It has been a while since we had a look at some of the non Genesis related music getting airplay in TWR HQ so here goes…
First up is On Earth As It Is, the new album by John Hackett Band member, Duncan Parsons.
As anyone who has seen the JHB will know, Duncan is a pretty nifty drummer. This album will demonstrate that there is much more to Duncan than that!
The album opens with Heaven, a weighty and expansive 23 minute slice of modern prog featuring some marvellous performances from the likes of Nick Fletcher and John Helliwell. Reminiscent of vintage Camel and Brand X in places - and that's no bad thing, is it? This sets the bar high and the lyrics ask a question which has been asked throughout eternity - thought provoking stuff.
This Day is a brilliantly etched look at modern life and it's obsession with social media "platforms". Driven by a slightly paranoid and incessant rhythm in which Duncan and bassist Leland Sklar trade licks JHB meets Frank Zappa at his most acidically cynical.
The punningly titled Fissures Of Men (Fishers Of Men - geddit?) is a pungently brittle instrumental featuring Duncan on keyboards and Lizz Lipscombe on viola/violin and Ben Eckersley on cello. A tart amuse bouche before the deeply evocative Finish Line in which outward appearances are deceptive . Inner feelings brought kicking and screaming into the light. This one resonates deeply with me and I am sure it will with many of you too.
Unnecessary Kindness features Duncan himself on nylon guitar. This one shimmers like the sun on raindrops a truly delightful slice of acoustic magic reminiscent of Anthony Phillips at his most wistful.
Three Sixteen - the train journey of life the cut and thrust of modern life, its ups and downs, successes and failures. Are we reduced to what? Is that all I am indeed!
Lead Us Not - the grass isn't always greener on the other side is it? A deceptively jaunty guitar rhythm accompanied by some tasty flute from Mr Hackett belies an acidic lyric delivered in a suitably manic fashion by Duncan himself.
A brief reprise of Fissures Of Men leads us nicely to the album closer; Valediction (Power And Glory). Ironically enough, this one does remind me of Gentle Giant! An invocation to the "deity" supposedly in charge of our lives (if you believe such things) and how our expectations are seldom if ever met - misplaced trust/faith? Who knows! What I do know is that this is an album that shows the amazing talent that resides in Duncan Parsons - a talent augmented by but not overpowered by, the stellar talents which have helped him create a damn fine album.
DUNCAN PARSONS : ON EARTH AS IT IS. ROUGH DRAFT AUDIO RDACD008.
Well, the mighty Jethro Tull are back with their 23rd studio album Roke Flote. And it has to be said, after the last couple of efforts especially the very disappointing Zealot Gene, Anderson's muse is definitely back!
Given Anderson's antipathy towards prog "concepts" it may be surprising to hear that this album takes as its main theme some of the stories from Norse mythology.
Here we have a worthy successor to Broadsword & The Beast, although an acoustically driven one. Examining several of the key figures in the Norse Pantheon, musically Anderson and Co are bang on the money here. This is by far the most satisfying album from the band in many a year and although Ian's pipes aren't what they used to be, the end result still makes this fan very happy.
Jethro Tull: RökFlöte. Inside Out Music 19658776951 (Limited numbered edition box set).
Next up… Jeez, hard to believe that it is 25 years since Ritchie Blackmore went "all acoustic" with Blackmore's Night and their debut album; Shadow Of The Moon has been repackaged and reissued.
Now the original blew me away back in 1997, and this one has done the same. Sonically this is pristine and a delight from beginning to end. Blackmore may be a crotchety old bugger but he can pen a superb tune as demonstrated on such classics as the title track, Play Minstrel Play (featuring one I Anderson no less!) and Baroque flavoured instrumentals such as Minstrel Hall, Memmingen and Mond Tanz.
The accompanying DVD disc features an informative with Blackmore and Candice Night the two protagonists behind the project as well as three promotional films. A must for any fans of melodic, crafted music.
Blackmore's Night: Shadow Of The Moon. EDEL 36979.
Whilst on the subject of reissues, Marillion have been treating their fans to their very own reissues campaign and we have finally reached the transition albums when Steve Hogarth bravely filled the shoes of the band's very own Scottish poet.
Seasons End became a favourite from the very first time I heard it and the reissue merely serves to confirm that opinion. Crisp and clean from beginning to end it retains its power to fascinate and thrill. Sadly however, the "extras" remain unseen as I am no lover of the Blu Ray format although I have dvd copies of two of the films that feature on it. The live performance of the album from the 2022 Marillion Weekend in Leicester makes interesting listening. As someone who has vivid memories of those 1989 gigs, this performance comes across as somewhat lacklustre but still essential to the "collection".
Marillion: Seasons End Parlophone 5054197384783.
Moving on barely eighteen months, we have Holidays In Eden, not quite as exciting as its predecessor although tracks such as Splintering Heart, The King Of Sunset Town and, of course, Easter retain their place in my Marillion favourites list. Once again, the end result is a clean and highly satisfying album although the same frustration over the Blu Ray bonus disc remains…
Marillion: Holidays In Eden Parlophone 0190296609213.
And finally in this roundup is another release from Hungarian jazzers, Djabe. Djabe & Steve Hackett Live In Gyor does exactly what it says on the digipak.
Another excellent live document featuring a great set including some classic Hackett as well as gems from Djabe's own extensive catalogue. For me the stand out track again is Last Train To Istanbul. I so wish Steve would add this to his own live set!
The set is augmented by an excellent Blu Ray disc which, alongside the film of the concert also contains a fascinating documentary and promo video clips. If you have never seen or heard Djabe before, this set will be an excellent place to start.
Djabe & Steve Hackett Live In Gyor. Esoteric Antenna EANTCD 31094.