Review – Ray Wilson – Makes Me Think Of Home – by Progradar

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“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”
Martin Luther

Music is  and always will be a soundtrack to my life. I live and love surrounded by songs that mean a hell of a lot to me at the deepest emotional level. Music can be my solace when I am feeling low and my celebration when I am feeling happy.

Having been through a difficult and emotionally challenging period of my life recently it was music that helped me get over the pain and sorrow and when , happily, I embarked upon an exciting new relationship, it has accompanied me and my new love every step of the way.

One of the albums that spanned both recent periods of my life was the new solo release from former Genesis front man Ray Wilson and ‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ has been a constant companion for the last three months.

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‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ is the 6th solo studio album from former Stiltskin and Genesis frontman, Ray Wilson and comes hot on the heels of ‘Song For A Friend’, an acoustic album released earlier this year and which garnered great reviews.

This new album is a mix of pop, rock and prog which showcases Ray’s remarkable voice.  The title track sees Ray looking back to his days living in Scotland, a country he left after finding love with a Polish dancer.  He moved to Poznan 8 years ago, and in this ambitious and very moving track he reflects on his years trying to find peace and happiness in Edinburgh.

The album also contains subtle humour; particularly in the first single Amen To That. The track is accompanied by a multi-layered video production in which Ray showcases his acting skills as he takes on multiple characters in a range of unusual professions.  The intense 7-day shoot produced what is undoubtedly the best video of Ray’s career and which takes the instantly memorable Amen To That to another level, throwing in some unexpected twists along the way.

The album also touches on complex contemporary Scottish issues such as The Scottish Referendum with They Never Should Have Sent You Roses, exploring how it divided families and a nation. Also, widespread alcoholism, which affected one of Ray’s close family members, is challenged in The Next Life, and having to fight these demons alone in Anyone Out There.

He also has time to pay homage to one of the world’s best-loved cartoon strips with Calvin and Hobbes.

Reflecting on his latest work, Ray says,Makes Me Think of Home encompasses the joy of freedom we have all come to enjoy and perhaps take for granted as well as the fear of solitude. It highlights the many imperfections that make us special and reminds us not to fear them, but to embrace them. In the words of Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.

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Ray Wilson has an incredible voice and that can be heard throughout this new album, opening track They Never Should Have Sent You Roses, written about the Scottish Referendum, is a heartfelt and melancholy song which seems to look back at would could have been. The gentle instrumentation matching Ray’s genuine vocals perfectly. The chorus is one that sticks in your mind and music envelops you in a warm, cordial glow but there is a sombre feeling always there in the background. A wistful and thoughtful opening to the album. The Next Life is a song about changing your life and cleaning up your act before it is too late and was written after Ray’s producer and co-songwriter had a stroke during the recording of the album. A deeply emotional song with Ray’s passionate vocals delivered over a strident acoustic guitar. There is a serious depth of feeling and empathy at the core of this track and it is this excellent singer’s vice that imparts all the pathos and poignance that really gets you deep at your core and the guitar and saxophone solo adds to this to leave you drained and emotionally spent.

There is a more serious side to the lively and animated country music feel that opens Tennessee Mountains. A song about searching and waiting for the one he loves in isolation and solitude of his surroundings and the battle he has with his emotions while he is there. I really like the beautiful guitar note and delicate percussion that add nuances to Ray’s husky vocal delivery and the chorus is just delightful and full of love and longing, add in the rocking solo and it really lifts my mood and puts a smile on my face. The story continues into Worship The Sun, a track with a much more serious face on and another superbly written song. The solemn tone of the vocals and the thoughtful and meditative feel of the music lay a blanket of contemplative determination over everything and this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. A sincerity runs through the chorus and leaves you thinking about your own life and loves, the saxophone adds gravitas and I am just left in a contemplative mood, looking inside at my own weaknesses and strengths.

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(Photo Jan Pawlak)

Title track Makes Me Think Of Home is a song that has resonated deeply with everyone I know who has heard it, including me, for whatever reason it seems to connect with you on a deep, subliminal level. The song highlights Ray’s memories of his life back in Scotland and the many fights he had with his own emotions over the years before moving to Poland. The track builds slowly from the haunting piano note with Ray’s hesitant and yet emotive vocal and draws you into its embrace. You are on the edge of your seat, waiting on every single note and word before the drums and guitar add substance and solidity. There is a bare, harsh feeling as he fights with his inner demons and you cannot move, transfixed by the savage beauty of this utterly compelling song as it moves to a break in the middle. Then a gentle acoustic guitar appears out of the darkness, followed by a haunting flute and you feel the hairs on the back of neck rise just as the powerful and irresistible solo breaks out, low and menacing. The sax solo that follows is dynamic, hypnotic and yet chaotic and full of angst, seeming to match the feeling of the song perfectly. A complete antithesis to the dark and sombre feel of the previous song, Amen To That is written about a city guy who decides he needs to get out of the rat race and buys a house in the Scottish Highlands in order to discover his own self. The uplifting acoustic guitar and inspirational vocal delivery really give this song a feelgood factor that is off the scale. You just cannot help yourself from singing along with the totally addictive chorus and tapping your toes to the incredibly catchy, hook infused, music. A song about escaping the ever increasing pressure and drudgery of a 9-5 life and living a life of freedom that most of us can only dream about.

