MICHAEL GREGORY JACKSON CLARITY QUARTET – WHENUFINDITUWILLKNOW – GOLDEN

To say that Michael Gregory Jackson is a well-known guitarist who has influenced many others is something of an understatement. Pat Metheny said, *”I have always considered him to be one of the most significantly original guitarists of our generation,” while another guitar icon, Bill Frisell, noted, “I first heard Michael Gregory Jackson in 1975 when I moved to Boston. He blew my mind and influenced me a lot. I believe he’s one of the unsung innovators.” And legendary music critic Robert Palmer wrote of Jackson in Rolling Stone, “By the time he was twenty-one he was already the most original jazz guitarist to emerge since the Sixties.” Here he has been joined by Niels Praestholm (bass), Simon Spang-Hanssen (alto & soprano saxophones) and Matias Wolf Andreason (drums), and between them, they created an album based on jazz but moving in many different directions. Jackson states his influences are Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Son House, Igor Stravinsky, and John Coltrane in equal amounts, not a mix of musicians one would normally put together. Jackson isn’t content with playing “just” guitar, and there are times when it is blues harmonica which is adding the most important dynamics to a section. For the most part, he is happy for Spang-Hanssen to take the lead role, just sitting behind him and then adding touches and solos when the time is right. Praestholm is the person who keeps it all tied together, while Andreason switches between keeping the perfect beat and creating dramatic percussion rhythms which takes the music into new directions. This is fresh, exciting, sometimes built around repeated melodies (such as on “Blue Blue”), while at others it is avant garde and extreme. Far easier to listen to than many albums which attempt to stretch boundaries, it is full of light and joyfulness which is palpable. This is also available through Bandcamp, so why not have a listen and then decide for yourself.
8/10 Kev Rowland

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LOST WORLD BAND – SPHERES ALIGNED – SAMUM PUBLISHING

It has been many years since I came across Lost World Band and their debut album ’Trajectories’. The three founder members all met at the Moscow Conservatory, and Andrey Didorenko (guitars, violins, vocals) and Vassily Soloviev (flute) are still there while original keyboard player Alexander Akimov has taken on the production role. Their last album (‘Of Things and Beings’) was just the duo alongside drummer Konstantin Shtirlitz who had joined in time for the previous album ‘Solar Power’. However, it does feel that the guys have become a band at last, as the trio have been joined by Yuliya Basis (keyboards) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (bass). All the songs are still by Andy, but what has really amazed me is the way the band have taken all their complex musicality and made it incredibly commercial. There is a groove running all the way through this, and songs such as “Running In The Sun” cry out for major radio airplay as it is full of hooks, as well as complex layers and musicality. The vocals are smooth, the harmonies spot on, the violin and flute just so in the background, while the bass drives along, the drums are all over the place, and when the electric violin comes in to take a solo it is short, sweet, and full of edgy power.

Here we have a Russian band who have moved so far away from their debut to be almost unrecognizable, yet still, use flute and violin as key instruments to keep their music rooted to the past. The album itself starts with an instrumental, and as the keyboards and guitars swap chords, the violin and bass are off and running and we are being thrown headlong into a rushing progressive number where it feels like everyone is in flight, the harmonies switching and swirling as different musicians take the lead and everyone is charging to the same destination. The first time I played this I actually stopped what I was doing to check that I had loaded the right album as this is both dramatic and melodic, joyous and dramatic, strident yet harmonious. They have expanded in many directions in this album, which may mean that some listeners won’t be completely satisfied with everything they hear as there are so many different styles at play. Me, I think it’s glorious and easily their most complete, accessible and incredible album to date. Lost World Band are back with a bang, and this should be searched out by all progheads.
10/10 Kev Rowland

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THE LAST DETAIL – AT LAST… THE TALE AND OTHER STORIES – FREIA

The Last Detail were a band I had heard of, but never come across before this. Some of the members of the band had been in Ywis, whose album was later reissued in the Nineties, and then after this some of them formed Timelock before Ywis became active again following the success of the reissue. I can pretty much guarantee that isn’t exactly how it happened, but as I only have the download and not the album itself, which is a limited edition which contains  a 16-page, full-colour booklet with bio, info, etc, I can only apologise. Between 1987 and 1991 they released two cassette albums (both on the bonus disc) and one full length CD and various tracks on a couple of compilation albums. To commemorate 35 years ‘FREIA’, the label has decided to remaster all the band’s official recordings and re-release the music on one double album in a limited edition of 300 copies. The result is a double disc set with 41 songs, more than 2 ½ hours of music.

