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Ken Baird - Further Out CD (album) cover

FURTHER OUT

Ken Baird

Crossover Prog


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Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Points of reference for the new Ken Baird album FURTHER OUT could be TIMOTHY PURE meets THE BLUE NILE. Stupid Dream-era Porcupine Tree meets the Mike Oldfield Crises-era. As you can see, Ken Baird has a small but loyal following here on progarchives.com, which is unfortunate because Ken deserves a larger audience. This is as good, if not better than most anything coming from bands such as The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard. For one thing, Ken has an excellent voice that I cannot compare to anyone for the life of me. Ken Baird's keyboard style reminds me of Tony Banks with the more grandiose stylings of Eddie Rayner from Split Enz and maybe a little Gary Brooker of Procol Harum for some class. FURTHER OUT is definitely music for the backroads or a long drive on a sunny day. FURTHER OUT is worth buying for the title track alone. One of the finest slabs of modern prog.rock I've heard in some time(comparable in quality to 3rDegree's Cautionary Tale...see my review). For you drummers out there, the title track must be heard for the precision drumming of one Chris Lamont. Keyboardists take note as well. Sue Fraser(a long time collaborator) has a voice not unlike Amanda Parsons meets Maggie Reilly. Ken's composition style is similar to that of THE ENID, although Ken writes songs instead pieces(notwithstanding the masterpiece title track _Further Out_...a real gem). A solid 4 stars, 5 stars for the title track.

Make this Ken Baird CD a priority to check out in 2009. One of the progarchives.com best kept secrets.

Check out KEN BAIRD at kenbairdmusic.com

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Send comments to Gooner (BETA) | Report this review (#211508)
Posted Friday, April 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I certainly agree with what Gooner has already said in his review about this album. For me Ken Baird is first and foremost a song writer. Ken is also a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. And he takes some great photos as well. There's something about his lyrics, songs and pictures that all seem to be connected. They all make me think and feel good at the same time. I felt "that" strongly with his previous release "Martin Road", both albums take me to a warm, safe place as odd as that sounds. It's about memories and the everyday things in life that he has the ability to make more meaningful through his lyrics, music and pictures.

"Spinning Wheels" has such a pleasant soundscape as Susan comes in vocally. Lots of piano here as it settles. Ken comes in singing before 2 minutes. Great sound. Gorgeous guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in as organ follows. More incredible guitar after 5 minutes to the end. One of my favourite songs for sure. "A Thousand Years" opens with piano as vocals come in.This is sad and beautiful. Children start to sing before 1 1/2 minutes. Themes are repeated. Great tune. "The Sound Of Rain" is led by keyboards and drums as vocals come in. It gets fuller sounding a minute in as contrasts continue.

"Stainless Skies" is another favourite of mine. A feel-good track that opens with some good guitar and drums. "Where I Came From" is classic Baird, check out the lyrics. "I'll tell you where I came from, the town was small but the roads were long. I fell into life, I fell into yours and though I mean't well, I was not strong". Penny Whistle before 2 minutes. Guitar a minute later. "As The Highway Greets A Friend" is fantastic ! A heavier rhythm section on this one. Vocals come in. Piano after a minute as that chunky bass continues. It settles after 2 1/2 minutes with some excellent guitar and drumming.

"Reflections In The Lake" is basically Ken doing it all solo. A moving track with keyboards, piano and fragile vocals. Beautiful. "Everything To Lose" has such meaningful lyrics. Piano and organ to open as vocals come in.The tempo and mood shifts a lot in this one. Can't help but think of Tony Banks before a minute. Themes are repeated. The vocals soar 5 minutes in. "Further Out" might be the most ambitous song Ken has done. By far the longest at 10 minutes and my favourite. Amazing lyrics and the mood that is set here is so uplifting. The song turns spacey after 4 minutes as the melody stops. Sounds like TANGERINE DREAM 5 1/2 minutes in as the synths pulse and the drums start to put on a show. Incredible section ! Susan comes in vocally after 7 1/2 minutes.

A solid 4 stars, I still prefer "Martin Road" slightly but it might be the fact I have more history with it. If you can get either one don't hesitate. Heart music.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#214145)
Posted Wednesday, May 06, 2009 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The magic has returned ! I have been patiently waiting for the release of "Further Out" and I can tell you it has been worth the wait! This album marks the 5th release for Baird and once again reveals his evolution in singing, song writing and personal inspirations. Immediately recognizable is the standout guitar work of new member Andrew Aldridge who compliments Ken's symphonic stylings to perfection. Also returning to grace this album is both Steve Cochrane (guitar) and Sue Fraser (vocals) who opens and closes the album off which brings a certain degree of circularity to this whole CD. 2003's "Martin Road" gave us my vote for song of the year in the highly imaginative "Victoria Day" and now with "Further Out" my 2009 choice is already very clear with the delicate and harmonic "Stainless Skies". Fans of longer tracks will love the final and title song which clocks in just a tad over 10 mins and features a little bit of just about everything! You must go out and buy this CD !!!

