The Wallet Emptier’s ‘Music You Should Have A Listen To’ Round-Up Pt2

The second installment in our ‘Round-Up’ series sees me take a look at albums from Vantomme, Fiona Kennedy, Blind Ego, When Mary, Special Providence and Ryan Yard

Vantomme – Vegir

Dominique Vantomme is a multi-talented instrumentalist, composer, band leader, educator and producer as well as being the jazz piano instructor at the Music Conservatory in Kortrijk, Belgium. ‘Vegir’ was born out of his nomadic adventures to see Stick Men and befriending Tony Levin.

What came out of the studio sessions is a spontaneous collection of fresh and vibrant instrumental tracks that defy current convention. The sizzling, electrifying playing shows seasoned musicians at the top of their game. There’s nothing traditional or even normal about these eight pieces of music that strut and stalk their way across the sonic soundscape, in fact some of them are downright evil!

Strap yourself in, press play and get ready for a wild ride into a chaotic realm of vivid and energetic music.

Rating – 70/100

Favourite Track – The sonic powerball that is Playing Chess With Barney Rubble.

Released 5th January 2018.

An Irish woman who married a Yorkshireman and lives in Cork, Fiona Kennedy really knows how to carry a tune and her blues/roots/country rock album ‘The Beach’ is chock full of killer tunes. Take the sizzling, passionate opening song Asking Around For You with its superb guitar and Fiona’s expressive vocal and you will not be disappointed.

This talented Irish lady has the ability to change mood at at the drop of the hat and that makes for a wonderfully eclectic and emotive selection of songs that you will never tire of but, to my ears, it’s the tracks where she has a musical twinkle in her eye and a cheeky skip in her step where she really excels.

Kick your shoes off and get your dancing feet on for this album that is full of infectious chorus after chorus and more earworms than you can cope with!

Rating – 75/100

Favourite Track – The burning blues of Asking Around For You.

Released May 2017.

Blind Ego’s ‘Liquid’ was one of the stand out releases of 2016 and a live recording of their show at the Loreley Amphitheater is surely going to be something rather fantastic? Well, to cut the suspense, it is! The powerful metal tinged progressive rock that these musical leviathans produce is mercilessly entertaining.

Scott Balaban’s voice dominates the recording and legendary guitar virtuoso Kalle Wallner provides the perfect foil. To hear tracks as dynamic and potent as What If and Never Escape The Storm in a live setting is quite elctric and the interaction with the lively crowd is a pleasure to hear.

This is a live recording of musicians at the height of their abilities but also five guys who are thoroughly enjoying themselves and it really raises the hair on the back of your neck.

Rating – 78/100

Favourite Track – The utter live bombast of What If.

Released 10th November 2017.

When Mary – Tainted

Norway’s dark electro-proggers When Mary are the first artist to have signed to Summers End Festival impresarios Huw Lloyd-Jones and Stephen Lambe’s  new record label Sonicbond Music. ‘Tainted’ is inspired by the classic tale of Faust, the man who drives himself to damnation in his search for true enlightenment.

It’s not an easy ride this album but persevere and dig deep and you will be well rewarded. A lot darker and more electronic than the acclaimed debut album 2013’s ‘7summers7winters’, this new release is quite a deep and emotive musical journey that bestrides many genres to give When Mary a unique appeal. Touches of progressive rock, industrial and ambient electronica and even blues give it a life all of its own.

Dominating proceedings is the enigmatic vocal of Trude Eidtang, former vocalist of the renowned Norwegian art rock band White Willow. ‘Tainted’ is a singular release that will hopefully lead this talented trio onto grater things.

Rating – 77/100

Favourite Track – The dark, serpentine electronic grooves of Wonderful Warning.

Released 10th November 2017.

Special Providence  – Will

Hungarian prog/jazz/metal fusion band Special Providence released their latest album ‘Will’ late in 2017 and it has taken a while to come to my attention and now I’m wondering how I missed it. These guys have toured with Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation and Steve Hackett which just shows the huge potential in their music.

