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Ken Baird - Further Out CD (album) cover

FURTHER OUT

Ken Baird

 

Crossover Prog

3.63 | 12 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Further Out' - Ken Baird (7/10)

Despite never having heard the name of musician Ken Baird before delving into this record, it's clear to me now both that he has a dedicated group of listeners behind him, and that there is a pretty good reason for them to be intrigued by this man's work. Releasing his material independently, Ken Baird seems to have snuck under the radar for many, but the music speaks for itself. His fifth studio effort (and my first experience with Ken's music) is a heartfelt and artistic piece of singer-songwriter material that is blessed with a sincerity that seems to be missing in alot of 'progressive' musician's work.

Mixing inherently unprogressive musical approaches such as 'pop' and AOR with proggier ideas and segments, Baird's music has been defined as 'pop-prog' and it seems to really ring true. Much of 'Further Out' however, is rooted in the concept of the 'singer-songwriter;' Baird's vocal work and melodies dominate the music. While the songs themselves are generally pretty simple in the way they are written, each track is embellished by some skillful arrangement of instruments.

Comparisons of Baird to the likes of Neal Morse (of Spock's Beard fame) are certainly reasonable, although 'Further Out' certainly demonstrates that Ken has a unique presentation to his music. While many prog artists emphasize a fireworks display of skill in their music, Ken's style of playing (and especially his singing) are meant to work within the confines of the track at hand. There is nothing unnecessary displayed here. While this 'no frills' approach to his composition does give a bit of a bland experience through some of the album's weaker tracks and passages, it does wonders for the sections of Baird's work that shine for their hooks and passion alone. Ken himself does not have a powerful voice, but his subtle and vulnerable dynamic lend a very warm impression.

Of special note is the beautiful and skilled work Ken does with the keyboard on 'Further Out.' While not necessary to any of the songs, it adds a dimension to the sound that may have otherwise been lacking. The ambitious drumming work of Chris Lamont is also of note; while this may be Ken Baird's show, Lamont is arguably the most technically accomplished musician here.

There are no bad offerings on 'Further Out,' although some tracks undeniably outdo others. The first half of the album is quite strong; such symphonic rockers as 'Spinning Wheels' give a very charming impression. Following that is the spacy 'A Thousand Years,' which may be the most memorable piece of music on the entire album, with it's poignant lyrics and very warm vocal performance. Towards the latter half of the record, things begin to get a bit less consistent, although no track deserves to be considered poor. The harder rocking tracks 'As The Highway Greets A Friend' and 'Everything To Lose' maintain the same quality performance, but their choruses both feel as if Baird might be trying to sing out of his register.

As with many good albums however, 'Further Out' finds it's musical highlight in it's self-titled finale. At nine minutes, this is very reminiscent of the same classic rock mini-epics that people would get excited about when they came onto FM radio. Although it does follow the same singer-songwriter format, Baird decides to take the obvious risk of drawing out his composition into something much more ambitious than his typical material. The album is capped off with an extended instrumental bout that builds up to a very optimistic finish.

'Further Out' is my first experience with the work of Ken Baird, but I hope it won't be my last. While the music isn't quite to the level of being considered 'amazing,' and the album is a tad inconsistent, Baird makes both an intelligent and heartfelt effort here, and it's felt strongly by this reviewer. Good work.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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