Review – Back Street Crawler – The Atlantic Years 1975-1976 – by John Wenlock-Smith

This set has been a long time in coming, especially if you consider that the main attraction of Back Street Crawler, namely one Paul Kossoff, died way back in 1976 (some forty four years ago). This compilation collects all the recordings the band made for the Atlantic label over a brief two year period. Kossoff was, of course, the guitarist in seminal British rock band Free and his fluid, soulful guitar fuelled the albums they made for the Island label.

Included in this retrospective are the ‘The Band Plays On’ (1975), ‘2ND Street’ (1976) and the ‘Live at Fairfield Hall, Croydon’ set from shows recorded in 1975 that were released after Paul’s death in 1976. The fourth disc is from Paul’s final show on 3rd March 1976 at the Starwood Club, Los Angeles, although this is an illicit (bootleg) recording along with studio outtakes and two unreleased tracks.

Paul was a not only a great talent, he was also a troubled soul, gentle at times and fiery at others. His lack of height and his red hair made him more volatile than others. The fact that he was also a drug addict made him unpredictable and unreliable but he was also in poor health as a result of his addictions. Back Street Crawler was his attempt to regain what he’d lost since the demise of Free in 1973. After Free parted company he made a solo album that Back Street Crawler was named after, he’d also been a part of the Kossoff, Tetsu, Kirke and Rabbit project (also in 1973) that had released one self-titled album on the Island label. 

Back Street Crawler were a five piece band featuring Kossoff on guitars and Terry WilsonSlesser (ex Beckett) on vocals, Mike Montgomery (keyboards), Terry Wilson (bass) and Tony Braunagel (drums), releasing their debut album, ‘The Band Plays On’ in 1975. The debut is actually rather good in parts, it certainly has Paul playing well, even if the material is generally not really very strong or as good as it could be.

There are some sparks on songs like It’s A Long Way Down To The Top and The Band Plays On, to name just two. Singer Terry Wilson-Slesser is a strong and versatile vocalist who gives his all on this album, the generally broody music allows Paul’s guitar to shine through and he plays lots of his trademark solo’s wailing suitably over strong backing from his bandmates. The album would be considered short now but was of its time. One thing this album does have is some great piano for Paul to play off, especially on the funkier tracks like Stealing My Way, which sounds like it could be a lost Free track as it has their bluesy swagger to it. 

Disc 2 contains the album ‘2ND Street’, issued in 1976. However, Paul had been unwell and was only featured on certain tracks. These were a far better representation and vehicle for his unique talent kicking off in good form with the track Selfish Lover on which Paul’s incisive guitar slices through, sounding typically startling and oozing with emotion.

I’m writing this review in the week that that other great British Blues talent Peter Green has left us. In his own way Paul Kossoff was equally as stunning, when Koss played people listened, his tone and his playing were all about making each note speak. This was a talent that was very different to others. Why play 100 fast notes when one well placed note can say it all? that was his gift to music.

Blue Soul is another of his tracks, again he soars on this one. Sweet, Sweet Beauty is another excellent track, as is Some Kind Of Happy.  This album is a far mellower proposition than the harder edged debut and it has its own charm because of that fact, it certainly acts as a graceful tribute to the genius that was Paul Kossoff. This is an album of songs that act as a tribute to a man and fallen friend whose days were numbered and would sadly end before the album was even released.

Whilst ‘2ND Street’ marked he end of Paul Kossoff’s recording career and he may have gone, his legend and his skill remained. His presence was still there in the influence he has been on many contemporary guitarists, many citing him as such, or a hero even. However, there was more to come because recordings had captured Kossoff in fine form at Fairfield Hall in June of the previous year (this is presented here on disc 3).

The live albums here are very interesting, especially Fairfield Hall as it was recorded on one of Pauls better nights where his playing is hot, fiery and exciting, bringing the songs from the debut to life onstage. He also adds covers of Free’s The Hunter and his own Molten Gold. This live disc features all ten tracks from ‘The Band Plays On’ but here they are imbued with the power of a live performance. Obviously touring had consolidated the group significantly and these live versions are vibrant and vital, bristling with an energy that the studio versions somehow seemed to lack.

The sound is clear and full well mixed and captured in full flow, it’s a great joy to hear this show all these years later, one weeps for the loss of Kossoff. Standout tracks also include It’s a Long Way Down To The Top and The Band Played On, where Koss is all over the song, adding frills and stepping out to take some incendiary solos. This is everything the debut wasn’t as a studio release and validates the bands existence. I sadly missed the chance to see this tour at Birmingham Town Hall and I really wish I had made the effort I think I Missed something special, ah the folly of youth eh?.

