Eternal Return is a quintet which brings together various duos/trios that have previously recorded and toured together. Within this ensemble we have Dogon, the duo of Venezuelan Miguel Noya (synthesisers) and American Paul Godwin (vocals, piano) who first met at Berklee some 40 years ago. Alongside them is bassist Australian Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, no-man, O.R.k.) and his frequent collaborator, Estonian guitarist Robert Jürjendal (Toyah Wilcox, Fripp’s Crafty Guitar School). To complete the line-up, we have Venezuelan drummer Miguel Toro, while they have a guest trumpeter in Damascus-born Milad Khawam and the album was recorded in Berlin.
In other words, this is a truly international band bringing together a great many influences and styles. The best way to describe this is probably progressive ambient, with links to the likes of David Sylvain (especially, one can really imagine him performing on some of these) and This Mortal Coil. It is an album which goes through many styles, with guitar and/or synth/piano often the lead instrument, yet at its heart is a strong percussive element (much more than “just” drums) while Edwin’s smooth meandering and slid basslines have an incredibly important part to play in holding it all together. It is something which can be both relaxing and luxurious and experimental and edgy, so much so that even when everything is calm and making sense there is still an edge which provides a tension. It is atmospheric, but the high use of cymbals combined with the differing backgrounds from those involved make this something which needs to have close attention paid to it or important elements will be passed by.
This definitely benefits from being played on headphones and not just in the background as it will just disappear. Fans of no-man, King Crimson, and some of the more ambient prog noodlings of Marillion may well find this intriguing. 7/10 Kev Rowland
What I have here is a recording of Joe Jackson, Todd Rundgren, and NY-based string quartet Ethel. I really was not sure what to expect from this, and I am sure the people there that night did not either, as while I thought all acts would be playing together onstage, I wasn’t aware that each would have an individual set and they would only come together for a few songs at the end. This means we start with a series of classical pieces from Ethel, which is very clever but not what I would expect at a rock concert. I played this part once and then found myself skipping the first five numbers and I would expect many others to do the same.
To be honest, I was not sure what to expect from Jackson either and thought I would probably listen to his songs and then skip smartly to the main attraction, so I was amazed at just how good this section was and how much I enjoyed it. It has made me totally rethink my opinion on Jackson, (I used to see him on Top of the Pops but don’t own any of his material), as he is a very good pianist indeed and has some fine songs. He also has a strong rapport with the audience who react strongly when they recognise one of his songs. He plays all the hits, from “Steppin’ Out” to “Different For Girls” and “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, and the 11 songs he performs are an absolute delight. The crowd are well up for it, and on the last song they all happily shout “where?” at the correct moment, with so much force that Jackson even loses it as he chuckles.
From an all-piano set we get Todd, the wizard, the true star. He kicks off with “Love of the Common Man” on a 12-string, and after a few more numbers in that vein we get “Compassion” with him now sat at the piano. The highlight of his set is probably “Hello, It’s Me” with his delicate vocals as he gets into falsetto, accompanying himself on piano. The last of the four sections finds everyone on stage, and “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps” is a delight, with the string section rocking along, Joe on piano and Todd on electric. The finest version ever recorded is of course the one by Yellow Matter Custard but this is still mighty fine.
This available as a 2 CD and DVD set, and I am sure fans of both Jackson and Rundgren will find this a long overdue release. 7/10 Kev Rowland
To any fan of British progressive rock, keyboard player Jan Schelhaas needs little introduction given that he has played with both Caravan (twice, and with whom he is still playing) and Camel, as well as numerous other sessions. Here we have a remastered reissue of his 2018 solo album with three additional tracks. There is not much information out there about the album, so while I know Doug Boyle (guitar) and Jimmy Hastings (sax) are both involved, I cannot find any other information, so it is quite possible that the rest is undertaken by Jan, including the vocals.
It is hard to imagine that this is a recent album, as this has far more in common with the laid-back Seventies sound of sanitised rock which, although it does have some similarities with The Moody Blues at times, has little with which I would normally associate progressive rock. This is straightforward relaxing middle of the road soft rock which is gentle, never threatening, and consequently it is something which I cannot really see me often returning to as in many ways it is just too sickly sweet. That he is an excellent keyboard player and pianist is never in doubt, but this is not for me. 6/10 Kev Rowland
I am finding it hard to believe that here I am in 2022 writing about an album which was released in 2013, yet there is not a single review for it on ProgArchives. Recorded at different venues in the UK and Holland, here we have a double CD set capturing one of our finest prog folk bands in their natural environment, live on stage. I first came across them nearly 30 years ago with their second album, ‘Book of Kells’, and by the time they got to this recording there had been some significant line-up changes, but multi-instrumentalist Dave Bainbridge is still there, along with singer Joanne Hogg (acoustic guitar, keyboards) and drummer Frank Van Essen (also on violin) who was a guest back then, with the current line-up completed by Phil Barker (bass, electric double bass, darbuka) and Martin Nolan (Uilleann pipes, low and tin whistles). Strange to think that both Nick Beggs and Troy Donockley were involved on that album all those years back, wonder whatever happened to them……?
When a band contains a genuine multi-instrumentalist like Dave Bainbridge, it allows the band to have incredible breadth and diversity in what they are playing, here always steeped in the Celtic tradition of the Western Isles along with the Christian message which made the isle of Iona such a focal point for centuries. There is something very special about those islands, as anyone who has ever been will attest to, with powerful communities and a feeling of being in a place removed from much of modern life, and being all the better for it. This is what Iona bring with their music, changing mere notes into something magical and transformative. Whenever I listen to their music I am back on the islands, up in that area of Scotland where my father was raised and retired to.
Joanne has a wonderfully clear voice, similar in some ways to Annie Haslam or Christina Booth, while beneath her we have music that is often built on an incredibly powerful rhythm section with Dave and Martin guiding the melodies. While it is Celtic, it has much more direction and passion than the likes of Enya, and while it can indeed go into the dreamstate, there is a great deal going on and this never falls into the background. There are times when this really rocks, times when we all want to reel, and plenty of others when all we can do is listen and be taken away. This is complex music, with complicated arrangements, yet there is also a sense of space and fresh air within it so it never smothers but instead lifts the listener.
Containing music which does indeed go all the way back to ‘The Book of Kells’, more than two hours long spread over two discs, this is the perfect introduction to Iona for anyone, and is a delight from beginning to end. 10/10 Kev Rowland
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