Review – Orion – The Lightbringers

“Music is an outburst of the soul…” – Frederick Delius

So much truth in such a simple statement; whether sad or joyous, music comes from within the soul of its composer. It can be a long and laboured task that is ultimately triumphal and that is the case with ‘The Lightbringers’, the second full album from Orion, the musical project of the prodigiously talented Ben Jones.

In the album liner notes Ben states that this was an album he fully expected not to make, he goes on to say, “My first album, ‘The End of Suffering’, was intended to be the realisation of an ambition that was born over 20 years ago. The hope was that it would put such notions to bed, once and for all! Within a few months of releasing that first album, it had sold all around Europe, as well as going as far as Japan, North America, and even New Zealand. Needless to say, this unexpected success sparked a few ideas…”

Ben had barely played a note in the 5-6 years leading up to that first album and had largely stopped listening to anything other than background noice, he knew he could do better, meaning that he knew he should do better. He wrote the first three tracks that appeared as the ‘Passing Through’ EP in December of last year and that ultimately became the genesis for this new, full-length release.

So who/what are The Lightbringers? The basic idea is that maybe they’re a force that’s bringing everything to the ultimate good. Whatever horrors we might be experiencing in life, perhaps they serve the purpose of this ultimate good. Maybe The Lightbringers have no concept of bad, because everything they do is in the name of the best there can ultimately be. Is all of this unlikely? Probably, but you’ve got to have something to hold on to.

I’m just looking for the light, a beacon on the shore.

A resting place to find what’s right, and a home forever more.

The opening track The Tumult of My Heart was inspired by a book of the same name by Jason Spencer from The Prog Mind. The book is about trying to deal with religious trauma from the author’s past. An imposing wall of sound is created by the layered widescreen guitar sound and the powerful rhythm section but the vocals add some real heart and soul so it’s not just a metal track. There’s a searching passion and questioning mind at the heart of this powerfully emotive piece of music and a feeling of fragility and a soul laid bare. It’s very compelling and influential and a great start to the album. The Ghosts Among Us is a profound piece of music written about the gut wrenching experience of caring for someone with a profound disability. Whilst it’s not something Ben has had to do, it is something he’s witnessed first hand. And I myself have a real affinity with this track as I have some experience of this myself and which came all flooding back as I listened to this brilliantly written song.

This Sickness is a diatribe about the negativity of social media and, man, is this track angry! Crunching guitars in the style of ‘Train Of Thought’ era Dream Theater and drums that are hewn out of granite open this thunderously compelling track. The vocals are distinct and authoritarian and the whole song just bleeds a potent intent. This is ‘proper’ prog-metal that puts a smile on my face, and not just because of the subject matter. The musicianship is sublime and Ben just seems to be having a whale of a time, venting his frustration in the best way he knows how. It’s a riot from beginning to end and I seriously enjoyed it. As Best We Can was intended to be a stripped back acoustic track that tackles the sadness of a failed relationship. Just to be clear, this is a failed relationship, not a concluded relationship. The people in this relationship have drifted apart, but they’re still together. The song opens with a gorgeous acoustic guitar and sweeping string-like synths before Ben’s hushed vocal creates a haunting atmosphere over and above the music. This elegant musical tapestry continues, imbuing the listener with a wonderful feeling of tranquility. This is the calm before the musical storm of the powerful ending to the track where everything begins to build up to a quite inspirational conclusion.

To everything, there’s a season.

A time, and a place, and a race, under the stars.

Spark opens The Cycle of Light suite, the epic that concludes the album, Ben had hoped to write an album that was in the 45-minute region as he believes that albums today are just too damned long was already around the 25-minute mark, so an epic seemed like the perfect fit! This track is a very impressive instrumental that takes you on a quite marvellous symphonic journey through the world of The Lightbringers and one where Ben really started getting into his orchestral sample libraries, hence the ramped up presence of strings, French horns, trumpets, and god knows what else during the second half of the album. Crunching guitars, thunderous, primeval drums, sweeping strings and a serious amount of grandeur add up to a truly wondrous way to begin an epic. As previously stated, The Lightbringers was a force, or a collection of entities, that have no concept of bad. They just do what they do to bring about a final state of good. The idea of The Scattering Stars is that these forces are seemingly chaotically moving. In reality, they’re just getting into position so they might exert their influence. I love this piece of music, it opens so peacefully with a delicate piano motif and the hushed vocals along with the heavenly horns and wistful strings before breaking out into an uplifting crescendo of symphonic prog metal with as much dynamism and drama as you can handle and the repeated lyric of, “They just bring gravity…” and that’s what this song fundamentally does, it pulls you into its willing embrace. We’ve all heard of people talking about the sky falling down around them. It’s catastrophic, it’s apocalyptic…. But maybe it’s necessary. Maybe these things are here to burn down our temples so that we might build better ones. The Falling Heavens is prog metal done just right, a truly incendiary cacophony of sound where every note, every drum beat and every word has a precise edge and dynamism. It’s primeval in feel and delivery, music that is hewn out of granite with djent style guitars and a passionate vocal. It all makes for a track that you aren’t going to forget in a hurry!

But is fate what they break, for those that survive the fall?

Left to rebuild the world, in the image of us all.

