Review – Kansas – The Prelude Implicit – by Gary Morley

Kansas Album

Confessions time this review is proving trickier than I thought.

I discussed writing it with a friend who’s far more erudite… a transcript follows:-

Me: Morning. Am still struggling with Kansas CD, are you an expert in them?

Learned Friend: in what sense?

Me: I have listened to this new one 6 or 7 times now and it just glides over me,it just seems to get going and then fades into the ether

Learned Friend: not heard it, so I can’t say, are you reviewing it?

Me: Yes, For Wallet Emptier. They seem to straddle a fence between rock and Prog, neither one nor the other..

I’ve written the review twice and it’s still not my thing.

Bits have grown on me

But mostly yawn….

Learned Friend: just copy and paste this conversation, review done

Me: Good Plan – wonder if Martin would let me get away with it?

Learned Friend: How long do your reviews have to be?

Me: no limit. Never word counted them!

Learned Friend: are they the sort that has to dissect each track or can you just give an overall opinion on the album as a whole

Me: I can do whichever I wish, mine tend to wander around the field a bit as the album is on stage, more o f a feeling rather than a dissection. I can’t do the time signatures / minor major chord bollocks, It either grabs me or it doesn’t

Learned Friend: I hate the ones that go through the track list telling me which each track is like (especially when the album isn’t even out for me to check) – I just want the “good for a rainy day, great in the car” “man this sucks” kind of review. No time signature stuff is excellent! That stuff is for nerds and I don’t like the “I’d better say it’s good otherwise they won’t send me any more free CD’s” reviews either.

So, In the cause of balance and “No Free CD’s for a bad review” Here’s what I thought about Kansas’ new album:

Caveat emptor

I wrote about his album yesterday. It was more of a rant: I had decided I didn’t like it for the following reasons:

For not sounding like an American Waterboys (both bands feature violins in case you didn’t realise the comparison)

For sounding like the bastard offspring of REO Speedwagon and ELO.

For the singer whining on and on about nothing in particular, being more of a karaoke singer than a rock singer, more musical Theater than Dream Theater

But my computer is obviously wiser than me as it has “lost” that piece.

Probably for the best as it was incoherent, rambled on and offered nothing new.

Bit like much of the album the devil on my shoulder whispers maliciously, whilst the angel on the other shoulder says that I should play nice and talk about the bits that sound like Spock’s Beard (Instrumental break in track 4 , Rhythm in the Spirit) the track that I will be adding to my MP3 player ( Section 60)  Or the song that sounds like “Dust In The Wind” (Refugee)

That last one is playing now, it should be a heart breaking paen to the plight of the disposed, but the vocals make it sound as traumatic as having to wait for the green man to appear before crossing an empty road.

The vocal harmonies are trying to be emotive, but I must be a callus twisted person as I remain immune. The instrumental break is almost Celtic with the minor chords of the keyboards floating along with the violin , painting a sound picture of an empty road , whether a road to hell or a road to nowhere I am not able to decide as the track just stops.

The atmosphere is sucked out as quickly as the potatoes in the Martian when the habitiat decompresses. The result is just as catastrophic.

I’m thrown back into AOR bland land, this singer is good, but in the wrong band. Either that or I am missing something.



To me, great vocalists are individuals; you recognise them from the merest vocal hiccup or inflection. They are the living embodiment of the lyric. AS I mentioned before, this is more like an X Factor audition, all technique and no soul.

The band try hard , there are some nice interplays between violin, guitar and keyboard / orchestra on track 6, but it’s all very widescreen and a bit primary TV- pleasant, inoffensive and a wee bit formulaic.

Track 8, Summer, is a jaunt bouncy little tune, featuring another 3 way battle between guitar, violin and keyboards. Sadly, it lacks grit though, the singer again detracts from the feeling by sounding breathless and the lack of power in his voice let the side down.The lyric too is a bit wishy-washy. He warbles on about never regretting that summer. But doesn’t elaborate any further, so we can only speculate as to the trauma that caused him the regret – losing his paper round? Finding out that he would have to go back to school at the end of the holiday?

Once again, the track stops suddenly without warning, almost causing the following track to crash into it.

Another  3 minutes or so of vague pomp and we reach the only track that I think will get repeat plays – the rather strangely titled Section 60, starts as a middle paced power balled score, with the triple faced instrumental front line  swelling and building to a peak .

Here we have the big guitar moment, all dry ice and spot lit gurning, with the violin in counterpoint.

And this is the bit that gets me – as the music fades to a violin and a military snare drum cutting through and playing out to fade. No coda, no lyric, just this echoed drum pattern that fades into the night. It serves as a flicker of hope after the battle, poignant and powerful.

I get he image of the aftermath of a great battle, the drum and violin painting the silence after the bombast and fighting has ended, the smoke clears to show the dead, the dying and the small group of survivors banded together, walking off into the sunset.

Clichéd, yes, but then that’s this album through and through. It is anachronistic in that it could have been made in 1976 when the band were at the top of their game and  FM radio needed a steady supply of anthemic songs to power the great American dream.

Instead, here we are 40 years later and the rest of the world has moved on. I am sure that many will listen to this with the aural equivalent of rose tinted glasses, the music taking them back to that mythical summer of ’76.

If you liked Kansas then, you’ll probably love this – I sneaked a read at reviews on that tax dodging site – yes, the fans are claiming it as the second coming, so I’m going to annoy people again but it did nothing for me, failed to inspire . A C+ album if we graded such things.

Released 23rd September 2016

Buy ‘The Prelude Implicit’ direct from the band.


Review – Children In Paradise – Morrigan – by Gary Morley


Another day, another new treat via cyber mail from the wallet emptier.

This time, I chose the album on the basis of the beautiful artwork.

See what I mean?

So, as per standard operating procedure, I magically converted the ones and zeros Mr WE sent me and stuck them to  shiny metallic disc, inserted said disc into a receptacle in a black box with a single glowing eye, pressed the arrow and…

It unfolded into a musical tapestry that beguiled and enchanted in equal measures.

What Children In Paradise sound like – All about Eve meet Panic Room. Bjork and Lisa Gerrard guesting with Opeth. Iona, Dead can Dance with guitars… Nightwish, Panic Room, that whole Symphonic Rock , female fronted Prog metal thing that’s a staple of the European Rock diet, but with a Celtic twist.

This is a recent area of Prog / Rock/ Metal that I’ve been dipping the metaphorical toe in.

There are the angelic voices and big guitar parts as seems to be the recipe for all of the above. But whereas Nightwish go operatic and Wagnerian on you, The Children take the folk / Celtic route. That’s where the charm of this album captured me. It’s haunting, mellow yet has bursts of Death metal growls and big guitar riffs. But it also has delicate keyboards, melody and a wide soundscape to get lost in

If I labelled albums by feel and vibe, then this would fit in with Arjen Luccasson’s “Ambeon” Devin Townsend’s “Ghost” album, Luna Rossa’s “Secret & Lies”, White Willow’s “Ignis Fatuus”, or the Nordic Giants albums.

It mixes elements of Prog ( lots of understated guitar , very Pink Floyd in places) , elements of folk , straight forward head shaking boogie ( Part 2 Cu Chulainn Is Mine has a middle passage that cries out for air guitar and good ol’ Headbangin’ !) added to the mix are a smatter of  Metal guitar and crashing drums. Live, this would sound magnificent, the orchestral parts sweeping you away.


So, for the 5th listen I put on my nice shiny new headphones, and was transported into the land of the Children.