A song about total self-destruction with the positive underlying message, “A life worth living, is worth living…”, Anyone Out There is a track with a harsh message that is delivered with sentiment and poignancy. The vocals drip with intense fervor and yet have a warmth deep in side and the music just seems to want to hold you in its comforting embrace until the world is a much better place to be in. An intense and potent chorus hammers each word home, a song initially dark that opens up to deliver a message of hope, highlighted by the wonderful sax at the end, powerful stuff! Don’t Wait For Me talks about someone who is totally obsessed with you and won’t let go, to the point of madness. A resolute and earnest song with an underlying urgency, the music has a sober feel to it to match the austerity of the vocals. There is an almost dreamlike feel to this track in places, as if you are watching yourself from outside of your own body. To me, it is a good song but one which lacks the utterly compelling and intense nature of most of the rest of the album.

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I grew up with the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ by Bill Watterson, I bought every anthology and have passed them around my friend’s children so they could enjoy these delightful comic strips that celebrate life through the eyes of a child so I was really happy to see that Ray is a fan too and had recorded Calvin and Hobbes, written by his friend Scott Spence, about these two wonderful characters. The song was written for Scott’s daughter who is a huge fan of the two and is about how imaginative life can be through the eyes of a child where you can be a space explorer, travel through time and where everything is possible and everything is fun. A wonderfully nostalgic song, beautifully written and wonderfully performed. The gentle piano and vocals just invoke images of a life where everything was just better, long summer days filled with fun and adventure. The graceful chorus just leaves a lump in my throat as this powerfully sentimental song brings back memories of my childhood when life was so much simpler and I feel a slight sense of something lost as this enchanting song comes to a close. The final song on the album, The Spirit, is in some ways a homage to ELO’s Wild West Hero and the feeling of escaping on and endless journey that Ray got when listening to it as a child. Another song full of wistful nostalgia and one with a guitar note that does bring back memories of the westerns that I used to watch as a child. There is a definite mood of escapism throughout the song, a feeling of being taken back in time and dropped in the middle of America’s Wild West and I, for one, certainly wish I was a Wild West Hero…

Ray Wilson has taken us on a deeply personal musical journey full of hope, despair, pain and, ultimately, salvation and I was hooked on every word, every note. This is music at its very best, written from the heart and full of the passion and soul of the artist. This is an album that I will return to again and again, no matter how much new music crosses my path and is surely a collection of songs that can, and will, stand the test of time.

Released 7th October 2016

Buy ‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ direct from Ray Wilson

 

 

 

Steve Hackett Announces 2017 Tour including tracks from Wind and Wuthering, new album & Genesis revisited

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Former Genesis guitarist and prog legend Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show for a 15 date UK tour next spring after his outstanding performance at this year’s inaugural Stone Free Festival.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band such as ‘Inside & Out’ and ‘Anyway’.

“I’m excited to bring my latest show involving a new set of Genesis and Hackett numbers to the UK in 2017!” – Steve Hackett

 With an established solo career spanning over 40 years, Steve will also be performing some of his popular hits such as ‘The Steppes’, ‘Serpentine’, ‘Every Day’ and the first ever live performance of ‘Rise Again’ from his 1999 album Darktown. Steve will also be introducing fans to new music from his forthcoming album, which is due out early spring 2017.

Joining Steve on the tour are musicians Roger King (keyboards), Gary O’Toole (drums/percussion), Rob Townsend (saxes/flutes), Nick Beggs (bass, stick & twelve string) and Nad Sylvan on vocals.

Since the 1970’s Steve has had a remarkable musical career, releasing more than 30 solo albums, seven Genesis albums and working alongside Steve Howe of YES with supergroup GTR. Renowned for being one of the most innovative rock musicians of our time, in 2010 he was inducted into the Rock Hall Of Fame.

Continuing to impress with his outstanding live shows ‘Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett’ is a tour not to missed in 2017.

Tickets for UK shows go on sale on Friday 7th October at 10am from myticket.co.uk and venue box offices.    Dublin tickets go onsale on the same day at 9am.

2017 TOUR DATES

 April

 Wed 26th        Dublin, Vicar Street

Fri 28th            Cardiff, St. David’s Hall

Sun 30th         Reading, Hexagon

May

 Mon 1st           Birmingham, Symphony Hall

Wed 3rd          Sheffield, City Hall

Thurs 4th        Bristol, Colston Hall

Fri 5th              Manchester, Bridgewater Hall

Sun 7th           Liverpool, Philharmonic

Mon 8th           Portsmouth, Guildhall

Wed 10th        Southend, Cliffs Pavilion

Thurs 11th      Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall

Sat 13th          Oxford, New Theatre

Sun 14th         Cambridge, Corn Exchange

Tues16th        Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall

Wed17th         Sage, Gateshead

Fri 19th            London, Palladium

www.hackettsongs.com

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Ray Wilson releases video for Amen To That, first single from new album ‘Makes Me Think Of Home’

Ray Wilson has released a brilliant video for the track Amen To That, the first track from the former Genesis vocalist’s new album ‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ which is out on 7th October….this electric album comes hot on the heels of his critically acclaimed acoustic album ‘Song For A Friend’ which came out earlier in the year.