Intricate musicianship combined with baroque, knife-sharp compositions and occasional soaring melodies makes for a very exciting combination where heavy guitar riffs and grooves and pyrotechnical keyboard skills forge a very unique, virtuoso but easily digestible musical style.

A hugely entertaining prospect live, it can sometimes be hard to carry that feel onto record but Special Providence have nailed it with aplomb.

Rating – 80/100

Favourite Track – The Insane musical grooves of A Magnetic Moment.

Released 23rd October 2017.

Ryan Yard – The Nature of Solitude

Ryan plays in Rob Reed’s Sanctuary band and his solo album is mastered by Tom Newman of ‘Tubular Bells’ fame so it comes as no surprise that this two track (plus an edited Rob Reed mix) is an instrumental album that will appeal to fans of Mike Oldfield and Robert Reed himself.

However, to give his album a USP, Ryan created it using just an Ipad and a variety of apps (and a keyboard, of course!). It gives the music an organic and natural feel and was crafted without using click track as well apparently.

It is music that is easy to listen to, without falling into the pit of despair that is easy listening music. Add in Justin Towell’s excellent guitar work and you find yourself comparing it to the master and his apprentice and coming to the conclusion that while it does walk a fine line, the USP makes just enough difference for it to be complimentary and not a pastiche.

Rating – 67/100

Favourite Track – Well it really should be consumed as one piece so, the whole thing!

Released 15th September 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Magenta – We Are Legend – by Progradar

Longevity in the music business is almost like the Holy Grail and those that find it do so because their music has the ability to endure, to evolve, to develop and to progress. In this internet age that is becoming harder to accomplish, every man and his Mac Book can produce music and have it playing around the world in no time at all.

I feel that the best music will always outlast these mountebanks and pretenders and rise to the top, it is just a case of weeding out the middle of the road releases to find the creme de la creme or, if I’m lucky, for it to find me.

Stephen Lambe (he of Summers End Festival fame) also represents some of the best acts in progressive rock today through his 1973 Artist Promotions and I have been fortunate that Progradar is one of the review websites that he has chosen to work with. Stephen’s latest offering was the hotly anticipated new album from British prog stalwarts Magenta. Did I want to review it? Do bears sh… you know the rest!

The long overdue new Magenta album ‘We Are Legend’ will be released on April 20th 2017.

Main man Rob Reed says:

“It was time to try something new, musically and lyrically. I’ve always kept to a small music pallet with the previous albums, but I felt that we’d reached a crossroads and wanted to try something new. Magenta have gone through a lot since the last album, especially Christina our lead vocalist, so we feel that we have something to prove with ‘We Are Legend’. So be prepared.”

‘We Are Legend’ features 3 tracks, opening with the 26-minute Trojan and two 11 minute pieces Colours and Legend. As well as Christina Booth, Rob Reed and guitarist Chris Fry, the album also features new drummer Jiffy Griffiths and long-term live bassist Dan Nelson.

Magenta have been around since 1999 and have released a litany of superb albums in their illustrious career to date, there high quality being one of the reason’s for the band’s longevity. Will ‘We Are Legend’ perpetuate that success? There’s only one way to find out…

It smacks of utmost confidence in your own ability to release an album with only three tracks on it, much like certain progressive rock legends from the 1970’s but ‘We Are Legend’ is every bit as fulfilling as a release with 10 or 15 songs on because every track is an immersive, involving journey of many parts and provides the listener with everything they need for forty nine minutes of intense musical pleasure. Opening track Trojan builds the atmosphere skillfully and artistically before blooming before your very ears into a wondrous piece of music with a myriad of subtle twists and turns. The high energy driving beat has things moving along at a hell-for-leather pace, the slightly distorted guitar taking an impressive lead and the stylish bass and drums providing the foundations upon which Rob’s keyboards guide us around this mesmerising musical tapestry. Christina’s voice has never sounded better, she has a powerful authority to her vocal delivery which grabs your attention immediately and never lets go. In fact, the first few minutes literally bowled me over with their energy and intensity. Just sit back and listen and enjoy the ride as these masterful musicians put on a breathtaking show for you to enjoy. All the time little nuggets of musical wonderment pop up to put a huge smile on your face, there’s a guitar solo about six and a half minutes into the song that I really enjoyed but you could pick out one of many moments of a similar nature. To be fair, this isn’t just a song, it’s a musical drama, a riveting narrative set to some rather impressive music and you will find yourself becoming lost in the whole captivating experience. Rob is right, this is a hugely expansive work that just gets better with each listen.

