Yes, it’s that part of the issue where we turn the focus off Genesis and on to some of the other musical endeavours which have been occupying TWR HQ’s CD player of late.
This time round first of all we have a brace of concept albums to bring to your attention…
First of these is The Outsider - New From Nowhere, which is the latest offering from local guitarist and all round good egg, Neil Campbell. Taking as its inspiration the Socialist Utopian novel “News From Nowhere” by William Morris, this is perhaps more appropriately a travelogue of an album. A series of tightly woven vignettes take us on a journey across a landscape of the mind which you can people with your own characters. Fluid playing and an astonishing command of the guitar are Neil’s trademarks but here he also lays his hands on bass guitar, harpsichord, synthesiser and glockenspiel to name but a few!
He is not alone however as he is ably assisted by Jon Lawton on percussion, Laurence Cocchiara on violins and Helen Maher on accordion.
The opening suite: A Market By The Way is by turns vibrant, boisterous and elegiac whilst The Kensington Wood, is a pure acoustic delight which shimmers like sunlight through the trees, anyone who likes the more acoustic side of Anthony Phillips or Mike Oldfield will find themselves equally at home with this, and it is truly beautiful. While Children On The Road, is an altogether more boisterous affair, in keeping with children and their activities.
I am not sure what Mulleygrubs are but here they are evoked in fine style in an upbeat and Spanish flavoured piece in which the guitar and violin and synthesiser spin out a frantic and passionate dance measure which will leave you quite breathless.
Clara is a beautiful musical pen portrait akin to the likes of Kim by Steve Hackett, and just as delightful while Concerning Love (Inc Questions and answers) is a sedate, stately almost Baroque tinged piece, wistful and slightly melancholy but with flashes of flamenco passion as well.
Dinner In The Hall Of The Bloomsbury Market has echoes of several pieces for me, another sedate and almost austere piece. The remaining tracks are equally as enjoyable and are performed with great skill and panache.
Here we have an album of music which excels on so many levels. Crafted to the highest levels of musical excellence, played with musical proficiency and extraordinary good taste without showiness or flash, this is the creation of a truly remarkable musician at the top of his game and I love it!
Neil Campbell: The Outsider - News From Nowhere. NCCD011.
Web info : http://neilcampbell.org.uk
Band camp : https://neilcampbell.bandcamp.com
Next up is Gyreland by Bomber Goggles, intriguing name for an intriguing project. An album with ecology as its concept . A continent (Gyreland) made out of the floating plastic which is rapidly choking our oceans and drawn together by an ocean current “The Gyre” . This is the story of that continent and its struggle to survive against nefarious powers who wish it ill. But there is a twist. For me the connection between this album and the superb Sci Fi classic story by John Wyndham - The Chrysalids is quite amazing although I wonder if the musicians themselves realise it.
As I expected from a group of musicians as talented as the trio of Steve Bonino (The Trip), Peter Matuchniak (Gekko Project/The Steppes) and Vance Gloster (Gekko Project) the end result is a superbly crafted blend of modern prog and rock of the highest calibre. Getting under way with the spiky Land Of Plastic we are soon swept up in The Gyre the current which draws man’s refuse together to help create the floating continent of Gyreland, a melodic tracks with some excellent harmony vocals and yet with a harder edge underpinning it.
The racy piano driven Building eloquently describes the frantic pace of construction as the new continent takes shape and with enough changes in time signatures to keep your average prog fan more than happy and with a keyboard sound evidently modelled on vintage Yes, this one will easily appeal.
Telepathy, the strange power which the inhabitants of Gyreland seem to have is described in another excellently crafted piece with some superb vocal harmonies while Gyreland itself is perhaps the national anthem of the new continent once again, superb vocals and musical accompaniment, bright, brash and bold - new nation in miniature.
The World We Really Want is a deliciously lush piece once again with harmonies to die for and this is followed by the scintillating Renewed World, a veritable feast of synth and guitar work which prog fans will love and which gives all of the musicians a chance to shine.
The rest of the album is equally as well constructed with some damn fine playing from all involved. Musically excellent, and telling a story with direct relevance to today’s world, what’s not to like about Gyreland?
Bomber Goggles: Gyreland. Melodic Records MRRCD 22151.
Next, we have a new album from Richard Wileman whom most of you will be familiar with from these pages as the man behind purveyors of Gothic Prog, Karda Estra. The new album - Veil is a combination of new music, and some reworkings of Karda Estra material. Richard’s forte has always been music with a slightly macabre cast and this album is no exception. Ghosts gets the album off to a sombre start, a reflection on what might have beens and musings on what ifs… brilliantly expressed in some suitably elegiac words and music.
Last Grains on first appearances is an altogether more upbeat track, but don’t let the jaunty acoustic work fool you, there is a wryly bitter undertaste to this one. The Sea Witch is a superbly evocative miniature tone poem and we then move on to more familiar Karda Estra territory with Mephisto Portrait, replete with spiky effects and melancholy refrains and another wistful lyric. Cassiopeia is a brilliant evocation of the star it is named after.
Fans of the classic horror film The Wicker Man will instantly recognise The Tinker of Rye, which certainly took me by surprise as I had never heard the whole song. A jarringly jolly little ditty which simply sets the rest of the tracks in an even sharper focus.
The rest of the album is drawn from music of a similar slightly macabre and melancholy cast, in which Richard’s vocals, themselves of a somewhat plaintive cast, meld together with the music to produce a superbly crafted album. Not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination but deeply rewarding, thought provoking and highly enjoyable . I gather that this project may be the springboard for some long awaited gigs by Richard, and that is a prospect I am keenly anticipating!
Richard Wileman: Veil . Believer’s Roast BR021.
And finally in this round up we come back to your editor’s favourite band…Jethro Tull and yet another box set reissue.
Tull have raised the bar in terms of reissues to such incredible heights and I didn’t honestly think they could top the previous reissue - the magisterial Songs From The Wood but I was wrong. This time we have that album’s successor, 1978’s Heavy Horses, another personal favourite of mine from the Tull catalogue. As usual, this edition comes with a remastered edition of the album, along with the whole slew of extra tracks most of which I have never heard before . The real gem his time round however, is the live album. Tull fans and rock fans in general will be familiar with 1978’s Bursting Out album, won’t they? Well, imagine Genesis’ opus Seconds Out reissued with all the tracks which were omitted from it and you get the general idea. Here we have the entire thing warts and all and believe me, it is a revelation! As usual, the entire thing is housed in a beautiful hardback book case with an informative and entertaining booklet with a variety of essays on the creation of the album and associated projects, lavishly illustrated and put together extremely well. Why can’t all bands do things like this??
Jethro Tull: Heavy Horses - New Shoes Edition. Chrysalis Records 0190295757915.