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Steve Hogarth - Ice Cream Genius CD (album) cover

ICE CREAM GENIUS

Steve Hogarth

 

Crossover Prog

3.82 | 19 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Steve Hogarth is, of course, well known to most prog fans as the successor to Fish in UK neo prog giants Marillion. It is somewhat fair to say that his tenure divides opinion outside of the fanatical following that the band still inspire. Less well known is this, his, thus far, only studio solo outing from 1997, released in the UK under the moniker H. This omission from the archives perplexed me and I am grateful that the admins agreed to my request to add Hogarth's solo work to the site.

This, it has to be said, is not an LP that will win over huge numbers of new recruits to the H fanclub if you already dislike his work with Marillion, although it most certainly will appeal to those who approach their music with fresh and unbiased ears, and appreciate differing influences and genres. For, we need to make it clear, this is absolutely not a neo-prog album, although it most certainly does carry influences and ideas that Hogarth was exploring with Marillion at the time of this release, namely This Strange Engine and Radiation, both exceptional albums and very underrated in my opinion. It also carries very strong influences from XTC, which was hardly surprising given the major work on the album by Dave Gregory. There are also world influences, and, all in all, it seems to be to be a statement by Hogarth that not all progressive music has to sound like Gabriel era Genesis and the rest.

The Evening Shadows is a thoughtful and somewhat introspective opener, with Hogarth mainly accompanied by his own piano, before the track opens up with Gregory showing what a talented guitarist he is, playing with understated breaks. Tim Wheater plays a lovely flute melody towards the close.

Really Like is trancy with vocals and keys underscored by strong percussion and bass. You could almost dance to this! Neo prog giant does techno and jazz, with barely a hint of Marillion at all. A good track to play very late at night with whatever chemical substance is your poison of choice.

The highlight of the album, to me, is You Dinosaur Thing, a fantastic rocking track which absolutely blasts young pretenders mocking artists such as H as being dinosaurs. This is a fantastic pop/rock track which carries more than a little influence from a certain Liverpudlian foursome late in their career. Catchy, simple, great instrumentation by the backing band make a great listening experience, and worth buying the album for this track alone.

The opening to The Deep Water could almost come from a Peter Gabriel album, circa IV or Passion, and this is again a gorgeous atmospheric track with vocals that will have H fans salivating. The keyboard textures create an imposing and dark background, almost like a storm coming onto the horizon. Then, halfway through the track, H returns to techno mode, with a repetitive drum & bass beat carrying his vocals and piano into more ambient trance territory, with strong world influences taking the track into even more experimental territory. This track is about as far away from Marillion as it is ever likely to get, and doesn't suffer at all for that.

Cage is next. Do Not Feed The Animals! This is another hugely experimental track which strongly reminds me of a lot of XTC's work. If you really liked XTC, as I do, then you will love this track. A thoughtful lyric, accompanied by some exceptional guitar work by Gregory and more great percussive beats. The track ends in a joyous upbeat mixture of sampled keys, percussion, and vocals with Gregory lifting above it with his guitar.

Until You Fall is a far more straightforward rock track and an equally straightforward love song. This is again a very catchy track which, whilst not essential, is extremely enjoyable, and, to these ears, very reminiscent of the rockier Marillion tracks of this period.

Better Dreams is one of the best commentaries of the darker side American society I have heard, this is a very dark track underscored by Stuart Gordon's strings. Dark, poignant, atmospheric, and, to me, probably, the most proggy piece on the album.

Nothing to Declare rounds off the European version of the LP (I believe that the US version had an extra track, The Last Thing), this is another sad song which features some exquisite Hogarth vocals, very much in the mold of Radiation, and, again, the underplayed background instrumentation creates a somewhat bleak atmosphere.

Thus far, this is Hogarth's only solo effort, and I for one hope very much that there will eventually be a follow up. In rating this album, I will try to put aside my inherent bias towards someone I regard as a true genius and the frontman of my favourite band, and describe it as at least a 3.5 star album. It's not an essential album, but it most certainly is an excellent addition to any prog collection, and, if you are a fan of the band, I would state that you absolutely should own it. I believe that it is still available from Racket Records.

lazland | 4/5 |

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