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The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road To Avalon CD (album) cover


The Minstrel's Ghost


Crossover Prog

3.74 | 86 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars "The Road to Avalon" is the second album by Blake Carpenter's Minstrel's Ghost project, and as I have heard, it was originally intended to be a more metal-styled endeavor. However, along the way the original guitarist was caught up in other commitments and so Blake asked a guitarist he had met in a chatroom to play on his album. The keyboard player was also a chatroom acquaintance. Ha! Well, that sounds a bit odd but the musicians were none other than Colin Tench who has made quite a name for himself in the prog scene of the 2010's and keyboard player Marco Chiappini. Add Zoltan Czorsz Jr (ex Flower Kings) and Troy James Martin on bass. Blake Carpenter also handles keyboards and guitar and, of course, sings.

The subject of this album is the Legend of King Arthur, and though it could have easily been made very cheesy and pretentious, Blake turned it into a very suitable production, making good use of keyboards to give the album a softer story-telling touch as opposed to a charging guitar-driven retelling of the tale. Actually, I feel the choice of keyboard sounds and the playing style is one of the main attractions to the music of this album. I would give credit to Marco Chiappini for this, but I heard that Blake also played keyboards and had a big influence on the sound. Aside from piano, the keyboards are often a soft whistling or almost flute-like sound but without sounding like a synthesized flute. There's a New Age music feel that makes much of the keyboard melodies very beautiful and soothing.

The album opens with "The Journey Begins (The Avalon Overture)" which is effectively a medley of melodic themes that occur throughout the album. There's piano, guitar, synthesizer, violin, and even a harder rock guitar bit that is perhaps a remnant indicator of how the album had been originally conceived. There are three "Avalon" parts here which are reiterations of the Avalon main musical theme presented in different musical environments such as soft and flowing to more speedy and aggressive. The songs follow the story of King Arthur from the time he is discovered by Merlin to Camelot to his betrayal by Guinevere to his death. The music is sometimes a little loud and hard in places, like a neo-prog/arena rock approach but the actual songs are mostly sung in a softer tone with Blake giving us very little of his more energetic vocals until near the end of the album.

Reading some of the other reviews, I have read some people expressing disappointment with the vocals or the drumming but I quite enjoy Blake's more subdued performance here and I feel it suits the subject matter. As for Zoltan's drumming, yes, there are places with a 4/4 beat but just as often he plays a steady bit with a bit more complexity. Of course he gives us an appreciatively brief but enjoyable drum solo near the beginning of "Camelot" on side two. Colin Tench's guitar playing is, as usual, very in tune with what's happening in the music and his playing effective and outstanding.

I've listened to this album a few times now, two or three times when I first got it early in the year and now again a couple of times more recently. I really enjoy much of the music as well as how Blake has handled the vocals. The CD ends with the three parts of Avalon stitched together but I haven't been able to conclude that this was entirely necessary. The lyrics and melody repeat in each part and I think the treat is better enjoyed when it's spread out over the album with other songs and melodies in between.

An album with lots of pleasing sounds and playing. Credit goes to Blake Carpenter for executing his vision with the right people and making this album work so well.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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