‘Makes Me Think Of Home’, the 6th solo studio album from former Stiltskin and Genesis frontman, Ray Wilson, will be released on 7th October.  This release comes hot on the heels of ‘Song For A Friend’, an acoustic album released earlier this year and which garnered great reviews.

‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ is a mix of pop, rock and prog which showcases Ray’s remarkable voice.  The title track sees Ray looking back to his days living in Scotland, a country he left after finding love with a Polish dancer.  He moved to Poznan 8 years ago, and in this ambitious and very moving track he reflects on his years trying to find peace and happiness in Edinburgh.

RayWilson SLEEVE -Makes Me Feel Of Hom Small copy

The album also contains subtle humour; particularly in the first single Amen To That. The track is accompanied by a multi-layered video production in which Ray showcases his acting skills as he takes on multiple characters in a range of unusual professions. The intense 7-day shoot produced what is undoubtedly the best video of Ray’s career and which takes the instantly memorable Amen To That to another level, throwing in some unexpected twists along the way.

The album also touches on complex contemporary Scottish issues such as The Scottish Referendum with They Never Should Have Sent You Roses, exploring how it divided families and a nation. Also, widespread alcoholism, which affected one of Ray’s close family members, is challenged in The Next Life, and having to fight these demons alone in Anyone Out There.

He also has time to pay homage to one of the world’s best-loved cartoon strips with Calvin and Hobbes.

Ray Wilson 3 copy

Reflecting on his latest work, Ray says,

“’Makes Me Think of Home’ encompasses the joy of freedom we have all come to enjoy and perhaps take for granted as well as the fear of solitude. It highlights the many imperfections that make us special and reminds us not to fear them, but to embrace them. In the words of Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.”

Makes Me Think of Home full Tracklist:

  1. Never Should Have Sent You Roses
  2. The Next Life
  3. Tennessee Mountain
  4. Worship The Sun
  5. Makes Me Thin Of Home
  6. Amen To That
  7. Anyone Out There
  8. Don’t Wait For
  9. Calvin And Hobbes
  10. The Spirit

Pre-order ‘Makes Me Think Of Home’ from Amazon

http://www.Raywilson.co.uk

Ray Wilson, recognized as one of the UK’s finest ever vocalists by Classic Rock Magazine, is also renowned as an exceptional singer/songwriter and live performer.  He has built his solo career the hard way. With extensive tour schedules covering 15 years, Ray meets his fans after the show and has built a strong, loyal fan base who continue to support him time after time.

As Ray says,

“It’s a great joy to regularly meet people who come to my concerts and buy albums. It allows me to connect with my audience and understand why my own music strikes a chord in them.   Social Media is one thing – face to face is another level completely”.

Interview with David Longdon – Pt1 from 6th March 2016 – by Progradar

Real World me David and Rikard

Before I get round to reviewing ‘Folklore’, here is my first interview with David Longdon, recorded on 6th March 2016.

Martin – Good morning David, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

David – That’s fine Martin..

M – This actually came out of the blue, a friend of mine called Kevin Thompson, another one who has been into Big Big Train for a long time, had bought two copies of ‘Wild River’ by mistake (which I’m sure you won’t mind!) He advertised it on facebook and said “does anybody want it”. I’d had it in my mind about getting your solo album for quite a while, so I thought, if it’s there, I’ll definitely have it. I put it on and listened to it for the first time and I was really impressed with it. It reminded me of Lee Maddison, a north-east musician and I see it almost modern folk music?

D – That’s exactly what it is. It was musically aimed at the acoustic roots scene because I was searching for a genre that would allow me to make the music that I could hear in my imagination. I’d always liked acoustic music and experimental music so, ‘Wild River’ encompassed a little bit of both of those, there’s also some elements of prog in there too. Over the years, I’d been writing and recording with bands, working alongside a music publisher, band management, record companies and A&R people. I’d also gone through the Genesis saga too so, when it came to making ‘Wild River’, I wanted to make an album that I would like to hear. I was writing songs and getting into the whole recording process just to s see where it took me. I didn’t force a note which was possibly why Wild River took about seven years to make.

M – The title track, to me, I think it encompasses everything that you’ve just said. It’s got a bit of Prog, a bit of rock in it and it’s also got some of that modern folk in there as well, it’s just a really good song. You said it took seven years to make? You were obviously doing that among all the other bits and pieces then?

D – That was right, I’d gone though a divorce during that period and then I’d eventually rebuilt my life, met someone else and then became a parent. It’s interesting because all the people who are playing on ‘Wild River’ are old friends and people I knew from a specific point in my life. It’s a time capsule. It was also the time of moving from the 20th Century into the 21st, so the ‘Millennium blues’ were happening at that time too.

M- Were the songs written of actual experiences of yourself?

D – I was writing music and using different ways of writing. Some of the songs were based on events that had happened in my life. Falling Down was based on a conversation that I had with my father one day. Loving and Giving was autobiographical. Vertigo is about the disorientation that comes when a close relationship is coming to an end and it draws from several episodes that had happened to me. The song About Time was a stream of consciousness lyric – the lesson there was to leave the lyric rather than edit it into something more controlled. I have no idea who Turpentine is – but one day I’ll write a song about her. So the album is a mixture of influences and different subject matter.