Alone opens with a big drum sound and a pulsing bass, choppy piano and possibly a harpsichord? The singer intones words pure of tone .As with most mp3 files, the sound is compressed to the disservice of the words, but the feel of the track is cinematic and the strings swirl, leading to a guitar layered piece with acoustic and electric parts jousting and combining to build the epic soundscape.

Lyrically, it sounds like a song of unrequited love, her waiting for him, offering to help him, telling him she waits for him, all she has to give is her love… She’s waiting for him to acknowledge and reciprocate…

I wait opens with voice and acoustic guitar, a plaintive song of longing, the protagonist’s lonely view echoed by the music with flutes or Celtic pipes making an appearance.

I’m Falling opens with the sound of either a tuba underwater or a very very angry wraith playing saxophone. Intriguing sample! Here we have a “cookie monster” growl, but it doesn’t intrude, on the contrary, it adds a sense of narrative to the piece, whether this voice is a force for good or evil in the story I’m not sure, but we seem to be at a tipping point with the middle section taking on a much heavier sound, big big riffs, thundering bass and a great flanged guitar solo.

The atmosphere invoked in the next track I Will Follow You is one of menace, the promise of following you more of a threat than a promise if you’ll forgive the pun.


Battle is looming at least it feels that way with the snare drum echoing as the guitar crash through the mix. Far from being a song of devotion, the declaration of “I will Follow “slipping through the music and into the next piece.

Here it’s all about waiting, a sunny feel with the pure voice and melody slowly being enveloped by darker chords, the menace builds as the track grows, This is the core of the album, a trilogy with the Metal side coming through with a huge guitar sound, lush strings and orchestration conveying the power and majesty of a full throttle rock band.

The voice is deep in the mix, centre stage but overwhelmed by the thundering battle all around it. The narrator still waits for them to come back to her through the battle and in part 3 it appears that even dying won’t stop the reunion, with her now pleading to come find you, never leave you, and that his is your nightmare – not sure if it’s being lost, being found or something worse, but the music drives on, a big big sound very nice it is too.


As you may have guessed, I like what is here.

I liked it so much that in the middle of writing this, I stopped, logged onto the Band’s website and ordered a bundle of both albums for 30 Euros…

Yea, the curse of Martin strikes again!

I also then discovered the nationality of the band, and thought C’est La Vie, a second Gallic Prog band, C’est Tres Bon!

I digress, tracks 9 & 10  , In My Mind  and He’s Dying are where the Celtic vibe comes to the front – For those of a certain age, think  Davy Spillane goes metal, or for those of you younger than the Century, the sound is very much in the feel of Troy Donockley (Iona & Nightwish)  . Uilleann Pipes mixed with guitars and a full throttle rock band. A Glorious noise indeed.

And then it stops, a cliff hanger ending. the song drives towards the cliff, the music fades and the haunting final phrase of I see the Light echoes and fades.

It’s not Prog in the pastoral Genesis lineage, this is darker, a twisted hybrid of Celtic roots, Hard Rock and Prog that takes  you on a journey through the landscape that’s more EM Escher or Tim Burton.

If “Game Of Thrones” was a concept album, these would be the people to make it.

Released 22nd February 2016

Buy ‘Morrigan’ from the band’s website


Review – Dream the Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky – by Gary Morley

Cover better

Modern prog…

Not the revival tent meetings slavishly recreating the sounds of a bygone age, but new, young bands pushing the envelope, bringing new influences to the table.

Elements of Indie, dub step and shoe gazing form part of the lexicon that Dream the Electric Sleep bring on their new album.

When I say “Indie”, it’s not the fey wimp with a guitar and a whisper type but the noise merchants of death approach taken by Ride, Spiritualized and those post rock bands that issue manifestos that take longer to decipher than their lyrics- Crippled Black Phoenix produce some fabulous music, but the band’s in fighting and fallouts make Fleetwood Mac’s antics seem tame. Justin Greaves has a chip on his shoulder about a lot of things, but his heart is in the right place and his stand on Animal Welfare is  brave and noble one that as a Vegetarian for 30 years I am in sympathy with.

So where do Dream the Electric Sleep fall?

Well, for a start it’s a stupid name. How are you going to widen your fan base when you call yourself after a bad double translation of a Philip K Dick novel?

And, yes, Androids do dream of Electric sheep. Electric sheep jumping over little digital gates.

Philip K Dick is THE author to name drop in the US, his books are all films or TV series or both it seems, so the origin of the name is sound, but c’mon. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big welcome to the headline act, Dream the Electric Sleep” doesn’t roll of the tongue. Not without hallucinogenic intervention anyway.

But what do I know. I was in a band once, for a whole gig. We called ourselves “The Mighty Airbag Re-inflated”. We were legends in our own break time (not brave enough to claim a whole lunch hour of fame)

Rob Dickes

(Picture by Rob Dickes)

So what do they sound like?

Well, imagine Coldplay getting so agitated that they throw away the rulebook, turn the amplifiers up to 11 and let rip with their best Muse impression.

Or Spiritualized get sucked into a studio and end up with Jem Godfrey as producer.

Frost* are the nearest equivalent I can associate them with , but there are echoes of “Antimatter” nihilism there, a splatter of Snow Patrol anthemic pop,  alongside the hints of a Coldplay type band under the guitars .

Another band that DTES linked to in my warped and twisted mind is (or was) Pure Reason Revolution. They share a common ancestral link back via shoe gazing bands that utilize layers and layers of echo and reverb to create cathedrals of sound that the vocalists then preach their sermons in.

The guitar sound folds over itself to create strata of harmonic distortion which drives the vocals on, not quite shouting, but not far off.


The ‘Sleepies’ are full of energy and write  songs that may not be complex 40 minute epics with numerous time changes, chord structures that require an excess of digits to replicate but they are still “Prog” , but in a modern style, mixing disparate elements and forging their path .

The path travels through the shoe gazing fields, along the path of indie, bypasses the swamps of instrumental excess, skirting around the chasm of death metal whilst aiming straight on for the Harmony Mountains.

In conclusion, if you like the idea of music that refuses to sit in a box with a neat label on it, if you like contemporary production values were the sum is greater than the parts, then take a listen.

It’s prog, but not just prog. It’s firmly in the post rock camp, deserving of the full attention of your ears.

I could go on and name drop Ulver, Nordic Giants, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and No Sound.

In fact, Kscope would be the ideal home for these guys as they fit nicely into that whole post rock constituency.

Featured image by L.A. Watson.

Released 22nd July 2016

Buy ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ direct from the band



Review – Mike Kershaw – What Lies Beneath – by Gary Morley


Mike Kershaw is a “Passenger”, or fan of Big Big Train, and we’ve met (in cyberspace) and our lives have been connected through their Facebook page.

I was invited to review this, Mike’s latest solo recording, by Martin Hutchinson, another Passenger whose life is a little more connected to mine in that we have had conversations: Exchanges of ideas and the like, in between him sending me albums to review and me handing in my homework.

So I transferred the files onto CD, placed it in the player and after sharpening my reviewer’s pencil, pressed play.

The following are the notes written as I listen, a running commentary if you will.

The first impression is that the drum sound is warm, jazzy and gentler than other recent Prog albums. There are none of the extraneous fills and beat s that detracted from Dream Theater’s recent excursion into Lloyd Webber land here.

I will research later, but the instrumentation on this is warm, organic and very “English”.

