John Wenlock-Smith interviews Steve Howe

John Wenlock-Smith: Good day Steve, trust you are well?

Steve Howe: Hello John, yes, I’m fine thanks, trust you are too?

JWS: Let’s talk about the new Yes album, ‘Mirror To The Sky’

SH: If you have questions, I should have the answers!  

JWS: Is there an underlying theme to the album? 

SH: Yes have only done one themed album (‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’), other things we have talked about but aren’t really thematically related as such. 

JWS: I’ve heard the new album, I like it and the fact that you are doing longer songs. Once again, I think it is an approach that really works for you. 

SH: After ‘The Quest’ and the good reaction it received, we were inspired to carry on and content to make more new music as we had songs written to work with. This album is the result of that time. 

JWS I saw you in Manchester, it was very good and I enjoyed it a lot. You turned in a good show that day.

SH: Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. We enjoyed that short run of shows and it went down well, apart from York which didn’t go so well, I’m afraid.

JWS: I have a question from my friend who asks about your involvement with Queen’s ‘Innuendo’ album. How did that come about? 

SH: I was in Montreux in a restaurant that I like when a guy called Martin spotted me and invited me to the studio (Mountain Studios, where Yes recorded the ‘Going For The One’ album). As I’d finished my meal, I happily went with him to the studio and the band wanted to play me the album. After which they asked me to play on the track Innuendo, as they wanted something extra in the guitar department.

When I pointed out that Brian had done lots of guitar they said they’d still like me to play on it and gave me free rein to play whatever I liked. So they played me the track and I just improvised as I am quite used to doing that, jumping in and creating on the fly. They liked what they heard so, after we’d had dinner together, we returned to the studio and put the two takes together, making what you hear on the album. It was a fun day with great friends. 

JWS: I have a question about GTR. Wow come you didn’t record a second album? Is that something you would consider revisiting 30 years on?  

SH: Well we did record a live album for King Biscuit Hour in Germany, I think? (it was actually in Los Angeles in 1996) but we split the band after that and, whilst certain parties wanted us to do it again, it adds a certain complexity with managers and timings etc. Finding time in what I’m doing now means doing it all again would be a huge undertaking. I’ve moved on from those days, although I did enjoy that time, we had a lot of fun doing those tours. It was easier to revisit Asia actually but, again, I had to curtail that as I was busy with Yes

JWS: So, Yes is your main focus these days then?  

SH: It is really, especially as we are on a creative roll at the moment, things are going well, plus I still have my solo stuff around to keep me occupied. 

JWS: So the tour this year was postponed because of insurance issues? I was looking forward to the ‘Relayer’ shows actually.

SH: Yes, we decided to postpone those shows after a few years of uncertainty over them and the insurance was a major factor, but not the only factor.

JWS: You probably have lots of demand on your time with everything you are involved with? 

SH: Well, actually, I don’t. I have Yes and my solo stuff and I control what I do so that I run it, not the other way around.  

JWS: I’ve written a review about it (the new album), I was generally positive about it, I said that Genesis and King Crimson have ended and Deep Purple and BOC are nearing the end and, really, we should respect that and appreciate you while we still have you.

SH: Good perspective and insight for us all, I think! 

JWS: Well, I think that’s it from me apart from to say thank you for your time and trust the album goes well for you and hope to see you next year in Manchester  

SH: Thank you John.

 The new Yes album, ‘Mirror To The Sky’, is out now and available to order here:

Mirror To The Sky (


 The band will be performing ‘The Classic Tales of Yes’ Tour in 2024:

Review – King’s X – In The New Age – The Atlantic Recordings 1988-1995 – by John Wenlock-Smith

King’s X first came to my attention through an article in Kerrang, of which I was a regular reader, they certainly sounded intriguing. This was proven when I found a promo copy of their debut album ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ in a local record store, well it was actually a tiny shop tucked in a very narrow street, Swordfish in Needless Alley in Birmingham City centre. Neither of these exist there now and have been replaced by another shopping mall. Swordfish relocated, as I discovered last year, and is still an interesting place to visit. 

Back to King’s X , this set is a collection of their first six albums for Atlantic, ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’, ‘Gretchen Goes To Nebraska’, ‘Faith Hope Love’ , ‘King’s X’, ‘Dogman’ and ‘Ear Candy’, along with a whole slew of single versions and live tracks that complete the package. There is also a tasteful and informative booklet that gives more information about the band and the history surrounding these albums. 

The music is, in the main, sensational, although I do feel that the band made a misstep with the overly grungy ‘Dogman’, an album that disappointed me greatly upon its release, time to see how I feel about it twenty-plus years later… 

The debut and sophomore releases albums both sound excellent and prove that this group had value and that they could deliver live on stage, as was proven when I saw them at Nottingham Rock City in the early 1990’s. They were crafting a different sound, one in which melody and harmony were met with real crunch and power to make something special. The distinctly Beatles influence in the harmonies and voices made for a very unusual sound and one that really worked, along with the fiery and often psychedelic guitar of Ty Tabor and the solid whump of Doug Pinnick’s muscular bass driving the music forwards, this was a new style of rock, a very impressive one too! ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ contained some great songs like Goldilox, which has great vocals and great guitar tones and solos. This was 1988, to be fair, but listening again thirty-four years on you can still sense the sheer brilliance and innovation the group offered the casual rock fan. Unsurprisingly the U.K. took them to their hearts and, whilst they may not have become huge, they certainly garnered much acclaim. 

