The Soul Exchange, Vow Of Seth, 2017

the soul exchange - vow of sethThe excellent previous album from Swedish band The Soul Exchange has been making quite a few rounds here at YMB HQ. And while they are working on their next full length, they have released an EP with 5 new songs. Well with 32 minutes of playing time, once that would have been considered an album 😉

Opening with the title track, the mood is set for another slab of that Soul Exchange goodness. Powerful rhythms, mysticism, power chords and that chilling voice of Daniel John. And while the band is on fire as usual, I can’t help thinking that John is the absolute star. His delivery grabs you from the go and he really takes you to other worlds.
But it would not be fair to appoint the attraction of the band solely to their singer. Their music, still a bit of a mix of Metallica and Ghost, proves the perfect platform for those vocals to shine on.

So the conclusion is simple, they have done it again! Now when is that new album arriving boys? Cannot wait!


Wingfield Reuter Sirkis, Lighthouse, 2017

wingfield reuter sirkis - lighthouseYou can agree or not, but much of the so called progressive music of today is in fact quite the opposite. Seventies music redone in various forms and combinations. Not necessarily a bad thing though, good songs and vibes are always welcome in this house. And while I do understand it will be impossible to create something so new it has never been done before, I never understand people arguing about some of the genre style standards.

But anyway, before people want to lynch me for blasphemy, here we have something that is progressive in my book. Recorded in a long improvisational jam in Spain, guitarist Mark Wingfield, touch guitarist Markus Reuter and drummer Asaf Sirkis have created this album of… Is it jazz, rock, progressive rock? Well whatever you want to call it, it is certainly an album for the daring. I guess best recognisable for people into the soundscape side of King Crimson, so this isn’t your regular cup of tea. It is a bold, non conform and really stretching work of seasoned professionals who live to expand their horizons. So no easy songs structures or recurring themes here. Just 3 musicians feeding off on each other.

Like I mentioned, probably only for the brave, despite the undeniable class at work.

Mark Wingfield    Markus Reuter    Asaf Sirkis

Uriah Heep, Raging Through The Silence, 2017

uriah heep - raging through the silenceUriah Heep have also gone independent and this is their second release on their newly formed label. The band are determined to close all the gaps in their discography so the core fans (me included) will be pleased with this double disc and DVD, as this has only been available on a long lost VHS at the time.

What we have here is the 1989 concert of their 20th Anniversary show. Also included is an interview which was recorded at that very same time. Which makes 2018 their 49th year of existence… In the band besides ol’ Mick Box (RESPECT), Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon, are Trevor Bolder (RIP) and Lee Kerslake. Besides mandatory pieces like July Morning, Stealin’, Gypsy, Easy Livin’ or Look At Yourself, we also get more recent material from that time. Like Bad Bad Man, Blood Red Roses, Too Scared To Run, Cry Freedom or The Other Side Of Midnight.
Because Uriah Heep never was a band content with delivering another greatest hits set and always look to perform their newer songs. And in the process captivate every audience they can play for. A live band par excellence! And even when I own 5 live albums now, as well as all the studio albums, I never get tired of listening to the band. Classic songs and a bunch of guys thoroughly enjoying what they do.

On to the 50th anniversary! And more music please 🙂


Sonja Kristina, Anthology, 2017

SONJA-KRISTINA anthologyThis double Anthology disc from Sonja Kristina, of Curved Air fame, features a collection of her solo work and rare and newly recorded exclusive tracks. It also features custom cover art and her personal liner notes. Makes sense because she personally picked the songs. Or as she puts it; “these are my reveries on life and love through the decades”. Decades? Yes, after topping the British Music female vocalist polls throughout the seventies and being the first woman fronting a rock band, she is still vibrant and edgy today. And catching the spotlight whenever she performs live.