I had spent lots of time in recording studios over the years but I’d always worked with an engineer. On ‘Wild River’ I was the engineer and I learnt how to do it as I went along. I recorded Wild River on a  Roland VS8-80. It enabled me to be able to record audio at home for the first time and I found it hugely liberating. For the first time, it wasn’t costing me money to record and I could record when i had the opportunity to be able to do so. I recorded the music on the VS8-80 and a friend of mine called Michael Brown digitally transferred it into E Magic/Logic.

M – It seems to be quite an intricate, devil’s art being an engineer…

D – It takes time and experience to learn the craft. There are lots of errors on the album. On Joely,  and I was recording Beth Noble the violinist and we were layering her violin and viola parts to make it sound like a string section. My inexperience as a sound engineer meant that I bounced some of the violin parts with the reverb, which means that the reverb is now entirely committed to the track. I can’t take it off. But it was a learning process.

There are many things like that, which you learn by doing them. I wanted the album to take the listener on a journey. I recorded the material and arranged the album to flow from track to track. The album revealed itself over time.

With Niall Hayden Kings Place Rehearsal Simon Hogg

(Picture copyright Simon Hogg Photography)

M- Touching on the ‘no-no’ subject of ‘Bard’ in the BBT forum and the re-mastering of that album, would you go back and redo ‘Wild River’ or, are you happy with it as it is?

D- That’s interesting because we have spoken about, possibly, reissuing it as a Big Big Train back pages thing, both ‘Bard’ and ‘Wild River’. With ‘Wild River’, its initial pressing is now gone, that’s it, the original run has sold out. The temptation is to go – ‘I want to rerecord everything’ but I don’t want to do that with Wild River. I have some good live recordings and demos taken from that time which may be of interest. I may record some acoustic versions as additional tracks to accompany the re-issue. But Wild River is what it is and I am happy to leave it at that.

We (BBT)are going to revisit at least one track from ‘Bard’ on ‘Station Masters’.

Before I met Big Big Train, I sent a copy of Wild River to Greg (Spawton) and Andy (Poole), they listened to and liked it because it showcased the acoustic side to what I do. They also liked my songwriting. We did think, at one point, of re-recording the title track with Big Big Train. That’s another option.

M- I think that would be awesome because, going back to the track, it’s even got bits of blues and soul in it as well…

D- I nailed my colours to the mast with that track! It is about the death of my father. My Dad died of leukaemia and I have felt very bitter about it over the years. I feel that he  was taken too soon. He missed too much. The chorus line, “Life is a wild river, not a long, calm stream..”  acknowledges that there are circumstances in life that will rip you up. My emotions are very raw on this track. As I have become older, I think it is how we come through these challenges that life throws at us, that makes us who we are.

M- To me, doing the Wild River track with Big Big Train would be really good…

D- That was just an idea and may or may not happen.

M –You’ve probably got enough stuff to keep you going for the next decade without thinking about anything else!

D – Yes, we’ve got some interesting stuff coming up. We are looking at least four recording projects deep into the future now. That’s a good amount of work. It’s a steady process.

M – So, getting onto ‘Folklore’ and ‘Wassail’, was it a conscious decision to go down that, shall we say,’folk inspired’ route. Everyone calls you ‘Pastoral Progressive Rock’ so, would you say it is a bit of a move away from that, to a certain extent? Or was it just the way the songwriting took you?

D- I am fascinated with the themes within folk music, not so much folk music itself. I like the ideas and structures. If you listen to folk music, it has all manner of odd time signatures within it, much like progressive rock does.

It had been a while since BBT had released a studio album because we had been focussing on Stone and Steel and also the live shows which were both expensive project and also time consuming.  I had started writing  Wassail which I played to Greg down the phone and he liked it. We had a conversation about what we’d been writing individually and eventually a direction emerged. We decided on the title Folklore because it pulled all these musical ideas together as a whole.

Folklore the track, is a song about how folklore came about, how it has been passed on through our human existence. Word of mouth, then words evolving and the written word. Evolving straight through to the digital realm and the internet and social media. We are still making our folklore.

Acoustic Quartet Simon Hogg

(Picture copyright Simon Hogg Photography)

M – You said you were surprised a bit by the success of Big Big Train recently, would you say that’s down to the digital age and things like facebook etc.?

D – Yes, it’s a fantastic Facebook group that we’ve got. People gather there because of a shared musical interest in the band but there’s much more to it than we could ever have designed. It’s a true community of BBT fans who call themselves Passengers. Big Big Train fans are a loyal bunch, they are demanding in the sense that they expect great things from us. They expect excellence and we fully aim to deliver.

M – I’m a member of quite a few facebook groups and there isn’t one that’s the same as Big Big Train. One question that everyone asks, new members that come to it say, it’s the most active facebook groups that they’ve ever been in and it hardly ever talks about the band it was set up to support!