Disc 4 is also of interest as it contains Paul’s last ever performance at the Starwood Club in Los Angeles. This being a bootleg tape the quality is fairly raw and rough sounding but its certainly listenable and featuring Free’s Common Mortal Man is a nice touch. Opening Who Do Women is a good entrance but the sonic limitations of the recording dilute the power of the performance. Although you can hears Koss’s guitar clearly, the rhythm section sound a bit muffled and clipped. The swagger of Stealing My Way is next and you cant believe that you are hearing such a historical and monumental performance. Sadly Paul would pass away on an airplane between Los Angeles and New York from a pulmonary embolism just 15 days later, the legend was gone but, as this set clearly attests, his talent would live on forever.     

I’ve not seen the finished box set of these discs yet but, in any event, these reissues by Cherry Red/ Esoteric bring to life again that tragically short period of Back Street Crawler featuring Paul Kossoff and the final period of his life. Back Street Crawler continued with Geoff Whitehorn replacing Kossoff and released 2 further albums for Columbia, namely ‘Crawler’ and ‘Snake, Rattle and Roll’. After the band split in the late 1970’s, Whitehorn joined Procol Harum where he remains to this day.  

Released 16th June 2020

Order from Cherry Red Records here:

Review – Randy California & Spirit – The Euro-American Years – by John Wenlock-Smith

This reissue may be a tad obscure to some, especially as it has been some 23 years since Randy California died in the pacific ocean whilst rescuing his son Quinn from a riptide near his mother’s home in Hawaii, Quinn Survived by sadly Randy did not and passed away at the age of 45.

Randy lived a very eventful and colourful life and he left a wealth of recordings, many of which are only now seeing the light of day thanks to the incredible efforts of Mick Skidmore, who painstakingly strives to keep Randy’s memory and legacy alive through the work of the The Randy Craig Wolfe Trust. Mick has gone to extraordinary lengths to bring several albums up to a good level of fidelity.

These include ‘Spirit – Live From The Time Coast’, ‘Spirit – Two Side Of A Rainbow – Live At The Rainbow’ and ‘Spirit – Tent of Miracles’, all of which have surfaced in the past few years, massively overhauled and much expanded with unreleased and live cuts (often in the form of complete shows). Take the extensive booklets and photographs, all of which add to this latest collection of 6 CDs (including almost 3 discs of previously unavailable / unheard live recordings of both Spirit and the Randy California Band recorded between the years 1979 to 1983) and make it a most welcome addition to that growing vault of releases.

The thing that becomes clear very rapidly is that this was a difficult time for Randy, and he struggled to find his niche and a genre in which his undeniable talents could be best shown. This fascinating set includes early demos from 1979 in London, the whole ‘Euro-American’ album and ‘Shattered Dreams’ live EP and tracks from the Potato Land project, portrayed through live recordings made in both the UK, Europe and the USA. This material is often excellent, sometimes patchy but always worth a listen and this comprehensive set is an excellent and accessible way in which to trawl through this particular period of Randy’s Career.

The sound is generally particularly good, there are occasional lapses but, generally, this is all perfectly listenable, you can certainly hear significant snatches of Randy’s brilliance when he gets to stretch out or really let fly. You hear this especially on the longer live tracks where he can really play to his strengths, confident in the backing his fellow musicians create for him to work from.  

The sets fall as such, Disc 1 and 2 – The Euro American album, Demos and Shattered Dream EP and Unreleased Tracks. Disc 3 is Spirit Live in 1980/1981 at various venues in both Europe and the US on what were essentially Promo tours for the Potato Land album that had been released by Beggars Banquet.

Disc 4 is more demos and also soundboard recordings of a festival show at Ayr in Scotland from October 1979 supporting Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame. This show is an attempt at a harder sound that works very well. Disc 5 is a show from Spirit taken from Greensboro North Carolina in 1981 and this is the 3 piece version really giving a fantastic performance with three lengthier tracks at the end really giving them a chance to shine.

The Final disc (disc 6) is The Randy California Band live at the Reading Festival in 1982 and from the Glastonbury Festival in 1982, both being soundboard recordings

This set is very extensive and will keep you happy for many hours, as the entire set lasts for just short of 9 hours, with each disc coming out at 79 plus minutes per disc, so it is a value packed set and, although there is some duplication, there is enough variation to still make this set worthwhile.

Personally I applaud the efforts of both Mick Skidmore and Mark and Vicky Powell of Esoteric for bringing this remarkable time capsule to the table. I just hope that they have a reissue for the fabulous ‘Restless’ album (that has been out of print for many years) lined up, for that was another remarkable album that was widely ignored by the record buying public and is surely due for re-evaluation once again.

This a reissue that I can certainly recommend to fans of Spirit, psychedelic rock or simply good, strong music with some fabulous playing, Randy was truly a unique musician as this excellent boxset testifies wonderfully. 

