A couple of releases into Alan Simon now (check for instance this or this). And now we have Big Bang playing. And it is definitely something different compared to those before. Not only from a technical point of view, with the press sheet talking about 120 musicians or 200 active tracks per song on average… Or the inclusion of the sound bank of the universe from NASA.
This is indeed a musical odyssey from the origins of our universe to the destiny of planet Earth. And one that marries classical themes and orchestrations with contemporary music like never before in Simon’s work. As far as I know it that is. With a starring role of Supertramp’s John Helliwell on various saxes. So the instrumental pieces prevail and are a showcase of diversity, atmosphere and feeling. Lingering dreamy melodies, sound scapes and bits of rock interweaving. Like in Seven Moons In the Sky, where Roberto Tiranti delivers the vocals. Or on Fools, with Saga’s Michael Sadler. And Pink Floyd fans will embrace The Soul Of The Stars, with great guitar playing by Paolo Ballardini. Because of the less obvious rock side, at first I wasn’t too sure about this album. But the more I played it, the more I fell for it. Diversity, dynamics and combining genres has always been part of Simon’s music and this is no exception. There is a certain grandeur to the themes that will get you hooked, sooner rather than later. Else you can always look at the fantastic space photography present in the art.
One of the best things about doing this is that you get to hear a wide variety of music. And since variety is the spice of life, this album is been making quite a few rounds in my CD player lately. The 19 year young Dawson Routledge is a fairly new name on the scene, delivering his first official album here, the 9 track album Monsters.
Probably best described as a mix of soft rock, pop, jazz and folk, Monsters has turned out to be quite the laid back affair. But of the kind that grabs you with an unique voice, clever lyrics and a delivery that is beyond Rutledge’s years. Sometimes a song starts with a hook that makes you wonder if you have heard it before, but in the end this is all original. The overall sound is warm and does justice to the songs that are carried by their pop sensibilities and folky arrangements. It is clear that he is serious about his craft, especially since his picking skills are on par with his vocals. And the subtle rhythmic changes are often the icing on the cake.
Personal favourites are When Life Gives You Monsters and Heavy Heart, but there are enough choices to please many.
From never having heard of Alan Simon, now on to a second album. The first was his recent released Songwriter double disc, which I enjoyed very much. And since this one is called Excalibur IV, The Dark Age Of The Dragon, we can be pretty sure that there have been Excalibur albums before this (duh).
Not sure if everyone will agree with me, but for me one of the highlights of Simon is the diversity on offer. From folk, to rock, to classical and many in between, you can find a lot of genres on this album. Sometimes even in one song. And while in many cases that would make an album suffer from a lack of focus, this guy produces songs that are able to tell a story, even without words. The fact that all is executed beautifully only helps of course. Just take a look at the guest list: Michael Sadler (Saga), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Moya Brennan (Clannad), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth), John Helliwell (Supertramp) or Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep) to name a few! What all these names confirm is the scope of the material.
So a haunting song like Alone can stand firmly besides a more rocking song like for instance Stonehenge. Just like the pop bliss of Calling For You easily sits besides the proggy Don’t Be Afraid or the dreamy and almost opera-esque The Last Lament Of A Fairy.
For me there is no more excuse in trying to find earlier albums. Great stuff, worth checking out if you, like me, have been living under a rock as far as Alan Simon is concerned…
This 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!
It 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…
For reasons not disclosed in the press sheet, Guy Paul Thibault has been absent of releasing new music for 17 years. Back in the day he released 5 successful albums, so that makes It’s About Time (duh!) #6. The 10 songs are written, recorded and performed by Thibault, with guest appearances from Shawn Cherry (drums) and David Bradshaw (violin and mandolin).
Opener Here She Comes is a contemporary folk song. Great acoustic guitar and a light footed feel that is easy to catch on to. Misdemeanor is a catchy pop rock tune that will please both the casual listener as well as, well people like me :). Songs like Hills, Tallest Man On Earth, Stay (For Riley) or Saturday Night show a mature writer at work, able to add depth to his songs. And songs like We Just Don’t Care or Saving Grace just plain rock. And then there is still a ballad and a singer/songwriter track. So yes diverse, but all held together by the confident delivery of the man’s voice.
Despite not being familiar with older work, I think that Guy Paul qualifies as an experienced musician who delivers well crafted songs that will appeal to many music lovers. So personally I hope that the next set of songs will not take another 17 years to surface.
