Exploring the northlands - the new album by Tony Patterson and Brendan Eyre reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

A new album by ReGenesis front man, Tony Patterson is always something to be relished and here Tony and his collaborator, another old friend of mine: former Pavilionite, Brendan Eyre, both of whose work has featured in previous editions of TWR, have brought us something just a bit special. Here we have Northlands, and there has been a LOT of positive feedback about this album and deservedly so.

The album opens with the hauntingly beautiful Northbound which serves as the album’s overture and I use the term advisedly here, as the blend of orchestral and rock instrumentation alongside Tony Patterson’s vocals which have seldom sounded better to my ears, are blended in this sublime homage to the beauty of the North East of England and are an acknowledgement of its rich and varied past - a journey of self discovery brought brilliantly to life in some wonderful music - rich in imagery, lush and totally enthralling throughout.

The Northlands Rhapsody has, to my ears, shades of Vaughan Williams at his most descriptive and emotive best and that is HIGH praise indeed I can tell you! A truly remarkable piece of music which coruscates like sunlight on water - I would love to hear this in a concert auditorium, it is simply beautiful. My only criticism is that it is TOO SHORT!

A Picture In Time has an altogether more dramatic opening before we are once again drawn into another ethereal landscape over which a female voice floats like wind in the heather but always with a hint of danger in the background. The music rises to a crescendo before fading away like a distant thunderstorm.

And The River Flows is another piano driven piece, deeply melancholy and accompanied, again, by Tony’s hauntingly evocative vocals. There is so much left unsaid in this one, that the listener can draw their own conclusions from it - just like the very best of music.

A Rainy Day On Dean Street is another brilliantly evocative piece with lyrics expressing feelings of sadness and despair which we all feel from time to time. The melancholy jazz tune and saxophone playing bring this one vividly to life.

Legacy is driven along by an almost steam train-like rhythm where the various instruments pick up pace, slow down and then go off again, very much like a train travelling through some wild landscape. A musical version of some of Turner’s more impressionistic paintings and one which I cannot but help compare to Steve Hackett’s equally haunting, The Steppes, and the track’s impact is in no way lessened by that comparison either.

I Dare To Dream is another hauntingly melancholy track in which the vocals conjure up hope and despair in equal measure. If there were any justice in the world, this should be a single although the prog world doesn’t do that sort of thing now, does it? A peach of a track.

So Long The Day has echoes (pardon the pun) of Pink Floyd at their atmospheric best but is in no way derivative and that is in no small measure due to the sheer originality of the way in which the music is constructed and the uniqueness of Tony’s vocals and it is here that he truly comes into his own.

The album concludes with A Sense Of Place another reflective piano piece which brings the entire album to a suitably subdued conclusion.

Without doubt this is the album of the year to my mind. Patterson and Eyre have between them, and with the help of the assembled musicians who have helped them (including Messrs Hackett and Magnus), created what should really be titled The Northlands Symphony. It has been a long time since I have heard an album of music which has taken a specific idea as its programme and create something that truly reflects the original inspiration as this does. Mind you, the North East is one of the jewels in England’s crown and so you have plenty of scope to draw from and here is music that does that setting more than justice - superb stuff all round!

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