Review – Rik Loveridge – Generations

In 2021 multi-instrumentalist Rik Loveridges Parkinson’s diagnosis led to him leaving The Kentish Spires. The only proper responses were a little cry and a new album. The album was released in 2023 under the pseudonym of Single Helix and called ‘Prog Gnosis’. I had the pleasure of reviewing it, coming to the following conclusion, “With his Single Helix project and this Prog Gnosis album, Rik Loveridge is baring his soul, both musically and personally and, not only is it a superb release, it is very brave of him to do so. I can highly recommend this completely uplifting album, you won’t regret it.”

Rik has returned in 2024 and released a new album, this time under his own name, called ‘Generations’ and and with a title track inspired by a poem by Hamish MacNeil (AKA Macaque);

As men forget and are forgotten
The stones remember
And wood remembers, keeps
Records in rings, and history
Sings through other things buried
In the earth.

We rub our lives against them
In ignorance, unpick the fabric
Of the past one kicked stone, one
Dug ditch at a time. The broken
Threads of lives fray like nerves, unravel,
Reach out to touch and teach us,
Our ancestors, generation upon generation.

The mighty works of the Celts and Brittons,
The Romans, Saxons, Normans, all their
Oxymandian constructions still speak from
Open graves, murmur beneath the weight
Of new vitality, wait to be heard again, while

My sons’ bones and their grandsons’ bones
Will join my bones and my grandfather’s father’s. The dust will be richer, but
The memories will be gone. 

Rik was assisted by various musicians including Nick Fletcher (John Hackett Band), Sam Loveridge-Miller and his 1 yr old granddaughter Willow Loveridge.

‘Generations’ is a relatively short album by today’s standards at thirty eight minutes long and consists of nine short tracks (plus an instrumental of the title track) that sit perfectly well together. There’s a delightful flow to the album with a perfectly judged melting pot of musical genres being exposed by a quite wonderful musician. Obviously, with Rik’s roots from being a member of The Kentish Spires, there is a more than a touch of folk to things but it is blended perfectly to create something a bit more eclectic and that appeals to a wider audience. A totally relaxing musical experience is delivered on tracks such as the elegant opener Awaken and the almost radio friendly pop feel of Didn’t mean it, a song that has a real feel of the legendary Joe Jackson to my ears with the gorgeous swirling Hammond organ and perfectly judged vocals. Rik has a penchant for delivering tightly constructed tracks with superlative musicianship on show and that is completely evident here, the delightful guitar at the end, with its fluid jazz tones, is an added delight. Exposure II with its world music vibe and fiery psychedelic guitar fills is another insightful piece of music that has more of an edge than the opening two tracks and its coruscating, harsher tone really appeals to these ears!

Forever Young has a psychedelic, funky and totally 70’s atmosphere right from the get go and is another fantastic track that hits the sweet spot, just check out the guitar playing and tell me it doesn’t put a smile on your face. Title track Generations takes electronica as its core theme and strides confidently onto the scene with the refined voice over taking centre stage; “The soil waits to welcome. Reach out to touch and teach us, Our ancestors, generation upon generation.” It’s a striking and confident piece of music that really makes its mark. A more laid back and relaxed Talking Heads? Well, if such a thing could exist, it does on Earth Reborn, a swirling, cultured track that is another stand out on an album full of confident, literate and accomplished music.

Wistful and sepia tinged, Lazy day does exactly what it says on the tin with its full on 70’s psychedelic nostalgia washing over you in waves of comforting sound. Rik’s echoing vocal, the hypnotic keyboards and flashes of strident guitar all combine to deliver a mind expanding experience (without the need for anything illegal!). Post Truth State is just superb songwriting, there’s no other way to put it. An incisive five minutes of music that brings images of XTC to my mind with its sharp, shrewd lyrics and a guitar sound that Dave Gregory would be might proud of. For me, it is the highlight of the album among some rather special tracks. The album proper closes with the dark and moody Road Dreamer where the sublime 80’s infused keyboards are front and centre before a calming acoustic guitar takes over and we are gifted a mightily impressive instrumental piece that has a true widescreen cinematic feel to it. If you’re lucky enough to hear the instrumental version of Generations then that is an added bonus and fits perfectly with the rest of the album.

Rik Loveridge has taken us on a quite moving and immersive musical journey with the rich and deeply engaging ‘Generations’ and should you choose to join him, you will be richly rewarded.

Released 1st January, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Generations | Rik Loveridge (

Interview With Nick Fletcher

I sat down with fellow Yorshireman, and all round good egg, Nick Fletcher to talk about all things music. We discuss how it all started, his influences, his latest album ‘Quadrivium’ and the current state of the music industry and it sounds like two mates talking in the pub. However, I can confirm that no alcohol was consumed…

Progradar: Nice to meet you Nick, are you alright?

Nick: Yes, I’m fine Martin, how are you?

Progradar: I’m good thanks. This was instigated by the post you put on (Facebook) by that musician friend of yours where he said, in so many words, that there is no point making great albums any more! I think you are a little older than me but we are both from that generation where music was all about the hard copy, spending your 80 pence pocket money, or what you got in those days, on vinyl. I thought it would be good to have a chat about that and the state of the industry but, also to get a bit of background.

I got to hear about you from John Wenlock-Smith and his reviews of your albums at Progradar, especially ‘Quadrivium’. I get drawn in by great album art and I love the cover of that album so, after reading John’s review, listening to the album and chatting a bit with you online, I thought it would be great to find out more about you. From a bit of research, I found that you left music college in 1981 and became a classical guitarist, a teacher and a session guitarist. That’s the bare bones so can you fill me in on your back story?

Nick: Originally, I wanted to play the electric guitar when I was much younger. Then I came across quite a few bands in the 70’s where guitarists were venturing into other areas of music as well and I got to hear people like Steve Hackett, Steve Howe and Jan Akkerman, those kind of players who were also introducing elements of the classical guitar into what they did. That kind of sparked my imagination with getting involved in, and developing, that kind of playing.

When I was younger, If you wanted to take playing the guitar more seriously, the only outlet you had really was to do a classical music course, there was nothing else available in those days. You either did that or there was one course available in Leeds, a jazz music course and, at the time, because I’d been getting into the classical guitar, I didn’t feel that was appropriate for me, so I went down that classical route.

I then became a classical trained musician and, when I left there, I started doing concerts, I was doing a lot of teaching but I was also playing the electric guitar, playing in a lot of bands, I used to play with Dave Bainbridge quite a bit. Dave went to the Leeds College of Music and I went to the Huddersfield School of Music and we met through a mutual friend and formed a couple of bands together.

Of course, as soon as we left college, which would have been ’81, like you said, it was a bit like a scorched earth, ‘progressive rock’ what’s that?, that’s all done with now!

