Review – John Greenwood – DARK BLUE

Following a life training as a Plastic Surgeon and practicing as a Burn Surgeon and Director of the Adult Burn Centre of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. retirement has finally allowed John Greenwood to pursue some musical dreams.

Just prior to retiring, he met Mark Trueack who had been pointed his way by Jimmy Keegan (not that one), a very long-time friend of John’s and the guitarist in Trueack’s fledgling UPF Acoustic. Following a hand-injury, and unable to play, Keegan suggested that John might be interested. After a few rehearsals with UPF Acoustic, Trueack introduced John to Sean Timms, suggesting a rekindling of Unitopia and a studio album based on ailments suffered by the band’s members. At this stage, Sean helped John establish his own home studio.

John began to record a series of solo tracks (some with themes he composed as a teenager, and some completely new). The songs quickly divided into two camps; those about man’s inhumanity to man, governmental choosing of economy over citizens and even the health of the planet (DARK). The others focussed on sadness due to various forms of loss (physical, experiential, personal – BLUE). He added into that group his cover of what he considers the ultimate song of loss, Tony Banks’ Afterglow.

His ‘Dark Blue’ album features several family members (Wife, Helen, provided the inspiration and lyrics for A Proper Song; Daughter, Emma, sings on Rosco and The Ocean as well as playing the introductory ‘cello on the latter; Son, Sam, plays the Grand piano piece in The Ocean, whilst Sam’s wife Sarah plays violins on Too Late!, Too Late! Reprise and The Ocean whilst her sister Nicola plays flute on the same tracks). John’s brother-in-law, Andrew Fanning, helped with lyrics for Too Late! and The Ocean, whilst the daughter of a work colleague of John’s, Kirstin Damkat, spoke the child’s soliloquy.

A school friend of John’s (Andrew Rowland) provided all the artwork. Sean Timms added additional keyboards and some great sound effects, and a number of drummers were involved (international artist Craig Blundell and local drummers, Ben Todd and Mike Giuffreda). Sean drafted in Nick Sinclair to replace John’s bass on Rosco and Julian Ferraretto to play gypsy violin on Packin’ my Suitcase. Other than that, it’s all John on vocals, all guitars, most of the bass guitars, keyboards and orchestration.

So there is a really extensive introduction to John Greenwood’s solo album and, do you know what?, ‘Dark Blue’ has to be one of the most truly progressive albums I’ve heard this year. At times it is like musical theatre, bombastic, orchestral overtures and idiosyncratic, over the top, vocals and, at others, it is just utterly sublime, wistful and beautiful music with ethereal vocals (check out John’s daughter, Emma, on the epic The Ocean) but it never fails to captivate and engross you in it’s lengthy sixty-nine minute running time.

You’ve read about the supporting cast that helped to make this wonderful release, I mean Craig Blundell for god’s sake!, but this is John’s creation, 100% and his sureness of touch and songwriting genius can be felt in every word and note. If you’re a fan of Unitopia and UPF then you can feel the slight influences on the album and that is a good thing, the expansive music and thought provoking subject matter are cleverly integrated into this amazing creation.

The epic A Little Piece of Rosco Vidal is progressive rock at its finest, a build up of musical intensity, intricate melodies, fine vocals and music that is both cerebral and emotive, superb! The trio of Too Late!, Too Late! Reprise and The Ocean stray boldly into the territory of musical theatre where the elegant vocals of both John and Emma could grace any West End stage but it’s blended perfectly with fine progressive sensibilities to almost create its own identity and check out the wondrous violin and flute, just beautiful.

The passionate, powerful duo of Requiem and Heartless add some meat to the bones (John’s vocal on the latter is dynamic and vibrant) and the almost singer/songwriter vibe of Inside is powerfully moving. The whimsical, bluesy humour of Packin’ My Suitcase shows John’s humorous side with the gypsy violin of Julian Ferraretto the archetypal twinkle in the eye and there’s a simple splendour to The Kiss with Nick Magnus’ impressive orchestration.

John’s version of Afterglow, the moving track originally By Tony Banks, is just sublime and won’t leave a dry eye in the house and this sublime album closes with the fantastic A Proper Song, reminiscent of Wish You Were Here. Pared back acoustic guitar and elegant vocals along with Hammond Organ ( you’ve got to have a Hammond!) deliver a consummate listening experience and when the electric guitar solo kicks in, it’s just heaven!

It’s not often we hear a truly progressive release nowadays but, almost from out of nowhere, John Greenwood has entered the fray with one of the finest releases of 2023. The musicianship and songwriting are top notch and, like all the best albums, I find this on almost permanent rotation, it is, to put it simply, utterly superb!

Released 1st July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

DARK BLUE | John Greenwood (