Friday, 13 April 2018

John Holden - Capture Light

The Age of Enlightenment - Is not lost.

This project singlehandedly speaks of a simple truth, that if we seek something more, which speaks of beauty and intelligence in equal measure, that celebrates the questing spirit of mankind whilst celebrating its past, we are not alone. 

"Tears from the Sun" begins full of atmosphere with a nagging rotating pulse played on the piano. The tunes it will encompass are suggested and as the piece begins to evolve I am reminded of the care that Brian Wilson applies to his most ambitious work. Endless small additions are made to build a a gorgeous fabric in which the ideas can thrive. But music needs personalities as well as personality, the twin Oliver's (Wakeman and Day) are quite superb providing a sophisticated beautiful palette, in the case of Mr Day, and wonderful appropriate rhapsodic playing from Wakeman on the piano.

One quality that this piece shares with half of the project is the tunes are strong enough to bring the music right down to a plaintive story telling vocal, Joe Payne is perfectly capable of carrying the piece, his vocal is vaguely Operatic Tenor and like everyone else exudes class. So rather than self conscious loud soft contrasts, where there is thunder and then quiet, the pieces evolve and add a sense of journey and attachment that one experiences with symphonic structures. There are verses and choruses but within a mosaic of an interlocking arrangement and the tunes are good enough for you to sing along to. But like "One Race" its a cohesive journey.


This music knows what it is, orchestrated rock and the arrangements match the ideas. There is no self conscious attempt here to grow the music beyond its natural potential. 

"Crimson Sky" begins with a beautiful figure repeated on guitar and then appears to enter a quite standard four to the floor back beat over which Julie Gater sings, she has a beautiful warm voice and a good range but just when you think this is where ambition ends the tune twists, a heavy guitar interjection (wah wah) and then the pace comes off and the music is allowed to breath before returning to the more traditional element and young William on Gee-tar. But once again twists and turns abound, a wordless vocal takes the interjection, then the wah wah again, then a ravishing drum fill before that chorus returns. In  other words the arrangement is playful, indeed the one quality that has knocked me side ways with this "album" are the arrangements, their inventive and audacious but matched with such appropriate good taste.

"Capture Light" opens with a plaintiff reading from Joe and the beautiful balladry, piano and quiet guitar choices (acoustic) perfectly channel the beauty and vulnerability of Venice. I have sat in St Mark's when the sun has leapt from behind the clouds and dazzled the nave with sun light, captured light indeed. One element which I really enjoy is what is euphemistically called programming, which means conjuring up string and orchestral arrangements and more vaguely soundscapes. It has always puzzled me why brilliant programmers will work in concert to the great benefit of say Barbara Streisand but are absent from Progressive Rock (in the main). This CD shines a light on the advantages of programming adding endless additional insights into the musical tableau, creating atmosphere, supporting the themes behind a ticking percussion or bass guitar figure or a flourishing of chordal organ. 

"Ancient of Days" is arguably a straight song with a chorus which immediately had me weeping " Speak to the mountain, talk to the forest, starlight and sunlight leading the way, call to the valley, sing to the heavens, The Ancient of days" This chorus is EVERYTHING I have been talking about on my winter sojourn and mines the same narrative . If I can wrench myself to think about this piece intellectually what I adore about it is the musical patience displayed. A wonderfully spacey section (programming, drum fills, easing off, ticking along percussively, the bass and then the guitar threading an intense rock chorus before finally after so much musical teasing, emerging in a glorious finale this piece is "RIGHT THERE" for me.           

And there is so much more !!

"One Race" is invested in all the qualities of the first piece the atmosphere of the instrumentals feed directly into the subject. The atmospheric athletic beginning, the exposed vocal reflecting the subjects emotional state and then we are off the starting gun is fired and the music goes with it this is pure Brian Wilson ("Who Ran The Iron Horse" or "Mrs O'Leary's Cow") where the music describes the lyrical narrative. Again this is preceded by a beautiful slowed section where the tune does not need noise to bury or shield it, its strong enough to shine unadulterated and after the "result" descends through the pathos of Jesse's Story.

