ISSUE 2016-008

Reviews in this issue:

Asfalto - Más Que Una Intención 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition [2CD + DVD]
Asfalto - Más Que Una Intención 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Country of Origin: Spain
Year of Release: 2012
Time: 39:06, 42:20
Links:
Track List:
CD1: Concierto Fatal (4:15), La Batalla (4:29), Joven Ruso (3:37), El Hijo de Lindbergh (4:33), Richi (Estrella del rock) (3:49), 6. La Paz Es Verde (3:47), Más que una intention (5:25), Tiempo gris (4:33), TenÌas razón (4:30)
CD2: Cronophobia (1984) Nada, nadie, n˙nca (4:05), Es nuestro momento (3:07), Desaparecido (3:57), Frente al espejo (4:06), Contra reloj (3:43), El regreso (5:45), Que siga el show! (4:08), Buffalo "Vil" (5:12), Secuestro legal (4:17)
Asfalto release their 30th anniversary version of Mas Que Una Intencion, which was their fifth album. As ever these days, packages do not tend to be single disk affairs, which is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination and this release is no exception to the rule. The band have quite nicely added the companion album Cronophobia, their sixth release, and also included a live DVD Asfalto En Vivo.

Asfalto, as a band, are new to me. What struck me first about this band was their infectious melodic approach; the second thing that struck me was their sound, which is somewhat reminiscent of Saga and, thirdly, the musical presentation is very much of its time. You will without doubt recognise that 80s sound, not that this is a band thing, for as we all know, it is purely down to the quality of the songs that make them what they are.

As a band, they are very much in the crossover phase, where they sit on the boundaries of melodic rock and prog, a balance that works very well for them. Had this musical approach been recorded in the USA and in English, they would have slotted well into the melodic rock fraternity, and could have been influential had they been given the right push; for me this is the demographic that these albums would appeal to the most. A lot of bands using this musical style, on reflection, did have progressive leanings, which a lot of individuals are quite happy to point out and associate with these days.

The music is finely balanced between guitar and keyboards, both forces prepared to take the lead and stamp their mark all over the music, adding character and depth. As a band they had commerciality; however they ensured that they never got caught up in the basic bland pop music that was being emitted from the radio stations back in the day when these two albums were released.

Of the two albums here, 1983's Más Que Una Intención is the better of the two, 1984's Cronophobia has a slightly harder edge, but I would say that this is more down to the production value of the album, both albums being remastered by Julio Castejón, the only original remaining member of the band. Probably the best term to describe the approach is less symphonic and more rock.

One could quite easily let these albums pass you by but this would be such a shame as they do have great personalities and offer great entertainment; the term real growers springs to mind. Had these albums been in my possession in the 80s they would have been heavily rotated on the record deck, without doubt.

The DVD, recorded in 1985, looks like it has been lifted straight from a well-worn VHS tape and the sound in places reflects this, but it is a nice historical piece, but nothing more than that to be honest, which is a shame. This is not something that one would repeatedly view. It does, however, confirm that as a live act they could cut it, that they had prowess and style.
Conclusion:
John O'Boyle: 6 out of 10

Borealis - Purgatory
Borealis - Purgatory
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 52:22
Links:
Track List:
Past The Veil (5:15), From The Ashes (4:41), The Chosen One (4:18), Destiny (4:25), Darkest Sin (3:20), My Peace (4:39), Place Of Darkness (4:07),Welcome To Eternity (4:42), Sacrifice (4:32 min), Rest My Child (4:31), Purgatory (4:00), Revelation (3:50)
On their third release, the Canadian quintet keep their power metal cooking exactly as they've done in the past.

Fast guitar thrashing and riffing, a versatile, pounding rhythm section and a light orchestration carry great melodic vocals in the vein of Tom Englund and, on more ballad-esque songs, very much like Russell Allen.

With the exception of two-and-a-half tracks, which would be considered as ballads, the album is a fast and exhausting ride through the main fields of power metal and surely pleases everybody who likes Evergrey, DGM, Mercenary and the like.

Despite the fact that Borealis can be considered as 'the better Evergrey' these days, I don't think the band has anything to offer that makes them stand out of the crowd. The songs are well written, the music is played and sung to absolute perfection, and mix and production are all perfect and state-of-the-art, but in the end it is no different to dozens of others, and the fact that Matt Marinelli just copies two other vocal heroes with no uniqueness doesn't help, either.