Progradar: Yes, and I’ll put my hands up here, that was the start of the New Romantic style of music, bands like Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Ultravox etc. and I loved them!

Nick: And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I went into music college in ’79, came out doing some classical stuff but also wanted to do some progressive rock but it was like, well, where’s it gone!? In two years it had vanished! I couldn’t get a gig, there were no gigs to be had, no one was interested!

So, to that end, I got involved doing some jazz and jazz fusion stuff because there were some gigs for that kind of thing. I also got involved with a couple of record companies at the time who needed a couple of session players to do some stuff for them and I developed a bit of a career in doing that as well.

Progradar: Did that desire to play progressive rock disappear or was it always there in the background with no outlet to take it any further?

Nick: It’s like anything in life, if you’ve got the opportunity to do stuff then you get on and do it but if the opportunity isn’t there, you have to find a different way, don’t you? Basically, the doors were shut on that for me for many years and then I had a family and, of course, that entailed not being able to go away from home too much because of the kids and everything.

So I did develop more and more solo work and more and more teaching so I could make a living out of doing that. I didn’t actually play the electric guitar in a band for twenty five years, I stopped playing it really.

Progradar: So no noodling in the back room if you had half an hour then?

Nick: I probably would do a bit of that, yes, but very little really for a long period of time because it just felt inappropriate, it just felt like that opportunity had gone, to do that kind of music. Then I did a solo concert, in Sheffield actually, and John Hackett was in the audience. John introduced himself at the end of the gig and, of course, I knew straight away who he was, we got chatting and I discovered he lived in Sheffield too.

We got to know each other, it must have been around 2009, we started playing together and then, through John, I met Steve (Hackett) and became friends with him. John then wanted some help with the launch of an album he’d done, I think it was called ‘Another Life’, he had to go and do a lunch show in London and was a bit terrified of it as he’d never done that on his own, playing keyboards and presenting your songs.

I said to him one day, why don’t you play it with me, let me have a listen and have a run through and see how it goes. So he did and, as he was playing, there was an electric guitar and amp in the corner that belonged to his son, I switched it on and started playing and John suddenly stopped and said, I didn’t know you played electric guitar like that, you kept that quiet!

I just said I hadn’t done it for a long time, he was just astounded that I could play the electric guitar! So he said do you want to come and join me, it would help him and give a bit more of an interest to the performance if I played guitar as well, so that’s what we did. I went down with John, we did that and then, when we came back, John thought well I could put a band together, he’d always wanted to do it and then he asked me if I’d play electric guitar.

I thought that it sounded like a bit of fun so, yeh, let’s do that and it morphed into being more than a bit of fun, I thought, after a while, I’ve really missed this, what have I been doing for all these years? It was the opportunity, you see? the opportunity arose and I took the opportunity and went with it. It kind of revitalised my whole interest in the electric guitar, I think that it had always been there but, because I hadn’t had the opportunity, I’d put it to one side.

I then started to develop that playing seriously, did some writing, did some work with John. We did an album together in 2018 called ‘Beyond The Stars’, which I think John Wnelock-Smith reviewed as well, and then I started doing some more solo stuff, which I’ve been doing ever since and that’s about it really.

Progradar: So, to put you on the spot then, would you say that you are an electric guitarist who can also play classical guitar or classical guitarist who also plays electric? Or are you just a meld of both really?

Nick: I’m a meld of both…

Progradar: You’re a guitarist basically?

Nick: Yes, they’re both two quite different disciplines. The technique and the approach to playing are both quite different really, I think one of the reasons I shut down the electric guitar is, while I was trying to build up the classical playing, there was too much coming from the electric side and it was interfering with the development of that technique.

The thing is, once I had developed that technique, I could go back and play anything, it just opened up the doors, technically, to go into all sorts of areas with the guitar that I otherwise would have found more difficult to do, I became more adept at using my fingers, basically!

Progradar: Is there one you find more enjoyable than the other? Or this that saying that, if you had two kids, which one do you like more!?

Nick: There like two sides of the same coin, I enjoy playing solo, performing on my own but it’s a very different discipline to playing in a band and I enjoy that side as well, it’s more of a social thing. You interact musically with each other and also on a social level. So, for me, it’s the best of both, I like doing both and I’d find it hard to stop doing both, doing one of them exclusively. I’d like to keep doing both.

Progradar: It surprised me, even after reading John’s review of ‘Quadrivium’, how modern it sounds and it’s quite heavy in places. When you read your background, you think here’s a guy who’s a classical guitarist, you think that here’s a guy who plays electric but will be more intricate, delicate in the way he plays it but ‘Quadrivium’, in places, just absolutely blows you away! Not that I can see you with hair down past your shoulders playing speed metal Nick! but there’s some really technical playing on the album.

Nick: Those days have gone, yes, but i did have longer hair in my youth!

Progradar: You mentioned those guys at the start, people like Jan Akkerman, Steve Howe and Steve Hackett, but, when you first started playing the guitar, were they your first influences?

Nick: No, one the influences that got me into the electric guitar was Hank Marvin, there was a Shadows album in the house, I had an older brother who introduced me to music that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I heard Hank Marvin and I thought it was just magic, what’s that sound? That got me into the electric guitar, it really sparked something.

After that, what really got me into the electric guitar was listening to Jimmy Page, I heard some early Zeppelin stuff and it kind of blew my mind, those sounds he was getting out of the guitar, I thought I want to do some of that! That really sparked my imagination, I think Jimmy Page is a great individual player, there’s a real character to his sound.

I also liked some quite melodic players as well, and I still do as one of them is still going, that’s Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash. I really liked Andy’s playing and I still do, I think he’s actually quite an underrated player, a fabulous electric guitar player.

Progradar: I’ve recently got back into collecting vinyl and I’ve literally just bought the Wishbone Ash live album, ‘Live Dates’, there’s some really good playing on that! I quite like to listen to a studio album, I like the structure but, then again, if a live gig is done right, it can be brilliant on record.

Nick: Talking of live albums, probably the biggest influence on me, musically, in the early 70’s was, more than anything, Focus, because, Focus, for me, had everything. They had this classical thing going on, they had jazz improvisation, they had really great, bluesy, rock roots, they had it all for me.

I thought they were such an interesting combination of music that made you think, well, actually, why is music in a box? Why do we compartmentalise it because, actually, here’s a band that can fuse it all together and make a sound that’s so original, very unique and it’s brilliant. It draws on all the things that I was interested in.

I still think that ‘Focus – Live At The Rainbow’ was one of the greatest live albums that I’ve ever heard. I’ve listened to it recently and it’s so good, these guys were in their 20’s and, bloody hell, could they play! The music they were playing was just off the chart! I still love it today, I think it’s a great live album.

