David Longdon – “Love Is All” – New single taken from the forthcoming album Door One, the posthumous solo record from the late vocalist of Big Big Train 

“Love Is All” is the second track to be taken from ‘Door One’, David Longdon’s posthumous solo album, which will be released on October  14th, 2022 on CD via Big Big Train’s label English Electric Recordings and white and black vinyl editions via their vinyl partner Plane Groovy. The album will also be available on all digital streaming platforms. 

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER: https://burningshed.com/store/english-electric-recordings

LISTEN TO “LOVE IS ALL” HERE:

Door One, borrowing the nickname for a recreation ground in Nottingham near where David grew up, has a musical personality that is distinct from his work within Big Big Train, even though Gregory Spawton plays acoustic guitar on ‘Love Is All’. Gregory Spawton: “I sat in on some of the sessions for the album and heard Jeremy Stacey record drums for Love Is All. As the session came to an end, David turned to me and said he wanted some 12-string guitar. David was aware of my passion for the instrument and I recorded my parts for the song a few days after David died. Although he was gone, it felt like it was one last precious moment of making music together.” 

David had been accumulating musical and lyrical ideas for Door One over the past few years. He had been recording since April 2021, following the completion of Big Big Train’s Common Ground album. On the night of David’s tragic accident, which resulted in his untimely death on 20th November 2021, he had just returned home to Nottingham from a recording session at Playpen Studios in Bristol with his co-producer and engineer Patrick Phillips. At the time of David’s death, the album was 90% finished. However, David’s partner Sarah, his manager Nick Shilton, Big Big Train founder Gregory Spawton and all the key protagonists involved in its creation agreed that David would want the world to hear the album. 

The album’s eight songs are highly personal and follow a lyrical journey from darkness to enlightenment, from the intense and raw sound of the first single ‘Watch It Burn’, channelling David’s love of The Who, to the folk inflected ‘There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost’, which recalls David’s Dyble Longdon album with the late Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble, and ‘Love Is All’, the gorgeous ballad which closes the album.

Door One was recorded with a core of four musicians: drummer Jeremy Stacey (King Crimson, Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher, Sheryl Crow, The Finn Brothers), bassist Steve Vantsis (best known for his work with Fish), saxophonist Theo Travis (Steven Wilson, Soft Machine, Gong) and David’s longstanding friend and former 1990s Gifthorse band mate Gary Bromham (Bjork, Sheryl Crow, George Michael) who contributed guitar, backing vocals, keyboard parts and textures.

The album’s stunning artwork is by Sarah Louise Ewing, with graphic design by Steve Vantsis. Sarah’s cover portrait of David is from a photograph by Sophocles Alexiou. 

DAVID LONGDON ‘DOOR ONE’ LP
Side One
Into The Icehouse
Watch It Burn
There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost
The Singer And The Song
Forgive (But Not Forget)

Side Two
Sangfroid
The Letting Go
Love Is All

‘DOOR ONE’ CD
Into The Icehouse
Watch It Burn
There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost
The Singer And The Song
Forgive (But Not Forget)
Sangfroid
The Letting Go
Love Is All

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW 
https://burningshed.com/store/english-electric-recordings

Live Review – Steve Hackett – Foxtrot At Fifty And Hackett Highlights – Live at the York Barbican

Genesis’ fourth studio album, ‘Foxtrot’, was released in 1972, five years before I was born, so you’ll forgive me if I missed it first time around! Since my foray into the world of music reviewing has led me down the progressive rock route from when I started in 2013, it was inevitable that I would eventually seek out early Genesis material.

I have delved into everything from ‘Trespass’ right up to ‘Abacab’ and everything in between and now have a definite soft spot for the earlier stuff like ‘Nursery Cryme’ and ‘Selling England By The Pound’ but it’s only recently that I discovered what an absolute classic ‘Foxtrot’ is.

Steve Hackett was the guitar player on ‘Foxtrot’ and five other studio albums, plus numerous live releases, before leaving the band in 1977 to pursue a solo career. His rewarding solo career has spawned many great albums but, in recent years, he has returned to the Genesis material he helped to create with a number of very successful live tours and recordings.

Steve has stepped up the Genesis Revisited idea with playing a classic Genesis album in its entirety and the latest record to get this nostalgic treatment is, yes you guessed it, ‘Foxtrot’ and I was invited to review Steve Hackett’s latest tour when he stopped off in York to play at the Barbican.

The concert was split into two parts with the first set being some choice selections from Steve’s stellar solo career.

