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2012 : VOLUME 33
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


The Addiction Dream – Essence
The Addiction Dream – Essence
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:MMPDVD0198
Year of Release:2012
Time:49:08
Info:The Addiction
Dream
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Magic (5:41), Insatiable (5:31), Pious Greedy Few (3:55), The Conservative (7:15), Dark Skies (6:09), Promise (3:46), Flying (5:36), Essence (3:48), Survivor (7:27)

This is an amazing debut album from a synth-based progressive rock trio from Portland, Oregon. It will be a leading contender for both Album Of The Year and Newcomer of the Year for anyone who makes the effort to get their hands on a copy.

A bold statement? Well take a listen for yourselves to the whole album from the link above and if you’ve the slightest penchant for ambient, dynamic, heavily-grooved, modern progressive rock dominated by impassioned, haunting vocals which showcases superb song-writing craftsmanship then Essence is both an Addiction and a musical Dream come true.

Unusually for me it was a case of love at first listen. The nine songs have a delightful immediacy but a compositional sophistication that will reward and sustain many years of listening. An amazing first achievement, for a young trio of musicians. In places you can hear influences from Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Radiohead, Aeon Spoke, latter-day Opeth, the ambient passages of Floyd, and the lighter moments of Green Carnation or Thence. There’s a bit of gospel, a lot of jazz fusion texture, especially in the bass and drumming, and I even wrote down Simon And Garfunkel for some of the vocal passages.

As a whole, the biggest nods would go to Talk Talk for the synths, rhythms and vocals, and Norway’s Gazpacho for the haunting melancholy and simplistic complexity of the arrangements. You could throw in a bit of The Tea Club too. Whilst musically it is at the other end of the progressive spectrum from my favourite album from 2011, Bilateral from Leprous, it has the same underlying principal. Take a clear set of known ingredients and create an end product that is distinctly unlike anything else you’ve ever heard before.

Highlights are really hard to select as they change with each listen. The groove-laden melancholy of Magic provides a great opening. Insatiable sits around layers of haunted vocals but with a clever up-tempo synth passage at the end. It’s those clever deviations from the expected that makes this album such a delight.

Pious Greedy Few shifts through four phases tied together by more soulful harmonies. The wonderful piano opening to The Conservative is just one of Jake Savage’s gifted contributions.

The one song I keep going back to is Dark Skies. Built upon a delightful Moog Prodigy groove, this is probably as up-tempo as Addiction Dream get, but still with melancholy driving the blood through its core. The album closes with Survivor. The most `progressive’ offering, its busy drums and calm vocals offer a perfect contrast.

The production is sparkling, helped by the uncluttered arrangements that a trio generally brings to the studio. There are guitars, but they’re almost exclusively used to add texture, sitting back in the mix. The more powerful sections are accomplished through the drumming of Paul Hardie, whom is highly impressive and inventive in his playing throughout.

If you don’t like vocals which pull you in emotionally, then you’d better steer clear of The Addiction Dream. Jason O’Neill-Butler has a voice of quite remarkable depth and fragility. The harmonies with pianist Jake Savage are simply beautiful.

The band has produced a vinyl and a CD version of the album. The CD comes in a simple cardboard sleeve with lyrics available from the band's Bandcamp page. So purists may prefer the vinyl or the download for convenience? (The vinyl comes with a digital download code inside, as there was only had enough minutes for eight of the songs, so the band had to leave off Essence).

The only track I don’t like is Promise. Its sampled drum beat, parpy synths and barber-shop-esque styling to the vocals certainly gives it a very different sound. It is just not one that I like. Compared to the sophistication elsewhere this is a bit too Stars On 45 for me.  However, in the way that I disliked the cookie monster-dominated Waste Of Air on last year’s Bilateral album from Leprous, I find here that Promise also strengthens this album. For me it’s a flaw, an annoyance but I like the fact that it is there. It shows a band not happy to stay within safe or consistent boxes.

I’m certainly not going to mark the album down for it. In fact I’m not going to mark this album down in any way. In Essence this is simply one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Conclusion: 10 out of 10

ANDY READ



Chris Fry - Composed
Chris Fry - Composed
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:CDMLE0002
Year of Release:2012
Time:42:00
Info:Chris Fry
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prelude (1:27), Diablo 21 (3:03), Spain (4:03), Parachutes (4:55), Estrellita (3:06), Shadow Dancer (5:23), Verano Porteno (5:15), Down (4:28), Time (5:06), Secret Garden (5:48)

Solo albums from current members of a band is certainly not a new concept. Often taking advantage of down time from the 'main act' allows the more erstwhile musician the opportunity to record material that may not necessarily fit within the "day job" framework. Yes' Steve Howe being a prime example. Continuing this trend in 2012 is Chris Fry and for those not immediately familiar with the name, guitarist with Magenta. So as the aforementioned band have featured regularly here at DPRP I'm going to forgo the usual introductions and move straight onto the album currently in my player, Chris Fry's debut release - Composed.