Disc 1 Kingsway Demos 1979, You stole my Heart 4:43,California Man 4:12, Thinking Of You 2:58, Song For Laura 5:05, Magic Wand LA Sessions 1981 Reeling IN The Night3:33,Lani By The Sea3:43,Shattered Dream Long 45 Mix 5:38,Rock Of Ages 2:13, Magic Wand 3:32.Original Euro American Album 1982 Toy Guns 2:56, This Is The End (Unedited)2:57, Mon Ami (Unedited) 2:44, Rude Reaction 3:22,Calling You 3:11,Wild Thing 4:02,Easy Love (12@ Mix)3:39, Fearless Leader 4:24,Five In The Morning 3:01 Skull And Crossbones 5:31, Breakout 2:28 Post Euro American Track recorded Abbey Road 1982 Man At War 2:13, Write You A Letter 3:10.

Disc 2 Hand Guns 2:44,Come On Woman 3:18,Trouble In Mind 6:54, Cabin De Telephone5:51, Shane 3:56, All along The Watchtower 2:57 (UK EP Release),Don’t Bother Me 5:02,Brittany 3:47, Downer 3:19, Second Child 4:57,Man At War 4:29.Killer Weed 4:27,Radio Man AKA Same Old Naturally 2:56, Superchild 4:23 Run To Your Lover 3:42, Love’s Not A Game 4:41, Love Is War 2:31,Childhoods End 6:01,Ove3rloaded Ships Sink 4:06.

Disc 3 Spirit Live Various Venues 1980 and 1981, 1984 3:29,Turn To The Right 3:53,Five In The Morning 3;59,Hungry Driver 8:19, I Want Somebody 2:12, Give A Life Take A Life 3:40,Hey Joe 6:45 German 12 Inch Single, Shattered Dreams 9:19, So Little Time To Fly 3:33,Fish Fry Road 4:07, Magic Wand 10:31,Come On Woman 4:02, Breakout 5:02,Downer 3:37, Song For Laura 4:21, Wild Thing 3:53.

Disc 4 Grossscher Herrscher (German Language version Of Fearless Leader 4:27, His Spirit Is Travelling On 3:53, PT 109 1:26,Whispers From Heaven 3:35, Trying To Get Closer To You 3:26, Since She’s Gone 2:51, Past Love 4:07,Stepping Son 3:30,Otter In The Sea 3:56, California Man 3:10, Childhoods End 3:39, Randy California Band Soundboard Tape Ayr Scotland October 22nd 1979 Downer 6:32,You Stole My Heart 5:41, Move On Up 5:10, California Man 5:06, Rebels Flight 6:30, Breakout $:10,Song For Laura 6 55.

Disc 5 Spirit Louis Rock City South, Greensboro April 3rd 1981 1984 4:00, Turn To The Right 3:43, Animal Zoo 3:15,Magic Wand 7:16,Nature’s Way 3:20, Five In The Morning 3:05 So Little Time To Fly 3:35, Mr. Skin 3:00, Come On Woman3:53,All The Same 10:35, I Got A Line On You 2:45, Fish Fry Road 4:07,Wild Thing 7:09, Like A Rolling Stone 8:55, Come And Get It (Magic Spirit) 6:22.

Disc 6 Randy California Band Reading Festival Board Tape 1982 Second Child 5:55,Downer 3:25 Man At War 4:24, Like A Rolling Stone 6:26, All Along The Watchtower 3:31, Come On Woman 3:58, Natures Way 3:16,Killer Weed 6:36, Run To Your Lover 3:14,I Got A Line On You 2:42, Song For Laura 5:13<Wild Thing 5:10 Glastonbury  Festival 1982  Partial Soundboard Tape Hand Guns 2:57,Lisa 5:24,Don’t Bother Me 5:47,Rebel On Attack 3:12, Killer Weed 8:25.

Released 28th August 2020

Order from Cherry Red Records here:

John Wenlock- Smith Interviews David Longdon

In this piece I talk to David Longdon of Big Big Train about his latest album, a collection of songs recorded in collaboration with the late Judy Dyble entitled ‘Between A Breath and A Breath’, which was released on the 5th September 2020.

DLThanks for writing such and insightful and sensitive review of the album, I really liked it and appreciate the kind words you wrote.

JWS – It was a privilege to be able to do so, I wanted my words to express my respect for Judy as a tribute and to acknowledge what must have been a labour of love for you. I really enjoyed it and we had it on yesterday whilst we were driving in Wales. We were driving from Dolgellau towards Porthmadog through the mountains and it was lovely music to accompany us as we were traveling.

DLI am pleased that you are enjoying it, so I think Judy would approve of your choice of listening location too.

JWS – It’s obviously a labour of love for you really.

