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Galahad - Quiet Storms CD (album) cover

QUIET STORMS

Galahad

 

Neo-Prog

3.89 | 75 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars Galahad has been one of my all-time favorites for quite a while now, always stunned by their dedication to expand their repertoire , going from classic neo-prog ('Sleepers') to more pastoral levels ('Not All There'), searching out new territories ('Following Ghosts' and 'Year Zero'), then flirting with heavier material ('Empires Never Last' and 'Battle Scars') , as well as doing a rather unique hybrid (such as the techno-prog on 'Beyond the Realm of Euphoria'). All worthy classics in the prog pantheon.

Galahad possesses two huge assets, one being the stellar voice of Stuart Nicholson, a master of Gabrielesque theatrics and perfect intonation (you can easily decipher his lyrics). On stage, he is remarkably fascinating (witness for yourself the live in Poland- Resonance DVD) and a sheer pleasure to listen to. He is also a very nice person to converse with. Second is the absolute brilliance of Dean Baker, a seasoned keyboard player who has no fear of combining classical training with more modernistic flourishes. Now the remaining crew are amazing professionals but these two really shine on 'Quiet Storms' , a rather unique twist on 'unplugged' , concentrating on the mellifluous voice of Stuart and Dean's magical piano , in a forcefully condensed stylistic cocoon , keeping the emotions and the melodies upfront and center, naked, real and utterly devastating! They have reworked some of their classic songs into more stripped down versions, gentler, calmer but even more overflowing with unabated passion. The relative absence of guitars, bass and drums forces the focus on the melodies as well as the duo of voice and piano. What talent! This has to be one of the top albums of 2017, hands down.

The majestic 'Guardian Angel' is the mainstay track on 'Beyond the Realms of Euphoria', showcasing a 10 minute workout and also a 6 minute reprise that is molded here into a compact 4 minute bare bones version that just sets the mood brilliantly. Great song, a Galahad classic and thus a perfect intro (and later, outro).

The sub-glacial 'Iceberg' is a twist on the original found on 'Not All There', perfectly chiseled to fit the mood here, a gorgeous melody once again, featuring Sarah Bolter on winds and vocals. A tingling atmosphere, angry lyrical content aimed at harsh governments, self-interest and general apathy. Asking morosely and currently very appropriately: Who will save us when the iceberg melts, Donnie? Cruel irony in musical form. Mellotron squalls blast the floating snow. The hypnotic insistence of 'Beyond the Barbed Wire' , originally composed for the intense 'Battle Scars' album, gets a gentler reworking but the angst and the trepidation here is actually enhanced, replacing rage by that another spectral monster, fear! Stellar stuff!

Originally a Rammstein song, 'Mein Herz Brennt' sounds like a Roxy Music classic with a Bryan Ferry bellow ('Nein, das ist nicht das ende der welt'), laden with weighty Teutonic angst, zeitgeist and schadenfreude. Dean's melancholic piano drips with unabashed passion and pain. Stu sings with density and fury. This is lethal music, to say the least!

'Termination' is a whirlwind track on 'Empires Never Last' , a bruising steamroller track full of spittle and bravado that gets a slightly Magenta-like treatment, with male and female vocals (Magenta's Christina Booth) dancing a minuet amid the black and white slivers of ivory. From the same glorious album comes 'This Life Could be my Last', being given the slow and easy handling, highlighting the deep resonance of the poignant lyrics and following the ghosts of the crafty melody, maintained by the sheer believability of the vocal delivery and the pounding hum of the proud grand piano.

The delicate magnificence of 'Pictures of Bliss' was already a perennial favorite off the 'Sleepers' album and here gets an even more stripped down version. Drop dead beautiful vocal, one of the most touching songs in prog, this could play in my head forever.

On 'Willow Way', producer and guitarist Karl Groom adds some keyboards as well to the proceedings, a gentle track full of chirping bird effects, soft acoustic guitars and velvety keyboards. Pastoral as only the Brits know how, visions of green lush fields and bucolic sentiments abound, all very prim and perfect. Thinking of the ghost (and the geese) of Anthony Phillips again. A more orchestrated track is found on 'Easier Said Than Done', possessor of a Beatles-like melody and packaging, a tune full of bright, hopeful and yet still melancholic aspirations, changing gears while still remaining firmly on the road . Another successful variation, the original, less classical one, found on 'Following Ghosts'.

Drenched in sweltering electronica, 'Melt' comes across as something you might find on Midge Ure's latest masterpiece 'Fragile' (a stellar but sadly not prog album) , Stu having a stunning voice that has a lot in common with the legendary Ultravox leader. The synths are mechanical yet warm and emotional at the same time and the melody is, well, simply divine, truly a highpoint piece on an album with a dozen highlight tracks! The original track was on 'Not All There' but there anointed with a much more pastoral/medieval ornamentation. On the dense and atmospheric 'Weightless', the mood falls out of bounds, a weary dirge of sense deprived isolation and introspection, forcefully fueled by slithering synth carpeting. 'I am overcome with a feeling of utter calmness, so relaxed, so relaxed'. Wow! 'Clarity and sanity regained', Stu sings convincingly! After listening to this beauty, I feel I am still alive. Ridiculously magnificent!

Another massive surprise awaits with the 9 minute 'Shine' from 'Following Ghosts', a fully developed masterpiece of symphonics and melodic achievement, including a majestic choir that will burn down any candle. This miraculous track was always a crown jewel but here, among all these acoustically tinged tracks, it stands out even more, fueled by profound lyrics and forceful singing. A world class melody that hits home and at the heart, a divine aspiration of being, a poignant and chivalrous delivery that will slay any dragon.

'Don't Lose Control' has Mark Andrews and Dean Baker doing the duelling piano thingy, to masterful effect, while Stu croons like a smooth lounge lizard, in some sweltering cabaret, convincing and appealing to the nth degree. A John Grant penned tune, 'Marz' has a poppy tendency that still emits deep emotion and vulnerability. The trippy lyrics are memorable for their complete departure from the previous material, 'golden champagne, high school football, tulip Sunday' has a definite Beatles-tinged psychedelia that will evoke a satisfied smile and a nod of tacit approval. Stu's vocal is perfect, he being easily one of the finest singers of his generation as well as being on my top all-time 5 prog vocalist list. Dean's piano is riveting and expansive, an ideal and true companion on the road to bliss. Fascinating piece!

A techno version of 'Guardian Angel (Hybrid)' has no down side, the main melody way too appealing to be distressed by a more robotic mantel, Spencer Luckman hitting his drums with mechanical zeal, a thoroughly jubilant end to a magnificent album. Recently retiring guitarist Roy Keyworth and recently deceased bassist Neil Pepper add their own mark.

The gallant Galahad wears it moniker well, a brave , courageous and bold prog band, laden with mighty talent and intense devotion and euphoric commitment, brazenly leading the charge into always altering musical battles, fighting fiercely, occasionally bruised and scared but always confident in their mission. Incredible music, plain and simple, a definite MUST HAVE for any fan of music in general and prog in particular. An album that perfectly encapsulates the mastery of a quality prog band as well as articulating the traits that make their music so breathtaking and awe inspiring.

Galahad, I love you!

5 Silent squalls

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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