Progradar: I didn’t get into progressive rock until the late 80’s/ early 90’s, the first prog album I heard was Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, then there was Rush ‘Hold Your Fire’, it was my ex-wife’s stepfather who introduced me to those. Before that, as we’ve touched on already, my original musical influences started with The Police in the late 70’s but then, like my friends at school, I got into Duran Duran, Ultravox and Simple Minds, bands like that.

When I left school, a friend of mine was heavily into hair metal, heavy rock, Van Halen and all that sort of stuff. I don’t know if you remember but, in the late 80s’, Channel 4 was the first channel that would have programs on after midnight and there was one called ‘Music Box’. We used to got to the pub, get in and we would listen to ‘Music Box’, it was when David Lee Roth had just left Van Halen and he was with Steve Vai on ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’.

So that was an influence, then I got into progressive rock and then it was the blues. I remember seeing Joe Bonamassa play at Bridlington Spa and B.B.King playing Sheffield Arena with half of it curtained off, he was too big for the City Hall but not big enough to fill the arena! As things have gone on, I have settled back into progressive rock so my musical influences are all over the spot.

I do like the fact that I didn’t get into progressive rock until the 90’s because, now, I can discover it all, I’ve bought every Genesis album on vinyl. People would say to me that this band sounds just like Genesis but the only stuff I’ve heard is Land Of Confusion! So I think that’s why I tend to write about a wide variety of music due to my musical influences over the years.

Nick: Which is great, the interesting thing about progressive rock is that it does incorporate so many other elements. If you’re generally interested in music, it’s a stylistic form that actually incorporates stuff from all over the place that you’ve dipped into over your life. You like that and you like this and , all of a sudden, you hear someone putting it all together. If you’re somebody who is open to music then progressive rock is amazing, it’s a great thing.

Progradar: I would never have listened to jazz music without listening to progressive rock first.

Nick: Well, I didn’t either.

Progradar: If you take jazz on it’s own, originally I just wouldn’t have listened to it!

Nick: I got into jazz music probably through Bill Bruford. When he left Crimson and he started doing his own thing, I bought his albums and they were just incredible, well crafted albums, the music, the production, everything about them. But listening to those albums got me interested in what had influenced him, why is he writing that stuff, where is it coming from? Then you delve back into some other stuff and realise, well, that’s jazz, isn’t it? It’s not coming from rock or blues, it’s coming from a different place all together. So I think listening to Bill Bruford really helped me develop an interest in other music as well.

Progradar: I got, through working with David Elliott at Bad Elephant Music, into Snarky Puppy and delving into their back catalogue. I do like a bit of trumpet and cornet, I love saxophone and things like that and the only sort of reference, when you mention saxophone to most people, is Gerry Rafferty and Baker Street or Tina Turner, We Don’t Need Another Hero, those are the two that everyone comes up with! I think you’re right in what you’re saying, it opens you up to so many other things. It’s like sponge, isn’t it?

Nick: It is and, if you’re open minded, and want to be educated a bit more, broaden you’re horizons, you can listen to this stuff and it takes you into other areas that you never have probably gone into.

Progradar: Talking of your solo career, when you first start writing an album and, to be fair, you’ve probably got another that you’ve already started now, how do you go about writing? Where do you get your influences from for the tracks? Do you have four or five all on the go at once or do you start with one track, finish that and then go on to the next one?

Nick: I do tend to have lots of ideas which, over time, either become something or they don’t. If it’s a strong idea, you’ve developed it and then I go back and I play stuff, an idea that I might have had and thought I couldn’t take it anywhere. Strong ideas tend to develop and start to have a life of their own.

The initial idea will spark off the rest of the progression of the music, it will develop out of that. If the idea that you had isn’t going anywhere then it tends to just become a dead end but I do tend to have several pieces of music on the go at once, I don’t just write one piece and then move on to the next.

Progradar: Obviously, if you’re in a band then you’re all working together, you’re bouncing ideas off each other, as a solo artist do you bounce ideas off, say, your wife or fellow musicians or is it just something you keep to yourself?

Nick: No, it’s totally in my head, it is literally in my head, I write in my head.

Progradar: So you’re not going to have any idea of how your music is going to be felt by anyone else until you’ve literally finished and played it then?

Nick: The thing is, I don’t use any software and I don’t record anything at all until I go into the studio, I write it all out, apart from the improvised sections, obviously I don’t write them. The main structures of the pieces are all written out and I play around on the guitar and practice what I’m going to record but I have an idea in my head of what I want it to sound like but it’s not until I start recording it that it starts to unfold. So it’s very gratifying when you’ve finished an album, that was what was in my head and now it’s out of my head and on record.

Progradar: It’s very organic then, it’s a very organic process…

Nick: It is very organic, I don’t use software and, this is going to sound weird, I don’t plug the electric guitar in to write, I just play the thing with virtually no sound at all.

Progradar: It’s like a silent disco!

Nick: It is a bit like a silent disco, it’s a bit odd. The reason I work like that is because, if you play an idea with a great sound then you tend to develop the idea using the sound, the colour of the sound that you’re working with and it kind of develops from there. For me, I like to work purely with the music, I think of it like a pencil sketch, an artist would often do a pencil sketch of a landscape and then they would take into their studio and fill it in with the colour and the paint and develop it from there but they would always start from a pencil sketch.

You look at Turner’s work and he always had loads and loads of pencil sketches, so did Constable, any of these landscape artists and they would go into the studio and develop it, using the colours that were available, to make it come alive. That’s exactly how I think of it, I sketch out lots of ideas but I have no ideas of how the sound is going to be appropriated until I actually start the recording process.

A lot of people these days, they use the equipment, they use the sounds to generate the music, the form and the structure. There’s nothing wrong with doing that but, for me, it just doesn’t really work like that because I have such a lot of strong ideas in my own mind. I feel that you could spend hours and hours messing around trying to find the right sound whereas I don’t have that problem.

Progradar: Do you think you write music like that because of your classical training?

Nick: I think it might partly to do with that, I’ve never really thought of it in that way, it just feels right to me to work like that, you know?

Progradar: Getting on to the elephant in the room and what initiated this conversation in the first place, the Spotify and streaming generation. It’s a generational thing, our generation, we loved that thing of going down to the record shop and buying the vinyl buying the CD and having the physical product in our hands.

We didn’t have instant access to the music, our Spotify was almost the radio, wasn’t it? That was where you’d hear snatches of music and, if you liked it, you would go out and buy the album, you wouldn’t have the option of, having heard that one track, now being able to stream the rest of it. My own personal opinion is that it has devalued music massively.

Maybe due to my influence, my stepson will listen to the whole album from start to finish but he is an anomaly of the current generation. The whole point of the music that you write, that Big Big Train write and the bands that I really enjoy listening to is that they write an album of songs and they will put them songs in order, in the structure, that they are meant to be heard in. You’re not supposed to pick a little bit out here and there and I find it frustrating!

