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.

Review – Tribe3 – s/t – by John Wenlock-Smith

Tribe3 are a progressive rock band who hail from Bridgend in South Wales, there must be something in the water down there as the area is awash with prog groups emerging this year with Last Flight To Pluto and The Mighty Ra both hailing from a similar geographical location to Bridgend.

This self-titled album consists of six tracks in all and lasts for about fifty minutes so, yes, its mostly longer tracks, with The Downfall of The Birdwatcher being the shortest at at just over six minutes. The music the band make is actually rather good and has elements of Rush and Yes, although I also detected hints of 80’s prog groups like Marillion, IQ, Arena or Pendragon. It’s certainly an interesting mix of both influences and styles, obviously bands are influenced by earlier artists and that influence is going to appear somewhere so these traits are unexpected really, but it is good to hear that the band are trying to create their own style here, and are mostly successfully at that.

The album opener is Invictus and is the albums second longest track. This sets out their stall rather well, starting with Mellotron voicings and sounds, mostly choral in tone, all very epic and stately really before morphing into something different where an intricate guitar motif is played by Chris Jones. Invictus refers to being unconquerable or undefeated in Latin and the song is about that feeling and not allowing life to beat you. It’s all about resilience in the face of what life throws at you really, a maxim that we can all adopt in these challenging days in which we live. The song has more than a nod to 80’s era Rush, especially with the Bass pedals moving the track along. Fear Is The Key is about how the world is controlled by a shadowy few who wield control over governments and power brokers, all whilst running to their their own agenda, they control by using fear to get their goals actioned. This is possibly a flawed idea, but the song has credibility in its music even if you don’t agree with its lyrics, it certainly makes you think, hopefully it does at least. The Downfall of The Birdwatcher is next and this shorter track lists the names of many common birds that a twitcher would seek to see for himself. In this instance our hero falls afoul of the law when his actions are reported to the Police and, when his actions are deemed innocent and he is cautioned and released, the offended party take matters into their own hands and damages his perch so that gravity will bring about his downfall, a cautionary tale perhaps.

Lament follows is hinged on delicate piano lines and a very Alan Holdsworth legato style guitar line that runs throughout the track. I really like this one as the build of the track is good and satisfying to hear, as is the excellent guitar break that plays out against the piano motif, it really catches the ear well. This song is definitely one of the albums strongest pieces, it is also the albums longest. Towards the end the piano refrain returns in a style very reminiscent of Marillion and this really impresses. Calm Before The Storm opens with a busy bass solo, all open notes and runs and you can definitely sense the Geddy Lee influence and inspiration here. This then has chiming guitar chords and syncopation akin to Rush and their epic soundscape. The song is a mournful view of modern earth and how everything green is disappearing to be replaced with greyness and dullness. It speaks of how nature will fight back by washing it all away, global warming, the rising seas and their encroaching will address the years of harm nature has suffered at the hands of man. A warning for us all possibly? The final track of the album is Dawntreader, a song about people who work away from home, usually at night, dockworkers, miners and the like who eagerly await the dawn in order that they can return home once again. This has a excellent and emotional refrain of “Stay With Me, You’re In My Heart…”. It is very laden with emotion and expression and is a slow burn interspersed with synths and strong effective guitar work on which this excellent album concludes.

It may have come to fruition after a few years of lockdowns and altered lives but with this album Tribe3 have taken an impressive and accomplished step forward into a new world. I eagerly await their next steps, meanwhile this album will no doubt continue to impress as will their upwards progression.

Released 13th October, 2023.

Order direct from the band here:

CD ‘Tribe3’ | Tribe3