DLYes it certainly got that way at the end, I found out at the after show at the Hackney empire when she told me her diagnosis. I told her I can’t do anything about the medical side but I can get the album completed and so, a week later, I was in the recording studio getting things done and it’s been heads down ever since .

JWS – Well I feel that you have created a lasting memory and tribute to her.

DLThat’s very kind of you to say, I know shortly after she passed away I was kind of searching for it. It’s a strange thing because in my mind I thought she was in her house and that I could face-time her and talk about things and laugh about things as she has been such a powerful presence in my life for the last five years. If I need to find her I listen to the album, she’s there, very present in the music and that’s where her presence is. Rightly so too and I guess that is as she would want it to be.

JWS – I love the artwork for the album it is fantastic, Sarah has done a wonderful job with it.

DLSarah said that she wanted to give Judy the best of her and she was very happy to be involved in all of that. Sarah did a marvellous job of it all, along with the photographs by Sophocles Alexiou, who also shot the fabulous picture of Judy and I sitting by the fire where all great stories are told.

JWS – I have the CD version and there is a lovely picture of Judy with Jessie (Her greyhound).

DLAgain, another photo by Sophocles Alexiou. The portraits and the photographs are great, we were lucky to find Soph really.

JWS – I see Sarah incorporated jessie into the cover art too.

DL Yes, it’s sort of based on Victorian Funeral Art really. The flowers are a wreath and are traditionally associated with funerals. The lilies and the others, if you look at the flowers closely some of them are in a state of decay, sort of past their best which is a look we were after. The crow’s skull is supposed to represent me, the wing is Judy and me and the crow, Grimspound, is on there as well and is a reference to a track of Judy’s called Crow Baby.

DLI think the combination of Sarah, Sophocles, and Steve Vantis (who plays with Fish and who has worked with us since Merchants of Light doing graphics) working together, have all created something special that hopefully people will want.

JWS – Well everyone I have spoken to about this album is extremely excited about it and cannot wait to get hold of it which is encouraging.

DLYes, its very strange as when this comes out on the 25th that Dyble/Longdon will be done, completed. People have asked me if we will play these songs live and, at this stage, I cannot give an answer because everything is up in the air because of Covid. I feel like I’m living real life episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) at times, its all very strange. I’m talking about Judy a lot and that’s good and right too but its all very strange to me. It’s these strange times in which we are living at the moment.

JWS – Let us talk about some of the other tracks on the album like France, I wanted to chat about that because of my background in Progressive Rock.

DLJudy and I wanted to do an epic track and, as Judy and I shared a love of France, it was a natural subject. Judy’s late husband Simon had French ancestry, the first part is about Judy and Simon’s time in France and also about the Occupation by the Germans in the war. Simon’s family still own a Chateau which was where the poet Jean Cocteau made the film La Belle et la Bête with Jean Marais as the beast and he would be eating breakfast in full makeup and the children of the household would see him made up eating so, France part two, is about that experience.

The song also includes most of Big Big Train playing apart from Dave – he appears on the first track Astrologers though, Rikard plays accordion, Rachel plays violin, Danny plays double bass and Greg plays bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals. I contribute guitars, piano, mellotron, flute vibraphone, marxaphone and effects.

JWS – I Love Rikard’s accordion on that.

DLHe learned it from his grandfather apparently, I’m not sure if it was his first instrument, but he certainly learnt a lots of polkas and such like. He does a great job of it all, Rikard’s a really great guy, very big hearted and he’s a rapacious consumer of comedy, he quotes Black Adder all the time.

JWS – And the story behind Obedience?

DLIs about Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. When she was small her parents split up and her mother gave her arithmetic and algorithms to occupy her mind and would save her from her father’s madness, but you can’t stop the mind from wandering, can you?

JWSWhisper is another great song…

DL – That song is about a friend of Judy’s called Jackie Morris who is an illustrator and writer and he was running a workshop about Faeries and asking if folklore had any relevance today. There was a lady who said that the distance between a breath and another breath could be an eternity in faerie world. It is also about an aunt of Jackie’s who, when she got older, lost the ability to speak loudly and was reduced to a whisper but I took it to be that it was about how, as we age, often older people’s voices are not heard.

We Didn’t want it to be old lady material, we wanted it to have some bite. It has teeth, it’s strident in places and it rocks in places. It has some huge soundscapes and comes back to these tiny fragile things too.

JWS – So what is happening with Big Big Train now?

DLWell, we didn’t get to America or do the European dates as they were all cancelled until this virus situation goes away. The whole entertainment world is in a state of confusion at the moment as no one is sure when it will be safe to operate again, so, in the meantime, we have written the next BBT record and will look to record it later in the year. Next year I’ll do a solo album as well because it looks as if it will be this way for the short term future. Sarah and I are supposed to see the Who next year but if its still looking dodgy, then we wont be going, I simply won’t risk it.

