4 out of 5 Stars!
When I first listened to this album back in October 2015, I instantly knew I had stumbled upon a collection of tracks that would put a smile on my face. What made this even more surprising for me is that I’m not normally a huge fan of single-artist releases (the albums where only one individual writes all the material, plays all the instruments, produces all the tracks, etc.) since, in a lot of cases, something is usually (and often dreadfully) amiss. In those cases, the sole individual may be able to write catchy material, but can’t play several of the instruments equally as well. Or perhaps they don’t have an ear for writing a melody, but their instrumentation is perfect. Or sometimes their production technique sucks which destroys everything that might otherwise be golden. Plus, I often feel that without some occasional tension between musicians, without some give and take between those creative and driving forces, there’s usually a good chance for blandness.
But in this case, it soon became obvious that Anton Roolaart had no trouble in any department. Indeed, he actually made this collection of songs sound like a full-blown band project. Thankfully, the man is equally adept at playing each of the instruments included on this release, is also a fine songwriter, and apparently he wasn’t the least bit shabby at producing the damned thing either. Three for three! A rarity indeed.
So what can one expect to hear on this release? For me, the highlights include…
“Gravity” – Here we have a mellow intro with guitar and pleasant male vocals, until spacey keys and gentle rhythms eventually kick in to create a beautiful ballad. To me, there’s a Neo-Prog feel to the song in the spirit of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. It’s delightfully moody and strategically orchestrated to the point where the listener might actually envision themselves reclining on a cloud and lazily descending back to earth.
“Stars Fall Down” – This is another gentle and emotional piece of symphonic Prog-Rock—again in the realm of Pink Floyd’s moodier work, along with perhaps a touch of the band Moonrise—where each note played by every guitar or synth seems destined (calculated) to tear at one’s heart-strings.
“The Plight of Lady Oona” – This is probably my favorite track on the album, not only because of its extended length (nearly fourteen minutes), but its complex orchestrations, which gives the song an overall epic feel. And if that wasn’t enough, this song also includes the guest appearance of Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and her instantly recognizable and extraordinary pitch-perfect vocal leads coming to the fore during the song’s midpoint. The inclusion of acoustic guitar (not unlike Steve Howe’s best performances) and some pipe organ (in the best Rick Wakeman tradition) also make for some titillating Yes comparisons (and, obviously, Renaissance comparisons) during this dreamy, atmospheric, and occasionally majestic track. Truth be told, the album is worth purchasing for this track alone—a firm nod to the Prog-Rock feel of yore.
“The Revealing Light” – The album’s closing track has an acoustic intro with pastoral sound effects before turning into a mid-tempo Neo-Prog song in the style of perhaps early Genesis. This feel continues even when an electric guitar kicks in and Mellotron makes a welcome (and surprising) appearance, adding some welcome texture and variety to the song’s general “mellowness.”
As you can likely tell from my comments, I enjoyed this album quite a bit, and I applaud Anton Roolaart for his fine performances. My only minor complaint is the lack of diversity when it comes to the general mood of the overall collection of tracks. Don’t get me wrong—what is included here are songs of unadulterated beauty, a group of tracks that offer a thorough “mellowing of one’s senses,” but perhaps a few more heavier passages or maybe even several brief “frantic, driving paces” would create periodic tension (as in the all-too-brief mid-section of “The Revealing Light”) so that the generally commanding mellow excursions are even more stark and welcome by contrast.
Be that as it may, Mr. Roolaart is one talented chap. He has quite an ear for melodies, hypnotic ones at that, his arrangements and orchestrations are near perfect, and this well-produced album is a pleasant journey, one on which I will happily embark again and again. Fans of lighter Neo-Prog or Symphonic Rock will most assuredly embrace the fine collection of songs as much as I did. Bravo!