Although it’s tragic, maybe a person will pass away before they get to even see what light they brought to the world. I can’t imagine that in Anne Frank’s final moments, she had any concept of what her diary would bring to the world. Perhaps The Lightbringers had bigger plans.

And so we come to the conclusion of this epic album with the final track and the final part of The Cycle of Life. The Lightbringers is the best track that Ben has ever written, ten minutes of pure majesty and theatre laid out before you and what this sublime album has all been leading up to. Partly written from the perspective of the enigmatic Lightbringers, it is an utterly immersive and involving piece of music with so many brilliant hooks, riffs and motifs to keep you happy for a lifetime. The catchy chorus and addictive music are on another planet and I find myself singing the classic lines, “Let The Lightbringers burn us alive, let The Lightbringers bring us to life.” in all sorts of odd places but it has just stuck with me and isn’t that the sign of excellent music and songwriting? Just go with the flow and let the music take you along on this fantastical musical journey that is ultimately uplifting and life affirming.

The best music can take you on a wondrous, fantastical journey where, for a short while, you can forget about the trials and tribulations of this planet that we inhabit and with his latest superb Orion album, ‘The Lightbringers’, Ben Jones does just that. It is a highlight of another fantastic musical year and one that I feel will be on many people’s end of year lists and it deserves to be.

Released 16th august, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

The Lightbringers | Orion (bandcamp.com)

Steve Hackett – Genesis Greats, Lamb Highlights & Solo Tour – UK Shows – October 2024

Legendary guitarist Steve Hackett brings his: Genesis Greats, Lamb Highlights & Solo Tour to the UK for 16 dates in October.   The UK tour culminates with a visit to London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 23rd October. To mark the 50th anniversary of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hackett is including a selection of highlights from this iconic Genesis album.  Tickets are onsale now:

Steve Hackett Genesis Greats – Lamb Highlights, and Solo Tour 2024, Official Concert Tickets from MyTicket.co.uk

Steve Hackett’s timeless guitar-work was woven throughout Genesis’ classic 70’s catalogue of albums. In recent years he and his outstanding touring line-up of Roger King (keyboards), Nad Sylvan (vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass, backing vocals), Rob Townsend (saxophone, flutes, additional keyboards) and Craig Blundell (drums) have brought many of these albums back to the concert hall to great acclaim. Special guest, Amanda Lehmann will be joining the whole of the UK tour on guitar and vocals.  Many fans have also been asking for more tracks from The Lamb to be included. What better way to celebrate half-a-century of this remarkable album than to include a selection of Lamb Highlights alongside some of Hackett’s finest solo work and unmissable Genesis Greats.

“I’m thrilled with the response to my latest tour, “Genesis Greats, Lamb Highlights & Solo” which has already received fantastic reactions in Europe! I’m hugely looking forward to bringing this tour to the UK, culminating with the special Royal Albert Hall show…” Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett – Genesis Greats, Lamb Highlights & Solo tour dates 2024:

Wed 2nd October                  Aylesbury      Friars Waterside      SOLD OUT        

Thurs 3rd October                 Portsmouth   Guildhall 

Sat 5th October                     Bristol             Beacon 

Sun 6th October                    Cambridge    Corn Exchange 

Mon 7th October                   Birmingham   Symphony Hall

Wed 9th October                   Liverpool        Philharmonic

Friday 11th October            Cardiff             Utilita Arena

Sat 12th October                   Guildford        G Live                       SOLD OUT

Sun 13th October                  Stoke              Victoria Hall

Tue 15th October                  York                Barbican 

Wed 16th October               Nottingham   Royal Concert Hall 

Fri 18th October                    Glasgow        Royal Concert Hall 

Sat 19th October                  Gateshead    Glasshouse

Sun 20th October                  Manchester   Bridgewater Hall

Tue 22nd October                 Reading         Hexagon

Wed 23rd October               London          Royal Albert Hall 

Tickets available:

Steve Hackett Genesis Greats – Lamb Highlights, and Solo Tour 2024, Official Concert Tickets from MyTicket.co.uk

About Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett joined Genesis at the beginning of 1971 and gained an international reputation as the guitarist in the band’s classic line-up alongside Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Hackett’s intricate guitar work was a key element of Genesis’ albums from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Wind And Wuthering (1977) including the iconic Selling England By The Pound.

After leaving Genesis at the end of 1977, Hackett’s solo career, which now spans more than 30 albums, has demonstrated his extraordinary versatility with both electric and acoustic guitar. Hackett is renowned as both an immensely talented and innovative rock musician and a virtuoso classical guitarist and composer and this was recognised in 2010 when he was inducted into the Rock And Rock Hall Of Fame. He has also worked alongside Steve Howe of YES in the supergroup GTR.

Hackett’s compositions take influences from many genres, including jazz, classical and blues. For his studio works The Night Siren (2017) and At The Edge Of Light (2019) Hackett has also explored the influences of world music. Recent tours have seen Hackett celebrate his time with Genesis including a spectacular 2018 tour in which he realised a long-held ambition to perform the works of Genesis live with his band and an orchestra.

The lockdown enforced by the 2020 global pandemic has proven to be a particularly creative period for Hackett. He began by releasing Selling England by the Pound & Spectral Mornings: Live at Hammersmith, a live recording of 2019’s hugely successful tour celebrating that Genesis classic together with the 40th anniversary of one of his most-loved solo albums. Lockdown also gave Hackett the opportunity to write and record two new studio albums in 2021: the UK Classical Chart hit Under A Mediterranean Sky and the hit rock album Surrender of Silence.

Hackett and his band enjoyed a return to touring with Genesis Revisited – Seconds Out + More! (2021) and Genesis Revisited – Foxtrot At Fifty (2022). Subsequently, the live album Genesis Revisited – Seconds Out + More!, released in 2022, became Hackett’s most successful-ever live album reaching number 28 in the UK Album Chart and achieving highest-ever chart positions in several European countries.  He recently released the live album from the 2022 tour – Foxtrot at Fifty + Hackett Highlights – Live in Brighton.    In January 2024 Steve released his current studio album, the first since 2021 – The Circus and The Nightwhale, which received critical acclaim and great reviews.   The fans in Europe are loving the new material some of which Hackett performs in the first half of the show.

Live image by David Clay

Review – PALLAS: EYES IN THE NIGHT – THE RECORDINGS 1981 – 1986 – by John Wenlock-Smith

I am definitely of an age where technology is not especially my friend. I recently bought a new phone that, a month on, I am still barely scratching surface of what it can do and with music, whilst I appreciate the ease and speed of downloading, I can’t help but miss actually getting a physical copy of the music on CD and reading the credits, booklet lyrics et al. For me, at least, the CD is definitely still very much alive.

Which brings me to this set of the early EMI recordings by Scottish proggers Pallas who, at one stage, held the prog flame alive, along with Marillion, Twelfth Night, IQ and Pendgragon, all of whom initially had major label input and support. Pallas were probably the unluckiest of the bunch though as they underwent major changes and trauma’s during their tenure with EMI.

Their journey starts in this collection with ‘Arrive Alive’, a recording that was originally released independently on cassette and which, for a low key cassette release, was actually very good. It did later get a vinyl release but here it gets both an updated sound and is also accompanied with the original 7 inch single version of Arrive Alive and it’s B-side Stranger on the Edge of Time. This is vintage Pallas where you can hear their intent and their promise. Stage favourites like Arrive Alive, Heart Attack and Crown Of Thorns (my favourite Pallas track) are all here in good solid live versions and, as an opening disc, this is very strong and satisfying indeed, neo-prog seldom sounding so good. Disc 2 is a collection of tracks recorded at various BBC shows, including the Friday Rock Show recordings, it also includes Paris Is Burning and the infamous The Hammer Falls. Make you own mind up about this track but my verdict is underwhelming at best, good live tracks from the Reading Festival and the live BBC session do both impress though.

Disc 3 is their EMI debut ‘The Sentinel’, which was issued in 1984 and contained merely six tracks, bolstered here by both Eyes In The Night and Shock Treatment and other tracks which make up the bulk of the later issued InsideOut version of the album, which has all ten tracks as we get here. The album was decidedly different from what was originally envisaged which was a suite about Atlantis. The final album only had a few of those intended tracks on it, the others were lost as a result of EMI’s reluctance to issue a whole Atlantis concept piece, although segments have appeared on various other releases. Disc 4 gives us the US remix version of the original album. Again, you can make your own mind up about this, personally I think it’s okay but adds very little to what we already know.

Disc 5 gives up ‘The Wedge’ and ‘The Knightmoves’ EP, from 1986 and 1985 respectively, both of which are very good and, even though Pallas were trying for a new more commercial sound, the material is still very progressive and strong. These recordings featured their new vocalist Alan Reed who replaced Euon Lawson after the disappointing experience of ‘The Sentinel’ album and all the issues the band faced as a result. The quality of their material is seldom in question here nor are the performances. What we have with Pallas is another case of record company interference and misunderstanding of exactly what they have signed to their label. It’s happened many times over the years along with the hit single dilemma that has faced many bands over the years, with Pallas being no exception. What was worse for the band though was that EMI pulled tour support midway through ‘The Wedge’ tour, leaving the band stranded and on the verge of imploding. The fact that they survived the ordeal and decided to walk away from a major label in order to embrace being independence once more again is testament to their spirit and integrity and these valuable recordings offer ample proof of that.

Whilst this set is not cheap, it does offers a fair package to all listeners along with a Blu-Ray of a London show from ‘The Wedge’ tour, there is also a live show from Aberdeen in October 1985. In all, it’s a big yes from me and a very interesting and informative booklet completes this set to the usual Esoteric high standards.

Released 28th June, 2024.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Pallas: Eyes in the Night – The Recordings 1981 – 1986, 6CD/Blu-ray Remastered Box Set (cherryred.co.uk)

Big Big Train announce ‘A Flare On The Lens’ live release

In August and September 2023, multi-national progressive rockers Big Big Train undertook their longest ever tour to date, performing 17 shows over 21 days across nine countries in the UK and Europe, and concluding with two triumphant concerts at London’s prestigious Cadogan Hall. Those two concerts are now immortalised as ‘A Flare On The Lens’, released on 13th September 2024 via InsideOutMusic. 

This new concert film package includes every song performed by the band over those two evenings and is available as a Limited 3CD+Blu-ray media book, with the concert film audio mixed in 5.1 surround sound and stereo. A gatefold 180g 2LP vinyl version is also available, which features a carefully selected range of material from the Cadogan Hall shows.