Mike’s voice is not a musical weapon of mass destruction, not chilling roars or over enunciated shouting here. The nearest comparable voice I can think of is Marianne Faithfull. His voice falters and cracks as hers does on “Broken English”, both frail and resilient at the same time. It adds to the charm of the piece as the voice makes the words even more personal and the deliver almost intimate, a rough take charm that grows as the album progresses.

Scott Smith Photography

(Picture by Scott Smith Photography)

The album hints at the great journey we are all on, unfolding and layered with detail that adds to the repeated listening pleasure. Track 2 starts off with a drum track that brought Dire Straits to mind, that simple shuffle beat underpinning the mix. Keyboards float above it, Mike’s voice is higher, almost childlike here. It’s always tricky to write about lyrics without the aid of a “cheat sheet” album cover present, so I tend to leave that to the end user (and the writing on CD inserts is not “People of a certain age friendly at all! That’s why we collect vinyl – to read the notes!)

There are chiming guitars; beautiful bass playing that had me thinking of the Cure at their most pastoral on track 3. The melodic force is strong in this one, the song growing, tide like before the chorus crashes on the shore, then fades and ebbs with lovely electric piano . We have a military drum beat and a ghostly choral backing that fades to voice and rhythm section.

Mr Kershaw, you are a very talented man. Songs that unfurl gently and reveal secrets, your folk singer delivery brings another point of reference here, The spirit of Roy Harper seeps through the 4th track, with it’s guitar textures and space between the component parts allowing the voice centre stage.

“Another disguise” is full of lovely slide guitar and swooping keyboards, this track is very Pink Floyd in it’s sound, warm guitar and icy keyboards over a solid drum part , again no pyrotechnics from  the players, the ebb and flow is complimentary to the lyric.

Or does it bring back memories of  The Enid circa 1981 that ? That period when RJG discovered vocals? There are hints of that too, along with a smatter of Dylan, Track 5 being a bouncy charmer, full of gruff guitar charm and a timeless vocal performance.


(Picture by Scott Smith Photography)

Track 6 starts with a gentle keyboard piece then we hear of the protagonist, who seems beaten by life, a frustrated individual trapped in some private hell. Kershaw’s words of rallying around a flag, joining a cause, whether wrong or right spookily poignant after recent events in Yorkshire that shocked one and all, here we have the plight of the loner , the isolated man captured in a 3 minute song.

I’ve played the CD 4 times now, each time it releases another little Easter Egg …

This time, Mike’s Voice on track 1 reminds me of Tim Blake (Hawkwind and solo artist) performing “Lighthouse” – half spoken, half intoned lyrics set to a jaunty, almost funky soundscape with keyboards coming at you from all directions. Lyrically it’s not a million miles from the anti war rhetoric of Hawkwind / Tim Blake /The Enid from the 80’s ( we were all going to die in a mushroom cloud caused by Reagan and Russia goes to war over Europe with tactical Nukes proliferating on both sides. Scary times, but produced some great music – “Who’s Gonna Win The War” & “ And Then there were none” being the two that this shares a common bond with.

This is the “Proggiest” track here, with some great synth lines at the conclusion sliding over your ears into your brain.

The more I listen, the less convinced that it’s Prog. Not in a derogatory way, but this album is full of songs, some great musicians playing to complement each other, most tracks are around the 5 minute mark, there are no dragons, anthropomorphic creatures, aliens or starships. No warriors on the edge or any vast inhuman machines keeping people in ignorance and servitude.

There are some glorious tunes, great instrumental pieces and a sense of warmth, almost organic well being generated through the listening experience.

It’s just good music, no matter which box you think it should be put in.

Mike has produced a fine album, a personal statement of where he sits in the musical pantheon and the world is a better place for his efforts.

Released 27th May 2016 by Bad Elephant Music.

Buy ‘What Lies Beneath’ from bandcamp


Progradar – 2016 – Best of the First Six Months


(Yours truly and Prog Guru™ himself)

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first official Progradar Reviewers and Friends ‘Best Of…’ feature.

I asked those who wished to contribute to cogitate over what great music they had heard, released 1st January to 30th June, in the first half of 2016 and come up with a list of their definitive five favourites.

Not an easy task, let me tell you but, here are the selections of nine (including me) erstwhile wordsmiths and friends, including a few words as to why these particular releases made the cut.


Emma Roebuck (Progradar reviewer)

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

This is Robin Armstrong on some amazing form.  I loved ‘Capacitor’ and I thought ‘Man Left in Space’ was a hard one to beat. I was clearly wrong and happy about it too. Robin is at his best when looking at the human condition when viewed through a less than regular lens. The mythology of Sisyphus and alien abduction combine to make such a lens.  I will treasure seeing his one and only live performance so far at Celebr8.3 fondly. The album is dark and melancholy which is the way I like my music to be honest.

This film might change your life and Relativity being high points in an album that is a mountain range of achievement.


Preacher – Aftermath

Their second album, and independently released like the Cosmograf album (and another 2 in my, selection if I remember rightly.) Preacher craft both songs and albums exceedingly well. ‘Signals’, the previous album, shows signs (poor, but unintentional, pun) of a band with tons to offer. They draw their roots from 70s Floyd and the melodic side of the genre.  It could be said that this is the album that Floyd should have released instead of ‘The Endless River’, I could easily agree but this is not that Floyd this is a band that use melody, harmony and song in a way that could go beyond the genre.

Stand out Tracks

War/ War reprise and Vinyl show how we look to emotions and actions and make things or deeds of them as people.


Drifting Sun – Safe Asylum

I was too young to be really aware of the genuine impact of the classic period of Prog rock. I caught the periphery in my early teens but felt no ownership of Yes, Genesis, VDGG, Floyd, Gentle Giant, etc only a serious attraction to the music as a 14 year old in 1975. In the early 80s, having ridden the horror that was punk, I remember seeing Marillion, IQ and Pallas in small pubs and clubs in 82 and it was a pure emotional and intellectual epiphany. It felt like I was hit in the heart and the brain with a piece of 2 by 4. I found home and ownership of music.  I liked ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’ immensely and when I heard this album I felt all those emotions again. I was in the Sheffield Limit club again hearing something of very high quality and I connected immediately to this music. It is Neo Prog of a very high standard.  They sound like themselves with echoes of the last 40 years resounding through the music.

Standout Tracks Intruder and DesolationRetribution.

Jump Over The Top Cover

Jump – Over The Top

I have been a fan of Jump for the best part of 21 years. It is the Classic rock society that I owe big style, not just for these but many others, in times of musical desolation.  I found my first sample of these by old school recognition and recommendation by word of mouth. Fast forward to many Jump gigs later, the new album ‘Over the Top’ comes out and it was ‘yes, get in!’. Some of the current live set had been used to fine tune some of the songs over the last 18 months or so and it shows. John Dexter Jones is a storyteller par excellence and the band are an excellent vehicle for those stories. The words are heartfelt and the music comes from the same place. If they lived in medieval times they would be the bards of old. The use of the past to illustrate the way of the world we live in now is the stock in trade here.

Stand out tracks, I want to say all of them but if I was to choose The Beach and the Wreck of the St Marie are those choices.


Kiama – Sign of IV

Just when you think you have Rob Reed figured out, Sanctuary, Magenta and so on, he does something out of the blue and blows the socks of you. Take good old rock sensibilities from the 60s and 70s, put them in the hands of some very talented individuals and they become a band which sounds like they have been a unit for years. I recently saw them support Frost* and wow, just wow.

