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:
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 TheSpecials 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,EverythingBefore 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.
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 JoanneHarris‘ Storytime 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 NickFletcher 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!
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’sAndy 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!
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.
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, ‘LiveQuartz’, 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, ‘BadHabits’ 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’tTurn 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.
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 BraideAssociation 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.
Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett presents his brand new live audio/visual extravaganza, with the release of ‘Foxtrot at Fifty + Hackett Highlights: Live in Brighton’, set for release on the 15th September 2023.
Filmed & recorded live on his 2022 UK tour, in the coastal city of Brighton, UK, this release documents Steve and his band celebrating the 50th anniversary of the much-loved Genesis album ‘Foxtrot’. Played in full, this album features fan favourites including ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ and ‘Supper’s Ready’. The show also features a set of Hackett solo material, including ‘The Devil’s Cathedral’ from his latest studio album ‘Surrender of Silence’, and the powerful ‘Ace of Wands’.
Today they are pleased to launch a live video for the track ‘A Tower Struck Down’, a song that originally appeared on ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’:
Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge & mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, the album is now available to pre-order on Ltd 2CD+Blu-ray & Ltd 2CD+2DVD, both including bonus behind the scenes interviews, as well as 5.1 surround sound. A Ltd Deluxe 180g 4LP edition will also be available, and you can pre-order now here: https://stevehackett.lnk.to/FoxtrotAtFiftyHackettHighlights-LiveInBrighton
The full track-listing is:
1. Intro / Ace of Wands
2. The Devil’s Cathedral
3. Spectral Mornings
4. Every Day
5. A Tower Struck Down
6. Basic Instincts
7. Camino Royale
8. Shadow of the Hierophant
9. Watcher of the Skies
10. Time Table
11. Get ‘Em Out by Friday
12. Can Utility and the Coastliners
14. Supper’s Ready
15. Firth of Fifth
16. Los Endos
Steve Hackett & band continue their busy touring schedule with further “Foxtrot At Fifty & Hackett Highlights” dates in North America beginning in October. For the full list of dates, head to: http://hackettsongs.com/tour.html
Steve Hackett is joined live by Roger King, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell & Jonas Reingold, as well as on occasion special guest Amanda Lehmann.
About Steve Hackett
Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the classic Selling England By The Pound.
After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.
Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his later studio works The Night Siren(2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesis including a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.
The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums, the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the forthcoming Surrender of Silence.
In 2021, Steve and his band returned to touring, celebrating the classic Genesis live album ‘Seconds Out’, on what was one of his most successful tours to date.
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 Awakening, Journey 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 LucilleMille. 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.
Prog-pop cult heroes The Mommyheads have announced the most ambitious album of their nearly four-decade career, CONEY ISLAND KID, arriving Friday, September 19 via FANFAR! Records in Europe and Mommyhead Music for the rest of the world. Pre-orders are available now.
A watershed release for The Mommyheads, CONEY ISLAND KID marks the venerable NYC-based band’s 15th studio LP and first-ever foray into concept album terrain. Highlights include the idiosyncratic first single, “Why Aren’t You Smiling,” joined by an official music video, directed by The Mommyheads founder/frontman Adam Elk.
WATCH“WHY AREN’T YOU SMILING” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO:
Last year saw The Mommyheads reaching new creative heights with GENIUS KILLER, hailed by Bay Area alternative newsweekly The Bohemian as “a tight, self-assured affair that sounds all the more youthful for its maturity.” CONEY ISLAND KID continues in that tradition, opening with an eclectic suite of technicolor prog-pop that uses archetypal Coney Island imagery to convey themes of desperation and soul-searching, complete with pier side ambience.
The skeletal acoustics on “Spookarama” call back to the whimsical woodsy gloom of 1989’s now-classic debut, ACORN, while elsewhere, songs such as the epic title track (arguably the closest the band has come to full-on interpolating Genesis) and the angelic tone poem, “Onset, MA,” see The Mommyheads continue to gracefully channel existential anxiety and progressive influences in equal measure. Having devoted a lifetime to evolution, both in terms of sound and the ever-increasing scope of their ideas, CONEY ISLAND KID stands as perhaps the most cohesive representation of The Mommyheads’ glorious eccentricities thus far.