Even better was their sophomore album, ‘Gretchen Goes To Nebraska’, which carried the style further, marrying crunching guitar and multi-part harmonies in a truly exciting amalgam, as displayed on the blistering rocker Over My Head and the gorgeous Summerland, both of which had the magic combination. Also of note is the funky take Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something, which is another fiery performance. Over all of this you hear all sorts of influences, apart from the Beatles you can detect the funkiness of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix like guitar virtuosity and James Brown, to name but a few. There are also delicate acoustic parts like in The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s-On-The- Hill) that allow this band to make one of the outstanding albums of the late 80’s and one that still impresses today. 

King’s X continued by making the third excellent album in three years with ‘Faith Hope Love’ in 1990. Opening with the strong, stirring We Are Finding Who We Are to kick things off in style. Doug Pinnick’s bass and vocal really drive this track along, the Beatlesesque It’s Love follows with its blend of vocal harmonies melded to a solid riff. I have to say this album has its moments but is not a strong as the previous two, maybe they were running out of ideas or the touring had taken its toll. Moanjam is still a great workout/jam for the band and things improve with I Can’t Help It, Talk To You. We Were Born To Be Loved and the nine minutes of Faith Hope Love with its spirituality clearly present. Whilst King’s X had christian faith, they wisely didn’t let that define them. These things are individual and personal, they recognised that and acted accordingly.

The next we heard from the band was their self-titled, fourth album which was another strong set of songs, although heavier and moving towards the grungy sound that they would explore more fully on the ‘Dogman’ album. This album brought changes, they split from long-time friend and manager Sam Taylor and opted to employ Brendan O’ Brien’s services as producer. He had previously produced albums for the likes of Pearl Jam and The Black Crowes and he bought a 90’s grunge rock sheen to the band. This the album on which I lost interest in the band as I didn’t feel their sound worked for me any longer. That was 1994, so nearly thirty years ago now, and, in retrospect, that was possibly a misjudgement on my part as upon rediscovering this album, it is far better than I recall. Whilst the sound may be more brutal and harsh, it still rocks strongly. In addition, much of what endeared me to those earlier albums is still present in places. The song Shoes, for example, rocks with a vengeance. In fact, overall, the album is a slow burn that sneaks up and overpowers you making a solid impression and I actually like it now. 

The final album in this set is 1996’s ‘Ear Candy’, an album I completely ignored despite my friend Steve saying it was a good one. Well, surprise, surprise, he was right. Although it disappointed the critics, ‘Ear Candy’ is a great album full of psychedelic touches, strong songs and inspired tracks like opener The Train, that has more than a whiff of Enuff  Z Enuff about it. A Box is anther fine song on offer here but, sadly, this album was to be their last for Atlantic after which they spent most of the next two decades on independent labels, releasing a lot of albums that  sank without a trace until 2005 when they were signed to Inside Out (prior to that becoming part of Sony Music) and released the excellent ‘Ogre Tones’ and ‘XV’ albums and a live set. Recently they have released ‘Three Sides Of One’ which is a definite return to form. 

King’s X continue still and, whilst much older now, they are still making good music that mixes psychedelic rock, some progressive elements and fabulous harmonies. This set is an excellent summation of their days with Atlantic as you will find much strong, vibrant music and is highly recommended, especially for fans of the band.

Released 10th April, 2023

Order from Cherry Red here:

King’s X: In The New Age – The Atlantic Recordings 1988-1995, 6CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

Review – Djabe & Steve Hackett – Live in Györ – by John Wenlock-Smith

I guess most musicians have the need for another outlet for their talents, whether that comes via guest appearances, collaborations or side projects. Think of projects like GTR or Squackett ,which both feature Steve Hackett in a role very different to his own solo career. Steve has always looked for such opportunities and, when he guested on an early album by the Hungarian jazz/rock band Djabe, ‘Sheafs Are Dancing’, in 2003, Steve enjoyed the experience so much that he was happy to appear with Djabe in 2004 in London. Their friendship continues to this day with both acts working together to create a whole raft of excellent releases, a lot of which are live sets captured in Djabe’s native Hungary and Sardinia, among others. This meeting of kindred spirits extends to Djabe band members appearing on Steve’s own albums regularly, with their own world jazz stylings helping Steve explore different sounds and textures.