This is a hybrid, musically drawn from the past in a very real sense, and is a homage to how they used to work but it does not feel like a tribute band in anyway.  It results in a multifaceted album of light and shade with some fantastic songs and heartfelt lyrics. It is some of Luke Machin’s best work outside of Maschine & Rubidium.  Rob Reed has a blast playing with sound and tone to create things like ‘Muzzled’, which is a tribute to the Floyd Album ‘Animals’, using the tones from the period to reflect the music and the time it came out. Dylans voice is amazing, we need more Kiama …

Stand Out Tracks  Muzzled and Slip away.


Leo Trimming – (Progradar and TPA reviewer)

Tales From The Bookcase Cover

Red Bazar – Tales From The Bookcase

This was my TPA’s review’s conclusion early in the year for this surprise package, and I’ve had no reason to change it since…

This is an excellent collaboration: Red Bazar have helped Peter Jones express more of his serious, darker side and also allowed him to display more vocal dexterity. In return Red Bazar have gained a talented and very fine rock vocalist who has added great lyrical skill and vocal feeling  to their own fine emotional musical palette…

This may be a bit of a dark horse, but Red Bazar may just have released one of the Prog albums of the year.

All Our Yesterdays cover

Matthew Parmenter – All Our Yesterdays

A favourite on two levels – it’s a great album of subtle artistry and fine music, and on another level the artist & his music  touched me personally. My Progradar review concluded:

Matthew Parmenter has stepped aside from the magnificent, gothic group dynamic of Discipline to create a solo work of art suffused with dramatic shades and emotional lyricism, conveying tragedy and hope. This is an album that is likely to captivate and beguile with subtlety and delicate emotion. It certainly gave me unexpected comfort – Inside.’

BEM023 cover

Nine Stones Close – Leaves

A darkly trippy and psychedelic album. Part dream, part nightmare – this is an album for which repeated listens gradually unpeal the layers, like all the best progressive releases. My Progradar review observed:

Nine Stones Close create rich musical landscapes suffused with a sense of the dramatic and psychedelic… They do not stick to their old formula and want to progress. My advice is stick with these guys because you are never quite sure in which direction their songs or this albums may turn, but it sure is an imaginative and fascinating ride!’


Big Big Train – Folklore

A much anticipated release does not disappoint as the album describes modern folklore, ancient legend, elegies for lost love and epic stories of heroism and loss … plus bees (!) in a rich tapestry of folk tinged progressive rock. Lyrically intelligent and insightful, conveyed with integrity and emotion, and played with consummate skill and passion. Impossible to ignore – we all sort of knew it would be great. Of course it’s great!

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Simply stunning. Robin Armstrong has imagined a rich narrative of alien incursion (or paranoid breakdown?!) with sonic brilliance. The imaginative story is unnerving, whilst the music is captivating on a human level but cinematic in scope – ranging from crunching Purple riffs, through atmospheric acoustic passages to sweeping Floydian soundscapes. Undoubtedly, major contender for Album of the Year already from one of the best Progressive Rock artists of this generation.


Gary Morley – (Progradar reviewer)

HAWKWIND The Machine Stops

Hawkwind – The Machine Stops

Everything that Hawkwind evoke distilled into one disc. Great musicianship, tunes and tons of atmosphere make this the top of the pops for me. It’s been a long time since a Hawkwind album had such a buzz about it. Biggest regret – that I missed the live shows. Biggest hope – a proper live blu-ray & CD set is coming.


Preacher – Aftermath

Prog at it’s best for me needs a driver. Preacher use guitars. Proper guitars like your dad waffles on about when he talks about Pink Floyd, Steve Hillage, Jimmy Page and that time he watched Rory Gallagher play for 3 hours at the Hexagon Theatre and your mum was drinking pints and ended up paralytic, singing along to “Wayward Child” sat on his boss’s shoulders…


I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time

Local boy’s debut embraces everything that is good about music. It has great tunes, off the wall lyrics and subjects that place it head and shoulders above most of what passes for modern music from the under 30’s. I’m looking forward to their next offering, be it a live gig in Reading or more music.


Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

‘The Clockwork Fable’ is a Steam punk opera, like a space opera or a soap opera but without the bad romance and dodgy backdrops.

I loved the variety of musical genres used to tell a totally bonkers tale of clockwork suns and steam powered boys looking for missing cogs in a giant machine all played out in a cavernous underground city. There are rock tracks, some great drumming, some “epic” prog , some plaintive melodies and a host of guest vocalists and musicians, all of which add to the mix without overegging the lily.

The first time you listen you get sucked into the world presented here. It’s a Post apocalyptic, dark dystopian world but there are flashes of humour and the absurdity does not detract from the sheer brilliance of the effort here.


Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

“left over’s” from ‘Hand .Cannot .Erase’ these track might have been, but as a snapshot of Mr Chuckletrousers ( © Angus Prune I Think) and his Zeus like stature in the modern Prog pantheon  this is sublime in its perfection. Hints of Zappa referencing impossible “stun guitar”, epic soundscape that demonstrate his skill as an arranger and bleak yet beautiful lyrics are all wrapped in a package that sticks 2 fingers up at the download and go generation. This is a quality production in every detail, lovingly constructed and presented for your pleasure.

Shawn Dudley

Shawn Dudley – (Progradar reviewer)


Messenger – Threnodies

It took several spins for this album to truly work its magic on me, but once hooked it just won’t let me go.  A beautifully organic record, informed and powered by vintage sounds but not a slave to them.  The tastefully arranged guitar work on this album is a particular highlight.  Favorite tracks:  Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres. 


Haken – Affinity

Haken leaves the 1970s sounds of ‘The Mountain’ behind, makes a brief stop in the 1980s for the song 1985 and then ventures forward into the future on Affinity.  An endlessly inventive collection of intricately designed and passionately performed pieces it’s one of the most thrillingly forward-looking albums of 2016.  It’s time to drop the “Prog Metal” genre tag, these guys have transcended it.  Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant


Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

Purson’s follow-up to ‘The Circle And The Blue Door’ is essentially a solo album from Rosalie Cunningham who wrote, arranged, produced and performed the majority of D.M.T. herself.   A conceptual psychedelic journey influenced by her Father’s record collection and her own experimentation with mind-expanding substances.  Another case of an artist using the canvas of vintage instrumentation and production techniques to create very personal and unique modern music.   Favorite tracks:  The Sky Parade, The Bitter Suite.


Big Big Train Folklore

Another beautiful collection of immaculately arranged and produced “pastoral prog” from this master collective of musicians.  I recommend going for the extended track-list available on the LP and High-Res download editions, I believe an even stronger collection than the shorter CD version.  Favorite tracks:  Salisbury Giant, London Plane


Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A wonderfully quirky concoction of pop sensibility, progressive experimentation and the harmonic sophistication of jazz all mixed together into a thoroughly accessible brew.  And it’s fun!  Favorite tracks:  I Am Lost, I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait.


Roger Trenwith – (TPA reviewer and Astounded by Sound blog)

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Bent Knee – Say So

An unparalleled triumph of invention, melody, and strangeitude, it will take some beating for album of the year.


David Bowie – Blackstar

Hardly seems right relegating this poignant artistic statement and full stop on a career of a true visionary to No.2, but from a purely musical point of view, them’s the breaks.


Knifeworld – Bottled Out OF Eden

A chronicle of loss leavened by hope, Knifeworld get better with each release. Criminally underrated.


Body English – Stories of Earth

Is there a sub-genre called “prog-pop”? If not, this is it. A truly joyous record shining a light in this dark Year of Stupid.


