Some albums you wait for eagerly only to be ultimately disappointed and let down. Well, that is certainly not the case here as this fifth instalment of the Downes Braide Association is a triumph in every sense, continuing on from the utterly wonderful and captivating release that was ‘Halcyon Hymns’ in 2021.
‘Celestial Songs’, due to be released in September, delivers a further eleven slices of perfectly concocted, aurally magical, progressive pop/rock brimming with melodies and inventiveness. It is a gloriously life affirming listen, with pretty much the same team that presented us ‘Halcyon Hymns’. With Geoff Downes adding his keyboard magic to a varied sound palette and Chris Braide providing vocals that are very expressive throughout, this material is possibly their strongest yet. They are joined by Dave Bainbridge who adds guitar to several tracks and Marc Almond, who provides a good vocal for Darker Side Of Fame, a tale of a faded rock star, possibly based on his own experiences? Also present is the stylish bass playing of Andy Hodge and Geoff had this to say about his fellow musicians;
“It’s very useful having this core of musicians that are ready to enhance our music,” agrees Geoff Downes. “Andy Hodge is very much an integral part of this unit. When we send him stuff to play, he has incredible feeling and creates a more interesting bass part than we could have thought of ourselves.
“Having Dave Bainbridge with us has added another dimension to the DBA-sound and I’m very happy with that. Dave’s got his own stamp and that’s something that we appreciate having on board.“
This album has a lot of variety to its tracks, every song is different yet each casts its own spell and it all provides an interesting spectrum of colours and sounds and is wonderfully produced and delivered with style and commitment. As always, the artwork for the album by Roger Dean is lush and vibrant and is eminently suited to the music the album contains, the power of the music definitely elevated by the magnificent and deeply impressive artwork. A further pleasing aspect of this album is the clever application of knowing when a track warrants an extended running time or benefits from brevity. These skills come from experience really and on this album they have the balance about right This means the three longer tracks get room to reach their full potential, making this is a rewarding aspect of the album it is stronger for it.
Highlights include the fantastic, ballad-like, opener Look What You Do, a lush and gorgeous evocation of love with Chris Braide’s hauntingly elegant vocal front and centre, Clear Light, the first single, which is pure 80’s prog-pop excellence in the vein of Asia (no surprise with Geoff Downes involved!) and the aforementioned Darker Side Of Fame, a nostalgic feeling song where Marc Almond and Braide deliver a stunning vocal performance. Hey Kid is a more laid back and piano led track with breathy, hushed vocals and a wistful tone and Will To Power is all electronic, swirling keyboards, funky guitar and dynamic bass that opens up into what would have been a shoe in for a single release, when people used to buy 7″ vinyl that is!
The first of the longer tracks, Heart Shaped Hole, begins with delicate keyboards and short guitar interjections, The track also benefits from a soaring guitar solo from Dave who is playing with fluidity and feeling, oozes emotion and is a sheer joy to listen to here. The song isn’t bad either. Dear Petra seems to be about war in Ukraine and is a sensitive and impassioned cry for help, support and an end to the inhumane and abhorrent practices of war. This song has real depth and empathy and its message will stay with you long after the song ends, this also has a strong spoken introduction.
On The Run is another storming track with a strident beat and excellent lyrics. In fact, all the lyrics on this album are generally excellent, helping to create great songs with real depth feeling and meaning. These things are rare in a world of shallow unfocused music that is unsightly heralded by the media, so, when you come across music that actually has real merit it should be encouraged, praised and, above all, noticed and this album showcases that perfectly. Goodbye To You (Sister Shame) is up next and this one is a musing on the nature of love and how fate plays its part in making connections. The words are very profound and earnestly sung and the sound has overtones of the Beatles in parts, a really good track with more expressive guitar from Dave.
Closing track Beyond The Stars is also the albums longest, opening with synths creating an aural soundscape before giving way to church organ sounds underpinning the spoken word introduction. The song moves into more epic keyboards before a meaty guitar line plays over the synthesised soundscape with an orchestral sound. The use of dynamics in this album is really impressive, creating wonderful moods and taking you, the listener, on a great journey of discovery through different worlds of wonder, hope and even joy. This is a journey that you need to experience for yourself through this excellent sounding and sublime album
Now I am going to listen to this again from the start and marvel again at the depth of talents that have made this a wonderful warm and life affirming album. DBA aren’t afraid to ask deep probing questions and offer their own interpretation on the big questions of life. Don’t be afraid to join in this quest, I think you will enjoy the challenge and hear some great music whilst you do so. If you like symphonic or orchestral type prog then this one is most certainly up your street for there is much that will entrance you here.
Released 8th September, 2023.
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Watch the videos for Keep On Moving and Clear Light ;