THE MOMMYHEADS CONEY ISLAND KID (FANFAR! Records / Mommyhead Music) Release Date: Friday, September 19, 2023
Tracklist: Coney Island Kid Artificial Island Spookarama Solemn By The Sea Suburban Office Park Learning To Live Why Aren’t You Smiling Such Beautiful Things Onset, MA Soul’s Aquarium
The Mommyheads will mark CONEY ISLAND KID with a wide range of international live dates, including a series of historic shows joining longtime friend Per Sunding of Swedish indie pop legends Eggstone on his debut US live tour. The dates – which will see Sunding performing Eggstone music in America for the very first time ever, backed by members of The Mommyheads, The Apples in Stereo, and The B-52s – get underway September 20 with a special record release show at New York City’s DROM. Long beloved in Sweden, The Mommyheads will first head to Scandinavia for an eagerly anticipated headline tour (including additional dates with Sunding), before returning home for Drom30, Dromedary Records’ weekend-long celebration of independent rock, set for Sunday, September 17 at Catskill, NY’s The Avalon Lounge. Additional shows will be announced soon. For updates, please visit www.mommyheads.com/live.
THE MOMMYHEADS – TOUR 2023
SEPTEMBER 1 – Uppsala, SWE – Open Mind Records (12:00 Noon Acoustic Show) 1 – Orebro, SWE – Live At Heart Festival * 2 – Linköping, SWE – Festival Of The Midnight Sun * 5 – Falsterbro, Sweden – Ko Operativet På Fädriften † 6 – Malmo, SWE – Medley † 7 – Kristianstad, SWE – Kulturkvarteret 8 – Stockholm, SWE – Melody Box 9 – Vasteras, SWE – Global Living 17 – Catskill, NY – Drom30 @ The Avalon Lounge * 20 – New York, NY – DROM † 21 – Boston, MA – Lizard Lounge # 22 – Beacon, NY – Howland Cultural Center † 23 – Philadelphia, PA – The Royal in Glenside † 24 – Washington, DC – House of Sweden †
* Festival Appearance † w/ Per Sunding of Eggstone # w/ Per Sunding of Eggstone and Gravel Pit
Music is the perfect accompaniment to life, when you listen to great music you don’t need to be doing anything else. There are all sorts of different music genres and we don’t like them all but, to me anyway, there’s no such thing as bad music, it’s just music that’s not for me.
Music that definitely is for me is, ‘Another World’, the new album from the brilliant Southern Empire, one of Australia’s greatest exports, music or otherwise! I’ve long been a fan of their bombastic and highly entertaining style of rock tinged progressive music and count the band’s second release, ‘Civilisation’, as one of my favourite all time albums. Well, now this band of antipodean troubadours are back with a new album and, perhaps controversially, a new lead singer!
“The dragon, unaware that Danny is still atop her massive frame, carries him afar to other realms and adventures. He is at peace, knowing that the others are safe and well, indulging in the countless distractions that this other world has to offer.
Then, a new paladin appears, our patriotic protagonist, Shaun of the Hollow Grove. Although familiar with the wind-swept terrain, he’s certain he’s never sojourned this far before… but he sets his sights on the embankment ahead and begins his sesquipedalian odyssey.”
Original lead vocalist and guitarist Danny Lopresto left under good terms (and still provides backing vocals on the album) but his are big shoes that new man Shaun Holton has had to fill. I spoke to Shaun about this and the new album;
“It was a long process! It began around May last year during a pretty challenging time for my family and I but, yeah, I have been a friend of Cam Blokland’s for a number of years and we have wanted to work together for a while (from early Projected Twin days in 2008).