Djabe are all very accomplished musicians in their own right and their work with Steve Hackett is certainly a symbiotic relationship with both parties benefiting. This new 2CD & Blu-Ray set ‘Live In Gyor’ certainly proves the point, containing, as it does, several tracks from the ‘Back To Sardinia’ and ‘The Magic Stag’ albums, alongside selected Genesis songs and Steve Hackett solo tracks. What is very apparent from the start is just how this outside role elevates Steve’s own playing, with some very tasty, expressive and fiery guitar on show, the band are on excellent form and all seem to be relishing the experience.

The album that accompanies the Blu-Ray is a very fine one too with three extra live tracks that round the set out. For me, the one noticeable difference is that, on this show, Steve is playing a Fernandes guitar with a floating bridge/tremolo so he can really hit the whammy bar vigorously, which he does to great effect throughout. Normally Steve uses his Gold Top, so this change is an interesting one, the sound is immaculate and enjoyable to hear and watch, the visuals being equally as strong. If you have ever wondered if Steve can repeat the epic solo on Firth of Fifth on a strategy style guitar the answer is here, you can watch him do it with style, alongside seeing his famous tapping style, a skill that Eddie Van Halen utilised and elevated to an art form.

Also worth of note is the extremely dextrous bass playing of Djabe’s Tamás Barabás, whose playing is the anchor on which everyone can pivot, along with Gabor Olah on drums. Together they hold everyone together and give them a perfect solid platform from which to soar and fly. Seldom have I witnessed such sheer joy like this excellent and skilled performance. It’s such a strong set with  chance for everyone to shine, the music is world jazz music with Hungarian touches and instrumentation. This excellent set offers lots of extra features and extra music and I can’t recommend it enough as it really is an excellent set of performances with songs played by musicians who are at the top of their game and not afraid to let the music do the talking. This music certainly talks loudly and demands your attention.

As with a lot of these Djabe/Hackett sets there is a degree of overlap but, even so, there is enough new stuff to make this an essential and worthy purchase. As always the packaging and attention to detail is very impressive as, of course, is the sound which is exemplary with great separation and clarity. The whole show is beautifully captured and must have been truly magnificent and unique.

No doubt there will be more to come from this union and I personally  am very hopeful for further magic from these hugely talented parties. So, my advice is to get a hold of this great set as soon as possible and appreciate seeing some masters at work. Play and enjoy it in the confines our your own home and let the music tell its own joyful story for you. This really is a most worthwhile album especially if you like world music, jazz/fusion, Steve Hackett or even all three!

Released 28th April, 2023.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Djabe & Steve Hackett: Live In Gyor, 2CD & Blu-Ray Edition – Cherry Red Records

Review – We Came From Space – Overlords – by John Wenlock-Smith

Prog isn’t supposed to be fun is it? Well, if you think that way, you will miss out on this third album from Pittsburgh’s We Came From Space. This quartet are, in effect, also an offshoot or side project of the Neal Morse Band’s keyboard player Bill Hubauer, along with guitarist Dave Buzard, bassist Dave Hawk and drummer Tim Malone who, together, have delivered a really fun and fine release that offers prog stylings, along with a healthy shot of almost fusionesque tones and licks. 

There is so much to enjoy here, strong material and good music, alongside intelligent lyrics with a touch of goofiness that completes the sound. There is symphonic prog in there as well and I also detect touches of bands like Kansas and ELO, among others. Overall the band offer a great sounding set of songs and, like most releases these days, this is primarily available as a download, although physical CD’s can be found online if you look. I also recommend several listens for the music to really sink in. 

The music is generally stirring stuff, especially in the longer tracks like title track Overlords, She’s The Bomb/ Atomic Blues and Seize The Day, all of which benefit from longer running times that give the tracks time to evolve.  

Lets delve a little deeper into what makes this such a great album, beginning with Overlords. This slice of whimsy proposes aliens have previously visited and dominated humanity and that we play music for their amusement and satisfaction. It’s all complete hokum of course, but allows the band to channel their inner ELO, alongside some choppy guitar riffing in which Dave Buzard proves to be a pretty adept player. His descending riffs in the mid section are impressive, atmospherically mixing with the keyboards to deliver something very satisfying, a really strong opening track. On the Radio uses what sounds like early radio broadcasts to set the scene. This track appears to be about how we are manipulated and lied to by the media who want to push their own agendas and products onto us. It is quite a harsh lyrically, although probably well founded and has fantastic Hammond organ throughout. 

Empty Space has a great swing to it and is almost funky at times. The song has a good swagger to its almost LA jazz swing and is a really impressive sounding track, there is also a great guitar solo in the middle section. Again this track certainly impresses highly. This run of quality is continued with the superb She’s The Bomb /Atomic Blues which seems to be about a famous starlet who’s glory days are gone and now she leaves chaos in her wake. There’s an interesting middle section with a plethora of synths playing. Overall it is far more laid back with a funky guitar and synth instrumental part that has lots of atmosphere and some serious chops being played, extremely competent and effectively. It’s all really rather blistering in places and an excellent and engaging track. 

Reputation follows, opening with a very muscular riff. This track has a very radio friendly chorus to it and great vocals. The song details a celebrities fall from grace and his attempts to carry on afterwards. Silent Letters is next and this is a gentler number, possibly about a love never declared. This elegant track is graced with a wistful guitar solo and more strong supporting keyboards with a solid rhythm section, another standout track. 

