All posts for the month November, 2020




Dead Bob’s Boxset of the Week: 13 Winters by Frost*

Hyperventilate from Milliontown

Experiments in Mass Appeal from EIMA

Towerblock from Falling Satellites 

First Day (instrumental)

Numbers (instrumental)

Closer to the Sun (live) from Falling Satellive

Fathers from the Others EP

Black Light Machine (live) from The Philadelphia Experiment

The Dividing Line from ‘This and That: B-Sides and Rarities’


Dead Bob’s Record of the Week: Breaking Point by Jump 

Breaking Point. It’s EPONYMOUSE, Dead Bob. 

This news story was originally published here:

Some stories are important to be told; some hideaway, some never see the light of day and history is written by the victors. We miss albums that both delight and provide interesting revelations. Black Swallow is one, telling the tale of First World War hero Eugene Jacques Bullard, born in 1895 in Georgia, USA; a runaway at 12, firstly living in Scotland, before moving to France where, when the First World War started, he signed up for the French Foreign Legion. Injured in combat he left the infantry and joined the fledgling French Air Force, where he became a distinguished flying ace. He married a French woman, had two daughters and, when the Great War was over, he opened a nightclub, Le Grand Duc in Paris, where he played the drums in the club jazz band. After the Second World War he moved back to the United States, eventually ending up as a lift attendant in New York. What’s remarkable about this is he’s black and his story remains relatively untold, save in the book The Black Swallow of Death (based on his nickname, ‘L’Hirondelle Noire De La Mort’).

Eugene Bullard

Eugene Bullard

There is more to it than the synopsis above, more in the sleeve notes, and I’m sure much more if you wish to research. I like this album very much, it does has that frequent thing where multiple artists perform with just a little excess fat to allow each their showpiece. A solo too long, with perhaps too much technical style, when less would have been more. But it’s good. I queried the metal use when representing Black Civil Rights, but then why not? The anger is justified. There is a line used in reference to the war, about whoever the casualty was, the blood was always red. Put simply, but forever a truism, the words that decorated his fighter plane – ‘All Blood is Red’.

Georgia reflects the roots of our protagonist and you do wonder where the journey will go. Our start point is where Eugene witnesses the attempted lynching of his father by the Ku Klux Klan. How anyone dressed in bed linen can claim superiority is beyond me. Eugene runs away, to sea, to Scotland in search of a better life, as a jockey, a minstrel and a prize fighting boxer.

It’s a nice bluesy intro, guitar and harmonica, turning metal progressive with our first sign of the large number of contributors. I’m not quite sure of the shredding necessity, but all in all, it’s a dramatic start, balanced by some very nice organ and keyboard playing. Ooh, I likes a nice bit of blues, preceding the vocals at around the 8-minute mark, it really didn’t feel that long, and I think I detect the dulcet tones of the McBroom girls, Durga and Lorelei; it’s a great start.

A brief narration and then Chased, Pt 1 with an orchestral intro, film-like with a sense of pace that gives the aura of a chase. Then the next narrative from France and the beginning of War. They have been very clever in the construction of the music, infantry creating again a good sense of place, with some great drumming. You do get a feel for the field of combat. The Wakeman flourishes on keyboard are here too, but it’s Oliver, not Rick, though I believe Dad would be proud. The tracks are a combination of instrumental and vocal, though some just have exceptionally long introductions.

Take to the Sky soars, quite bombastic, with lots of soloing and a cast of thousands, and I suppose that more is good. Presence is inevitable, there are some great passages, and unlike, say, Ayreon, my ears have not required a time out.

Marcelle is a gentle piece, piano with a jazz tinge, symbolic of his love for Eugene’s aristocratic French wife, and the jazz club he opened in Paris, his two daughters and a generally settled period of his life. Le Grand Duc is very American jazz, this is an album of the unexpected, and I find it, overall, entertaining. Much of this piece centres around the drumming, and an excellent interpretation of the style it is too.

But in Eugene’s rich life, nothing lasts. World War Two arrives, and nightclub owner M. Eugene Bullard becomes a spy, gathering information for the Resistance from the Nazi officers frequenting his club. Given their dislike of “inferior” races, I was surprised that he remained in Paris. Spy is more instrumental with nice solos from a varying, more rock variety of instruments, becoming more rock as it concludes.

All Blood Runs Red represents that second conflict, a darker piece of music, posing the question, ‘Why does it have to be this way?’ A question I frequently ask. This track has Cookie Monster vocals, followed by choral singing, more guitar solos, and shredding. Contextually, I’m not sure about it, but it seems to reflect the anger.

Chased, Part II gives you a sense of the anger in the civil rights movement of the late ’40s and ’50s, back in New York City where Eugene works as a lift attendant. This strikes as a poor end for such a rich human being, where in his homeland he cannot receive the respect he deserved. Honor closes with his burial in 1961, after succumbing to stomach cancer. He was buried with full French military honours, at Flushing, Queens, New York.

I’m surprised his tale is so little known, although an attempt was made to film his story in 2014, but I cannot recall a finished film appearing. Perhaps this album goes a small way to addressing that omission, and it is a worthy listen. All profits from its purchase go to charity.

01. Georgia (12:27)
02. Scene 1 (1:32)*
03. Chased, Pt. 1 (2:53)
04. Scene 2 (0:59)*
05. Infantry (9:24)
06. Scene 3 (0:35)*
07. Take to the Sky (10:14)
08. Scene 4 (0:43)*
09. Marcelle (3:13)
10. Scene 5 (0:36)*
11. Le Grand Duc (4:12)
12. Scene 6 (0:52)*
13. Spy (6:14)
14. Scene 7 (1:01)*
15. All Blood Runs Red (7:39)
16. Scene 8 (0:51)*
17. Chased, Pt. 2 (3:03)
18. Scene 9 (0:48)*
19. Honor (3:43)

[* spoken word narrative scenes]

