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The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road To Avalon CD (album) cover


The Minstrel's Ghost


Crossover Prog

3.73 | 82 ratings

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5 stars The Minstrel's Ghost is the 2012 sensation, a fabulous musical creation that has all the hallmarks of a classic prog album, where old school symphonics meet the new pristine university. American multi-instrumentalist Blake Carpenter has smartly surrounded himself with some seriously gifted players most notably Hungarian Zoltan Csorsz (still the best Flower Kings drummer ever), who positively explodes here, as well as gifted guitarist Colin Tench (of the thrilling Corvus Stone, Colin Tench Project and Bunchakeze). Others include Marco Chiappini of Gandalf's Project (a close relative in this semi-medieval-pop-prog genre) who shines on devastating organ and assorted ivories. .Bassist Troy James Martin holds it all down with muscular proficiency .And of course main man and master musician Blake Carpenter, who has really carved himself a name for himself with this magnificent opus!

Part 1 ?The Design

The intro to "The Journey Begins "is pure aural devastation, a scintillating tidal wave of impeccable progressive beauty and delivered with smiling faces by passionate musicians who are on the proverbial ball. The drums are truly phenomenal, the guitar work flush with unabashed glory, both Tench and Carpenter trading wicked solos , the sultry synths oozing deep into the soul and fluttering like sonic butterflies when applicable (which is always!) . There are some psychedelic motifs blending well within the misty medieval confines of the classic prog premise, Arthur, Lady of the Lake and Camelot. The spirited music is inspired, diverse in sound and texture (the guitars in particular are way more manic than anything Floydian), with an underlying sense of urgency. The piano work is utterly fascinating and the surly axe solo, phenomenal. What a beginning!

"Avalon Part 1" is a tad poppier , lucid violin scouring the plain, well let's just say more accessible with some sweet vocal work from Blake , a little hint of the Beatles is always welcome but the song rolls along like a bright summer stream, featuring some delirious wah-wah guitar soloing that will bump the goose. Such exuberant enjoyment is a pleasure to behold, "this is Avalon"!

"Merlin" is simply ridiculous, a whizzing acoustic guitar painting Spanish steps and a mellow, laid-back slice of genius that rekindles Pink Floyd that features a stunning vocal from Blake, a rollicking, rocking beat and a general sense of crystalline bliss. Yeah, there is a little nasal Garfunkel in them there pipes, lazland! Colin coughs up some nasty little sizzles on guitar; the man is a bewildering talent, torturing the strings in Jeff Beckian delight. . Spectacular music and sensational goose bumps.

"Lady of the Lake" just keeps the locomotive breath steadily on the tracks, determined to please and titillate both mind and body. Special vocal effects kick this one off the shores of tedium and into the luxuriant depths of languid medievalism, a solitary electric guitar splashing eloquently along and a trembling vocal rendition. The slithering synth display is shimmeringly bright, giving the arrangement a simple but effective sheen.

"Excalibur" is expectedly sharply honed and mythically magical, a methodical and expressive vocal performance, propelled by a simple synth and guitar flurry. In fine and typical progressive epic style, "Avalon Part 2" suggests a continuation of the main theme , with delicate hushed vocals and that confounded chorus that will force you to your knees, while the guitars blaze in all their glory. Words such as ridiculous and absurdly enchanting linger long after the last note is played. Colin and Blake fiddle with their axes breathlessly. "This is Avalon", indeed!

Part 2 ? The Life

"Camelot" begins with more special effects, merchants, soldiers and peasants all in cheerful display, with Zoltan showing off his considerable percussive skills with a brief and à propos solo (the man is a firecracker drummer) , as the countrified guitars kick in , woo- woo synthesizers hooting in the background. Blake sounds like Dave Cousins of Strawbs or current Guy Manning , his nasal twang fulfilling many a fantasy which also has Martin's bass popping wildly all over the track (in sequence with those woo-woos) and Marco drops a whistling solo, egged on by another molten outbreak from Colin Tench.

The cinematic "A Love Betrayed" has a distinctive Floyd feel (circa Wish You Were Here) and remains a highlight track here among so much quality, showcasing some stunning guitar work, loopy bass and a very psychedelic aura. The mellow voice is spot on, seeping eerily into the conscience. The exalted secondary vocal is deadly whilst the fretboard sortie is laudatory.

Things get heavier on "The Sun" (the appearance of Mordred and the evil impressionist lyrics), bluesy and rash guitars thumping along manically, proving this is no soft aural marshmallow but a ballsy affair full of gentleness and savagery

"Avalon Part 3" is therefore bolder and sassier, the venerable organ rambling furiously amid the various effects of unhinged horses, swords clashing and rapiers colliding. The armor comes off with some wicked electric guitar sorties, Zoltan pummeling one-two as if he was guesting on an Iron Maiden album (LOL), Chiappini making his synths sing in crystalline exaltation. This morphs into "Le Morte D'Arthur" , a short and concise vocal depicting Arthur's ultimate defiance and entrance into mortality (and prog immortality) with Blake's finest vocal performance, hushed and yet poignant. Well when the last track is named "The End", you kind of wish it wasn't! More please.

This is a classic, prog fanatics, "hear ye"! No filler, no shortcuts, no boring or ho-hum sections, just pure genius. Aficionados from all the various genres of prog would enjoy this modern reworking of a classic tale. If you like Wakeman, Blackmore's Night , Manning, Strawbs, Floyd and the more adventurous side of melodic prog, you will stick this high up on the family mantle. Blake Carpenter is wizard a true star (thanks Todd!) . Best artwork ever from the new Roger Dean, Ed Unitsky! A complete package.

5 Heavenly avenues Thank you Lazland, you rock me!

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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