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Colin Tench Project - Hair In A G-String (Unfinished But Sweet) CD (album) cover


Colin Tench Project


Crossover Prog

4.07 | 266 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Like a fraternal twin raised on the other side of town, the first issue of the Colin Tench Project is very different from its sibling band Corvus Stone, except in terms of quality, enthusiasm, and sheer bulk of material: business as usual, in other words, for the tireless guitarist and bandleader. Not many artists these days, working under the nebulous umbrella of modern Prog, can stuff their music to such consistent capacity without sound pompous or lazy. But over the 80+ minutes of the CTP debut there's rarely a moment that doesn't sound fresh and invigorating: quite an accomplishment all by itself, but hardly unexpected from talent of this caliber.

The album has been retroactively described by Tench himself as two separate EPs arbitrarily joined at the hip: one entirely instrumental and suitably eclectic; the other a collection of impeccable pop songs. Added together, they mark a welcome extension to (and a dramatic departure from) the year 2015 "Corvus Stone Unscrewed" epiphany. Maybe it would have been more sensible to keep the two halves separated, as individual mini-albums: the amount of music here can be a (not unpleasant) test of endurance. But when did sense ever matter when making truly progressive music?

It sounds like Tench and his ace collaborators had almost as much fun recording the album as fans (long established, or newly converted) will experience hearing it. The title itself is enough to prompt a chuckle from the shade of J.S. Bach. Elsewhere performance credit is extended to 'Shaving Cream', 'Annoying Noises', 'Thing That Goes Boing', and (my favorite) 'Bugger All', the last one for Tench's non-contribution to the album's oddly-titled 23-second epilogue, "Part 4b Redux", presenting Alvin and the Chipmunks in alpine lederhosen, drunk on Bavarian moonshine.

Astute listeners may catch a suggestion of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme" in the unplugged "La Palo Desperado", a title which (almost) translates from the Spanish for "Desperate Stick": further evidence perhaps of the bawdy undercurrents to the album. And what's up with that "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" quotation during Part 3 of the divided title track, indelicately subtitled "I'm Going Down"? Associating Walt Disney's Cinderella with suggestions of cunnilingus, even indirectly, is pretty hilarious, and why am I suddenly reminded of the Corvus Stone song "Jussi Pussi"? Thanks, Colin, for spoiling precious childhood memories of a classic film (no, really...thanks!)

And yet, despite all the tongue-in-cheek (or tongue-in-elsewhere) salaciousness, the music itself is often unashamedly romantic, full of lush orchestral arrangements and simple Beatle-esque sentiments, of a sort so far unexplored in the larger Corvus Stone discography. To these jaded ears the presence of vocals is usually the most vulnerable aspect of any rock album, but the song-based half of these sessions benefit from real talent in front of the microphone, even when the music itself is more of an acquired taste.

For an anti-commercial Prog snob like me, that would be "A Beautiful Feeling": a handsome but conventional love song bolstered by stellar guest support from drummer Gary 'Hoppy' Hodges, a veteran of the Buckingham Nicks touring band, and Ozark Mountain Daredevils keyboardist Kelly Brown (if nothing else, the track is a clear indication of its author's allegiance to a larger body of music outside the straightjackets of fashion, Prog or otherwise). Far better is the absolutely gorgeous "And So, Today", with its lovely clarinet accompaniment by Pete Jones, and the McCartney-like chorus and fade-out at the end of "Can't See It Any Other Way".

Balladry aside, Tench allows plenty of room for some full-throttle instrumental fireworks, once again channeling his inner-Santana (in "The Hairy Part" of the title track), and often with a wry touch of Zappa. You can hear some of the latter in the controlled ferocity of his guitar work, and of course in the polite smuttiness of the lyrical innuendo, the latter with a hint of Zappa's 'conceptual continuity'...yes, Moaning Lisa from the Corvus Stone II album is back, sans G-string this time.

Some of the acoustic interludes evoke the delicacy of early Charisma-era Genesis, but enough with the cheap comparisons already. I know it's a necessary shortcut when trying to describe music ill-sized to our standard Prog Rock cubbyholes. But by now Colin Tench has proved himself a true original, and the first expression of his self-titled (and hopefully long-lived) Project restores some of the uncomplicated joy often missing-in-action from too much of what we like to call Progressive Rock.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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