The band came on stage to a very warm welcome and Steve has a great rapport with the crowd, they launched into an excellent version of Ace Of Wands from Steve’s debut solo release ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’ which, for someone new to his solo material, was a real eye opener and a great starting point. Steve is a virtuoso guitarist and is fascinating to watch. He has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians around and to experience it felt like a privilege, even a short lighting malfunction only seemed to release any tension and provide an amusing moment between Steve and the crowd. Steve’s long time vocalist Nad Sylvan joined the band for a dark and determined version of The Devil’s Cathedral from Steve’s latest solo release ‘Surrender Of Silence’, quite a brooding track that maybe seemed slightly out of place in the set list but was delivered perfectly nonetheless.

Next was a simply stunning version of perhaps his best known solo work (even I’d heard this one before!) Spectral Mornings, it was filled with so much passion and his guitar just bled emotion, something I just need to experience again, it was almost like an epiphany! The uplifting, joyous Every Day came next and saw this incredibly tight band deliver with a wonderfully inspiring version, keyboard player, and main orchestrator, Roger King was in fine form and is there a finer player behind the drum kit than Craig Blundell? add in the king of cool Jonas Reingold on bass and the hyperactive, energetic and just plain brilliant Rob Townsend on sax, clarinet, flute and keys and you really have musical eminence personified.

A monstrous version of A Tower Struck Down (another from ‘Voyage Of The Acolyte’) sent a bolt of electricity through the audience and this song came with one of the funkiest bass solo’s ever to close it out, Jonas and Steve exchanging smiles and knowing looks. Camino Royale was next and was a highly intensive jam before the first set came to a satisfying close with a tightly played Shadow Of The Hierophant although, due to the absence of Amanda Lehman, it was the closing section only.

So, onto the main event and what the majority of the audience had come to hear, ‘Foxtrot’ and this was obvious from the huge roar that erupted on the first opening notes of Watcher Of The Skies! This band have obviously played together a few times and are a few gigs into the current tour and you could tell as they were in perfect synchronisation and feeding off each other’s energy and bonhomie. The knowing looks, smiles and laughter were a real joy to see and really added to the fantastic atmosphere that the gig had already engendered. The superb version of Watcher… became a grand, piano led Time Table, which was played to a rapt audience who were totally engrossed in the music. Craig Blundell is a power house behind the drum kit but he has real finesse and nuance as well and really showed it here. The uproarious Get ‘Em Out By Friday is a proper 70’s prog jam and it was on this track that I began to realise what a great voice for this material that Nad Sylvan has, I’d listened to the original in the car on the way over and his vocal delivery and inflections were superb and I loved his spoken parts too. Also on the top of his game was Rob Townsend, his flute work here was a particular highlight but he is accomplished no matter what instrument he is playing, and he never stands still! This involving and convoluted piece of music was one of many highlights from the night.

Can-Utility And The Coastliners is a song that has that feel of Old-English progressive rock to it and was played flawlessly on the night. I was watching Craig’s drumming throughout the track and he was in perfect unison with his rhythm section partner in crime Jonas. Roger King is the opposite of flamboyant behind his keyboards but he lets his playing do his talking and he really shone all night but especially on this track. To be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off any of the band as they were utterly flawless. Steve then got himself a stool and an acoustic guitar and delivered a beautiful version of Horizons with a wonderfully fluid flamenco opening, as my friend Jim, who I went with, said, “It’s real showcase guitar playing…”.

And so to the main course and what I had especially been waiting to hear, Genesis’ most loved epic track Supper’s Ready. From the first gentle acoustic guitar notes it was utterly magical and totally blew me away. Nad’s vocal was perfect, the musicians were on another planet and it’s (well) over twenty minute running time just flew by. Jonas was amazing, duelling guitars with Steve at one minute and then swapping over to deliver his perfect bass lines. I took a moment to look around the venue and everybody was just spellbound and captivated by the show that was being put on in front of them. This isn’t just music, it is an actual experience and one that will live with you for along time, the epic guitar solo at the end nearly tipped me over the edge and I admit I had a tear in my eye as the song came to a close and everyone stood up in unison to applaud, whistle and just show their appreciation in a way they felt appropriate.

Encore? Of course there was an encore and one that opened with a spine tingling version of another Genesis classic Firth Of Fifth. This is a particular favourite of mine and I was totally absorbed in it, it was just bewitching. We then got a melody of Myopia/Slogans and a particularly fine Los Endos to bring things to a resounding close and an ovation that seemed to go on forever!

This wasn’t just a live concert, this was a life-affirming musical experience and one that has leaped into my top five gigs of all time, check out the remaining tour dates on the poster below and get yourself a ticket, you can thank me after (and you will, oh yes, you will!).

