Acolyte — Recovery (Unplugged)
A quick mention for this stop-gap effort from Melbourne heavy-prog outfit Acolyte. Those who are new to this band will have sadly missed one of my favourite albums of 2021. It's never too late to catch-up; so read my review of Entropy, watch the video and then get your wallets out!
The band will be on tour for three Australian dates with countrymen and women of Voyager in August. This three-track EP consists of acoustic reworking of two songs from Entropy and the track Space & Time taken from their 2016 EP Shades of Black.
As the band explains: "As we re-emerged from the long lockdowns we felt we wanted to showcase some of the more mellow tunes on the record in a raw and acoustic performance setting. In the end it was quite a therapeutic way for us to reconnect as a group after what was quite a tumultuous time." Thus Recovery is indeed an apt title for the release.
The two songs from Entropy have undergone a real transformation, with the acoustic band enhanced by a quintet of flute, clarinet, violins and cello. Resilience now has a sea-shanty, folksy feel, beautifully enhanced by the flute and strings. Recovery is an instrumental, now set into a waltz-like flow, with an extended piano section at the end. Space And Time doesn't work so well. The strong vocals seem at odds with the smooth arrangement.
For existing fans this is an interesting diversion. Those who like a folksy/classical/acoustic groove to their music, might also want to give this EP a try. Lovers of modern heavy-prog should not miss out on hearing Entropy.
Peter Goalby — Easy With The Heartaches
After his adventure with Trapeze, vocalist Goalby (lead and backing vocals, guitars) took Uriah Heep to the next level in the first half of the 80s, appearing on their albums Abominog, Head First, and Equator. Following his departure, he started work on solo material and subsequently collaborated with amongst others Shy and John Parr, until he left the music industry indefinitely. As a result, his solo efforts never got to see the light of day.
Now their day has finally come. Easy With The Heartaches was written in 1985/1986 and personally overseen by Goalby upon tape transfer, mastering and artwork. I will come straight to the point by stating this is a (non-prog) gem of an album for those in love with the smooth, melodic rock and AOR of the 80s, expressing all the trademarks associated with these genres. Surrounded by a fairly fresh and well-preserved sound, attractive catchy melodies, solid performances, memorable hooks and a smooth and passionate vocal delivery, it's an excellent trip down memory lane.
From the moment the album opens with the title track it starts talking love to my AOR affection with familiar melodies and Goalby's fairly distinctive voice as a centrepiece. Smooth and polished the melodies softly reminds of Magnum, which in Hold The Dreams takes on bigger form as keyboard partitions and vocal-lines present themselves. It's almost as if Goalby and Magnum shared the same studio back in the day, influencing each other as they each recorded their own songs. Fun fact: Paul Hodson, keyboards, drum and bass programming on this album, joined the Magnum veterans Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley several years later on their spin-off project Hard Rain.
Throughout the album, Goalby showcases an excellent sense of emotion, passion and melodic delivery that embraces elements of John Waite, Lou Gramm, the aforementioned Bob Catley, Robin McAuley and Michael Bolton to name but a few. The latter surfaces for instance in the syrupy sweet ballad I Found Real Love, which next to lovely keyboard sparkles and a fine guitar solo also manages to bring images of Foreigner.
The album sheds some of it's soft-rock smoothness as I Built This House enters. Together with The Last Time these songs are slightly rougher and upfront in sound, with guitars fairly dominant.
Had this album been released at the time of recording, I'm convinced it would certainly have been very successful and filled the airwaves via many a (classic) radio-station. Whether it will fair the same nowadays remains to be seen, but if you're a Loverboy of the genre like me, this is certainly one to check out. Those fans might as well pick up it's recently released successor I Will Come Runnin', which brings more long-lost treats from Goalby.
Moron Police — The Stranger And The Hightide
Ever since their masterpiece from 2019 A Boat On The Sea was released, no introduction should be needed here when talking about Moron Police. In case you haven't heard of them, just go to their bandcamp and buy that album. After that you can check what my colleague Andy Read thought about it in his 10 out of 10 review.
What we have here is another great example of what these guys can do: great songs with superb melodies and funny but serious lyrics. Of course, it's not as good as their previous album, but I can confirm it's only because it's a very short EP of apparently songs that didn't fit into A Boat On The Sea. Just add another five songs and you'd get a marvellous album again.
As the band says this is a fun, little concept EP that ties into their new main album that is supposed to be a sprawling concept affair tentatively titled Pachinko. The flow here is softer, as is the instrumentation, touching even some western rock here and there; However the songs are so good that this EP leaves you wanting more, even when we don't have those frantic rhythms and bombastic choruses that defined their impressive last album. In fact, the last song Parachutes is the proof of how they can write a very emotional and different type of ballad.
Now the bad thing: Moron Police lost their fabulous drummer Thore Omland Pettersen in January due to a car accident. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends. I am sure the band will find the light and inspiration to create magic songs again. In the meantime I encourage you to enjoy these four great songs and the soft drumming by Thore.
Pinn Dropp — Calling From Some Far Forgotten Land
Polish neo-proggers Pinn Dropp made their LP debut in 2018 with the release of Perfectly Flawed, an album getting a lot of praises from Jan Buddenberg. His recommendations are sincerely seconded by yours truly.
This offers romantic neo-prog with soulful melodies, good groove sections and an intricate structure. It is exactly what you would expect from the flourishing Polish scene. The obvious reference is of course Riverside, but I would also draw parallels with other projects hailing from Poland, such as Votum, Logic Mess and After…
If there was a flaw in the Perfectly Flawed album, it was with the overall length of 71 minutes plus a bonus track. For me that is a bit too much material, however good it may be.
Counterbalancing that flaw, this otherwise great new effort has the flaw of being too short, being an EP of only 24 minutes with the first track essentially an intro. But there's nothing really to be disappointed about.
Firstly, such EPs are actually quite important, because they serve a noble purpose of allowing the band to catch a breath and continue. Secondly, the Calling From Some Far Forgotten Land holds great, Polish-quality guaranteed music. The highlight is probably Cluster, a cosmic journey mini-triptych of almost nine minutes, continuing the tradition of not-too-complex-but-nonetheless-intricate music that Pinn Dropp are mastering. It also lets shine the two keyboard players (Bartek and Mirek) whom the band employs.
Overall this is just what is needed for dreamers and introverts.
Shades Of Plato — Malware
This is the second album by UK band Shades Of Pluto. They introduce themselves as "a subtle mix of goth, glam and classic rock." Right on the mark, that.
"No one looks or sounds quite like us; so come, join our masquerade!", they add. There is some truth in that, but although I understand the need to say so, I always find it funny when a b(r)and is calling themselves unique.
But, it has to be said, although influences are by definition not unique, I've not heard this mix of influences before. A modern version of what appears to be based on classic rock, with a harder edge here and a progressive touch there. Sometimes even in the relatively short compositions.
Several times I got the impression I was listening to a combination of The Cure and Jethro Tull, the latter certainly not the least for the flute. The last track is the most interesting one to me, not just because of the length allowing more different sections, but somes sections getting the time for melodies to evolve.
A modern tale about the dangers of modern times. That with the goth bits is bound to give a darker atmosphere, strengthened by some heavier sections reminiscent of Blue Öyster Cult, partly due to the voice sounding a bit like Albert Bouchard. While some tracks like A Little Learning are a bit too unadventurous to these ears, there are several that I like for their menacing pace and atmosphere, like Ecdysis.
So you'll realise this is not for symphonic prog lovers, but is recommended when a progressive taste stretches into 70s and 80s classic, goth, and hard rock, and is open to a modern approach.