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Steve Hogarth - Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri: Not The Weapon But The Hand CD (album) cover


Steve Hogarth


Crossover Prog

3.56 | 66 ratings

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The Willow Farmer
3 stars Before Not the Weapon but the Hand was released, I read somewhere that Hogarth and Barbieri described their collaborative album as, "go[ing] beyond what you might expect from the two of us." Despite the duo's claim, this release was almost exactly what I was expecting from the union of PT's keyboardist and Marillion's less aquatic front man; and that's not a bad thing at all.

Musically, Barbieri constructs very sparse and unassuming soundscapes that rarely demand the listener's attention. Instead, it is the listener's duty to explore the sonic layers that serve as NTWBTH's base. The waves of sampled strings, subtly keyboard riffs, and understated percussion and bass parts combine to create music that relaxes the listener while simultaneously serving as a solid foundation for Hogarth's voice. With the music being so cognitively unobtrusive, Hogarth seems to be the album's star on the first view listens. (After a number of spins, the clever nuances of the music will become more noticeable.) H's vocals on this release often ride a fine line between singing and spoken word. This is, however, not a problem as Hogarth's emotional delivery and soothing voice make even his spoken monologues enjoyable. The singer's decisions of where to place his vocals reflect the atmospheric nature of Barbieri's music, opting for few short, well-placed stanzas rather than overpowering the album with busy vocal arrangements and rambling soliloquies.

The album's title comes from "Your Beautiful Face," a song with scathing lyrics about a woman who uses her looks to get what she wants. Elsewhere, Hogarth focuses on topics such as the power of love ("Only love will make you free/Only fear hurts you") and vulnerability ("Beneath these shapeless clothes/Between these butterfly wings/Behind that nervous smile/ We're all naked"),while in other places, the lyrics are completely abstract ("Surreal alien's trigonometry against the fields/Waiting patiently for flying saucers').

For me, the standout songs on this album are "Naked" and "Only Love Will Make You Free". "Naked" begins with a hypnotic grove that gradually builds and decays throughout the song's six minute duration climaxing with a beautiful arrangement of piano, synths, drums, and some especially impassioned vocals. "Only Love Will Make You Free," the longest song on the record, features some of the catchiest music on NTWBTH and benefits greatly from the contributions of Dave Gregory (XTC) and Chris Maitland (ex-PT). "Cracked" also deserves a mention, as it is by far the album's most active track and serves to add a different texture to Hogarth and Barbieri's collaboration.

This is a solid three star album. There really are no surprises considering who the key players are, but nevertheless this still made a very enjoyable listening experience. Fans of Porcupine Tree, Japan, Barbieri's solo work, and Hogarth-era Marillion should certainly investigate this album. However, I can't see it appealing to people unfamiliar with the two names on the cover.

The Willow Farmer | 3/5 |


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