The Fierce & The Dead – Golden Thread released on 22nd July via Spencer Park Music

The Fierce And The Dead release Golden Thread, the 2nd single from their upcoming 4th album ‘News From The Invisible World’, once again featuring vocals from bassist Kevin Feazey, described as psychedelic metal with a shoegaze feel.

Recent Press:

“A fresh psych-fuzz freakout from one of the UK’s trickiest-to-pin-down instrumental rockers – except their first new music in four years isn’t actually instrumental, featuring vocal contributions from Kevin Feazey for the first time. (A) peak grunge- channeling chorus riff, which takes equal billing with the verse’s shoegaze-worthy washed-out chords.”

Guitar World (Essential tracks of the week)
“The work of a truly original band pushing forth and genuinely progressing”

Real Gone

“Be prepared to have that phrase – annoy and irritate your friends with it floating around your brain for days. Surely the sort of hook that makes a good single?”
At The Barrier

“Modulates between being a dark, fuzzed-out ripper and an exploratory post- rock/jazz fusion. It’s an exciting track that shows off TFATD’s mastery of post-rock songwriting and excellent mix/master engineering. Highly recommended.” Independent Clauses

Biography:

The Fierce And The Dead are releasing singles ahead of their first album in 4 years with (for the first time) vocals from bassist Kevin Feazey. Their music has been championed by Kevin Cole of KEXP, Stuart Maconie on BBC 6 Music and Steve Davis on his Interesting Alternative Show.

The Fierce And The Dead formed in London in 2010, with all 4 members originally from Rushden, Northants, they mix in elements from psychedelic rock, old metal records, post-rock, prog, broken analogue synths and shoegaze.

They released their breakthrough 3rd album ‘The Euphoric’ in 2018, via BEM records, which was Classic Rock Magazine’s Prog Album Of The Year and 8th in Prog Magazine’s critics choice. Prog magazine included them in their 100 Prog Icons and they have appeared ranked highly in the magazine’s Readers Poll for multiple years and categories, although the band never considered themselves to be deliberately prog. Pre-COVID headline shows in Manchester and London sold out months in advance. 


They have toured with Hawkwind, Big Business, Dave Lombardo, Crippled Black Phoenix, Evil Blizzard and Monkey 3 and at festivals in the USA, Europe, and the UK including Freak Valley, Prognosis, Arctangent, HRH, Kozfest, Ramblin Man and Rosfest and will support Kings X in Italy in September 2022. They have released 3 studio albums alongside 4 EPs and 3 live albums.

The Fierce And The Dead are:

Kevin Feazey Vocals/Bass/Keys

Matt Stevens Guitar/Keys

Steve Cleaton Guitar/Vocals

Stuart Marshall Drums

Order the single from bandcamp:

Music | The Fierce And The Dead (bandcamp.com)

John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett is certainly a very busy man of late, on the day we talk, he has just returned from time in Borneo and a few club dates in Japan, amidst a wider Australian and New Zealand tour. Even so, he continues to be his usual self-effacing and courteous host,  he is such a gracious interviewee and always has interesting things to say and learn from.

This interview is in advance of his upcoming season of shows entitled ‘Foxtrot At Fifty’, which will  see him delivering a complete set consisting of that entire album. The tour will see Steve and his band playing the album along with various other classic Genesis material and some of his own solo material from the ‘Surrender of Silence’ album from last year. It is looking to be a busy few months again for Steve.

John Wenlock-Smith: Good Morning Steve, so how are you sir?

Steve HackettI am all right, fine, it has been a busy time, how about yourself?

JWS: We have had Covid actually.

SH: Ooh, that is nasty!

JWS: With Sue having asthma, she had it worse than me but we are both on the back end of it now so, hopefully, will be back to normal soon.

SH: Well, next week we go to Germany and Italy as we are doing some outdoor shows, which should be good, I like festival shows, they are genuine fun.

JWS: Then, when you come back, you have ‘Foxtrot at 50’ starting?

SH: Yes, that is right, in the autumn. I am looking forward to it, it is an album that is worthy of a revisit, some of it I have not played in 50 years!

JWS: You have also got the ‘Seconds Out Live’ album coming out in September?

SH: Yes, it is the best live album I have ever done. It sounds good, much better than the original album, which was not a good production sadly, whereas this one really does sound good. The drum sounds are better plus we took the key down for Squonk.

I think Genesis did that as well because a lot of those songs were written by non-singers and they forget that voices change as people get older and they can’t reach the high notes as easily as they used to, I know Phil cannot do it now. This latest version is exceptionally fine indeed, I guess time will tell though?

JWS: Yes indeed, I was listening to a friend of yours last week, Nick Fletcher?

SH: Yes, he is great, an extraordinarily accomplished and amazing player, the best jazz rock player in Britain today.

