All posts for the month February, 2017

This news story was originally published here:

Tope poked his head above the parapet of the Rushden of Iniquity and spied a hole in space…you know, one of those left by Fohat. This being East Northants, a place where they still practice the Olde Religion, Tope saw nothing unusual in that at all and rushed home to tell his mates, who, like him, were all sock puppets. Over-excited and not a little monged, the very next day they all boarded their pea-green spaceship HMS Nene* Park and set forth on an adventure of fun and frolics, with their lucky mascot Doug The Dog.

Alternatively, as the PR sheet has it, “in 1973 Tomska R. Huntley created this concept that was destined for German TV which was Tope’s Sphere. The original idea was to be a groundbreaking animated series with a live soundtrack by UK/German super group, Klementine Uhren. It was supposed to feature Tope, the knitted-monkey protagonist and Chode, his sidekick to go on an outer space adventure with a psychedelic rock score… both Tomska and the group weren’t too happy with the final mixes and it disappeared promptly. Tomska’s dream was shattered and he was bankrupt. He dumped what was left of Tope’s Sphere and vanished into the Himalayan Mountains.”

Both of those paragraphs are true facts.

Orange Clocks hail from a place called Rushden, and unlikely as it seems to those of us who have been there, Rushden now boasts two bands that a handful of folk beyond the borders of Northamptonshire have actually heard of, thanks to the gleefully omni-directional signing policy of That London’s Bad Elephant Music.

Beyond the surreal universe of Bad Elephant press releases and this reviewer’s fevered imaginings the cartoon world of Orange Clocks is certainly as real as reality can get that far east down the A45. The spirit of the Pothead Pixies lives on, not just in Gong, but also in this joyfully barking troupe, who belt out Hanna-Barbera spacerock that will have you recalling the madcap adventures of Scooby Doo when he was with The Clangers and sundry other over-coloured semi-remembered delights from your formative years.

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Tope and his mate Chode (yes, I see what they did there) charge through the galaxy on their surreal adventure, accompanied by monster wah-riffs and screaming synths in a manner that would make Daevid smile. The narrator of the story, a bug-eyed bean, possibly from Venus, gets animated as Tope and Chode ride the space fandango, and “…before Tope can do anything, a large space craft hovers overhead, and sucks Chode off…into the atmosphere”. Sophisticated this ain’t, but Uncle Frank would approve I’ve no doubt.

This is a space opera where the set wobbles almost as much as the script, and it is a laugh alright, and at only a tad over half an hour does not outstay its welcome. The two longest tracks on the album follow one another, and at a combined time of less than seven minutes Darkside and Magical Fields trip along nicely, the knowingly arch narration accompanied by lolloping rhythms and fine languid outer-space guitar. Elsewhere we have an ’80s free festival vibe, and anarcho punky hippies Here & Now are watching from the wings. Heck, there’s no point in getting over-analytical, it’s just a daft bit of fun and well worth your time in these grey and depressing days.

Meanwhile, back in the wunnerful whorl of FACTS…As well as having two bands now, Rushden has one other claim to fame. Passed down through the generations since WWII is a story of destruction and deprivation arising from the time in 1940 when Henry & Herbert Bates’ fish’n’chip shop was deliberately targeted by a German Dornier bomber and battered by several bombs to the ground, depriving the locals of their only food source beyond the occasional passing pigeon or rustled sheep. The Germans believed it was a front for the manufacture of Evil Sock Puppets that would be used to infiltrate the Third Reich and bring about its demise. Henry Bates wrote novels in his free time as “H. E.”, so there.

* Pronounced “Nen”. This is important.

01. Tope’s Sphere Intro (Original Recording) (0:35)
02. Just Kickin’ Back (2:01)
03. Fun In The Stars (1:01)
04. SOS (1:30)
05. Unknown Planet (0:55)
06. Ambush (1:53)
07. Sphere Malfunction (0:53)
08. Trouble With Chode (2:12)
09. Tope’s Hope (0:30)
10. Darkside (3:04)
11. Magical Fields (3:45)
12. Cogs, Brackets and Chains (0:43)
13. Big Track (2:50)
14. A Father’s Return (0:59)
15. Stromp’s Stomp (0:51)
16. Chode’s Down (0:44)
17. March of the Psilicybins (1:37)
18. Out of the Aether (1:06)
19. Utopean Dream (0:55)
20. Theme from Tope’s Sphere (2:28)

