Rick’s Quick Takes for September

Another month of thoroughly enjoyable releases across the progressive spectrum from quiet to loud, from controlled to anarchic — often all in the same album! As always, order links are included in the artist/album title listing, and streaming audio or samples follow the review.

Cosmograf, Heroic Materials: Robin Armstrong’s latest concept album speaks softly and hits home hard. As a World War II fighter pilot recalls the challenge he rose to as a young man and laments the passing of his golden era, he also sounds the alarm about the challenges the generations who’ve followed have inherited. Throughout, Armstrong’s lyrics are simply stated yet deeply affecting, sung with real gravity and soul. And as the music patiently unreels, it becomes impossible to pick out a standout track; each brooding acoustic interlude, each stinging electric solo, each cinematic ebb and flow leaves its indelible mark. Elegiac in its evocation of past glories, urgent in its call to action today, breathtaking in its poised blend of fragility and strength, Heroic Materials is a riveting listen and a thing of beauty, already on my list of favorites for this year.

Dim Gray, Firmament: a Norwegian band that’s getting a broader push courtesy of Kingmaker Management, with an opening slot on Big Big Train’s recent tour (to say nothing of Oskar Holldorf’s filling BBT’s keyboards/backing vocals slot live) and their second effort released through the English Electric label. Kingmaker knows how to pick ’em; Holldorff, guitarist Hakon Høiberg and drummer Tom Ian Klungland whip up a mighty noise on Firmament’s 12 succinct tracks, with Holldorff and Høiberg’s ethereal, evocative singing launched above one swirling, quasi-orchestral crescendo after another. From opener “Mare” to finale “Meridian”, middle-aged farts like me might hear echoes of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Brian Wilson’s pocket symphonies and Avalon-era Roxy Music, while younger listeners may catch hints of Fleet Foxes’ seamless, potent vocalises and Sigur Ros’ relentless ensemble builds. Whatever Dim Gray’s influences, the trio’s pin-sharp ensemble and pacing, thrilling sense of dynamics and undeniable gift for melody make for an arresting sound, with impressionistic lyrics that complement the sweep and yearning of the music. Here’s an album that not only dreams big, but actually delivers.

Steve Hackett, Genesis Revisited Live – Seconds Out & More: by my count, this is Hackett’s sixth live set since the Genesis Revisited concept revived his worldwide touring mojo a decade ago, beating out even Rush’s late career live output. Too much of a good thing? Arguably — but on the other hand, both Bryan Morey and I raved about this tour when it hit the Midwest this past spring, so I can also argue that more is better! With Amanda Lehmann complementing his usual merry men on second guitar, Hackett and band rip through a set of solo classics (and I wholeheartedly include Surrender of Silence tracks “Held In the Shadows” and “The Devil’s Cathedral” in that description) that climax with Lehmann’s floating vocals and Craig Blundell’s jaw-dropping drum workout on the vintage “Shadow Of The Hierophant”. Then it’s nirvana for Hackett-era Genesis fans, with the entirety of their 1977 live masterwork reprised (and sometimes gently, sometimes deliriously reimagined) in one go. Gorgeous sound whatever the format, and nicely hi-def visuals on the BluRay; it all does what it says on the cover, with Hackett’s usual flair and panache. See you next year for the Foxtrot At Fifty set?

King’s X, Three Sides of One: “Calling all saviors/And I’m shouting at God/Oh won’t you come and save us/Don’t you think we need you now/So let it rain, to wash the fear away.” dUg pinnick’s vocal testifies while his bass thunders, Ty Tabor’s guitars chime and howl like lightning, Jerry Gaskill’s drums crack open the earth and sky. And the apocalyptic “Let It Rain” is only the start for a trio that’s lost none of its power. King’s X’s first album in fourteen years, Three Sides of One’s rock is thick, gnarly, punchy and unbelievably tough no matter the tempo or texture, always locked into a sweet groove that carries you along. With Pinnick’s gospel-rooted shouts complemented by Tabor and Gaskill’s spindly, psychedelic harmonies, the band prowls the waterfront of life today, calling out the hucksters of “Festival” and the digital overlords of “Swipe Up”, commiserating with “all the lonely people” of “Give It Up” and “Holidays”. Stir in the drained cynicism of “Flood Pt. 1” and the dystopian parable “All God’s Children” and you have a compelling vision of societal despair. Human love (“Take the Time”, “She Called Me Home”) offers respite, but there’s no closure in sight; as pinnick preaches on the final track, “The whole world is crying for love/Every everywhere.” Lighting candles and cursing the darkness with alternate breaths, King’s X rocks on regardless — and I consider that heartening in and of itself.

