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Grey Lady Down - Star-Crossed CD (album) cover


Grey Lady Down



3.27 | 30 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars The sands of time led them into a new age of truth

Even if it appeared only four years after their previous album, Star-Crossed was a kind of comeback album by a reunited Grey Lady Down after an initial split. As far as I understand from the biographies of the band that I've read (as well as other reviews here), this album was initially intended to be released under a new and different band moniker, but in the end it became the fourth (and to date the most recent) Grey Lady Down album. This little background story might explain why Star-Crossed sounds so different in comparison to the earlier releases by the band and perhaps also why (if true?) some of the band's fans seem to find the present album somewhat disappointing. For me, on the other hand, this album far outshines all the previous three albums by the band. Indeed, Star-Crossed is the one and only Grey Lady Down album that I find really worthy and wholly enjoyable.

The line-up remains the same as on the previous album with two exceptions: original guitarist Julian Hunt returns to the fold and a Phill Millichamp takes over the drum stool. The drums sound better here than on previous albums and Hunt seem to have improved as a player since the early albums. For the first time in their career, Grey Lady Down here sounds as if they had finally found their own musical identity and style - a finding that apparently gave them a newfound confidence that really can be felt while listening to this album. In my review of the band's previous album, I already remarked that they had taken steps in the direction of a more distinctive and more original sound and Star-Crossed completed the transition of the band from being a rather anonymous and second-rate band in the Neo- Prog scene during their early days to a more honourable and exciting musical entity in its own right. Admittedly, the music here is still by no means highly original or in any sense ground-breaking, but this is not the point, the important thing is that the band no longer sounds like an also ran of the British Neo-Prog scene of the 80's (but 10 years too late), but instead like a band that deserves to be heard by somewhat wider audience (namely, all fans of the sub-genre).

While on the early albums the primary influence seems to have been Fish-era Marillion, they now seem to have a slightly wider set of influences. Actually, they now sound more like recent IQ (for which keyboarder Mark Westworth would later go on to play), but a bit rockier and grittier. Again like on the previous album, there is a harder edge. The keyboard sounds are more varied and rely more on classic piano and organ than before. There are also a stronger presence of acoustic guitars and even some flute on one track, played by guest Hughie McMillan. Another rather unlikely guest appearance is Bernie Marsden (who played Whitesnake and many others), who plays a guitar solo in the final track!

The most important aspect of why this album stands out in the otherwise rather weak Grey Lady Down discography, however, is simply that the material is strong. The melodies are memorable and the band members sound passionate as a result. It was exactly in this department that the band's previous albums failed to resonate with me. Another positive aspect is a greater variety and a better balance between rockers and ballads. The band's official website now states that the band is still together and a new album is a possibility. If a new recording will build on the foundation of Star-Crossed, this is promising news.

If you want to investigate Grey Lady Down, Star-Crossed is the place to begin (and then move in backwards chronological order).

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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