D – When we’ve got something to say, we say it, when we haven’t we will still chip in now and again. People ask about  stuff and we answer it and it’s great. I love the fact that there’s no longer the wall between artists and fans. One of the best things about the Kings Place shows was being able to meet with the fans after the concerts. We are more than happy to do it and we want to talk with the fans. Those shows were our time with them and their time with us. It is a two way thing and that’s important because we value the people that buy our albums and support the band. We couldn’t have done the gigs without our fans wanting to see us play our music live. We can’t make that sort of stuff up and it is a genuinely amazing thing really.

M – Getting back to ‘Wild River’, have you thought about the possibility of a follow up, another solo album?

D – Yes, I have thought about a follow up. I have certain songs that I’ve written that I would like to see the light of day at some point. Uncle Jack was a solo song that I offered to BBT when they asked me if I would like to submit something for the band. Not your typical BBT song but that is part of my role within the band. I am a singer and songwriter, I have my own style and way of doing things which is quite rightly different from Greg’s. The contrast seems to have worked for us as a band and we think that it broadens our appeal.

Make Some Noise, which sometimes gets some stick from some fans because it was unlike anything the band had done before or since. We were finishing off recording some of the ‘English Electric’ drum tracking sessions and we had some down time in the studio. So Greg said to me have you got a solo thing you fancy bringing in to work on? I brought Make Some Noise in. Nick D’Virgilio had recorded the drums put the drums down on it, and as we worked on it Rob Aubrey was in the control room, talking with Greg and Andy, said that it is a single.

I’ve made it very clear about the origins of Make Some Noise, It was originally a solo track and the music is supposed to sound like a young band who are just kicking off and getting really excited by the power of the music that they’re playing with their mates when they were teenagers. Actually it is not as simple as it first seems.The music reflects those bands that I listened to as a teenager.

At that time, we’d been thinking about doing a video because we had been a studio based band and the video would give a sense of what we might look like as a live band. The notion of making a video for something as long as  Victorian Brickwork would be a costly thing to do. Make Some Noise is short and to the point and, rightly or wrongly, it got absorbed into Big Big Train and it became a single and a video for us.

We were not trying to have a hit single in any sense as some have suggested. That would be a preposterous notion because it is far too retro in it’s sound. Some kindly soul mentioned that we were selling out but who exactly were we selling out to? There is no big money machine hyping BBT. We are independent and we do it ourselves. So the prospect of Make Some Noise storming the charts was so off radar that it was never even considered.

M – It’s not Big Big Train but it is?

D – Yes, it is not typically Big Big Train but it is. It nods it’s head to bands like Queen, Pilot, Be Bop Deluxe, those classic rock singles. Big Big Train is a broad church, so it seems, I’m not saying we can do anything, don’t go expecting a rampant disco album anytime soon. If it suits the song subject matter and it works, we do it. We serve the music and go where it takes us.

But what would a David Longdon solo album be like?  I really don’t know.

M –  It needs to be something that’s more signature to you…

D- Exactly. So do I stockpile material for a solo album? If I don’t do another solo album for five years or so, will I still be interested in the material I had written five years ago? So, the answer is yes, I will probably do another solo album at some point. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For the time being Big Big Train is all encompassing. There are only twenty four hours in a day. if you want to hear  David Longdon you’re going to find me with Big Big Train.

Real World -Glassart

(Picture copyright Glassart Photography)

M – How did you get involved with the Martin Orford album?

D – Martin was bowing out from IQ and his progressive rock career. He was very cut up about the way that the internet had impacted on sales. He was also getting nasty emails from people when he approached those that had uploaded his music and he just couldn’t see a future in continuing. That’s what his song Endgame is about.

Martin was recording his swan song and about to hang up his cape. I was reading an article about Martin and he has  a very sharp sense of humour and he’s a very interesting guy. I called Giant Electric Pea one afternoon and left a message, telling them who I was and a little bit about what I’d done. I mentioned the Genesis story and at that point he picked up the phone. We started speaking. At the end of the call he said “I’ll tell you what,  if you want to do it, there are a couple of tracks that I’d like you to have a go at singing. If you can sing them better than him, they’re going on the album!”.

I drove down to Southampton one morning to Aubitt studios and Rob Aubrey was the engineer. That’s how we all met. After I’d gone, Rob was on the phone to Greg saying that I think I’ve got a singer that could be right up your street. That was the beginning of my involvement with Rob, Greg and Andy.

M –And also thanks to you for having the gonads to pick the phone up and leave a message..

D – At that time I was teaching music technology and I was in that cycle of being a parent, getting up at 5 a.m. nappy changing and I thought right, if I’m going to do this music thing, I need to do it on a bigger scale than I have done it previously. I had released ‘Wild River’ to mass indifference.  To be honest, it was dead in the water. Joining BBT was a game changer for everyone involved with it.

M – You hinted on the Genesis thing, would you mind expanding on that a bit more? Was that an audition set up because they wanted a new singer and they advertised or was that through connections?

D – I have a friend called Gary Bromham, who, at that time, was in a band called The Big Blue and they were signed to EMI. We’d met when I was signed to Rondor Music Publishing and we shared the same management company. Gary was working at The Farm, where Genesis record, in Surrey. He was also working with Nick Davis who was Genesis’ producer at that time. Nick told Gary that now Phil had said he was off, they had decided to look for another singer. Gary, bless him, thought about me and said to Nick that he had a recording of someone who he thought would be good for that.