I'd recommend this album to everybody who likes power metal in general, but those who seek unique bands will not find gold here.
Conclusion:
Raimond Fischbach: 6.5 out of 10

Glazz - The Jamming Sessions: Take 3
Glazz - The Jamming Sessions: Take 3
Country of Origin: Spain
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 51:14
Links:
Track List:
Sugoi (2:48), Maxshissei (9:31), Astroboy (5:46), Shinkasen (13:08), Chatelet (3:57), Mawasi (6:59), Geri (3:54), Yujo (4:59)
Sometimes life is more about the journey than the destination.

Spanish band Glazz's uncompromising approach to their art is plain to hear on their latest release. During the duration of the album the instrumental trio succeed in their efforts to immerse the listener in a superbly-executed display of largely improvised music.

During The Jamming Sessions Take 3, Glazz follow an unmarked path that takes the listener on an aural journey that is often stunning and rarely predictable. The members of Glazz play with great panache and skill. The music on this organic and free-flowing instrumental album gives ample opportunity for the performers to show their great awareness and empathy towards each other.

It is difficult to ascribe genres to this impressive release, but the music broadly fits under the fusion label, containing a mixture of jazz and rock. The improvised structure of much of the band's approach brings to mind some similarities in style to the Three Wise Monkeys.

If you take the album at face value - a collection of superbly played jams - then the results are superb. If you are looking for a more overtly-structured approach to fusion, then Glazz may not totally appeal and it might be better to look towards other bands such as Ohm, whose compositions appear to be more rigidly organised than Glazz's jam-based approach.

At times, you can almost taste the freedom of expression and empathy between the players that lies at the heart of Take 3. How many of the albums eight tunes were rehearsed and to what degree the album is truly improvised is somewhat difficult to ascertain. What is apparent, though, is that throughout the album the compositions are fresh and the band's performance has an enjoyable and exciting vitality.

Whilst Take 3 will not probably appeal to those listeners who enjoy song-based prog bands such as Simeon Soul Charger; the majority of the tunes on offer have definite points of reference for the listener to hang on to. The successful resolution of the tension between a free spirit of expression and a desire to form music within recognisable structures is one of the album's strengths.

When I reviewed three of the band's previous albums for DPRP in 2015, I was particularly impressed by The Jamming Sessions Take II. This was recorded in the beautiful Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia just north of Tarifa on the Spanish Andalusian coastline. Take 3 is just as successful and is probably more sophisticated than its predecessor. It is a natural development of the band's jam-based approach. Take 3 was recorded whilst the band were in Japan. At times, the influence of their surroundings can be discerned in the South Eastern Asian flavours that are hinted at.

Astroboy wears these oriental influences proudly. It is a percussion-led piece in which Javi Ruibal excels. It is disarmingly cloaked in a garment of simplicity to camouflage its overall compositional complexity. As different layers were added to the sparse instrumentation, Astroboy became even more engaging and enjoyable. At its conclusion, Astroboy also features some brilliantly fluid bass parts and a superbly-executed driven guitar part that bursts through quite brilliantly. It all ends abruptly to remind the listener that these are jam sessions and the journey was neither planned nor chartered.

Overall, Astroboy is a great percussive piece that is also reminiscent of John Marshall's percussion-led jams of Bundles era Soft Machine. Ruibal's contribution throughout the album is particularly noteworthy. The excellent production values of the album help to showcase the vast array of the skills at Ruibal's disposal. These can be easily discerned throughout the album and particularly on Mawasi where Ruibal's contribution ranges from wondrously delicate subtle percussion effects to the savage and powerful exploitation of his full kit. Mawasi is a masterclass in improvisation. It is challenging and experimental in nature, but highly effective.

Shinkasen is one of the album's highlights. Its lengthy duration gives the composition lots of time to meander and unravel. It begins as a beautiful melody where the expressive guitar part delivered by Jose Recacha has just the right balance between a pure tone and distortion. The opening section is plaintive and fragile. It is stunning late-night star gazing music. The harmony, and spacious feel created by the players reminded me of the ensemble playing of Gilgamesh on their Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into album.

