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.