Facade is another impressive track with a chugging guitar line that reminds me of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is a song about projecting an image that may not be true or real, a shorter and yet no less interesting track. Seize The Day sounds like prime Kansas with its strong piano motif really striking home and the vocals capture the sound too. The song is about making the most of what you have around you, time, talents and people. It is a call to make the most of these resources as life can be short. This track is my favourite on the album as it really works for me. I love the lyrics and the performances are certainly impassioned and really work very well. It closes the album on a positive note 

Overall this is a highly accomplished album and is one to return to frequently, I know I shall!

Released 3rd February, 2023.

Order digitally from bandcamp here:

Overlords | We Came From Space (

Order physical product here:

We Came From Space – Overlords – Radiant Records (

Review – Kinetic Element – Chasing the Lesser Light – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Chasing The Lesser Light’ was released a few weeks back, at the end of March, in advance of the inaugural UK live performance from Kinetic Element at the highly acclaimed Winter’s End Festival held in Chepstow. Which, by all accounts, was both well attended and also highly rewarding for the band, significantly increasing their level of popularity along with being financially satisfying.

It is not hard too see why the band were so warmly received, especially on the strength of this almost concept album (or at least thematically linked collection of songs) that is based on the theme of space exploration. The record has merely five tracks in lengths of between six and almost twenty minutes duration. The music is definitely Symphonic Prog which has nods to the likes of ELP, Yes, Asia and many others. The band say that their lyrics have a spiritual touch, however, don’t be alarmed by this it is only mild and is really more about being positive as opposed to the possibly more heavy handed preaching of say Neal Morse or similar.

The album begins with its shortest track, First Stage, which is about contemplating space travel and flight without wings, as it were. The song has a slightly eastern sounding riff in it’s initial section which then becomes more straightforward after a synth section. Once John Coleman’s vocals begin, the bass on this song is very good and fair gallops along leaving space for Mike Visaagio’s piano parts and semi-jazz guitar licks form Peter Matuchniak. I find this very interesting as it deals with the anticipation and expectations of space travel.

Title track Chasing The Lesser Light concerns itself with the moon expeditions already completed and the impact they had globally. Ok, it was over 50 years ago now but it was truly a huge step for mankind and, unlike certain theories tell us, we really did go there and also return safely. When you think that the tablet that this very review was written on has more processing power and capabilities then were available to NASA at the time, it makes the fact that it even happened all the more impressive! The song is another impressive and lengthy one at almost 20 minutes long. Again there is excellent bass from Mark Tupko and lots of atmospheric organ and synths, you definitely hear E.L.P in this track with the descending bass runs and the effusive Hammond organ stabs. Not unexpectedly, there is a lot going on in this track, strong vocals, classic organ sounds strong piano and all manner of synths and rhythm section support, especially from Michael Murray’s superb drums. The latter portion of the song talks of seeing the earth from the moon and the powerful effect that has on the astronauts when first witnessed along with the powerful impression actually walking on the moon had globally when those early television broadcasts were transmitted, capturing the moment for posterity. Those images still evoke awe and wonder today, a fact this song manages to convey very well. For me though even better is Radio Silence which deals with the families left behind and their mix of emotions from being proud but also being fearful for their safety, this gentle song is very heartfelt and very well executed .

The next track We Can’t Forget sees us looking beyond the moon to further destinations like Mars to see if life exists or could survive in such a climate. Already folks like Elon Musk are looking at these prospects seriously and planning ways to get there. This song looks at these possibilities and asks are they realistic or just a pipe dream,? Only time will tell I guess but we are right to be asking such questions and musings. Door To Forever closes the album by musing on reopening the door to space travel, and to become the Starman in the sky. A wistful opening on this lengthy track where keys and guitar combine to give an almost Bowie-like feel to the music. John’s emotive vocals grab your attention and lead you on the journey where Peter’s guitar has touches of Steve Howe at his pomp. It’s an enjoyable, fine way to close what has been a brilliant listen.

Overall, this is an exceptional release with lots of great music and musicianship a plenty, a pumping, driving rhythm section alongside solid guitar and excellent keyboard sounds and solos. This will be especially satisfying to fans of acts like ELP or Yes and, indeed, to anyone who likes vintage prog bands as Kinetic Element have that classic sound and bring their own modern take on prog. The results are very fine indeed and most definitely worth a listen, give it a go and help this long standing US band get wider acclaim, they’ll appreciate it I’m sure!

Released 20th March, 2023

Order from bandcamp here:

Chasing The Lesser Light | Kinetic Element (

Review – The Drinking Club – …really?!? – by John Wenlock-Smith

This album came up for review and upon listening I could immediately hear elements of early Marillion, I.Q, Pallas and Pendragon to name but four early eighties prog legends that this release harks back to on first and also subsequent listens. This independent release from The Drinking Club was the result of an advert posted over the internet to a Facebook group that celebrated those early 80’s Neo-prog acts mentioned above. In seeking like minded individuals/musicians to join with a project to turn Peter Hewitt’s shelved folder of discarded forgotten ideas into a more concrete and tangible firm reality. This album, ‘…really?!?’, is the result of those labours and efforts. What a labour of love it must have been to see these concepts and ideas taking shape, gaining traction and becoming fully formed.