CD's need curved balls to offer variety and "Dream Catching" with its spoken media intervention (something Trevor Horn uses to great effect) is odd ball so when the gorgeous tune comes in (and out) it is so much more appreciated. Throughout the CD snippets spring to mind of how other bands operated in their glory days and some of the cinematic elements remind me of Mr E. O.Papathanass√≠ou but on this track the uplifting acoustic guitar strumming reminds me of Gordon Giltrap. 

"No Man's Land" is attached to the ideas of  "Ancient of Days" except we are in the City, an intense repeating echoed guitar sound starts this piece communicating an unsentimental environment from which the vocal narrative allows us to escape from. This like "Crimson Sky" is a sophisticated "song" rather than a piece like "Tears","One Race" and 'Dream Catching". It has an urban jazz feel to it and rather than an "arrangement" it feels vibed up and self propelled but halts for some left field interjections. Great smokey vocals and a very nice authentic jazz feel on piano from a Wakeman (!!!) followed by some programmed brass hinting at Harry South territory.

"Seaglass Hearts" is a beautiful lollipop to end with, twin lead vocals, we are now firmly in Brian Wilson territory circa "Imagination" or "Lucky Old Sun" The listener is relaxed we are saying good bye laying back and just listening to beautiful warm music. One senses this is not "Lets Pretend" its for real and it completes with a nice musical joke which reminds me of "The Old Master Painter" from "Smile". 

Frankly I am stunned, join me in being stunned and make the journey.   


Monday, 26 March 2018


The "me" of course is Trevor Horn who is along with Geoff Downes the source of two pieces on Yes's 2011 C.D. Well two pieces is a little of an understatement one of them is the side long suite of songs which gives the C.D. its title. 

Whereas the other music has been given a remix and the vocal tracks are offered in three part unison, so Trevor's input has little impact, Trevor moving up from guide vocalist behind Benoit David to sing the two songs himself offers a quite different emotional resonance to the David sung tracks. 

Trevor's vocal performance is much more instinctive than the original, he really owns the emotional narrative of the two pieces indeed some lyrics have been changed. Put simply you can feel his passion, Trevor owns the journey. 

"Life On A Film Set" is now less self consciously metaphorical and more humanist and direct which really suits the material as it is sung in 2011 and not with the self consciousness artiness of 1981. The change of lyrics for the third verse move from allegory to emotionally descriptive. 


The new lyrics are not reflected in the recital in the booklet.

There are other changes the remix gives the music more presence and life but also some of the arrangements have been tidied up particularly the transitions on the suite. Probably most changed is "Sad Night on the Airfield" in some ways it is more emotionally sophisticated with additional instrumental insights and a more complex vocal arrangement but it lacks some of the direct majesty of the original and Steve's slide playing. Like the first song movement it is shorter than the original. However at an organisational level the small changes to the sections of the remaining large scale piece gives it more momentum as it moves through the final four sections. One definite and obvious improvement is to the reprise, Steve's Guitar work is more out there and wired, so that the final section crescendos with more impact rather than simply offering a levelling off and end, it really does summit before concluding.    

"Hour of Need" is the Japanese version and we have an additional track which reminds me of the dilemma of working for two bands. The new piece penned by Steve could easily fit onto Phoenix or Omega (Asia) and as it distracts from the clarity of the original vision of the CD (H/D plus a Steve Solo, a Chris Song, a Steve song and one group effort). I think Trevor was wise to leave it off. Returning to "Hour of Need" I prefer the song version I do not feel giving it a three movement feel makes it more than the sum of its two parts (the intro and outro are connected) or puts it up their with "Children of Light" which with its restored intro is a genuine 3 part Yes "piece' where the sum is greater than the parts.

I think Trevor performance on the two H/D pieces is sufficient cause to have and enjoy the alternative and I would have preferred another re recording of a 1981 H/D piece rather than the other extras. 