Gary called me and said “Dave, I hope you don’t mind but, I think I might have got you an audition with Genesis!” I thought he was winding me up because he has a great sense of humour but, he told me what had happened and how Nick had taken my tape to Tony Banks who liked it. There was a song on there of mine called Hieroglyphics of Love, it’s been a very lucky song for me, it got me a publishing deal and the audition with Genesis. Tony waited for Mike (Rutherford) to get back from touring with The Mechanics so he could play it to him. Mike got back off tour and liked it so the next thing is to get me down for an audition and that got the ball rolling.

I went down and did the audition, they had these mixes called ‘Top Of The Pops’ mixes because there was a musicians union rule that states that the music had to be performed live so, for example, if you had a track like No Son Of Mine, you’d have the track from the album and the producers would prepare these mixes by taking the lead vocalists voice off. Then, If they did it on Top Of The Pops, Phil could add a live vocal and that would satisfy the Union’s live element of the performance. They had a few Top Of The Pops mixes of their hits and I sang Mama, No Son of Mine, Land Of Confusion, Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Throwing It All Away, I Can’t Dance and I did a live version of Turn It On Again, they didn’t have a Top Of The Pops track for that. They asked me if there was anything I wanted to sing and I said I’d like to do In The Cage from ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’.

Tony and Mike were very friendly and spent a lot of time just talking to me because, unlike Ray Wilson who had put records and video’s out with Stiltskin, they knew very little about me. They had to get that information out of me. The next time I was down they asked me to come and jam with them. They were playing excerpts of material that would end up on ‘Calling All Stations’ and I just had to jam along to it. Then they gave me a few songs to work on and write with them. I gave them a few ideas back. I also had to perform a live set with my band so they could see me perform in a live situation.

I never met Ray Wilson at all through the entire process. We’ve never corresponded with each other either. It was rumoured that they may go with a two singer approach, like Mike And The Mechanics but the fact that they had not introduced Ray and I to each other got my spider-senses tingling.  As we know, they eventually decided to go with Ray and why not? It’s a long time ago now and I’ve been a bit busy since then (said with a chuckle). As I’ve said before, Big Big Train is the Mothership and my musical home.

wassail mask neil palfreyman

(Picture copyright Neil Palfreyman)

M – Just one final question, where do you see the future for you and the band. Cast your eye over a crystal ball, where do you think you will be in ten years time?

D – There’s lots of variables that can happen between now and then. I’m 50 now so I’ll be 60 in ten years time, I hope I’ll be in good health and be able to sing in the way that I do at the moment, I hope my voice and my health stands the test of time. Big Big Train is its own muse, it is its own thing. It’s strange, when a new album starts coming together, we are write songs and build tracks and you wonder where it is all going. Greg will add something, Danny will send something in and Dave Gregory will provide a guitar part and suddenly, bang!, you go, yes, it’s Big Big Train! The good thing about the band is we are not frightened to throw in some unusual elements.

M- More live performances?

D- Definitely, we loved the live shows, they were amazing events. It was such a fantastic experience for all of us. We want to keep the shows special, we want them to be cherished as moments that people will look back on and think yes, that was something special!

M – I think I speak for the majority, if not all of, the people when I say it wasn’t just a gig. It was part of a whole weekend, people took time out to not just go and see the band live, they were coming from all over the world, it was the build up to it and the gig was just the highlight. It was more of a complete experience than just a show.

D – On the Saturday afternoon I was down in the foyer talking to the guys on the merch table. There was one man and his son who came down the escalator and saw me.  They came over to talk to me and they’d come from Bolivia! He said they’d walked, they’d been on a bus and a train. They’d also been on a plane to get to these shows in London and I’m so pleased that I met them. It was just the three of us talking in the foyer and I was thinking that to come all this way from Bolivia, it’s just incredible.

Folklore Launch

(Picture copyright Simon Hogg Photography)

M – I don’t think I can top that anecdote!  It was quite an experience, speaking for myself, I joined the ‘Train’ just after ‘The Underfall Yard’ and it didn’t resonate with me when I first heard it. I hate to say it but I did walk away from Big Big Train but, when I heard the ‘English Electric’ albums I thought they were absolutely stunning and went back to ‘The Underfall Yard’ and then it made sense!

D – I suppose, in many ways, people say that Greg tends to write the big, more progressive tracks and I tend to write the shorter songs. We don’t contrive the way we write, we just write what we write and then what we’ve got is what we’ve got.  We then talk about it and we come with the next direction of where we are going. We go with what’s right at the time,

Big Big Train has been an amazing experience for all of us involved and it’s given us a lot of pleasure. It is a fantastic vehicle to be working within. I like the fact that you say you came back to ‘The Underfall Yard’ having discovered something later. I guess, when we put Folklore out there may be someone like your good self who heard Hedgerow and thought it was insane, something may hit them and they may go back and discover Hedgerow again and even ‘The Underfall Yard’. You’ve got people listening to the early albums as well, you have ‘Gathering Speed’ or ‘The Difference Machine’, which is great. It’s all good.

