John Wenlock-Smith’s ‘Best of 2023’

This is a list of the albums that have made a big impression on me this year. They are not in any order although several marked☆ are my favourites and I will nominate one as my album of the year.

Here is the list:

1.OrionThe End Of Suffering – This came out of nowhere and it is a testament to one man’s vision and willingness to create music that he wanted to.

The End of Suffering | Orion (

2. Tribe 3 – Self Titled- This recent release most definitely impresses with its progressive, inspired take on fusion.

CD ‘Tribe3’ | Tribe3

3. John Greenwood  – Dark Blue ☆☆ This arrived, again largely unnoticed, but what a brilliant release, thoughtful, emotional and an utterly captivating listen.

DARK BLUE | John Greenwood (

4. Material Eyes  – Inside Out excellent prog from the North East of England.

Inside Out | Materialeyes (

5. The Michael Dunn ProjectBridge Across The Years ☆ Canadian musicians superb debut release, 40 years in the making.

The Michael Dunn Project

6. The Drinking Club – Really??? ☆ Very Marillion like in places, another great release.

…really?!? | The Drinking Club (

7. Pryzme – Four Inches – Superb French band release excellent album with a fondness for Rush stylings.

Four Inches | Pryzme (

8. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Light Of Ancient Mistakes ☆ Amazing next adventure for impressive North London duo.

The Light Of Ancient Mistakes | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (

9. Downes Braide AssociationCelestial Songs ☆ Excellent new album of epics from the DBA Team.

Downes Braide Association: Celestial Songs, CD Edition – Cherry Red Records

10. Nova Cascade – The Navigator – A musical tribute to Eric Bouilette after his passing, beautifully done.

The Navigator | NOVA CASCADE (

11. Southern Empire – Another World ☆ A strong return for Australian favourites.

Another World CD – GEP

12. Ruby Dawn Beyond Tomorrow ☆☆ A deeply emotional album from Wokingham’s finest.

Beyond Tomorrow | Ruby Dawn (

13. Tiger Moth TalesThe Turning Of The World ☆Deeply Personal album from Peter Jones, largely acoustic but very satisfying.

Tiger Moth Tales (

14. Nick FletcherQuadrivium ☆☆☆ My album of the year. Fusion for today, an album forging forward and beyond while embracing the past.Unbelievably fine music that is beautifully realised.

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

15. Pattern Seeking AnimalsSpooky Action At A Distance – Fourth excursion from some-time Spock’s Beard men along with John Boegehold and a further step forward.

Spooky Action at a Distance (

16. CyanPictures From The Other Side – Second album from Rob Reed’s excellent young project, with Peter Jones and Luke Machin firing on all cylinders.

17. The Emerald Dawn  – In Time ☆ – Beautiful album themed around time and memories and how we perceive them.

In Time | The Emerald Dawn (

18. Dave Foster BandGlimmer ☆ The year’s ‘grower’ album that just gets better with every listen.

Glimmer | The Dave Foster Band (

19. DamanekMaking Shore – A splendidly exciting album from the early part of the year, epic, melodious and really strong.

Damanek – Making Shore – GEP

20. Swan ChorusAchilles and The Difference Engine – My favourite vocal led album of the year, especially the wonderfully poignant track Being There about Peter Sellers, a beautiful song.

Achilles and the Difference Engine | Swan Chorus (

It’s been a tremendously fine year for music. A post-covid boom has inspired some stalwart activities with some excellent and impressive releases, here’s to an even better 2024!

John Wenlock-Smith.

Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Light Of Ancient Mistakes – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’ is the new album from Hats off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and, again, we are offered an intriguing collection of songs, some of which are based on books and authors that Malcolm Galloway has read and been enthralled and inspired by. These books include works by Adrian Tchaikovsky and also the likes of David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré, and Conservative MP Chris Bryant. Other tracks are inspired by the works of Sci-Fi authors Iain M Banks and Philip K Dick. So, whilst not a concept album, many of the tracks are thematically linked to literature. This makes the album unusual and also challenging to listen to at times. However, the music is of their usual extremely high standard and there is a lot going on musically which grabs your attention.

The album has several instrumental tracks that combine to make a musical statement. This is pretty different to their last two albums, ‘The Confidence Trick’ and ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’, although the Science Fiction angle is covered by the choice of authors whose works inspired the music. There is some excellent music on this album, including the up-tempo opener Sold The Peace and the sad and aching hurt of Sixteen Hugless Years, which is based on the experiences of childhood neglect. This in itself is a sobering and desperately sad song, it is song where the hurt is palpable and deeply heartfelt. The track really makes an impression as you hear the hurt in the lyrics, all portrayed by Malcolm in a passionately delivered vocal. Also impressive is the song Glamour Boys which is about a group of mostly homosexual or bisexual Conservative MPs who were threatened by the reveal of their sexuality by Chamberlain’s government of the day. These men stood against appeasement and were prepared to suffer for their feelings and their different lifestyles, remember that homosexuality was actually a crime in that time. Many of these MPs paid a high price as a result.

Amongst all this heartache and pain you have interspersed some shorter instrumental pieces that act as a musical sorbet in cleansing the palate before the next song, for example the brief and deeply personal i’mtiredandeverythinghurts, Malcolm’s reflection on coping and living with an invisible disability (chronic pain due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) and how he feels when folk ask innocently, and with well meaning, ask how he is doing. It is a surprisingly upbeat track, very brief but it makes a good point about how we ask and often fail to understand or comprehend each other at times.