JWS: I was also going back and listening to some early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green.

SH: Well I saw Peter Green many times over the years, he was always a fabulous player.

JWS: I also heard an album by Ryo Okumoto that you play on as well, a track called Maximum Velocity.

SH: Yes, a friend of mine is also on that album, Michael Whiteman, who sings and plays bass on the album. He is part of a band called I Am The Manic Whale, he is particularly good too, it is interesting that he is also on the album.

I have not heard the finished album though, so I do not know if I even made the cut or if I am one of several guitarists on there but enjoy it anyway.

JWS: There are some great keyboard players out there now like Ryo and, of course, your own Roger King, about time he did a solo album.

SH: I keep telling him he should but he thinks anything he did would not sell so he is reluctant to try.

JWS: Well, maybe he ought to cover songs he likes himself or something?

SH: I will tell him, but he is happy just playing on my stuff, although he will tell me if it is not any good, he can be vocal about it too. But they are all talented players and play like demons at times.

JWS: So what is next for you?

SH: We have been so wrapped up in touring that I have not been able to record much. I have got three songs ready but not had a chance to record them so, hopefully, that will happen before long and then we will be touring ‘Foxtrot’ around the world too, so busy days ahead.    

JWS: Right then Steve, I had best let you get on but thank you once again for your time. Stay safe and well and we will hopefully see you in Buxton in September.

SH: Thanks John, take care of yourself and keep well.

Interview With Nick Fletcher by John Wenlock-Smith.

John Wenlock-Smith: ‘The Cloud Of Unknowing’,you were going to tell me what it is all about?

Nick Fletcher: Well, the album came out of lockdown and my own search to find meaning and purpose in my life as a result of that time.

JWS: How did you do that?

NF: Well I looked in mythology and also to Christian mysticism to find some answers.

JWS: Mysticism? like who?

NF: Under the CD tray is a quote from St John of the Cross, I looked at what folks like him were saying to see if that gave any clarity. For me, I think that it did impact me in how I looked at things and situations and also how to enjoy solitude and silence.

I found there to be much insight and wisdom in these medieval mystics writing, much to learn within those monastic traditions.

JWS: And this all influenced the album?

NF: Yes but indirectly, in that it helped me focus and create the music accordingly.

JWS: The album is great

NF: I feel it’s best listened to straight through to really get what it’s trying to say.

JWS: I can certainly spot the influence of U.K., for instance. While you may not play legato style like Allan Holdsworth, you certainly fly across the strings with some style.

NF: Well, I loved U.K. and I wanted a singer who sounded a little like John Wetton as I love his voice. When Caroline Bonnet  (my producer) suggested her friend Stuart Barbour (who she’d worked with before), I tried him and found he had a very good voice, a British voice rather than an American one, and I think that matters for the two songs he does, he did a great job.

JWS: So, obviously, U.K. was an influence.

NF: Yes, but so many other guitarists were too, like John Mclaughlin, his Mahavishnu Orchestra and later 1970s albums were influences too.

JWS: With some guitarists it is all about the song being the springboard from which they can do the guitar solo.

NF: I try not to take that approach, for me, if the song calls for a solo then fine, but it’s a tool that I can choose to employ and it’s not mandatory really. I’m a writer mainly, one who also plays the guitar, it is really merely a tool I can utilise in my music. I’m always writing stuff and the guitar is a tool to use within that context.

JWS: You have some great musicians who lend their skills to the album.

NF: Yes, I have some great friends who are prepared to help me out.

JWS: Like Dave Bainbridge?

NF: Dave played some great organ parts on several tracks.

JWS: How is Dave?

NF: I’m actually seeing him this week as he’s playing a gig in Sheffield and it’s so close to me, it’ll be good to catch up with him again.

JWS: So what’s next for you?

NF: Well, I’m still writing with a view to a third album and in August we (The John Hackett Band) resume touring activities again, plus I’ll have more solo classical guitar recitals to do.

JWS: So, all in all, keeping occupied after the two years of difficulties with covid?

NF: We are doing a promotional film shoot for the band with some live stuff that will be used to promote the band to a wider audience hopefully. That will, hopefully, appear on YouTube.

JWS: So it’s all looking positive Nick?

NF: Yes, very much so!

JWS: Thank you for your time and for the information about the album, that will help me with my review, I hope, and, hopefully, I’ll see you on the road again soon.

NF: Thanks John, good to talk with you again, hope to see you soon too.

