Monday, 21 November 2016

ALBUMS OF 2016 - Part 2

Once again, I have found myself a victim of time as I count down my Albums Of 2016. I would love to give each one the page they deserve but time has beaten me to it. So I'm Afraid a list it will have to be. I'll try to do it in 4 parts. Sorry for being so shoddy - but I hope the quality will suffice :)


One of the best surprises of the year for this old Progger and many more besides. How they kept this quiet in the age of the internet, God only knows. But ex YES vocalist Jon Anderson & Swedish guitarist Roine Stolt have created such a beautiful album. From the opening harp sweeps and the first waves breaking onto the shore it brought tears to my eyes. Many viewed it as a 'Lost' YES album. I'm hoping it's the first of many Anderson/Stolt albums - just stunningly beautiful and uplifting. The perfect album for the post-election blues.


I'm not a fan of Rap - I find it too aggressive and self centered and very derivative. But, once in a while, something is released that just catches my attention. It took 16 years for the duo, The Avalanches to follow up Since I Left You, but it's been well worth the wait. Brimming with creativity and attention to detail, Wildflower is an album to immerse yourself in. And I guarantee it'll put a smile on your face.

Twitter - @TheAvalanches


How about a Folk Opera?? A ghost story told in song. Sound intriguing? It is. And it's a fabulously creative and original album. You won't hear anything like it released this year. Stunning songs, a selection of well chosen guest artists. 20 tracks of inspired music. So much I could say -  Just buy it.

Twitter - @paulmosley


and a treat from a forthcoming album - already in the bag :)

Peter James Millson has been prolific this year. Building on the success of his lovely debut album Sweet The Love That Meets Return, Peter has released another gorgeous slice of top quality introspective songs with The Red Cafe. Not only this, he has recorded another very special album with Boo Heweredine at the helm - now due for 2017. The Boy's on fire. So keep tuned Music Lovers.

Twitter - @pjmillson


Well, I didn't see this one coming. I've been a fan since the first single way back. But Believers has just blown me away. The best set of songs Ricky Ross has come up with for many a year. Believers is right up there with Raintown & When The World Knows Your Name. Plenty of Anthems and quieter moments too. Just Glorious.

Twitter- @deaconbluemusic @rickyaross

Sunday, 20 November 2016

ALBUMS OF 2016 - Part 1

Once again, I have found myself a victim of time as I count down my Albums Of 2016. I would love to give each one the page they deserve but time has beaten me to it. So I'm Afraid a list it will have to be. I'll try to do it in 4 parts. Sorry for being so shoddy - but I hope the quality will suffice :)


Paul McClure continued his musical adventure this year with help from his friends. Produced by Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires, Songs For Anyone has much more of a band feel than his previous 'first' solo album - Smiling From The Floor Up - it's packed full of fabulous tunes - and whatever you do - SEE HIM LIVE - He's Brilliant.

Twitter - @PMcCluremusic


Trevor Jones must be the most consistent UK Songwriter over the last 20 years. With his partner Marcus Cliffe, they are the duo Miracle Mile. And they have been producing superb music for years. Happy Blue is Trevor Jones' third solo album and contains his most personal recordings to date. Born from sorrow, it shines like a diamond.

Twitter - @hissytrev


Sorry - no videos now available - click here to see earlier review


Big Big Train turn their considerable musical talents to the English Folk tradition of  story telling with a sumptuously melodic album full of ideas and musical twists and turns. Top quality songwriting and production values coupled with virtuoso performances lift it above the many Prog releases this year.


Reg Meuross is the epitome of the Troubadour. A man who travels the world and sings his songs to the people. A man of the people. Reg has produced a beautiful understated record in December. Full of gorgeous songs with a minimal production, it's a album of Love. 

Twitter - @regmeuross

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Live in 2016: Magenta & Special Guests live at Acapela Studios, Pentyrch, Cardiff on Saturday 12th November 2016

It was great to be back at The Acapela Studios for the very special performance by Magenta - Robert Reed, Christina Booth & Chris Fry with special guests to launch their new DVD/CD Chaos From The Stage.

The trio are complemented by regular rhythm section of Steve Roberts on Drums and Dan Nelson on Bass with extra help in the shape of 

Peter Jones - Recorder, Sax & Guitar/Vocals, Claudine Cassidy - Cello, Karla Powell - Oboe,  Steffan Rhys Williams - Lead Vocal & Francesca Murphy - Backing Vocals.

These extra musicians brought a lovely new flavour to tonight's performance as the evening unfolded.

The show was split into two halves. Part one was music from the various solo work and projects of Chris, Christina & Rob.

The second half of the show was dedicated to Magenta songs with a surprise thrown in for good measure.

The Acapela was packed out with family and friends in attendance which made it feel like a rather large House Gig.

Once again Acapela Studios produced a perfect sound for the musicians and the audience - and this is no fluke as I've now attended several gigs here, of various musical acts and the sound has been fantastic in very one. It's those perfect Welsh Chapel vibes. Made For Music.

