Here we are with a bumper crop of music and other stuff which has been keeping your editor occupied between TWR duties.
Anna Masden is a resident of New Hampshire after moving there from Utah several years ago. Her debut EP, Palm Reader was released to critical acclaim in 2015 and Efflorescence is her first full album. And what an album it is! No only does it span a breathtaking range of styles from Country to Prog with a Folk twist permeated throughout by her marvellous vocals. Prog fans will love the judicious use of such well known instruments as the Mellotron and the Optigon accompanied by an array of other instruments all used to great effect throughout from the dark drama of Devil’s Garden and the pop-tinged Luna and the haunting, almost choral Palm Reader with its cello-driven mid section which for some unknown reason reminds me of the film Interview With A Vampire!
Prog fans will love March Of The Wounded , a fine anti war song with a melody which will stay with you long after the song has finished. Our very own Anthony Phillips features on three tracks: Black Dress, Irena’s Lullaby and pioneer Hymn which are in three entirely different styles. The former is a dark, almost Gothic styled epic which Ant contributes to with some fine electric guitar - something of a rarity for him these days! Whilst the elegiac style of Irena’s Lullaby is augmented by a more typical offering of twelve string and Pioneer Hymn sees Ant on Cuattro Guitar.
With an album that covers Indie, Pop Folk music, Prog and much more besides, there is something here for everyone all wrapped up in the delicious warmth of Madsen’s vocals and not forgetting a great supporting cast of fine musicians including Jonathan Mover, Myron Kibbee, Eric Wagley and many others, this is an accomplished album from someone with a genuinely original musical voice and someone who has plenty to say with that voice as well!
Anna Madsen: Efflorescence. Rocking Horse RH 1610 -2
For more information check out Anna’s website: www.annamadsenmusic.com
Next up, a selection of albums by longstanding Genesis/Hackett fan, Peter Matuchniak. Peter has been carving out his own musical trail since the 1980’s indeed, some of you may remember his work in the UK with both Janysium and Mach One. Since then he has been a very busy boy as these album demonstrate…
The first of these albums, Decadent Light IV: Evolve demonstrates Peter’s love for Jazz., Fusion and Prog, a bewildering array of styles is on display throughout this one getting under way with the fusion driven Number 16 where Michael Eager’s voice sounds like a vintage John Wetton - no mean feat while Peter riffs away like his very life depends on it and he unleashes some pretty mean licks here…he certainly knows how to tame his axe, that’s for sure! War is an altogether more Prog-tinged affair, the martial beat of the drum evokes the theme of the song whilst duelling guitar and bass slug it out on this musical battlefield with some fine riffage once again from Mr Matuchniak, who has evidently taken some lessons from one S Hackett Esquire. Judgement Day, despite its title is a fusion driven delight full of stops and starts and an infectiously catchy riff line while Saturday’s Gone has all the spikiness of punk at its best (yes folks, not all punk was a bad thing) but without any of its concomitant amateurishness. The rest of the album demonstrates an equally impressive grasp of several musical genres and forms, so if you don’t like one track then another will grab your attention - great stuff!
Evolve IV: Decadent Light Prog Rock Records PRR600. 2008.
Moving on a few years we come to Peter’s 2012 album, Uncover Me which opens with Falling Ash (Landscape Burning Pt 1) a classic slice of modern Prog in which Natalie azerad’s vocals sound surprisingly like Durga MacBroom’s on several Pink Floyd classics. Indeed, there are several echoes (pun intended) of the mighty Floyd on this one but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the music - not a bit of it! Running blind is that rarest of beasts, a Prog love song and it works, believe me! The album’s title track, Uncover Me is an acoustic guitar driven delight in which vocals, guitar and the flute of David Gilman weave a magical dance while the musical city scape Down In New Orleans is a latter day tale of love lost with a wonderfully smokey vocal from Ted Zahn. Even here, Peter’s Prog sensibilities rear their head making this one in particular one of the most satisfying on the album. Other favourites included the snappily jazzy London Vibe, another brilliant evocation of the vibrancy of that city, Matuchniak meets al di Meola here and I can barely see the join, this is a jazzer’s delight! Lionheart betrayed is an all too brief evocation of the way in which the English identity is being eroded, all the more relevant at the moment with the debate on our place (if we have one) in Europe. An altogether more mellow album than its predecessor, it is nevertheless full of surprises which will keep your attention throughout.
Peter Matuchniak - Uncover Me. The Record Label TRL 070. 2012.
In the same year as the previous album, Peter also found time to get involved with the Gekko Projekt and their 2012 album Electric Forest demonstrates a more experimental side to his music; It opens with Particle Dance which is a polished slice of fusion with prog undertones in which Mr M demonstrates once again demonstrates his skills with the guitar with some searing riffs accompanied by some keyboard work which to me has echoes of vintage Camel. In fact this track has the trademarks of that band write large all over it - no bad thing too! Black Hole reminds me of the kind of psychedelic rock that Hawkwind and Space Ritual have pretty much made their own but with a melodic edge to it which makes it uniquely Gekko Projekt’s own. Cognitive Dissonance’s incessant steppin’ bass line will get you tapping your toes immediately while Avatar Jones (love the title) is a wry look at the New Age philosophy and religions, while Erdinger has its feet firmly placed in the jazz/fusion camp. Once again, this album demonstrates the musicians’ command and knowledge of a whole range of styles. An album that doesn’t sit in one particular groove, it will shock you and surprise you by turns.
Gekko Projekt - Electric Forest. Prog Rock Records PRR 238. 2012.
Gekko Projekt were back again in 2015 with Reya of Titan, a concept album in which we get to witness the vicissitudes of the central character, Reya who, as the album suggests is from Titan., one of the moons of Jupiter. The story is told through a series of musical vignettes and is a classic prog concept album of which there have been so many over the years. Not quite a latter day Lamb… or A Passion Play but replete with enough fine musicianship to keep your average proghead more than happy.
Gekko Projekt - Reya Of Titan. Melodic Revolution Records. MRR 22108. 2015.
Peter;’s most recent album, Destiny, once again is a showcase for a variety of styles and also features some of the alumni from the LA rock scene including Scott Connor who has worked with both Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye whose names I am sure most of you are familiar with. This is another polished effort as you would expect but with some exceptional playing and expressing some memorable ideas such as in the biting indictment of today’s material society: Product, while Spies explores the world of Internet and the world where privacy has no place all in a deceptively mellow style with some wonderfully ethereal vocals from Natalie Azerad. I love the pairing of Go fast, Go Slow both mellow, jazz tinged efforts while Islands is a laid back acoustic delight. I love the line…”all I need is an island and a palm tree…” well, we all can dream of our pwn island, can’t we? This is the working everyman’s aspiration put to music. Once again, Peter covers a lot of ground with this one and the sheer variety it represents is quite staggering. Adventurous, playful, and consummately executed, this is another album that anyone will find rewarding.
Peter Matuchniak - Destiny. Melodic Revolution Records MRR 22108. 2015.
ERRATA; In our last edition for some unknown reason, the review of the new Karda Estra album seemed to indicate that Mr Richard Wileman had jumped ship and had become a member of Jethro Tull! We apologise for this, Richard has not taken to wearing a cod piece and playing his flute on one leg… well not as far as we know anyway!