Total Time – 70:59

Robert McClung – Guitar, Bass, Violin, Viola, Mandolin, Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Flute, Percussion, Vocals
Narrative & Vocals:
Bryan Hicks – William Bullard
Pete Peterson – Eugene Bullard
Champ Hollins – Young Eugene
Rev. Robert Thompson – Eulogy Preacher, Church Goer
Nadine Thompson – Church Goer
Emmanuel De Saint Méen – Nightclub MC
Jordan Hall – Attacker 1
Tim Clarck – Attacker 2
Durga McBroom – Marie-Madeleine Fourcade
Lorelei McBroom – Gospel Vocals
Lara Smiles – Gospel Vocals
Emily Lynn – Gospel Vocals
Stephanie Slabon – Soprano Vocals
Dustin Brayley – Tenor, Baritone & Bass Vocals, Radio Newscaster
Martyna Halas-Yates – Hardcore Vocals
Chris Bonito – Drums
Todd Sucherman – Drums
Tony Levin – Upright Bass
Michael Manring – Fretless Bass
Steve Di Giorgio – Fretless Bass
Tony Dickinson – Bass
Mike LePond – Bass
Pete Trewavas – Bass
Dave Meros – Bass
Caith Threefires – Bass
Charles Cormier – Slide Guitar
Vernon Reid – Guitar
Phil Keaggy – Guitar
Gary Wehrkamp – Guitar
Timo Somers – Guitar
Stephan Lill – Guitar
Andy LaRocque – Guitar
Jimi Bell – Guitar
Jeff Rapsis – Piano
Rachel Flowers – Piano
Jeremy Heussi – Keyboards, Organ
Vikram Shankar – Keyboards
Basil Bunelik – Accordion
Troy Donockley – Uilleann Pipes
Magic Dick – Harmonica
Tina Guo – Cello
Adam Nunes – Cello
Tim Nunes – Violin
David Ragsdale – Violin
Mattan Klein – Flute
John Cardin – Trumpet
Mitchel Bailey – Trombone
Gus Sebring – French Horn
Tracy Crane – French Horn
Chip Brindamour – Tuba
Edie Brindamour – Euphonium
Katrina Veno – Clarinet
Thomas Gimbel – Tenor Saxophone
Nils Crusberg – Tenor & Alto Saxophones
Bryan Campbell – Baritone Saxophone

Record Label: Independent
Catalogue#: CD20
Date of Release: 29th July 2020 (Digital) | 31st August 2020 (CD)

Telergy – Website | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter

Edition 237 of THE PROG MILL from Progzilla Radio (457 in the life of the show), first broadcast 29 November 2020, is now also available to listen to anytime you like or download as a mp3. Another two hours of superb melodic and symphonic progressive rock, including two reviews from The Progressive Aspect, as Bob Mulvey reviews the new Kimmo Porsti album Wayfarer, and Leo Trimming takes a listen to the superb Life of the Honeybee album from Abel Ganz. And another Prog Mill CD Giveaway with a chance to win the forthcoming new Naryan album The Withering.

Here’s This Week’s Playlist

1 Marathon – Puppets (Mark Kelly’s Marathon)
2 Millenium – Envy (The Sin)
3 Kaprekar’s Constant – The Night Watchman (Depth of Field)
4 Naryan – Now You’re Gone/IV (The Withering)
5 Kimmo Porsti – Heaven’s Gate (Wayfarer)
6 Julius Project – Clouds Pts 1 and 2 (Cut The Tongue)
7 Mainhorse – Pale Sky (Mainhorse)
8 Sylvan – The Colours Changed (Posthumous Silence)
9 Abel Ganz – Sepia and White (The Life of the Honeybee and Other Moments of Clarity)
10 Windchase – Glad to be Alive (Symphinity)
11 Earth and Fire – Storm and Thunder (Song of the Marching Children)
12 Naryan – Hear Me Now (The Withering)

You can hear The Prog Mill on Progzilla Radio at these times every week ( – via the tune in and other internet radio apps and platforms – or ask your smart speaker to “Play Radio Progzilla on Tune-In”) :

Sundays 10pm – Midnight UK (2200UTC) – main broadcast
Tuesdays 0300-0500 UK (0300UTC) – For North America – Mon 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern
Tuesdays 2300-0100UK (2300 UTC) – 1500 Pacific/1800 Eastern
Saturdays 6-8pm UK (1800 UTC) – Family friendly Saturday evening repeat

Plus: A podcast of the show which you can stream anytime or download as a mp3 file is normally online by Monday evening each week, with links here and at

Your melodic and symphonic progressive rock music suggestions for the show are very welcome. Just email, or message via twitter @shaunontheair or

The Progressive Rock show track listing for Sunday 29th November 2020

A Jazz Fusion Special with my guest John Simms

Artist Title Year Time
Colosseum 2 Put It This Way 1977 5:01
Brand X Nuclear Burn (live) 2017 8:15
Bill Bruford Hell’s Bells 1979 3:29
Weather Report Lusitanus 1975 7:18
Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil 1966 8:23
Pat Metheny Spirit Of The Air 2010 7:44
Pasajero Luminoso Afuerino 2015 6:18
Dinosaur To The Earth 2020 7:25
Djabe Far Away 2020 7:25
The Mahavishnu Orchestra The Dance Of Maya 1971 7:13
Tigran Hamasyan Ara Resurrected 2020 8:15
House Of Waters La Semana 2017 6:22
Mobius Strip Déjà vu 2017 8:28

If you would like to contact Graham, please email

This news story was originally published here:

Coming from New Zealand to the UK, one thing I quickly became used to was being asked by the person who’d just discovered I was a Kiwi that they had heard New Zealand was like this country was fifty years ago, and was that true? Listening to the debut release from NZ band Grumblewood on UK label Gravity Dream, this was the first thought that came to me, because this is a sound straight from the 1970s. Not just in the music played, but the production too. This could almost be a lost Jethro Tull album, apart from Gav Bromfield being a far better singer than Ian Anderson. But with their use of vintage analogue equipment and production, and the frontman playing a mean flute too, Tull is the obvious comparison to make.