M – For me, the song that nailed my colours to Big Big Train’s mast was Curator of Butterflies. Mike Morton of The Gift and I came to the Saturday performance and were on the front row. It’s been a song that we both find quite emotional and we just turned to each other and were in tears at the beauty of it all. The same with Victorian Brickwork, the thing that gets me about that track now is the brass at the end, I can’t understand now why I didn’t like it at first. The brass at the end just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

D – We’ve been listening to 5.1 mixes from ‘Stone & Steel and we’ve got Victorian Brickwork on there from the London shows. In Blu-Ray high definition with the band kicking and the brass going, it hits home hard. It’s a massive noise and it can be quite overwhelming.

When I first started with Big Big Train I received these lyrics which in addition to poetic moments, consisted of technical, almost industrial, language. I wondered how I was going to approach singing them. I decided to split the lyrics into lead vocal lines and backing vocal parts. Because if I split them up, it would give me more time to deliver and they could overlap each other. I would deliver the lead vocal lines over the gorgeous music beneath and that was the key to it. I also sing them like my life depends on it – like it is the most important thing in the world. It’s not only the words, it is very much the emotional delivery of them.

M  –  I think you’re right, what a lot of people picked up from the Kings Place performances was that you were not just singing the words, you were almost living them.

D – Yes, I am completely in the moment. It’s been an amazing journey.

I’d like to thank David for taking the time to talk to me.

Coming next will be my review of Big Big train’s ‘Folklore’ album and then my second interview with David which we conducted after the release of ‘Folkore’ and the release part at Real World Studios.

 

Review – David Longdon and The Magic Club – Wild River – by Progradar

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I’m what you might call a music completist. You know the sort of person I mean, I begin to really appreciate a band or artist’s music so I have to seek out and devour all their output, be it studio or live albums or DVD/Blue-Rays of live performances, I have to listen to, and have, them all.

To me, it’s a worthy endeavor, whether you start with the first release and follow that particular artist all the way to the present day, like Dream Theater for me (the jury is out on ‘The Astonishing’ at the moment though..) or you hear a latest album and work your way back through their discography, this was how I got into Big Big Train (‘English Electric Full Power’).

Whichever way round, I get a certain satisfaction out of investigating all of a musician or band’s achievements and I will often unearth a gem I didn’t previously know about.

Bringing Big Big Train back into the discussion, it was an earlier solo album from lead vocalist David Longdon that was the next part of my musical education with this celebrated English pastoral progressive rock band.

I used my ‘musical treasure hunter’ skills and the ‘X’ marked the spot when I uncovered ‘Wild River’ by David Longdon and The Magic Club.

David 1

David initially played in a band with school friends Simon Withers and Ian White under the name Greenhouse. It was this experience that would be the inspiration for the Big Big Train song ‘Make Some Noise.’

Throughout his twenties David played in the Nottingham based band O’ Strange Passion and eventually The Gifthorse. The style of these bands included acoustic based music with art rock tendencies. He ended up being signed to Rondor Music UK (Publishing house for A&M records – The Police, Joe Jackson, The Carpenters, Supertramp) as a songwriter with a development deal.

David is also a long term member of the Louis Philippe band, playing on the Jackie Girl (1996) album, where he met both Danny Manners and also Dave Gregory who he would later introduce to Big Big Train.

It was in the final days of The Gifthorse that David was invited to audition as a potential replacement for Phil Collins as lead singer in Genesis. He survived the auditioning process and worked from May to November 1996 on recordings that would become the Calling All Stations album. They were also working with Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson at the same time. Eventually they decided which one out of the two would get the job.

David  sings lead vocals on two tracks (‘Ray of Hope’ and ‘Endgame’) on Martin Orford’s The Old Road album (2008) which led to David Meeting Rob Aubrey who in turn introduced David to Greg and Andy of Big Big Train and the rest, they say, is history!

BBT Live 2

‘Wild River’ was released in 2004 and I’m still struggling to believe I had never heard even one note up until about a month ago. It was recorded by David Longdon and an inpressive group of musicians collectively know as ‘The Magic Club’, too many here to list but a certain Dave Gregory does appear in the (very) small print…..

The album notes credit David with ‘Vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, mandolin, keyboards, flute, percussion and wrist watch’ so, there you go, a man of many talents obviously.

The opening track Always begins with a delightful acoustic introduction before David’s vocals begin in a slightly wistful manner and Andy Lymn’s stylish drums seem to take a life on of their own. It is a decidedly upbeat song, even if you take into account the slight melancholy aftertaste, dictated by the excellent viola and violin of Beth NobleLee Horsley’s strident Hammond organ gives it an edge and David has voice like honey, it just seems to soothe any irritable bone in your body and it lifts this song above the merely good to become something memorable. One you will find yourself humming in the shower as the harmonies of the chorus imprint themselves permanently on your brain. Honey Trap is another track with an uplifting feel to it, almost modern folk in appeal. The musicians work together seamlessly to produce a musical tapestry across which the elegant vocals of David Longdon can paint a wonderful tune. The strings seem more potent and upfront on this song, providing the perfect counterpoint for the vocal harmonies, especially the dulcet tones of the harp. I just feel as if I’m being carried along an a mellifluous sound wave of pure joy. There’s a timeless feel to the music and feel of longevity and this is emphasised even more by the delightful mandolin that stands out in the intro to Mandy. David’s vocal takes on a more narrative tone in places and the whole song has a touch of traditional folk running through it. The Hammond seems to be in the background, almost as if it is directing proceedings. The softer edge of the first two tracks is replaced by a more definitive note and  the occasional lapse into a near reggae beat just adds real colour to proceedings. A real foot-tapping, hand-clapping classic that would be at home in a traditional rural public house where much ale has been drunk and many tales have been sung.

