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Martin Orford - The Old Road CD (album) cover


Martin Orford



3.85 | 116 ratings

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5 stars Martin Orford is best known as the former keyboard wizard in IQ, but those expecting a solo album to be in that vein are in for a surprise. This is absolutely not a progressive album. It is in the style of progressive rock, but deliberately and unashamedly retro-prog and not a trace of neo-prog. Indeed, it sounds at times like Asia's first album and, had that band had a decent keyboard player and a desire to produce something a bit more meaningful, this might well be what they would have come up with. And it's an album made by a sad and disillusioned man. Martin Orford likes the old ways; not for him the England of downloads, global capitalism and facebook (he makes that abundantly clear in his sleevenotes). He likes old pubs, cricket and steam trains; he's very much on the old road and I'm with him all the way in his search for the lost gems of traditional England. He surrounds himself with some of the cream of modern prog; Nick D'Virgilio and Dave Meros, Gary Chandler, Steve Thorne, John Mitchell and David Longdon amongst them. He adds legendary bassist and vocalist John Wetton on some tracks and Mike Holmes, Colm Murphy, Andy Edwards and veteran Gryphon vocalist David Oberle also feature. Martin Orford contributes his usual bombastic keyboards but also plays a nifty lead guitar, flute and sings very effectively. Grand Designs opens with a celebration of English eccentricity, about the people who invent in their garden sheds and Power and Speed is an instrumental celebrating the age of steam. Ray of Hope is a truly beautiful, wistful song which suggests that there is still some hope in life.Take it to the Sun is the most Asia like track with Wetton on vocals, a song of despair for lost ambitions. Prelude is an instrumental which leads into The Old Road, which is utterly brilliant, a lament for lost England and a defiant statement of intent to step back from the mindless world of the computer screen to an older, better way. It has a Celtic feel at times. Out in the Darkness has a go at religious dogma and the false salvation it promises. The Time and the Season is another bitter, angry song about betrayal of trust and lost ambitions but urges us to seize the day when we can. The beautiful Endgame reprises Ray of Hope but crushes the last vestiges of hope: "In the endgame, bound for surrender We make no sound Taking the old road, leaving the download To claim our ground And no one stopped and cried, the day the music died Their faces turned aside, when they came to close us down" And that's the jist of this album; the destruction of prog by the free music brigade who steal music and mean that prog bands do not get the financial reward to fund further projects. Martin told me last week that he's no longer able to continue in music for financial reasons and I hope all the people who have stolen his (and IQ's) music feel really pleased that such a talented man has been forced to quit. If this is Martin's last effort it will stand as a fitting swansong; not a progressive album which pushes back the boundaries but an album full of superlative songs played by musicians who are at the top of their game. That's what he set out to do and he succeeded brilliantly. It's a complete masterpiece and may well be the album of the year and even the decade. Do yourself (and Martin) a favour - go out and buy it and tell everyone you know to do the same. You won't regret it.
Hercules | 5/5 |


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