To mark the announcement, you can now watch a video of the band performing ‘A Boy In Darkness’ here:

Lead vocalist Alberto Bravin comments: ’’A Boy In Darkness is one of the most emotional and difficult Big Big Train songs to sing and interpret. It’s amazing how the mood of the song changes completely from a very dark place to a crowd-pleasing clapping section that leads to a tragic and powerful finale.”

Bassist Gregory Spawton says: “A Boy In Darkness takes the listener – and the band – on a historical and musical journey. We had never played it live until last year and it was a bit overlooked within our back catalogue. I always thought that it was one of David Longdon’s most accomplished songs and deserved greater prominence. The audience reaction every time we performed it reinforced that view.”

Violinist Clare Lindley comments: “There is a weight to A Boy in Darkness, a held tension, which is there right from the start and builds throughout the song to the magnificent final chorus. It’s a tremendous song to play live, full of interesting lines and melodies and, for me, an exciting instrumental section where I play all the violin and flute solos. I think the music carries the subject matter perfectly.”

Pre-order ‘A Flare On The Lens’ and stream ‘A Boy in Darkness’ here:

Big Big Train – A Boy in Darkness (Live in London 2023) (lnk.to)

‘A Flare On The Lens’ features the band’s full show at Cadogan Hall from the second of their two nights there last year and also includes seven songs which were played only on the first night. 

As such, the Blu-ray film runs to around 3 hours and contains no fewer than 17 songs, including both back catalogue favourites such as ‘East Coast Racer’, ‘Hedgerow’, ‘Folklore’, ‘Judas Unrepentant’, ‘Curator Of Butterflies’ and ‘Victorian Brickwork’, live instrumental tour de force ‘Apollo’ and future classics ‘Love Is The Light’ and ‘Oblivion’, plus a 3 song acoustic medley. ‘Love Is The Light’ and ‘Oblivion’ have subsequently been available on the band’s acclaimed studio album, ‘The Likes Of Us’, released in March this year. 

The full tracklisting is:

1.    Folklore*

2.     The Connection Plan*

3.     Curator of Butterflies*

4.     Summoned by Bells*

5.     Drums & Brass 2023*

6.     Love Is The Light*

7.    A Boy In Darkness*

8.     Apollo*

9.     Acoustic Medley

10.  East Coast Racer*

11. Victorian Brickwork*

12.  Oblivion

13. Swan Hunter

14.  Keeper of Abbeys

15.  Brooklands

16.  Hedgerow

17.  Telling the Bees

18.  Judas Unrepentant

*included on 2LP vinyl release

‘A Flare On The Lens’ is the sight and sound of Big Big Train back on an upwards curve and re-establishing itself as one of the rock music scene’s most compelling live bands. 

Big Big Train headline the final Night Of The Prog festival in Germany on 21st July before making their debut at the renowned Cropredy Festival in the UK on 9th August. The band then undertake their own headline tour in September and October, before returning to co-headline Cruise To The Edge in April next year.

21st July – Night of the Prog, Loreley, Germany

9th August – Cropredy Festival, Oxfordshire, UK

17th September – Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, UK

18th September – The Riverfront, Newport, UK

19th September – Playhouse Theatre, Whitley Bay, UK

21st September – Queens Hall, Edinburgh, UK

22nd September – Palace Theatre, Newark, UK

24th September – Stables Theatre, Milton Keynes, UK – SOLD OUT

25th September – The Stoller Hall, Manchester, UK – SOLD OUT

27th September – Stadthalle, Weinheim, Germany

28th September – Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands

29th September – Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands

1st October – Cosmopolite, Oslo, Norway

2nd October – Viften, Copenhagen, Denmark

5th October – Cadogan Hall, London, UK

Ticket links for all shows are at www.bigbigtrain.com/live

EchoVerse announce debut album ‘Whisper Between Worlds’ with video for new single “Not Like The Other”

EchoVerse is a Progressive Rock band that seamlessly blends Christian spirituality with elements of Prog, Hard Rock, and even Classical music. Set to release their debut album Whispers Between Worlds on August 20th, 2024, the band navigates complex themes of faith and the human experience through a series of powerful tracks.

The band are pleased to share the new video for “Not Like The Others,” directed by Christian Rios, here:

The band had this to say about the new single:
“‘Not Like The Others’ confronts the hypocrisy within modern churches, highlighting the emptiness of outward displays of faith without genuine love, and challenges us all to embrace true compassion and humility in our journies with God. The track is also a straight-ahead rocker with some 7/4 riffs to help maintain our Prog cred. :)”

EchoVerse has also launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the album’s release, featuring an 8-panel Digipak CD, two limited Vinyl options, a Kickstarter-exclusive T-Shirt, and much more.

Kickstarter details here:

Support EchoVerse: Help Launch Our Debut Prog Rock Album! 🪐 by EchoVerse — Kickstarter

Drawing inspiration from bands like Spock’s Beard, Rush, Marillion, and Dream Theater, EchoVerse builds on the foundation of their former group, Ascher, with a new lineup and a fresh creative vision.