So when Danny left, Cam put me forward quickly! I recorded Face the Dawn first, Sean and Cam loved it, but the other guys wanted to hear me do a bit more, so I sang Goliath’s Moon and Forrest Fire as well. Then it was White Shadows! (this was the song that made me really hope they went with me, I thought that we really had something with that!) Once the band had all heard White Shadows that was kinda it for them too.
So then it was a bit of work tracking the rest which we would have finished around January this year. Danny has heard a bunch and has let me know he thinks it’s really good and fully supported my entry into the band. I thought that was incredibly professional and spoke to his character greatly! It was challenging to replace vocals built for him specifically. Sometimes I had to go my own route. I’m happy with where we got it!”
I’m not going into the challenging time that Shaun references as it’s personal to him but let’s just say it shows what strength and character he has and why he fits the band perfectly.
Band leader Sean Timms said that;
“Shaun not only has an incredible voice, he’s also a gifted musician and song writer. He has a passion for life and is an incredibly upbeat person with amazing amounts of energy. When he commits to a project… it’s 100% all the way. He’s helping a great deal with the promotion of the new album, adding copious amounts of social media posting and always ready and available for interviews.”
Right, now for the music, ‘Another World’ is all that’s good about progressive rock, taking influences from all over the musical hemisphere, electro, techno, rock, funk and a huge dose of prog rock to deliver a hugely entertaining and theatrical romp. The songwriting and musicianship are absolutely superb and the production levels are off the scale, not surprising with Sean Timms at the helm.
What makes the new album stand out from the steampunk influenced (well, to me at least) ‘Civilisation’ is the harder edge epitomised by Cam Blokland’s superb, fluent and, at times, extremely heavy guitar. Add in to this the addition of not one, but two sax players (Adam Page on tenor and Marek Arnold on soprano), SteveUnruh (violin and flute) and Amanda Timms (flute) and we are treated to a veritable cornucopia of musical delights. The rhythm section of Brody Green (drums, percussion) and Jez Martin (bass) are the definition of stylish solidity and provide a firm (but always funky) foundation on which the music can soar, and soar it bloody well does!
Opening track and first single Reaching Out, inspired by the very prevalent multi-verse stories being told in a lot of films and TV series lately, takes the ‘What if’ scenario and runs with it at breakneck speed. Staccato riffs, swirling keys and a thunderous rhythm section marry up with a superb chorus to deliver a frenetic four minutes of musical fun and games. It’s all about understanding how the choices we make can have a profound affect on our lives… good, bad and indifferent. After that hell for leather introduction to Shaun’s vocal talents (the chorus harmonies are brilliant!), things take a more epic scope with Face The Dawn which was inspired by a documentary that Sean saw about climbing El Capitan in Yosemite (I’ve seen it and I also share his fear of heights!). It’s a twelve minute plus epic about facing ones fears and is an epic that only Southern Empire could do, funky, edgy and melodic in turn, the Leprous style repetitive guitar riff is slick and polished and yet the glorious piano and violin section is as emotive as they come. The song twists and turns, sometimes at a ferocious pace and, at others, laid back and leisurely and Shaun’s vocals are perfectly balanced throughout. It’s a veritable monster of a song and one that leaves you breathless and with a smile on your face.
Written by Cam and with his soulful voice on lead vocal, Hold On To Me is about staying strong for someone else to help them through their pain and is full of passion and soul. Cam lays down a beautiful acoustic guitar and is backed with aplomb by Shaun’s vocals and guitar and Sean’s wistful piano note. It is powerful but a lot more stripped back than the usual SouthernEmpire fare in most places yet, when it does blossom into something potent and compelling, it does so with sheer elegance and sophistication. Without out a doubt, it is one of the best pieces of music that the band have produced. On When You Return Sean married the subject matter about possible life on other planets with a sort of love song to the creator of the universe. The track features a great narration from the wonderful Lisa Wetton (who also lays down some percussion on the track), the jury is out as far as Sean is concerned regarding life on other planets, but he remains open minded about it as much as he can. I really like the lively, energetic feel of this track, the funky guitar, bass and drums remind me of Extreme and Living Colour in places and the uptempo beat is just a joy to listen to. Monstrous riffing aplenty, Moving Through Tomorrow is, without doubt, the heaviest track on the album, I’m sure Cam’s riff is hewn out of granite and Shaun gives his most dynamic and potent vocal performance yet. It’s a song about defiance, about getting through the obstacles of life, daily challenges, being humble but not broken and surviving. At one point you hear Shaun sing, ‘An angry call to arms…’, and there is a controlled anger in the song, a bravado and boldness that gives it a rebellious edge. There’s some fabulous harmonies and soulful keyboards but, at its core, there’s definitive call to live our lives how we want to and attributing as much meaning to them as we can.
