Reviews roundup – Gandalf’s Fist vs. Melody Gardot vs. Val Tvoar vs. Jennifer Saran vs. The Raptor Trail
The Clockwork Fable
Sleep is overrated anyway. Because you’re not going to get much of that once you dive into the triple CD, three hour concept album that is “The Clockwork Fable”. Yes, you read that right. Even better, Gandalf’s Fist have went to the bother of creating their own, complex world, in which to set their creation.
Set in the fictional world of “Cogtopolis”, each CD of the record serves as a different “act” of the story, with the likes of Arjen Lucassen and (Ayreon) Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden), amongst others, providing the singing voices of the inhabitants. Luckily, for me (and hopefully people who actually buy this), I got a glossy programme to guide me through their War of the Worlds styled musical theatre.
And it is incredibly good. I thought “A Forest Of Fey” was as good as it got in the world of modern prog, but I was wrong. Because this monsterpiece, which veers from prog to rock to metal to folk to goodness knows what, blows all other prog out of the water.
Whether you want to indulge in some Blackmore’s Night hey nonnys, as on ‘Eve’s Song’, some symphonic metal (hello ‘Fight For The Light’), or some out and out early sefventies prog – ‘The Bewildering Conscience Of A Clockwork Child’, then there is something for you here. Now, I’m not going to deny that I got lost a few times, but I usually managed to clamber back inside the story.
Add is some proper acting from the likes of Mark Benton (Northern Lights / Strictly Come Dancing), Bill Fellows (Broadchurch, Downton Abbey), Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and others, and you’re left with an album that destroys all others. Essential for prog fans. Buy the CD direct from the band, rather than downloading, and enjoy the full glory.
Live At The Olympia Paris
Filmed in October 2015, “Live At The Olympia Paris” is the first live DVD / Blu-Ray from Melody Gardot. And that’s not surprising because not an awful lot happens at a Melody Gardot performance.
Granted, she has moved on from her early, more introspective songs, into a more widescreen arena of jazz pop, but in amidst the blue and purple lights, it’s basically her, and a very accomplished band playing a lot of songs from her most recent album “Currency Of Man”.
The band are very good indeed, with a fine horn section well to the fore, and the jazz element is amped up on stage, with an exceedingly long ‘March For Mingus’ filling out the mid-section of the show. Ms Gardot also enjoys connecting with her audience, which probably came across better if you were there. On the telly, it just seems to break the flow of the concert.
Fans of her more recent material will grab this up, but it might take lovers of the earlier, more successful albums, by surprise.
In Light You Believe
No, me neither. But it turns out that Val Tvoar is an Estonian guitarist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and founder of Estonian rock band Soul Thrower. This, however, is his second solo album.
Well, I say album, but it’s a long EP or a short mini album, depending on what side of the bed you sleep on. Seems that Soul Thrower is a modern rock / post grunge band, but he also has a death metal band called Human Ground, which could explain the cover artwork. This, however, falls into the former, rather than the latter camp.
He’s a very good guitarist, with a degree of widdle in there, which probably harks back to his classical musical training, and he can hold a tune as well. There are some hints of stoner / desert rock in here, alongside the more mainstream Foo Fighters influences, but the real winner is the metal assault of ‘There’s No Tomorrow’, which is a storming track.
A few more like that and I might have been a full blown convert.
Walk With Me
It doesn’t seem that long since we heard from Ms Saran. And that’s because it isn’t. Because she had a Christmas album out 6 months or so ago. But, now the holidays are out of the way, and she’s back with a non-tinsel offering.
She’s a Hong Kong based adult contemporary singer songwriter, who has been working with legendary producer Narada Michael Walden, and it seems that this record was actually recorded before the Christmas one.
She has a very easy listening voice, one that copes well with the song settings. Even if there are a few too many tunes. Lop a few off the 18 tracks on offer, and you could have had a concise and focused album. That aside, there are more than a few good tunes here, with ‘Where Have You Been’, ‘ Walk with Me’ and ‘Miracle of Love’, the kind of thing that easy radio will lap up.
THE RAPTOR TRAIL
Album number two from the Raptor Trail, sees them sidling sideways from the overtly prog offerings of their debut album. But, don’t run off. It’s still the seventies in their heads. However, they have brought in some more mainstream sounds. Thankfully, from 1975 as opposed to today.
There are touches of blues rock and American toots here, with some hints of psychedlia hither and thither. Fans of seventies US rock will take to songs like ‘Four Times’ and ‘Stone By Stone’, whereas those looking to get their prog itch scratched should be heading towards “Going To Dublin’ and ‘Wheel’.
They even manage to kick out the jams with some hard rock on ‘Desolation’, but it’s a varied mixture of an album, which manages to hold together. It’s prog, psych, country rock and more. But it’s all good.