Where Grumblewood really trump Tull, though, is on the bass. Morgan Jones (who also plays bouzouki and harpsichord) plays a bloody mean bass. His nimble and nifty playing is almost constantly what I find myself listening to over any other instrument. It’s one of the few vibes I get that this isn’t a total ‘70s throwback. The funky grooves Jones lays down remind me of some of the more recent sounds to have come out of Wellington, and that have often come together in the Fly My Pretties collective. Bands like The Black Seeds, Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Phoenix Foundation. Coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, Bromfield’s vocals often remind me of Chris Cornell and Blaze Bailey.

My Fair Lady provides a wonderfully atmospheric opening number, with the sounds of waves, gulls and thunder, overlaid by some bluesy guitar. Up until almost the second it’s almost sounding more like The Doors, until the folk comes jigging in. The juggling of the blues and folk passages is incredibly well done, and My Fair Lady makes full use of its seven-and-a-half minutes to show off the various facets that make up the sound of Grumblewood on this album. And yet, it’s possibly the least impressive song on the album – although I love the sea shanty passage that comes near the end. Picturesque Postcard has the most beautiful and delicate introduction, and remains a very pretty song, apart from the bridge where it completely rocks out. And wow, does that make an impact. There are similar moments throughout the album. For example, Castaway is nowhere near my favourite song, but has two of my favourite passages on the album. It’s that kind of album, where no matter how you think you might feel about any one song, there is always a part that impresses and delights.

After the groovy and funky Fives and Nines (check out that bass again!), one of the absolute highlights of the album for me is The Sheriff Rides Again. As well as being a favourite, it also has some of the most evident moments of the comparisons I made earlier. It initially makes me think of Ian Anderson playing over 2112-era Rush (so, yeah, we’re still fifty years in the past). There’s some lovely crisp drumming from Phil Aldridge, and Jones’ bass is laying down the groove. The mood changes to one that reminds me of another ‘70s band, but this time it’s one of closer geographic origin – New Zealand’s own Dragon. At least, for that brief two album period on Vertigo when they played prog, before disappearing across the ditch to play pop (and had far greater success for doing so). Oh, and with an Audioslave-era Chris Cornell singing.

I can only imagine how entertaining Grumblewood must be to see play live. With mandolin and banjo played beautifully by Salvatore Richichi, along with the more usual guitar, there’s a whole load of folk feel that could so easily sound contrived, but it never does. I find myself constantly imagining how the band might perform the songs. And in a way, Stories of Strangers feels almost live anyway. In these days of Pro-tools and perfect production, the ‘70s effect of having been recorded analogue directly to tape gives the whole album a warm and natural fuzziness. Ok, maybe I exaggerate with the fuzziness – but the sound is noticeably different from the majority of what you hear these days, and it’s just really neat.

Although there’s not a single song I don’t like, it does strike me that my favourites tend to occur on the second half. There’s the aforementioned The Sheriff Rides Again, of course. But there’s also the magnificent The Minstrel, which at eight minutes is the longest track here. Like much of the album, there’s a real jazzy feel to much of the groove of The Minstrel. But just as the similarly lengthy opening number manages to seamlessly traverse rock and folk passages, The Minstrel manages to pack a few changes of its own. The final minutes are some of the heaviest of the album, sounding closer to rhythm and blues than folk, before pulling back to a beautiful and quiet finish. The title track is another favourite of mine, and provides a perfect closing number to a surpassingly eclectic, yet cohesive, album. If Blaze Bailey-era Iron Maiden were a folk band, this is what they’d sound like. Honestly, this feels to me The X Factor: Unplugged. There’s the galloping Maiden riffs and rhythms, and the vocals are uncannily close to Bailey at times.

Altogether this is a fantastic album. I’m generally not a fan of bands who play a retro style of music, but Grumblewood do it with such panache and style, and dedication to authenticity, that it’s hard not to get swept up into their obvious enjoyment in playing. It helps, I think, that folk is somewhat timeless, so it doesn’t sound so try-hard as the many bands who seem to be attempting to replicate the ‘70s prog stylings of bands such as Yes and Genesis. Or maybe it’s because I’m a Kiwi, and bush bands (as folk bands were often known back home) were common entertainment. Coming from Dunedin, I’ll always remember The Pioneer Pog’n’Scroggin Bush Band (often known simply as “The Pogs”), who I suspect still retain the title for NZ’s longest running folk band. I wish Grumblewood every success in taking that record from them.

01. My Fair Lady (7:30)
02. Picturesque Postcard (4:42)
03. Castaways (5:18)
04. Fives & Nines (4:35)
05. The Sheriff Rides (6:02)
06. Ex Memoriam (3:08)
07. The Minstrel (8:00)
08. Stories of Strangers (5:27)

Total Time – 44:42

Gav Bromfield – Lead Vocals, Flute, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
Salvatore Richichi – Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Backing Vocals
Morgan Jones – Bass, Harpsichord, Backing Vocals
Phil Aldridge – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
~ with:
Naomi Middleton – Additional Vocals
Kirsty Campbell – Additional Vocals

Record Label: Gravity Dream
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Date of Release: 6th November 2020

Grumblewood – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube

This news story was originally published here:

Out on November 27.

Newly remastered from the original master tapes, including two rare US single edits previously unreleased on CD and restored original album artwork in a digipak. Booklet with an exclusive interview with Jon.


1. For You, For Me
2. Some Are Born
3. Don’t Forget (Nostalgia)
4. Heart Of The Matter
5. Hear it
6. Everybody Loves You
7. Take Your Time
8. Days
9. Song Of Seven
10. Some Are Born (US single promo edited version)
11. Heart Of The Matter (short version)


Jon Anderson: Song Of Seven, Remastered & Expanded EditionJon Anderson

This news story was originally published here:

Mark Kelly, keyboardist with Marillion, is releasing his first – and long-awaited – solo project Mark Kelly’s Marathon with his new band, Marathon, at the end of November. He recently spoke with TPA’s Leo Trimming about the development of the album and some of the ideas behind the songs. Amongst other issues he also discusses how he formed a new band to record the album, how he ‘discovered’ Peter Gabriel (!!?), and gives an update on progress for the new Marillion album…

Hi Mark. Thanks for your time. If you don’t mind me asking, how have you been coping with COVID and Lockdowns?