Total Time – 30:35

Burn – Drums & Percussion
Derek Cotter – Vocals & Bass Guitar
Tom Hunt – Vocals & Synthesizers
Ja Lee – Samples and Sounds
Dan Merrils – Guitar
Stuart Paterson – Guitar
Martin Winsley – Narration, Vocals & Percussion
~ Guest Star:
Ian ‘Trev’ Watson – Electro Horn

Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Catalogue#: BEM039
Date of Release: 3rd March 2017

Orange Clocks – Facebook | Bandcamp


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Felix Martin

Venezuelan 14- and 16-string guitarist Felix Martin has launched his new album ‘Mechanical Nations.’ In a new interview for Prog Sphere, he discussed about what it took to write this new record, inspiration, his instruments, and more.

Your new album, Mechanical Nations, is out next week. What is the connection between the album title and the cover art, which depicts the South American continent? You’re coming from a South American country, so is this sort of a tribute to Venezuela and other countries?

A bit of the art concept is that Mechanical Nations is an instrumental story that is meant to give a glimpse into life in South America and how we can contribute so much to the United States. This nation was already great because it allowed people like us to reach people through music like never before. As immigrants we feel that we contribute a lot to this great country, and that in our hearts we bring so much of South American culture to the table. We want to be seen as ambassadors to culture rather than outsiders.

Mechanical Nations

How did the creative process for Mechanical Nations go this time around, comparing with your previous two records?

I spent about two years writing this record. Just wanted to take the time to develop new sounds for guitar. I didn’t want to record any leads, power chords or solos, just really wanted to write something different. It was a challenge to write a guitar-based album without these elements. It was a fun creative process, and I hope to keep discovering new sounds for the future records.

The first two albums were released by Prosthetic Records, but for Mechanical Nations you are going fully on your own. Was it a conscious decision, and what were and are the biggest challenges you faced with the new release?

I still deal with Prosthetic on a few things. Nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference being indie or with a label, since almost all distribution is online. I would say the biggest challenge was to produce the whole record by myself – all the recording and writing took some time. I also wrote a lot of music, about 50 songs, and chose the ones that would make more sense for this album. Another challenge was to write an album without solos or traditional power chords, and still keep the “metal sound.” For instance, in the intro from the song “Flashback”, we tried to make it as heavy as we could but without using distortion, etc.

You’ll be touring the U.S. East Coast in March in support of Mechanical Nations. Are there any plans for Europe for later this year?

Yes, there are plans! We are looking to go there either summer or fall, if all goes well.

Felix Martin in studio (photo credits: Mary Escalona)

Felix Martin in studio (photo credits: Mary Escalona)

Speaking of playing live, what does your live rig include beside what’s obvious – your guitars?

As of right now, just an AXE-FX and then I go to the PA. I’m very low maintenance when it comes to gear. During the last US tour, I played clean 90% of the time, not even using an amp on the AXE-FX. Just some delay and reverb. In the studio, sometimes I use Dunlop and TC Electronic pedals to write music and record. It really depends on what I can bring on tour or to the studio. There’s a Head Rush pedalboard I’ll be trying out in a few months as well, it supposed to be a killer pedalboard!

The first thing that crosses people’s minds when it comes to Felix Martin is probably “oh, that’s the guy with a 14/16-string guitar.” What are you looking for when it comes to the technical side of this instrument? Is there space to make further improvements?

[Laughs] Yes! Yes a lot, my main setup right now is a 16-string (two regular 8-string guitars together), but there are a few details I need to improve on it as well. It’s just a like a regular guitar where you have acoustic, jazz hollowbody, strat, etc. It’s the same with mine. Personally, I just need a guitar just like the headless I have but with a thinner neck and I’ll probably try not having fanned frets on my next guitar. Nothing against fanned frets, just want to try different ideas. Each guitar inspires different music.

Do you think that these instruments have future? Would you invite other guitarists to “give a chance” to these guitars?

Yes. Playing two guitars simultaneously brings a new world of possibilities and sounds for the guitar. There are a few people already playing like this using similar guitars. I think the challenge is to make a guitar a little more affordable for people, as of right now, all of them are hand-made instruments which makes it a little expensive. I always get messages from people wanting to buy, but not all of them can afford a hand-made guitar.

If some kid was to start learning to play a guitar, would you recommend to pick up a 14-string guitar right from the beginning, or should he or she start in the “old-fashioned” way?