When you add into that equation that the three members (Peter along with Kevin Borras and Tony Flint)worked on all this remotely, using file sharing and WeTransfer apps to compile the songs with various ideas, it is even more impressive. The results are definitely worthy of investigation by any prog fan as this album has much to savour, appreciate enjoy with some very interesting subject matter along with the guarantee of being wizard, witch and warlock free.

That said though, the element of political comment is clearly present as this album sees the anger and frustration of these 50 year old men venting their collective spleens on the issues of the day, ranging from immigration, the existence of God, tabloid hysteria and a painful divorce, to name but four issues. This is social conscience prog and how different it is to hear music that calls for a response and has strong and informed lyrics. Well this album has that in spades and is so well worth hearing for yourself, along with strong musical passages , solid guitar and keyboards to back everything up. This strong album has shot to the upper reaches of my best of 2023 albums already in a year of some stellar performances and will invariably create big waves come December.

The music is pretty epic at times with a few surprising influences and sounds and possibly some less obvious ones in parts! For example, I can hear traces of 80’s jazzers Working Week, especially when the trumpet kicks in during Light Years. It may not be obvious but I picked up on it for sure. It is a neat touch and one that adds to the gravitas of the subject matter of divorce and a failed relationship, the tangible hurt is sensitively handled without blame but with regret and is a bold exposition of pain and the determination to carry on and continue.

Especially noteworthy is the mock radio broadcast that forms both the introduction and outro of But For The Waves, which poses the question, what has the UK’s immigration process ever done for us? The answers this song offers are intelligent, heartfelt and artfully crafted and well worded and confidently addressed.

The album has a running time of fifty-one minutes and doesn’t drag at all. Each song has merit and the vocals are clear, in addition the guests all add something fresh and different First track Eternity (In An Empire Of Snow)/What We’re Made Of opens with a symphonic overture of synths and a good guitar line that leads into a more urgent section, this in turns leading to a solo guitar and a crash of drums, choral vocals and a subdued chord and a lone piano motif, all this lasts for over five minutes and is an impressive opening statement. I think the song is about the existence of God although I could be wrong on that! Next track is Ticking Clock which appears be about climate change and there are great lyrics in this one. Even better is But For The Waves which addresses the immigration crisis and questions the motives of those in charge and the media’s disinterest in the issue. This song is hard hitting and uncomfortable at times but its questions, while difficult, address our identity as a nation as does how our declining compassion weakens us. The outro is a brilliant and emotive heartfelt rebuttal to the question.

A Song Of Life is about a child growing up and the trials that can bring. Another interesting song in an album full of great tracks. Zero Sum Game is next with great synths and a surging guitar line. The song is about exploitation of artists with the special, often worthless, special edition of an album. This has a voiceover from a faded fictional prog musician who puts things into perspective. Light Years is the albums epic and my favourite with sombre music and lyrics but all wonderfully handled with, I must point out the great trumpet on this track too! The final track is A Song Of Deat. This song is about the cycle of life from birth to death and has a funky bassline that runs through the track and great lyrics as well. The album cover of a lone shoe in the sea is striking and is references in But For The Waves.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album, finding a wealth of great music with lots of nods to early 80’s Neo-prog and the future looks good for this trio, let’s hope there is more to come from The Drinking Club again very soon!

Released 3rd March, 2023

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…really?!? | The Drinking Club (

Review – Klone – Meanwhile – by John Wenlock-Smith

Klone are a French alt-metal collective and this album, their seventh, was recorded in February 2022 and is the follow up to their 2019 release, ‘Le Grande Voyage’. In the intervening period between the two albums the group have been busy wowing festival audiences at Hellfest and Prog Power USA, among others. This has certainly helped toughen their sound up and yet has not diluted their emotive and conceptual sound and style.

Meanwhile’ blends a very heavy, Leprous type, sound with an expansive soundscape where crunch has extremely melodic undertones woven throughout it’s thread. I have to say that whilst the music is more muscular and intense than I normally enjoy, there is definitely much that commands interest here.

The album fuses prog touches with post rock elements to craft a great sounding release, one that has epic sounds and textures and a big crunch element yet, within it all, there is excellent melodies and a commanding vocal performance from singer Yann Ligner, whose measured voice both commands and impresses in equal quantities. The man could sing the French phone book and still sound good!

The impressive use of other instruments also make this an intriguing listening experience. The band have worked hard with engineer Chris Eldritch to make an epic and expansive soundscape, this is particularly welcome as it elevates and enhances the melodic touches that reside in their music.

