Yes, the title is a mouthful, but Andy John Bradford and his band Oceans 5 are awesome. In fact, I think Return to Mingulay is my favorite album of 2013. Their sound hearkens back to the British rock of the 1970s, with a calmer, thoughtful progressive feel to it. The band is made up of Andy John Bradford, a British folk singer/songwriter/solo artist, on vocals and 12 string guitar, Colin Tench on lead guitars, Stef Flaming on bass guitar, Marco Chiappini on keyboards, and Victor Tassone on drums. Originally, these guys got together to just make one song, “The Mingulay Boat song.” This song is a 200 year old song that Andy John Bradford wanted to perform in a new and unprecedented way, and he certainly accomplished that. In doing so, they discovered that as a group, they really clicked. And so, Oceans 5 and Return to Mingulay were born. Their website describes the process of creating Oceans 5:
When you think of Progressive music, you are unlikely to imagine a 200 year old tune with sea shanty lyrics. However this is what Folk Singer/Songwriter Andy John Bradford had in mind when he approached Progressive musician Colin Tench from Bunchakeze and Corvus Stone with the idea. The band actually formed around this one song. Despite the fact that they were all busy with their own bands already, more ideas kept flying backwards and forwards. Andy has a great feel for songwriting and Oceans 5 have proved to be rather good at twisting those songs into a whole new form. From bouncy and silly to epic rock. The 9 songs add up to one hell of an album that even the band members never imagined at the start of this.
The album flows out of “The Mingulay Boat Song,” with many images and themes from the sea evoked. The ocean themes are fitting, as Mingulay is an island off the coast of Scotland. Originally an island inhabited by fisherman, Mingulay was abandoned in 1912; thus the title, Return to Mingulay. Their sound recalls the sounds of the sea, and it also recalls the sounds of Pink Floyd, The Strawbs, David Gilmour, and even Big Big Train. There are many Gilmouresque guitar riffs and solos throughout the album. The biggest connection to Pink Floyd, however, is the appearance of Lorelei McBroom on arguably the album’s best song, “6000 Friends.” (Lorelei McBroom is known for touring with Pink Floyd, and is most recognizable on the Dark Side of the Moon’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”) The song addresses the issue of technology and online “friends” versus reality and real friendships. While the song may feel out of place amongst the rest of the album, it fits by creating a juxtaposition of the older, sea shanty type songs with the problems of the new technological era. Overall, the music relaxes the listener, much like The Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here. The music probably fits best into the genre of Progressive Folk Rock, mainly because of its overall theme of the sea. Throughout the album, it feels like this music could not have been produced in 2013. Return to Mingulay honestly sounds and feels like something produced in the 1970s in what many consider to be the golden age of prog. It would not be out of the ordinary to hear Genesis, Pink Floyd, or even Jethro Tull play some of these songs. Andy John Bradford and Oceans 5 have created an excellent masterpiece that should be considered one of the best albums of 2013. I look forward to seeing more from them.