Continue reading “Rick’s Quick Takes for September”

Porcupine Tree In Concert: Not Closed, Continuing

Porcupine Tree, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, September 20, 2022.

The kick-off of Porcupine Tree’s first Chicago show in twelve years was nothing if not dramatic: a deep drone booming out as automated stage lighting menacingly swept the 3,000+ plus audience, the house lights dimming at the point of maximum tension — then a full-on visual assault from lights and screen, tracking with the slashing hard rock riffs of In Absentia’s “Blackest Eyes”.

At stage left: Richard Barbieri, ensconced in his wraparound nest of keyboards, conjuring up fearsome sonic webs of mist, gloom and abrasive noise as required. At stage right: Gavin Harrison, similarly surrounded by an overwhelming array of drums, cymbals and percussive accessories — and somehow appearing to be able to hit them all at once. And at center stage: Steven Wilson, throwing shapes on guitar as the power chords crashed, scrambling toward the mike on bare feet to chime in with typically sunny lyrics about a serial killer making a move on his desired prey.

It was an impressive opening, but something seemed off, and Wilson quickly acknowledged the state of affairs — sickness had been running through the band, and tonight it was effecting his voice. Promising his best efforts on both the Tree’s back catalog and the whole of their new album Closure/Continuation, singer and band proceeded to a nimble, ominous reading of “Harridan” and a lilting take on “Of The New Day.” Here Wilson’s challenges for the evening became apparent, as congestion and pitching problems crept into passages sung with less than full power. By “Rats Return”, though, Wilson had his voice under control, excoriating the cowardice of political strongmen both at the top of his lungs and in chilling undertones, while vicious fuzzed riffs raged around him.

The rest of the first set was completely stunning, mixing new tracks with superbly chosen throwbacks like the Floydian angst of “Even Less” and the doomy drive of “Drown With Me”. A zesty “The Sound Of Muzak” had it all: a bitterly hilarious Wilson intro (“21 years ago, I wrote a song about how music was becoming commodified — something you picked up at the supermarket, or as part of a software application. Well, thank goodness that didn’t come to pass!”), one bewilderingly brilliant Harrison drum fill after another, and a spontaneous audience singalong to the choogling chorus. Then it was Barbieri’s turn to stoke the darkly atmospheric “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled”, its instrumental build eerily synced with the video suicide note of Heaven’s Gate cult founder Marshall Applewhite. And after senseless death, mourning: the new “Chimera’s Wreck” finally clicked into place for me as a survivor’s lament, Wilson diving into the depths of human experience, probing extremes in search of exorcism and catharsis. But after that emotional a ride, what do you do for the second half?

Continue reading “Porcupine Tree In Concert: Not Closed, Continuing”

IOISH Plans on Hypnotizing You with “What You Need It For”

Indian instrumental experimental act IOISH has launched a new single from the forthcoming album “In Waves.” The music video for “What You Need It For” is streaming now. You can watch it below.

The single, mixed and mastered by Brett Caldas Lima, marks the 10th anniversary of IOISH.

Commented the founder Vaibhav Bhutani: “I always had a vision to make an audio-visual themed album, but I did not have the resources for it. Now that I am done with my degrees, I can just go for it. For this album, I got some of the best people in India and around the world, like Shantanu Sudarshan, whom I’ve known since more than a decade, and I’ve always considered him as the best drummer in the country. On the bass is Nikhil Rufus Raj, a veteran in the local music scene. I’ve looked up to his music since I started playing. He’s a brilliant musician and a great guy! On this particular track we have Meredith Moore who plays for giants like Paul McCartney, Mumford and Sons, Robbie Williams, and Josh Groban to name a few. I came up with the basic structure of the song and send it to other musicians to add what they can to it. I believe that collective effort is what makes something grow! Also, we have Brett Caldas Lima on the mixing/mastering duties, he’s just an overall legend.