Fine really. It hasn’t affected me too badly. In some ways it’s given me an opportunity to make this album. It has put the Marillion album back a bit as we didn’t get much done between March and the end of Summer, but everybody’s fine. Fortunately we didn’t have any touring planned this year.

Mark Kelly's MarathonCan you tell me about your new album, Mark Kelly’s Marathon?

I’ve seen some reviews and wish I’d never mentioned I started work on it 30 years ago – I didn’t really!

… OK… well, that’s one question I’m now going to have to cut out – ‘Why did it take so long?’

[Laughter] To be fair, that’s a valid question. I did start working on stuff about 25 years ago, but nothing from that time survives until now. There is a bit of a funny story about that actually. I had done a few bits way back then and put together this rough cassette. It was terrible really – I listened to it recently. I can’t remember how now but I met up with Steven Wilson, who was just getting started with Porcupine Tree at the time. He came to our studio and I gave him this tape and said ‘If you fancy doing something together here’s some music I’m working on…’ and I never heard from him about that so I assumed he didn’t really like it.

Didn’t he work on Marillion.Com?

He mixed some songs on that album, but this was before that. It was around the time of Brave or even earlier. Anyway, more recently when I was finishing this album I sent him a message asking him if he fancied mixing it? He came back and asked ‘Is it that album you started working on 30 years ago?!’


‘No, it bloody isn’t!’, I replied. [More laughter] He said he was a bit too busy right now.

Mr. Wilson certainly is in high demand these days.

So I got Andy Bradfield to mix it. He’s been working with us a lot on the Marillion re-issues – he’s a really good engineer.

Andy’s done some great work on those re-issues.

So this was just me trying to write an album on my own. I think it’s a real challenge to do an instrumental album. I really admire people who can pull that off, people like Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells and Camel with Snow Goose and some Vangelis stuff. It’s really hard to do a wholly instrumental album and keep people’s attention with good music. It’s easy enough with ‘spacey’ drones and stuff. So I got started a number of times over the years and kept thinking ‘This isn’t really happening’ so it got put on the back burner, especially with all my Marillion stuff and a young family and everything going on. However, I have to blame this friend of mine, Guy Vickers, who suggested a few years ago I should write a solo album and he could write some lyrics.

I was going to ask you about Guy as he’s come up with fascinating themes for songs.

He’s actually a barrister who is a Marillion fan. I found out he was barrister and asked him to look at some contracts as we were having a dispute with our label at the time. He acted for us for about 2 or 3 years so we got to know each other really well. We talked about music and found we had a lot in common musically and became friends.

You may be one of the first rock musicians ever to have your barrister as your lyricist!

Yeah. When he suggested he could write some lyrics I have to say I was a bit sceptical but when he showed me his lyrics I thought they were really good. I sent him some music, but we had a bit of a false start back in about 2016. But he kept hassling me saying; ‘Come on, come on, let’s do this album!’ So I said, ‘There’s this whole bunch of Marillion jams with stuff I’ve come up with that were never used, and probably never will – why don’t I send you a few of those ideas and see what you can do with those?’… and that’s what became the track Amelia really.

I really like that track.

I sent Guy three or four keyboard-led clips from Marillion jams and he wrote the lyrics to Amelia. I thought they sounded interesting. He actually sang his words on it as well, but his singing’s SO bad!

Am I allowed to quote that?

Conal Kelly[Laughter] His singing is terrible… but I could see what he was getting at. I thought ‘OK, you need to find a singer’. I started looking – could I find anybody? Not a chance. It took about a year and I got my nephew Conal involved.

He’s playing bass on this album?

Yeah, he’s actually a bit of a multi-instrumentalist. He’s used to working at home on his own, doing everything himself musically, including singing. I’d send him a keyboard idea and he’d send it back with a ‘band’ playing that he’d put together. That was really useful for the arranging side of things, but we still needed a singer. I started looking on Spotify out of desperation more than anything really. I was trawling through unknown bands and then using the Spotify ‘band also like’ option which led to the next thing and so on. Then I came across this band called Big Blue Ball, and I thought it sounded interesting. I was thinking ‘This guy can really sing, he’s got a great voice.’ It had about 2 or 3,000 streams, which is nothing, so I thought they must be unknown. It sounded a hell of a lot like Peter Gabriel… and then I realised it actually was Peter Gabriel!

Oh, it was the Big Blue Ball project he did a while ago! It’s a good album he did with a few other artists.

Oh, you know that album. I’m trying to remember the song I heard now.

Gabriel actually did a song called Big Blue Ball with Karl Wallinger of World Party on that album. He also did a song called Whole Thing.

That’s the one. Looking at Spotify now it’s still only had 180,000 streams, which is not a lot really.

That’s not a lot of streams for someone like Peter Gabriel.

No, exactly. Once I knew it was him I thought ‘Damn!’ Around that time I did an interview with The Web magazine (Marillion fanzine) and I told them the same story. I got a phone call from a mate who said ‘I know just the singer for you’ because he thought I was looking for someone who sounded like Peter Gabriel. I actually wasn’t – I was just looking for ‘a singer’, but I liked his voice obviously. My mate suggested Ollie (Oliver M. Smith) and I thought ‘this guy’s actually got a really good voice.’

Oliver M. SmithOne thing I’d say about Ollie, Mark, is that at the beginning of Amelia he sounds uncannily like Peter Gabriel, but on other songs on the album he doesn’t have that same resemblance. He has quite an adaptable voice for the nature of the song.

I agree. When he does This Time, his voice is a bit like Squeeze. On When I Fell he reminds me of Seal, and in other places he sounds a bit like Guy Garvey of Elbow. He’s got what I would call a very ‘English’ voice, and it really suits the music. I sent him the Amelia track, but didn’t subject him to Guy’s singing (!), just the music and the lyric and asked him what he could do with it. Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything. So I thought he didn’t like it. I wasn’t that confident about it to be honest. It was a bit of a big ask, sending him a ten minute track and a lyric that long. He has more of a pop/rock background. After about two or three weeks he sent something back to me and it was REALLY well produced vocally with all the harmonies for the big Amelia refrain at the end, and I was just blown away.

