Freedom to Glide – “Rain”
Review by John Deasey
If you look careful at the album artwork above, you can see the faces of soldiers in every rain drop.
So my brothers fell like rain
Every rain drop bears a name
The storm will rise, the sky will fall
A bitter lesson for us all.
“Rain’ is the culmination of 3 years work by Pete Riley and Andy Nixon, both members of a Pink Floyd tribute band who realised they had more than a shared interest in the music they were playing.
As they explain on their website, musically they just clicked and before long they were exchanging ideas, laying down tracks and realising they were on to something outside of the tribute band.
And my, how they were on to something.
Taking a step back for a moment, I remember when Roger Waters released “Amused to Death” and being totally floored by the opening track ‘The Ballad of Bill Hubbard’. The beautiful, subtle guitar fills from Jeff Beck, the mournful backing to the spoken word of a British veteran soldier describing the horrors of war in a gentle, frail, breaking voice …… very moving indeed.
Other tracks such as ‘It’s a Miracle’ and the closing title track are similarly outstanding and have stood the test of time.
Admittedly some of Waters’ anti-war tirade gets a bit tiresome and a little bit theatrically obvious on that album, but there is a stunning tone and feel to the overall piece of work that stays long in the mind.
It is no surprise, given the background of Freedom to Glide, that there is a distinct Floyd / Waters vibe to ‘Rain’, but it avoids any of the cheap shots or crassness of ‘Amused to Death’ and instead infuses the whole piece of work with an elegance and subtlety that is perfectly in keeping with the respectful air for the subject matter.
My copy of the album arrived at 10.50am on release day, 11/11/2013.
So apt. So appropriate.
The sweeping keyboards of the title track immediately set an atmosphere and within a few moments we are taken into a magnificently moving piece of work that absorbs, transfixes and takes us on a journey that I, for one, found hard to let go off.
Seldom have I played a new album on repeat so many times.
We have clear, crisp production, with lyrics that can be heard clearly.
We have background sounds of radios, soldiers speaking, swathes of gorgeous keyboards, Middle Eastern sounding woodwind, military drumbeats low down in the mix and the beautiful Floydian textures of strummed guitar whilst a delicate lead guitar adds shimmering tones …..
We also have rockier tracks such as ‘Path of Reason’ which roll along with a strident beat but even these sections are done with class and quality – nothing is out of place and there are no sudden distortions or jarring distractions to annoy.
Tracks such as ‘Riders on a Wave’ display superb, uncomplicated song writing that is a joy to listen to with a subtle depth that adds to the unfolding and building atmosphere.
This takes on a more dramatic and sinister turn as we head into ‘Price of Freedom’, which recounts a soldiers journey on a vessel from Liverpool to “…halfway round the world, a universe from home” and really sets the scene for the second half of the album.
From here, this is where the music becomes powerfully emotional and at times, incredibly moving without ever becoming maudlin or crassly over-sentimental.
‘Angels and Stones’ is a case in point. A steady beat with gorgeous textures weaving in and out underpinned by a forbidding deep rumble whilst the vocal refrain mournfully tells us :
Fly like an angel, fall like a stone
Whilst the subject matter of the album could have led to a bitter tirade of rhetoric and barely concealed anger, we are instead treated to a beautifully restrained, elegant and respectful tone as exemplified on ‘When the Whistle Blows’.
This is a stunning track about the young men answering the call. Unaware the rain would fall. Not knowing the rivers would turn red.
Lyrically, musically and atmospherically this is a minor masterpiece.
The spoken words of the soldier are reminiscent of ‘The Ballad of Bill Hubbard’ with a similar hauntingly sad feel.
It is actually difficult to put into words how moving the final part of ‘Rain’ is, whether or not you agree or disagree with the whole Remembrance issue, but to hear the veteran soldier on ‘Home Again’, speaking, whilst warm keyboards wrap his elegant words like a shroud, is something else.
As you sit in silence, taking in what you have just heard, the album closes on a fitting note with an uplifting and reassuring track that despite the horrors, wounds and damaged minds of war, we can emerge ‘Not a Broken Man’.
So there we have it – a majestic and beautifully judged piece of work from Pete Riley and Andy Nixon who should be proud of what they have achieved. This is certainly one of the most enjoyable and moving albums I have had the pleasure to listen to for a long long time.