I would recommend him to start with a 14 right away. For me, playing fingerstyle/classical guitar was really difficult at the beginning, so much that I started playing tapping on the classical tunes instead. For me tapping was more natural. Then, I started playing two guitars at the same time when I was about 14 years old, to later be the 14-string. In conclusion, I grew up more with the mentality of playing two guitars as if it were one (similar to how a pianist might think).

What is it you are trying to achieve as a musician?

To give something different to the world of music and arts. I don’t care much about being famous or rich, I simply want to do something interesting and unique. The creative process of achieving that is what keeps me going.

‘Mechanical Nations’ is out now; get it from Bandcamp here. For tour dates and more info visit Felix Martin’s official website.

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SynaptiK band

Norwich-based Progressive Metal quintet SynaptiK is about to launch their sophomore studio album entitled ‘Justify & Reason,’ a fine piece of music that blends together old school and modern worlds of the mentioned genre. Drummer Pete Loades and singer John Knight spoke for Prog Sphere, and in the interview below you can read about what was it like working on the new record, the story, technology, and more.

Define the mission of SynaptiK.

To continue to write music that we love playing, listening to, creating and to push ourselves as individual musicians and as a band. We hope other people will get a chance to hear our music and enjoy it, on the album or at one of our live shows. Always nice to hear good feedback from people, getting credit for something that you put your heart in to is always a good feeling and knowing that you are passing it on to others makes it even better. 
We hope to see our music and fanbase grow globally. Spread the word and get those brains sparking everywhere.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new, upcoming album Justify & Reason and the themes it captures.

Pete: Musically it’s a blend of all our influences, those musicians that we inspire to be as separate musicians all comes together to create this album, it worked so well, I like to think it wrote itself, it just flowed out. But looking back, still a lot of hard work was put in to it. John worked really hard on the vocals, always changing them, getting the right melody and timing so that they do blend the way the song transforms. Each song has a different theme, musically and vocally than the next. Very in depth…

John: Yes, I feel the new album shows a greater maturity in writing, the songs just work so much better and have stronger melodies. Everything was allowed time to change naturally. We jammed through the ideas and let the songs evolve. I really wanted to take a different approach to the vocals on this album than I did on the last, I wrote most alone at home rather than at rehearsal, having the home studio really helped me write, and it shows, as I use lower parts of my vocal range on this album far more than before, a good mix, of course there are still some of my high scream vocals that I am kinda known for, but they seem more controlled and effective when used sparingly.

Justify & Reason

What is the message you are trying to give with Justify & Reason? What does the album title hide?

John: I write all the lyrics for the albums. The subject matter lyrically on Justify & Reason ventures into the dark, labyrinthine corridors of the human psyche to examine the relationship between inner emotions and society at large―universal themes that transcend cultural and national boundaries. Each song has a different feel, they are their own monster, the lyrics reflect these different moods, the effects of anti-psychotic medication, regret, emotional abuse / control & the human brain and the mysteries it holds (which one line of lyric from “The Incredible Machine” from the album title is taken from and what influenced my artwork for the cover).

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Pete: One of us brings a idea forward, like a riff, patterns or a beat, we play a lot around that, jamming getting ideas where we are going to go with it, we recorded every section we do on a recording desk and all instruments are tracked separately, to get the best sound quality and really helps that we can drop guitars, drums, bass out so we can listen to what each other is playing and lock on to the musical flow and sections of the song. Sometimes some stuff gets binned or sections moved in to other songs. We are always working on 3 or 4 songs at a time. Once we are happy with the arrangement, we listen to it over and over again, just have it on in the car, at home in the background so see where the vocal melody line flows naturally then the lyric element can be applied.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Pete: Oh God yeah, lots of time goes in to making everything blend, Jack is always messing around with so many guitar harmonies with Kev and Ian, drums tend to lock in on the main rhythm of what’s going on, with lots of accents to make it more musical. Of course having the progressive elements in Synaptik, it does get very intricate in some sections, but does not go against then grain of the song.