At the seven-minute stage, the cauldron is stirred and the band's performance begins to spit and bubble. An unexpected metamorphosis occurs, the piece transforms into an aggressively-clawing entity with some standout and ferocious ensemble playing. After a reprise of the main theme, the piece eventually morphs into some great blues-based rock. The trio are clearly having fun and their enjoyment is infectious during the final part of this great workout.

Chatelet is a pretty tune that once again made me draw some comparisons with Gilgamesh. Recacha's contribution to this gorgeous piece has a similar lightness of touch, sparseness and pure tone that Phil Lee was able to place into much of Gilgamesh's work. Chatelet is absolutely delightful and is probably my favourite piece on the album. The tasteful mix of oriental/Spanish influences on its cascading ending is particularly enchanting.

Whilst Take 3 may not appeal to everybody, it is a work of consummate quality and is an ideal companion on many levels. It succeeds as background music, but really comes into its own if you concentrate on how each piece evolves and is further developed and improvised.

Overall, the path taken by the band and the lasting impression made by the album are equally satisfying. In the final analysis, many may find that the music on Take 3 is more about the journey than the destination reached.

It is a journey that I will gladly take again.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10

Gong - I See You
Gong - I See You
Country of Origin: various
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 42:11
Links:
Track List:
I See You (3:24), Occupy (2:52), When God and the Devil Shake Hand (5:36), The Eternal Wheel Spins (7:08), Syllabub (4:31), This Revolution (3:44), You See Me (2:40), Zion My T Shirt (6:09), Pixielation (4:44), Brew of Special Tea (1:23)
It's difficult to contemplate reviewing an album after a member of the band has passed away. In general, posthumous albums are almost universally praised. It's partly because there's a fear of offending, and sometimes it's simply listening to music through rose-tinted hearing aids.

Of course, in Gong's case, the demise of the band is far from guaranteed. Simply because Daevid Allen is flying in an astral teapot doesn't mean Gong will cease to be.

But still, criticising an artist's swan song is difficult. Fortunately, I See You is, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive. It means there's no difficult decision to make about how to be kind to a sub-standard album.

After all, not every band has stayed consistent throughout their entire career.

But I See You is special. It's massively diverse, at times potty, at others remarkably restrained and erudite. It varies from rock to jazz, pop to experimental, avant-garde to psychedelic, strange to heavy. In the wrong hands, this could be a recipe for disaster, but here, that diversity is skilfully combined to make for a very listenable and hugely compelling album.

The title track opens things off, and it's an ok start, more of an overture for what's to come. Occupy, which follows, veers into Canterbury meets early King Crimson territory. Indeed, fans of Gong will love this, but so will Canterbury aficionados of the National Health or Robert Wyatt ilk. And Crimson lovers. And, well, anyone who loves good music will find something here.

The wind instruments, from flute to sax, add a supreme dimension. The guitar work is phenomenal. As is the drumming, understated though it may at first seem to be. And there's always something odd going on under the surface, whether it's echoes, ambience, spoken word, or just general strangeness. The bass beguiles. The electronics and ambience inspire.

The spoken word with background music, This Revolution - complete with profanity, is odd but somehow, isn't out of place. You See Me, which follows, is a maelstrom of sound, giving way to the sublimely beautiful introduction to Zion My T Shirt, which meanders beautifully through a Jethro Tull like passage, and then eccentrically heads into a heavenly wash of keyboards with liquid bass over the top, which then fades into the ether. It's magnificent.

Pixielation is pure Gong. Fun Canterbury lunacy. Brew of Special Tea, the final track, is eerily mesmerising, and tragically short.

That's the thing with Gong, the unusual and the conventional merge to form a hugely coherent overall piece of work. They've done edgier and more experimental albums, sure, but this has to be up there with their best. And there's really nothing that sounds quite like this.

It's a beguiling album, gorgeous, cutting, enthralling, interesting, odd, amusing, and always brilliant.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 9 out of 10

Panther & C. - L'Epoca di un Altro...
Panther & C. - L'Epoca di un Altro...
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 37:26
Links:
Track List:
Conto alla Rovescia (11:13), Mariam...(4:53), ...Il Volo di Mariam (2:31), Dik (5:33), La Leggenda di Arenberg (12:48)
From the inside stories of the DPRP reviewing process: when selecting a CD for review, the reviewer does that from a pipeline list taken care of by some of the DPRP team members. That pipeline list usually provides a one- or two-sentence description of the band's music, and together with the help of Spotify, Youtube and others, one is able to determine prior to selecting whether the album is appealing enough to be able to produce a decent and fair review.

