all electronic, swirling keyboards, funky guitar and dynamic bass that opens up into what would have been a shoe in for a single release, when people used to buy 7″ vinyl that is!

The first of the longer tracks, Heart Shaped Hole, begins with delicate keyboards and short guitar interjections, The track also benefits from a soaring guitar solo from Dave who is playing with fluidity and feeling, oozes emotion and is a sheer joy to listen to here. The song isn’t bad either. Dear Petra seems to be about war in Ukraine and is a sensitive and impassioned cry for help, support and an end to the inhumane and abhorrent practices of war. This song has real depth and empathy and its message will stay with you long after the song ends, this also has a strong spoken introduction.

On The Run is another storming track with a strident beat and excellent lyrics. In fact, all the lyrics on this album are generally excellent, helping to create great songs with real depth feeling and meaning. These things are rare in a world of shallow unfocused music that is unsightly heralded by the media, so, when you come across music that actually has real merit it should be encouraged, praised and, above all, noticed and this album showcases that perfectly. Goodbye To You (Sister Shame) is up next and this one is a musing on the nature of love and how fate plays its part in making connections. The words are very profound and earnestly sung and the sound has overtones of the Beatles in parts, a really good track with more expressive guitar from Dave.

Closing track Beyond The Stars is also the albums longest, opening with synths creating an aural soundscape before giving way to church organ sounds underpinning the spoken word introduction. The song moves into more epic keyboards before a meaty guitar line plays over the synthesised soundscape with an orchestral sound. The use of dynamics in this album is really impressive, creating wonderful moods and taking you, the listener, on a great journey of discovery through different worlds of wonder, hope and even joy. This is a journey that you need to experience for yourself through this excellent sounding and sublime album

Now I am going to listen to this again from the start and marvel again at the depth of talents that have made this a wonderful warm and life affirming album. DBA aren’t afraid to ask deep probing questions and offer their own interpretation on the big questions of life. Don’t be afraid to join in this quest, I think you will enjoy the challenge and hear some great music whilst you do so. If you like symphonic or orchestral type prog then this one is most certainly up your street for there is much that will entrance you here.

Released 8th September, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

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

Watch the videos for Keep On Moving and Clear Light ;

Review – AQ&F – 2nd Life – by John Wenlock-Smith

AQ&F (or Arnaud Quevedo and Friends, to give the full name of the group) are a French collective who “fuse jazzy troposphere, improvisation, funky grooves, powerful rock-metal riffs along with progressive elements”, all of which is a way of saying this album has several strands and approaches that are merged to make something that is really quite interesting and even captivating at times. It is an album of realised ideas and concepts, all delivered in an appealing manner. The album has eight tracks, four of which are new and the other four are revisitations of earlier concepts and ideas that have been successfully reworked for this album.

There are four phases to the album which, in total, is an interpretation of life phases, from AwakeningJourney and Inner Demons through to Hindsight‘s, these are punctuated by the reworked sections that are receiving a ‘Second Life‘. This is a different approach but I actually think this works here, it makes for some great music.

Everything begins with 2nd Life Part 1 – Awakening which opens with keyboard notes and what sounds like brass sounds with a low sounding bass, possibly fretless, sliding around the music. This turns into a more standard groove with drums and vocals, sung by Eloïse Baleynaud, in a breathy type voice. It’s actually rather a good vocal with great nuances, in addition the bass of Noé Russeil also impresses. There is also a guitar interjection by Arnaud that adds great dynamics. With the saxophone of Julien Gomila and sturdy drums from Anthony Raynal, the whole band gel together really well to create a great composite sound. The element of distinct heavy add something extra to proceedings. All in all, it’s a very respectable opening track and one that bodes well for the rest of the album. This continues with the first reworked piece, Any 2.0, which begins with a delicately strummed acoustic guitar and an adventurous bass line before the stylish vocal comes in. This is quite an atmospheric track and it gains in intensity as a edgy violin introduces funky urgent jazz with free rein saxophone flurries being added, along with flute from Lucille Mille. There is also good guitar syncopation going on before Arnaud plays a fiery solo. The song has some fine bass towards the end which helps you understand that this is a very musically rewarding track. Yuki shifts dramatically through softer, more urgent tones, the lyrics are shown but the ones in the song are very different for some reason, no explanation is given but still this doesn’t detract from proceedings especially. There is a further excellent guitar solo from Arnaud that takes the track into an urgent sprint or so it seems. Either way, it is a great track and one the really grips the listener .

2nd Life  Part 2 – Journey from the off has powerful rock riffs front and centre and has a more rock focused approach, although it also has quieter moments of plucked arpeggio guitar lines and bass that underpin the sound. There are also some great  saxophone lines, I really like this track, there’s a lot happening during its twelve minute plus running time. There’s a wonderful palette of sonic colours here and great vocals, you can really hear the various styles used here very well. An urgent synth solo from Marin Michelat and great bass and guitar sections take the track to the chorus before a brief guitar solo draws the song to its end. No Soy Breton is next and this track is a bit of a mystery to me as I have no idea what it is on about at all. It begins innocently enough with a soft flute before the vocal begins, once again these don’t match those in the booklet but, still, interesting enough, it’s just confusing to me, there are good bass parts in this song though.

2nd Life Part 3 – Inner Demons has good bass at the start, it’s an interesting track, asking questions of what’s happening amid some great guitar lines and unison playing between the vocals and the guitar that really impresses. It’s all very fluid and jazzy improvisation led. The final track of the album, 2nd Life Part 4 – Hindsight’s,  opens with a deep double bass from Eva Tribolles, this gives way to electric bass as Eloise’s vocals begin, she sings of being the best version of you and to live without letting the comments of others stopping you from achieving that goal. The track has more heavy riffs, all offset by the flute which floats over the top of it all. There’s a great synth solo too, the song is good and works well giving a great ensemble sound.

This album may be a difficult one for many prog fans, especially if they are not jazz music lovers, but listen with open ears there is a lot of very enjoyable, thoughtful music offered here. Okay, lyrically it might be a bit odd but, if you accept that and listen, I think you will enjoy and appreciate it’s undeniable charms.

Released 10th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

2nd Life | Arnaud Quevedo & Friends (AQ&F) (