John: Yes, the musical sections, middle parts are where we have most fun, but we are conscious not to go too far, we have reeled ourselves back quite a bit at times for the sake of the ‘song’, for us it is about the ‘song’ first and foremost and not being afraid of melody, creating cool dynamics and moods. There are some technical parts, but they are controlled and there to benefit the song not just for self indulgent widdling. [laughs]

Photo by: Lee Harper Photography

Photo by: Lee Harper Photography

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Pete: A lot of it is done at the pre recording stage before we step in to the studio, stuff like drum click maps, guitar solo’s written and practiced to death and generally getting everything to it is played tight. So that when we do go in the studio we know exactly what we are doing, time is money in that situation. Always a learning curve for us, as the first album took months to record, going back and forth. But on justify and reason we new exactly what we wanted. It was just a matter of getting the right over all sound together, input from Meyrick (the sound engineer), was brilliant he was opening up some ideas that we had never thought of, always good to have a outside opinion. We recorded at Floodgate studio last year, basically lived in the studio for a week and got the whole album done. Then just worked on the mastering, we left that with Meyrick to do, a fresh perspective on the final master. You know you have done it right when you listen to it and sends shivers done your spine.

John: Yes I was so pleased with the final product, it was head and shoulders above our previous album (the since remixed debut) – Meyrick did a cracking job. Having the ability to record at home and the studio has really helped us being far more prepared for the studio.

How long Justify & Reason was in the making?

Writing the music, was probably just over 9 months (although we had lots of gigs and time off for holidays during that time so sounds longer than was). Recording it was just over a week and mastering it was about 3 week’s as we needed to tweak another version especially for the vinyl.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

John: Each band member has their own tastes and in that respect influences, we never set out to sound like anybody, the mix of styles and melodic vocals over some death metal style riffs really mixes it all up, some influences aren’t conscious, we really just let the songs evolve from various riffs.
 We do get compared a lot to bands such as Nevermore, Watchtower, Queensryche and we enjoy their music so I guess in some way its these bands, but as I said its difficult to put us in one particular area of metal. We enjoy Kate Bush, Celtic Frost, Porcupine Tree, Maiden, Judas Priest, Opeth, Death, as well as Rock, Jazz… It all goes into the melting pot.

What is your view on technology in music?

Pete: Oh it’s great. It’s made it so much easier than the old days, the quality of demos, writing recording, sending stuff via the web. The musical equipment and the sound you can get out of it these days is staggering, but it’s no substitute for practice, technique, to be inspired by your heroes and a good ear.

John Knight live

John Knight, Synaptik

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Pete: To bring world peace over the globe, now that would be awesome, but far too many idiots on this earth for that to happen. Maybe to those who hear listen our music, I would like to think they have taken on board the message that is in each song, appreciate it, and hope it makes them feel good. That’s the reason we listen to music right, and then in turn, maybe other people will hear it and feel the same. It’s all about getting you music heard these days, with out the gimmicks and image that people are targeted and conform to just to make a money… Just the way it is. If people like our music then that’s just fine with me.

John: A message beyond the music? Well, my lyrics can be deeply personal and writing them cathartic, so if someone reads them and are moved, or influenced to make a change for the positive then that’s cool, but its not essential, as long as they enjoy what they are hearing that’s enough for me. I’m not aiming to change the world with my music, but I do want to get people thinking, yes. I like reading bands lyrics, stories, outlooks on life, I find it interesting, but I understand that not everyone does and they just like the melodies and how the music makes them feel. Music can have a massive effect on the listeners mood, music is very powerful, I can’t live without it.

What are your plans for the future?

John: To push this album hard, to get the name Synaptik on everybody’s lips, the music in their ears burning its melodies and hooks into their incredible brains, to get the brains sparking around the world. This album has more hooks than Hellraiser. [laughs]

Pete: Got a tour coming up in May this year, going up and down the UK, also got some shows later in the year in Europe to promote the new album. Gently just keep doing what love doing, playing our music. We need festivals and promoters in Europe to contact and get us on their bill. We always bring it big time live.

SynaptiK’s new album ‘Justify & Reason’ is out on March 10th; pre-order it here. Follow SynaptiK on Facebook.

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Progressive Tracks #199 - 2

The Progressive Tracks Show #199 (Prog-Child Development), originally broadcast on Friday February 24, 2017, is now available to download or listen to any time you desire.


  • Herman’s Hermits – “Listen People (2002 Remastered Version)” from The Very Best of Herman’s Hermits on Parlophone UK

  • Jerry Samuels & Napoleon XIV – “They’re Coming To Take Me Away (Ha Haaa!)” from Single on Novello & Co. Ltd.

