Reviews roundup – ESP vs. Cure For Gravity vs. Ray Fuller vs. Carved Souls vs. Forest Field
Some all-star prog for your delectations here with a collaboration between producer and musician Tony Lowe and drummer Mark Brzezicki (Big Country, Procol Harum, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Fish, um, Frida from Abba and many more). But where are the all stars I hear you cry.
Well there’s David Cross (King Crimson), Phil Spalding (Mike Oldfield), Steve Gee (Landmarq, John Wetton), ex-Van der Graaf Generator David Jackson and John Young (Asia) to keep you going. Which would all be for naught if the music was a bit rubbish. But it isn’t. It’s also quite old fashioned harking back to the days of mid-seventies Genesis and Pink Floyd which is fine by me. Being an old bastard and that.
You’ll be glad to know (if you’re a progster) that it’s a concept album. Hurrah! It tells the story of Emlyn who is searching the astral world for a soulmate, having first experienced this place when healed of an illness as a child by a spooky whatnot. Cue lots of hippy drippy lyrics about spiritualism and other gubbins. But the music is fabulous, one part Dave(id) Gilmour guitar lines and one part Alan Parsons Project melodicism.
It’s top quality prog no matter where you drop the needle, but early doors it’s “Through The Dream”, “Searching The Banks For A Memory” and “Almost Seen” that get me moist. An essential album for prog fans.
CURE FOR GRAVITY
Cure For Gravity
More prog now, this time with the debut release from Oakland, California’s Cure For Gravity. Of course they’re youngsters so a wee bit embarrassed about calling themselves a prog band so they’ve went for the alt-prog rock tag which basically seems to mean they own a Radiohead album.
Which is a crime that sadly goes unpunished along with being a mime or using the word like three times in the same sentence. But I suppose in their case it is forgiveable as they’ve actually got some promise.
There is an eighties prog pop feel to some of the songs with “Sunspots” the most obvious of them. But as a band in the early throes of life they gel well, and when they let the guitars off the leash you do get the feeling that they could go places. So hats off to Dave Walcott, Joe Markert and Chris Gamper for getting off to a good start. A point deducted though for “Blackmetal” not being a Venom cover.
RAY FULLER and the Bluesrockers
Long Black Train
After all that prog I feel the need to kick out the jams and who better to provide that than Ray Fuller and his band the Bluesrockers. Now I don’t like to give the game away too early but, heads up, this is an album chock full of blues rock.
He’s been fronting his own band since the seventies which has given him plenty of time to perfect his searing slide guitar and this is a place that fans of Hound Dog Taylor will find themselves very comfortable. For a while there it looked like he was going to break through with a couple of releases on Rounder but it wasn’t to be.
However he’s been a steady club draw and with the right breaks his time could still come. He certainly deserves it if this is anything to go by. You can tell what you’re getting from titles like “Voodoo Mama”, “Hip Shakin’ Mama” and “Let’s Get Dirty”. And that is primo hot and nasty blues rock. Just the way I like it. And I really like this.
I don’t associate California with bleakness. I’ve got family there and they’re all chipper permatanned hippy health freaks. We don’t talk much.
But Carved Souls have darkness in their hearts which explains why they’re specialising in darkwave synthpop. And they’re not hanging about as this is their fourth album since they formed five years ago as an orchestral instrumental project for film scores. They’ve still got a touch of the Blade Runners about them even they’ve they’ve taken a shift to the left with their melodic take on darkwave.
They’re very good at what they do with Suede, Legion, Gotham and Krz (probably not their real names) doing a rare job on dark, melancholic and bleak numbers like “Kill Me”, “Worthless” and “Screams”. I’m not much of a one for listening to this sort of thing in my spare time, as the regular self harming and bulimia don’t take care of themselves, but I’ll be making sure I return to this.
I’m playing catch up with Forest Field as it was only last month that I heard previous album ‘Angels?’ saying ” an album of two halves, one of which is for prog fans and one of which is for melodic rock fans”.
But I was a year late to that party so here are Forest Field back for another crack. And it’s very much as you were. It’s not quite a concept album although it is loosely based on the Dune saga by Frank Herbert and as you would expect from that they’ve gone in a slightly more proggy direction. Which is good and certainly makes the album hang together a lot better.
Musically they’ve stepped up a notch and they’ve also ramped up some vocal harmonies which really enriches the album. Proggiest of all is the lengthy instrumental “Coriolis” but it’s on the closing “Fear” (which clocks in at a quarter of an hour long) that Forest Field really find their feet. I found it a big improvement on their last release (which was no slouch) and fans of melodic prog should be beating down their door.