King Crimson – Live In Toronto – Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto, Canada, 20th November 2015

Whatever I put here means leaving out at least half a dozen albums equally as good, so this came out on top after a complicated mathematical randomisation process involving dice, incantations, dead frogs, toads, and copious amounts of single malt. The mighty Crim remake, remodel like no-one else. The version of Epitaph will make you shiver, unless you have no soul. Superb!


Kevin Thompson (LHS) – (Progradar reviewer)


Big Big Train – Folklore

Does this really need a reason?, best of the Band’s excellent output so far and an album that will always be on my desert island disc list. As near to perfect as it gets…


Long Distance Calling – Trips

There are so many bands in this area of music it’s hard to stand out, but, on this release, Long Distance Calling have…..


Gandalf’s Fist – The Clockwork Fable

A tremendous 3 disc concept package of such quality. Never been better value for money and shames the bigger bands!!


Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

A delicately beautiful album from this Russian duo added further poignancy with the heartfelt vocals from Mariusz Duda on the title track.

Cover Album low res

Downriver Dead Men Go – Tides

Another band who came recommended and I’d not heard before buying. Slow, dark and emotional, this Dutch band surpassed my expectations.


David Elliott – (Prog Guru™, TEP, Bad Elephant)


Lazuli – Nos Âmes Saoules

There is nothing else quite like them, and they keep on going from strength to strength….

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Bent Knee – Say So

My first exposure to this amazing American band…genuine innovators, and hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck exciting!!


The Dowling Poole – One, Hyde Park

Unashamedly unoriginal, but huge fun, and immaculately crafted. Big smiley music.


Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Banging tunes, a great groove, and more bassoon!!


Frost* – Falling Satellites

A great return to the arena from the masters of modern progressive. Progressive rock with pop sensibilities – what’s not to like?

John Simms

John Simms – (Progradar reviewer, Rev Sky Pilot blog)


Big Big train – Folklore

Consistently turning out excellent pastoral English progressive music, BBT have hit the motherlode again with this suite of songs celebrating the British folkloric tradition. From the sublime beauty of ‘Transit’ to the quirky tale of ‘Winkie’ the Pigeon, this is music of the highest calibre.

IoK cover

Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge

This, for me, is simply the best music anyone connected with Yes has produced since ‘Awaken’. It draws on the bestaspects of Yes and Flower Kings and produces something sublime and beautiful. It was a very close call between my Top 2.


Southern Empire – Southern Empire

One of the up sides to Unitopia folding a few years ago is that we now have both UPF and Southern Empire to carry on the legacy. This is a fine collection of melodic progressive rock music, exhibiting high levels of virtuosity and songmanship.


Knifeworld – Bottled Out of Eden

Another band with a unique style and approach to music making. This is a wonderful follow-up to ‘The Unravelling’ and Kavus and his band of minstrels continue to delight.

BEM021 album cover

Mothertongue – Unsongs

The best music is that which stands out from the crowd, and Mothertongue certainly do that. Ecclectic, bizarre, unexpected and bonkers, this is a wonderful collection of (un)songs.


And finally my thoughts, this selection of five albums was incredibly difficult to pick but I’m pretty certain that, at this moment in time, it is my definitive top five!!!

BEM021 album cover

Mothertongue – Unsongs

With its incisive, intelligent lyrics and first-class musicianship, Unsongs is unlike anything you will have heard in recent years. The music will lead you on a roller-coaster journey of acid jazz inventiveness that’s a big heap of noisy and light and also includes a lot of brass because everyone likes brass, right? A musical breath of fresh air that you will return to again and again, it’s just brilliant!


Big Big Train – Folklore

The acknowledged masters of pastoral progressive rock and intelligent and incisive storytelling return with a fresh collection of tales gleaned from our heritage and history. With their penchant for heartfelt lyrics and beautiful music it is an involving and mesmerising journey that everyone should take at least once in their life.

Cover 2

Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence

Thought provoking, questioning and inventive, ‘The Unreasonable Silence’ has all that I ask for in my music. A well constructed and intelligent concept brought to reality by a gifted musician with incomparable support from some incredible guests. It makes you really think about what you have heard and, above all, is a peerless, outstanding and incomparable listening experience that you will not forget any time soon.


Iamthemorning – Lighthouse

‘Lighthouse’ is an amazing musical journey from the first note to the last. It is bewitching and beguiling and removes you from your everyday life to a place of wonder. Darkly captivating, it is not all sweetness and light but is a musical legacy that iamthemorning can build on and the ‘Lighthouse’ can light the way. These two exceptional artists have now moved into the major leagues and it is well deserved, album of the year? why not!

Tilt Album

Tilt – Hinterland

A superb album by a cast of very accomplished musicians. Brilliant vocals, burning guitar solos, a thunderous rhythm section and songwriting of the highest quality combine to deliver one kick ass release that I keep returning to again and again. By the way, three of these guys are better known as Fish’s backing band but, oh my god, have they risen well above that soubriquet now….

So, there you have it, a small selection of our own, very subjective, opinions on what has been the best music of a highly impressive first six months of 2016. You may agree, you may not but, one thing that everything agrees on is that the music just keeps getting better, and long may it continue!!














Review – Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge – by Gary Morley

IoK cover

This could get messy. I’m tasked with scribbling a few lines about the upcoming journey into the “Y” Universe undertaken by 2 legends, Prog heroes that 99% of you reading this know more about than me. Yes, it’s part of “That” band’s DNA, as expected. It shares that “Y” chromosome, with the “X” supplied by the Flower King and his court.

I’d say that it distils the “Yes”sence, the very DNA of that home world and that if the CD underwent a Paternity test, the answer would be in the affirmative.

It could be a fragile creature born in the heart of the sunrise, floating on silent wings of freedom. It could be the owner of a lonely heart…

Oops sorry about that. That’s too easy and a cheap shot. Jon Anderson is a unique and individual vocalist and sounds like, well, Jon Anderson no matter what the setting and here it’s on a grand scale. Mister A and Mr S, with help from Mr R have created a great sounding album that deserves to be played loudly through proper speakers. I am willing to bet that the vinyl sleeve will be at least a gatefold, probably a triptych of Roger Dean Acid fried surreal dreamscapes, and such is the warm 70’s vibe that even the mp3 files radiate.

There are ethereal voices, orchestras, layers of guitar and Big church organs, all heralding back to the heydays, the golden summers of the seventies, when Prog was king and boys (and girls) sat, rapt at the feet of the minstrels playing and singing for them.

The music takes you to this parallel place, you get lost in the swirl of words and notes. The language is a familiar one, but the meaning? Well, “be nice to each other on your journey” seems to be the best my babel fish can provide after listening a couple of times.

To be honest, it’s the whole rather than the sum of the parts that we are celebrating here.

I could break it down, track by track, note by note but I’m neither anal enough nor knowledgeable enough to try.

It’s a thing of beauty, ethereal and floaty. It’s the joy of living rather than documenting. More abstract art than selfie.

Timeless, resonant with that which has gone before, there are echoes of the old- that warm semi hollow body guitar sound, the thunderous bass runs, the big church organ that all go to make up the language of the affirmative.

There are also flashes of the other parents – those vocal harmonies, that guitar sound, that break with just bass and keyboards- Very Flowery, but ultimately this is a celebration of a particular band, and it works beautifully.


The first time I played it, it was a grey and cold day and the warmth of the music felt at odds with my mood. Today, it’s bright, sunny and hot and the ambience suits the music, it feels “right” for  summer’s day. The perennial optimism of the lyric lifts the soul, although the deeper meaning passes me by, I get a feeling, rather than a definite statement.