As a sound therapist Bhutani realized the importance of music in its purest form which is to be instrumental in its existence. 

He goes on saying: “I believe that as there is nothing or rather no one else that can distract one from their thoughts while listening to music without lyrics. Interestingly enough, I noticed how many people are actually scared to feel something and use certain type of music to escape. I just want people to know and acknowledge what they are feeling as that awareness can help us grow a lot as humans, as a collective group of individuals.

Bhutani already plans on the next single.

He admits: “As I earn from my day job I do need some time in between releases to earn back the investment. The next song is almost ready. Also, this album is divided in three parts (three songs each). This part of the album deals with the emotions that I had to let go of. The next part will be of the emotions I hold on to, and act up in the moment. And the final one will be about the stuff that makes me want to get up and do something with this thing called life. I am working on the projection mapping material for the live set. As I am a huge Amon Tobin fan, you can expect something along the lines of what he does combined with Sigur Ros.

The new single “What You Need It For” is streaming now. Watch the video below, or stream in on SoundCloud, Spotify or Apple Music here.

IOISH online:

Website
Facebook
Instagram

Background:

IOISH’s sound is a mix of soulful guitars layered with atmospheric textures that are soaked in melodious grooves and riffs evoking a progressive rock feel. The combined elements make for an immersive and moody trip for the audience. One that they can immediately engage with.

Over the years IOISH has played alongside bands like Tides From Nebula, I Am Waiting For You Last Summer, The Ocean Collective, Intervals and As I Lay Dying during their Indian tours. 

Album Review: @SolaceSupplice “Liturgies Contemporaines”

Solace Supplice - Liturgies ContemporainesSolace Supplice, Liturgies Contemporaines, June 15, 2022
Tracks: Le Tartuffe Exemplaire (5:12), Sunset Street (4:12), A Demi-Maux (4:03), Les Miradors (6:46), Cosmos Adultérin (3:57), Schizophrénie Paranoïde (3:14), Au Cirque Des Âmes (4:10), En Guidant Les Hussards (4:19), Liturgies Contemporaines (3:53), Dans La Couche Du Diable (4:46), Marasmes Et Décadence (4:33)

[Edit: I discovered just after finishing this review and posting it that primary band member Eric Bouillette passed away last month. Our deepest condolences to his family and the band. He was an incredibly talented musician and artist.]

For my third review of recent French releases (see 1 and 2), I bring you Solace Supplice’s Liturgies Contemporaines. Ok, I’m cheating. The band is technically based in England, but the lyrics are in French and the primary players are French. The album has a solid soundscape that is both moody and epic, with a variety of musical textures and sounds.

Primary members Eric Bouillette and Anne-Claire Rallo are members of Nine Skies, a fine band that has made some waves in prog circles in recent years. Both are multi-instrumentalists, with Bouillette playing guitars, keyboards, and violins as well as singing. Rallo plays keyboards and bass. They are joined by Jimmy Pallagrosi on drums, Laurent Benhamou on saxophone on a couple tracks, and Willow Beggs (Nick Beggs’ daughter) on bass on several tracks.  

The record opens with an old English-language clip from the BBC. The song quickly dives into a fast-paced guitar-driven gallop, with that BBC clip popping up again periodically. I liked the inclusion of that clip because it elevates the scope of the record just a bit – makes things feel a little bit more epic. 

The title track, “Liturgies Contemporaines,” is probably my favorite on the record. It is brooding and atmospheric, slightly reminiscent of Steven Wilson or Porcupine Tree. The vocals and guitars really shine over the repeating keyboard line and simple drum riff. Bouillette’s vocals really stand out on this song. The tone he creates on this is rather different than on the rest of the record, and I think he sounds best on this song. Sometimes his vocals are a bit monotonous when singing the French lyrics, but his voice is very dynamic on the title track.

