Neal Morse is a highly creative chap with his fingers in many different pies and always has something that he is working on for future release. He loves to have a project in the works and now he has crafted a different colour and sound palette of music for all to enjoy although ‘Troika’ is a bit different in that it a very song based album, mostly acoustic guitar led with occasional hand held drums. He is joined by former Spock’s Beard, and current Big Big Train, drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgilio and Ross Jennings from prog metallers Haken.
The music is very vocal led, Crosby Stills & Nash are a good reference point for the sound the trio make together, they really bring the songs to life, getting it right by offering strong songs with simple but sympathetic playing and this really brings dividends. In addition, the vocals are all clean with the lyrics being very clearly heard, the lead vocals being shared between the three, which also really drives home the strength of the material that the trio offer.
This is another product from lockdown and on that has used the time to favourable effect. The music is relaxed and yet melodic with delicate guitar lines and keyboards in the mix and an overarching requirement for the songs themselves to be the main emphasis and focus of the album. This is a bold decision for these men to take but this vein they mine here really is something both different and unexpected with fine and good musical moments. The combination of voices is both magical and musical and a high point for each of them. The fantastic percussive opening to Everything I Am sets their stall out well, as does the delicate piano during Julia and the acoustic guitar frenzy at the end of the song that closes out the song.
Some will say the songs are not really ‘proggy’ but that does not really matter when the material is as strong as this. The whole album bristles with energy and excitement and this is a spectacular set of material. In fact, this is such a positive and uplifting album to listen to and the more you hear it the more you can appreciate the craft that these people have invested into this project and you see how special this album really is. In days when the news is bad, and everyone is ‘down’ this album is a real Tonic for that condition. On any level this is a fine album, there is so much to enjoy in each performance, the more I hear it the more I want to hear it again, it really is that good!
This is one album that you need to listen too, preferably in an open top car cruising down the road by the coast as this distils summer and sunny days into a musical companion, it evokes that kind of mood and is an album to treasure and to return to repeatedly. I take my hat off to these three remarkable artists who between them have delivered what will certainly be on my albums of the year list, no mean feat for an album only released in February!
Let us have a closer look at what makes this album so good;
I think, for me, it is the sheer unbridled joy that emanates from these grooves that make you feel so happy and that really works so well, as does the way in which the harmonies all gel together so remarkably, like three old friends reuniting. The albums strength lies in its simplicity really. This is not some multi-faceted soundscapes of music, this is music stripped down to its barest components, voice, acoustic guitars and percussion. Although there are keyboards on some tracks, this is certainly a less is more approach that the trio have taken here and that is an approach that pays big dividends, understatement being key as it leads you to focus on the fantastic voices of the three men.
Julia is a stand out track, an absolute corker, with delicate harmonies and clever backing vocals and counterpoint lines from the delicate piano of Neal Morse, this song really shows the depth of vision the trio possess and offer, this is gorgeously performed and delivered by the three. It’s a standout performance and when you consider that this was all recorded remotely, even more impressive really! You Set My Soul On Fire is also another excellent piece of music, one in which the trio offer enough space within the track to really allow the song to breathe, most fabulously.
I cannot recommend ‘Troika’ highly enough, this is an album that is most worthy of your time and attention and you too will discover this masterpiece for yourself, it is fabulous, it really is.
Released 25th February, 2022.
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