Chris Fry

The first three songs were from Chris Fry's solo work and the album Composed which included the tracks Secret Garden and Diablo which featured Prog Multi-instrumentalist Peter Jones aka Tiger Moth Tales on guitar and Claudine on Cello.

Peter Jones
Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

Secret Garden

It gave Chris a chance to show what an accomplished guitarist he is. You could see he loves playing his acoustic guitar - very much in the same vein as a certain Mr Hackett.

The rest of the musicians then took to the stage with rapturous applause as it now fell to vocalist Christina Booth to take to the stage. 

Christina is an award winning vocalist and tonight she shows her softer side with some deliciously understated performances from her latest solo album, The Light.

Stripped of their studio sheen and with the sympathetic, sparse arrangements, Christina's pure voice soars and dips in the fantastic acoustics of The Acapela. Perched on her stool like a French Torch Song Chanteuse, Christina has the audience in her hand and teases and coaxes the melodies, bringing the beauty out of the music. Her performance of The Light's title track is a thing to behold. Delicate and gloriously uplifting, it's one of the highlights of the whole night for me. And in a night of highlights that's something special indeed.

The Light

Christina Booth

We are also treated to Disappeared and Legend In The Making from the same album.

What must also be mentioned here is Rob Reed's piano work. Rob obviously relished being able to perform on the Acapela's Baby Grand piano. It's a side to his music you very rarely get to see, as when he is with Magenta his keyboards are very much the colours of the sound and lead lines are left to Chris Fry's guitar and Christina's vocals. It's great to hear his piano flourishes as he conducts the band through these new arrangements.


With two of the trio having performed their solo work, it was now time for Robert Reed to take centre stage. With the recently released Sanctuary 2 not long released and various other musical projects to choose from we were in for an absolute musical feast to take us to the interval.

Robert Reed
Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

Firstly, we were treated to two musical pieces from his latest instrumental album, Sanctuary 2. On the album, the wonderful Les Penning contributes some gorgeous recorder work to the album and tonight it falls to Peter Jones to provide the recorder melodies and he does a fantastic job. His musical abilities were really well received tonight and more than one person commented positively on his music which was played before the gig, during the interval and after the gig too.

Sanctuary 2

Claudine Cassidy
Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

Karla Powell
Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

The next section comprises of three songs from Rob's 2012 project, Kompendium - Beneath The Waves.

Now, this was a real treat as these tracks are very rarely performed live. Tonight, we had the vocals supplied by Steffan Rhys Williams, Christina Booth and Francesca Murphy who did a sterling job of bringing the tracks to life in a live setting.

mercy of the sea

On the original album, there is a roll call of prog royalty to contribute to the sound, which includes orchestra and choirs but I have to say that the stripped down arrangements of the tracks tonight sounded just as good as the album, only different. More intimate and sensual.

beneath the waves

Steffan Rhys Williams

But we were in for one special surprise before the interval as the band performed a song from Rob's 2006 project with Steve Balsamo and Rob Thompson, Chimpan A. 
We are treated to a lovely performance of The Secret Wish which closes the first part of  the show.

the secret wish

Francesca Murphy

Part Two is dedicated to Magenta songs which are taken from throughout their career. The band kick off which Gluttony from the album Seven, based around the seven deadly sins. 
All of the Magenta songs tonight were given a new texture from tonight's choice of musicians, as Chris Rea once put it, New Light Through Old Windows.

Another special surprise about tonight's performance was the fact that it was filmed for possible future release. So Magenta fans should keep their eyed peeled for announcements in 2017 when the new album is released.


With such a wealth of great songs to choose from for the second half it was always going to be a tough decision on what to include. But choose they did and with the addition of cello and oboe, it was a wise move to strip the arrangements right back and concentrate on the quieter moments. I have to say the whole second set was a joy to behold and the songs suited the arrangements. Well done Mr Reed, who I assume came up with the arrangements.

The songs chosen for the second half included 

Raw, Pearl, Preikestolen, Red, The Lizard King and Red.

Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

Two special highlights for me came in the form on quietly epic performances of  Devil At The Crossroads and Sunshine Saviour with Christina & Steffan on dual vocals.

Devil At The Crossroads

The Lizard King

The show just sped by and before we knew it we were at the end. But there was always going to be an encore.
I've never made it a secret that YES are my favourite band and it was a real joy to hear Magenta play their rendition of Wonderous Stories. Very few bands attempt a YES cover but to do it and successfully is a testament to Magenta's bravery and musicianship.

Wonderous Stories

Photograph courtesy of Neil Palfreyman

A perfect evening of music from a superbly talented set of Musicians. 

There is nothing quite like seeing musicians at the top of their game breathing new life into songs that you know so well, or maybe not so well. 

I do hope the band choose to release the film of the show. I know many of their fans would love to see the songs in this new light.

Photographs by Nick Baker and Neil Palfreyman

Twitter - @robreedmagenta