I mentioned Mr Howe in the opening paragraph as it serves as an indicator as to Chris' album. Not so much musically, as both guitarist take different paths here, but more that both musicians explore avenues of music they have a passion for. In the case of Chris this takes us down an acoustic route that broadly speaking covers classical, Latin, Flamenco and instrumental folk music styles. I recently spoke with Chris about some of the influences to be found on Composed - and you can read the interview HERE.

The brief and aptly titled Prelude serves as a fitting introduction to the album with a rippling classical guitar arpeggios, lamenting melody underpinned with a light string arrangement and delicate violin from Emily Travis. The scene is set for Diablo 21. Again the arpeggios lay the foundation as Chris adds layers of finely played guitar with firey flourishes ably accompanied once more by Emily Travis.

You can almost feel the sunshine on your face throughout the beautiful track that is Spain. Easily my favourite piece from the Composed album and one that brings back memories of another fine album I reviewed some years ago, (Era), by Akihisa Tsuboy & Natsuki Kido. Here the guitar foundation has an almost Hackett/Genesis feel to it, with Chris Fry's delightful melodies whisking you away. Again some fantastic interaction between the guitar and violin make this a truly memorable track.

Another bright and breezy track is Parachutes which introduces the 12 string guitar into the fold invoking thoughts of Gordon Giltrap. Once again the melodies are infectious and playful. Parachutes also boasts a fuller arrangement with Magenta keys man Rob Reed supplying the orchestrated arrangement for the piece. Estrellita on the other hand is beautifully fragile and delicate tune performed on a nylon guitar.

Rising from Estrellita is another orchestrated piece Shadow Dancer. We have a number of guitar tracks undulating and interweaving their way through another fine string arrangement from Rob Reed. An infectious, but deceptively intricate piece and with so much going on a crystal clear production is needed. I am happy to say that this is the case and a growing familiarity with the piece reveals something new each time. Rob's string arrangement is nicely complimented once again by Emily.

Verano Porteno is the only piece on the album not written by Chris, but serves as fitting tribute Argentinean composer Ástor Piazzolla. A delightful Tango piece executed with precision and passion...

Down is a somewhat different animal to what has gone on before with the 12 string guitar laying foundation to some slide guitar. A fine track, but one I didn't quite warm to. Time however returns us to slightly more familiar territory opening with classical guitar and gradually introducing a subtle string arrangement. A track for me which could well have come from the pen of the aforementioned Ástor Piazzolla - noted for his film compositions. A subtle blend of South American flavours spiced up with a touch of blues and jazz.

All too soon we have reached the album closer Secret Garden. Fortunately a splendid closer it is with Giltrapian 12 string guitar opening up proceedings, embellished with a catchy theme. About a third of the way through a rolling "bass" line is introduced which takes into a fiery solo section. Coming out from here and just past the half way mark we have the lull before the storm - a delightful classical guitar and string movement gradually giving way to a sliding crescendo...

And there we have it folks, forty plus minutes of carefully crafted and thoroughly enjoyable acoustic music. I feel sure many Magenta fans will have picked up on this fine release, but sadly Chris Fry's debut solo album seems to have fallen a little under the "ProgRadar". In my book Composed certainly has enough in it attract greater attention from within our genre and on the whole has appeal enough to encompass a far larger audience.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Ancestors - In Dreams And Time
Ancestors - In Dreams And Time
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Tee Pee Records
Catalogue #:TPE-139
Year of Release:2012
Time:66:09
Info:Ancestors
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Whispers (9:11), The Last Return (6:16), Corryvreckan (12:08), On The Wind (9:32), Running In Circles (9:44), First Light (19:19)

Being described in their press bio as “SoCal’s reigning kings of heavy psych” actually does this fine band of Los Angelinos a disservice as their music goes well beyond the sometimes predictable sludge-fest of lo-fi rifferama that is modern heavy psych and stoner rock. More from the bio – “Instead of choosing between prog rock and heavy rock the band have merged the styles” and that is a far more apt description. From the moment the enormously heavy opening of Whispers hits you with the force of a thousand bass bins... well it would live, I’m sure... we are thrown headlong into a world where the two styles meet and then proceed to duel unto the death armed with maces, cudgels and electric guitars.