JWS – Understandable, we’re supposed to see Genesis but its been put off till next year too. Although we did get to see you with BBT last year in Birmingham, it was a great show. We were on the front row and we really enjoyed it, we also saw you the year before in Basingstoke at The Anvil.

DLYes that was the night that England played. I thought we might not get many people but we did, we got a good crowd although England took a beating.

JWS – Anyway David, my time has gone, so thank you for your time and the information. We’ll get this all into shape and get it up online as soon as we can. (Ed. – You obviously mean the ‘Royal’ we, John?)

DLThank you John, it’s been great talking to you thank you for the review and all that you do, it really helps. Keep safe and well until next time, it is really appreciated.  

Order the album from Burning Shed here:

https://burningshed.com/dyble-longdon_between-a-breath-and-a-breath_cd

Review – Pain Of Salvation – Panther

Pain of Salvation have been firmly at the forefront of the progressive
rock and metal scenes for nearly three decades now. Led by mercurial multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlöw, the Swedish band have consistently demonstrated a sincere passion for moving their own extraordinary music forward, while always remaining lyrically enlightened and ferociously intelligent.

The leaders in thoughtful, pained and poignant progressive-metal music, the band have had a stellar career that has produced ten studio albums and included such highlights as ‘Scarsick’, ‘Remedy Lane’, ‘Road Salt One’, ‘Road Salt Two’ and their brilliant previous release ‘In the Passing Light Of Day’. From elaborate and pointedly metal early classics through obtuse wizardry and genre-blurring mischief, Pain of Salvation’s all-encompassing musical vision has delivered some of contemporary prog’s most brave, bold and startling moments.

The band returned this year having deftly weathered the departure of guitarist Ragnar Zolberg, discovering a newfound enthusiasm for what happens next in the process.

“We did In The Passing Light Of Day and that ended with the departure of Ragnar from the band,” Gildenlöw recalls. “In the past, 10 or 20 years ago, that would probably have made me doubt the future of the band and all of that. I went through that a lot in the past with members leaving or things not turning out in a good way! It’s always difficult and it’s always something that makes you sad, when your little band family is disrupted, but I never came to the point where I doubted where to go or what to do. The other band members were pushing us on to continue, so I just kept writing music.”

The result of that sustained surge of creativity is ‘PANTHER’, the eleventh Pain of Salvation album and a very obvious landmark release in a career full of them. ‘PANTHER’ is a concept piece that delves into the conflicts and contradictions between so-called normal people and those who are wired entirely differently.

This is an album full of creativity and power, a simmering melting pot of brooding desire and thunderous riffs that creates a body of work leviathan in scope and content.

The edgy, almost funky opening track Accelerator gives a restless, tense feel to the music before opening into a sparse soundscape dominated by Daniel’s vocal before the stark, blasted landscape of Unfuture hoves into view, hewn from granite and taking no prisoners, “Welcome to the new world…”, indeed…

Gildenlöw has always been the master of simple, severe beauty and that is delivered in spades on the sublime Restless Boy, a song thats rawness is there for all to see. “This is not a test..” Pain of Salvation have a knack of producing songs that drip with bare emotion and Wait drops perfectly into that category with a simple piano note and acoustic guitar laying the foundations for a wistful and nostalgic piece of music that lives long in the memory. As graceful a song will be hard to find on any progressive-metal album.

So, who fancies a bit of electro-ambient progressive rock? Sounds an odd combination doesn’t it but PoS make it work brilliantly on Keen to A Fault, a fast paced, stylish track that works amazingly well. Fur is a short interlude that speaks to me of Eastern European 50’s film noire and segues into the title track. Well, what can I say about PANTHER? It’s superb, a complete melding of rap, oriental sounds and electronica that sounds like nothing else the band have ever done. It’s more akin to Linkin Park than anything else and, well, it’s just brilliant!

The final two tracks are Pain Of Salvation at their very, very best. The slow burning, monolithic power of Species has a simmering build up to a crescendo of crushing guitars and heartfelt vocals and then Icon closes the album out with humility and style in a similar vein to the title track from ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’. At once intense and dynamic, then calm and thoughtful, this is a song that contains all that is best about the band and showcases Daniel Gildenlöw’s consistent ability to write masterpieces of music.

One of the highlights of the year and an album that could become a seminal progressive-metal release, Pain Of Salvation have created a piece of music that could well be their finest yet.