  • Tommy Roe – “Sweet Pea” from Greatest Hits – The Original ABC Hit Recordings on Geffen

  • George Harrison – “What Is Life” composed by George Harrison from All Things Must Pass (30th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] on Apple

  • Three Dog Night – “Liar (Single Version)” from 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Three Dog Night on Geffen

  • Iron Butterfly – “Unconscious Power” from Heavy on Atco

  • Status Quo – “Pictures of Matchstick Men” from Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo on Sanctuary

  • War – “The Cisco Kid” from The World Is a Ghetto (40th Anniversary Expanded Edition) on Universal Music Enterprises

  • Grand Funk – “Mean Mistreater” from Live Album (2002 Remaster) on Capitol

  • Deep Purple – “Rat Bat Blue” from Who Do You Think We Are on Rhino

  • David Essex – “Rock on” composed by David Essex from Rock On on Columbia

  • The Undisputed Truth – “Smiling Faces Sometimes” from Smiling Faces Sometimes on Motown Records

  • Jethro Tull – “Aqualung (New Stereo Mix)” composed by Ian Anderson from Aqualung (40th Anniversary Special Edition) on Parlophone UK

  • Bloodrock – “D.O.A.” from Bloodrock 2 on Capitol

  • Sugarloaf  – “Green Eyed Lady” from Sugarloaf on Capitol

  • Firefall – “Strange Way” from Elan on Atlantic

  • Bad Company – “Crazy Circles” from Desolation Angels on Swan Song

  • Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. The Jets” from School’s Out on Warner Bros.

  • Alice Cooper – “Street Fight” from School’s Out on Warner Bros.


Mike “ProgTracks” Pollack

This news story was originally published here:

The Louisiana, Bristol
19th October 2016

From Reading, Tail Feather are a progressive psychedelic rock band with harmony vocals. They are rather good.

The ticket for this show at the Louisiana came bundled with a download of their Mother Nature EP, so let’s have a listen to that first…

Four tracks make up this EP. Alright, alright has a sound straight from San Francisco, psychedelic and yet rooted in the traditions of the late sixties. The vocals are not dissimilar to Jim Morrison and there’s great musicianship throughout from bass to distorted guitars. CarNation is Doors-like, but with a harder contemporary edge. The harmonies are nice and more of a hook than on the first track. It’s like a song out of time, but more towards indie rock than progressive. The centrepiece is Mother Nature, a strong song that holds close to their psychedelic blues style. They open with this in their live performance. Finally, Rain Dance closes the EP, a great little tune that benefits from listening to it loud.

Now to the live show, and as Tail Feather start their short set, the immediate response is how much more they are live than on their EP; twin guitars vie for space with a well-balanced bass sound, tight drumming, slick keyboards, and accompanying bongos. They are tight, there is an obvious onstage camaraderie and Mother Nature clocks in slightly longer than on the EP. If they suffer from anything at all, it is the low-ceilinged nature of the upstairs room of the Louisiana, which seems to lessen the dynamic of their sound.

Tail Feather 1

The conga drums and sax, played by Andy, enhance the Tail Feather sound, lifting it above the everyman prog that many British groups seem to favour. Spellbinder and CarNation shows the growing confidence in front of the small audience; a little early Floyd in the guitars, a touch of Hendrix and others that the 10-year-old me wasn’t as aware of as I am now. With so much rock history it is difficult for a band to find its own identity, but Tail Feather are getting there.

Three more tracks and feet have been found, the sax and keyboards demonstrating the depth and warmth they add to the music of this band. The guitars and drums are really good, but in terms of creating that sought after identity, these elements may be the place to move forward. I like what I hear and the toes do tap. There is even a hint of sway as their sound fills the upstairs room. Their strength is in the musicianship, close harmonies working well giving a slight Californian vibe, and even within the confines of the Louisiana their sound is warm, and involving.

Space Travel is excellent, and I find myself wishing that it was on the EP. I find this by far to be the strongest piece from the whole set. I have enjoyed it all, but this does stand out. Simon informs me in an after set chat that it has been a single for them. The short but enjoyable set closes with Rain Dance.

Tail Feather 2

Tail Feather have something here, technically very good, but sometimes lacking that ‘extra’ that puts them above the others out there. They currently self-produce and do a very good job, but I would suggest that in the search for that distinct TF sound they work with a producer for a while, someone who will hear things that they do not. If it is within the realms of possibility, then they should retain their sax and conga player. He gives them a little of that edge they need to find.