Nick: I do as well. For me, going back to my classical background, I view albums as like symphonies, you know? The reason the LP came into being was because it was a way of fitting a symphony onto a disc, that was why the LP originated, there was no other reason why the LP should exist. A long player exists because record companies wanted to find a way of putting long form music onto a recording. For me, the progressive rock stuff is the same, it’s an album that has a start, it has a finish, it takes you on a journey, it takes the listener somewhere.

They’re not just disparate tracks, it’s not a ‘best of’ album, it’s something that’s got a narrative and a direction. It unfolds like it would a film, you go and watch a film, you don’t pick and mix or watch that scene and watch that scene just because you like them, you watch the whole narrative start to finish. That’s the process, that’s the enjoyment of watching the film and, for me, it’s the same with music, it unfolds over a period of time, it takes you on a journey and it stimulates your imagination.

Progradar: I think the question posed by the musician you quoted was, is there any point in making a great album anymore? In his opinion, it didn’t have a place in today’s society. Well, I disagree, I still think that music like that is an art form and art is still out there. As people still paint pictures, people still like to listen to music.

Nick: Definitely and, like you said before, it devalues it. If you start cutting it up into bits, little sounds bites here and everywhere, you devalue the whole thing. In fact the YouTube generation of people who go out there and do their thing, play their guitars and play their songs, they have thirty seconds to get somebody’s attention because there’s so many millions of people doing it. They’ve got to do all this stuff which, half the time, isn’t very musical, it’s just to get people’s attention.

In the old days you’d have record companies doing their best for the bands or the artists which would give them longevity over a long period of time, they’d put money into it, they’d develop the artist and the companies would see a return for their money over a period of time. Whereas now everyone wants instant everything, they want instant return on their money, instant gratification from the music, you know.

There’s not many gigs, everyone’s just sat in their bedrooms playing music and hoping that, within thirty seconds, someone will take notice of them or they’ll switch onto the next one. What’s that doing to music? It’s just devaluing the whole thing.

Progradar: You’ll be like me, there was an old record store in Bridlington called Turners and they had listening booths. You’d get the album out and put the headphones on. On a Saturday you’d spend hours in there but you’d come out of there having spent quite a few quid by the time you left!

Nick: Exactly, it was all part and parcel of the enjoyment of the music. It’s a generational thing because kids these days have so many other distractions what with games and everything. We never had that when we were younger, music was part of our culture.

Progradar: It was a tactile thing, wasn’t it? It’s lost that tactility.

Nick: Definitely, I hope it comes back but I’m not going to stop doing it.

Progradar: I don’t want you to stop doing it! I want to hear what comes next after ‘Quadrivium’, I love that album. Right, we are going to have to wrap it up now Nick, I really appreciate you talking to me tonight, it’s been brilliant.

Nick: It’s a pleasure Martin, thanks for talking to me. I start the new album soon and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Quadrivium’ was released on 15th September, 2023.

You can order the album (and all of Nick’s other projects) direct from Nick’s webstore here:

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

You can read John Wenlock-Smith’s review of the album here:

Review – Nick Fletcher – Quadrivium – by John Wenlock-Smith – Progradar

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.

Nick Fletcher Interview with John Wenlock-Smith

I took the opportunity to talk with the ever affable, Huddersfield based, guitarist about his forthcoming new album release ‘Quadrivium’.

JWS: Good afternoon Nick, how are you doing?

NF: I’m doing very well thank you!

JWS: So let’s talk ‘Quadrivium’, What’s it all about Nick?

NF: Well the album which is fully instrumental with no vocals this time (due in part to be unable to locate vocalists who could sound right for the albums themes), it’s based upon Plato’s four noble arts, Mathematics, Astronomy, Geometry and Music. This album, ‘Quadrivium’, links three of those; Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry, under the overall one of music, as the whole album is, in effect, music. It may be a lofty concept yet I feel it is a valid one.

JWS: It is definitely an interesting one and I found it interesting that drummer Anika Nilles hardly appears on the opening track and then her presence is strongly felt thereafter.

NF: Yes, that was a deliberate decision to ease her in gently, I think it works?

JWS: Yes, I agree, how did that tie up come about?

NF: It’s a long story so I’ll give you a shortened version of it, I was going the see Jeff Beck but the tour got cancelled because of the pandemic. It was rescheduled, which also got subsequently cancelled as well. When it was rescheduled once again, I couldn’t get a ticket, however, a friend of mine told me I’ve got tickets but we can’t go, do you want them for half price?

Well, I almost bit his hand off to get them, this was in May 2022 and when the band came onstage I was surprised to see that Vinnie Colaiuta was not amongst them, instead this young girl was on drums. I thought, what!? As I really like Vinnie as a drummer but, with the first songs, I could see why see was there (those first songs were Rumble and Isolation, the latter with Johnny Depp on guitar).

After the concert I looked her up online and got in touch to see if she would play on my next album. I heard nothing for a while and I thought she’s probably busy or not interested, so forgot about it. Then, out of the blue, I got an email saying “Hi Nick, sorry for the delay in replying but I was checking you out and, yes I would love to play on your album.”

I was gobsmacked I can say, so we talked and shared the music and Anika did her parts in Germany where she is based (in Berlin) and the results can be heard on the album. Anika has all the skills I was after, she can go from a whisper to a scream within the same track, she is a percussive powerhouse. I am very proud of the parts she played for this album, she is a phenomenal talent and I am proud to introduce her to the world on this album.

JWS: She is joined by some familiar names like Dave Bainbridge and Tim Harries, Along with your regular collaborator Caroline Bonnett who, along with being the producer, also provides keyboards.

NF: Yes, I’ve known Dave since we were both 19 and Caroline from my earlier career as a session musician for mainly Christian music artists like Dave Bilbrough and Martin Joseph, amongst others.

That Jeff Beck concert was fantastic, Jeff was a totally unique player with his own identifiable sound and style, he was a master of his art and it almost made me want to give up playing as he was so good!

JWS: I saw Jeff in Birmingham in 1982, his concert was like a guitar masterclass really, totally remarkable. He’s start a solo and something new would come out of it or that’s how it seemed to me. So, on to the new album then…

NF: Yes, well it begins with a track that is referenced in the last track of my previous album, ‘The Cloud Of Unknowing’ and the latter part of that album’s last track The Paradox Part 2, which is reprised on this album in the opening track, A Wave On The Ocean Of Eternity. In addition, The Fifth Parallel uses repeated harmonics within the track.

The album takes you on a journey through life to death, from the earth to the outskirts if the solar system. It is a journey best undertaken in a single setting so that various soundscapes can be fully heard and appreciated fully. You will find all of the styles I employ, fast, emotive, soft and heavy, although you won’t hear any whammy bar effects as I don’t use those, nor do I use any tapping techniques. I feel that this lick is a trademark of mine, it hopefully marks me as being different and yet still, hopefully, I remain interesting to listen to.