In Dreams And Time is the band’s third album and sees them progress further on from the template of Neptune With Fire and Of Sound Mind with the downbeat sludge rock of so many stoner bands given extra melodic and prog touches to produce something that while not necessarily complex is certainly epic in every sense of the word. They never let the riffing obscure a melody and Justin Maranga’s guitar is just as capable of using modernistic, almost Mogwai-like multi-layering touches as on The Last Return; a tune that feels like Sigur Ros with attitude; as it is of utilising the classic Tony Iommi school of down-tuned headbangin’ slab-riffing. On that same tune, the dominant melody is played out by keyboard player Jason Watkins’ classical piano, and is in complete contrast to the opening song. It is this ability to vary the style that makes this band so much more interesting that a lot of doom-laden stoner rock currently out there.

The beat is nailed to the floor in thunderous and uncomplicated fashion by Jamie Miller’s Bonhamesque power (although Jamie has since been replaced by Daniel Pouliet) and Nick Long’s low rumbling but melodic bass. This pair is the rhythmic offspring of the Lee Kerslake & Gary Thain combo from the classic Uriah Heep line-up of the early 70s. Finally we have extra atmospherics and oddness added by Matt Barks’ synths. On the vocal front, Justin doesn’t so much sing these songs as declaim them in a display of frightening vocal chord shredding that occasionally strays very close to but cleverly never actually descends into cookie monster territory. How this guy manages to last through a tour is beyond me.

Thankfully I have been given access to the lyrics as Justin’s singing style renders parts of the songs indecipherable, to my old ears anyway. The lyrics are bleak and apocalyptic with lines like: “Choking dust, blinding lust, He feels the last for what it is, Casting out the withered flower of aspiration” are spat out with a fury of a bloodlust-mad Southern preacher.

The Last Return gives Justin’s torn larynx a break and is sung in a manner reminiscent of Sigur Ros, all ethereal harmonies and wistful intonations. In a clever juxtaposition the lyrics themselves are almost Biblical in their fire and brimstone declamations: “Within the furthest bastion, Second coming, Faithless will to go on, Of reckless plans to sing” this song is an exception to the scorched earth near screaming of most of the rest of the album, which strangely enough never gets wearing although by rights it should. One more delightful snippet this time from On The Wind: “I've seen their faces all bloodied, but their eyes still shine with the fury of hatred” which could well be a song sung from the perspective of a wolf; not a man to be trifled with, our Justin.

As a fan of complicated music it does surprise me that the relatively straightforward fare on offer here has kept my attention purely through a combination of sheer power and simple dynamics. There is nothing here that will have you scratching your head thinking “How on Earth did they do that?” but there are life-affirming musical journeys like On The Wind that although it travels through a simple musical progress is a thing of wonderment. References to heavy rock’s past are writ large, the Hammond sound on this song being no exception, but Ancestors go beyond mere musical museum curating and craft their own gargantuan behemoth that will stomp down any self-defeating navel-gazing that you might be going through, as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics that is! Soaring skyward like a dangerously out of control missile, put it on bloody loud when you are in a foul mood and I’ll guarantee you’ll feel better afterwards. You might have put your foot through the coffee table or punched a wall in the process, but you’ll have stopped being introspective that’s for sure. Cathartic is an overused word in music journalism, but for once it rings true on this album. The dizzying switchback rocking continues with Running In Circles sounding like an even more downtuned Queens Of The Stone Age with Ken Hensley on synths.

You will notice that there is an “epic” on this album, and I must admit it was the first thing I was drawn to. A lot of prog bands seem to think that simply by flogging an idea to death way past its ability to hold ones interest that somehow they are ticking all the right prog boxes. Well, this is not the case here, for First Light is a journey into space and time that shoots off into the cosmos, becomes becalmed and then builds, layer upon layer of psychedelic guitar and swirling keyboards taking us to a climax that is bursting with joie de vivre, that is if grungy heavy prog can be said to have joie de vivre! This is despite the lyrics bemoaning humankind’s sorry lot in the modern world, another example of a neat contrast between the music and the words.

The fact that lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Maranga quotes King Crimson’s Starless as his favourite prog track of all time elevates him in my eyes to, well, at least “sensible chap” status, let’s not get too carried away! Justin and Ancestors have made a really good retro-grunge-prog album (I do love a daft description) that sits well as a heavier brother to Astra’s The Black Chord.