Within Reach is a good example of this approach as, despite its very hard riffing, this song has a lot of melodies within that are uncovered as the song proceeds, it is an excellent opening statement. Blink Of An Eye has a recurring saxophone melody that flows in and out of the song, lightening the tone away from extreme metal into something a lot more accessible and easier to accept, appreciate and then digest and enjoy. Bystander hinges on a graceful bass line that is at the forefront of the track, bassist Enzo Alfano provides really strong and flexible support to the growling guitars of Guillaume Bernard and Aldrick Guadagnino and when you add the keyboards textures of Matthieu Metzger and the powerful driving drums of Morgan Berthet you have a real power and force to be reckoned with. The band rise to the challenge extremely well handling the songs with conviction and delicacy when required, and with power at other times.

Elusive is another strong track with more expressive saxophone effects that soften the brutality of the guitars enough to really captivate. Apnea has yet more impressive bass lines, that compliment Yann’s expressive vocals. I especially like how the band contain their more metallic tendencies to allow plenty of space in their sound, it is most satisfying to hear this subset given free reign. The Unknown is far less restrained and allows their edge to be exhibited yet, even within this, Ligner’s classy vocals still sound glorious. His voice reminds me of Chad Kroeger of Nickelback at times, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, his voice is majestic, captivating and ever capable and he is certainly a massive asset to Klone’s sound and ethos.

For me, the best song of the entire album is Meanwhile, which is a moody and slow burning, epic track with lots of arpeggio chiming guitars and a beefy crunch that takes the track forward. There are also some tinkling, rippling piano lines in the background making this a very an atmospheric track. This approach really works and allows the track to build steadily, the restraint really enhances the song and impress me greatly. Less is definitely more in this instance, a very impressive and strong track.

All in all a most impressive release, one that is out of my comfort zone for sure but one whose stunning melodies cannot help but impress me. On the basis and strength of this album, the future for Klone looks very bright indeed. If they continue this progressive journey and stance they will have much to offer, those unaware of their music, and those who like a more prog-metal approach to music, will find very much here to enjoy.

Released 10th February, 2023

Order the album here:

Meanwhile (

Review – Pryzme – Four Inches – by John Wenlock-Smith

Another new band (to me at least), Pryzme are a French four-piece outfit of two guitarists a bass player and a drummer, who all sing on this album. Their music is intricate and often delicate yet at other times, it thunders along. This breadth of styles gives plenty of room to explore, experiment, develop and enliven the songs. The guitars do not compete but rather they encourage and syncopate to craft the great textures you hear on ‘Four Inches’.

Fusion opens the album and has an interesting riff and sound, both hard and yet melodic with a repeated motif being used to fine effect. The band cite influences like Steven Wilson and Yes, among others. To be fair, some of these influences are fairly obvious and apparent, others less so. Taken together, the band are a highly effective unit, the use of all four musicians singing together is really good and sounds great. The song is enlivened by some great guitar lines and parts, solid bass and the ever excellent drums. Vision is a fairly muscular track with elements of Rush with great bass work holding everything together nicely. This song really impresses, especially the chugging guitar riffs that work really well and the great guitar break at the track’s end, powerful stuff indeed. After Wichita has a majestic and solid bass riff opening the song after the street noises, cars and footsteps set the tone. Another impressive saunter of a track that reminds me of Pat Metheny in places, which is possibly appropriate as he had a track called Wichita Falls earlier in his career.

Nothing To Say has more arpeggio guitar lines and solid bass work. This song has got some real meatiness to it with great guitar lines, it’s really a fine song made better by the gracefully inclined guitars that meld so well together, the lightness of touch and shimmering skills superbly on display. It’s magical and one for guitar nerds to salivate over for sure. Pretty Princess has a very Rush like opening of sustained guitar sounds and the volume swells leading into sweeping cymbal brushes and bass pedals before taking a jazzing turn with an almost danceable rhythm emerging. The vocals sound a little off key in this song though, for some reason. There is a most excellent guitar part on acoustic guitar that really enhances this track and that gives way to a beautifully fluid guitar solo, in a David Gilmour style, that is followed by a faster, funkier part and it all works well together. The Ride Of Your Life takes the album in a harder direction and tone, with crunchy guitars and metal riffs working together to make something pretty special and the multi-part vocals are used again to very fine effect. This is all very impressive really and makes for a fantastic song.

Morning Song opens lightly enough with gentle guitars before some really hard and kicking guitars soon enter the arena, laying down some fierce riffing tones. More excellent guitar solos follow proving just how exciting and excellent this band are. The final, and longest, track, Four Inches brings the album to a close but not before its thirteen minutes and fifty seconds have taken you for a exhilarating ride. Again, this track has pace and elements of Rush abound once again, especially in the bass playing and the arpeggio guitar. There is much to savour here really, gentle but effective guitar playing and plenty of space for the music to percolate well. The guitar playing throughout this album is highly impressive, tasteful and expressive. When the song reaches the middle section there is a brilliant solo section with everyone played along and the bass holding everything together before some solid riffing and bass interaction really grabs your attention. Everything then settles into a more melodic groove thereafter, although this is played against a sustained guitar note and a jazzy guitar line that accompanies the vocals. The song then moves back to a faster tempo and more dynamic parts with bass and guitars interacting once again with the bass notes high in the mix. Aa vocal section draws the song towards its climax and it ends with voices playing out against some fiery guitar tones to conclude the album.