The album changes moods often within the same track and my collaborators have made this album a worthwhile listening experience.

JWS: I’d have to agree, it’s a wonderful release and one of the albums of the year, many thanks for talking to me and all the best.

NF: Thank you John, I much appreciate the comments, look after yourself.

‘Quadrivium’ was release don 15/9/23 and you can order direct from Nick’s website here:

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

Review – Nick Fletcher – Quadrivium – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Quadrivium’ is the latest solo release from Sheffield based, highly acclaimed guitarist, Nick Fletcher who, as anyone who has seen him can testify, is a very accomplished player who can not only shred with the best of them but is also a player of taste and style. So, it is with little wonder that even Steve Hackett regards him very highly, possibly sensing a kindred spirit and, finding in Nick, a musician who strives to be the best he can be, whatever the situation in which he is found.

Well this album is particularly fine, it is entirely instrumental and it is very fusion focused. Within its tracks you can find many references and nods to those gods of fusion, from Al Di Meola, Alan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny and, of course, Jeff Beck, to point out the obvious ones. There are also a whole slew of others that Nick has drawn upon in his style and playing and this is all put together perfectly into a melting pot with this album emerging as the result. This release is a musical journey that demands listening to as a whole, you need to clear fifty-five minutes in your schedule and settle down to enjoy this masterful slice of fusion pie. It is also an album that uses lots of atmosphere and nuances to punctuate is dreamy sound, in between the bluster there are gentle moments of almost serenity occurring, this gives the album an even pace and allows individual contribution to shine, like the excellent bass work of Tim Harries who is there at every turn, propelling or  pushing the bear along as needed. His sympathetic playing adds greatly to the overall dynamics and sound, he also provides a solid platform for Nick’s fiery guitar flights of expression and frees him to really soar,

This is fusion for today with nods to the past but generally forging ahead in new directions and pathways, it is extremely musically strong and focused. I doubt if you will hear another fusion album that burns this hot, it is almost incendiary such is the firepower contained within its grooves, this is blistering in its intensity and depth of vision. Now, if fusion doesn’t usually grab you then, don’t worry as this is more than just fusion, it has great rock sections as well and some truly jaw dropping guitar playing, enough to make you sit up and even to put away your own guitar in envy. The album has eleven tracks ranging from the very brief Ziggurat Of Dreams Parts One & Two to the longer tracks like Aphelion and The Journey To Varanasi, the songs changing in style, often within the same track.

Nick is aided by several of his good friends like Dave Bainbridge and the aforementioned Tim Harries, who provide excellent keyboard and bass support. On the drums Nick has enlisted Anika Nilles (who was previously in Jeff Beck’s last band and is also a drum teacher and has her own band as well). She is very much an up and coming fusion star in the making and adds strong syncopation and delicacy along with the powerhouse drive as required. Anika is like a young Billy Cobham in style at times, in short, she is a truly exceptional talent and really makes her mark here.

The album has a theme as Nick is very interested in philosophy and especially the works of the Greek masters, Plato, Aristotle and the like. This record is based on Plato’s four noble arts, these being mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy.  Well, the music relates to either mathematics, geometry or astronomy and the whole album is music, the fun is spotting which track relates to which! There  is a lot of fun to be had by doing that, so I won’t actually tell you and leave you to find out for yourself but look at the track titles for clues. The use of Google might be of use in this task, at least you will learn something new in the process.

I always feel that, for me personally, knowing and understanding the background to a music piece aids my enjoyment and enriches it significantly. Not for nothing is the maxim that knowledge is power quoted. However, don’t let the concepts behind the music stop you from listening to this extremely masterfully delivered release, instead let knowledge lead you onwards in your journey from the inner soul to the edges of the universe, life and beyond, onwards into eternity. A very entertaining and illuminating concept for certain but also a very worthy one for our modern age.

There are so many highlights on this album from the gentle introduction of A Wave On The Ocean Of Eternity that had me in mind of Beck’s The Final Peace, with its emotive guitar lines. The Indian styled The Journey To Varanasi has some very heavy guitar parts featured prominently, in all it is a very rewarding listen and does bear repeated listening thereafter as it has many depths to be uncovered as you absorb the music fully. I also appreciate that this album ends as it begins, delicately as the circle is completed.

This album is really rather a revelation in sound as it sounds absolutely gorgeous and is extremely well recorded and produced, with a full and clear production that allows room for everything to be clearly heard. There is excellent definition with good separation between the instruments, alongside which you have really great sympathetic and skilled performances from everyone that all combines to make this an astonishing musical accomplishment. Kudos must also be given to Nicks co-producer Caroline Bonnett who aids him in this crafting so diligently and adds some fine keyboard work too.

‘Quadrivium’ is an absolute stormer of an album, most impressive and very highly recommended and is my fusion album of the year so far. There is so much to discover, to embrace and to enjoy in this mighty fine stew.

Released 15th September, 2023.

Order the album from the artist’s website here:

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

Review – Single Helix – Prog Gnosis

In 2021 multi-instrumentalist Rik Loveridges Parkinson’s diagnosis led to him leaving The Kentish Spires. The only proper responses were a little cry and a new album. The album is drenched in the spirit of progressive rock but also explores other genres whilst remaining musically inventive (says Rik)!

He envisaged some stunning guitar and sax elements so enlisted the help of friends Nick Fletcher (John Hackett Band) and Chris Egan (The Kentish Spires and Nuadha). He also saw the need to work with talented audio engineers… cue Paul Cobbold (ex Rockfield) and David Pickering Pick (FFG studio) on mixing and mastering duties. Oh, and granddaughter Willow aged 1!

Something good shall arise from this dark time!

And something good has indeed been delivered with this immersive musical masterpiece. The opening three-part Trilogy suite is languid, relaxed, low key and beautiful and has hints of latter day David Gilmour solo work. Egan’s sax is quite beguiling throughout and Nick Fletcher shows his consummate skill and class with a quite lyrical display of guitar. It’s a testimony to Rik’s songwriting ability that it all blends seamlessly and his vocals add that requisite touch of calm sensibility. Instrumental Dark Matter is a wistful, dreamy piece that adds thoughtful reflection to the album. The wonderful organ that opens Nature’s Eyes imbues a sense of tranquility and harmony to this elegant ballad, a charming touch of nostalgia and this is carried through with spiralling keyboards to the understated grace of Silent Spring.

Death of Major Tom is a more serious feeling track with a melancholy underbelly and one that reinforces a feel of The Tangent to my ears, a theme that runs through the album due to its intelligent writing and sumptuous delivery. You can’t help but smile at the electronica tinged brilliance of West Coast Journeyman that goes perfectly with Nick Fletcher’s virtuoso guitar to deliver a superb instrumental, a highlight of what is proving to be a fantastic album. The inspiration just keeps flowing, With a Glance adds a funky, jazz infused feel to Rik’s Roger Waters edged vocals, Song For Jude with its Tears For Fears intro is an ode to Rik’s beloved wife and is uplifting and engaging and Tully Remembered is as jazzy as they come, Egan’s sax just oozing class and sophistication.