What a great discovery. He’s outstanding vocally.

He’s also got a great ear for coming up with melodies. I like to let people do what they feel. I like the idea of taking something that’s maybe not an obvious piece of music with lyrics that aren’t that obvious and saying ‘Have a go. See what you can do with that’. In the early days of Marillion with Fish we’d play this music which wasn’t straight ahead pop music, and his lyrics were often quite ‘wordy’ but the combination of trying to make those two elements work together produced some good work. That friction of it not being obvious how this stuff was going to stick together creates something different. Similarly, I think that’s why we’ve ended up with something that’s not straightforward ordinary pop songs. A few people have compared it to Mike and the Mechanics, and I was a bit insulted actually. [Laughter]

I wouldn’t have made that comparison, but This Time is certainly a more straight-ahead song.

That’s the one. People hear that and think it sounds like Mike and the Mechanics… or as someone said ‘Mark and the Mechanics’! [Laughter]

I wouldn’t say something like the epic 2051 sounded like Mike and the Mechanics.

Henry RogersHow about the rest of the band? How did you find them? I know Henry Rogers is a drummer in all sorts of bands I’ve seen like Mostly Autumn and Touchstone amongst others.

Well, there’s a band called DeeExpus.

You played with them in 2011 on their The King of Number 33 album – it’s a good album.

You seem to have a better idea of what I did than I have! [Laughter] Was it 2011?

It was about then. I saw them at the Summer’s End Festival in 2014 but they seemed to disappear after that. However, they’ve actually reappeared again recently, but I take it you’re no longer with them.

I had a problem with my hearing. We were supposed to do some dates but I lost the hearing in my left ear in January 2012 – so you’re right. I had to tell DeeExpus I couldn’t play live as I was worried about causing more damage to my hearing. It got better but by the time I was ready to do something they’d already found Mike Varty, and he’s good. So that’s how I met Henry as he was their drummer. Andy Ditchfield of DeeExpus introduced us, telling me what a great young drummer he is and we got on really well. Andy’s great fun and a really nice guy as well.

How about the two guitarists, Pete Wood and John Cordy? Where did you find them?

‘Woody’ plays in a band with Guy Vickers. Guy plays keyboards as well write lyrics… and he plays a bit of harmonica. He managed to squeeze a bit of harmonica on the album, buried in at the end of When I Fell in a dub section. A little cameo for Guy so he could say he played on the album! ‘Woody’ plays with Guy in a functions sort of band.

Woody’s done some really good work on the album.

Yes, he has, and his approach is completely different of John Cordy. We were quite a way through the album and I was trying to get ‘Woody’ to do a certain type of solo but it wasn’t going the way I wanted. I decided to ask Steve Rothery if he was up for doing something.

Was that on Puppets?

John CordyWhat actually happened was I asked Steve ‘Do you know of any good guitarists?’, thinking he’d suggest himself… [Laughter] … but he said ‘Yeah, I saw this guy on YouTube called John Cordy and he’s really good. You should check him out’. I asked how he knew him and Steve said, ‘I don’t know him – I just saw him on YouTube!’ So I messaged John and asked if he was interested. John asked how did I know about him so I told him ‘Steve Rothery told me about you’, to which he replied, ‘How does he know about me!?’ [Laughter]

That must have made his day!

John did exactly what I wanted so I was happy about it. You mentioned Puppets. The reason I asked Steve Rothery to play on that specifically was because the chorus part of that song where Steve is playing was taken from a Marillion jam and Steve played that part, so I thought if I want to use Steve’s guitar part he should play it.

Puppets struck me as the most ‘Marillion-esque’ sounding song on the album, but on the whole the album has its own distinct flavour.

It’s more like ‘old Marillion’ I suppose with the most straightforward ‘Proggy’ type things with long instrumental passages. I was being a bit self-indulgent really. I wanted to do something quite nostalgic sounding.

It had that feel. I’ve been impressed. I was talking to my wife about it – oh, by the way, she likes it so you’ve passed the ‘Mrs. Trimming Test’ – let me tell you, that’s a high bar to pass!

She’s also your resident ‘Zoom’ expert!

[Laughter] (Mrs. T had indeed helped Leo set up the Zoom call)

I said to her ‘It’s a grower’. I didn’t know what to expect from it, and it’s really grown on me. Amelia does hit you straightaway, whilst some of the others took me a bit longer. Puppets took a few listens but then it really clicked, and I’m increasingly falling in love with 2051.

You definitely have to listen to that three or four times because it’s so long and a lot of it doesn’t repeat.

I’ve mentioned this in other interviews, but I was talking with Thomas Andersen of Gazpacho and he said you have to listen to one of their albums at least 10 times. I think he’s right. Sometimes you need to invest time in a song or an album. 2051 definitely repays repeated listens.

Yeah, I agree. We know Gazpacho. They’ve done some gigs opening for Marillion.

MarathonListening to the album I was wondering about any theme or thread running through it. ‘Communication’ seems to emerge as a common theme in some songs.

The album wasn’t meant to have an overall ‘theme’, but you’re right – there is a thread about communication and breakdowns in communication, along with the idea of ‘Exploration’ in Amelia and 2051. Puppets is actually about ‘Free Will’. It’s not really a concept album though.

In 2051 it starts off with the story of (sci fi novelist) Arthur C. Clarke and (film director) Stanley Kubrick, and the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but then explores what might happen if we ever do make ‘Contact’ with Aliens. Stephen Hawking once famously said we should stop trying to make ‘Contact’ as we might not like what would happen if we do make contact.

It may already be too late with all our transmissions already travelling out into deep space.

Guy actually wanted to call that song Turn it Down [Laughter] I told him we already have ‘turned it down’ because most of our communications these days are short distance and wi-fi. There’s less transmissions into space going on than there was 50 year ago really.

Clearly, it’s very difficult thinking about it now but are there any plans for Marathon to ever play live?

When we were making the album and working remotely and separately I wasn’t thinking about playing live, but when we met for the first time for a couple of days at Real World studios it was interesting. I went from being the youngest in a band to being the oldest. We have a range of ages from 20s onwards and I’ll be 60 next year! Once we started playing together it was so good. Everybody clicked really well. The engineer, Dan Austin, said it was amazing how good it sounded, considering we’d never played together. That made me think we should definitely play this on stage somewhere. It would be fun.

So it sounds worth getting the release with the bonus DVD with the Real World gathering for the different performances.

Puppets especially is different as I made some changes afterwards and Steve Rothery’s guitar part wasn’t on it, but most of it is basically the same.

Talking of Steve Rothery, how’s the new Marillion album going?

It’s going well. I’ve been listening to stuff this afternoon as we’re not in the studio today, but we have been most days. We do the jams, then those jams get edited by Mike Hunter. They may be two minute or four minute sections and so on – there’s hundreds of them. I’m looking at them now on the PC. We have them on a private Soundcloud space – there’s 1,158 tracks.


We choose the best of those that excite us the most and maybe jam around it. We learn what we like and then try to develop it, explore different ways of playing it and see where it takes us. We’ve now gone past that stage and we’re starting to turn them into proper songs.

MarathonSo you’re at the lyric stage?

Yeah, a lot of these ideas have lyrics in already.

I know it’s early days but are there any hints as to a theme or does it not really have a theme?

To be honest, I don’t really know what he’s singing about half the time! [Laughter]

‘H’ complains we don’t take enough interest in what he’s singing [laughter] … but I do, when they’ve reached the stage of proper songs I’ll actually listen to what he’s singing.

I was wondering whether the current World Covid situation has had any impact?

I’ve heard ‘H’ say he doesn’t want to sing about bloody Covid. We’ve all had enough of that really.

That’s a good point.

The last album was bit of an angry album really, complaining about what’s going on in the World, so hopefully from what I’ve heard lyrically this won’t be a particularly miserable album. But our music isn’t exactly happy, is it?

Sometimes we need Art to take away from bad things. Art can reflect bad things but it can also be a real balm, a healer.

I was talking about that with Guy Vickers as we’ve just started working on the next Marathon album. He’s written this long lyric about something which is kind of depressing really, but the way he’s written about it is quite poetic. It doesn’t come across as ‘preachy’ or miserable, bringing you down. It makes a difference how you come across.

There can be great beauty in melancholy and more serious subjects. So you’ve just revealed you’re already doing a second Marathon album. That’s quick!

Well… you know… got to keep busy, haven’t I? I’ve got some catching up to do.

I think with that positive news it would be a good place to end. Thanks for your time and good luck with the new album.

You’re welcome.

Mark Kelly

And you can read Leo’s review of the Mark Kelly’s Marathon album HERE.

Mark Kelly’s Marathon – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Marillion – Website | Facebook | Twitter

This news story was originally published here:

Marillion band members have a well-documented history of extensive solo and side projects, all except Mark Kelly… until now. He has been thinking of releasing his own solo project for quite some time and with some unexpected downtime in 2020 he was finally able to bring his ideas to fruition with the Mark Kelly’s Marathon album. He has assembled a talented new band, now called Marathon, to realise his long-held aspiration to branch out from Marillion, and if the evidence of this high quality album is anything to go by, this project may well take on a life of its own.

It could be said that the album has had a very long gestation period as Kelly has previously said he has been thinking about doing a solo album for over 25 years. Indeed, in a recent interview with TPA he amusingly revealed that he gave Steven Wilson a tape of some early ideas back in the early ’90s to see if he might be interested in working on it… but he never heard back from the former Porcupine Tree man! Kelly was keen to emphasise that this new album has NO connection to those very early ideas, but suggesting co-working with someone else even back then does reveal that he was looking for a collaborator from an early stage. He explained:
‘So this was just me trying to write an album on my own. I think it’s a real challenge to do an instrumental album. I really admire people who can pull that off, people like Mike Oldfield on Tubular Bells… It’s really hard to do a wholly instrumental album and keep people’s attention with good music… so it got put on the back burner, especially with all my Marillion stuff… However, I have to blame this friend of mine, Guy Vickers, who suggested a few years ago I should write a solo album and he could write some lyrics.’

Therefore, what that tells us straight away is that this is not some sort of keyboard dominated instrumental album along the lines of Rick Wakeman. Mark Kelly has worked with lyricist Guy Vickers to create a range of quality rock songs with a fascinating range of lyrical themes. The first piece they worked on was the impressive opening song Amelia, based on ill-fated pioneering American aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared flying across the Pacific in 1937 whilst attempting to fly around the world. The mystery of her disappearance has fascinated people for decades, so it is definitely an unusual and intriguing subject for a song… but is it any good? It is an excellent extended piece which combines engaging melodies and fluid arrangements, smoothly linking the sections of the song. The melodic progressive rock passages fit perfectly with Vickers’ memorable lyrics to clearly convey the narrative and engage the listener, including touching details about possible remains and items found on an island that some believe are associated with the flyer and her navigator. Apart from all that, some of the song just burrows its way into your brain with some earworm hooks, especially the final expansive anthemic refrain over Kelly’s trademark flowing keys, and some thrilling guitar work in a fine whole band performance. As opening song, it really announces the album as something worth investigating.

So, who is in this new Marathon band which Mark Kelly has assembled for this project?

Guy Vickers brought along talented guitarist Pete ‘Woody’ Wood from his own band – well, if this guy has mainly been playing weddings, etc., then those present have been lucky as he can clearly play a mean guitar on the evidence of this album. Alongside him, and giving the band two distinctive guitar approaches, is John Cordy, who was suggested by Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery, based on what he’d seen of Cordy performing on YouTube. Apparently, it took Kelly some time to convince Cordy that he was not pulling his leg about wanting him on board, Cordy being totally unaware that Rothery knew about his work! Rothery clearly knows his stuff as Mark has stated that Cordy’s skilful and intuitive contributions were exactly what he wanted. Alongside them, Kelly recruited his multi-instrumentalist nephew Conal to play bass. Additionally, in the early stages Conal was essential in effectively arranging the songs around Kelly’s keyboard work.