At the final analysis, this is a labour of love, the sounds and vibes are faithful to the era that it celebrates. However, I must confess that the excesses of the period that allegedly spawned punk are echoed here, with it all merging into a body  of work that works on one level, but it’s a bit like angel delight. Tastes good, you get stuck in and before you know it, you’ve overindulged and are suffering from indigestion. There are some lovely parts – A lovely piano piece at the climax of Everybody Heals has just caused me to pause from scratching this to listen to it in full, but this album has that marmite potential. Part of me loves it, but another part says to the inner 15 year old that there is more to life than gatefold sleeves, Science Fiction tinged lyrics and everything including the kitchen sink tracks.

So, hit or myth? I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with this album. It is particular exercise in nostalgia for a world that I was just too young to be a part of, an elder brother’s world whereas I was the eldest. I tried. At the time I adored “Going for the One”, the first album I remember hearing / buying by Yes. I’ve filled the gaps in my collection sporadically over the years and this will join them on that shelf. It will get played, I am looking forward to seeing the artwork and hearing it in its full uncompressed digital glory, but I’ve moved on and whilst the inner 15 year old me will be enraptured, 40 years of exposure to the world outside of Yes means that the modern me will wax nostalgically for the world that this invokes, encourage the artists to be true to their muse by purchasing their efforts and accept that I’ve moved on.

Yes world – a great place to visit, but would I want to live there? I’m an urban dweller now, flouncing around slaying dragons, tripping away across summer meadows to the minstrel’s tune is a dream of an Arcadian land that I’m a stranger in. It’s an aspirational holiday destination; one that for the duration of your visit is perfect as it’s totally removed from day to day living.

Released 24th June 2016 – Europe, 8th July 2016 USA/ROW.

Buy ‘Invention of Knowledge’ from Inside Out

Review – Preacher – Aftermath – by Gary Morley


The wallet emptier complained that I’d not done my homework. Where was my review?

Ah… Don’t own a dog so cannot claim that it ate it.

Can’t claim I left it on the bus.

So , honesty being the best policy, I confessed to not having the time to listen – all these new albums venturing out into the world, taking their first steps to fame and fortune and a place in  the queue ( sorry Andy Tillison, I’m sure that’s a copyright infringement J )

So, being a good listener I volunteered to listen to “Aftermath”, the second album from Preacher. I confess I volunteered for this based on having just watched the pilot for the Amazon TV series of the same name and Martin mentioning that they were a bit Floydian.

A Bit Floydian-That’s more music to my ears.

And there are touches of Gilmour and crew throughout this musical book. There are also echoes of Demon too, especially in the vocals.

Keeping up with the Floydian similes, Roger Waters’s influences abound, both in vocal phrasing and in lyrical dexterity.

Preacher– I’m not too keen on the name. Remember all those NWOBHM “ER” bands? No? Exactly. The Urban legend of the curse of the “ER” band name strikes fear in those of us that lived through that era.

But then, Gandalf’s Fist? Spock’s Beard? Who am I to judge a name?  A rose still smells, no matter what it calls itself.

Anyway. Should you buy this album? Do you like a big expansive drum sound? Nice piano playing? Killer guitar hooks and proper solos? You do, Then stop right there.

Go to Bandcamp.




Preacher 2

The songs are not long in a ‘Supper’s Ready’ time frame, but they grow and breathe and unfurl over 5 minutes or more. You are taken on a journey with the sound; there are choirs, drums and beautiful soaring guitar lines on the opener that invite the Pink Floyd comparisons.

This is not the slavish cloning of PF, but an Airbag style exploration in that universe. If Hollywood can reboot films, or just remake them and people accept it, then there is more than enough room for Preacher to exist and if they produce music of this quality, then they deserve your money.

Welcome To The Fray continues further into the black hole at the centre of The PF universe, with a rhythmic vibe lifted from “Echoes”, and layered over this is a guitar solo that Mr G would be proud of. This is “Welcome to the Machine” rebooted with even more anger, almost a punk snarl from the vocalist. There is a sense of menace from the way the track builds, I would love to this live as I can picture the band getting locked into the groove and funking it up. Yes, Prog goes funky here, it’s all in the drumming. I’m not a musician, and it’s hard to explain without doing the “sounds like” sketch, but the rock solid groove with the chopping guitar over it, the angelic female voices… bliss. Shame it fades as I could listen to that groove for a lot longer.

The PF ambiance only hit home on the third listen as I started typing this rubbish.

It’s a lazy and almost stereotypical reviewer tactic to list the influences that spring to mind as you want people to relate to where the music you listen to takes you. So let me play join the dots with the tracks

Preacher take me back to my youth, when I was discovering new bands, new albums at a vast rate.

War evokes the band Demon and their album “The Plague”.  It’s the vocals that trigger this memory, resonant and on the edge of a scream, but never out of tune, a classic “rawk” performance. The song grows from a military snare drum, with layers being added to evoke the atmosphere, then that voice comes in. It’s the calm before the storm moment, Imagine “Soldier of the Line” by Magnum meeting “The Plague” by Demon. That’s the vibe.

Hold On is the big ballad. A blast of guitar heroics, very Francis Dunnery in tone and feel, but with that Roger Waters soundscape under it . Another ‘Play Loud’ track.

Vinyl, is a punkier, more aggressive band. All angular guitars and angst gripped emotion. Rallying against the music business might not be a great career move for a signed band , indentured to a multinational conglomerate, but the band are outside of that, like a lot of bands today, forced to “Do It Yourself” It’s not punk , it’s post punk, or “new wave” with an amazingly deep drum sound and more guitars swirling around .

Sleep, if we are playing our “spot the influence” is very Roger Waters / Final Cut , a big powerful song  of desperate longing. I loved “Final Cut” and love this track for evoking it. The protagonist tells of waking from the same dream every night. A dream of “visitors”, his friends that he wants to return. Are They Aliens? Lost loved ones? Who knows?  The beauty of this album is that the words wash over me , I acknowledge them on one level, but it’s the guitar that takes centre stage.. I always was a sucker for a good guitarist. Some might sat a bit too David G at the climax of this track, but I loved it.

Vision is back in the Pink Floyd/ Alan Parsons / melodic universe where the melody is strong and the craft of song writing is not relegated to a pile of repeated phrases and earworms.

The song grows and grows and the accompaniment reflects this. You know that there is going to be an epic guitar break any minute now… there’s a dramatic pause and the song is turned through 90 degrees and we embark on a piano led diversion out into the country before a squeal of guitar drags us back to a funky little place on the edge of prog  town where the band kick up a storm .The coda demonstrates the “chops” of the band nicely with great guitar and piano to the ending choir of joy.

preacher 3

Next up, we have Always, a slower, more mature vibe, the drums drive this remorselessly before we all stop, a solitary guitar line then cues the return of the drums and a joyful organ, combining to lay a bed of notes for the long awaited guitar solo . Which delivers? Not in a too many notes to count shredding battle, but in a stark white light, head back, foot on monitor show stopping blast of sonic joy. This I want to see live. I get a blast of Prince, at one with his guitar at the Climax of “Purple Rain”, Francis Dunnery coaxing pure emotion out of his start at the climax of “You’ll Never Go To Heaven” too. It’s a real hair on the backs of your arms emotion.

And it leads us to War reprise – a big slab of guitar setting out the framework for a sonorous vocal performance that is intense and full of depth and emotion. It’s a climatic point, with big Led Zeppelin Levee style drums under a guitar and keyboards piece that deserves to be played loud through speakers, played loud enough that the neighbours can hear the emotion in every note.

