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Willowglass - The Dream Harbour CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.78 | 134 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Just take one look at the amazing artwork by Lee Gaskins on the cover of the third Willowglass album `The Dream Harbour', and prog fans will by salivating in anticipation and expectation! Providing those fans enjoy the more symphonic and vintage influenced end of progressive music, they better get a bowl ready to catchy that drool, because grand and luscious music doesn't get much better than this, so that bowl is sure to be running over in no time! Ahem...moving right along from that rather graphic image, main composer Andrew Marshall continues to refine and perfect his wondrous instrumental Genesis-like pieces, with a touch of Gryphon too, and his keyboard/guitar compositions take on a near classical grandiosity here. With additional musicians Steve Unruh and Hans Jorg Schmitz, the trio come together with a superb musical offering that delivers all the imagination, colour and technical professionalism expected of fans of the progressive genre, and it's the best work to appear under the Willowglass banner yet.

The showpiece of the disc is the opening masterwork `A House of Cards', a grand epic that, excluding the playful interlude `A Short Intermission' in between, runs for almost 30 minutes and will no doubt be a big selling point for listeners. It has everything a symphonic prog fan could want - frequently medieval flavoured, full of triumphant fanfares, victorious marches and adventurous strolls, running through endless tempo changes and different emotional textures. It's dramatic, whimsical, frequently tense and thrilling, and always impossibly pretty. There's endless washes of Mellotron and spiraling Moog, regal organ, with more emphasis placed on acoustic guitar passages over electric soloing, and special mention must go to dancing flute and stirring violin player Steve, his exquisite and restrained playing covers many significant sections of the piece. He also knows when to let loose, and these moments comes close to the wild and reckless sound of the defining Italian bands of the 70's. So maybe one or two sections in the overall piece drag on a little long and become a tad repetitive, but there's no denying this is an epic composition expertly executed and one that that Symphonic fans will relish.

Perhaps the second half of the CD might be even better! Yes, the influences become more than a little blatant here, but it's still amazing music. `Interlude 2' is a divine madrigal acoustic guitar piece (how I would love to hear Andrew and company release an album completely in this style), and the title track is an open love-letter to all things Genesis, with the same Steve Hackett-inspired chiming guitars and scratchy dreamy Mellotron washed all over every single beautiful second of it. `Hellborine' is a placid and delicate 'Tron and flute acoustic duet. The opening of album closer `The Face of Euridice' crackles with the same glistening Mellotron as `The Fountain of Salmacis', and it turns quickly into a imposing piece full of pomp and glory. Schmitz's powerful and commanding drumming really stands out here, and very quickly the mighty 'Tron takes on a very sinister and delirious wicked glee. All of these pieces together surely rank among the best Mellotron tracks of the year, and they are all simply gorgeous.

In some sections, it's still a little obvious this is an artist painstakingly cutting-and-pasting everything together, but there is no denying how much love and time has gone into carefully composing and performing this work. Some will scoff at the clear influences on display and dismiss the album as merely lazily recycling past ideas, but that would be missing the point. `The Dream Harbour' relishes in it's prog heritage, and seeks to lovingly offer music in the same tradition. Andrew Marshall and his fellow musicians have delivered the strongest Willowglass album to date, and, along with Trion's `Funfair Fantasy' and `Progenesi's `Ulisse: L'Alfiere Nero', it's one of the defining symphonic instrumental albums of 2013.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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