Amelia is a notable demonstration of the dextrous drumming skills across a range of tempos and styles, especially in the expansive instrumental finale which is really pounded out – and who better to do that Henry Rogers, who has also played with Touchstone, Mostly Autumn and alongside Kelly’s Marillion bandmate Pete Trewavas in Edison’s Children. This outstanding drummer first met Mark Kelly back in 2011 when Kelly played keyboards with DeeExpus on their excellent King of Number 33 album, which was enough to convince Kelly he would be the right man for Marathon.

Last but certainly not least is Oliver M. Smith on vocals. Apparently, the search for the right vocalist was rather a tortuous exercise for Kelly who trawled around for over a year looking for a singer, including as shared in the TPA interview, a rather comical ‘discovery’ by Kelly of someone who turned out to already be a rather well known vocalist! However, that red herring did lead to a friend suggesting Ollie Smith for vocalist. Kelly sent him the music and lyrics for Amelia and asked if he was interested in doing something with it. Smith sent back a beautifully produced and perfectly judged vocal performance, including the gorgeous harmony vocals in the closing refrain, and Kelly confessed to being blown away at the quality. Listening to the whole album one can see why Kelly was so impressed. Smith seems to have a very versatile voice, which Kelly characterised as very ‘English’, seemingly comfortable with a range of vocal styles to suit the song. It is rare to hear such an assured and high-quality vocal performance on a band’s debut album, although Smith has previous experience singing rock/pop songs around the world. On Amelia, Smith sounds uncannily like Peter Gabriel, but differently there are smoky echoes of Seal on When I Fell and on the more pop oriented This Time his voice has a touch of Squeeze about it.

Mark Kelly’s Marathon shows variety as When I Fell moves well away from the more expansive multi-part pieces like Amelia and 2051 which bookend the album, and describes love and grief with an emotional bluesy style. When I Fell features a lush Hammond organ wig-out from Kelly… and if you listen hard enough in the closing ‘dub’ section you can just about hear a harmonica, which is lyricist Guy Vickers ‘cameo’ musical contribution to the album!

Some have suggested pop/rock piece This Time is reminiscent of Mike and the Mechanics (or ‘Mark and the Mechanics’?), which Kelly jokingly said felt a bit of an insult! That comparison is difficult to hear but it is definitely a song with its musical DNA printed in the ’80s with clear echoes of Difford and Tilbrook, which is no bad thing – it may just not be what some fans may be expecting of Marillion’s keyboardist. Nevertheless, it sounds pretty lightweight amongst other more ambitious pieces. In contrast, Puppets portrays its theme of ‘determinism’ or ‘free will’ in a much more imaginative musical canvas. Kelly has revealed that this is based, as is some other material on the album, on some of the many formative free-form and unused jams Marillion play when creating an album. On the original jam, Steve Rothery played a soaring guitar solo and as that was exactly what Kelly wanted on Puppets he asked Rothery to provide his characteristic stellar guitar work. There is a great interplay between guitar and keyboards throughout the album, and understandably it is the most ‘Marillion-esque’ piece here, with crisp drumming from Rogers and Smith excelling on vocals.

2051 is an epic musical journey with an interesting dual theme, commencing with a focus on the complex relationship between sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick during the creation of the 1968 film classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The latter part of the song moves on to consider the risks to humanity of actually making ‘Contact’ with Aliens, as touched on by Kelly in our interview when he recalls Stephen Hawking’s warning that perhaps we should not be trying to send out signals to space as we might not like who comes to investigate the source of those signals. Indeed, Kelly shared that Guy Vickers originally wanted to call this piece Turn it Down!

It’s a complex concept but it is handled deftly by Kelly and his band. A synth laden spacey intro is underlain by speech, apparently carried by the Voyager probes, saying ‘We think you’d like our planet…’. A portentous wall of keyboards comes in to convey the expansiveness of the subject matter. The piece then drops to a more restrained level describing the tense relationship between Clarke and Kubrick ‘…with Stanley as your guide…’ alongside references to curious Victorian suggestions to send signals, including setting fire to giant trenches filled with kerosene in the Sahara to indicate a message to observers on neighbouring planets – yes, really! Strangely, as esoteric as the themes may appear, the lyrics fit well and Smith carries them with conviction and passion. The pace and power increase significantly with cinematic wall of sound with a thrilling driving rock guitars interweaving with waves of keyboards. A more contemplative interlude flows in as Smith intones ‘nothing is actually what it seems, space is turning inwards, splintering our dreams’ over flowing piano from Kelly with finely judged drums and bass. This leads into an assertive and triumphant finale with guitars soaring above Kelly’s keyboard canvas… and fittingly for a space-based piece it drifts off into the void. 2051 is another ambitious multi-part production with outstanding ensemble playing by the whole band and is an impressive and satisfying album closer.

Mark Kelly’s Marathon is not a concept album but there are some common threads about communication and its breakdowns, such as the errors in communication and planning which almost certainly led to Amelia Earhart’s sad demise. These themes are considered in different ways in 2051, and both Amelia and 2051 touch on the draw and risks of exploration. In the TPA interview Mark Kelly gave his view on the album:

“It’s more like ‘old Marillion’ I suppose with the most straightforward ‘Proggy’ type things with long instrumental passages… I wanted to do something quite nostalgic sounding.”

That seems a fairly accurate description, but just to clarify, before some fans get their proverbial Prog knickers in a 7/8 twist, this is NOT an album which obviously echoes the grandiose ‘Prog’ style of the first Fish-led Marillion albums. This release is filled with extended passages with impressive instrumental sections, which do hark back in some ways to more of a ‘Prog’ heritage, but it is conveyed in a more contemporary style. Mark Kelly’s Marathon is an impressive debut album in which Kelly and his fine new band have carved out their own identity with high quality melodic rock songs… and the good news is that Kelly shared that work has already commenced on a follow-up, which will hopefully not take quite as long to reach fruition – after all, as he has stated in the interview, ‘I’ve got some catching up to do’.