Spectral Mornings

(Photo courtesy of Angus Prune)

Beginning with a more apprehensive note, the guitar having a more aggressive feel and the violin a cutting note, About Time appears to be a more serious tune. David carries on with the more narrative vocal on the verse and the whole song has a more mature note to it. The chorus sees that reggae riff appear and the vocals deliver a heartfelt rendition. The flute, harp and mellotron all work overtime in the background to give the required gravitas and really add to the darker complexity of this interesting track. I like listening to music that demands your full attention and this is a song that is definitely of that ilk. Dim the lights and let it wash over you as you discover more and more sophisticated nuances. Mandolin, mandola and double bass kick off Vertigo with an unambiguous folk atmosphere and this is only emphasised by the use of the Irish bodhran. That softer timbre returns to David’s vocals, emotive and slightly mournful, it is a song that plucks at your heartstrings with its open and honest feel. Beth Noble’s backing vocals have a delicate fragility and the clashing guitar solo really does hit you hard on this darkest feeling track on the album so far. I really enjoyed the whole pared back feel that let’s the vocals shine through and I’ve always been a sucker for a great double bass. The next track is far and away the most impassioned and sentimental song on this release. Simple in composition  yet beautifully ethereal in its delivery, Loving & Giving is a thing of uncomplicated beauty. David Longdon’s voice is the instrument that holds sway over your emotions, adorned simply with acoustic guitar, double bass and the exquisite strings that add a humble fragility. Jane Upton adds her alluring vocals to this most charming track, the harmonies are a thing of wonder. A tear of joy and hope may have been wiped away and I needed a moment to compose myself after it came to a natural close.

Inside cover

Wild River is a tribute to David’s father, Eric, who died in 1994 and, to me, is a real slow burning blues-rock track. It opens, already beginning to build an atmosphere, with a gentle guitar and David’s ominous sounding vocal. Powerful, expressive and soulful, it is almost a lament. The Hammond organ sits there, just in the background, orchestrating this compelling and touching song. The impassioned vocal delivery is asserted even more on the chorus. The Greasley Singers choir add another layer of finesse, it is an undoubted highlight of this most impressive album and when the intense violin solo is delivered, it is like a weighty presence on your soul, this whole track just bleeds sentiment and sorrow, the impassioned guitar solo (from Michael Brown) and rousing drums are incredible, and you just feel emotionally spent when it comes to its dramatic close. Edgy guitar and fluent harmonica open up the defiantly rocky This House, bluesy, funky and jazz infused with equal measure, it really drives hard and fast. The staccato guitar playing and Les Eastham’s brilliant harmonica are the real highlights of this track and, with David adding a fervent, stirring vocal, it is literally on fire and uber-cool. There is a feeling of a sentient presence awakening at the beginning of In Essence, superb atmospheric guitar work from Michael Brown again, before things open up with dancing vocals and intricate instrumentation. A song that takes the soul route to your mind. Edgy guitar work, stylish bass play and elaborate drumming provide the backdrop on which David gives a sleek and polished vocal performance. A song for the discerning listener and another one that asks for your full and undivided attention.

studio

It’s all about the strings and keeping it simple, Joely is a delightful little ode. It begins with some really fetching string work in combination with the precise vocal enunciation of Mr Longdon and needs nothing more to deliver a rather charming song that is beguiling because of its skillful simplicity. It almost moves into Americana and country territory in places before it closes with the sublime poem ‘The Heart of Winter’, written and recited by Jerry Hope. Powerfully delivered, it takes you into a heightened sense of consciousness that leaves the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. The simple introduction to Falling Down has an impatient feel imbued by the drums and bass before the strings join in and the vocals overlay everything with a velvet touch. Gentle and benign it continues until we reach the chorus where everything opens up into another well crafted piece of songwriting. I feel I’ve been led by the hand on a fantastic musical journey with a multitude of amazing musicians that come together as one rather than any of them standing above the others. The mellotron is there but you don’t notice it, the guitars add substance but without overpowering anything and , above all, is the stunning vocal performance of David Longdon. Sentimental and rousing, this song is another reason to make sure you listen to this album without daily life intruding. The final track on this stunning album is On To The Headland and it is a fitting close. This song sees David and his guitar in a reflective mood and it is this restrained and simple delivery that really seems to impact on you. I sit back and let this guileless track just touch my senses and leave me at ease and at one with the world.

It may be over ten years since ‘Wild River’ was released but it doesn’t seem to have aged a day and can stand comparison with any of contemporary music that has been released recently. There is an uncluttered and uncomplicated honesty at the core of the music and this is all brought into vivid focus by David Longdon’s utterly unique and incomparable voice. If, like I was, you have yet to experience it then please search this album out immediately!

Released 2004

Buy ‘Wild River’ from the Big Big Train webstore