I took the decision as Lent was beginning to fast from buying any new music. This proved difficult, as there was a whole raft of new releases that were clamouring for my attention over the period, and I finally broke my fast last Monday (2nd April). What a treat was waiting for me!
First there was the recent collaboration between Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), entitled 'Not the Weapon but the Hand': an ethereal collection of tunes with a deep passion and a meditative heart. Alongside that was the latest offering by Norwegian band Gazpacho, a source of great chill out music for me (no pun intended), entitled 'March of Ghosts'. They continue to produce moody pulsating tunes that enchant and enthral.
In a more up-beat mood is the sophomore offering from DeeExpus, who have called on the talents of Mark Kelly of Marillion to assist them in this follow-up to their highly rated 'Half Way Home' - 'The King of Number 33'. The style of this latest collection is more developed, and contains the almost 27-minute epic title track, which is divided into 6 parts (movements?).
Mike Portnoy has not been idle since he left Dream Theater in 2010, and one of his current projects, Flying Colors, have recently released their eponymous debut album. Consisting of Portnoy, Neal Morse, Steve Morse, Casey McPherson & Dave LaRue this is quite frankly a stunning collection of virtuoso contemporary progressive rock ranging from mellow, almost pop-y tunes to hard-hitting rock. Without doubt one of the albums of the year for me.
Close behind it is the new album from It Bites, 'Map of the Past': a rarity these days even in Progressive circles in that it is a concept album. "Inspired by the discovery of an old family photograph, Map of the Past is a highly personal journey that explores love, passion, jealousy,
anger, remorse and loss through the eyes of a previous generation
against the backdrop of Britain as it enters a new century and one of
the most defining periods of its history." Again the music ranges across the musical spectrum, and beyond, and grows with every listen.
Finally is an album that has, in one sense, been 40 years in the making. Ian Anderson's 'Thick as a Brick 2 - whatever happened to Gerald Bostock' is a sequel to Jethro Tull's 1972 anti-concept album 'Thick as a Brick'. It is billed as an Ian Anderson album, rather than Jethro Tull, but has much of the feel of a classic Tull offering, and references some of their work in its phrasing (as well as echoes of the original TAAB there are also hints of 'Heavy Horses' for me in there too). It retains that tongue-in-cheek element of much of Tull's 70s material, and has a delightful reprise of the original album at the close of the final section. A true delight, and I can't wait to see and hear it performed live later this month.