To return to the remaining non H/D pieces they benefit from a warmer more engaging mix with subtle changes, a more attacking guitar in "T.M.Y.A.W.M.T.B.", an extra acoustic counterpoint in "Hour of Need" a closer more direct vocal by Chris on "Into the Storm" In the latter piece a definite improvement is Trevor's "Armies of Angels" sung in Trevor's English voice rather than Benoit's Mystery Voice which is at odds with everything else where he sings in a received English pronunciation.  

The remix then is intellectually fascinating, the extra music not a real benefit but Trevor's performances on his two self penned pieces make it indispensable for this listener. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Revealing Science of Teamwork

Out there in fandom two matters appear to drive how you judge a Yes concert. 

1) Whose in the band.

2) The setlist with includes material which at its youngest is 40 years old.

As  I spend most of my time listening to music which was composed anywhere between 100 to 400 years ago the latter is not important, and as to the former it is how it is played and most importantly what is the overall impact of the orchestra or ensemble playing the music.Without consciously approaching tonight in the same way that is indeed why it was a raging success because the age of the material wasn't of itself important and what was most important was how the ensemble came together to play it as a unit, not whom precisely was in the ensemble but how the ensemble worked as a unit. 

The first half from "Disgrace" to "And You and I" was in the main material played in recent years but this particular group of players presented it in a fresh and invigorating way. The music had a darker more communicative raw feel to it. In a nutshell it had more personality. 

There was more invention in the playing particularly from Steve on "Disgrace" and "Southside". "And You and I" benefited from a really focused reading from Jon whose diction meant the vocal narrative was weighted with more gravitas rather than sounding like a sound a like. I noted that Jay played this piece somewhere midway between Bruford and White and the fills in the crescendos gave the music more personality. 

A special mention for the vocal choir section in "Southside" I listened to this very critically and it sounded fine to me, no pitching issues I noted in other words Steve was good to go!!  

I preferred "Wondrous Stories" without Geoff's rather sugary intro and again with the cut and thrust of the rhythm section the piece rather than floating cut through more. 

The first half then was entertaining and benefited from a team that brought out the best in themselves collectively and individually. This is in part because the players are gracious and generous in their attitude to the music and each other, they are their to serve the music rather than the other way round. 

We dashed back for the second half and were seated for Jon's atmospheric and spirited reading of the opening piece which is crucial to get right. I always feel the record sounds a little like a run through in places and of course it lacks the architectural certainty of "Edge" but Billy and Jay make each section sound more certain and defined and Geoff makes everything count in away the originally keyboards, which often relied on rather anaemic mellotron washes did not. They did not play it to loud or aggressively so the meditative spiritual side of the music really emerged. The beauty of the guitar lines shone with a special luminescence as Steve played with an inventiveness and love of the original and that aided the sense of specialness of the piece. It is a profound piece asking questions of a spiritual nature and should evoke a sense of journey of spiritual musings on mankind's origins. Tonight they captured that sense perfectly and I found myself welling up with tears as the piece moved into its reprise. 

The only element which survives from the middle movements is the acoustic coda and song from "The Ancient". Once again Steve appears to play this in a manner which gives the cadenza more shape but the revelation is Jon's voice. He has really learned to expand the depth of his voice giving it a more rounded more musical feel and his reading of "Leaves Of Green" was exquisite tonight. He isn't just hitting the notes and avoiding going flat he is offering a rounded expressive three dimensional communicative performance. I also felt overall his unfussy understated but sharp image reflected in his singing more directly impassioned and less studied theatrical. 

And so to Ritual, Billy had been playing with attack all night with that dirty grinding sound which is part of the DNA of Yes, as well as providing a great vocal foil to Jon, a big improvement on his vocal performance in 2016. With "Ritual" and indeed like "Revealing" he grabbed the bass Lines by the scruff of the neck and owned them. Indeed Ritual is very much about the rhythm section making sense of the rather off the wall heavier sections and Jay and Billy did just that. Jay played with precision and attack and once again a piece that wanders on the original went from one certainty to another tonight. That meant the step offs for the song sections were utterly ravishing probably the first entrance of Nous Sommes Du Soleil was even more moving than the second, a real first and for me another moment of tears. 