It must be said the first time I played this mammoth offering I wasn’t that impressed. Some of the songs are duplicated, and it all felt quite amateurish in some ways. But, I persevered and the more I listened to it the more I was taken back in time to the early days of neo-prog. With a singer who sounded somewhat like Michael Sadler, and a strong use of keyboards it is obvious to Saga they were looking for influences, but they also had much in common with early Galahad, but lacking the finesse and substance of other bands of the time such as IQ and Pendragon. I am somewhat surprised the fledgling Simm Info didn’t get involved with the band, seeing as they were attempting capture many of the top Dutch and British acts back then, but all power to Freia for finally making this available again. True, for someone like me who hadn’t heard them at the time then this is more interesting from a historical aspect than a musical one, but for those who enjoyed the band at the time then this is absolutely essential. It will be interesting to see if Freia continue releasing a magazine called True Music Guide, where each issue focuses on just a single release. There are plenty more gems to be unearthed from this time. For fans of early neo-prog.
7/10 Kev Rowland

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POÇOS & NUVENS – ANO VELOZ OUTONO ADENTRO – PROGSHINE

Originally released in 1998, this Brazilian album has just been made available for download by Progshine Records. Featuring Gérson Werlang (lead vocals, electric guitar, acoustic and classical guitar, mandolin, percussion), Edgar Sleifer (lead vocals, flute, cromorne, electric guitar, brazilian 12 string viola, piano), Irvin Faller (bass), Sávio Werlang (keyboards) and Rafael Bisogno (drums, percussion), this is a light progressive album which has quite a lot in common with the Italian style of prog, although not quite as heavy on the keyboards. The band are certainly layering on the harmonies, bringing together some Brazilian folk influences as well as elements of bands such as Jethro Tull, along with plenty of early Seventies symphonic styles.

Although it is quite an interesting listen, there are a couple of places where this album falls down for me. The first is the vocals, as I have never been a fan of Gérson Werlang, as although this is the first time I have come across this album I have previously reviewed some of his later solo works. His falsetto and high vocals don’t ever really sound true, as if they are either slightly off-key are about to be, and that always causes major issues for that. Secondly, for some reason for most of the album, the bass is way too low in the mix which gives quite a one-sided overall sound which is simply unbalanced. It isn’t an album which has traveled well in terms of time as it would have sounded dated back in 1998, and now that is even more so. All power to Progshine Records for making it available, as I know this band did gain a lot of support outside their native Brazil and now it is once again easy to find, but it’s just not for me.
6/10 Kev Rowland

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RAFAEL ST CRUZ – SYNCHRONICITY – PROGSHINE RECORDS

Apparently Brazilian guitarist Rafael St Cruz grew up listening to Wishbone Ash and Beatles, before going on to discover Rush and Iron Maiden. He started releasing EP’s in 2012, acting as a multi-instrumentalist with a guitar basis to most of his work, bringing in a few guests when he felt it was right, and this his first album is a compilation taken from those EP’s and was released at the end of 2018. All the songs are fairly lengthy, with even the shortest “True Conspiracy” clocking in at nearly six minutes, while the longest of the six songs is “The Humanity Path” at 12:31. The end result is an album which is okay, but never really much more than that. There are hints at times of things moving into interesting directions, most notably on “Beyond The Horizon”, but they never really come to fruition.Possibly he needs to consider working with a band where ideas can be bounced off each other, as opposed to working in a home studio. The production and sound are reasonable, but it is the lack of real ideas and musicality which means I cannot imagine myself ever playing it again.
5/10 Kev Rowland

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SHUMAUN – ONE DAY CLOSER TO YESTERDAY – INDEPENDENT

Shumaun initially started as a solo project by Farhad Hossain (vocals, guitars, keyboards). After recording a few demos, he decided to recruit a few friends to help build the project into a full-fledged collaborative band.They have had one or two line-up challenges, even during the recording of the 2015 debut album, which has now settled with Farhad being joined by Jose Mora (bass), Tyler Kim (guitars) and Tanvir Tomal (drums) and they are back with their second. This album has an underlying concept of love gone wrong. The album begins with two souls in a state of pre-existence bonded by love and continues after they are both assigned bodies on Earth. All attempts at a blissful reunion are complicated, as only one of them can recall their state together prior to birth… and yet their connection is undeniable. The album touches on the many real struggles, conflicts, and experiences that romantic relationships might go through… the good, bad, spiritual, and terrestrial.

Musically here we have a band who have been heavily influenced by Porcupine Tree, then bringing the ‘Signify’ era into a more prog metal state, with the drums especially being incredibly effective. But although there are a great many riffs, loads of technical changes, strong vocals and hooks, for me there is something missing which negates a lot of the good work. It’s not that the band are working to a formula, but for some reason I just can’t get into this at all, which is quite different to most of the reviews I have seen who are raving over this album as if it is one of the best things they have ever come across. It is clinical, it is clever, but it feels as if there is no soul within it which is incredibly strange given the subject matter. There are some fairly dramatic changes, such as on “Central Station” with acoustic guitar and emotional vocals, but it just doesn’t work for me. Not a bad album, but to my ears certainly not essential. This is one I highly suggest you listen to before purchase.
7/10 Kev Rowland

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