Queen’s Gambit brings us to the closing part of the album and is an outstanding piece of songwriting. An involving and compelling musical journey that entrances and mesmerises the listener throughout and probably my favourite song on the album. Perhaps the two-part Entropy could be called music for the intellectual, it certainly has a feel of 60’s prog from the days of black and white, it’s certainly quirky and idosyncratic but that just gives these two pieces a charm all of their own and one that definitely drew me in. The album closes out with the hypnotising ambient electronica of Teed’s Lullaby, three minutes of trance-inducing calmative music that resets your perceptions.

Sometimes great music just seems to seek me out and I was obviously sent this promo for a reason as the stars have aligned and delivered a wonderful collection of tracks that leave a warm feeling of nostalgia and hope washing over me. With his Single Helix project and this Prog Gnosis album, Rik Loveridge is baring his soul, both musically and personally and, not only is it a superb release, it is very brave of him to do so. I can highly recommend this completely uplifting album, you won’t regret it.

Released 12th February, 2023.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

Prog Gnosis | Rik Loveridge | Single Helix (

Review – Duncan Parsons – On Earth, As it is – by John Wenlock-Smith

Duncan Parsons is the drummer for the John Hackett Band and bizarrely the bassist for Joanne Harris’s Storytime band, ‘On Earth, As it is’ is his latest album of original material.

The album is not a concept as such, although it has songs that share a common central theme. Much of the music is performed by Duncan, although he has managed to get assistance from some very interesting guest musicians like John Helliwell of SupertrampDave Bainbridge of Iona and Lifesigns and his fellow John Hackett Band members Nick Fletcher and John Hackett himself, who both add graceful parts to the lengthy opener Heaven, the album’s longest track at twenty three minutes. The song opens with seven minutes of instrumental music before Duncan’s vocals join in. This is intoned with a pulsating synth bass line which is very ethereal sounding, there is then a section of massed non-verbal vocalisations which add to the atmospheric nature of the track. Then follows an acoustic guitar section which which dissolves into deep keyboard bass and more vocalisations along with Lizz Lipscombe’s string playing. An urgent bass then picks up the pace and creates a strong platform for Nick Fletcher’s fusion guitar part in which he shreds wildly and, as always, immaculately with a great clear tone. This then gives way to synths that lead to another guitar outburst from Nick that takes the track towards its conclusion, the guitar playing on this section is breathtaking, very fiery and highly impressive. The song ends with synths and guitar lines playing, a really strong opener.

This Day follows and has plucked guitar harmonics from Duncan and bass from the legendary Leland Sklar, whose bottom end anchors everything together wonderfully. The track has Duncan playing a washboard and also John Helliwell elegant clarinet. This has a very satisfying jazz elements to it and the saxophone from John also impresses highly. Fissures of Men is a short, dynamic piece featuring violin, viola and cello all set against a sparse piano but it all sounds really good. This is followed by another shorter track, Finish Line, which alludes to a fractured and possibly broken relationship but, ultimately, the song is about how we choose to be.

Unnecessary Kindness opens with an acoustic guitar and is largely a solo guitar instrumental track and very accomplished it is too with plenty of shades of Anthony Phillips in evidence here, at least to these ears. Three Sixteen is more muscular in tone with some crunchy guitar and a simple, but effective, solo halfway through that is ended by the cello as the vocals begin again. This is followed with a mournful violin and some jolly flute as a contrast then a solid tap on what could be a cowbell leads to the last verse of the song. There’s not a little urgency and a comfortable yet easy guitar line leads to the song’s conclusion. This is a very good track indeed, a clear winner. Lead Us Not is another shorter track with the solid bass of Leland gracing proceedings again, along with the graceful flute of John Hackett. The song seems to be about temptation and how we battle with it and how it leads us to where we don’t wish to be.

There is reprise of the earlier Fissures of Men track but it is only very brief, this leads to the last and second longest track, Valediction (Power And Glory) which closes the album out. This song features John Steel on various guitars and is a very atmospheric piece of music with lots of good sounds and textures. It is all fairly free form in nature but very well assembled, with some fabulous acoustic guitar interjections and a great solo that moves over the sumptuous backing and it all sounds really impressive. Along with Heaven, these two epics bookmark what is a most impressive collection of tracks that certainly makes you think as you listen to this fine album. It is one that  most folk will be largely unaware of and more’s the pity, as this is a highly intelligent and articulate album of music.

Released 2nd December, 2022.

Order from badncamp here:

Review – Nick Fletcher – The Cloud of Unknowing – by John Wenlock-Smith

Nick Fletcher is a man of many talents for not only is he the guitarist in the excellent John Hackett band, he also has his own acoustic guitar recitals happening in the North of England. Last year he released his excellent solo album ‘Cycles Of Behaviour’, which was very highly regarded. In addition, Steve Hackett, no less, has stated that he considers Nick to be the finest Jazz Rock guitarist in the country. In the intervening months Nick has completed and released his new album ‘The Cloud Of Unknowing’, let us have a look and see shall we?

The album consists of nine tracks which are all thematically linked by the album’s attempts to illuminate a journey towards enlightenment, understanding and the acceptance of how things are and our place within that cycle. It is mainly instrumental, although it has vocals on the fifth and ninth songs and is best heard as a single piece of music to get the best out of it and to allow the journey to unfold as you listen.

Nick says the album came out of lockdowns and during the time of the pandemic in which he became open to search for deeper meaning and value to life. He did this by looking at mythology and to Christian mysticism from the likes of St John Of The Cross, whose words that illuminate the paradox we face are shown on the inner CD sleeve. Right, enough background, let’s hear the music…

The first piece, Out Of The Maelstrom, is a brutal hard-hitting track that reminded me of Billy Cobham’s ‘Spectrum’ and the track Quadrant 4 as it has a similar vitality and energy to it. It is full of dynamism and a mad organ from Dave Bainbridge, off which Nick plays flurries of notes and runs and it’s all highly impressive. Even better though is the more reflective The Eyes Of Persephone, which features a great flowing piano solo from Dave and over which Nick soars, playing some fluid guitar lines that would not be out of place on a Camel album. However, it still has a fire burning underneath making it a formidable and exceptional track

We then move into a set of five tracks that together form a suite entitled ‘Scenes From The Subconscious Mind’.

The suite opens with We Need to Leave This Place…Right Now!, twenty seconds of modern life noises, traffic and sirens and the like that display the unrest of life, this then moves into the more, almost metallic, crunch of Pandemonium which is rather brutal really, although it allows a great platform for Nick to solo from, adding some very sweet slide guitar tones in the latter part. This is all magnificently underpinned by the wonderful and highly versatile fretless bass of Tim Harries whose parts really add much to the sound, another magnificent track.