Whispers Between Worlds opens with “Not Like the Other,” which addresses outward hypocrisy in modern churches, and quickly moves into “Sins of the Father,” exploring the enduring impact of generational sin on today’s society. “Feelings of Grey” then offers a contemplative look at mental health, emphasizing the comforting role of faith during dark times. The narrative of hope and resurrection unfolds in “Empty,” which narrates the story of The Passion from the Empty Room to the Empty Tomb. Reaching a narrative crescendo, “The War Within” presents a 31-minute epic, divided into nine sections, that explores the battles between man and evil, both internally and externally. The album concludes with “Walk Alone,” which poses profound questions about the choices we make and the paths we choose to follow.

Track Listing

1. Not Like the Other (5:44)

2. Sins of the Father  (6:45)

3. Feelings of Grey  (6:42)

4. Empty (5:23)

5. The War Within (Total Time 30:54)

I. I Walk Away   (5:17)

II. Something Sinister This Way Comes  (1:51)

III. The Devil in My Ear (2:35)

IV. Push Back (3:20)

V. Now (3:57)

VI. Final Conflict (6:05)

VII. Back Where I Belong (3:51)
VIII. I Know It’s You (2:52)

IX. The War Within (1:06)

6. Walk Alone (6:17)

EchoVerse:
Kyle Graves: Lead Vocals
Doug Bowers: Vocals, Keys, Bass, Guitar
Rob Perez: Lead Guitar
Kyle Fagala: Drums, Vocals

Review – Long Earth – An Ordinary Life

Progressive rock is all about progress, right? To a certain extent that is correct but not when we have progress for the sake of it and some times small changes and progressions make more of a difference than huge ones.

With their third album, ‘An Ordinary Life’, Long Earth have moved the game on from their sophomore effort ‘Once Around The Sun’, an album I greatly enjoyed, not in a big way but subtlety and this has produced a beautiful, heartwarming collection of songs that add up to one of the brightest releases of 2024 so far.

Before we delver further into the record, let’s have a bit of history;

Long Earth is a prog rock band from Scotland, four decades in the making. All seasoned campaigners of the Scottish music scene, they came together through a shared love of progressive music.

In 2017 Long Earth released their debut album ‘The Source’, popular with prog fans, DJs and rock writers alike, and began building a local audience at their gigs around Glasgow. ‘The Source’ was a serious statement of intent, showcasing the instrumental and songwriting prowess of the band. However, their identity was not fully formed until the arrival of Martin as the band’s new vocalist in 2018 during the writing sessions for the second album, the album that was to become the critically acclaimed ‘Once Around The Sun’.

In March 2020, Once Around the Sun was released on CD and download to critical acclaim. Widely regarded as a significant step up from its predecessor, it has received regular worldwide airplay throughout the year, and features heavily in many DJs and listeners’ “album of the year” lists.

The band line up is:

Mike Baxter – Keyboards, Martin Haggarty – Vocals, Renaldo McKim – Guitar, David McLachlan – Bass and Alex Smith – Drums.

The album opens with Fight The Hand That Bleeds You and a keyboard refrain that could be from a 1980’s Neo-Prog album, a feeling enhanced by the energetic rhythm section, Renaldo McKim’s stylish guitar playing (check out the fiery solo) and Martin Haggerty’s direct vocal delivery. It’s done with aplomb and class and has an up to date, polished edge. A high energy start to the album that makes you take notice, especially the catchy chorus. I have to be honest, while I’m as big a fan of excellent Neo-Prog done well as the next man, I was hoping for a bit more from these talented Scots (although the wonderfully nostalgic sounds from the keys of Mike Baxter are a revelation to hear). I needn’t have worried as the rest of the album is wonderfully crafted and really doesn’t sit in any one genre, although, if I had to pick one, it is definitely progressive rock oriented in flavour. The next two tracks, Morpheus and Life show us that Long Earth have not stood still since releasing ‘Once Around The Sun’. They are both deep and meaningful with gorgeously wistful vocals from Martin and a nostalgic sound that reminds me of the great songs that have graced the charts for years. Renaldo’s guitar on Morpheus just echoes in the background gracefully and the drums from Alex Smith and David McLachlan’s bass both have a cultured, jazzy feel to them. It is music for the mind and soul and, for me, that is some of the best music you can get. Thoughtful, contemplative and with a wishful yearning, Life just bleeds emotion from it’s elegant, piano led, introduction and the melancholy vocal, Martin is seriously on top form on this bewitching piece of music. An elegant musical journey that takes you through the full gamut of emotions and delivered by a group of musicians working at the height of their powers. Sand delivers a much harder, defining edge to the band’s sound with a crunching guitar intro and more forthright vocal delivery. It’s a fluid, punchy track more focused on hard rock but still with the polished feel you’d expect from Long Earth. Renaldo gets to do his best guitar hero impression with some fine riffing and a rather tasty solo and the bass and drums feel hewn from pure granite. It’s a focused and direct song that really leaves its mark and one I really enjoyed.