A very different and yet rewarding album and one that bodes well for the future that awaits this extremely impressive and talented French band. An entertaining and rewarding release, Rush fans will love it!

Released 12th September, 2021.

Order from the band here:

Album Four inches – Pryzme

Or digitally from bandcamp:

Four Inches | Pryzme (

Review – Jade Warrior – Wind Borne – The Island Albums 1974 -1978 – by John Wenlock-Smith

There is a certain irony in that most progressive rock fans have a tendency to, in the words of Jethro Tull, be found Living In The Past. I can often be guilty of this myself,  is it that I hanker after a bygone age where I was young, free and single or is it more that I was growing up in an era where music had meaning and a certain quality? That’s probably a whole different essay, either way, whilst there are very many exciting new bands around that are taking prog forward again once more, there are also more opportunities to delve into the hidden corners and recesses of progressive music and to rediscover the overlooked, unsung artists who helped make the 1970’s such an interesting and innovative age, in the time before punk’s angry young men came along, wiping out much of that innocence and the beauty away.

Whilst it may be argued that it was time for another musical direction to emerge, it was the sheer disdain and hatred for what had been unceremoniously dumped that was such an affront to most serious prog fans who found this new development and style a very bitter pill to swallow and adapt to. Well it seemed that way to me as an 18 year old boy from the Midlands. Which brings us to this great set of albums that Jade Warrior made for Island records between 1974 to 1978, comprising the four albums made in that period, ‘Floating World’ (1974), ‘Waves’ (1975), ‘Kites’ (1976) and finally ‘Way Of The Sun’ (1978). This set, called ‘Wind Borne’ brings all four together in a nifty and attractive set with an always excellent sound and a great and informative booklet outlining the history of the band and how these albums came about.

I was aware of these albums and had often seen them about in the record shops that I was a frequent visitor to in Birmingham, yet I’d never actually listened to them properly. None of my friends were raving about them, they received little or no press that made them figure on my radar, so, like many others, I simply ignored them, considering them unworthy of my attention. There were lots of bands that met a similar response, sadly, I missed out on much fine music in those days.

Jade Warrior’s story is an interesting one, especially when you take into account that the two men who were the core of the band, Jon Field (flute) and Tony Duhig (guitars), were largely self taught. The music they created was different, other worldly and unique, music that was progressive in its style but was also a reflection of their interest in oriental art forms. You could cite this as being almost new-age in style, certainly it was an inspiration for the likes of Brian Eno who’s avant-garde music of the late 70’s can be traced back to Jade Warrior’s music and style.

The music is not an easy listening experience as it requires real attention to get the most out of it but, heard carefully, you can find much to appreciate in its very mellow and subdued tones. This music shimmers and builds in its intensity like layers of sound emerging and evolving, it is all extremely well crafted and put together with real care and respect for the musical form they were creating. This is subtle music, no blaring guitars as such, and probably all the better for the slow build. I suppose you could say it is minimalist new age music really as it is rather subdued. Unsurprisingly, the outfit’s second album ‘Waves’ is well suited to such an approach as waves are constantly building, growing then crashing and receding, only to return again in an endless cycle.

Their interest and affinity for things oriental came at a time when most Britons experience of oriental fare was a Vesta curry or a Chinese takeaway. Japanese culture was totally alien, apart from the ‘Made In Japan’ album, and had not yet made much of an impact in the U.K. at the time. Jade Warrior received far more critical  acclaim than commercial success, their  record contract with Island came about through the intervention of Traffic’s Steve Winwood when he recommended them to to the label’s Chris Blackwell. Winwood would later appear on their second album ‘Waves’ providing Piano and moog synthesisers. That album is a very interesting album being, as it is, two tracks of side long length that give much space for themes to emerge, develop and evolve throughout. There are also has some exciting  guitar passages that certainly impress. There are some drums on the album but even so this does not rock out much, if at all, it’s more there to add dynamics. The music is largely instrumental, although there are choral parts to the tracks Clouds and Clouds II on the ‘Floating World’ album.

The third album ‘Kites’ features the Chinese tale of Emperor Kite and the boat man, which is a 9th century story about life. This is a very fine series of tracks that together tell the tale of how the emperor interacts with a boat man at the riverside. The tale is detailed in the booklet which makes everything make sense.

The final album, ‘Way Of The Sun’, had a different feel as it concerned itself with a different set of influences, namely Inca and Mayan ones, which allowed for different musical paths to be taken. This approach seems to be effective and the album received significantly more interest than earlier albums but still did not result in more commercial success. Sadly, as a result, they ended their association with Island Records but, undeterred, continued to make music for different labels. They recorded the album ‘Horizen’ (1984) before drifting apart although they did reform in 1989 releasing ‘At Peace’.