As with the Revealing Geoff made everything count, he is a card carrying member on these pieces, to borrow from a 1976 review of Patrick Moraz by Dan Hedges. But the really transcendent moments come from Steve's utterly beautiful statements of the themes which lead into the song sections. They are both reprises and restatements giving the piece thematic cohesion and all one can say is he aimed a lot of love at his guitar in these sections.  

Jay takes the piece to the top of the manic rhythmic crescendo before the percussion movement which the magic hat comes on to perform. For Alan to hit the ground running with a percussion solo is the bravest of musical daring. He is starting cold and has to carry the other two percussionist and he does it bravo sir !!

And so a thundering ovation brings the formal concert to a close. Its London so Trevor comes on to sing Tempus Fugit, a song I personally do not like but he is much stronger than Oxford in 2016 and of course the final ubiquitous encores of .... well you know. 

However what this concert will be remembered for, indeed this tour, are the stellar performances of a fine Yes Group (of musicians) and their reading of Topographic Oceans. Bringing these pieces back, the most controversial of their long career, was a risk and making them the high point of their 50th anniversary is an achievement that this particular team can be very proud of.  



Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Downes Braide Association - Skyscraper Souls

When we are teenagers popular music is the narrative of our youth. I was a teenager when popular music was exploding, developing endless possibilities. As one grows older you realise it was THE time to be a teenager and the real wisdom is to see the 60's/70's and those possibilities as THE answers. 

What can we honestly expect now, post scripts choreographed bucket listed unfinished business, for me that is the best we can expect, and yet this new offering does something else. It plays to a narrative with every bit as much power and connection as the narrative of youth. 

At the risk of not appearing to value the beautiful arrangements and playing, which are of the highest standard, I find myself riveted by the lyrical journey. 

From the searing emotional refections of prelude to the atmospheric ocean tide section of  the long title track one is caught by something I feel very close to "Life is to be Lived Not Avoided" and if it is we will be buffeted by the kind of emotional insights reflected in these thoughtful beautiful lyrics which are delivered with a real emotional power.  


"This is a song for those who never stop believing", "even when life seems so unfair" 

Skyscraper Souls 

"If we can't turn back the clock searching for a place called home". 

"Ocean child take me away from all the madness we are one we are one" 

"Just keep turning on this rock" ... "with our Skyscraper Souls"

Skin Deep 

With a great vocal from Marc Almond.

"pulling you in better watch out" "it might spit you out again" "well you wanted love when you felt so alone" "I know whats behind this indestructible"  

The lyrics speak to those deep into there lives who hold on to the magic of the 1970's when demanding music was the thing and an 18 minute track like the title track was de rigour and where their personal lives are a metaphor for that yearning that searching for more than a 3 minute answer where dangers and disappointments abound as well as wonderful revelations. 

When you consider the blurb and the inclusion of very idiosyncratic talents like Kate Pierson and Marc Almond you might think the music might display a slightly fragmented vision but their contributions simply strengthen a cohesive and clearly developed musical foot print. Andy Partridge's guitar support is just that and you do not find yourself thinking thats A P instead you simple feel the playing is highly sympathetic. Indeed on "Darker Times" the vocal arrangement puts me in mind of the work with Andy Paley on Brian's "Getting Over My Head".

Music journalists need labels "pop progressive", "80's pop" to steer people and reference.     

For me this is just music, at 5.15 and at 6.40 the instrumental work on the title track becomes internalised and complex and shows a sophistication which adds to the growing sense of collective journey but I do not see it as a prog fix, just music. Did a few of AP's licks echo the late Peter Banks ...YES. Like all really great music its not an exercise in instrumental gymnastics its making a point reprising building strengthening the sense of a special cohesive journey which takes twists and turns to reach its conclusion. The great strengthen of the title track is it has that twin effect of feeling over in a flash but whilst you are inside it, time stands still. 