Concerning Panther & C.'s album, the description provided was somewhat scarce, consisting just of the word 'symphonic'. With little information available on the band (no own website, just a presence on Facebook and a couple of Youtube live songs of mediocre sound quality), my decision to pick this album for review was a bit hazardous and only was based on the fact that I have a strong affinity for prog coming out of Italy.

Now, after numerous listens, I am happy to have taken that risk and been given the opportunity to review this album, as L'Epoca di un Altro... proved to be one of the most enjoyable RPI releases I have listened to for quite a while (and there have been a few).

As mentioned, even extensive research on the web did not reveal information on the band, neither where the name come from, nor how it is correctly pronounced (I assume the Italian way Panther e Compagnia), nor when the band was founded (well, some of these info might be on Facebook after all, but my Italian is too poor to find that out).

The band is from Genova and consists of Alessandro La Corte (keyboards), Riccardo Mazzarini (guitars), Roberto Sanna (drums and percussion), Giorgio Boleto (bass) and Mauro Serpe (vocals and flute).

L'Epoca di un Altro... is their debut album. Looking at the band members' pictures in the album booklet, it becomes apparent that we aren't dealing with musical beginners here.

The album is made up of five songs; two long tracks to open and close the album, and three shorter ones, two of which merge seamlessly, for an overall LP-friendly length of barely 37 minutes. That's very retro and so is the music (in a positive way).

In line with the album title, Panther & C. play the music of a different period, however not really that of the well-known Italian masters of the 70s,: their music has a neo-prog touch. Symphonic, melodic progressive with enough breaks and changes not to become bored with, there are various styles, but it stays cohesive throughout, with excellent interplay between guitar and keyboards, without one instrument dominating the other.

The opening track, Conto alla Rovescia, is a real gem. After a slight Jethro Tull-like opening, the track has all the ingredients to make for a perfect prog song: lots of breaks, strong melodies, beautiful synthesiser themes, nice alterations between guitar and keys, the flute as a distinctive factor, all of which garnished with Serpe's warm singing.

Bands that come to mind are CAP, Mad Crayon, La Maschera di Cera or some of the more recent ones such as La Coscienza di Zeno. The following three tracks are ballads with strong keyboard playing, and mellow and melodic singing; track three being the instrumental continuation of track two. It's not unlike what fellow countrymen Mosaico and Conqueror are doing.

I always realise how well the Italian language is suited for singing, particularly evident in Dik: imagine Anyone's Daughter singing in Italian.

The last track again starts with soft guitar and flute, before the bass takes over and carries us through a song full of breaks, rhythm changes, slight jazzy and funky influences, melodic alterations of guitar, keys and flute and beautiful soloing, varied and catchy. A bit of Grobschnitt and Stern Combo Meissen and lots of Panther & C. A strong closer!

How active the Italian prog rock scene is! This is another band coming out of the unknown and delivering a great first album. The only reproach: folks, do it a bit longer next time! I know that less is more and there is no need to come up with a 78-minute debut. There is no positive correlation between the length of an album and its quality, but 10 to 15 minutes more of your melodic, varied and accessible prog music would not be asking for too much.
Conclusion:
Thomas Otten: 8.5 out of 10

Seven Second Circle - Divide
Seven Second Circle - Divide
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 78:55
Links:
Track List:
Fracture (8:45), After The Fall (3:32), Blue Sky (5:10), Great Depression (6:37), Softly (4:47), Care Less (3:18), Bitter (5:43), Just (5:06), Hope (4:44), Nothing Less Than Nothing (9:39), Surface (3:44), All My Life (5:38), Center Of Nothing (3:27), Ladder (4:46), The End (3:59)
Hailing from Oregon in the Pacific Northwest, Seven Second Circle are a five-piece prog-rock band. They weld classic rock and neo-prog structures in a double album of guitar based song-craft. Powerful and melodic, the songs on their debut full-length release, Divide, move from the heavy, almost prog-metal, to the delicately acoustic. The songs are nuanced and full of interest. The arrangements drag the listener in, and it more than repays repeat listens. With each listen, new details appear and your appreciation of the overall structure of the album grows.

