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Clive Nolan - Alchemy CD (album) cover

ALCHEMY

Clive Nolan

 

Neo-Prog

4.03 | 121 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

progbethyname
5 stars CLIVE NOLAN CREATES A THEATRICAL ROCK OPERA THAT IS NOTHING SHORT OF PURE GOLD. 

The clever and very gracious, CLIVE NOLAN is back with another solo effort, called ALCHEMY which is in my opinion,  NOLAN's latest and greatest solo effort to date. ALCHEMY was 4 years in the making and is centered around a very deep conceptual story that is set with in the epoch of 1842 London. 

First of all, what should be known about NOLAN's ALCHEMY is that it is an album neither typical in terms of musical style or structure in Neo prog land and it does not fit the typical criteria with in the Neo Prog genre that we are so familiar and accustomed to hearing from NOLAN's other works: PENDRAGON and ARENA. ALCHEMY a rock opera and a very good one at that!! It also may not be to everyone's musical tastes, specifically for those who very much enjoy the Neo Prog sound and genre for what it typically is or sounds like. To be clear, since NOLAN has a reputation as being one of the King's of Neo Prog, this is not an album that sounds like PENDRAGON, SHADOWLAND and ARENA for that matter. ALCHEMY is a project that is completely fresh, innovative and almost broadway like in terms of musical style and theatrics. Needless to say, its different!

Now, I don't want to get into heavy specifics about ALCHEMY's plot lines or storytelling because it would be like me telling you the whole story, including the ending, of a movie that you haven't even seen yet. That to me, just doesn't seem fair, so I will only get into very brief specifics by how the ALCHEMY album is laid out. 

THE ALCHEMIST is a 2cd album that is comprised and divided into 2 ACTS. Each cd corresponds to one ACT of the storyline or plot if you will, so their is a way you can have a clean break or intermission if you will (I gotta pee!) since this album is 2 hours long! Again its set up like a play or an opera if you will, but don't let the length of the album detour you cause the ALCHEMIST is a well thought out and clever conceptual album in vein of what ARIEN LUCCASSEN did with his album, THE HUMAN EQUATION; in fact, the initial structure and outline of the ALCHEMIST composition is very Similar to what one would experience while listing to THE HUMAN EQUATION, but far less Metal oriented. There are a lot of characters and session musicians. Specifically NOLAN captures his theater, play writing style in a broadway musical like fashion to depict a new side of his musical character with the album, ALCHEMY. NOLAN structures the album with a great list of players ( actor/vocalists) and session musicians. The list of players in the ALCHEMY album comes to a total of 11. Many female vocalist make up the list of characters used in the album.  One of the main characters AMELIA DARVAS, who is played by AGNIESZKA SWITA has an incredible voice greater than that of a canary. She sings with such power, emotion and grace. I feel that vocally, SWITA's voice was best showcased on the tracks AMELIA, THE GIRL I WAS and AFTERMATH. A truly moving and romantic inspired performance. Listeners will be thrilled! Other notable character mentions include ARENA's PAUL MANZI who plays MILOSH. A villainous, almost pirate like thug who is corrupted easily by the idea of wealth(gold). Also, NOEL CALCATERRA (quite the looker as displayed in the cd's booklet;) plays the duplicitous JESSAMINE. She has a wonderful voice as well and allows the listener to really feel her emotion throughout the story. Other man characters include ANDY SEARS who is the main antithesis, LORD HENRY JAGMAN and actually has a musical theater background. Also, a very interesting yet very small part appearance is made by ex-IQ's PAUL MENEL who plays a fawning patsy to JAGMAN, named BEN GRIEVES. MENAL's voice is nothing to that of how it was when with IQ. A more rough and aged voice takes place on ALCHEMY from MENEL and it's mostly in a narrative style. Last and certainly not least, CLIVE NOLAN plays the protagonist professor SAMUEL KING. I must say right off the bat, that CLIVE NOLAN's vocals weather in the forum of narrative or not are very good! That's right. Clive can sing. Key highlights of NOLAN's vocal high points are greatly shown on songs KING EXPLAINS and SANCTUARY. Such a delight and I was truly surprised at what he can do vocally. His voice carries a lot of romance with the character that he portrays and it's so incredibly interesting to see and hear  NOLAN in this way. It's like he is stripped down and uncut. Haha the real CLIVE!

As for the muscians. A set list of 7 take the on the role of creating a clever orchestration for ALCHEMY. IAN SCOTT, who plays the French horn, which is simply sublime and creates a lot of mood and suspense on tracks AMBUSH and STREETFIGHT. PENNY GEE, who is the wife of PETER GEE's PENDRAGON, plays a very spirited violin filled with emotion, especially on tracks BURIAL AT SEA and AFTERMATH. It's just amazing how an instrument can convey the mood of a character or scene! :) Other musicians include SCOTT HIGHAM on drums, who I am not familiar with but none the less plays well in relation to music theater appropriations. MARK WESTWOOD on Guitars who has a classical background and displays that very well throughout the album, even though the guitar factoring is very sparse throughout the album on ALCHEMY. None the less some guitar solos are present. CLAUDIO MOMBERG plays  an additional Piano role to accompany the wizardly of CLIVE NOLAN's Keyboards/orchestration. It's a nice addition. MOMBERG's grand piano sound is such an important element to the overall sound on ALCHEMY because of the diversity it brings, and that's what ALCHEMY's sound really represents....Diversity.  Also the Bass, played by KYLAN AMOS is not overly dramatic or present on ALCHEMY, but still adds a nice crunchy background in relation to NOLAN's already flawless keyboard playing. Overall, I have to say that the company of musicians here is stellar and it was very nice for me to be introduced to them for the first time in this way, except CLIVE of course cause i all ready know and love his work. Anyhow, great  performances from all, and  I hope the listener will appreciate them as much as I have on this album. 

Thus, ALCHEMY so far is gonna go down as one of the very best releases of 2013. Many proggers young and old, will appreciate this clever, very adventurous and ambitious album set forth by Mr. Clive Nolan. I feel the album has enough diversity to attract any kind of prog listener out there, especially for those who appreciate the music from AYREON. So weather your a fan of Metal, classical and broadway I think you, the listener, are in for a serious treat. I do recommend having the physical copy the album cause ALCHEMY has beautiful artwork and some important prologues for the listener to read, which helps get a full understanding of each scene and how it is set. Lastly, there is a beautiful, topographic map of the story's setting in 1842 London. I think one really needs to appreciate the amount of work and presentation that was put into this album. There is quite a bit to it, so having the hard copy of the CD I feel is essential and more respectable as well to understanding the true nature of the album itself. 

All in all, this album gets a 5/5 from me. I really can't think of another album this year (2013) that has grabbed my attention by way of a wonderful story combined with excellent musicianship. ALCHEMY is the most adventurous Progressive album in the last 10 years for me and I'm sure the album, especially the incredible story,  will be enjoyed and shared by many for years to come. Highly recommended. It's a full fledged masterpiece and an essential edition to anyone's Prog arsenal.  

progbethyname | 5/5 |

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