"We are mountain climbers you and I" as the music builds to a crescendo from about the 10 minute mark.before falling away at the 13.22 mark to Ocean Child achingly beautiful. Right now this piece is the best extended work the most satisfying the most emotionally engaged since .......whenever. 

So great humanist lyrics which make you smile, cry, yearn and reflect offered in a highly sophisticated sound palette.  

Side B is not a retread of the first two albums because of the support from the players rather than machines it sounds warmer and packs more punch.For me the stand out piece from this section is "Skin Deep" with a magnificent contribution from Marc Almond a great tune and arrangement but it is the vocal narrative dripping in emotional resonance which lifts this piece to another level. 

Pieces like "Tomorrow" remind you of Geoffs capacity for finding great melodies. It has a nagging echo of something off the second Asia album indeed the vocal progression echoes the more robust style of the late John Wetton, I am certain this is because David Langdon is singing unison vocals with Chris giving the vocal slightly more weight. David also plays some lovely baroque wind on this piece. Similarly "Lighthouse" sounds like a high quality offering from either of the first two albums except Tim Bowness produces some wonderful counter point and harmony vocals giving the music more character. 

"Dark Times", probably because of the spoken introduction, feels more akin to the title track and the lyrics have that melancholy quality that informs the latter. For me the vocal arrangement match the kind of thing that Brian W can find in his reservoir of genius.The "What energy" section with its squiggly sumptuous counterpoint horn playing is, if you want to make a comparison, pure "Smile" 

So to the finale reprising those key vocal themes "searching for a place called home with our skyscraper souls". Beautiful.

My heartfelt thanks to Chris and Geoff for investing so much passion and dedication to this project which for this listener is exactly what I need and is more than mere unfinished business or bucket listing it is for us now.    


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Soul Survivor - no just a survivor.

Enthusiasm for art, and in this case a 1970's rock band, must start somewhere very honest. It is what draws you in in the first place. When you are young and idealistic and wish to belong to the right fashion you may be driven by the crowd but on the whole with Yes there was no crowd in that sense. To like Yes was to go against the grain. 

At what point does that original enthusiasm and enquiry tip over into something else, some thing which cannot be considered purely from a place of intellectual curiosity. I suspect its when we consider something "US". Yes defines a part of who I am. 

The difficulty is even if our connection remains unchanged what we are committed to will change and in the case of Yes radically. 

For many we will stay until the bitter end, whether thats for us or them, but I find myself on a twin track with the band I fell in love with as a teenager. 

On the one hand I value its effect on my musical journey more than ever recognising it is the bedrock of everything to do with my interest in music (Fairport are in there to) but on the other hand I am now completely disinterested in the latest series of territorial disputes and angst created by it, in a word I am bored.

Last night I telephoned the Theatre in Chipping Norton for a ticket to Fairport 's annual concert at the lovely little theatre there. I didn't check the setlist or the line up or whether someone is in or out I just attend having great confidence it will be a lovely evening of the familiar and the unfamiliar. 

"Yes" have destroyed that simple choice for me and I think its because there is an attitude amongst some of those associated with the band that they are more important than the music and I believe many fans feel the same way and whether they like to admit or not it consumes a good deal of energy. My sense watching numerous clips of ARW Yes is that desire to be there and have a great time (for themselves) is so great that the communication of the narrative has become lost. They and in particular Jon are delighted to be there (look at me I can still do it), fans think its fantastic that they and he (look at him he can still do it) are there and everyone is smiling and certainly in the United States taking pictures. But is it profound have the musicians sublimated themselves to the message of the music or is the music just a bi-product of whats going on. Is there a profound connection with the music or the personalities, everything I have read suggest the latter so if like me your interest is in the music then what have you to go on. Many musical elements, which frankly I do not respond to, and underlying it all a sense that the soul of the music is absent a bright shiny thing is on offer to have fun with but can it be felt ? Ironically the tribute to Chris is probably the one element where a connection is made a gifted player pays homage to him and a connection is made, because the artist has sublimated himself to the musical task.   