[You can read Leo’s interview with Mark Kelly in full HERE.]

01. Amelia (11:16)
02. When I Fell (6:10)
03. This Time (3:48)
04. Puppets (7:12)
05. 2051 (15:26)

Total Time – 43:52

Mark Kelly – Keyboards
Henry Rogers – Drums & Percussion
Oliver M. Smith – Vocals
Pete ‘Woody’ Wood – Guitars
John Cordy – Guitars
Conal Kelly – Bass Guitar
~ With:
Steve Rothery – Guitar (track 4)
Guy Vickers – Harmonica (track 2)

Record Label: earMUSIC
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th November 2020

Mark Kelly’s Marathon – Website | Facebook | Twitter

This news story was originally published here:

I came to this album with some reservations. Pharaoh Overlord have a larger discography than the title of their latest release might suggest, and that discography is quite varied. The band is one of Jussi Lehtisalo’s many offshoots of Finnish band Circle (who themselves have probably released upwards of 50 full length albums by now), and has changed in sound considerably since their first release – while somewhat paradoxically keeping much of it, too. (In 2015, just to further confuse things, Circle released an album called Pharaoh Overlord, while Pharaoh Overlord released an album called Circle.) As to my reservations, they came largely from knowing that Aaron Turner (Isis, Sumac, Old Man Gloom and several other bands) was taking a larger role, having provided some sparse guest vocals to the previous album, 5 (which I think may actually be Pharaoh Overlord’s 10th studio album, and 15th overall!).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Aaron Turner’s vocals (and this year’s Sumac album is absolutely fantastic, I highly recommend it). In addition, I loved 5, and I didn’t mind Turner’s vocals on that either – but they were used minimally for impact, rather than being a main attraction, so to speak. What I was worried about was how well the music of Pharaoh Overlord and the vocals of Aaron Turner might mesh when they formed the basis of the album, rather than a small part. Even after listening to the album several times, my mind is still melting, trying to get my head around the two quite disparate sounds. As well as working with Pharaoh Overlord previously, Aaron Turner has also collaborated with Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo in Split Cranium. Furthermore, Turner is no stranger to Krautrock and electronica, and has stated that both forms of music were influential in the sound of Isis (probably his most famous band), so it should make sense that he is happy to put his vocals to Pharaoh Overlord, who quite obviously enjoy Krautrock and electronica themselves. And yet….

6 begins with the fantastic beat of Path Eternal, and swathes of melodic synth textures. Turner’s initial vocalisations are not too incongruent, and then he starts singing (or growling, if you prefer), and it’s like listening to two different songs playing at the same time. I wouldn’t go as far to say I hated it when I first heard it, but I certainly wasn’t enamoured. But strange things happen over repeated listening. The thing is, the music is just so damn addictive and enjoyable, that soon I find myself able to ignore the vocals. And that’s where I’m unsure how to review this album. I’m enjoying it in spite of the vocals, which I’m sure are meant to be a key part. Ultimately, how much anyone enjoys this album may come down to how much they are able to tolerate (or even enjoy) harsh vocals.

But the music is worth persevering through, if you’re not necessarily a fan of the vocals. I admit I might not have done so were I not aware of the previous output of Pharaoh Overlord, and I would have been missing out. So if you take just one thing from this review, it’s don’t give up. Don’t even bother reading further. Just listen, and listen again. Let the music crawl under your skin and make itself at home. Let it caress you, and cover you in a blanket of warm fuzziness. Fall into the Arms of the Butcher, which is strangely enchanting. Be woken up sharply by the introduction to Without Song All Perish (lead single, but my least favourite track on the album). Try, try and try again. Don’t give up. You’re not beaten yet. Don’t give up. I know you can make it good.

So, if we remove Aaron Turner from the equation for just a moment, what do we have? Well, some classic Pharaoh Overlord, with fuzzy drones and electronic tones – psychedelia via a mangled mix of stoner and Krautrock, techno and industrial. Prying open space rock’s third eye, and final front ear, with kosmische musik and a healthy dollop of post rock and post metal. Kraftwerk and Hawkwind duelling with Isis and Skinny Puppy, in pursuit of an ‘80s synthwave pop hit. Pulsating, repetitive riffs and beats, that are far more explorative and interesting than you might expect. I can’t compliment Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo enough for the glorious soundscapes they create, and pound continuously until they’ve made a permanent imprint. The music needs no further ornamentation in my opinion, and this is possibly why I had such difficulties with the vocals initially.

But boy, do the vocals come into their own. Even without repeated listens, it becomes apparent by the end of 6, that the harsh and human voice of Turner can fit to the programmed automation of the metal machine musik of Leppänen and Lehtisalo. Tomorrow’s Sun works well, and Blue Light Hum blows everything that came before out of the water. It’s an enormous, triumphant near quarter hour epic, and the vocals inarguably match the music. Even if I hadn’t grown to love the remainder of the album, which I have, I would argue that 6 is worth purchasing for Blue Light Hum alone. This may well be the single greatest creation of Pharaoh Overlord. In fact, it was this track, more than anything else, that made me listen to the whole album again immediately. I still was unsure of the first half of the album on second listen, but the second hearing of Blue Light Hum blew me away again. Now it’s not uncommon for a song to be incredibly impressive when you first hear it, but it’s far rarer for it to evoke the same emotional response on subsequent listens. Blue Light Hum does just that. I’m glad, too, because 6’s cover art is easily one of my most favourite from 2020, so it would be a shame if the music didn’t live up to it. Rest assured, it does. It may just take some getting used to for some listeners. Don’t give up.

01. Path Eternal (6:34)
02. Arms of the Butcher (5:10)
03. Without Song All Will Perish (8:14)
04. Tomorrow’s Sun (6:13)
05. Blue Light Hum (13:59)

Total Time – 40:10

Tomi Leppänen – All Instrumentation
Jussi Lehtisalo – All Instrumentation
~ with:
Aaron Turner – Vocals

Record Label: Rocket Recordings
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 27th November 2020

Pharaoh Overlord – Facebook | Bandcamp