The 21 songs on the discs are proof of a lady willing to experiment (no wonder after being in a prog band for 50 years), but also does not shy away from delivering intimate songs. And everything in between. So the variety on the album is enormous. From folk, singer songwriter, to pop, Beatlesque pop rock and so on. All held together by her voice and a feel for melodies that are able to seduce you.
I guess it is safe to say there is something for everyone here. For the casual listener, as well as the more demanding aficionado. Not sure this collection will find its way to all who would enjoy it. Alas so many today are so unaware of all the real music that is available…

I very much enjoyed listening to the album and hit repeat several times. That ought to tell you something!


Focus, The Focus Family Album, 2017

the focus family albumDon’t mind listening to Focus, and even better when it is a double album. But wait, it’s a “family” album. Isn’t that supposed to be a kind of best of from Focus and related bands? Well, in this case that is only partly true. Because this is in fact extensive unreleased and new material! On offer are 20 tracks, of which 15 are unreleased, some are alternate versions of the Focus X sessions, solo tracks from current members and tracks from the beginning of the Focus 11 sessions. All wrapped in a cover that can only be from the one and only Roger Dean.

And does that mean that quality is an issue here? Of course not, we are dealing with world class musicians here. They care too much about music to release anything under par. So you will get: 2 songs by Thijs van Leer on flute, over some nature sounds. Very relaxing. 10 Focus songs, all in their usual mix of instrumental and vocal, fusion, blues and or rock. Also 2 songs from drummer Pierre van der Linden, 2 songs by guitarist Menno Gootjes (definitely check Hazel, beautiful), 2 songs by Swung, who are Focus without Thijs and 2 songs by new bassist Udo Pannenkeet, who takes over from Bobby Jacobs.
Besides the art work from Dean, another thing of note is that this is released independently on their In And Out Of Focus label! With their status I guess that is not a really bold move, but still.

Anyone familiar with their output can buy this on sight, class us usual.


Cairo, Say, 2017

cairo - sayThis version of Cairo is not the same as the US band that released a trio of great prog albums between 1994 and 2001. This is an UK band, also of progressive nature, and is the new outlet for singer and keyboard player (and writer) Rob Cottingham, of Touchstone fame. The name might be new, but the sound of the band is not that distant from his previous band. This even has a female singer adding to Rob’s delivery.

The album opens with Cairo, an instrumental with a nice Eastern feel. Next is a prelude to Shadow’s Return, and mainly contains spoken word. And finally after some 5 to 6 minutes into the album we hear the first singing. Not that I got bored before mind you, I think the mood was set to get you to listen carefully.
Of the 13 songs on the album, many are in the 2 – 3 minute range. And of course there are songs that tick the 9 minute mark. It is also obvious experience rules in the band. Many layers, clear production and interesting arrangements galore. Happily all this led to an album that is far from sterile. If anything it sounds warm and convincing. In fact, I’d expect that even non prog lovers would find several songs on this very appealing. Songs like Wiped Out or Say are plain catchy! Another bonus is the band is not afraid to experiment. Just have a listen to Katrina Breath mix, the closing song.

So there you go, if you liked Touchstone, you will not have a problem liking this too. And if you are into quality music with great melodies, you might want to have a listen to this. It is very tasty!


Ghostly Beard, Invisible, 2017

ghostly beard - invisibleSince bursting on the scene with his fantastic first EP Infinite, the multi talented Patrick Talbot, the enigma behind Ghostly Beard, has been anything but invisible. Constantly letting the world know about his musical discoveries, or writing articles sharing his knowledge, he has proven a firm advocate of Indie Music.

So hot on the heels of that first offering, we now get the first full length, Invisible. On it are 11 songs, with a total playing time of just under 50 minutes. The first that struck me about the album was the change of direction. Or change, maybe it is more of an enhancement to his style on the EP. Did I mention Pink Floyd then, a name that popped up listening to this was Steely Dan. A band known for playing deceptively simple sounding songs which actually were far more complex, and always played with stellar musicians delivering timeless performances.
And throughout the songs on this album, I hear some of the same typicals. On the surface they are melodic, with great lyrics too. Fairly short, so fit for airplay on any station. But underneath that surface, his compelling bass work, his fantastic feel for guitar solos, or the shining keyboard work, tells you here is a master at work.
So far there have been 2 videos to get into the album, the tasty wonderful Blue and the very funny Fool. But there are many songs on this album I could mention. Too many really. Personal favourites now are Set Me Free and A Reason To Leave, but that might change over time.