The longest song on the album, Shadows sees the band in storytelling mode in the best progressive fashion. There’s elements of folk rock at play here, Renaldo’s delicate guitar playing and Mike’s vocal, almost balladeering in style, give a touch of medieval to the sound. This refined piece of music draws you into its embrace with its introspective feel and, at times, pensive and sombre tone. I can believe that this track could become a staple of the band’s live set, it has that involving atmosphere that the audience could feel enveloped and included in. One of my favourites on an album full of superb tracks, The Arc sees Long Earth on their progressive, reflective path and has a feel of Talk Talk to my ears, the deliberation that goes into every word and note and Martin’s vocal has big similarities to Mark Hollis. A big claim I know but one I feel is justified on this fantastic five minutes of music and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Moscow is big in sound and in scope, creating a widescreen, dramatic musical experience that touches on the band’s progressive roots. Another immersive musical journey that you gladly participate in, swathes of elegant keyboards and the dynamic rhythm section lay the foundations for Martin and Renaldo to lay out the story in fine style. Symphonic prog maybe but it is just great music delivered by an exceptional band. The album closes with Empty Shore, Renaldo’s echoing guitar and Mike’s subdued keys followed by the soulful vocal of Martin Haggerty on this charismatic and impassioned track. A real slow burner of a song with a pent up, brooding tension that feels ready to erupt at any moment and one that brings proceedings to a close in a very satisfying fashion.

All great albums are the product of an intensive creative process and, in ‘An Ordinary Life’, Long Earth have given us the highly impressive fruits of their artistic labours. A wonderfully immersive musical journey that will have you coming back for more, it is a highlight of what is becoming an extraordinarily outstanding year for new music.

Released 5th July, 2024.

Order direct from the band here:

Long Earth – Music & Merchandise (longearthmusic.com)

Order from bandcamp here:

An Ordinary Life | Long Earth (bandcamp.com)

TIM BOWNESS’ NEW SINGLE ‘WHEN SUMMER COMES’ OUT TODAY

SECOND SINGLE TO BE TAKEN FROM THE NEW ALBUM POWDER DRY, RELEASED 16TH AUGUST ON KSCOPE

STREAM/DOWNLOAD ‘WHEN SUMMER COMES’

Tim Bowness – When Summer Comes (orcd.co)

The sublime second single from Tim Bowness’s forthcoming Kscope label release Powder Dry is out today. The track, titled ‘When Summer Comes’, is a shimmering fusion of treated pianos, Mellotron flutes and bittersweet vocals. A quietly haunting soundtrack for a film that never was, the piece presents a potent mix of classic croon and blissed-out atmospherics.

Bowness says, “There’s a yearning, nostalgic quality to the song, I think. It’s about someone trying to convince themself that meaningful change will come, while instinctively knowing they’ll end up making the same mistakes again. It’s a cinematic ballad with hints of personal favourites such as late ’60s Scott Walker and Beehive-era David Sylvian. Inevitably, there’s some no-man (and a lot of me) in the mix as well.”

Mixed by Bowness’s partner in no-man, Steven Wilson, the evocative, abstract video for the song was created by Matt Vickerstaff.

WATCH THE NEW VIDEO BY MATT VICKERSTAFF

“This is the best and most creative of all of Tim’s albums.” – Steven Wilson

Featuring 16 pieces over its restless 40-minute duration, Tim Bowness’s eighth studio album Powder Dry represents a new beginning on a new label.

A collection of acute contrasts, the album is a vibrantly accessible and wildly experimental genre-blurring assault, embracing Industrial Rock, Electro Pop, singer-songwriter directness, haunted carnival soundscapes and more.

Entirely produced, performed and written by Bowness (a first), Powder Dry was mixed (in stereo and Surround Sound) by Bowness’s partner in no-man (and The Album Years podcast), Steven Wilson, who also acted as Bowness’s sounding board during the mixing process.

Powder Dry tracklist

Rock Hudson

Lost / Not Lost

When Summer Comes

Idiots At Large

A Stand-Up For The Dying

Old Crawler

Heartbreak Notes

Ghost Of A Kiss

Summer Turned

You Can Always Disappear

Powder Dry

Films Of Our Youth

This Way Now

I Was There

The Film Of Your Youth

Built To Last

PRE-ORDER ‘POWDER DRY’ LP/CD

Powder Dry – new album from Tim Bowness (lnk.to)

– Limited edition pink vinyl LP – exclusively available on the official Tim Bowness/Kscope store

– Limited edition yellow vinyl LP – available through indie retailers (w/ signed art print available from Rough Trade UK ONLY)

– Limited edition – 2-disc CD & DVD – includes DVD with 24-bit 48khz PCM stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes by Steven Wilson

– CD / LP / Digital

– Exclusive signed postcard included in all pre-orders from the Tim Bowness & Kscope store

UPCOMING SHOWS

JUL 27, 2024

EppyFest 11 @ Smokey Joe’s Diner, 16 Bennington St, Cheltenham, GL50 4ED

Cheltenham, UK

DEC 1, 2024

The Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, London NW5 3HS

Prog The Forest. Tim Bowness and Butterfly Mind will headline this year’s Prog The Forest.

Artist picture by Leon Barker.

Review – Geof Whitely Project – Hard Words Break No Bones

“The Geof Whitely Project was formed in 2011, it consists of Geof Whitely and special guest Musicians, the aim of the project is to put out original material in all types of musical formats from Prog Rock-Rock-Pop-Electronic-Instrumental. All albums will contain a mix of such musical songs, theres surely one that will appeal to everyone.”

I seem to be trotting out this introduction to Arny Wheatley’s musical project quite often at the moment as he is on another productive roll, this new album ‘Hard Words Break No Bones’ coming hard on the heels of January’s release of ‘The Reckoning’ and soon to be followed by ‘Paper Tiger’. For some musicians releasing albums this close together would dilute their output and content but, for some reason, it doesn’t seem to happen with Arny and the Geof Whitely Project. Each album is consistently of good quality with great songs and musicianship.

