Reviews in this issue:
Colin Tench (March 20, 1954 - December 29, 2017)
On December 29, 2017, the progressive rock world lost one of its most talented and underrated artists. Colin Tench, who passed away at the age of 63 not long after releasing his latest album, Minor Masterpiece, played guitar for multiple groups, including BunChakeze, Corvus Stone, Oceans 5, and Colin Tench Project. As all great guitarists do, Tench had a unique guitar tone that was all his own. He made everything on which he played, better.
I was introduced to Mr. Tench through Andy John Bradford's Oceans 5 album, Return To Mingulay, back in 2013, when I was a sophomore in college. At the time, I was pretty new to writing music reviews, and I was also new to the current era of progressive rock. When I heard the album, I was blown away by the quality of both the music and the lyrics. But it was Tench's Floydian guitar licks that stuck out for me.
In early 2014, I reviewed the album, and Colin left a very nice comment on my review and shared it with the rest of the band. Over the next few days, I received comments from everyone else in the band. For a young college student new to reviewing music, hearing directly from the artists, absolutely made my day. It was only recently that I found out that Colin had been incredibly supportive of the website I was writing for (Progarchy.com) since that site's foundation in 2012.
Several months later, Colin reached out to us at Progarchy asking for some feedback on the second Corvus Stone album, prior to its release. I listened to it, and I enthusiastically sent him an email. In interacting with him, I was struck by his graciousness and his sense of humour. He was so quick to thank us for our support, and he was equally quick to give credit to his colleagues.
In listening to his music, his sense of humour clearly shines out, particularly in Corvus Stone and the Colin Tench Project. 4b off of the album Hair In A G-String (Unfinished But Sweet) (reviewed below) is a perfect example of that. A brief excerpt from that song features Peter Jones asking everyone else: "Where did those violins come from?" Someone else responds: "I didn't even know we had a violinist," to which Jones sings back: "I think we're supposed to be singing."
Tench's music is peppered with this sense of humour, and it is exceptionally refreshing. It shows that he didn't take himself too seriously, yet he still made brilliant music.
While some artists can often be a bit grumpy or arrogant with their fans, Colin was nothing but gracious and generous. For example, I took forever to actually write reviews of his Corvus Stone albums, but when I did, I sent him an email so he could share it on various social media sites. He thanked me profusely and said that a belated review is often helpful because it gets the album back in the forefront again. As I said, he was nothing but gracious and friendly based upon the limited online interactions I had with him. I imagine his close friends and family could confirm that.
Given my past history with writing reviews of Colin's music, a while after the albums are released, it seems only fitting that I do the same with his tribute. Thank you Colin for your music and your gracious nature. Your music was severely underrated, and you were truly one of the great guitarists in progressive rock. Rest in peace, in the knowledge that your music continues to bring us joy.
Colin Tench Project - Hair In A G-String (Unfinished But Sweet)
Colin Tench Project - minor Masterpiece
For those familiar with Colin Tench's past work with groups such as BunChakeze, Corvus Stone, and Oceans 5, they will recognise his style throughout the Colin Tench Project. Unlike the more unpolished (while still enjoyable) Corvus Stone, both Hair in a G-String (Unfinished But Sweet) and minor Masterpiece are coherent in structure and sound. The orchestral sounds also explore a new direction, with much of Colin's previous work featuring a more jazz-related sound. This project features many excellent musicians, many of whom Colin has worked with before. Peter Jones is one of the more prominent additions, and his voice and musicianship add a great deal to the Colin Tench Project. For those familiar with Jones' work, this should come as no surprise.
Hair in a G-String (Unfinished But Sweet) is the longer and sillier of the two albums. One of the aspects of Colin's music that I enjoy most is his sense of humour. He never took himself too seriously, which means his music is always entertaining to listen to. Part 4b is the most obvious example of the silliness, with the singers bantering back and forth about how they should be singing a song, but in reality they are making up lyrics. It brings a smile to my face each time I hear it. On the other hand, And So, Today is a softer track featuring Peter Jones on vocals. This tender side to Colin Tench's music is equally appealing as his harder side. Those familiar with Corvus Stone's albums may recognise the connection between this album and those in some of the sexually suggestive album titles. Don't worry though: everything is clean and for the whole family.
Musically, the symphonic parts add a level of maturity and progginess to the music. The classical connection also comes from the album title, which directly references a piece by JS Bach. The rock aspect remains throughout, especially when Colin is shredding it up on the guitar. With multiple singers and solid lyrics, this album flies by, even though it is quite long. Honestly, I have no complaints about this album. The music, singing, and lyrics are all wonderful.
minor Masterpiece is indeed a masterpiece. It is much more serious than its predecessor, but it builds upon that album musically. The orchestral overtones remain, but the album seems a bit heavier overall. Lyrically, the album is more focused and cohesive. See How She Runs and Now Get On Your Way bookend the album with a similar melodic and lyrical structure. Those same themes are repeated throughout the album, making it seem like a concept album, even if it isn't. Instrumental interludes abound, and the solely instrumental songs are some of the best instrumental, progressive rock I've heard in the past few years. Some prog without singing can become a bit dry and boring, but these songs are upbeat and interesting.
With Peter Jones and Phil Naro handling vocals throughout the album, the listener is in good hands. The lyrics keep the listener interested, because they are open to interpretation. After a couple months of listening to this album and its predecessor, I can honestly say the more I listen to them, the more I find myself craving these songs. Colin Tench had a gift for writing a catchy tune that masterfully balanced the line between progressive rock and hard rock. Had I listened to minor Masterpiece before 2017 ended, I would have certainly included it in my top ten list for the year; maybe even my top five. It is that good.
Sadly, Colin is no longer with us, and I have no idea how much music or how many ideas he left behind with his partners in crime in the music world. Hopefully we will get to hear more. But if not, we are left with two of the most underrated and best albums of the past two years.
Colin was clearly a perfectionist, because his cast of supporting characters on these albums played perfectly. Give these albums a listen, and you will be glad you did. Colin had so much to offer the world, and it is a shame that he is no longer with us. At least we can enjoy the wonderful music he left behind. Rest in peace, Colin.