Yes he did it again and simply surpassed my already high expectations. Wonderful colourful music that everybody needs to check. What’s next Patrick?


John Wetton, Akustika (I+II), 2017

john wetton - akustikaAnd here another re-release, at least disc one of it. And of course, also John Wetton (R.I.P.) needs no further introduction either. Be it as a solo artist or participating in bands like King Crimson, Uriah Heep, UK and probably the commercially most successful Asia, the man has been around the block.

Disc 1 was originally released in 1996 and features 12 songs, including Voice Of America, Rendezvous 6:02, Only Time Will Tell and of course Heat Of the Moment. What you get is that mighty voice, accompanied by either acoustic guitar, or keyboards. Timeless music and a class A performer, you can’t go wrong there.
Disc 2 was hand picked by the man himself, before he left us after his battle with cancer. It is a concert from 2005, aptly titled Akustika II, return to Amerika. On it are 15 tracks, and while there are a few doubles from disc one, it is still worthwhile. Part because of the extra songs, and part because some of his talking between the songs has been left to listen to. And he comes across as a humble, honest and quite humorous man.

So while I will miss there will never be new music coming, I am thankful for his legacy, as many of his songs are in the soundtrack of my life. Impressive.


Keith Emerson, Plays Emerson, 2017

emerson plays emersonThis is a re-release of an album that has long been out of print. It is also a fresh remaster, albeit with original art. And of course, I should not need to introduce the man! What you get on this album are 22 tracks in a total playing time of some 62 minutes. Most of it is Keith (R.I.P.) playing piano, while on a couple of tracks he is accompanied by drums and bass. There are also a couple of live tracks.

And all this serves testament to the legacy of Emerson. A virtuoso, at home in and famous for progressive rock with Emerson Lake and Palmer, but also active in film music, in jazz, boogie, you name it. Since the centre of this is him playing piano, you should not expect wild progressive pieces. This is much more delicate and sometimes jazzy or bluesy, yet all done with flawless taste and impeccable execution.

Thank you Keith Emerson for your music, and thank you Emerson Estate for making this possible.


Alan Simon, Songwriter, 2017

alan simon - songwriterIt never seizes to amaze me how much there is to learn about all the music out there. Here I was thinking I had never heard of Alan Simon before, and then it turns out he has been involved in a wealth of albums, rock operas and soundtracks! So maybe you know about the Excalibur releases? I didn’t to be honest, but if this compilation is anything to go by, the man is a songwriter indeed. And in capitals! No wonder he can have people from for instance Supertramp, Midnight Oil, Fairport Convention on board, as well as guests like Alan Parsons, Martin Barre, John Wetton and Justin Hayward, to name a few.

This 40 track double CD is divided in a world & symphonic side and a “British” side. For me, CD 1 is filled to the brim with wonderful music. Indeed a lot of folky melodies and instruments, as well as more classical sounding pieces. But all done with a great sense of atmosphere and emotion. Melancholy runs strong throughout the songs, but that makes it easy to connect. The second CD is more pop and rock oriented I guess. But the quality and melodies remain. All released between 1995 and 2017, but sounding fresh and vibrant.
Lots of details, perfectly produced and very varied. Rich in ideas and textures, with a plethora of different instruments, it is a pleasure the keep hitting the play button.

Very impressed by the wonderful collection of material and a trigger to go dig in his back catalogue, I have been missing out! And since Excalibur IV has just been released, again with an impressive cast, I get another chance of finding out more…