Jon Field returned to London and found new musicians to work with though before they could record with Tony Duhig, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Field and co would record three albums under the Jade Warrior banner, ‘Breathing The Storm’ (1992), ‘Distant Echoes’ (1993) and ‘Fifth Element’ before heir final album ‘Now’ in 2008. Sadly their influence, whilst admirable and widely acknowledged, failed to translate into sales. Even so, these Island albums are definitely of interest and value as they show an extraordinary vision and sound that was of its time for sure but all very impressive still and I certainly enjoyed this collection of ambient progressive minimalism.

Released 31st March, 2023

Order from Cherry Red here:

Jade Warrior: Wind Borne – The Island Albums 1974-1978, 4CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

Review – Flamborough Head – Jumping The Milestone – by John Wenlock-Smith

Flamborough Head is a rocky promontory that lies on the east coast of England between Filey and Bridlington. It is a chalky headland that reminds one of a sleeping dinosaur, it is also a walker’s haven and you can see seals at certain times of the year. We visited it last year and had a great couple of hours enjoying its natural beauty. At that time I was completely unaware of the existence of a band that had the same name, so the opportunity to listen and review this album was too good to pass up. Flamborough Head has been in existence for almost 34 years, being originally formed in Friesland in the Netherlands in 1990, they have been through several different incarnations and line ups, peppered with spells of inactivity over the years, and have produced ten albums during that time, mostly on the Cyclops label, then latterly on the Oskar label, on which we find this latest one, ‘Jumping The Milestone’.

The music the band create falls very firmly into the realm of symphonic progressive rock with excellent use of flute, keyboards and very fluid guitar solos. The band are fronted with the excellent soft vocals of Margriet Boomsma who also provides flute and recorders and Eddie Mulder who was the original guitarist but is now the bass player, with Hans Spitzen providing the guitar fireworks, aided by sublime keyboards from Edo Spanninga. Together they make a very good sound, everything a symphonic prog fan could want, expansive and intelligent with lots of interesting reference points. They combine the style of Marillion, Arena and IQ to great effect, there is much to recommend here.

The album has just six tracks, all are of an excellent standard with much happening musically within. I am reminded of Camel at times with the fabulous flute playing and the very lyrical guitar of Hans Spitzen, who makes every track shine.

The Garden Shed is about the joy of gardening and the benefits it can bring to one’s mental health and how, overal,l it can be of positive benefit, a most different sort of track but with good sentiments expressed within. Tomorrow Is Another Day is a further great track with a good opening section with great flute and a surging Hammond Organ playing throughout. The song is about depression and how it can haunt an individual, robbing them of joy in their life. This is all sensitively handled and in a positive manner and has a graceful guitar solo that really captures you as you listen. The song has good insight into fighting depression and some good advice too, I like that it is real and not patronising in its approach but sympathetic and hopeful too.

Start Of A Nightmare is an interesting track in its subject matter of an unwelcome intrusion and the prospect of injury at the hands of an unhinged, unwanted intruder. This is quite a different sort of song with lots of light and shade to depict the unfolding events making it most memorable with strong performances from each member and more great guitar to help carry the song along. The song expresses the lasting sense of unease that any unwanted intrusion can cause you and how unsettled you can be afterwards for a very long time. Fear Of Failure is about insecurity and how the fear of failure can really impact on one in a negative manner. Again, this is handled delicately and with sympathy and dignity. It’s about handling those feelings and facing them down, believing in yourself and the abilities you have. It talks about applying resilience to your situation and overcoming it for yourself, almost a self-help in reality. The music is very strong and supportive and the lyrics are excellent, making for a great song overall that’s very positive in its outlook.

Penultimate song Walls Of Words is about being left behind, overlooked and unappreciated by those around you. It is rather a sombre and maudlin piece but, once again, this is all handled very well, along with it being a well written and realised track with solid musicianship at its core, especially when the song leads to the suicide of the protagonist in the song. Final and longest song, Jumping The Milestone concludes this superb album. Opening with heavenly piano motif alongside an ethereal flute before Margaret’s delicate vocals begin, the track is about growing older and all the challenges that brings. This song handles its subject matter with great intelligence and good insight, it is a celebration of life as opposed to being rather a depressing slide into twilight. It reminds us all of the journey that is life, being one that we all have to undertake, it talks of the good things in life that we can all gather into our own storybook. This piece also tells us to be grateful that we can have these days in which we can age and that we should value these days. The song moves through different sections and movements with aplomb and style, lots of excellent guitar parts and sympathetic keyboard embellishments pepper the track insightfully. An epic for sure but it’s never a dull one at all, excellent guitar solos take the track forward in different directions, all of which are  strong.

This is a most interesting and tasteful album of deep emotion and content, extremely well presented and performed by an excellent and talented band. I can only but sing its praises to you and recommend that you listen to it, if you do then you won’t regret it.

Released 3rd November, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Jumping The Milestone (CD) | Flamborough Head | OSKAR records (