The album opens with the wake-up thud and heaviness of Fracture: A song that shows how focussed and precise this album will turn out to be. What strikes you, initially, is singer Ben Foster's vocals and how soulful and commanding they are. He more than copes with the wide emotional range of these 17 tracks.

After the attention grabbing opener, Seven Second Circle move into all kinds of territories, mixing very hummable melodies with subtle acoustic playing, attacking heavy riffs, keyboard washes and layered harmonies. This displays the band's wealth of experience. Some of its members have played together for 20 years or so, in the band Henry's Child. Divide has a richness and depth that reveals itself over time. You realise that one song acts as a stepping stone to the next and as a whole it is a modern prog song-cycle.

There are many, many highlights here. Rich Clinton's slide guitar on Bitter. The driving bass on Softly courtesy of Tommy Tessandori. The longer and wonderful Nothing Less Than Nothing has Doug Cramer's lovely rolling drum pattern, whilst there is the church organ keys of Jarret Holly on the hymn-like Surface. But Divide is really an ensemble work, which mixes up tempos, rhythms and instrumentation ensuring that it never outstays its long running time.

All kinds of influences are discernible in Seven Second Circle's music but none of it is imitation in any way. So you get hints of Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree, the acoustic elegance of Pineapple Thief, the muscular melodicism of Riverside, Rush and the melancholy of Pink Floyd. There is much here to get deliciously lost in; detail after detail comes to the fore through Jarret Holly's superb mix.

There is an innate modesty to Divide. There are few solos and no show boating by these talented musicians. This is somewhat reflected in the cover art. The bold but simple graphic is as intriguing as the music it contains. The prog here is in the arrangements and the emotional precision expressed by the music. Take the time to appreciate this album and discover your favourite new band. Seven Second Circle's Divide was a privilege to review.
Conclusion:
Martin Burns: 9 out of 10

Seven That Spells - Superautobahn [LP]
Seven That Spells - Superautobahn
Country of Origin: Croatia
Year of Release: 2015/2012
Time: 42:28
Links:
Track List:
The Wall (10:45), The Pyramid (11:00), The Colossus (21:43)
Psych rock noiseniks Seven that Spells originally formed in 2003, released this highly collectable and very desirable black vinyl album last year, consisting of three driving and powerful Krautrock songs, that were originally released back in 2012. It's reminiscent in concept if not execution of Boards of Cananda's TransCanada Highway EP.

The band, a powerful and potent six piece formed by guitarist Niko Potocnjak, Bruno Motik (drums), Narantxa (bass), Kawabata Makoto (guitar), Lovro Klopasa (sax) and Michael Ramey (vocals, piano) are very much at the heavier end of contemporary Krautrock, similar to bands like Krautzone taking the musical metronomy of Can and Neu! and very much adding their own sound and personality.

With only three tracks over 42 minutes, these are very much slow builders, each piece given the time and space to expand slowly and organically, with riffs and grooves building and building into an almighty crescendo, like the improvisations of late 60s Pink Floyd with the brakes off and the dial turned up to 11.

The Wall, with its relentless pounding sound and mighty guitar interwork is as perfect a piece of driving music today as Kraftwerk's Autobahn was 40 years ago. The Pyramid is sonically different again: a powerful and dynamic piece of space rock, with some fantastic guitar riffs and metronomic drum and bass interplay building a foundation for the free form out-of-this-world riffs that cycle and circle with intensity and depth as the sax appears as part of the whole swirling cacophony, as it builds and builds.

The finale, the epic The Colossus is a powerhouse of swirling density, again a long-form road trip with a mighty combination of sounds and textures, and one that just keeps building and building into controlled chaos as the music swirls and rounds on you from different angles. I bet this would sound astonishing in a 5.1 mix.
Conclusion:
James R Turner: 6 out of 10

Tangerine Dream - The Official Bootleg Series - Volume Two
Tangerine Dream - The Official Bootleg Series - Volume Two
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 48:27, 71:02, 39:17, 61:21
Links:
Track List:
CD1: Paris set 1 (48:27)
CD2: Paris set 2 (42:11), Paris encore 1 (15:57), Paris encore 2 (12:54)
CD3: East Berlin set one (39:17)
CD4: East Berlin set two (47:55), Berlin encore (13:25)
Tangerine Dream's founding father Edgar Froese sadly joined the heavenly prog collective last year and whilst Edgar may be gone there are still "controlled and authorised" releases being allowed to emerge - and this is one of them.