Then we have The Cloud of Unknowing Part 1 Part 2 Part 3, the first vocal track from Stuart Barbour, who is a contemporary Christian musician who Caroline Bonnet suggested to Nick. His voice is very English sounding, sounding a little like John Wetton in his U.K. days. This is an album that is better with some volume as the sound unfolds as you listen, the more you play it the more you hear, the track ends in gentler but still highly atmospheric soundscapes.

We then have a gentle arpeggio led guitar piece called Awakening The Hydra, which in turn leads to Dance of the Hydra, a blistering five plus minutes of wild fusion playing and a monstrous riff that the likes of Metallica would love It is a brutal, kicking piece of music with lots of wild guitar riffs and manic drumming from Russ Wilson. Nick is all over this track, employing many of his artistic tools to profound effect, there is furious playing but he never loses sight of feeling, melody and touch and this closes out the suite perfectly.

Arcadia is a classical guitar piece that flows seamlessly into The Paradox Part 1 Part 2. This is a very questioning song that asks questions about how we live today. There is a great synthesiser solo from Dave Bainbridge at the halfway mark and a very spacey, yet fluid, guitar line from Nick carries the song forward, along with more subtle slide parts that really add to the atmosphere of the song. The song ends gently with classical guitar playing that draws everything to a close and completes our journey. Hopefully, during the journey, we should have gained enough insight to be able to continue our lives in the light of the wisdom that has been handed to us, to discover, absorb, and allow us to illuminate the paths that lie before us.

The Cloud Of Unknowing’ is an astonishing album that reveals more and more of itself as you become familiar and open to its themes. It is deeply spiritual and is one that we invariably need in these days of turmoil that the world is facing. Whatever you believe, this album is at least a call the ponder, muse and meditate even if only for yourself, why not try it? It is a highly highly recommended listening experiencefor the discerning music fan.

Released 6th June, 2022.

Order direct from the musician here:

Nick Fletcher – The Cloud of Unknowing CD | Nick Fletcher guitar (

Interview With John Hackett – John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece John talks to John Hackett about his latest album, a collection of songs recorded during lockdown in spring of 2020 in which John plays all instruments and produced and mixed the album on his own. The album ‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ is the result, released on his own Hacktrax label.

John Wenlock-Smith: Morning John, are you keeping well?

John Hackett: Yes, I have been doing quite a few walks with my wife trying to lose the lockdown tummy that has emerged because of watching Netflix at night whilst eating chocolates!

JWS: We have been doing that as well. The dog starts barking at a pigeon outside and is removed out of the way, lockdown, thank goodness it is coming to an end eh?

JH: Yes, it has been a tough time for many people.

JWS: Unfortunately it has, especially for people like yourself who have been without any income for over a year.

JH: I have been fortunate as my wife works from home, so I have been able to do a bit from home.

JWS: Well, I am retired now as the result of a stroke which has left me with vascular dementia but I get support from my local stroke survivors group. I have heard your new album and I like it, it is quite mellow though.

JH: Well, it is a collection of songs that I guess you would say is quite melody driven as I have spent most of my life as a flute player, which basically means you are following the tune.

JWS: So your wife works from home you say?

JH: Yes, she is an administrator for the church and she is particularly good with technology, which has been especially useful.

JWS: I have been listening back to some of the older stuff you worked on, starting with ‘The Geese and The Ghost’ and ‘We Are Not Alone’, then ‘Another Life’ and ‘Sketches of Satie’ with your brother Steve, I like the live CD that came with that album.

JH: Well, that was early days for the band, I think that was about the fourth show as a band, recorded at the Classic Rock Society who were very generous to us as a band, allowing us to record that show for posterity. I suppose that album is a bit more ‘proggy’ than some of the more classical stuff I’ve been involved with, especially the opening track Take Control and also the track Winds of Change, in which Nick Fletcher, our guitarist, gets room to play a little. My Brother Steve said recently that he thinks Nick is the best jazz rock guitarist in the country at the moment. High praise indeed, I do not know if you have Nick’s album ‘Cycles of Behaviour’ but it is a real testament to his playing.

JWS: Yes ,I have that album, I have just done an interview and album review that will be published on Progradar shortly. I especially liked Philosopher King, the longest track on the album.

JH: I am glad you like that one.

JWS: I like long songs, it gives them room to stretch and breathe a little, give me a longer song anytime.

JH: Sounds like a song title, I might use that in a lyric sometime.

JWS: Go for it, you can have that one for free.

JH: Good, I will look forward to reading that John, he (Nick Fletcher) and I have a lot in common. He has spent a lot of time as a classical guitarist and I have spent a lot of my time as a classical flautist, although we both love rock music and we both feel comfortable working in both fields. I used to think that I had to make a choice, one or the other, but Nick and I both feel that they can feed off each other, in that you can apply some of the techniques used in classical pieces in the rock stuff. Really, the rock stuff benefits from playing the classical pieces too, with the rock stuff you are always thinking about keeping it strong and I think that background can really help in with the energy and direction you create.

Nick and I worked together on the ‘Beyond The Stars’ album and he had a vision for the album. It has a fabulous long track, That Ship Has Sailed, on which Nick gets a chance to really stretch out, it is his Pink Floyd moment, his Comfortably Numb, as it were.

JWS: So what was your first love in rock music?

JH: Well I started off as a blues guitarist, my brother taught me House Of The Rising Sun and showed me a few bits, then we saw King Crimson with Ian Macdonald playing the flute and Robin Miller on oboe. That got me into learning to play the flute, which I did at University in Sheffield. In 1978 I joined Steve’s band as a flautist/bass player, recorded ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’, amongst his other earlier albums, and toured extensively with him as part of the band. Good times! we still work together occasionally, usually doing a Christmas show at Trading Boundaries in which I play flute, along with Roger King on keyboards and Rob Townsend on sax, that is always a good venue as the audience are at tables near the stage.

JWS: Yes, we have not got to Trading Boundaries yet as it is too far from where we are in Cheshire, although I do have a Downes Braide Association album that has a live show from Trading Boundaries with it.

It certainly looks like a great little venue; we have seen you with Steve Hackett a few times on his more recent tours in Manchester, often with Amanda Lehmann in tow too. I suppose Sheffield to Manchester is only about an hour away?

JH: Yes, not too far at all and it is always great to be a part of Steve’s shows, I really enjoy those appearances.

JWS: Obviously gigging is coming back slowly,

JH: We have our first gig in August at the 1865 in Southampton.

JWS: Are you playing in Bilston at the Robin 2?

JH: Yes we are playing there as part of an all-day festival.

JWS: Will there be a new John Hackett Band album soon?