What we have got on this and the previous release is more of a darker, harder and edgier sound that is reflected in Arny’s increased reliance on a stand out guitar sound. It started on ‘The Reckoning’ and has become even more of an influence on this impressive new release. Flowing synthesisers and an elegant rhythm section are the foundations and key to what we expect from the Geof Whitely Project but the darkly delicious and sometimes ominous guitar now adds another layer of refinement and sophistication. Arny’s instantly recognisable vocal gives a feel almost of a narrator on each of the nine precisely nuanced tracks and the album flows superbly from beginning to end. That’s the other thing with a GWP album, it’s not one where you pick tracks for a play list, every release works best when you listen to it in order and from the start to the finish.

There are many highlights throughout but the ones that really stand out for me are the demonstratively dynamic opener Corridors of Power with its catchy vocals, rumbling synth and brooding guitar, the polished and vibrant Creatures of the Night with its charismatic synth lines and superb guitar solo, the fiery Forbidden Fruit with its resonating riff, funky rhythm section and fine vocal performance from Arny and my personal favourite, Uncertainty Rules, which opens with portentous keys and a pensive, intense guitar before expanding with a super stylish keyboard and drumbeat. To my ears it’s one of the best tracks GWP have ever done and continues to impress with it’s sombre tone and Arny’s solemn vocals, add in the brilliant guitar that closes out the track and, trust me, you are not left wanting. Pirates of the Third Reich is an utterly absorbing listen but there’s no filler on this album.

‘Hard Words Break No Bones’ is yet another winner from the Geof Whitely Project, incisive songwriting and a powerful, widescreen sound combining to deliver a rather impressive listening experience. Bring on the next chapter Arny!

Released 20th July, 2024.

The album will be available to buy on bandcamp soon:

Music | Geof Whitely Project (bandcamp.com)

Review – Marco Glühmann – A Fragile Present

Leaving the comfort zone of your own band to embark on new musical paths requires courage. Marco Glühmann, the singer of one of the most successful German Artrock bands Sylvan, should not lack this, as he is used to being in the spotlight. It is a testament to his enormous creativity that he used an extended break from his main band to try something new without the necessary compromises, guidelines and restrictions of his fellow musicians. The result is a fantastic album, full of energy and esprit, which moves somewhere between rock, artrock and sophisticated pop music. 

‘A Fragile Present’ includes a contribution from Steve Rothery, one of Marco’s musical heroes, on the first single released, My Eyes Are Wide Open as well as a ‘who’s who’ of the artrock and progressive scene, Billy Sherwood from Yes also makes a guest appearance: he contributed the choirs on Hear Our Voice in the very best Yes style. RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner plays most of the guitars on the album and was not only involved as co-producer but also as arranger.  Sylvan guitarist Johnny Beck also contributed many parts and the rhythm section consists of drummer Tommy Eberhardt and bassist Markus Grützner (RPWL). All of this was recorded, mixed and produced by RPWL mastermind Yogi Lang at Farm Studios, who also played some keyboards.

Marco on the album title: “‘A Fragile Present’ reflects the fragility of the ‘gift of life’ or the ‘transient present’, whether in a personal or global context. It’s not a concept album, but the songs are nevertheless connected in terms of content, as this fragility and fear of loss accompanied me in the creative process.”

Being a big fan of Kalle Wallner’s gentle art of music label, I will always check out any release that I get sent and, once again, the label haven’t let me down. ‘A Fragile Present’ is a glorious and uplifting celebration of life in music form, artrock, symphonic rock, progressive rock, they are all thrown into the mix to create one of the most impressive rock oriented albums I have heard this year. Marco Glühmann has a wonderfully expressive voice, highly emotive and passionate and his use of vocal harmonies on this album is a work of genius.

Marco composed most of the songs in a very short period, although a couple of them, Reach Out and Black The Shade Out, have their roots in original songwriting sessions from 2010. What you get is a powerfully stirring release with memorable melodies and many hooks and a fierce energy that just leaves you returning for more. The album opens in fine style with a trio of superb tracks, the widescreen symphonic rock of the wonderful Hear Our Voice, a powerfully intimate piece of music which uses Marco’s lush vocals to perfect effect. The crunchingly powerful chords of Wallner’s guitar are perfect counterpoint and the choirs make the harmonies even more impressive. Edgy and hard rock oriented, Never Say Goodbye is a pulsating track that keeps you on the edge of your seat and the beautiful, wistful notes of Reach Out, with its soaring chorus showcasing Marco’s elegant voice, is simply divine.

Faceless is granite hard with a primeval, chugging riff driving things along and Marco’s vocals having a much fiercer edge to them, it’s like a cross between prime Scorpions and something a lot more industrial (Rammstein perhaps?) and I really like it. Look At Me has a more introspective and nostalgic air and, with its progressive leanings, it’s almost like a pause for breath and a reset after the exhilaration of what’s gone before, Yogi Lang adding a refined feel with his keyboards. I adore the pared back, restrained beauty of the sublime At Home, where Marco’s voice is the centrepiece and For A While is a finely constructed piece of pop music with a fragility at its core and superb harmonies that would have been at home in the charts of the late 1980’s. A tense build up then thunders into the rocking thrill ride of Black The Shade Out, a proper cut of powerful and exhilarating music that grabs hold and just wont let go. A more muted vocal this time lets the music do the majority of the talking and there’s an almost wild, unhinged feel to the track in places, a proper, earthy, rocker proving less can always be more.