‘The Cloud Of Unknowing’ is out now and can be ordered direct from the artist here:

Nick Fletcher – The Cloud of Unknowing CD | Nick Fletcher guitar (nickfletcherguitarmusic.com)

YES’ Launch YouTube Interview with Steve Howe & Geoff Downes about 50th Anniversary Close to the Edge Tour

Following the sad news of the passing of drummer Alan White, YES will go ahead with their forthcoming The Album Series Tour 2022 in June celebrating the 50th anniversary of their iconic album Close to the Edge, dedicating the tour to Alan White.

On 25 May 2022 Steve Howe & Geoff Downes spoke to Prog Magazine Editor Jerry Ewing ahead of the Close to the Edge 50th Anniversary Tour. This interview was recorded before Alan White passed away.

Here’s a link to the interview:

The Album Series Tour 2022 will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of YES’ iconic album Close to the Edge and will feature the album, performed in full, along with other classic tracks from YES’ extensive catalogue.

The Close to the Edge show will comprise full production and high-definition video wall directed by Andy Clark and featuring the artwork of Roger Dean who will also be joining the tour with an exhibition of YES related art.

The tour line-up will feature Steve Howe (guitars and backing vocals), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (lead vocals), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar and backing vocals) with Jay Schellen (drums and percussion).

About YES

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

With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125. In 2021 YES released their 22nd Studio album, The Quest, produced by Steve Howe, which went to No.1 in the UK rock chart and entered the Official UK Album Chart at No. 20.

Review – Kaipa – Urskog – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Urskog’ is the latest, and fourteenth album of the folk/fusion progressive rock group, Kaipa. The band was, in earlier times, home to Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and it’s easy to see just how he was able to be a part of this band’s heritage and sound.

This album is Stolt free but, nonetheless, it is a very accomplished and epic sounding release and takes you on an aural journey through the forests of the Swedish wilderness and its changing seasons. It is all remarkable considering the album only has six tracks, two epics of fifteen plus minutes, one ten minute track, a nine minute instrumental and one, shorter, six minute song. Yet, within its grooves, you will discover a fabulous world of invention and wonder, at least I did.

I could find touches of Yes in the bass work of Jonas Reingold and the fine, fluid guitar of Per Nilsson, not to mention the epic, and often orchestral, keyboards of Hans Lundin, and that’s before we mention the excellent vocals from Patrick Lundstrom and Aleena Gibson. Along with the powerhouse of drummer Darby Todd, they really create a lush and rich, symphonic sound.

Opener The Frozen Dead Of The Night sets the scene for much of what follows, initially gentle before a stirring synth line from Hans is introduced to favorable effect and the music takes a more rhythmic approach. The drums are then brought into play, this opener is quite keyboard heavy in parts but this works well for the song. The next part of the song leads us towards spring and to the excellent fretwork of Per, who really let’s fly on this section. He has a lovely tone and fleet fingers that fly across the fretboard wonderfully, and highly melodically too.

In A World of Pines takes us deep into the forest and into a sensory experience of mindfulness, even as we learn to appreciate the pine forests and the peace that they offer us. There’s lots happening musically in this song too, lots of lovely keyboard sounds and textures. Next is title track Urskog which has a broody tone to its, almost menacing really. Being sung in Swedish reinforces this and without any translation of the lyrics, it doesn’t help, although there are lots of soaring synths on offer herein. There is also a good bass / drum interaction going on throughout which is highly effective in nature, if only I knew what they were on about!

Far Better for me is Wilderness Excursion which features lots of energetic soloing from keyboard player Hans, guitarist Per and bassist Jonas, who channels his inner Chris Squire to pronounced effect. All of this is surrounded by the busy, yet effective, drum work of Darby. With the song being fully instrumental, everyone gets their moment to shine but it is collectively that they really make a point. This is not mere showing off per se, instead it is collectively highlighting their skills together as an ensemble within the track that works so well. This blistering track really shows how well they get together as a unit and can show that on record too.

The Wastelands of My Mind is hinged on a gloriously uplifting violin melody by Elina Rubensztein which, when coupled with a fabulous vocal from Aleena Gibson, really shines and evokes memories of Kansas’ Robbie Steinhardt. Yes, it really is that good and it makes this definitely one of the album’s finest tracks. Final track The Bitter Setting Sun is also a great with another epic setting and keyboard sounds to match and with lot going on in its fifteen plus minutes running time. The song moves between sections excellently with each part being marked by the different sounds that make it run smoothly.

This album is full of life, you can sense how the seasons change and how life develops as a result. The whole record is very life affirming and an absolute joy to listen to. I heartily recommend it to all prog fans, it’s not that folk oriented but does have a fair element of fusion type embellishments. However it’s all excellently overseen and thoroughly enjoyable as a result.

Released 29th April, 2022.