Lyrically the album leans on the more obscure, allowing for more interpretation. It also helps that they’re in French, forcing English listeners to either dig deep (lyrics posted on their website), or just appreciate them for the way they sound. Bouillette’s style of singing works well on “Dans La Couche Du Diable.” The song starts quieter with piano and acoustic guitar, over which he gently sings. A pounding guitar and drum riff kicks in with a marching beat, and the vocals march along with it. The result is quite effective, especially as the song builds towards the end. The track swells towards the end as the keyboards swirl in the background. With a little extra working at the end, I think it would have made a better ending track to close the album, as “Marasmes Et Décadence” doesn’t go much of anywhere musically for most of the song until the guitar solo, bass, and keyboard solo kick in at the end. “Dans La Couche Du Diable” sounds more like an album closer to me. 

Bouillette’s guitar work is dynamic throughout the record, with clean solos on “A Demi-Maux” and grittier shredding on “Les Miradors.” The atmospheric guitar on the title track really shows the range of his capabilities, with the guitar contributing to the soundscape and standing center-stage in the second half of the song. The band scatter in some unexpected musical moments to keep us on our toes. Bouillette’s violin on “Au Cirque Des Âmes” has a gypsy jazz feel to it, and the saxophone on “En Guidant Les Hussards” adds a jazzy and atmospheric sound.

I’ve found Liturgies Contemporaines compelling on repeated listens. It has a solid rock drive with multiple textures and a variety of sounds that manages to remain cohesive. The title track really makes the album for me – I just wish it were longer. The songs could have also been edited to flow together a little better, as the general production value strikes me as being a concept album. All the same, the record is worth multiple listens for fans of contemporary prog. Certainly fans of Nine Skies will want to check it out, if they haven’t already. 

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Glass Hammer Release Video from Upcoming Album “At The Gate”

Glass Hammer news from the band:

‘The Years Roll By’ is the first of two music videos from the band’s new concept album.

The Years Roll By is the opening track on Glass Hammer’s At The Gate concept album —set for release on October 7th, 2022.

Bandleader Steve Babb said the following about the new album: “At The Gate completes our sword and sorcery inspired trilogy that began with 2020s Dreaming City. We followed that up with last year’s Skallagrim—Into The Breach.”

For the uninitiated, he went on to explain. “It’s the story of a scarred and battered thief, Skallagrim, who’s had his memory stolen along with the love of his life. He’s got to fight unimaginable horrors and slay hideous creatures and sorcerous villains if he’s ever to reclaim either. Finally, at the end of the last album, his memory is returned, but he finds himself cursed to wait one thousand years for a chance to find his lost love! At The Gate picks up at the end of his tale as he prepares to face the ultimate challenge of his life—to finally rescue his girl and defeat the evil being who has imprisoned her.

“Of course, as with any Glass Hammer concept album, there is more to it than a simple plot. On the surface, it appears to be about magic swords and heroes, but it’s actually a story about confronting evil, how to survive it, and how to face despair and heartache.

And most importantly, it’s about why the pursuit of profound and lasting joy in an often joyless world is worthwhile, even when all available evidence suggests it cannot be found.”  

Babb says he chose to open the album with a ballad. “…something ethereal, something reminiscent of what our fans call classic Glass Hammer. The Years Roll By fits the bill, I think. Of course, there’ll be plenty of metal and prog on the new album. The next music video I plan to release hits really hard!”

Autographed copies of At The Gate are available for pre-order on the Glass Hammer Store website. www.glasshammer.com

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - Electric TalesArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Electric Tales, 2020
Tracks: 
Electric Overture (1:32), The Dark Jester (7:24), The Electric Princess Part 1 (9:06), The Electric Princess Part 2 (9:02), Entering… (Impro) (4:11) Mushi’s Forest (6:21), Flower Fields (Impro) (3:26), The Hypothetical Knight (6:24), Hope (5:07), Electric Dreamer (3:49)

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - RoanArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Roan, Bad Dog Promotions, 2021
Tracks: Aube (1:33), Prologue (4:33) Découverte (8:48), Curiosité (2:26), Féerie (3:22), Dépassement (3:17), Nostalgie (1:56), Ryoko (12:33), Fardeau (1:51), Chrysalide (4:41), Métamorphose (5:50), Épilogue (3:30)

For the second in my series of reviews of French artists (see number 1 here), we have Arnaud Quevedo & Friends, a guitar-centered jazz fusion outfit based in La Rochelle, France. The group centers around Arnaud Quevedo, a guitarist and music teacher at Conservatoire La Rochelle. Bassist Noé Russeil joins Quevedo on both records, as does double bassist Éva Tribolles. Both also provide vocals. Lucille Mille plays flute and sings on Electric Tales, Julien Gomila plays saxophone on that record. There is a much larger cast on Roan, composed of more stringed and blown instruments. While Quevedo plays drums on Electric Tales, that duty is expertly handled by Anthony Raynal on Roan

One of the primary differences between the two records is the lyrics on Electric Tales are in English while they are in French on Roan. I prefer the French vocals because they sound more natural to both the music and for the singers. Some of the English lyrics, like on “The Dark Jester,” are really difficult to understand. 

Jazz is the name of the game here, but it remains tied to the rock world throughout. Electric Tales periodically reminded me of The Tangent, another band that heavily leans on jazz. “The Electric Princess” Parts 1 and 2 are almost entirely instrumental, with some more easily understandable lyrics near the end of part 2. The guitar and flute are prominent throughout, balancing the jazz with a rock feel. Continue reading “Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review”

Rick’s Quick Takes for August

It’s been another excellent month for new music. So let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Purchase links are embedded in the artist/title listing; playlists or video samplers follow each review.

Dave Kerzner, The Traveler: A third concept album from Kerzner, continuing the through line of New World and Static (with nods to In Continuum’s Acceleration Theory lurking about as well). The opener “Another Lifetime” sets out this record’s remarkable strengths: confident, appealing songwriting with hooky yet sophisticated melodies and structures; Kerzner’s best, widest ranging vocals to date; and the perfectly judged contributions of Fernando Perdomo on guitar, Joe Deninzon on violin, Ruti Celli on cello and Marco Minneman on drums (only a smattering of the stellar guest list here). The dry, forward sound and the copious use of vintage keyboards on tunes like “A Time In Your Mind” evokes early-80s Genesis at times (since Kerzner got those keyboards from Tony Banks, no real surprise there), but the power ballad “Took It For Granted” and the closing suite framed by the two parts of “Here and Now” show Kerzner moving his character’s story forward while striking out in fresh musical directions like the sunshine guitar pop of “A Better Life”. Overall, Kerzner exhibits a lighter touch here, and The Traveler is the better for it; by letting his new songs sell themselves and keeping proceedings to the point, he both satisfies us and leaves us wanting more. After repeated listens, this one’s already on my “favorites of ’22” list!

Lonely Robot, A Model Life: John Mitchell has had a rough last few years, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In the wake of a global pandemic, the collapse of a long-term relationship, and a confrontation with his deepest doubts and fears, Mitchell’s done what he does best: slip into his Lonely Robot persona and pour it all out in a fine set of laterally structured, elegantly crafted, fearlessly emotional songs. Writing, singing and playing (especially in his rekindled relationship with the guitar solo) at peak inspiration, Mitchell lays the ghost of his former love (the nervy “Recalibrating”, the forlorn “Mandalay”), skewers our mad world (“Digital God Machine” and “Island of Misfit Toys”), mourns ways of lives and times now in the rearview mirror (the breathtaking ballad “Species in Transition”, the crunching elegy “Starlit Stardust”), and ponders how and why he became who he is (the brilliant final run of “Rain Kings”, “Duty of Care”, “In Memoriam”). Easily his best work under the Lonely Robot banner, Mitchell wears his heart on his sleeve and plays to the gallery at the same time; this is an outright spectacular effort that’s got both all the feels and all the chops. (Check out our latest interview with John Mitchell here.)

Motorpsycho, Ancient Astronauts: the kings of Norwegian drone-prog continue their enviable hot streak on their fifth album in six years. “We’re all a little bit insane,” Bent Saether chirps on the opener “The Ladder”, and as the track spirals upward, mingling the howl of Hans Magnus Ryan’s guitar and Saether’s darkly glimmering Mellotron, you believe him. The edgily abstract interlude “The Flower of Awareness” cleanses the palette for a Crimsonesque workout on “Mona Lisa/Azrael”; Ryan builds towering edifices of distortion over a trademark Saether riff, as drummer Tomas Jarmyr matches their ebb and flow all the way through the shuddering climax and the slo-mo collapse. Astonishingly, all this just serves as prologue to the “Chariot of the Sun: To Phaeton on the Occasion of the Sunrise (Theme from an Imagined Movie)” It’s as if Motorpsycho’s brief for this 22-minute finale was to rival “La Villa Strangiato” in both range and focus; gentle strumming and wordless vocals give way to more menacing bass riffs, fuzz guitar deployed in duet and counterpoint, feral percussive cross-rhythms. It all mounts to multiple climaxes (a mighty unison riff, ominous post-rock minimalism) that circle back to end with the melancholy lyricism that kicked it all off. Ancient Astronauts is a genuinely thrilling ride; strap in and brace yourself for liftoff.

Muse, Will of the People: they’re baaack!!!!!! And as usual, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard earn every one of those exclamation points. The guitars and drums are turned up to 12, the classical keyboard licks pack double the bombast (including a Bach “Toccata and Fugue” steal), the electronica wallows in creepshow kitsch, the vacuum-packed harmonies are piled even higher, and the gang chants are bellowed louder than ever. All this sound and fury portrays a world on the brink, an elite obsessed with control, and a populace angry that the game is rigged. Still, it’s hard to know who Bellamy is rooting for; at times, his lyrics and driven singing seem equally repulsed by both the leaders (“Compliance”, Kill or Be Killed”) and the led (the title track and “Euphoria”). But in the end, this is quite the slamming album; if you’re in the mood for existential desperation set to one badass, air-guitarable riff and singalong chorus after another — and these days, who isn’t? — this just may be your ticket. Might want to only play that obscenity-laden final track when no one else is around, though.

Continue reading “Rick’s Quick Takes for August”

Boz Scaggs & Robert Cray in Concert – Two from Out of the Blues

Boz Scaggs with the Robert Cray Band and Jeff LeBlanc, Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, Grand Rapids Michigan, August 22, 2022.

Fair warning: there was absolutely nothing prog about this show. And there didn’t have to be — my wife, my friends and I got the good time vibes we came for, along with about 2000 other locals, if sometimes from some unexpected directions.

Case in point: opening act Jeff LeBlanc. (All together now: “Who?”) A solo act like many others: one guy with his guitars, a way with catchy melodies that you might hear over the PA system at a place like Walgreens (he said it, not me!) and great taste in covers. Pulling out hometowner Al Green’s soul classic “Let’s Stay Together” as his third tune, he had the crowd firmly on his side by the end of his 15-minute set. If LeBlanc’s music is a bit anonymous, his affable stage presence still provided a great way to ease us into the evening.

Then, the Robert Cray Band took the stage for a absorbing hour of down home goodies. While Cray caught the attention of the 1980s blues scene on guitar, and still showcases great 12-bar tunes like the claustrophobic “Phone Booth” in his set, his singing and songwriting have always had broader horizons, stretching into R&B, soul and beyond. Supported by Les Falconer’s solid drumming, Richard Cousins’ booming bass and Dover “White Cliff” Weinberg’s idiomatic organ work, Cray powered through captivating originals like “Anything You Want”, “I Guess I Showed Her” and the humorous, instrumental Booker T homage “Hip Tight Onions”, singing and playing his heart out even with the sun in his eyes. But it was on quiet tunes such as “I Shiver” and the closer “Time Makes Two” that Cray really impressed, bringing his arresting solo breaks down to near silence and taking the rowdy audience with him. The standing ovation at the end — for a man who didn’t even play his biggest hit, “Smoking Gun” — showed that everyone with ears to hear knew they had just seen a master at work.

Then it was time for Boz Scaggs — sauntering into the spotlight with his six-piece backing band on front of a crowd that expected the hits and wound up getting more than they bargained for. Sure, Scaggs kicked off with “What Can I Say” — the opening track from his smash album Silk Degrees — then kept the slick, disco-edged soul of that record going with hit-radio favorites like “JoJo” and “Lowdown”. But he also dove into his most recent, rootsy effort Out of the Blues with tracks like the gritty “Rock and Stick”, Don Robey’s lush “The Feeling Is Gone” and the piledriving “Radiator 110”. Not to mention his own drop-dead gorgeous ballads “Harbor Lights” and “Look What You’ve Done to Me” (the cue for couples to snuggle as darkness fell and the temperature dropped). Through it all, Scaggs’ laconic, behind-the-beat singing and his effortless falsetto work revealed another master, who’d come through his flash of fame to the decades beyond, with his chops and his instincts for what makes great music intact.

Throughout, Eric Crystal shone on saxes and melodica, as well as utility keys and guitar; Mike Logan laid down smooth, supple work on organ, synths and electric piano; guitarist Mike Miller and legendary bassist Willie Weeks proved that the right few notes equal maximum groove; and a great drummer/percussionist duo (whose names I didn’t catch — your contributions are welcome!) not only kept the rhythms percolating, but joined with Logan to nail the high backing vocals that gave Scaggs’ hits some of their glossy sheen.

And, unsurprisingly for folks who delved deeper than those hits, Scaggs and the band could rock, too! Not only did Silk Degrees’ deep cut “Georgia” and the set closer “Lido Shuffle” roar out of the starting blocks, the band came back for encores “It’s Over” and Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” ready to rumble, with Crystal duckwalking across the stage and Miller ripping off some spellbinding leads. Then, acknowledging the rowdy, wildly applauding audience (“You guys play rough!”) and pushing against the township’s noise ordinance, Scaggs belted out the fiercest song of the night, “Breakdown Dead Ahead”, for a perfectly chosen finale.

To some extent, the careers of both Scaggs (even in the wake of his success) and Cray suffered from the change in American radio that happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when rock stations corporatized and honed their playlists to focus on Album-Oriented Rock. In the process they dumped the prog epics this site focuses on — but they also dropped anything that even paid homage to black music like the proverbial hot potato. (I’d heard at least a third of Scaggs’ setlist on Detroit rock radio back in the day — but only up till about 1979. After that, crickets.) So it’s possible Scaggs and Cray might have been bigger back in the day; but given the rapt reception they received this past Monday night, people seem realize that, whatever fruits of fame might have eluded these artists over the years, they still deliver the goods.

— Rick Krueger

Big Big Train Update – A Note From Gregory Spawton

A Note From Gregory Spawton

Following the announcement last week about the HRH festival in Leeds being moved to Sheffield in April 2023 (when Big Big Train will not be appearing) and the necessity for us to re-schedule our German, Swiss and French shows until 2023, I would like to thank all listeners for their wonderful support. We entirely understand how disappointing and frustrating this news has been. I am pleased to say that I have some more positive news in this update.

Free Passengers Club Memberships/Extensions

If you hold tickets for any of the HRH, German, Swiss or French shows, please contact stationmaster@thepassengersclub.com with a photo of your ticket or the ticket attached to the email for a free three month trial of our digital fan club  – The Passengers Club.

If you are already a Passengers Club member with a one or two year subscription and holding tickets for one of these shows, please contact stationmaster@thepassengersclub.com with a photo of your ticket or the ticket attached to the email for three month extension.

Please be patient as it will take a while to add everyone who applies.

All existing BBT Passengers Club Patrons (whether HRH or German/Swiss/French ticket holders or not) will receive an exclusive download of a live song from the September 2022 tour. This will be a different song to the ones being made available to Tour Patrons.

2022 Tour Patron Packages

Given our touring plans for 2023 (about which more news below), 2022 tour patron packages have been converted to 2022/23 tour patron packages. You do not need to take any action in this regard.  T-shirts have been sent out, tour programmes and laminates can be collected from the September 2022 shows if you are attending; if you are not attending a show, programmes and laminates will be sent out after 7th September.

The September 2022 Tour

Over the last few months we have all spent many hours preparing individually before we convene for rehearsals next week for the shows in September. While we’re thrilled to be bringing Big Big Train back on stage after almost three years, of course we remain enormously saddened that David Longdon is no longer with us.

David’s explicit wish was that BBT should continue and we’re excited about moving forwards and what we can achieve with Alberto Bravin fronting the band. Our shows will celebrate the band’s past and look ahead to the future. Our live set will include one new song. More on this below.

While we’re obviously disappointed that the tour next month will only be brief, we are very much looking forward to these shows. A last few seats remain available for our “family and friends” warm up show near Southampton. Tickets are also available for our shows in Aylesbury and Zoetermeer. We will be filming the  Zoetermeer show with a view to releasing it in the future. Details of the September 2022 dates plus ticket links are here: www.bigbigtrain.com/live

From Wednesday 7th September we will be making September 2022 tour merchandise (tour programmes and T-shirts) available online via Burning Shedand The Bandwagon USA.

Big Big Train on tour in 2023

Prior to the news last week about HRH and the rescheduling of the German, Swiss and French shows, we had already been working on organising some shows for 2023.

2023 looks set to be BBT’s busiest year ever, both recording in the studio (including in Italy) and playing live shows. Currently we are expecting to play up to 20 shows across the UK and continental Europe in autumn 2023, including countries that were not on the original September 2022 tour schedule. We are delighted that this will include the band playing in Italy for the first time. We hope to be able to announce full details of the autumn 2023 tour later this year.

New Music

In parallel with preparing for next month’s shows, we have been working on a number of new songs since appointing Alberto as our lead vocalist. Today we are delighted to share with you the first of these songs. Written by me, Last Eleven features the BBT September 2022 live band – Alberto Bravin, Rikard Sjöblom, Nick D’Virgilio, Dave Foster, Clare Lindley, Oskar Holldorff and myself.

We’re really excited about this song – it’s very personal to me lyrically and the band have put in an amazing performance, including a beautiful vocal arrangement from Alberto and a stunning keyboard solo from Oskar.

The video was created by Steve Cadman.

Summer Shall Not Fade/Door One

In case you missed it, we have recently released a short trailer for the forthcoming Blu-ray/2CD Summer Shall Not Fade, which documents Big Big Train’s show in July 2018 at the Night Of The Prog festival in Loreley, Germany.

Here’s the trailer:

Both Summer Shall Not Fade and David Longdon’s solo album Door One will be released on 14th October. Full details of both releases and purchasing links can be found here: www.bigbigtrain.com 

NDV with Steve Hackett

Congratulations to NDV who will be drumming for nine shows on Steve Hackett’s North America tour in November and December this year, deputising for Craig Blundell.
Details here: www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html 

Gregory on Butterfly Mind by Tim Bowness


I appear on the new wonderful new Tim Bowness album Butterfly Mind on the track ‘After The Stranger’.
More info on the album here https://timbowness.komi.io/

We look forward to seeing listeners at our shows next month.

Best wishes

Gregory Spawton

Big Big Train

New Cosmograf Album Out September 9

0839d079-7846-6a46-5885-3da41b8cbf90Robin Armstrong’s Cosmograf will be releasing their latest album, Heroic Materials, on September 9, 2022.  The album is available for pre-order from Armstrong’s record label, Gravity Dream music, on CD (digipack and deluxe media book edition) and vinyl. The vinyl won’t be available by the date of release, but vinyl purchasers will be able to get a digital download on release day if they want. 

https://www.cosmograf.com
Purchase: https://www.gravitydream.co.uk/product-category/cosmograf/