For the first time since 1970, when I did not know Yes and checked it out and liked it, I have made a decision determined by a simple qualitative judgement based on my view of the music rather than an auto choice driven by connection, that is a substantial change.

I am bound to say thats a shame and it was the act of buying a Fairport ticket without hesitation last night that reminded me how far I have traveled in my interest in Yes. I am connected to Fairport and feel comfortable with them I no longer feel the same way with "Yes".  

I only have to play any other music I love to realise that "Yes" have made the whole business of enjoying their music more complicated. I can do it and particularly with music which was made many years ago unaffected by the current distractions. As a listener it cannot be helpful to sit there finding your responses are about arguments which are swirling around in your head, not arguments of your own making but ones you are aware of from without, about legitimacy, about this might be the last chance about he is the original not about what the music offers you. I have heard a good deal about the former but very very little about the latter. For some that is clearly enough, for me to dress Yes music "as we are the real deal and we are having fun" is to miss the point. The only deal is the music and ones dedication and love for it as a player and as listener, creating it with love and care and receiving it with love and care with an open curious mind and a beating heart free of earth bound considerations. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

A Stellar Brew Steve Howe Civic Centre Trowbridge

The first surprise was the venue, set on the edge of a park and next to an Odeon Cinema and ubiquitous eateries, it was modern and fresh. 

The crowd, a very pleasing and probably 150, nearly filled the Centre and Mr Howe (D) Subterraneans, which was played over the PA, set the mood for the evening. 

Dressed in a suit Mr Howe (S) launched without ceremony into "Classical Gas" a wonderful combination of an anchored strong repeating melody but with room for exploration and variations the true stuff of the original progressive rock, blending the accessible with the surprising in a communicative way. Ambition drove the musical choices as he played and sung the "Leaves of Green" section of the Ancient and this set up a recurring theme through out the recital. This was an evening by the Yes Guitarist in a solo setting always bringing the music and the conversation back to his dedication and love of the mothership. 

"J's Theme", one of the strongest pieces from Natural Timbre, is played with a real sense of Invention music pushing the boundaries. He also played "Corkscrew" which for me is every bit as memorable as Clap and Mood and should have been a solo piece on Yes Tor rather than developed into the song Countryside. The classical set closed with "Mood For A Day" which the crowd appreciated. What I really appreciated was the reverential silence that Steve was accorded and the Holy of Holy's in 2016 not a smart phone in sight. 

The more gritty metallic sound of the Steel String sets followed. The highlights were "Intersection Blues" and the one I played on the journey home both Timbre and Band version, the criminally neglected "To Be Over"

The pairing of the early verses from "The Remembering" and "It Was All We Know" made me smile because I see the latter as evoking the same semi folk style of the song section of Remembering. Steve sang and his voice was very anonymous and lacked attack and clear diction, the only time in the evening when I wished he had not sung. The piece though is a bona fide gem from Heaven and Earth and if wasn't for the politicisation that exists around Yes, people would see it as a great miniature with a nice curved ball in the middle.

The break and whether it was the glass of Merlot but the 175 section came over with its echo and effects in a dreamlike reflective way almost like his Sutin CD as he played Dorothy and a couple of trio pieces including Sweet Thunder. A sort of guitar tone poem of themes.       

The concert is well paced and for a man on his own you never feel the result is to narrow but in this last quarter we get the man laid bare. A wired version of "Sketches of the Sun" another top ten Steve Howe solo piece. His homage to Chris "Last year was a shocker", where we were encouraged to sing along with him had me in tears during "Onward" and tapping away to "Good People"

The encore set the seal on this being a solo Yes concert and entirely connected, with a great "Roundabout" with all the elements included and because it is solo reminding us how great the arrangement with Bill and Chris was. Steve reminded us on number of occasions that Yes = arrangements and that may bode well for any new music. Thats the distinction between the Bruford Band and all the other eras, spurred on by Jon, the other four "Built" music. The closest they have come to that is with oddly enough Trevor Horn and his auteur production. 

