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The Gift - Land Of Shadows CD (album) cover


The Gift


Symphonic Prog

3.62 | 60 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Gift is back after a long hiatus due to reasons that are the usual garden variety of life struggles and making music that won't really pay the bills and provide a rock 'n roll lifestyle of wasteful debauchery and stuttering stupidity (Hey, Ozzie!). Their previous 2006 effort "Awake and Dreaming" was a progressive rock revelation, an original collection of sharp and exciting songs expertly played and sung with immense talent by Mike Morton. To witness such an album of complex symphonic prog played with flair and a strong sense of masculinity is a treat to any progressive rock fan worthy of such a lofty title. Their debut remains a perennial monument in this reviewer's prog pantheon of fame. The interim years have revamped the line-up with entirely new musicians, save for the microphone king.

Enter new guitarist David Lloyd, owner of a distinctive tone and style that is both hard and soft (which was also present with first guitarist Leroy James) and the main vehicle for Morton's aural assault, ably supported by keyboardist Howard Boder and bassist Kirk Watson. Morton's relative Joseph handles the drum kit. Apparently Mike Morton and Lloyd are the only ones left and have already new members lined up for upcoming 2014 gigs. Musical chairs, wot?

After a brief spoken intro, the epic "the Willows" arrive in archetypal The Gift style, piano and voice articulating 'the sweetest song' , Mike Morton displaying why he is the most underestimated British prog vocalist, a clear and resonating voice that owes little to the usual suspects in terms of tone and style. Soon, the mood invariably becomes metallic and rambunctious as Lloyd's guitar carves hard and relentless, the bass fiendish and reptilian, the drums along for the booming ride. Synthesizer flutterings, change of pace and soaring electric leads intermingle with fresh expectations of symphonic splendor. Children musing about some harsh lullaby, twangy guitar licks (they like to sprinkle slight country music attitudes as a tasty condiment), something the Strawbs enjoyed greatly on occasion. Just a sterling epic piece of 'finesse' prog.

The monumental mellotron blasts unafraid to announce the "Road Runs on Til Morning" , another delicious Morton vocal , a 7 minute ride that has all the ingredients for a successful tune, great lyrics, expert delivery and a slight rock 'n roll feel that will frankly never grow old. Lloyd then zips off a slinky solo on the 'gueetar', crystalline and adventurous, exuding a sense of courage and passion. This is what makes the Gift so appealing, very British yet also very American, as if a perfect hybrid. Dibble dabble, let's play scrabble!

Things get really proggy with the mercurial "Walk Into Water" , parping keys and pomp, yet governed by simplicity and a certain elegance that gives elevation to words such as 'wash away the pain, so much pain' and finish off with an extended killer perfect axe solo, sensitive and soaring towards the stars. Miam miam! Repeat button activated!

"Too Many Hands" has a hushed vocal that 'sweetens the song', morphing into a pretty classic mid-tempo rock 'n roll ballad that has a fiery instrumental section (including another wicked guitar spot) and suave contrasts in the pained gentle vocal parts, crowned by a typical British style buoyant chorus . This is followed by a somber piano-led sliver of gorgeous melancholia, "You Are the Song", a fragile showcase Morton tune that clearly divulges his distinctive voice, graceful mellotron sweepings and dignified lyrics. The instrumental breakout is colossal in its restraint and aching beauty.

"The Comforting Cold" is the epic monster that gives this release its full prog credentials, a whopping nearly 20 minute romp that encompasses all the classic prog moves (slow build- up, mellotron strings, contrasting sections, alternate melodies etc?) , all sugared by the Gift's gift for style and tone. Things get tight and hard as the guitar assault flexes its mighty muscles, hauling the remaining crew along for the ride, impetuous bass carving hard and providing Morton to really show off his various accents and stylings, perspiring profusely about near-death paranoia, Kafka-esque dysfunction and the eternal damnation of the soul. The arrangement goes off into tangent universes that utilize the full panoply of synthesized keyboard colorations, confident of proposing ambient intervals of ponderous thought of space and time, undoubtedly the band finest creative exploration. Trepidation vocals, church-organ solemnity and resurrection guitar scouring, this is one hell of a prog classic. The raunchy guitar rampage dive-bombs through the murky clouds, dropping an arsenal of explosive rhythms and deadly lead missiles, both tortuous and deranged synth barrages and supreme heavy metal convulsions that wink at classic Thin Lizzy. When you least expect it, the song returns for another spin at the front of the stage, Morton really doing a cleverly convincing job on the microphone. Pretty impressive!

As befits their reputation, the album ends in a brief farewell, lush with fragility and sheer beauty.

A fine follow up to a masterful debut that remains iconic, so any comparisons are rather unfair and quite unnecessary, it's just another present from Mr. Morton, a new adventure to place under the gilded prog tree.

4.5 Parcels of Obscurity

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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