The result of the previously mentioned duel unto the death twixt heavy rock and prog rock ends when each side realises that neither will win as waves of sonic attack destroy membranes, so a compromise is reached, and each party get down to some righteous music making over several bottles of bourbon whiskey. Well good!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Daal – Dodechahedron
Daal – Dodechahedron
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Agla Records
Catalogue #:CD04
Year of Release:2012
Time:70:36
Info:Daal
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: I (7:45), II (5:09), III (6:57), IV (5:50), V (4:36), VI (8:18), VII (3:01), VIII (4:31), IX (5:55), X (5:10), XI (5:14. XII (8:14)




Daal – Call Of The Witches [EP]
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Agla Records
Catalogue #:CD05
Year of Release:2012
Time:33:12
Info:Daal
Samples:Click here
Daal – Call Of The Witches [EP]

Tracklist: The Call Of Cthulhu ~ I The Horror In Clay, II The Tale Of Inspector Legrasse, III The Madness From The Sea (10:32), Nosferatu (4:31), Witches (6:49), Echoes From The Shore (11:18)




Formed as recently as 2008, this is Daal’s fourth album proper. In that time they have also released an EP and made various appearances on prog tribute albums and other projects. The two men behind Daal are Alfio Costa on samples, keyboards and synths and Davide Guidoni on drums and multifarious percussion instruments; both of whom are or have been members of numerous other groups, far too many to mention here. They formed Daal in order to have complete freedom in musical expression and experimentation, an ideal fully realised on this truly marvellous album.

The twelve faces of the dodecahedron are represented here by twelve pieces of entirely instrumental music inspired by twelve Gothic short stories written by friends of the band, which are included on a rather fab poster with the limited edition CD version. That version also includes The Call Of The Witches EP, of which more later. If it’s anywhere near as good as this it will be worth having. The whole shebang is encased in a miniature black “bum bag”, or, for our American readers, a “fanny bag”. A really nice piece of packaging all round, Davide being responsible for the artwork.

The vast supporting cast of musicians add all manner of instrumentation to the project. As well as the traditional rock instrumentation we have bouzouki, itchemba and kehru (African stringed instruments made from gourds), Bardic harp, classical guitar, slide guitar, double and fretless bass, sax, flute, clarinet, bass flute, cello and violin.

From the moment part I opens with its synths and sax dark ambience it feels like this is going to be something special; the oddly timed heavy and orchestral flavoured signature referencing modern Swedish prog, particularly Gösta Berlings Saga. Part I comes across as a passing tribute to the Swedish band’s flawless dynamism, and it will not be the only time on the album that one is put directly in mind of that band, as a recurrent and curiously Scandinavian feel pervades this album in many places.

This album covers all bases from Floydian guitar, to lovely flute, clarinet and sax combinations, to chamber music in waltz time with electronic ambience and not a guitar in sight, to the guitar-orchestral heaviness such as on III where crushing riffs are starkly contrasted at various interludes by the melody in counterpoint played pianissimo on piano and cello. If Gustav Holst was alive today, he may well have written this, it’s that good; but beware it has to be played LOUD for max effect, as background music this is not!

VI commences all film-noir with a rising treated piano motif and all kinds of exotic percussion and breathy flute lifting the piece up to a deep space guitar exploration in a minor key by Ettore Salati. Marvellous! Ettore, a member of Italian prog band The Watch, is the main guitar-wrangler on this album and as much as I’m not into his band’s obsession with a certain English prog giant of the original era I have to say that his playing throughout Dodechahedron is inspired.

Parts VIII & XI visit some very gloomy places indeed and recall Morte Macabre, Anekdoten and Änglagård while maintaining Daal’s own Italo-Gothic stamp of identity.

Part XI is the soundtrack to the story of a complete loss of self, and the following long long sleep. I know this as it is one of only three out of the twelve stories in English on the poster. The meditative qualities are played out on a lone cello backed by percussion and minimalist instrumentation. We bow out on part XII, a sad but romantic piano and cello introduction is joined by violins as the mists part to reveal an eight minute musical drama that covers a large canvas. Syncopated riffing underpins a simple but effective synth melody which builds to a fittingly redemptive climax, again sounding curiously Scandinavian.