After the twenty-six minutes of musical spectacle that was Trojan there is no let up as the introduction to Colours storms into view, there’s an urgency to the music and tension and instancy to Christina’s voice and a whole melodramatic feeling of turmoil to the track. Where Trojan was a big theatrically inspired production, this song has a much more progressive feel to it. The calm, wistful interludes add a touch of class and style, the guitar playing is exquisite and just gives me a nostalgic shiver down my spine. Christina is, once again, showcasing her huge vocal talent on this track, she really is the epitome of her Twitter handle ‘Prog Queen’ and must have one of the best voices out there and not just in progressive rock circles either. Rob Reed’s elegantly languid keyboard playing is a delight to listen to and Chris Fry certainly knows his way around a six string, his guitar playing is tight, fluid and very absorbing. This song has some riveting, engrossing moments and then there are also some brilliant pieces where they seem to just go for it and the music takes over. Not once do you think that any of these tracks have gone on too long, in fact it is the exact opposite, you’re left wanting more and the the ending to Colours is a case in point, an uplifting, tumultuous overture that has prodigious amounts of raw emotion and soul, you can literally hear it in the Christina’s voice and Chris’ guitar and there, just in the background, the brilliant bass playing of Dan Nelson is the conductor bringing things to a refined close.

Adding a final climactic flare to the album Legend begins with a very serious undertone, the guitar all fire and brimstone and Jiffy’s drums a dominant driving force. There’s a lull and then Christina’s honestly heartfelt and yet slightly severe vocal joins in adding a sheen to this sombre tale. It’s a heartfelt and emotive track that has a darker underbelly, all mournful and forlorn. A ying and yang between the darkness and the light follows, the hauntingly memorable chorus trading shots with the more mournful and pensive verses. A fiery guitar solo lights up the darker elements and then a short-lived intricate,determined and resolute section takes centre stage before Christina’s delicate vocal adds an almost ethereal and engaging grace, added to by some elegant guitar playing, a moment of serenity among the drama and theatricals and yet one that emphasises just how good they are. Christina is centre stage on this song, she is the leader and the focus, her voice full of fervour and feeling and it just entrances you. Once again Magenta show they know how to close out a song with swagger and verve, an inspirational and almost spiritual end to what has been an incredible musical experience.

There’s a huge amount of pride in titling your album ‘We Are Legend’ but Magenta deserve to give that name to this excellent release. The longevity of nearly two decades in the business has given them well deserved kudos and they have built on that to give us three songs that inspire and stimulate the listener. This record is a sublime forty-nine minutes of musical bliss and sees Magenta back in the top echelon of progressive rock acts where they deservedly belong.

The CD will be accompanied by a DVD containing the whole album in 5.1 surround sound plus interview and performance videos.

Released 20th April 2017

Pre-order ‘We Are Legend’ in all formats from the Magenta webstore

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVlSvmSpzRQ

Summer’s End Festival announces (almost) complete 2017 line up…

We are delighted to announce the (almost) complete line up for Summer’s End 2017, to be held at the Drill Hall, Chepstow on October 6-8 2017.

Leap of Faith tickets have now come off sale and will be replaced by standard tickets on Tuesday 17th January.