Do I recommend that you look out for them, book them, or just give them a good listen? Wholeheartedly yes. Would I like to hear more as they develop? Yes. Give them a go, I think there is more to come.

Mother Nature
Red Apple
Alright, alright
Space Travel
Rain Dance

Tail Feather are:
Alex, Ben, Hugh, Paul, Simon
~ With:
Andy – Congas & Saxophone

Tail Feather – Website | Facebook | Soundcloud | Bookings


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Signals of Bedlam

In the footsteps of No Gods, No Monsters, NYC-based Signals of Bedlam had some very big shoes to fill for their next album, and expectations were very high. The band’s sophomore full-length effort is an album that is very different from the first one, and yet another great work. There’s a really spaced out feeling for most of the album, but the actual music itself far overshadows any of the atmospheric stuff.

There is not a single weak track on here out of twelve, which on average clock around four-minute mark. One of the first things that hits you about this record, is the power of the drums. In Rich Abidor they possess one of the most intensive and creative players on the current scene, and his rumbling beats are very impressive.

After a soft intro “Intercept,” which gives the album sort of a post-rock-ish tone, “The Thread” powers up all cylinders with powerful groovy rhythm section (Chika Obiora is on bass), very catchy riff-work, courtesy of Tom Hoy, and haunting voice of Cero Cartera, who also handles guitar duties. Laden with often rhythmic changes and a chorus that seems to decay as soon as it begins, the contorting and yet lulling song is a high point of the record. Of course, the track would not be complete without some atmospheric sounds at the end, which usher the listener into the fantastic “Mass Appeal.”

With a rocking rhythm that’s not too far from the Mars Volta, the wah-wah guitar in “Mass Appeal” is a highlight here, along with Cartera’s singing which shapes up to be a trademark of the record, and Signals of Bedlam as well. The band goes on with some real Prog Rock on this one, which will surely be praised by everyone who still thinks that Genesis is the best thing that happened to the genre.

Escaping Velocity

Fourth on the record is the less-exciting “Rule 41,” the longest track on the Escaping Velocity, which is arguably the most “down-to-the-ground” piece on the record. “Piece of Us” is an atmospheric, vocal-only chant which just confirms that Cartera can do all kind of things with his voice. It also serves as an introduction to “Signals,” a song that lulls you in before a series of riffs take control for the chorus.

“The Void” is some sort of a mixture made from punk and mathcore, and it is a needed piece, positioned right where it belongs. The band’s punk-y streak continues with “Kingslayer,” while “Cause_Ø” is yet another effort where the quartet goes for more experimental sound, employing a bit of Psychedelic Rock. After a short instrumental break “Anomie Duet,” “The Fix” is yet another centrepiece of Escaping Velocity. A real hodgepodge of all kind of crazy things is going on here — this song is possibly a piece that in the best possible way depicts what this album is about. Escaping Velocity closes with “Without Your War,” a somewhat lazy, laid-back tune which is all the time on the verge to explode into something bigger.

In conclusion, this is what happens when a group of people decide to do whatever they damn well please. Signals of Bedlam created something different for a change. I honestly believe this album has that much “classic” potential, and hopefully some good big people will notice it. It’s going to be a big burden for the band to come up with something “new” after this, but if judging by Escaping Velocity, Signals of Bedlam have the knowledge and skills to come up with something far greater. Bring it on, boys!

Get a copy of ‘Escaping Velocity’ from Bandcamp. Follow Signals of Bedlam on Facebook.

Edition 44 of THE PROG MILL, first broadcast on Progzilla Radio on Sunday 26th February, is now available to stream any time or download.

Two hours of superb progressive rock, old and new including Steve Hackett, IO Earth, Kyros, Wonderland, Hellhaven, Stewart Bell, The Mighty Handful, The Tangent, John Wetton, The Light Afternoon, The Opposite of Hate, Tangerine Circus, Genesis and Yes.

Your proggy music suggestions and also music from bands/artists for airplay very welcome.  email or PM via twitter @shaunontheair of


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If there was any justice – and music taste – in the world, Fairport Convention would be treated in the U.K. with the same reverence as, say, The Band in the U.S. After all, they have been with us for 50 years, and have helped keep British ‘roots’ music alive and rocking for 48 of them. They have also seen pass through their ranks some of the most iconic British musicians of the last half-century – the guitar wizard Richard Thompson, the tragic and brilliant singer/songwriter Sandy Danny and the impish demon fiddler Dave Swarbrick among them.