Order here:

Urskog (burningshed.com)

Review – Strangeways: Complete Recordings Volume 1 – 1984-1995 – by John Wenlock-Smith

The worlds of Prog and AOR often meet and this fine set from HNE/Cherry Red can certainly attest to that, comprising, as it does, the complete recorded output of UK rockers Strangeways and those with US vocalist Terry Brock who replaced original singer Tony Liddell in 1987.

Strangeways were, at the time, championed by the likes of Kerrang and Raw as being rivals to mega US bands like Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon, with their 1985 debut ‘Strangeways’ coming highly commended in that arena. However, as is often the case, the hype was not realised, in part because Strangeways’ record label, Bonaire, were not up to the case and lacked the promotional push to get the album across to the masses properly. So, whilst the album was solid and had much promise, it failed to sell in sufficient numbers to really get to the next level.

The lack of sales meant something had to change and so out went Tony Liddell and Terry Brock was recruited. Brock was unknown but had a glorious voice and the band gelled with his superior vocals. This all bore fruit on 1987’s ‘Native Sons’ album which yielded the minor hit Dance With Somebody, produced by John Punter. The album was, and is still, highly rated as a landmark moment in British AOR recordings, one that could stand side by side with anything the US could offer, it was that strong and was highly enjoyable too.

Sadly though, despite positive press and reviews, again Bonaire failed to capitalise on the groundswell of acclaim and the album floundered and then lost momentum completely, leaving the band high and dry once again.

So it was that, once again, in 1987 Strangeways regrouped to record ‘Walk Into The Fire’, this time for RCA as Bonaire had fallen by the wayside. The album did not even get a UK release but was available as an expensive import. As the album failed to gain much (if any) traction in the UK, and with no tour support or dates in tow, the band disappeared from the public eye.

Such is the way of things I guess, although this new set at least gives us the opportunity to revisit and re-evaluate the bands career. It contains their three AOR albums and also their more progressively inclined fourth album, ‘And The Horse’, from 1994 that was ignored by everyone, despite it being particularly good in parts. Terry Brock had left by this time and joined Mike Slamer’s project and then Giant for their ‘Promise Land’ release.

The great little set also includes thirteen demo tracks and four live tracks, which prove the band to be formidable in a concert setting. The band certainly had the skills and the songs but were sadly let down by the record company and by events that were very much beyond their control, yet they left us with several albums of classy song writing and some sterling performances shown across the four discs.

Of the four albums, obviously, ‘Native Sons’ is the standout with its near perfect blend of classy and distinctive AOR and with a world class vocalist in tow raising the songs to an extraordinary standard and level. The debut ‘Strangeways’ album is also a very strong album but lacks that extra bit of sparkle, polish and magic that Terry Brock adds to proceedings. The third album, ‘Into The Fire’, is almost as good as ‘Native Sons’, but not quite and you can begin to sense the frustrations coming out of the band with their lack of progress to greater success and acclaim.

By the fourth album a seismic shift had taken place in that Terry Brock had gone and Ian Stewart had taken over the vocals. In addition, the musical landscape had changed with grunge coming to the fore and so Strangeways had changed their sound, gone was the AOR instead a more bluesy and jazz influenced sound had emerged. It makes this fourth and final album rather interesting and vastly different. Indeed, the sound is a lot more intimate sounding, Ian’s vocals are efficient at best he certainly is no Terry Brock! but his voice suits what is happening musically. The songs are longer, allowing room for Ian to indulge his inner Pink Floyd to fine effect. The album is not an easy one to find these days, so this set offers a terrific opportunity to make its acquaintance    

For me though, it is the first three albums that really shine and, even more so, the second and third ones where Terry Brock’s fine voice really shake the rafters. This is a notable set and one I heartily Recommend to fans of this Genre.

Released 26th May, 2022

Order from Cherry Red here:

Strangeways: Complete Recordings Vol. 1 1985-1994, 4CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records


Interview With Steve Howe by John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece I talk to Steve Howe about about both the forthcoming Yes UK live dates, why they are not playing ‘Relayer’ this time around and about the ‘Asia in Asia’ box set that is due out in June.

John Wenlock-Smith – Good afternoon Steve, are you keeping well?

Steve HoweYes I am, thank you.

JWS – You are in Devon today then?

SHYes, in a secret location! I moved here some 26 years ago from London and, whilst I still live in London, I visit as much as I can as my studio is here.

JWS – Fair enough. I have spent many happy times in Devon. It is a lovely area.

SHYes, well I certainly like the slower pace as opposed to the madness of London!

JWS – So the tour that you are doing in June, how come you are not going to do the ‘Relayer’ album, as originally announced and intended?

