Reviews roundup ~ Soft Works ~ Marc Reece ~ Phil Vincent ~ Derev
Abracadabra In Osaka
Here’s a bittersweet symphony for fans of jazz fusion and the Canterbury scene.
A live recording from 2003 sees Soft Works who, of course, can trace their convoluted route back to Soft Machine this features guitarist Allan Holdsworth, sax player Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper, all of whom have subsequently died, leaving drummer John Marshall the sole survivor.
This concert was one of a handful from this brief reincarnation of the Softs, off the back of the “Abracadabra” studio set and six of the eleven tracks are taken from that record as well as a few old favourites including ‘Facelift’ and ‘Kings & Queens’. Apparently the mixing desk tape wasn’t in great shape so a tip of the hat goes to Mark Wingfield who has done a magnificent job of restoring it.
Anyone who knows their way around this genre will be very familiar with the names mentioned above and considering this was a troublesome time for Allan Holdsworth some of his guitar playing here is quite extraordinary. The fact that the previously unreleased Holdsworth track here is named after his anxiety medication gives you a clue. Hopper and Marshall turn in exemplary performances but it’s really Elton Dean who stands out here. His contributions really make their mark with not a note wasted.
If you want proof take a listen to ‘Seven Formerly’ as he leads the way into Holdsworths best performance on the disc. It’s quite remarkable. “Abracadabra In Osaka” is much more than a curio piece and fans of Soft Machine should be snapping this up.
It’s been well over a decade since Marc Reece last graced a recording studio with “Let It Burn” dating back to 2009. But he’s been working non stop live up until the bat pox arrived.
He lists Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn as his primary musical influences and knowing that, the end result makes perfect sense. It’s firmly rooted in the seventies and my ears were also saying Robin Trower over and over. And that’s a good thing.
He’s an exceptionally talented guitarist and a decent enough singer. Most of the songs just involve him and the rhythm section of Guido Ludwig (bass) and Denis Sarp (drums), a duo who certainly know how to lock into a sound. A couple of the tracks see guest keyboard players popping in and on the lengthy slow blues of ‘Harder Than It Seems’ the extra sheen turns into an absolute showstopper.
There are a couple of instrumentals here, one dedicated to his son, and they do kind of slow the momentum. But it’s a minor thing on what is a really enjoyable album. Elsewhere, ‘Dreamer’ is another highlight which boasts my favourite chorus on the record. A couple of the songs seem to drift by but there’s no duff tracks here and some of the guitar solos are an absolute delight.
If you like your blues rock done old school style then this is definitely worth your consideraation.
The Rock Company
Oh come on Phil! Have a day off.
Yes, a couple of weeks after I listened to one of his many projects, D’Ercole, Phil Vincent is back chapping at the door with his 223rd solo album.
To be perfectly honest I could just reuse my review of “Yesterday, Tomorrow & Today” from last year and swap some song titles around as the old fashioned melodic hard rock sound he uses on his actual solo albums has been a constant for many years now. But it works so why mess with a winning formula.
As always he tones down the metal side of things when he’s using own name, instead aiming for that elusive Billboard hit in 1986. Which means there are an array of excellent songs, absolutely drenched in melodies and hooks. This time around I reckon the hit would have been the big ballad ‘So Tired’. The follow up which would only have grazed the Top 40 would have been ‘My Life’ but that would have worked in proving his rock credentials.
Of course we don’t live in those days and it’s a more ‘select’ audience but they will lap this up. As usual, the guitar solos are provided by Vince O’Regan with Janne Stark guesting on the aforementioned ‘So Tired’.
I could have done without the Beatles cover but that aside this is up there with his best recordings.
Leap Of Faith
A prog debut from Canada. But with a difference.
The main protagonists, Michel Karakach and Armando Bablanian, met at high school in Kuwait. They’ve got mixed Syrian and Armenian heritage and plotted a prog band incorporating the sounds of their cultures.
Fast forward eight years and they finally reconnect while living in Canada and set about resurrecting their musical plans. Cue a local bass player (Liam Horrigan) and guest vocals from Ambrotype’s Dutch-based Syrian vocalist Adel Saflou. result1
And it really is rather good. They’ve done an excellent job of incorporating unusual rhythms and melodies into the songs. And, of course, if there is a place where that sort of thing belongs it’s prog. The mix works best on ‘Turab’ and ‘Delayed’, which are two of the best prog songs I’ve heard this year. The core trio are all excellent musicians but the percussion work of Michel Karakach is a real treat. I was pleased to hear that they can change pace as well with ‘Slipping Down Again’ more of an acoustic ballad. The vocals of Adel Saflou really shine through.
There are some delightful guitar solos and the proggiest tune here – ‘Ghost Of Guilt’ – ensures that even the most ardent prog fan will get their fix of transitions. All in all, a great debut.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton