Friday 25th February: With no plans to attend a gig this weekend (never fear, though, I have one planned for Monday…), I thought I would treat my faithful reader(s) to a preview of which albums I’m looking forward to so far this year, along with one or two that I hope will see the light of day sometime in 2011.
So, in no particular order, here are my “must buys” so far…
First up is Out Of An Ancient World, by Marc Atkinson’s Riversea. I’ve seen Marc play live a couple of times and have both his solo, acoustic albums, but this has all the hallmark’s of a big project. Ex-York resident (and biggest Dr Who fan… ever!) Marc will, once again, be playing acoustic guitar and has been joined by Brendan Eyre on keyboards, along with a whole host of guest’s (from the York area and further afield) to provide the rest of the music and backing vocals. I’ve heard just the one track, played live back in December and haven’t taken advantage of any of the preview clips available on MySpace or dotted around Facebook but, with the project billed as acoustic/progressive/rock, as well as with the amount of talent to be found in the project, there’s something about this album which is calling out to me, helped in no small part by the stunning cover by Ed Unitsky. Out Of An Ancient World was due to be released around Easter time, but I think that may have slipped slightly recently.
Marc is also involved in Sangreal, the second release from the new, third version of Mandalaband. This album sounds very much a concept piece, as were the first three, and tells the story of the Holy Grail as seen in the Romano-Spanish version – the history of the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper (as opposed to the King Arthur version). Marc seems to have upped his contribution from the last album, providing lead vocals for five or six of the fourteen tracks and backing vocals for others. The album also includes the last song Woolly Wolstenholme (Barclay James Harvest) recorded before his death last year. The previous album, BC – Ancestors, was one of my favourites of recent times and the newly re-mastered re-releases of the original 70s albums may sound a little dated now compared to the prog rock being released today but that doesn’t matter to me (after all, I’ve only just discovered Camel and Caravan…)
I like to think that I’ve been a fan of Chantel McGregor from the beginning of her career but I know that, although I first saw her live while she was still playing The Roman Bath, with no entry charge, she had been performing for quite some time. On a personal note, she was the first artist to put a link to this blog on her website, an act that I was honoured by. The pocket prodigy plays guitar like nobody else I have seen and now, after completing her degree, she has had the time to concentrate on writing her own music and has recently been recording her debut album which is due for release in April. Some of the new songs have already made it into her live set and sat comfortably with the Hendrix, Cream, Trower, Fleetwood Mac, Bonamassa, etc. covers that she was known for performing. With details of the recording being blogged on a daily basis, we are promised the likes of a “13 minute epic”, a “swampy, bluesy thang” and “progging it up a bit”. The only downside is that we won’t get Chantel’s rambling monologues, usually about dresses, take-away food or equipment malfunctions, between songs. (Unless she goes down the Seasick Steve route, of course…) If you are a fan of the blues, this is one album you must look out for.
The first and, so far, only time I saw Haze play live was back in 2003, in the Bay Horse (now Stereo) in York and they were, therefore, my initiation into the world of live prog-rock. A magazine review of a more recent gig jogged my memory and alerted me to the fact that they were still around, if only sporadically. I had a brief email conversation/trip down memory lane with bass-player and vocalist Chris McMahon before buying a copy of a double live CD from their 30th anniversary tour, only to find that some of the songs had been lodged in the back of my brain for all those intervening years. Now performing more regularly as Treebeard, a more folky, “heavy wood” ensemble, Chris recently decided to write a new Haze album, their first studio album since 1987’s Stoat And Bottle, although an album named Haze was released in 1994 by World Turtle (Chris and his brother Paul) and contained material that would have been on Haze’s third album. A new album so soon after I get in touch? Coincidence? Almost certainly, but I’m still looking forward to it.
As the year goes on, there are bound to be other releases that I look forward to as eagerly as the ones above, they are just the ones I know that are on the horizon. I also know that Hope & Social have started work on their third album, but that’s as much detail as I have at the moment.
If I could have a wish list, however, it would probably include the following (some of which may be in the pipeline already):
A second album from Boss Caine – it’s hard to imagine a better album than last year’s The Ship That Sailed but if main man GT Turbo can put together another mix of old and new and manage to include some of my favourites from his live sets, it might just be possible.
A debut from Stolen Earth – formed from the ashes of the recently disbanded Breathing Space and featuring the writers of the new songs we heard live during that band’s final gig back in December Stolen Earth are, arguably, the most exciting new band in York at the moment. I don’t know whether the band has enough output for an album yet, but they are trying to get on the bill for this Summer’s Cambridge Rock Festival and, I’m told, are aiming to put together some demo material to help promote the band.
A second album from Parade, or whatever they are going to call themselves to avoid confusion with the same-named pop band. New material is being written, but a release date (and new name) has yet to be announced.
A second release from blues-rockers 98Pages – they will almost certainly always be better to see live than listen to recorded but the new songs performed recently are part of a batch that have been written with an eye to either release a second album or a series of EPs. My vote goes to the album format.
There’s bound to be more. I’ve concentrated on smaller and, for the most part, local bands, most of whom I have seen perform and some of whom I have become friends with (if only through social networking). Bigger, more “established” bands that I like are bound to be working on new albums and, when they arrive, there is a very good chance that they will be added to my collection, but the ones I have listed are, in my opinion, bands that deserve supporting. I realise I’ve leaned somewhat in the direction of progressive rock but, given my tastes, that’s to be expected. I doubt that any of the albums will be inaccessible to general music fans, though. So, if you like music why not keep an eye out for one (or more) of the albums and try something a bit different?