SHWell, with it being a shorter run of dates, as we cancelled the European leg, it’s now just the ten shows in the UK. We felt that it was better to postpone that particular album, especially as ‘Close To The Edge’ is 50 years old this year, and perform that in its entirety instead. We will also do a few other favourite songs and some of ‘The Quest’ album, although I’m not saying which we will play, keep it under wraps as it were. 

So that is the plan now, and save ‘Relayer’ till next year when we can give it the treatment that it deserves, so we chose to concentrate on playing CTTE this time around, to give it a good airing and celebrate the anniversary in this manner.

JWS – Yes, because you have had Patrick Moraz along for some shows doing ‘Gates of Delirium’ ?

SHWe had Patrick play Soon with us on a tour that Tony Kaye had joined us for, the celebratory tours. We like doing that sort of thing, although we have no plans on that as yet, not that to say that that it’s out of the window but, at the moment, we are concentrating on getting back out on the road after three years enforced time away.

Also, that is why coming back after 3 years away, we are doing what we are comfortable with and can do to the standard that is required and that Yes fans warrant and demand.

JWS – Yes, I can understand that way of thinking, plus it leaves the way open for a further tour with ‘Relayer’ being featured.

SHExactly…

JWS – I am glad that tracks from ‘The Quest’ will be featured, as I really enjoyed that album. I thought The Ice Bridge was exceptionally fine, reminiscent of Fanfare For The Common Man in the keyboard sounds, and also your solo Album ‘Love Is’, with Jon Davison on vocals.

SHThank you.

JWS – Well I thought it was a good set of songs, well performed.

SHYes, Jon did a wonderful job on that, didn’t he?

JWS – I also really enjoyed the ‘Homebrew 7’ album.

SHThank you, that was quite different for me in that it did not have the usual Homebrew story but was mostly unreleased tracks and ideas that I was able to work to fruition and completion. It was a retro album of music that was unreleased so thank you again for appreciating that.

JWS – I enjoy listening to latest music, especially music that you have released, so what are the chances of having your two original Atlantic albums (‘Beginnings’ and ‘The Steve Howe Album’) being re-released again?

SHWarner’s, Rhino, Atlantic or whoever have been so nice to me, they are officially releasing those albums, so I will investigate that. I think it’s marvellous to be part of the story of Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic label founder).

Howe Sound, the label that releases many of my albums, is quite diverse really and I feel comfortable with what they release for me, plus I like to do things differently and not be stuck in a treadmill way of things.

JWS – I do not blame you, variety is the spice of life, or so they say.

SHIndeed.

JWS – Now Asia, that new Boxset (‘Asia in Asia’) that is coming out in June (10th) is very impressive…

SHBMG have released the Reunion albums, with Fantasia releasing the DVD but this one is even nicer. That is, I especially like the diligence, I like detail anyway and this set really has an elevated level of detail to it, making it worthy of attention. When we did those shows some forty odd years ago, Greg (Lake) was really inspiring in that he was singing John’s (Wetton) parts, playing his bass lines too and doing it all with dignity and aplomb.

The Asia story is all told within those sets really, the two original albums, ‘Go’ and ‘Asia In Asia’ and then the years where Geoff was holding the banner, keeping the flame alive as it were, with various people drifting in and out including myself. Then there’s the reunion and subsequent albums and tours, it’s all in those albums and the ‘Asia In Asia’ especially shows a period where Greg really rose to the occasion magnificently as the set testifies in such a great way.

JWS – The only criticism I have, and it is a minor one really, is that, in the booklet, it mentions a documentary filmed around that time in which each member traces their Asia journey and, although mentioned, I cant see it on the Blu-Ray?

SHWell, I thought it was there, but I will investigate that and see. Although Blu-Rays are notorious for not being easy to find things on, I know that from experience, so I will check into that for sure.

JWS – I agree that Greg did an outstanding job. This is borne out in the remixed audio on the CD’s where he sings, albeit in a lower register on some tracks, but in a very accomplished manner and his bass playing is equally as inspiring too.

SHWhen I heard the audio for the mix, it was good until we got to the last two tracks, Heat Of The Moment and Sole Survivor, where they sounded awful. So I took it up with the label and they said Steve’s really on the ball, those two tracks hadn’t been remixed. I insisted that they were brought up to the same standard and I’m glad to say that they did just that and now they sound fantastic.  

JWS – Good, I am very much looking forward to seeing you in Manchester on the tour.

SHGood, well I love the Bridgewater hall, I played a solo concert there several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It reminded me of those early shows where I learnt my craft, like the one when I played support to Delaney and Bonnie along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison etc, remarkable times and music.

JWS – Have you heard Geoff’s Downes Braide Association stuff at all?

SHYes, I have heard that it is an exciting outlet for his music.