The current line-up may all be heading rapidly towards their 70s but they still exhibit musicianship of the highest order. Dave Pegg’s bass playing is still fluid and inventive, Ric Sanders has total mastery of fiddle and bow and Chris Leslie seems able to play every instrument known to Humankind. And Simon Nicol is still there, the only founding member from 1967. Yet, as I know from experience, Fairport are virtually unknown to the majority of people with ears. But everyone has heard of One Direction. Go figure.

Of course, Fairport are a long way from their glory days and the albums that I think every Prog fan would acknowledge as essential folk-rock classics – Unhalfbricking, Liege And Lief and Full House. They were created during one of the most fertile and exciting periods of British music by youngsters barely out of their teens and filled with ambition, energy and arrogance.

One cannot expect the same cutting-edge approach 25 albums later so the latest release, celebrating their 50th anniversary, is not a patch on the early, groundbreaking work. Fairport are a gentler, more sedate band now, their repertoire filled with pretty but sometimes forgettable ballads.

With 50:50@50 what we get is, as the title suggests, a game of two halves – 50% studio and 50% live. The studio tracks are mostly Chris Leslie compositions – he has a good ear for melody, some interesting lyrics and a nice voice but his songs struggle to escape a general sense of pleasant blandness. Only with Devil’s Work, an amusing and spirited warning about the perils of DIY, does he create something that sticks in the musical memory long after the others have faded.

Among the live tracks, Ye Mariners All and Lord Marlborough have become too polite and Jesus On The Mainline is lacklustre and cheesy, despite featuring Robert Plant on vocals, but The Naked Highwayman is great fun and John Condon, about the youngest Allied soldier killed in the First World War, is a moving ballad sung with real feeling by Simon Nicol.

For me, though, Fairport’s most interesting work is being provided by violinist Ric Sanders. His instrumentals range from the languid, jazzy Portmeirion to the sprightly Danny Jack’s Reward – tunes that frequently stretch the band’s musicianship further than anything since those rocked-up jigs and reels of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Ric is the one who is still creating challenging, interesting music for his colleagues to get their teeth into.

But us Fairport fans don’t really follow them for the occasional studio albums that we probably buy out of a sense of loyalty, play once and then tuck away in the CD collection, never to be heard again. It’s the joy of seeing them live on their winter tours or at the annual Cropredy Festival, the warm glow of nostalgia, the feeling of being with a bunch of people you have virtually grown up with.

And it’s the bitter-sweet poignancy of Meet On The Ledge, Richard Thompson’s stately anthem that some interpret as a reference to the afterlife – “When my time is up I’m gonna meet all of my friends”. As we all join in the chorus we think not only of those band members who have gone to the great gig in the sky – Sandy and Swarb, Martin Lamble, Trevor Lucas, Bruce Rowland – but also our own dear departed family and friends, and our own mortality.

Blimey, this has got depressing, hasn’t it? And it shouldn’t be, because Fairport have given me a lot of joy over the years. So all together now: “Away with the buff and the blue, and away with the cap and the feather! I want to see my lass who lives in Hexhamshire!”

I feel better now.

01. Eleanor’s Dream (3:12)
02. Ye Mariners All [live] (4:37)
03. Step By Step (4:36)
04. The Naked Highwayman [live] (4:46)
05. Danny Jack’s Reward (expensive version!) (4:36)
06. Jesus On The Mainline [live] (3:43)
07. Devil’s Work (3:33)
08. Mercy Bay [live] (7:02)
09. Our Bus Rolls On (4:53)
10. Portmeirion [live] (5:38)
11. The Lady Of Carlisle (4:55)
12. Lord Marlborough [live] (3:25)
13. Summer By The Cherwell (3:16)
14. John Condon [live] (6:05)

Total Time – 64:19

Simon Nicol – Vocals & Guitars
Dave Pegg – Bass, Mandolin & Backing Vocals
Ric Sanders – Violins & Keyboards
Chris Leslie – Vocals, Mandolin, Bouzouki, Banjo, Ukelele, Whistle, Harmonica
Gerry Conway – Drums
..and loads of guest musicians playing fiddles, flutes, clarinets, trumpets and saxes on Danny Jack’s Reward

Record Label: Matty Grooves
Catalogue#: MGCD054
Year of Release: 2017

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