First up this time round in a shorter feature than usual is the latest album by John Hackett band alumnus and all round good egg, Nick Fletcher. Taking its title from a mystical medieval religious text, The Cloud Of Unknowing is an attempt to find sense in the senselessness of today's world.
The album gets under way with Out Of The Maelstrom which is, without doubt, one of the finest slices of Jazz Fusion I have ever heard! Nick takes no prisoners here, licks come fast and furious as madness and musical mayhem abound before things quieten down slightly for the deliciously jazzy The Eyes Of Persephone featuring some superb keyboard work by Caroline Bonnett and The Strawbs' very own David Bainbridge. Once again Nick shows off his formidable talents here too with some truly remarkable guitar work.
The centre piece of the album; the suite Scenes From The Unconscious Mind follows. This suite takes us from some of the darkest of our nightmares which are all frighteningly vividly portrayed in some truly ferocious playing from Nick. This suite should definitely come with a parental guidance warning - budding guitarists do not try to emulate this at home! It really is difficult to do justice to the level of performance on display here. It is almost as if some inner beast has been unleashed by Nick and these long hoarded licks are finally out of his musical Pandora's Box leaving us with Hope in the form of the truly remarkable Arcadia - a pacific slice of acoustic work the like of which Nick is already renowned for. This is merely a respite from the madness and mayhem, an oasis of calm in an otherwise insane musical world before The Paradox which is life's ever changing pattern brings the album to a suitably thought provoking conclusion.
This is a brave album, an attempt to find cohesion and sense in a fractured world. Derived from music cast in the sharpest of moulds it really is an album which will make you sit up and think and admire the sheer level of musicianship on display from Nick and the rest of the musicians who have shared the task of putting the album together. Rock and Roll? Perhaps not .Rock? Definitely, and with an acidic twist to it - I love it!
Tigermoth Tales are no strangers to the pages of TWR since yours truly finally succumbed to the lure of their music. Having finally got to see the band recently at a gig in Trading Boundaries at which they had a new live CD : A Visit To Oxfordshire on sale - duly purchased! This disc pretty much encapsulates the show I saw with the band drawing pretty much on their entire catalogue including the superb A Song Of Spring (reviewed in our last edition). Here we have such classics as Feels Alright, the awesome Tigers In The Butter, Light which reduced me to tears at the gig. Lighter moments are present too with the zany knockabout humour of Toad Of Toad Hall and Mad March Hare. Here we have a band evidently on a creative upswing, each album better than the one which preceded it. Musicians who are evidently relishing the chance to perform to an audience, this is a superb document of a band at the top of their game.