This is the big guitar solo on an album that oozes classic guitar shapes and colours. The acoustic guitar is the bedrock of Always. Another strong vocal performance, but I must mention those drums. This track has a real “live feel to the drumming, it add a further layer of flavour that come s from a real band playing in a room at the same time.

There, a lazy review to an album that’s anything but lazy.


The CD arrived today and sounds even better.

One caveat. The track listing is not as per the sleeve or Bandcamp. For reasons that are beyond me, “Sleep”, track 5 on the cover and the Bandcamp page is actually track 7 on the CD. With my Mental map adjusted, I’m now listening to the CD .At Volume. It sounds terrific. Swirls of synthesiser, thumping drums and awesome guitar . Yes , It’s Prog, but with guitars set to stun , Blue Oyster Cult style.

Released 2nd April 2016

buy ‘Aftermath’ from bandcamp

Review – Hawkwind – The Machine Stops – by Gary Morley

HAWKWIND The Machine Stops

Hawkwind. Ah, Hawkwind.

They have formed part of my musical DNA. An alien strand possibly, but a strand nevertheless.

I’ve been a technician on Space ship Hawkwind since hearing ‘In Search of Space’ back in time.

Whilst at college, we scoured second hand shops for copies of ‘Space Ritual’, fantasised about getting hold of a copy of ‘Captain Lockheed’, dreamed of seeing them live and snapped up bootleg cassettes at Record Fairs.

Over the years they remained a firm favourite; I bought albums on vinyl, saw them live (‘Chronicle of the Black Sword’ tour and at Reading Festival), upgraded the collection to CD and followed their musical journey as they ploughed their way through space and time.

That journey has now taken a trip into the universe of top 40 albums with ‘The Machine Stops’, based on a 100 year old dystopian fable written by EM Forster.

When  you are in the business of the future, 100 year old novellas seem counter intuitive  but the concept of humans living isolated from each other, communicating indirectly and having all their needs met by the ubiquitous machine is as relevant today as ever it was.

This relevance has struck a chord with the people that buy Hawkwind. Hard core fans (Hawknerds) have elevated the art of supporting the band to a new level, with communal weekends; events and building on the bands counter culture philosophies to construct their own world. A world that intersects with the “normal” one in the shape and fabric of this album.

And it’s a cracking piece of art. From the disturbing cover (David Lynch does Red Dwarf) you know that this is a serious concept album.

Luckily, the music is able to match the lofty concepts that the story evokes.


If you’ve heard Hawkwind, you know what you’re going to hear. Synths burble, guitars and bass crackle and paint a vivid canvas for the lyrics to tell their story.

The album starts with a great little piece, All Hail The Machine that sets the bleak scene of the machine as benevolent dictator and god, satisfying all the protagonist’s needs. It evokes memories of the classic “sonic attack” piece from ‘Space Ritual’, with its angular narration and call and response coda.

We then rip into a Hugh Lloyd Langton style guitar riff and an up-tempo Hawk rock piece, simply titled The Machine

As with all dystopic tales, the status quo is soon in question, with the bleak reality being unveiled through the next hour.

The machine’s descent into erratic dysfunction and the effects on the people is told through the various tracks, using the entire musical palette that 40 years of invention can bring to bear.

You get post industrial percussive tracks that would give Test Dept a run for their money, those synths painting broad swaths of sound , crunchy guitars to please the Metal heads  , energy and attitude to satisfy the punks drawn to the anti establishment myth of Hawkwind.

They also were the forerunners of the Ambient and post rock movements , all of this goes in the mix , the end result is a fine album that sounds stunning, lyrics that were not scribbled on a fag packet  and a story worth the effort the band have spent in putting the package together.

The Hawkwind that made this album sits alongside the band that made ‘Levitation’, ‘Astounding Sounds’ and ‘Hawklords’ all of which still sound as good today as they did when first released.

The album is best consumed as a whole, either through a “real” hifi or good headphones. There are some fabulous details in this musical canvas that deserve the benefits of a good set of speakers, notably the gorgeous synth washes and chirrups in Katie, a nice little instrumental interlude that leads into King of The World, which utilises that great Eastern type vibe the Hawkwind developed with ‘Hassan’ / ‘Assassins of Allah’ on their legendary ‘Quark, Strangeness & Charm’ album, mixed with the driving mantra of ‘Psychedelic Warlords’.


I’m referencing old Hawkwind in celebration of this new incarnation. It’s the band’s DNA reproducing itself down through the corridors of time. The echoes of great men departed are all over this album. Calvert, Lemmy, Dik Mik, Simon House, The Late Hugh Lloyd Langton all have helped shape this sound and it is more than the sum of its parts. In my Room shares a melodic opening with ‘Zarozinia from ‘Chronicles of The Black Sword’, another great Hawkwind literary album based on the ‘Elric Chronicles’ written by their long time fan / collaborator, Michael Moorcock.

As you may have picked up on, I’ m a bit of a SF fan and Hawkwind were always the most SF leaning of bands, followed by Blue Oyster Cult in my reckoning.

That post industrial percussive Test Dept feel is heard at the start of Thursday which also features founder and sole original member, Dave “The Captain” Brock steering Spaceship Hawkwind through this mid paced number splashed with artificial beats and hammerings echoing through the golden void.

In conclusion, this album sums up Hawkwind for the uninitiated without alienating the hard core Hawknerd fan. There are, as with all their recent albums, echoes of their past reverberating through the threads, but this adds to the feeling of “belonging” that it encourages.

The band has just completed a well received and visually spectacular UK tour with a stage show based around this album. The reviews have been great, I’m amazed at the love for a 40 year old institution that was always outside the norm and thrived in the space between.

Hawkwind, with this album have stopped being a shared secret cult and become an institution for all the right reasons.

Released 15th April 2016.

Buy ‘The Machine Stops’ from Cherry Red Records/Esoteric



Review – The Rube Goldberg Machine – Fragile Times – by Gary Morley

Fragile Times

Listening to The Rube Goldberg Machine and I’m transported back to the halcyon days of the Summer of ’77. The energy and fizz on their debut takes me back to that much quoted “year zero” of music.

Which, in my humble opinion,was not a year, or even  two , but a gradual realisation that “punk” was a gimmick and the talented musicians were those producing “new wave” or  “post punk”. After the initial media “sturm und drang” of those naughty Sex Pistols boys being sweary on National TV , “Punk” became a tabloid fad.

Post Punk – where Mancunians discovering sequencers, New York loft dwellers discovering duelling guitars and Trustafarians in waiting discovering reggae.We were all touched by the “punk” paint. I grew up in Swindon. We had XTC ,they embodied this brave new world, mixing Punk energy with New York brittle guitar and dub bass lines.

Band PR pic
The Rube Goldberg Machine would have slotted between XTC and Television in my small but tasteful collection back then.

There are also some very Floyd / Porcupine Tree sounds here too, the title track has a very PT vibe, all jazz bass and restrained vocal, Roger meets Steven and they put the world to rights over the course of the track, managing to fit in a tasteful piano and guitar interlude, a solo and a coda with a very acoustic refrain which added another band to the list that they link to in my head– The Decemberists. This track could be fitted into ‘The Crane’s Wife’ set without a seam.

The next piece, In Symmetry, continues in this Folk / Prog vein, mined so well by The Decemberists.

It’s not bucolic English Folk Prog from the books of Tull and Fairport, but the more widescreen Small Town American folk/ Roots world, all Decemberists literate and Big Head Todd Bluesy.

