"Musician's Corner" - Another occasional look at some of the music which has been occupying the TWR Editor's CD player between Genesis albums…

Continuing the thread started in the last edition of TWR, I thought I would bring a few more albums by widely differing musicians to the attention of the good readers of TWR so here goes…

First up is a privately recorded and pressed project by Black Hole. The CD, titled Equinox has been sitting in my CD player quite a lot recently. Opening with the delightfully Prog tinged Lucid Dreams, which had echoes of certain of Anthony Phillips' more New Age moments to it before moving on to Smoke On The Water, a similarly evocative track.

This album wears its Prog heart very much on its sleeve, the music is evocative, almost ethereal in places but with some heavier moments too. Very much a "Work In Progress" this one I think but the results will bear closer scrutiny because this is an enjoyable effort.

Next up is another work in progress, this time by Tim Hooper. The CD titled Removing The Veil arrived here at TWR HQ recently with a request from Tim that I simply pass on a few comments to him but … never being the one to do things by halves … The CD opens with The Gentlest Folds a delightful Spanish flavoured acoustic piece redolent of Steve Hackett (no bad start!) . Beneath The Veil continues the acoustic thread but accompanied by bass and snare drum and Tim's very own vocals which are stylish and all his own.

Tim has managed to create his own timeless music here, uncluttered by mannered acknowledgements of other artists and this is definitely an album I would purchase from any record store. This is genuinely inventive music with a heart and character all its own. Do us all a favour, Tim… remove that "veil" and get this CD finished… an eager public awaits!

We take a further step back in the development of a composer who is no stranger to the pages of TWR here. Richard Wileman's work as Karda Estra has already been documented in previous editions of TWR Well, long before that project, Richard was involved in another one: Lives & Times. Sadly these albums are not generally available anymore but I am sure that if you ask Richard nicely, he has copies eager to be purchased from the Karda Estra web site.

There are obvious indications here of the compositional direction that Richard would take, from the very first track on the first album I have heard…Immortal, from the album Waiting For The Parade, Lorna Cumberland's lush vocals are underpinned by Richard's emotive and at times menacing keyboard and guitar work. In fat that is the thread that runs through this album and its successors, through to the later albums by Lives & Times, nothing is simple and quantifiable; there is a frisson of unease about this music that keeps you on the edge of your seat. No simple Pop fodder here but genuine music to get your ears into!

Try out the following Lives & Times albums and let us know what you think….

Lives & Times: Waiting For The Parade SI Music SI43 (CD)

Lives & Times: The Great Sad Happy Ending SI Music Simply 57 (CD)

Lives & Times: There And Back Again Lane Cyclops Music CYCL 029 (CD)

Lives & Times: Hoarse No Image Records NICD9 (CD)

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Another band which are no strangers to the pages of Musicians' Corner are Bournemouth-based: Big Big Train and I have two more of their offerings to cast a critical eye (and ear) over this time round.

Bard as it s title suggests is a series of stories mainly sung in the Bardic style beginning with an elegy to Harold Godwinson; The Last English King, who fell in combat with the Norman invaders of England in 1066. There is a continuous thread of acknowledgement of the Anglo Saxon period of English history in such titles as Harold Rex Interfectus Est (which should actually read: Hic Haroldus Rex Interfectus Est or Here King Harold was killed if you read the original Latin text of the Bayeux Tapestry from whence the quote is taken). Musically, this is an extremely polished effort with fine performances by all of the musicians.

This is continued with the band's latest effort; Gathering Speed; another tribute this time to the airmen of the Battle Of Britain. Opening with High Tide Last Stand whose roaring aeroplane intro echoes Pink Floyd's Goodbye Blue Sky. Followed by Fighter Command an altogether more original and evocative track. There is once again, much good music in this album and Prog fans will lap this one up. The use of Melltron samples and certain instantly recognisable phrasings from Genesis and Floyd amongst others throughout the album, detracted from it somewhat for me personally but this is a competent album from an accomplished group of musicians.

Next time try writing about the REAL heroes of the last war boys… the Mercantile Marine without whom the subjects of your current opus would never have got off the ground!

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For further info on Big Big Train, check out their web site: www.bigbigtrain.com