Those good folks at Esoteric have obtained the rights to and released these seminal concert recordings, parts of which emerged on the Quichotte album (later renamed Pergamon) although to be fair these are the unaltered and complete versions of two different shows by two different line ups. Both bear hearing for they show Tangerine Dream both in fine fettle and also on the cusp of significant change in their direction, approach and sound.

The first two discs chronicle the show at the Palais des congrès in Paris on the 6th March 1978 with a line up of Edgar Froese, Steve Jolliffe, Christopher Franke on various keyboards, synthesisers, sequencers and guitars and Klaus Krüger on drums and percussion.

This was one of the last shows from this particular line up and stands up as a remarkable show featuring Jolliffe's improvised vocals and incorporating elements from the Cyclone album. This also contains some very lengthy and searing guitar work from Edgar Froese, on these shows Tangerine Dream utilised the services of Laserium to visually enhance the music being proffered. The quality of the recording is very good and the sound has been tweaked in the mastering process and it adds a fascinating glimpse of the short-lived line up and direction that Tangerine Dream briefly embraced.

The other two discs exhibit the three-man line up of Froese, Franke and Johannes Schmoelling in a historic show in East Berlin (before the wall came down) at the Palast der Republik on the 31st January 1980, a show attended by a host of then East German officials. Again, the sound is excellent and shows the three piece really giving their all in a dazzling display of virtuosity and when you consider that virtually all of TD's music is improvised from basic themes it is even all the more impressive to behold.

These shows also document the transition from albums such as Cyclone, Encore and Stratosfear to the more concise Tangram and White Eagle era of the band's history.

As with all Esoteric releases, the quality and attention to detail is superb, featuring individual sleeves for each release, a highly informative booklet and a mini poster all encased in a clamshell box.

I first heard and saw Tangerine Dream at the Town Hall in Birmingham in November 1975 on the Richochet tour and here I am some 41 years later still listening to and marvelling at the sheer brilliance and bravery of these very talented and inspiring musicians who have always danced to their own very individual and diverse beat.

This is indeed a very fine release, and one wonders what other treasures lurk in various vaults awaiting rediscovery. The only downside is that this is a pretty expensive release.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 8 out of 10

Taylor's Universe - An Introduction To Taylor's Universe
Taylor's Universe - An Introduction To Taylor's Universe
Country of Origin: Denmark
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 45:03
Links:
Track List:
Salon Bleu (5:31), Firestone (6:33), Days Run Like Horses (6:56), Fame (6:18), Tortugas (7:33), Haunted Yellow House (7:29), Mooncake (4:28)
It's always a great delight to have a Taylor's Universe album cross my door.

Across the Universe - An Introduction to Taylor's Universe is no exception to this statement. This compilation has been cleverly compiled and named and sees Taylor's Universe presenting a nice collection of instrumentals from their latter period of work. The band could have quite easily just selected any number of tracks and put them out. But no, they have been slightly smarter than that, they have revamped, partially re-recorded, remixed and remastered the instrumentals presented here with the current line-up of the band. This approach serves as a great initiation to those unfamiliar with their work, and something new for those who are.

Robin Taylor, the band leader, has never ceased to entertain me, offering beautiful and emotional soundscapes that pull at the heartstrings, as they course the musical boundaries of jazz-fusion and prog rock. There are no overbearing 20-minute plus epics here, there is no need, as Taylor's Universe can say it in a more succinct manner.

They hit the spot with every perfectly-placed note, whether that be with the modern jazz approach of album opener Salon Blue or Firestone with its hat-tipping homage to Genesis' Supper's Ready. The excellence does not stop there, Days Run Like Horses casts it spell with its haunting Mellotron, smooth sax and guitar work to die for, which carries you along its journey. Fame, where the band venture into Gentle Giant and Mahavishnu Orchestra territory, is another great piece where the guitar work of Sund and Carvalho up the ante, complementing each other as their delivery emits from the speakers. Even when the piece becomes slightly quirky, the character of the piece remains confident, ensuring that it does not become too clever for its own good.