Music does this to me. My head joins the dots between bands. I still think like a DJ / producer. If you like this track, then listen to these people. Bought that? Then you should proceed to this point and listen here.

Television influence the swirling twin guitar sound, all sinuous leads attacking and counterattacking each other.

The introduction of track 7 (Times Square), an instrumental tour de force of guitar layers  definitely makes me want to go and dig out my ‘Marquee Moon’ album, or to be more precise, Richard Lloyd’s post Television masterpiece ‘Fields Of Fire’:

Sorry about that. If the Wallet Emptier allows that clip, then you get the idea of where my head went whilst listening to the album…..

I’d detail more tracks but this is an album that plays as a whole, the mood and structure of the sounds entice you into their world, a bit bleak, a bit miserable seeming, but never dull, always guiding you through their labyrinth with atmosphere and melody.

As well as this Post Punk vibe, there are excellent vocal harmonies, a sprinkling of electronics and all wrapped in a clean mix that allows their stories told here to capture the listener and take you into the machine.

In the machine there is a Captain sat nursing a drink playing a card game which he wants to lose so he can blast off into space, he seems ambivalent about the quest but more concerned about his cards!

Band Bio Pic

The last track is not a million miles from Mr Chuckle Trousers in feel, a gorgeous melody with layers of cymbal thrashing behind the mix, all about a man afraid of “my own shadow”, scared of heights and being haunted by life in general .This is very HCE territory, but  those guitars weave a spell of almost Crimson intrigue. The track builds to an “epic” climax with the guitar taking up the  mantle and swopping and soaring.

Did he fly? Did he crash? You decide.

All the tracks are short, sharp shocks, none of this twenty minute epic school of thought here. KISS song writing – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Hooks abound, the songs feel that they will come across well live, there they can flex their wings and let it all go.

In conclusion, it is another fine album from Bad Elephant.

At this rate I may just send David Elliot a standing order. Is there a loyalty card? Do we get stickers?  A Panini album of BEM artists with a special scratch’ n’ sniff page for Tom?

Released 1st April 2016.

Buy ‘Fragile Times’ from the Bad Elephant music site



Review – I Am The Manic Whale – Everything Beautiful In Time – by Gary Morley


The school of Prog has a new swot or 4.

This collective of cetaceans are young & hungry and have absorbed the last 40 years of music , digested it and produced this nugget of ambergris.

Like that semi mythical product, this is rare and smells a bit in places, but that’s part of the charm.

As you listen to the opening shot across the bow, Open Your Eyes, the years roll away. I think back to first hearing It Bites floating across the ether, then there’s a blast of Moon Safari vocal harmony, some Queen influenced guitar harmonics, all are mere constituents, base ingredients that the perfumer uses to weave a complex and pleasing fragrances that mature as they are exposed to warmth and skin.

I’m not suggesting that this CD be listened to naked, but the warmth and sheer joy it contains would have saved Baron F a fortune in electricity bills.

It starts with the most “Prog” intro – Piano, treated guitar and a drum beat underneath it, a time change sneaks in before the first words. The voice is young, kicks with a mighty tune, chorus and a thundering gallop through verse, chorus, instrumental flourishes falling by the wayside as it speeds up , before leaping up and into the night.

When ( rather than if) they decide to dip their collective appendages into the water of live performances, this is the show opener, a statement of intent topped off with a guitar solo and piano counterpoint that many bands twice their collective age would sell relatives for.

It’s not breaking new ground, has a warm familiar feel, but that’s a positive , a hook to hang the rest of the album on. It’s Prog Jim, but enthused with harmony, a tune with a great melody and a sense of a great journey just starting.

In short, a perfect debut album opener.

Pages next, an epic story that starts with Monks studiously hand writing the words , we then get the industrialisation of printing, the typesetter as revolutionary, the advent of mechanical printing, words freed up to spread by typing , all under pinned by the loftier concept of information freedom and intellectual emancipation ringing through the ages. The story flows as the years go by, then a gentle pause illustrated by an acoustic foray into BBT /Jethro Tull land, with a gentle melody that then repeats with electric amplification, underlining the journey that we have been taken on.

The piano here is gentle and refined; acting as a bridge to modern ideas of machines writing the word, the “big idea” that information being transmitted freely could change the world for the better.

band 2

As if to then reinforce that idea, the next track relates a thoroughly modern situation, addressing cyber bullying and the effect of words on children as they gro.

I find the viewpoint disturbing, as it’s neither the protagonist nor the victim, but a (not so innocent ) bystander telling the story.

Simple , effective and with  instrumentation that just reeks of class, the track builds to a climatic shoot out between guitar and keyboard that deserves to be played loud .

As you can probably infer, I like this CD.

The Cetacean collective are based in my home town, and I found them via Facebook, the snippets posted there hooked my interest and I was a small part of the crowd funding for the physical CD.

A thing of beauty it is too, illustrated with haunting photographs of a deserted swimming pool, the subject of the final epic on the CD, Derelict, an ode to the forgotten glory of a neglected municipal pool.

Before that, there are 3 more classy tracks, Circle(Show Love) which pays homage to Jon Anderson’s tenure with “That Band” in terms of musical concept and lyrical theme with more great keyboard and guitar for the air instrumentalists out there , this time the Queen vibe is running under the harmony guitars as they build to the thunderous conclusion with extra keyboards and drums taking us home on our starship.

Listening again as I type this, the achievements of this band in bringing 10 years of ideas to us are many.

If you like music that has melody, choruses and space for the musicians to demonstrate their harmonic intention, then this is for you.

band 3

As I mentioned earlier, there are countless memory triggers and hooks in here, echoes of previous musical pioneers flash by, a hint Of ELP there, a bit of Yes there, a big chunk of Queen , a smatter of 10cc , a nod to the Flower Kings , something of the choral beauty of Moon Safari all add to the mix.

Clock of the Long Now is a prime example. a song about a clock , not one that’s ticking away the days or counting down to zero, but this one is a proper “Prog” clock – counting out time in centuries rather than minutes. The chorus here is a real ear worm, you too will sing along to “10 thousand years”, invoking your internal Gabriel, Collins, Lee and Anderson whilst the music crashes around you on your trip through time. The track triggers a memory of that other great Canadian rock trio, Triumph, with the harmonies and vocals on their “Thunder Seven” album’s centrepiece – Time Canon /Killing time.

Next up, a lovely piece to a son or daughter- The Mess. All finger picking and acoustic steel strings with a sentimental piece about how our children grow up too fast.

It’s at odds to the epics bookending it, but it is not out of place, it’s a very human piece about simple pleasures fitting between time and space and the big questions that we all tend to leave out of our daily lives.

This was supposed to be a short sharp shock of a review. But listening to the CD as I type, I realise that I can wax lyrically for as long as it plays and still not describe the warm , sunny morning in the warmth feeling that it generates every time.

If you want to hear a band proudly displaying their influences whilst performing melodic and memorable tunes, expertly recorded by Mr Rob Aubrey (that name might be familiar to some of you, passengers on a Big Big Train where he rides the mixing desk) then go and invest in a little slice of the future that is being written here in Reading.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am The Manic Whale are well worth your valuable time and a little bit of your money.

Excitingly, the whole band has now met, rehearsed and are contemplating live shows.

I for one will be there, supporting a local band, not because they’re local but because they are good. Very good indeed.

Released 6th December 2015

Buy ‘Everything Beautiful In Time’ from bandcamp