JH: Yes, I certainly hope so, we need to do something soon, watch this space.

 JWS: Have you had your vaccinations?

JH: Yes, I had those at the Sheffield Arena, I am not sure if the others have had theirs yet, I guess we will find out soon enough. I had to take my shirt off and I was wearing a John Hackett Band T Shirt and the nurse said what’s your T shirt and I said it’s my band, I said I’d always hoped to get to Sheffield Arena as a band appearing, not as an OAP getting vaccinated! 

JWS: You have some nice guitar playing on the album.

JH: Thank you, I was listening to an old Tamla song and heard some bongo’s and I thought I could do with some of those. I went out shopping and I found some in Lidl, I thought that was a sign to get on with it!

JWS: Would you do another album in that way?

JH: I would not rule it out but not yet. 

JWS: Well I think that’s all I must ask you about, thanks very much for talking to me and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

JH: Yes, Thanks for your time John, I’ll drop you an email later, so you have my email too, nice talking with you.

‘The Piper Plays His Tune’ was released 18th November, 2020.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

The Piper Plays His Tune | John Hackett (

Review – Nick Fletcher – Cycles of Behaviour – by John Wenlock-Smith

Nick Fletcher is not a well known name like Steve Hackett or Steve Morse, yet he carves out his own mark on the guitar world and has done consistently over the years, enjoying a period of solo classical guitar playing, time as a session player and, in the past decade, as part of a duo with John Hackett (Steve’s younger flute playing  brother). More recently he has been found wielding the six string in the John Hackett Band with whom he recorded the excellent ‘We Are Not Alone’ album in 2014 and, more recently, the 2018 release ‘Beyond The Stars’, all of which have led Nick to this point, the release of ‘Cycles of Behaviour’ earlier in March this year.

On this album Nick gets a palette on which he can draw his guitar tones as expressively and openly as he has long wished to do, the record giving him a perfect platform. Nick has wisely chosen friends and colleagues to help in this musical crusade and we find the likes of John Hackett contributing flute, piano and vocals along with Dave Bainbridge who contributes Hammond Organ and Mellotron. Tim Harries provides bass guitar, Russ Wilson occupies the drum stool and Caroline Bonnet adds keyboards and backing vocals.

The album consists of 8 tracks of varying lengths with everything written by Nick, apart from Interconnected and Philosopher King which were written with John Hackett. Four of the tracks are Instrumentals with the other four being vocal pieces. The album opens with the instrumental tour-de-force (and title track) Cycles of Behaviour, which is a very jazz fusionist piece complete with a superb organ underpinning from Dave Bainbridge and a steady beat from Russ Wilson.

Nick then begins to shred a la Al Di Moela, the shred is brief and very effective before the piece returns to the strong central melody. A prominent Hammond organ and guitar interplay follows, all highly effective, topped off by some more guitar flourishes before moving into a more subdued section to bring this fine track to a subdued conclusion.

Heat is Rising is the first vocal track with John Hackett’s subtle voice. This song is a love song really, using the heat as a metaphor for a burgeoning relationship and all the joy that situation brings to two people who are in the midst of it all, Nick delivers a quite lengthy and lyrical solo in which he shows some of the tools in his guitar bag with rapid playing and note flurries. This is all supported by Hammond from Dave again the song reconvenes again with a strong chorus being repeated to the close.

This is followed by the more sedate and tranquil tones of Hope In Your Eyes which opens moodily before fabulous keyboards lead us into the gentle melodies being played arpeggio style by Nick, the delicate vocal is then introduced. This song is gentle, like waves on a seashore, and there is a lot of openness in the sound, it is all very laid back and gentle and the tempo is steady and measured and it works with the song as it unfolds. An acoustic interlude with delicate flute from John leads onto a repeat of the chorus and thereafter to a guitar solo from nick that really shines. His use of melody is fabulous and, although busy, the solo is still highly memorable and very lyrical and returns the song to the chorus once again. We are led into a final verse and a further flute passage that is very gentle and Genesis sounding in parts, this brings the song to a gentle and effective finish. A beautiful song, elegantly played by all.

Tyrant and Knave is quite a hard hitting track with a crunchy rock beat to it.The song has a powerful guitar riff that propels it along and a great fiery solo where Nick unloads with both barrels before returning to a more spacious sound, although with an incendiary guitar in tow as well. It is really a full on guitar exercise with lots (and I mean lots!) of ultra-fast and impressive fretwork on display. For a short while, Nick takes his foot off the accelerator turning it into a much slower, but still expressive, section where a growling synth gives way to a far more languid and bluesy solo passage. It is all very atmospheric and ethereal sounding with strong playing making this a most enjoyable segment of the track, the piece then returns to the opening melody to close.  

Desolation Sound is another brief instrumental and one on which John Hackett gets free range to play his flute most ethereally with subtle keyboard backing and bass pedals. Nick plays guitar synth, adding extra textures to the track. Then we are on to Interconnected, another vocal track, which has a very pop type feel. The song is very upbeat and light in sound supported by some lovely guitar playing. There is a driving beat which makes it very commercial in sound, all in all a really enjoyable track.

The penultimate track is Annexation which is the final instrumental piece of the album. This piece opens with gentle flute and acoustic classical guitar before Nick takes things electric and plays a strong riff enhanced with excellent keyboards and drums. Nick then delivers a solo that with a lot of style and swagger to it before the song returns to a riffing section followed by another solo, this guy can really play some very fine guitar parts, as this track clearly shows!

The final track on the album, Philosopher King, opens with Nick playing slide guitar over a Pink Floyd sounding backing. It’s all very Dave Gilmour sounding and reminds me of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, it is different but just has that vibe to it. There are great dynamics with a good use of contrasts between light and shade. There is a superb solo section before John’s vocal recommence and you can hear Dave’s organ supporting the song with the fretless Bass of Tim Harries prominent too. A faster rhythmic section follows with stabbing organ sounds driving the track along, there are lots of nods to the prog of the 1970’s too, mainly Genesis and Yes. Everything then slows down and becomes more languid and subdued before more of that evocative slide guitar leads into the next verse of the track.

We return to flutes and classical guitar for about sixty seconds before a bell sounds and another epic guitar solo is delivered, Nick, clearly playing this passage with relish, style and skill. It is quite a lengthy solo here and one that really has room to grow, stretch impresses as it continues until the song finishes.

This song is a masterful example of guitar playing and ensemble playing, and this is the standout track on what is a strong and impressive collection of tracks delivered in various styles but all of which show that Nick Fletcher deserves the accolades from the likes of Steve Hackett, amongst others. He is one to watch to see what he does next. It is an excellent album and one that I recommend that you seek out to listen and enjoy for yourself.

Released 26th March, 2021

Order from Nick’s website here:

Nick Fletcher – Cycles of Behaviour CD | Nick Fletcher guitar (