• Hero tickets (including a t shirt and our very special thanks) priced £120
• Sponsor tickets (including a T shirt) priced £105
• Standard weekend tickets priced £85

A very limited number of day tickets will be available soon. The festival sold out quickly last year and we are already 50% to sell out just with LOF tickets, so very early purchasing is recommended. With one band still to announce, we are already very proud of what is our most varied and internationally-orientated line up yet!

Here’s the line up -with one major band still to announce. Day splits will be announced soon.

FROST* (UK)
www.frost.life

Our Saturday headliners are the inimitable Frost* making their first appearance at the festival since their remarkable performance in 2008. The line up of the band – Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell, Nathan King and Craig Blundell – is now stable and playing regular live gigs in support of last years’ excellent “Falling Satellites”,

THE TANGENT (UK / Sweden)
www.thetangent.org
KARMAKANIC (Sweden / UK)
www.facebook.com/KarmakanicOfficial/

As they did in 2014, The Tangent and Sweden’s Karmakanic will be touring in 2016 as an intriguing double act, comprising of (largely) the same members playing two sets, closing the festival on Sunday 8th October. The band(s) will comprise Andy Tillison, Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin plus Marie Eve De Gaultier and other members to be announced. The Tangent will be making their third appearance at the festival and release “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery” in 2017, while Karmakanic released “DOT” in 2016 and last played Summer’s End in 2010.

FRANCK CARDUCCI (France)
www.franckcarducci.com

Those that have had the pleasure of seeing Franck Carducci and his superb band perform will know that they are one of the best – and most colourfully extravagant – live acts playing today. Mixing Prog with hard rock and just a touch of psychedelia, the band are sure to be one of the bands of the weekend following a successful UK tour in late 2016.

SOUTHERN EMPIRE (Australia)
www.unitopiamusic.com

Following his performance with Damanek in 2016 (and with Unitopia in 2010), Australian keyboard wizard Sean Timms returns to the festival with his current band Southern Empire. The band are riding high following the release of their superb debut album and will be touring Europe in late 2017 with Karibow.

MASCHINE (UK)
www.maschineuk.com

Few who were there will have forgotten the performance of a young band called Concrete Lake at Summer’s End 2011. Now called Maschine, guitar wizard Luke Machin‘s brilliant young band, which also includes bassist Dan Mash, released their magnificent second album ‘Naturalis’ during 2016 to great acclaim.

KARIBOW (Germany)
www.karibow.com

This well known German band have had an award winning, 20-year history. Led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Rusing, their powerful, crunchy, song orientated brand of Prog is often compared to Saga and It Bites. The band will tour Europe in 2017 with Southern Empire in suport of most recent album ‘Holophinium’.

ELEPHANTS OF SCOTLAND (USA)
www.elephantsofscotland.com

Following Phideaux, K2, Discipline and 3rDegree, Elephants of Scotland will become the 5th band from the USA to play the festival. Formed in Vermont in 2010, the band have 3 studio albums under their belts and played a triumphant set at the Rosfest festival in 2014 , later released as a CD and DVD set.

MIDNIGHT SUN (UK)
www.facebook.com/midnightsunprog/

Making their first appearance at the festival, but with several members that have played for us before are Midnight Sun, which comprises various former members of Unto Us and Also Eden in a combination which moulds the progressive and melodic textures of those bands with some heaver elements. Recording of the band’s debut album will begin in early 2017.

HALF PAST FOUR (Canada)
www.halfpastfour.com

Our first participants from Canada, Half Past Four have won a deserved reputation for their quirky, jazzy, playful take on prog. So strong was their 2016 third album ‘Land of the Blind’ that we knew that it was high time they made their debut at the festival.

WEENDO (France)
www.weendo.fr

This superb band from France – fronted by vocalist and keyboard player Laetitia – mix Prog with slightly more metallic textures. The band are currently working on their second album following their excellent 2011 debut ‘You Need to Know Yourself’.

More news soon!

Best wishes

Huw and Stephen
www.summersend.co.uk

Our facebook page:
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Email: stephen@summersend.co.uk