Clap and Yes we did. 

It was great to see Pam for the first time since Malcolm's funeral. 

I am quite happy growing old in tandem with Steve he is a man of passions and those passions are existential rather than mirroring. He is not there to feel the love or show how clever he is, he is there to celebrate the things he loves and so was I and it was a great celebration.    

Friday, 16 September 2016

Home Service - Tune in and enjoy


So why would a blog site ostensibly about Yes include a review of the reborn Home Service's new project. The seed was planted in 1975 with Gryphon, a kind of renaissance progressive rock band, supporting Yes's 1975 Relayer Tour. My interest was peaked by the astonishing "Rising Up Like the Sun" LP from the Albion Band which had a breadth and audacity which took the term "folk rock" to a new level. Many of the members of the core band morphed into Home Service with an expectation that journey begun on "Rising" would continue.

Now 30 years after the excellent "All Right Jack"comes a reborn band with new players and a new CD.

"New Ground" 

Overall Impressions

The introduction of John Kirkpatrick as vocalist, replacing John Tams, reminds me how important it is to have a singer who has their own identifiable style. John sits snuggly inside the "Home Service" ethos but is entirely his own man with a solid purposeful tenor voice, rich but not manufactured, which gives the music a sense of self without being to plaintively "folky".

The sound has evolved from "Jack" and it is as if the wind and brass instruments have been promoted into the front-line. Graeme Tayor's playing is beautifully featured but concise, so the brass and wind sound gives Home Service their unique signature sound and as a result you notice a real broadening of styles and moods.


"Kellingley" starts proceedings with a classic restatement of HS's pre occupations with the nobility and sacrifice of the mining tradition. The brass sets up the riffs and the pace but there are some wonderful atypical flourishes wrapped around the verse sections, this is entirely in the tradition of the unorthodoxy of 1977.

"The Last Tommy" begins with a grungy echoing guitar figure and forms into a classic folk marching song the vocals are authentic and heartfelt but it is the trumpet interjections which gives the piece its specialness and adds greatly to the pathos.

So far you may feel your about to receive a programme of folk music but next up in the delightful "Papa Joe's Polka" striking up images of vaudeville and a parisian street band, gorgeous fun.

These three pieces set out the stall for the rest of the project heartfelt songs in the folk tradition laced with fascinating new ideas mixed with wonderfully left field contributions.

"New Ground" is a signature piece high point, whereas "Wallbreaker" has a distinctly "Harry South" feel, sophisticated drumming, beautiful playing from the reeds and horns creating some thing fresh and new and John keeps it nailed in the bands personality rather than sounding like a random experiment. This bandwidth of styles is what makes the CD such a captivating experience.

"Dirt, Dust, Lorries and Noise" is a chant song with some squiggly interjections from the flugelhorn giving the piece a strange and wonderful enchanting feel. No obvious musical answers here hurrah for that !

"Kings Hut" takes me back to Gryphon, with its formal renaissance dance feel, but unlike 1973 the arrangement is more about the piece and less about clever playing. A great tune and one of the quantities this piece highlights is Michael Gregory, like all the great Fairport drummers, drums for the piece, no more no less, he is there at the root offering propulsion, as Bill Bruford would say this is about expressing oneself for the greater good rather than drum magazines.                    

Next up is the beautiful evocative "Melting" a lovely plaintive introduction on the piano then the brass before a heartfelt but unsentimental reading from John. I hope one day to hear this played live it would be a great stage performance. How do you follow such a gorgeous ballad, well you do not the accordion lead "Ten Pound Lass" is a restatement stylistically of previous achievements. Strong wind and brass building to a strong marching vocal and then on to the lollipop "Cheeky Capers" vaudeville, dance fun and a chance for the horns and brass to stretch out offering long languid lines before a final howling solo from Mr Taylor.

There is a great deal to enjoy here and what is most precious to me is the notion that thinking knowledgable musicians still want to eschew the obvious, stretch themselves and communicate something emotional and real which stays with you just as "Jack" has over 30 years.