You all know that I cannot write short reviews, they are always in depth and take an album apart to give a track-by-track breakdown of the record. I also try to give a decent biography of the artist involved and a convoluted introduction.
This seems to work when reviewing the type of music that I do, I give the reader a level of intelligence that means they have the time and inclination to look deeper into the music I am reviewing.
The only problem with my lengthy reviews is that I cannot listen to, and write about, as many albums as I would like to and, as 2014 came to a close, there was still a list of music I hadn’t had the time to get round to.
So I had an idea, that is to say an inspiration particle floated into my mind around 6.15 A.M. today and the gist of it is this, why not try and write some small précis of the albums that were left over from 2014 so you can still be availed by my wisdom? (I was joking, honest, me? wise?).
This then is the culmination of that idea, six succinct reviews of albums from 2014 that, otherwise, would have been missed. ‘The Ones That Nearly Got Away’, clever eh?
Italian progressive rock outfit Syndone returned after eighteen years in 2010 with a new album, ‘Melapesante’, and new six piece line-up. Their third release upon returning to the scene was 2014’s ‘Odysseas’ which, as you may guess from the name, is a tribute to Homer’s ‘Odyssey’.
Singing in their native tongue gives this band an element of mystery and their music is part classical with operatic overtones and part pure classic progressive rock. Their use of keyboards to create all the distortion sounds and the complete lack of electric guitars gives a feel of 70’s nostalgia and the vocals have a depth of emotion that adds to the feel of quality.
Set slap bang in the middle of the classic Italian progressive rock releases this is a fantastic release that should belong in the collection of any music lover who likes traditional progressive rock with added quirky undertones. Rating: 4/5
Staying in Italy, Dropshard were formed in 2007 and released their debut album ‘Anywhere But Home’ in 2011. The success of that first record led to their sophomore release ‘Silk’ last year. Almost a complete antithesis to Syndone with vocals sung in English and a more modern neo-progressive approach, ‘Silk’ has a hard edged vibe along with a heavier feel. Classic clean guitar solos and keyboard combos abound and the vocals have a more mainstream feel.
Influences include Riverside, Porcupine Tree and Pain of Salvation as well as heavy injections of classic bands like Genesis and Jethro Tull and, to my ears anyway, early Dream Theater.
Their more modern take on the progressive rock scene has dashes of alternative rock thrown in to give it a wider appeal and, whilst not standing out from the throng, it is a great album in its own way. Rating: 3.5/5
Formed from the ashes of renowned Adelaide progressive rock group Unitopia, United Progressive Fraternity takes the delicious blend of almost pompous symphonic progressive rock the Australian band produced and adds a new depth to the music.
Retaining the impressive vocals of Mark ‘Truey’ Truack who wants the band to become a melting pot of ideas from different artists forming a musical family, there are some weak moments but, especially on the collaboration with Jon Anderson ‘The Water’, they are some moments of sheer brilliance
Add in the skills of respected British progressive artist Guy Manning, typical cut glass production and the amazing artwork of Ed Unitsky the legacy of Unitopia should live long within this stellar Fraternity. Rating: 3.5/5
The Emerald Dawn are a multi-instrumentalist, symphonic progressive rock trio living in St Ives, Cornwall, UK. From the first look at the album cover and the guitar sodden intro to the album, ‘Searching for the Lost Key’ has huge hints of mystery and legend about it. Add in multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Tree Stewart’s emotive, haunting and almost monastic chanting voice and you are left in a world of mysticism and lore dripping with atmosphere.
Ally Carter, to my ears at least, leads the way with his superlative guitar work which, overall, leads to some quite impressive music. However, in parts, it does feel a bit disjointed and lethargic. A prog version of Celtic Folklore perhaps? worth a listen if only to form your own opinion of a record that has proved divisive so far. Rating: 3/5
If you have never heard Swedish 5 piece Moon Safari before then I suggest you get your hands on one of their exquisite albums pronto. Formed in 2003 they rocked the world of progressive music with their sensational 5 part harmonies and sweeping soundscapes.
A highly successful tour of the UK in 2014 has cemented their position as one of the very best prog bands out there. If you want an entry point into the delightful world of the band then you need look no further than 2014’s live release ‘Live in Mexico’ (catchy title eh?).
Featuring some of the band’s most loved tracks and with a superior production quality that seems to transport you direct to the concert, this album was definitely a live highlight of the past 12 months. Go and buy it now! Rating: 4/5
Hero and legend are big words and big shoes to fill but Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery has been one of mine since the first time I heard the band in the mid 1980’s. Often overlooked for the more flamboyant virtuosos, he has a timeless way of playing the guitar that just wends its way around your whole being and cocoons you from the hardships of daily life.
As a run up to the release of his first solo album ‘Ghosts of Pripyat’ (full length review coming soon) Steve and his band performed to a sell out crowd at the Cross Roads Live Club in Rome this year, performing tracks from the upcoming album and some classic Marillion songs too.
‘Live in Rome’ is handily split into two CDs, the first being the tracks from the solo album and the second having all the Marillion material. CD1 with its intricate and atmospheric playing where Steve combines with the undoubted guitar talent of Dave Foster (Mr So & So) is superb and the new, all instrumental, tracks are wonders to behold. However, and I say this with heavy heart being a big Marillion fan, CD2 fails to keep up, primarily because of the vocals. Unfortunately they are overblown and pompous in places and I could almost feel Fish and Steve Hogarth cringe in sympathetic pain.
Don’t let that stop you purchasing though as the impressive CD1 is worth the entry price alone, the cover, seemingly a homage to Stevie Ray Vaughan is classic too. Ratings: CD1 – 4/5, CD2 – 3/5
So there you have it, six ‘mini’ reviews if you like. Keep an eye out at Lady Obscure Music Magazine for a return to the leviathan reviews of old very shortly!