The atmospheric Tortugas, the longest piece on the album, travels a proggy space-rock path with its layered instrumentation, courtesy of Taylor, where it drifts and swirls, menacingly in the ether. Haunted Yellow House has a massive personality, along with album closer Mooncake, with its meaty guitar work and mini Moog tones. Add Firestone and you have the three standout pieces, without doubt, but do not let that detract from the rest of this stunning album.

People may have mixed feelings with regards to introduction albums, however, Taylor's Universe have allayed these fears, proving that if you take the time and effort to get it right then you indeed do get it right. It also needs to be pointed out that that success of this approach is also down to quality. As a band of musicians and Taylor as a writing force, they have this, in abundance.

This is definitely an album to buy if you want to discover the brilliance of Taylor's Universe; it does have elements of Genesis, Gentle Giant and Mahavishnu Orchestra, but cleverly remains original in its stance. This album will leave you hungry for more of their work, in which, I am positive, when you investigate further, you will not be disappointed. Insert the disk, turn the volume up and be prepared to be entertained.
Conclusion:
John O'Boyle: 9 out of 10

Martin Turner - Written in the Stars
Martin Turner - Written in the Stars
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 51:43
Links:
Track List:
The Big Bang (overture) (1:20), The Beauty of Chaos (3:40), Written in the Stars (4:25), Lovers (4:30), Vapour Trail (5:50), For my Lady (4:15), Pretty Little Girls (4:55), Falling Sands (6:00), Mystify Me (5:20), Interstellar Rockstar (7:00)
The founder member of Wishbone Ash and the key songwriter and vocalist for the band during their legendary MK 1 & MK 2 heydays, Martin Turner (no relation) returns with his first album of new material since Walking the Reeperbahn from the late 1990s, and as the driving force behind such Wishbone Ash classic albums as Argus, Front Page News and Just Testing, when you hear this album you realise that this is the spiritual successor to those albums.

Since he resumed touring a few years ago with a band of talented musicians who all shape this album - Danny Wilson (guitars and harmony vocals), Tim Brown (drums and harmony vocals) and Misha Nikolic (guitars and classical guitar) - and with the help of Ray Hatfield, who lends his guitar work to the album, it's inevitable that with the twin-guitar approach and Turner's distinctive bass and vocals that this will be compared to his work with Wishbone Ash. And quite rightly so; Turner helped define that band's sound, and as it's such a part of his musical DNA and vice versa, this album can be seen as the Wishbone Ash album that got away.

With the opening tour de force of The Big Bang/The Beauty of Chaos/Written in the Stars, Turner proves he's lost none of his musical skill and ability as his spiritual side comes to the fore in the lyrics. His voice, always one of Ash's key weapons, is as strong as ever, having matured nicely.

Pretty Little Girls is more rock-oriented. If you look at the title, it sounds seedy - it isn't. It's actually a well-observed morality tale, whilst the Ray Hatfield song Mystify Me is a wonderful rocking tune. Turner has always had an ear for a melody and skill with lyrics and the fantastic folky beauty that is For My Lady follows a long line of ballads like Lady Jay for instance.

This album ebbs and flows with some sublime musical moments where the twin guitars and that distinctive bass kick in.

Its finale, the wonderfully crafted and beautifully realised Interstellar Rockstar with it's symphonic overtures, is an intense and wonderful music soundscape, and with Turner's suitably brilliant vocals and lyrics, it points to a new direction.

As a fan of the classic Wishbone Ash line up, I think it's a shame that the band seem unlikely to perform together again, but with Turner returning to music and making albums like this, I can't be too disappointed. This is the first time I've been really excited by any new music from the extended Wishbone family since Strange Affair.

I know that Wishbone Ash still tour under the stewardship of Andy Powell, ironically playing a number of the classic tracks that Turner wrote or co-wrote. Having seen both Wishbone Ash and Martin Turner live, I know I prefer to see a Turner gig every time. Andy Powell might have the Wishbone Ash name, but Turner proves again with this album that he has the heart and soul of the band, and long may he continue this successful return to touring and recording.
Conclusion:
James R Turner: 10 out of 10

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Published Sunday 6 March 2016

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