“The birth of an electric sun, The Earth-bed dry, the colours run Left confused, so dazed and lost, With no one left to count the cost…”
As already said, there’s no prog epic quite like a Southern Empire penned epic and in the eighteen minute plus White Shadows, we are treated to one of the best. A legacy to the band from Danny, who had the main inspiration for the track, it’s a bit of a post apocalyptic piece about survival through horrendous conditions and circumstances. Ultimately uplifting and hopeful, it’s about loss and working through that loss to come out the other side… not unscathed, but hopefully wiser, more compassionate and resilient. You go through a whole gamut of emotions in its extended running time, emotions brought about by the impressive mixing of musical styles. There’s a magnificent, cinematic, instrumental opening section that spans horizons and takes you on a widescreen musical adventure, like an Oscar winning movie soundtrack with a classical influence, Sean’s piano playing is particularly impressive. The track then moves into a heavy techno, electronic section before Shaun’s stentorian vocal enters the fray. Brilliantly melodic and aided and abetted by some glorious sax, it’s very jazzy feeling, if jazz got all bolshy and aggressive and, once again, the song has a really catchy chorus.
“White Shadows were all that remained, A pulse and a heart beat were lost in the flame, White shadows were all that I saw, A ghost from the past here no more, here no more…”
There’s some quite violent but addictive riffing and the sax gets to weave its sinuous spell around your mind before the mysterious, enigmatic second part of the song begins. There’s a building of anticipation, all created by the inspired music, Shaun’s vocals and the quite sublime saxophone.
“Like a flash of lightning he fell, Shine on brightly, say farewell, “I will return” he said with rage, “And then I’ll truly come of age”…”
A wistful, ethereal flute then hypnotises as part three begins, laid back and undemanding with another sumptuous vocal combination from Cam and Shaun, Cam’s low voice a perfect accompaniment to Shaun’s more powerful delivery. It’s a hugely impressive part of the song and one of the best parts of the album, full of passion, intensity and fervour.
“This illusion disappears in the light of inspiration… inspiration…”
Jazz fusion then takes over with a brilliant keyboard, bass and drum led section that could have come straight out of the mind of Pat Metheny before we come towards the end of the song and a repeat of the impressive chorus section before Cam’s thundering guitar ends things in primeval style.
“White Shadows have faded away, The pulse and the heart beat are beating again, White shadows dissolve into dust, Descend into darkness, their dreams turn to rust…”
After that pulsating, heart pounding experience, the album closes with Butterfly, another of Cam’s songs, and a bit of a quiet closer and palette cleanser. It’s about letting the ones you love live freely without constraint from ourselves and it soars with a delightful, uplifting energy. Cam’s vocals are dreamy and contemplative and the music has a playful feel to it, especially the dancing flute, it’s a thoughtful and reflective end to an hour of musical wonder and joy.
A Southern Empire record is always just more than an album release, it’s a hugely significant occasion and one that I await with bated breath. Their music has been a soundtrack of my more recent years and is very, very important to me on a musical and emotional level. ‘Another World’ is an absolute masterpiece of musical theatre and, possibly, the band’s Magnum Opus, one of the best albums you will hear this or any other year, and the perfect accompaniment to my life.