Released 28th August 2020

Order PANTHER here:

http://painofsalvation.com/store/

Yes to Release The Royal Affair Tour Live From Las Vegas on October 30th

Available to Order Here

Following the outstanding success of their 2019 American tour, YES are to release The Royal Affair Tour, Live From Las Vegas through BMG Records on 30th October. Eager fans will be able to get hold of the PHYSICAL formats from 2nd October if ordered exclusively through the YES Store. Formats are: CD digi sleeve with 12 page booklet; 2LP gatefold with 12” booklet and digital. Pre-Order the album here: https://YesBand.lnk.to/RoyalAffairPR

All YES concert tours are special events for their legions of fans and The Royal Affair Tour was no exception, conceived as a wonderful celebration of the best of British progressive music. Guests on the tour were Asia (with YES keyboardist Geoff Downes and a special appearance by Steve Howe), John Lodge of The Moody Blues and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy featuring Arthur Brown. 

Of The Royal Affair Tour album, Alan White says: “The Royal Affair tour album, being released in October, is a welcome new chapter in the wide expanse of YES live recordings. I hope you enjoy it.”

Steve Howe adds: “Having the opportunity to bring together the band members in the development of a well refined set of songs that captures the bands true potential is simply an honour for me.”

The show features many classic tracks across the period 1970 – 1980. The set opened with No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, the Richie Havens cover from YES’ second album Time And A Word (1970). Tempus Fugit was taken from Drama (1980), Geoff Downes’ first as a member of YES, while Going For The One, I’ve Seen All Good People and Siberian Khatru are from some of YES’ iconic mid-70s albums. The set included a rare live performance of YES’ cover of Paul Simon’s America and John Lodge shared vocals on YES’ cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Soon-to-be YES drummer Alan White played on the original studio recording.

The Royal Affair Tour live set and album, recorded at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, in July 2019, reaches a climax with two of the best-loved YES tracks Roundabout and Starship Trooper, always a high note on which to close the set.

YES are Steve Howe (guitar) who joined in 1970, Alan White, drums since 1972, Geoff Downes (keyboards) who first joined in 1980, vocalist since 2011 Jon Davison, Billy Sherwood, who played guitar/keyboards in the 1990s and was the late Chris Squire’s choice to take over bass/vocals in 2015 also played with Asia on this tour. Jay Schellen played additional drums.

The Royal Affair Tour also featured an exhibition of original art by Roger Dean whose artwork is synonymous having designed the iconic YES logo and the band’s best-loved album covers. Roger Dean recently painted The Royal Affair Tour album artwork live on Facebook while also fielding questions from fans.

The 26-date The Royal Affair Tour and YES’ performances were critically acclaimed: 
“Yes proved again that they are, after all these years, still the kings of progressive rock.” (Vintage Rock)

“It was a unique night of rock music history that has endured for half a century.” (Grateful Web)

As always, YES put on a magical show and took the crowd on a journey through their hits (Music Connection Magazine)

The band sounded great and had brilliant visuals to accompany the songs. Sherwood’s bass playing is perfectly suited to capture the essence of the late Chris Squire while Geoff Downes and Steve Howe are still at the top of their games. Vocalist Jon Davison… looks extremely comfortable on stage, hitting each note with ease. (the progreport.com

The Royal Affair Tour – Live in Las Vegas track listing:
1. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed

2. Tempus Fugit

3. Going For The One

4. I’ve Seen All Good People

5. Siberian Khatru

6. Onward

7. America

8. Imagine

9. Roundabout

10. Starship Trooper

Recorded live at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel, Friday 26th July 2019, The Royal Affair Tour, Live From Las Vegas was mixed by Billy Sherwood and is released by BMG Records. Customers who order via the YES Store will receive their albums on 2nd October with the album on general release from 30th October.

About Yes
For half a century YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history and consistently at the fore-front of the progressive rock movement. Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, the triple live album set Yessongs, 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.

Pre-order the album from Amazon here: https://YesBand.lnk.to/RoyalAffairPR

Review – Blue Rose Code – With Healings Of The Deepest Kind

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

The music of Blue Rose Code is not simply music to listen to… But music to engage with in an emotional transaction that will tear your heart out, dance on it, repair it, replace it and somehow leave you feeling richer for the experience.Brian Doig.

I was introduced to the soul stirring and joyous experience that is Blue Rose Code by my good friend Iain Sloan and the album ‘…And Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing’ and I have been eternally grateful ever since. Ross Wilson is an exceptional composer and musician, his songs invoke strong feelings of passion for home and the land, for loyalty and love.

Ross’ soft Scottish brogue combines with some of the most emotive music you are ever likely to hear, he doesn’t write songs, he creates moments of musical wonder and beauty. Ross Wilson has spent most of his musical life curating; he sculpts his band to every mood and temperament in order to create the perfect happening.

Nine songs, nine stories, nine perfect moments frozen in time, ‘With Healings Of The Deepest Kind’ is, perhaps, Ross’ greatest creation yet. Each track will take your heart and soul an a wondrous musical journey and lead you to place of peace, calm and love.