What we have here is definitely the best instrumental progressive album I have heard so far this year by some distance. Dodechahedron stands as a companion to that stunning highlight of 2011, Gösta Berlings Saga’s Glue Works. It is rare indeed that having received a review copy of an album that I am so impressed I get straight on to the interweb to purchase previous albums by a band, but that is what has happened here. I hope their back catalogue lives up to my now very high expectations!

Call Of The Witches [EP]:

Stripped back to the core duo of Alfio Costa and Davide Guidoni, the accompanying limited edition EP with Dodechahedron lacks the album’s grandiose vistas and instead relies on a spooky ambience. The orchestral themed arrangements of the parent album are still present on the first track, led by Alfio’s concert piano and Gothic synthesisers. Nosferatu is weighed down by Alfio’s gothic church organ, and Witches is all faux-medieval whimsy.

Echoes From The Shore is the most interesting piece here, form ebbing and flowing like the tide as the sound of a treated piano drips like water from the roof of a cave as the waves crash in. There is also something quite menacing about it especially in the middle section when reverbed tympanis come crashing in; a very evocative piece of music indeed.

Not essential, but a nice bonus if you can track down the limited edition of Dodechahedron.

Conclusions:

Dodechahedron: 8 out of 10
Call Of The Witches [EP]: 6 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Iván Tamez/Gígur - Realidades Paralela
Iván Tamez/Gígur - Realidades Paralela
Country of Origin:Mexico
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2012
Time:73:00
Info:Iván Tamez
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ayer (4:07), Tiempo Embrión (6:58), Adentro (4:12), Sueños Que Explotan (5:43), Resonancias Paralelas (7:23), Días Extraños (4:49), Lo Que Soy (6:00), Acqui Momentum (5:21), Más Allá Del Tiempo (4:27), Redención (6:00), Mundos Paralelos (12:49), Encuentro (8:11)

Iván Tamez is a guitarist, composer and music teacher hailing from the Mexican city of Monterrey. In 2005 he released an album with his band Gígur, titled Fin Del Tiempo; then, in the following years, he dedicated most of his efforts to doom metal band Maligno, with which he recorded three albums between 2006 and 2011.

While Fin Del Tiempo was an mostly instrumental effort featuring Tamez and three other musicians, plus two guests, Realidades Paralelas sees the participation of an extended lineup of artists that includes Tamez's own siblings Ethel and Ruly (who plays drums on all the tracks), as well as most of the artists who had contributed to the previous album. Local artist Ricardo López and Tamez himself are responsible for the striking abstract artwork of the cover. The album - two and a half years in the making - is intended as a tribute to Tamez's father, Simón, also a renowned guitarist.

With his extensive experience on the musical scene (in spite of his young age), Tamez is clearly a gifted musician, and his guitar work throughout the album is of excellent quality. However, there are quite a few problems on Realidades Paralelas that mar its potential. For one thing, it is way too long: 73 minutes are hard to sustain even in the best of circumstances. The tracklist is also somewhat unbalanced, with the two longest tracks placed at the end, and the bulk of the album consisting of rather conventionally-structured songs that, while undeniably well-executed, feel somewhat at odds with the longer, more interesting instrumental tracks. The vocals (by Tamez himself and some of his guests) possess an understated, whispery quality in the Steven Wilson mould and are often pleasing, but as a whole it is Tamez's instrumental skill that commands the attention. All in all, the album comes across as a tad schizophrenic, split between mainstream tendencies and the more genuinely progressive approach shown on Gígur's debut album.

While the lush instrumentation and polished performances enhance the quality of even the more straightforward songs, it is hard to avoid the impression that all this talent might have been better served by more challenging material.

Ayer opens the album in a distinctly hard rock vein, immediately pushing Tamez's guitar to the forefront. However, most of the tracks with vocals are variations on the same theme, though with occasional touches of eclecticism (such as in the bluesy Adentro or the funky Acqui Momentum). In fact, Gígur give their best in the instrumentals, or else in those tracks where vocals are kept to a minimum. Tiempo Embrión (which features Pepe Quijano chanting a Buddhist mantra) aptly exemplifies Tamez's compositional approach, making effective use of the "power trio" format and bringing to mind Rush on several occasions. Resonancias Paralelas may be the album's high point - a 7-minute, atmospheric, slightly ominous guitar showcase that starts out at an almost plodding pace, then unfolds in twists and turns, closing with a sax solo whose faintly shrill tone seems to imitate the guitar. In Redención, bass and drums emerge into the spotlight, driving the pace and sparring with the guitar, hovering between melody and shred-like speed. The two final tracks, though featuring vocals, allow them a less prominent role than the shorter numbers. The almost 13-minute Mundos Paralelos starts out slow and subdued, with a distinct Steve Hackett influence in Tamez's outstanding guitar work, though the vocals sound like a bit of an afterthought. Closing track Encuentros packs a lot of changes into its 8 minutes - with a rather undistinguished first half that suddenly turns into a jazzy number with lovely Latin-flavoured guitar (courtesy of Izef García), reminiscent of the efforts of modern prog bands like Porcupine Tree or 3RDegree.