JWS – Plus Roger Dean participates in the artwork for that.

SH – Yes, well Roger is a big part of the Yes story, he will be on the tour too.

JWS – Well Steve, my time has gone, so may I just thank you for your time today and I will hopefully see you in Manchester next month.

SH – Thank for talking to me and for your interest in my music and of Yes too, thank you John.

Order the Asia boxset here:

Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 [VINYL] (lnk.to)

Review – Bill Bruford – Making A Song And Dance: A Complete – Career Collection – by John Wenlock-Smith

You’re going to need time, lots of it too, to get maximum enjoyment from this pretty exhaustive and, at times challenging, box set of 6 CDs. If you do then you can evaluate the career of Sevenoaks born drum maestro William (Bill) Bruford. The box set covers the 40 odd years of his often-erratic career choices and defining drum work.

Bill was an original member of Yes, leaving them shortly after the success of the ‘Close To The Edge’ album for what could be considered more challenging music as offered by King Crimson, with whom he made several seminal albums like ‘Lark’s Tongues in Aspic’, ‘Starless and Bible Black’ and ‘Red’, before Crimson fractured and took a hiatus for several years. This was considered an odd move by many, but Bruford wanted to challenge himself, rather than playing the same music ad-nauseum. He was also a part of the original U.K. project with John Wetton and Alan Holdsworth but, again, left after their debut album and tour to concentrate on forming his own band, Bruford, who made three excellent albums and played some fine live shows.

Bruford joined a reformed Crimson for their popular 1980’s reinvention, Adrian Belew and Tony Levin appearing alongside Bill and Robert Fripp for the albums ‘Discipline’, ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ and ‘Beat’, that tell the story of that era. When Crimson took an extended break, Bill started his own jazz project, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, which was significantly different to all that he had done before. Much of this can be explored on the other four discs within this set along with his involvement as a supporting musician to the likes of Roy Harper, Chris Squire, Al Di Meola, Steve Howe and David Torn. There are also a slew of collaborations with Patrick Moraz and Michael Borstlap, in their piano and percussion ensembles.

Bear in mind that a lot of this was improvisation at its rawest, so this is not always easy to listen to, yet there is much of worth and value to these discs. It’s not all about the big groups, much of Bill’s joy has been found in the less high profile works. This set is challenging and you can hear how Bill uses space in his music to fine effect and how he has a ‘less is more approach’ to making music. He is a skilled musician and he prefers to underplay as opposed to overplaying, subtlety being the key here, which is why he is so highly regarded by his fellow musicians and his contemporaries. Neal Peart of Rush says that the advancements that Bill made in the realm of electronics were a benefit to everyone.

The Bruford tracks are really fabulous music with a strong bass presence from Jeff Berlin and urgent sympathetic drumming from Bill. Tracks like Joe Frazier from ‘Gradually Going Tornado’ really show Bill’s skill as a band leader. In contrast, the Earthworks tracks are far mellower in the main but still with enough going on to make them of interest and investigation. The band’s revision of Downtown, as made famous by Petula Clark, is exceptionally inventive as they play around with a well-known piece to make it something rather different and exciting.

I really liked the spontaneous elements in the Bruford-Moraz tracks with just piano and drums playing together. The sound is full ,even though there are only two people playing and both Bruford and Moraz use the space in the music to create something pretty remarkable really. As are the tracks with Michael Borstlap which also fuse Bill’s drumming with piano in free form jazz tracks that again use the space to improvise across. This is especially the case on The 16 kingdoms of the Five Barbarians, with it’s thunderous drums and tense piano fills and flourishes, this track really makes an impression as does the highly rhythmic interplay on display on the Stand on Zanzibar, which features a graceful piano melody line and delicate yet informed drumming from Bill.

Equally fascinating are the trio of tracks from David Torn on which Bill appears as part of the rhythm section. Some of this jazz is pretty brutal and harsh, such is the way with the unconventional Torn, but it makes for interesting listening once you get used to it.

The set is split into three sets, discs 1 & 2 represent The Collaborator, discs 3 & 4 are The Composing Leader, disc 5 is The Special Guest and disc 6 Is The Improviser. Much of the first two discs will be familiar, as this encompasses his time with Yes and King Crimson whilst discs 3 and 4 cover the Bruford and Earthworks era, with everything else on discs 5 & 6. Either way this set is simply fascinating and one that will appeal to the more broad-minded prog fan as its grooves contain much very fine music indeed. The included book and poster are decent too and give a good overview from Bill himself, who was fully 100% involved in this project.

Released 29th April, 2022.

Order from Burning Shed here:

Making A Song And Dance: A Complete-Career Collection (burningshed.com)