The highlights for me are the lilting, laid back charm of opener You’re Here And Then You’re Gone, the absolute grace of The Wild Atlantic Way and Starlit, the humble bare charms of Red Kites and the folk/blues/americana humble wonder of closing track Riverstown.

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

Released July 17th 2020

Order from bandcamp here:

https://bluerosecode.bandcamp.com/album/with-healings-of-the-deepest-kind

MARIUSZ DUDA CHECKS IN WITH AN UPDATE ON THE NEW LUNATIC SOUL ALBUM

Lunatic Soul’s, talented creator, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Mariusz Duda, has been busy during this current lockdown period and is ready to reveal exciting news on a new Lunatic Soul album and the follow up to 2018’s highly praised Under The Fragmented Sky, that will be released later this year on Kscope.

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are all safe and sound, and that you are taking a good care of yourselves, both physically and mentally. These are tough times, filled with fear of what the future might bring us, of how our lives will change, because they surely will. But I also believe that together we can cope with everything.

I’m thinking that Lunatic Soul fans who have patiently waited, deserve to finally receive some news! I haven’t posted anything for quite a while and I hope you can forgive me for that. Let me start by saying ‘thank you’ for supporting my new project, which is individual songs released under “Mariusz Duda”. But don’t be deceived by “The Song of the Dying Memory”, my “subcutaneous songs” will come in different shapes and forms 🙂

A month ago, I started up a new website, www.mariuszduda.md  where I gathered and graphically organised all the musical endeavors I have taken part in, leaving free spaces for future plans. In the Lunatic Soul section, there are two empty slots. One of them is for this year’s album, which will be released in the autumn of 2020.

Many of you already know that I have been working on the seventh Lunatic Soul release. There have been occasional news from the studio, some short clips, pictures from a forest 😉 and bits of information in various interviews. I must say it wasn’t easy to find sufficient time during the intense “Wasteland tour” with Riverside, but, somehow, 75% of the new Lunatic Soul album is ready.

Currently, I’m finishing working on the lyrics. The final recordings, vocals and overdubs,will be planned in May and June, and the seventh Lunatic Soul album will be released in October.

***

Lunatic Soul has its cycle, and all the albums have their timeline (let me refer you again to www.mariuszduda.md ). The seventh album will be a musical continuation of the black and white albums, the third release “on the side of death”, and the “opposite” album to “Walking on a Flashlight Beam”, where there was a transition from life to death. Here, we will have a transition from death to life. I know it may all sound a little complicated and I promise to explain it all better one day, in a visual form 😉

What is important and what I can already share with you is that:

– it will be a dark folk, organic, Slavic-Scandinavian album. Exactly what you have always expected from Lunatic Soul 🙂 

– the colour palette of the album and its cover will be connected with… a dark forest 🙂

– there will be 6 tracks on the album, about 40 minutes in total.

– there will also be a double disc edition with additional… 40 minutes of music, mainly instrumental, including a 26-minute suite called “Transition 2”. That gives us nearly 80 minutes of new material.

***

I think before the summer arrives, I will be able to reveal more information, both audio and visual, about this new release. It will be a melodious, dense and coherent album. Very close to nature and to my heart. I come from the Masurian land of forests and lakes, that’s where I was born, that’s where I grew up, and thus “sylvan and Slavic moods” have always been and will remain a part of my life.

I don’t know yet what will happen with this year’s concerts of Riverside but I can promise you now that in the autumn of this year you can expect the new Lunatic Soul release.

I hope that it will bring you a lot of intense emotions and perhaps make going through this incredibly difficult time at least a little bit more bearable.

Be well! MD

PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS set May 15th, 2020 as release date for new studio album “Prehensile Tales”!

In 2019, PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS, the California-based band featuring Ted Leonard (lead vocals & guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Dave Meros (bass) and John Boegehold (keyboards), presented its much-lauded eponymous debut.

Just a year later, the group announces May 15th, 2020 as the release date for its newest opus, “Prehensile Tales”, which expands the stylistic niche carved out by the debut and adds additional twists and turns along the way.
 
For the six songs on the album (the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes), the band introduced violin, flute, trumpet, cello, sax and pedal steel to the sound palette that was once again recorded & mixed by Rich Mouser at The Mouse House.
 
The track-listing reads as follows:
1. Raining Hard In Heaven
2. Here In My Autumn
3. Elegant Vampires
4. Why Don’t We Run
5. Lifeboat
6. Soon But Not Today
 
“I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing. “I wanted to change around some of the songwriting approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band.”

Ted Leonard adds: “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious. There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”

For the striking cover image, P-SA collaborated with Polish artist Mirek (https://www.facebook.com/mirekis7/), whose ‘An evolutionary broadcast’ design Boegehold immediately considered a perfect fit to the album’s peculiar title.