Though the album's liner notes mention a "new direction" for Tamez and his collaborators, I cannot help feeling that the addition of vocals - resulting in a prevalence of conventional, love-based songs without a distinct personality - has not been a completely successful move. The Spanish-language lyrics (which are available on the band's Bandcamp page) may also limit the album's appeal to English-speaking audiences, who are often notoriously hung up on hearing anything in a foreign language. On the other hand, the instrumental tracks are more than deserving of attention, and give the full measure of Tamez's talent as a musician and composer. Fans of modern progressive rock (including Rush's more recent output) may appreciate Realidades Paralelas; guitar lovers may also be interested in checking out Tamez's fine performance on this album.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

RAFFAELLA BERRY



Ken Hensley – Love & Other Mysteries
Ken Hensley – Love & Other Mysteries
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Antenna
Catalogue #:EANTCD10005
Year of Release:2012
Time:38:09
Info:Ken Hensley
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Bleeding Heart (4:47), Romance (4:53), [Please] Tell Me When (4:41), No Matter (2:54), Come To Me (3:47), This House (3:58), Walk Away (2:44), Eyes [The Girl In The Purple Dress] (3:48), Respiro Tu Amor (2:51), Little Guy (3:49)

Ken Hensley was one of the guiding lights in the earliest days of Uriah Heep from Very 'Eavy Very 'Umble days right through to the Conquest album after which Ken parted company seeking to carve his own course unfettered by the demands of others. Along the way he released three solo albums whilst in Uriah Heep; Proud Words On A Dust Shelf, Eager To Please and Free Spirit and then Ken joined Blackfoot for a while before going solo again.

Like many my introduction to Ken came via those early Uriah Heep albums in which he played a pivotal role in the Box/Byron/Hensley axis being responsible for many of the songs and playing keyboards, guitar and adding to the trademark “Heep” vocal harmonies. I loved those early albums and even bought the early solo albums, but then somewhere along the way we kind of lost touch and grew apart as it were.

In the days between then and now we’ve all changed, Ken is now 60 and the trademark locks have gone and an older, hopefully wiser, traveller in time has emerged, which brings us to this Kens latest album. To be honest it’s a little different from what has gone before in that it is a far more laid back affair and less rocking. Ken has chosen to focus solely on the songs and especially the lyrics and this makes for a more serene reflective listening experience than in previous releases. As such this is not very progressive at all but it is a good collection of well written and performed pieces, by a fine master craftsman and for that reason deserves airtime.

As in previous releases Ken has elected to use various “guest” vocalists to interpret his songs and these include Glenn Hughes, Santra Salkova, Sarah Rope, Irene Forniclari and Robert Tiranti which lend a different sound to certain songs.

On initial listening only the opener Bleeding Heart seems to have any kind of pulse with its rousing chorus, but like most things repeated listening will reveal hidden nuances and depths hitherto unheralded. The Glenn Hughes vocal is a fine one and the counterpoint voice of Santra Salkova adds a great touch to an interesting song. Walk Away sounds like an outtake from a Joe Walsh solo album but is a good song with a great chorus. Another song worthy of mention is Little Guy which is dedicated to Ken’s friend Dani whose wife and son died in a fire a few years back, it’s a very emotive song and Ken’s way of paying his own tribute for lives taken too soon.

But these are the highlights and some of the other songs are well a bit “bland and uninteresting”. I’m a big Heep and Ken Hensley fan and I was a bit disappointed with this album really. OK so it’s not Uriah Heep like at all, it’s not really that much like his first solo albums, rather it is a statement of where Ken is now, at 60, enjoying life and making music that reflects this.

I would love to have seen a bit more of his “Heep” influences and Demons And Wizards type pieces but maybe that’s for another release. I can’t fault his sincerity or commitment but feel this could have been so much better and engaging than it actually is. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a solid if unspectacular album from one of rock most underrated artists. And it pains me to say this, but I expect more than average or merely OK from Mr Hensley, so maybe next time... A solid but unspectacular release only really worth...

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

JOHN WENLOCK-SMITH


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