There’s also a tense, edgy atmosphere to One Last Hope, a staccato rhythm and coruscating guitar dominate before the sumptuous chorus gives another angle, a song of ying and yang and another fine piece of music. Life Is Much Too Short has a refined acoustic guitar backing Marco’s halting, yearning vocal on this melancholic track. There’s a rarefied, mournful, grace to the music and Kalle’s soaring solo is perfectly judged. The penultimate song on the album is the darkly moody Running Out Of Time, another track that has some stylish pop sensibilities to it. The rhythm section has a funky feel to it and the whole track just ebbs and flows superbly, Marco’s vocal used a foil to the clever music rather than the cutting edge. The album closes with the electronic grandeur of My Eyes Are Wide Open, the first single from the album and a song in which Marco sees himself and his son, “The lyric ‘Lay your head on me, oh my little boy’ still gives me goosebumps, because I imagine myself and my son here and feel the love, the shortness of the moment, but also the responsibility of ‘sending’ him into this world”. The keyboard sound is very cinematic and Marco delivers yet another sublime vocal performance, his voice, this time, the definite centrepiece of another stunning piece of music although Steve Rothery’s ever so elegant solo needs to be noted too.

A Fragile Present’ is an utter joy to listen to from beginning to end. The superb musicians and absorbing songwriting give us an album of utterly captivating songs and one where the memorable, engaging voice of Marco Glühmann is given free rein to take centre stage and deliver one of the best vocal performances of the year so far.

Released 14th June, 2024.

Order CD or Vinyl from Gentle Art Of Music here:

Latest Releases | Gentle Art of Music

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Marco Glühmann – A Fragile Present (bfan.link)

10LP LIMITED EDITION VINYL BOX SET 8314 BOXEDFROM JETHRO TULL FRONTMAN IAN ANDERSON

SET FOR RELEASE ON 23RD AUGUST ON MADFISH LABEL

INCLUDES FIRST TIME VINYL RELEASES OF DIVINITIES: TWELVE DANCES WITH GODTHE SECRET LANGUAGE OF BIRDS AND RUPI’S DANCE

Monday 24th June – Reissue specialist label Madfish have shared details of 8314 Boxed, a limited-edition deluxe boxset tribute to Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson’s treasured solo works. The package, set for release on 23rd August, will include – 

  • Includes exclusive first-time vinyl releases of Divinities: Twelve Dances with GodThe Secret Language of Birds (2LP), and Rupi’s Dance (2LP)
  • Walk Into LightDivinities: Twelve Dances with God and Homo Erraticus remastered at half speed by Air Studio
  • Roaming in the Gloaming LP offers previously unreleased live recordings from 1995-2007
  • Beautiful side D etchings on 3 of the 10 records

 96-page book with foreword by Ian Anderson, extensive liner notes by Paul Sexton and exclusive pictures

WATCH THE BOXED 8314 TRAILER

Ian Anderson’s solo albums explore different sonic landscapes and instrumental line-ups, each record in this boxset standing as a testament to his versatility. From the electronic experimentation in Walk Into Light and the profound narratives of Homo Erraticus, to the acoustic serenity of The Secret Language of Birds, these albums are a reflection of Anderson’s unending creativity and his ability to seamlessly blend diverse musical styles into cohesive, captivating works.

PRE-ORDER 8314 BOXED, RELEASED ON 23RD AUGUST

“8314 Boxed” – 10 LP box set (lnk.to)

314 Boxed 10LP breakdown:

Walk Into Light (1983) – half-speed remaster

Divinities: Twelve Dances with God (1995) – first time on vinyl, half-speed remaster

The Secret Language of Birds (2LP) (2000), etching on side D – first time on vinyl

Rupi’s Dance (2LP) (2003), etching on side D – first time on vinyl

Thick as a Brick 2 (2LP) (2012), etching on side D

Homo Erraticus (2014) – half-speed remaster

Roaming in the Gloaming (previously unreleased live shows from 1995-2007)

“Hey, but someone has to try oddball things, don’t they?

Might as well be me…”

– Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson’s mind as a listener, which would mature into a lifetime of format-blurring creative ingenuity, was opened when he was a mere six-year-old. By then, already relocated with his family from his birthplace in Dunfermline to Edinburgh, he heard an old family 78 rpm disc of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra’s irresistible gem of 1939, In The Mood

“My father had a few treasured wartime records, mostly big-band stuff,” he told Prog magazine. “I remember having an epiphany, because In The Mood introduces you to the elements of blues, effectively. That was my first moment of thinking: ‘Hmm, this music is something special.’”

A word from Ian Anderson on 8314 Boxed –

“Since 1983, I have made a few solo albums, not as dissatisfaction with fellow musicians or the group identity but usually just to try something a bit different, whether sonically, stylistically or in terms of instrumental line-up. These records all stand out for me as being quite different from each other and in some ways demonstrate a broader depth of my songwriting. The flute instrumental Divinities record is one of my favourites to this day”.

8314 Boxed will be released on Madfish on 23rd August

Preorder:

“8314 Boxed” – 10 LP box set (lnk.to)