“Prehensile Tales is a play-on-words I came up with while writing lyrics and thought it would be a funny album title. As a bonus, it actually seems to mean something that fits the music.”
 
To coincide with the album’s release, the band is set to perform at RosFest 2020 in Sarasota, Florida on May 9th and is lining up more dates later in the year which will be announced soon.
 
“Prehensile Tales” will be released as Gatefold 2LP plus CD, Limited Edition CD, and as digital album on May 15th, 2020 on InsideOutMusic.

Review – Afenginn – Klingra – by Progradar

Afenginn, which means “intoxication and strength” in old norse, is Danish composer and musician, Kim Rafael Nyberg, one of the leading neo-folk, post-classical voices in Scandinavia.

Having toured all over Europe, Australia and the US and performed at numerous festivals, concert halls and venues, Nyberg’s deeply ambitious, orchestrated compositions are based on his seemingly mercurial creative impulses with a strong DIY underpinning, with each of his previous bodies of work being a clear departure from the last. Obvious comparisons would be Hauschka, Goldmund, Jonny Greenwood and Dustin O’Halloran.

“Klingra (circle in Faroese) is one of my more delicate and introspective pieces that leans one degree further into the neo-classical realm. I’ve been working with the theme of circles/cycles to inspire both the way the music is composed and the story within the poetry”, says Nyberg.

Photo Credit: Søren Solkær

With a sound palette of two pianos, a string quartet (The Danish String Quartet), pedal steel guitar, synth bass and two drummers supporting the haunting vocals of Ólavur Jákupsson (Yann Tiersen), the music is incredibly intense, both emotionally and dynamically.

It speaks of stark landscapes, too big for the human mind to comprehend, almost pagan and primeval, of the land and with millennia of history coursing through every note and word. It is a powerful and cinematic soundscape on which Nyberg layers his palette of beautiful and ethereal pieces of music.

So exquisite is the music that it is almost painful to behold in its minimalistic glory, the norse melancholy drawing you into its intricate web of gradually building emotive tension. The highlights are many but Vitin (the lighthouse) leaves an emotional mark on you that lingers long after the mournful strings fade away to just be a lingering memory.

Any of these wondrous compositions could be used as a dark cinematic soundtrack, the fragility and contemplative feel leaves you thoughtful and almost overwhelmed by empathy, I have not heard anything quite like this in a very long while. Ólavur’s deeply moving vocals are the perfect foil for the wistful and winsome grace of the music and will move you to your very soul.

Music for long winter evenings in the company of someone you love, ‘Klingra’ will make time stand still as you listen to every nuance and subtlety, it is an incredibly involving experience that I believe everyone should enjoy at least once.

Released 11th October 2019

Order from the bandcamp site:

https://afenginn.bandcamp.com/

EXPLORING BIRDSONG sign to Long Branch Records

New single ‘The River’ released 2nd October

Band’s debut EP expected in Autumn

Rarely are new groups as exciting, talented or unique as EXPLORING BIRDSONG, the piano-led guitarless trio from Liverpool who have announced their signing to German independent label Long Branch Records.

Having recently graduated from Liverpool’s Institute of Performing Arts, the young group have already caught the eyes Prog Magazine, Kerrang! Magazine, Kerrang! Radio and Classic Rock Magazine as well as achieved two Progressive Music Awards nominations in 2019. Having only released two singles at this point, EXPLORING BIRDSONG have been hand-picked to support Sleep Token, toured with proggers Godsticks, caught the attention of Florence and the Machine, and performed at HRH Prog. Unplaceable for the most part, the band bring to mind elements of Steven WilsonKate Bush, RushSleep Token, and Agent Fresco.

The young trio are comprised of drummer Matt Harrison, bassist and keyboardist Jonny Knight (capable of playing both instruments simultaneously), and topped by keyboardist and vocalist Lynsey Ward‘s stunning, otherworldly vocals. 

“We are so excited to be signing with Long Branch Records. We’re extremely proud to be working with a label that is home to some of our favourite bands, and feel our music couldn’t be in better hands.” says Exploring Birdsong drummer Matt Harrison.

Long Branch Records label manager Manuel Schönfeld adds: “Exploring Birdsong are undoubtedly one of the most interesting new bands in the British progressive music scene. We’re super excited about the signing and are looking forward to a successful partnership.” 

Exploring Birdsong’s new single “The River” will be released on October 2nd, 2019 followed by their debut EP release in Autumn 2019.

Watch the band live:

03.10. UK, London – Underworld /w Sleep Token (sold out)
04.10. UK, Manchester – Manchester Academy 3 /w Sleep Token (sold out)