“Courting The Widow” – The new album by Nad Sylvan reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Nad is no stranger to prog fans having worked with some of the best proponents of the new variety as well as his recent work with one of the proponents of the vintage variety of Prog in the shape of our very own Mr Stephen Hackett. Here we have Nad in his own environment with his own new solo album: Courting The Widow.
As you would expect from someone of Nad’s ability, the album covers just about every possible facet of prog from the by turns catchy and dramatic album opener, Carry Me Home. Here we get what for many listeners might be our first hearing of Nad’s “natural” voice after his recent assumption of the mantles of Messrs Gabriel and Collins and it is a delightfully strong and charismatic one. With some fine rhythmic accompaniment from Nick Beggs and Nick D’ Virgilio this is a strong opener.
The album’s title track: Courting The Widow is next. We are led to believe that the “widow” in question is death, not exactly the most attractive of premises, and yet here, couched in some typically melodramatic musical accompaniment, especially the Wakemanesque keyboards delivered by Roger King no less, Nad’s vocals really come into their own and are suitably dramatic and haunting (pun intended) by turns.
Echoes Of Ekwabet opens with some tastefully understated bass work from Nick Beggs which in turn give way to a superb demonstration of the talents of our main man as Nad takes the lead with guitar AND keyboards as well as vocals. There is an incessant echo of Genesis’ classic One For The Vine here to my ears but that is not intentional and Nad’s unique vocal style is totally his own and his guitar solo half way through the song is a modern day classic - way to go, Nad!
If every modern (or indeed vintage) prog album must have its lengthy epic then To Turn The Other Side definitely fits into that category. Sub-divided into either parts and clocking in at just over twenty two minutes, this is Supper’s Ready territory length wise but that is where the similarity ends. Musically this is every bit as lush and exquisite as you would expect and with enough twists and turns of style to keep the most ardent progger happy and yet through it all it is Nad’s own unique character and personality that shines through - darkly of course - as you would expect from such a dramatic character.
From the sublime to the ever so slightly ridiculous next as we have Nad’s very own homage to his own feline friend, Skrut, replete with a Captain Pugwash styled harmonium part. A delightfully eccentric detour from the more serious and dramatic moments elsewhere.
The Killing Of The Calm gets off to a deceptively jaunty start with a swaggering piano introduction but once again there is a depth to the lyrics which is belied by their musical accompaniment which makes this one of the most satisfying tracks on the album for me.
Where The Martyr Carved His Name is another majestic offering which once again has a few echoes of previous prog moments but they are merely echoes over which Nad once again stamps his own unique mucosal and vocal stamp before we come to the album’s closing track: Long Slow Crash Landing, a military tattoo style drum intro and swelling majestic and yet elegiac keyboard give this an almost symphonic feel and is a more than suitably emphatic way in which to close the album.
Nad’s profile is high and his stock within the progressive community is already impressive and this album will go along way towards cementing his position as one of prog’s most adventurous lights - well done that man!