The next big track is Walking To Aldebaran, which is inspired by the Adrian Tchaikovsky novella in which miscommunication between an astronaut and a malfunctioning, but well intended, machine leads to a monstrous transformation. Parts of this inspiration comes from the novella and other parts come from rhythmic patterns inherent in Peter Maxwell Davies‘Eight Song For A Mad King’. This is a very diverse track, often jarring and abrupt, with a lot of sequenced keyboards and Chapman Stick. It is highly developed and has great sounds contained within its nearly nine minute duration. It is, ultimately, another rather sad and forlorn piece though. Goodbye Cassini is a flute led tribute to the space probe that explored Saturn and its icy moons. When its fuel supply was exhausted on September 15th 2017 it plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere, still returning data to its end. A rather profound tribute to what was a ground-breaking and important scientific research mission that last nearly twenty years and covered nearly five billion miles. The Man Who Japed is inspired by Philip K Dick (who wrote ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’) and the album’s title track was inspired by Iain M Bank’s ‘Look To Windward’.

The album is an interesting concept and also a very rewarding one ,especially if you delve into what thoughts lie behind the songs and then take the time to let the music work its own magic on you. Within this release you will find many excellent musical passages, some thought provoking words and some deep and important themes and questions. For me, this is another fine, well thought, considered and expertly delivered musical statement from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate.

Released September 9th, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

The Light Of Ancient Mistakes | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (

Single Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Burn The World

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland on their own or with Kathryn Thomas (flute). They combine prog/alt-rock, funk, metal, ambient, contemporary classical, minimalist, and electronica elements, and often explore scientific themes.

Before the release of their new album ‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’, they release the first single from the album, Burn The World, on May 13th, a progressive rock song about climate change.

“We are at a turning point. If action is taken to substantially reduce the damage we are doing to our environment, then millions of lives are likely to be saved. If we don’t, as usual, the most vulnerable will be the least protected. Past actions mean that anthropogenic climate change is now inevitable, but the extent and the speed of the change depend on what we do now.”

With such serious subject matter, this song was always going to be a sober and solemn piece of music but the duo’s fantastic songwriting skills have made it something of a melancholic beauty.

“There’s unbroken sea
Where an island used to be
The coral bleached
The sandbags breached, long ago…”

The superbly written lyrics bring the impending climate disaster into sharp focus and the music adds that laid back, sorrowful feel to the song. Malcolm’s vocals are passionate and pensive and give the required gravitas that situation deserves. His guitar solo is hauntingly beautiful but with a sense of loss and and heartbreaking devastation. It is an amazing song that treats a difficult subject with dignity.

I feel immensely moved by this piece of music and I am sure it will herald another superb album from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and I cant’t wait to hear it.

Released 13th May, 2023.

Check out the track on bandcamp here:

Burn The World | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (

Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Confidence Trick – by John Wenlock-Smith

Music is at its best when it challenges you to think and to possibly to change your perception and understanding of things and situations. Well ‘The Confidence Trick’ (the new album from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate) may just help you in that respect. The album is partly conceptual in nature and, certainly, many of the songs share a common theme, often viewed from different angles.

The concept is that overconfidence can be viewed as a good trait and yet tends to lead to bad decision making, in that said ‘confidence’ is often mistaken for competence and this is where our problems often begin. Certainly this holds true in politics and can explain why people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have fared well politically. The fact that Trump is a sociopath and arrogantly self promoting didn’t really affect his inability to change the U.S. political system, it was his self confidence that swept away much of the barriers to the presidency.

This album reflects on these themes and uses intellect to make its points in a very admirable way. There is also the clever use of instrumental tracks that subtly support the themes of the album.

There are some fabulous passages in this album and the musicianship is very fine indeed with some fabulous emotive guitar lines and stirring synth passages and keyboard playing from Malcolm Galloway. There is also the excellent bass and Chapman stick playing of Mark Gatland and the hauntingly beautiful flute playing of Kathryn Thomas, whose classical training adds gravitas to the tracks on which she is a part.

A definite highlight is the excellent World War Terminus that explores how war unfolds and how these overconfident, yet mostly misguided, individuals believe they can win the chosen conflict when often they simply cannot or never could. Yet, such is their self belief (mostly misplaced), that they make rash decisions and unsustainable actions. All of this is contained through the excellent and challenging lyrics that abound on this album.

Another Plague was written prior to the recent lockdowns and refers to a government exercise in 2016. One in which we failed to learn, or even to make ready our preparations, for such a pandemic as happened in 2019 and which thousands of lives were lost because of incompetent government action or a complete lack of. The song is very direct and is uncompromising at laying blame at the government’s door. It’s a song that deserves to be widely heard but sadly won’t be, as folk only buy what they already know and what fits their requirements. It is almost criminal when music like this really warrants a far bigger platform and focus to be heard.

Folks like me can certainly help raise the profile but it’s getting the public at large to embrace change that is the difficult part. But those open minded individuals who embrace new music will find loads to enjoy and appreciate in this album, chock full as it is with excellent music and quality and intelligence. This really is a very rich seam in which to mine for nuggets of gold.

The album also has touches of modern classical and minimalism in it’s tracks best shown on Refuge, which is based on the family experience of Malcom’s Grandmother and her treatment at foreign hands. The track is instrumental but still conveys much, including a sense of joy and also wonder and gratitude for those that helped her to survive.

The title track is also very strong indeed and is a perfect summation of the albums themes and songs. All in all this album really impresses with some fabulously fluid guitar parts, majestic synths and solid musical backing throughout.

This is definitely a step further for the band and, impressive as ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ was, this one is both totally different and also even better. ‘The Confidence Trick’ has so many worthy tracks like Perky Pat, Lamprey Lava and All Empires Fall, all of which show the skill and flair the band have in the music they craft and create for our aural pleasure and long may such a fine creative streak continue.

Released 15th July, 2022.

Order here:

The Confidence Trick | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (