Today endeth the first half of an extraordinary year in prog, one that will go down as another milestone in the resurgence and regeneration of this much maligned and often misunderstood genre of music.
Tomorrow is July 1, the first day of the second half of the year and notable because it happens to be Canada Day. It was also the day in 1879 when American evangelist Charles Taze Russell published the first edition of The Watchtower, the world’s most widely circulated magazine and the British Government revealed in 1963 that former MI6 agent Kim Philby had been spying for the Russians.
So obviously, with Philby, 50 years on, now yesterday’s man, something epic has had to happen to make July 1 memorable again.
This was probably the train of thought which emerged during the first board, or should that be bored, meeting of the newly formed Bad Elephant Music founded by David Elliott, the esteemed producer of the progressive rock podcast, The European Perspective, broadcast on The Dividing Line Broadcast Network.
For reasons best known to himself and his accountant, he decided to dip his toes into the murky waters of record label ownership and to help him achieve this, he enlisted the expertise of legal eagle, and prolific blogger James Allen along with Tim “Mouse” Lawrie, a ridiculously talented young music producer and erstwhile Merch Desk sales assistant – such is his latent versatility.
Of course, if you are going to start a record label, the one crucial thing you need is “product” and if it is going to be your debut release, it needs to be a bit of a beast.
Well, it just so happened there was a certain progressive rock troubadour, Simon Godfrey, who was in need of a suitable platform from which to launch a new solo project under a brand new shiny title. It was a match made in heaven, surely.
As a result, tomorrow will see a new epoch in progressive rock begin as Shineback’s Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed goes on general release on the Bad Elephant Music label.
Simon, as most of you know, was the frontman of those great English eccentrics, Tinyfish, who ennobled themselves with the title of the world’s smallest prog band. However, they built up a formidable following borne out by the antics in the Fishtank, their fans’ forum, some extraordinary music, culminating in the cult album The Big Red Spark and the general mayhem which ensued during their live gigs.
Cue July 8 last year and the band reluctantly performed their last live gig at the inaugural Celebr8 festival in south west London. This was due to Godfrey’s worsening hearing problems through tinnitus. It was a memorable performance which involved a Princess of Prog tee-shirt, talcum powder and gaffer tape. You had to be there.
Anyway, this may have been the end in one regard, but in another way, it was a new beginning for Godfrey, who decided he wanted to make an album of his own on which he could indulge his passion for electronica.
So, he packed away his guitar and set about writing an album with a suitably far-fetched theme, the story of Dora, a young girl who films her dreams, based on Godfrey’s own childhood experiences in and out of the Land of Nod. For it to be far-fetched required the lyric writing services of his long time friend and Tinyfish’s iconic narrator – as he likes me calling him – Robert Ramsay, or as Godfrey describes their collaboration, the Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin of Prog without the hair transplants of course.
They gave us a taste at Celebr8.2 in May with a suitably chaotic performance which also involved a duck, but that’s a different story for another time.
The album owes a huge debt to some of the influential bands from Godfrey’s formative years such as XTC and Japan, as well as incorporating the discipline, excuse the pun, of projects by the likes of King Crimson.
You cannot make an album like this without having a tight-knit group of some of prog’s most “happening” musicians, such as guitarists extraordinaire, Matt Stevens, Dec Burke and from Dec’s band Hywel Bennett plus Andy Ditchfield from DeeExpus, plus much in demand drummer Henry Rogers.
The result is ground-breaking, a techno album made in a progressive idiom which never sounds like any of the traditionally inspirational giants of the past. Instead, you can hear Japan, Eurythmics, Kraftwerk, a smattering of 70s glam rock rhythms, a hint of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and even a touch of Bjōrk without the histrionics.
Bjōrk? Yes, indeed, because Godfrey discovered some samples made by Bulgarian dance singer Danny Claire in his files and without her knowing, he made her his Dora. Her breathy, spacey samples are included as blogs on the album to which he has added instrumental section to make them relevant to the story. Apparently, she is delighted with the results as well she may be.
So groundbreaking is this as a prog album that is humanly possible to either dance or throw shapes along to tracks such as the stand-out Crush Culture. Other songs such as Passengers channels The Twilight Zone while the title track, the longest on the album, brings together all the players for one huge techno workout with added progginess.
Co-produced by Godfrey and Lawrie, Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed is a bit of a game changer in terms of what it brings to the progressive rock table this year.
The first half of this year has brought us a cavalcade of classic prog compositions, courtesy of The Tangent, Big Big Train, Lifesigns, Spock’s Beard and Comedy of Errors to name but a few personal favourites.
Shineback offers none of the above.
What it does instead is to start an entirely new chapter and therefore, it too is at least worthy of a mention on the Wikipedia page devoted to significant anniversaries of events which took place on July 1.