According to the press sheet Michael Malarkey is an actor, known from The Vampire Diaries. But since I hardly watch TV, I must say I wouldn’t know. So I guess the good thing about that is, being able to listen to this without any prejudice.
First thing I noticed about the album that it is pretty eclectic. Site regulars will probably understand that this counts for bonus points in my book. Second thing is that I think Malarkey can really sing. His dark and fairly low voice has presence and grabs you while delivering his lines. And last but not least; he writes quality songs too and lights them with thoughtful lyrics! And as a bonus; this is a musician not afraid to keep it sparse. Because when all you need to get the massage across is a guitar and a voice, there really is no need to expand in the arrangement. Don’t worry though, variety is key on the album. Clearly a lot of thought went into the dressing up of the songs on the album. But all songs create an impact. Be it because of the vocal delivery, the sometimes chilling contributions on violin, or because the whole of the instruments just reaches out to touch you.
So the title might refer to a bastard dog, this is far from whimsical. Very moody and beautiful. Music that a lot of people will like if they take the time to soak it in. If you do; make sure to hear Uncomfortably Numb and the title track. Or even better, listen to it as a whole.
Alas I cannot remember for the life of me how I got this. And unfortunately I did not receive any info with it either. So with the help of internet I have found Lost Lakes to be a four piece band. Central is the collaboration between Corey Mathew Hart and Paul Mitch, who met at a songwriting competition and just clicked. The style is described as pop infused folk rock, which I believe to be pretty accurate.
So in general this is a lot more mellow as most of the stuff I have been listening to off late. But that takes nothing away from it feeling authentic and heartfelt. The 12 songs all clock around 3 minutes and sometimes even have a hint of Country, or Americana if you will. All arranged with the song in mind, so no room for musical indulgence. Lots of vocals and melodies that want your attention. So while this isn’t something I would usually pick up, I must confess that it is no punishment to listen to the album. At all! No, it is very well done and sounds honest and pure. In a time where fake music seems the standard, this is something to applaud.
All songs are of the same calibre so if you have a listen and still like it after Digital Tears and slight personal favourite Can’t It Wait, just buy it. Very enjoyable.
Actually the picture on the left does not do justice to the packaging of this album. By now I would say “as usual” 17 pygmies spared no expense when it comes to wrapping their albums. Housed in a transparent little envelope comes a 26 page booklet, containing the essay Jackson Del Rey wrote about the story, a wrapper for the CD (beautiful) and a wrapper for the whole of it (pictured left), with the Fibonacci sequence on it (not visible here) if I am not mistaken. All very beautiful and probably costly.
And all that beauty is perhaps needed to match the music. Because beautiful is a word that pops up in my mind on a regular base while listening to this. The 10 tracks are Isabel XII to Isabel XXI, a logical continuation of the previous album. The opening track with the vocals of Meg Maryatt sets the tone. It may be mellow, but the tension building here is really great, very good start of the album and what we are to expect. Some of the songs are instrumental. Sometimes with a beat or percussion guiding the track along. Various instruments are used to help build the atmosphere needed. Especially the acoustic guitars and various violins prove helpful. The music is described as a mix of prog, classical and folk and that is a tag I understand. But for me this is a lovely album that anyone with ears and a heart will enjoy. So please give it a chance!
Time for something different! A yet unknown name, at least to me, Gabrielle Papillon is a singer whose music comes across as a mixture of country, folk and a bit of pop and rock. Emphasis is on melody and the arrangements succeed in highlighting the emotionally charged delivery of Gabrielle. These arrangements are done very well. Sometimes sparse, but with authentic sounds like violin, banjo, distorted guitars and percussion. In combination with vocal melodies that always seem to be hitting the right spot, this makes for a winning combination.
Opening track Got You Well proves the point, your attention is grabbed right away, and even the chants feel at home in this beautiful song. With Our Trouble has a distinct country feel because of the guitars (and later with the added banjo) and again the melody is just right. The whole of the album feels real and true. I am sure that if she would be singing in front of you, with only an acoustic guitar to accompany her, we would all be in awe. Her passion will take care of that.
So even if this is not music I listen to regularly, I am loving what I hear here. Pure and honest, songs with content, all done really well. Make sure you go check this out.