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#220385)
Posted Tuesday, June 09, 2009 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars Canada's Ken Baird is among a few prog musicians like Guy Manning and Like Wendy's Bert Heinen who simply do not get enough recognition, even though they have sizable discographies and sterling material. They create with the implicit understanding that they will never knock on the hallowed gates of fame and displace the current flavor of the month (Lady Gaga?). They are artists because they express their inner spirit within a musical framework that has the least amount of respect anyway. As I love to say ad nauseam lately "Forgive them for they do not understand"! I have enjoyed all of Ken's previous albums from 1998's "Fields", followed by "Orion" and "Martin Road", a personal musical journey that has no hint of undue pretense, no cheap cloning of past greats or current upstarts and no abdication to commercialism. He is a melancholic balladeer who prefers padding some simple symphonics than any hip gloss that has no substance. "Spinning Wheels" is a tremendous introduction; swooning and densely atmospheric melodies are conjuring up feelings of springtime rebirth, deliberately increasing the melancholia, especially when Baird sings with such verve and vigor. The main chorus is heavenly, the verses heartbreakingly intertwined, the sedate guitar solo slowly building in emotive harmony, exploding into a paroxysm of bliss. Mother dear! What a track! "A Thousand Years" is more piano-personal based, where the voice takes over in angelic exuberance , childlike choirs spicing up the infinite sonic space, the impression is one of a maturely saccharine outlay of emotion. "The Sound of Rain" has a wobbly bass undertone but within another very up-beat gloomy kind of vibe. There are some pleading moments that make this very "song" oriented prog, but the musicians manage to convey a certain "recherché" musical palette that is immediately appealing. "Stainless Skies" is unfortunately a bit timid, a puerile mix of countryfied rock and pure balladism (sounding almost like Bread). With an extended slo-mo axe solo that doesn't convince at all. Nothing too great here for my ears anyway. "Where I Came From" is a leap back into the personal style that suits Ken best, a very proggy pop that is inherently gentle and emotionally secure. The lyrics are intense and the flute á la Celtique formulates well within the "good music" confines. The next one is a fine rock 'n roller , with dreamy vocals but a fiery rhythmic attack that highlights the groove parts , something that Steve Wilson would conjure up in another setting. There is guitar section that worms slowly into the brain, twirling magical notes quickly reverting to the various shifts from harsh, to exalted to pastoral. "Reflections on the Lake" is a drop-dead gorgeous hymn that glitters in the moonlight, painting more stars on the galaxial expanse, I quake with trembling knees when hearing such beauty. Magnificent piece of music (Mr. Hackett would be proud). "Everything to Lose" is another bluesy plaint that has piano and voice as main culprits, yet loaded with symphonics and contrasting themes once again. A piano solo is followed by a delightful flute foray and enveloped in synthesized parallels. Easy listening prog this is nevertheless, so don't expect atonal- technical stuff here, just a great unpretentious song! The final and title cut is the clincher, making this into another great effort. I still prefer his earlier material but there is a lot of intensely personal music here. This final track is grandiose, plaintive and passionate both instrumentally and vocally. First a wispy series of synth whistle solos catch the ear in awe, nice, then the vocals become more ardent with a huge chorus that stains the brain again. But the masterpiece moment is the extended gloomy mist, pulsating synthesizers inviting in a barrage of manic drum rifling, that is simply put , spectacular ! Chris Lamont has just entered fame, as his drumming is now set down for all to hear for eternity. Sue Fraser adds her beautiful voice to the celestial (been using that word a lot lately!) explosion, my feel is that she could have been more present in the previous tracks , as the two voices together could have made things even more interesting. A final synth farewell puts this one "further out". Needs to be heard as another good example of originality within rather strict guidelines. Thank you, Ken . 4 forest photos

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#223700)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Canadian artist Ken Baird makes his agenda clear from the very first notes of opening track Spinning Wheels, where the long sustained guitar notes and rising piano runs immediately remind of driving on the open highway. For me, specifically, it elicits the thought of driving through the plains more than driving through the mountains, but that's perhaps an irrelevant note.

The music is built up on a backbone of guitars, keys, bass and drums - in short, the "classic" prog lineup, but in many ways it sounds unlike anything else in my prog collection. Ken's unique voice, which isn't powerful but instead endearing for it's honesty, is often the driving force behind the music, but that is not to imply that the instrumental aspect of the album suffers. The drummer provides a lot of energy, the keys provide texture, and the distinctive guitar playing is probably the strongest source of the open highway feeling of the album.

This is a song based album, and the compositions are generally strong. That being said, not a whole lot stands apart here. In general, the songs are all chilled-out sounding, with a few exceptions (the haunting childrens voices on A Thousand Years is one example). My favorite part of the album, though, is the title track, especially the synths/drums combo in the middle. The synths create some great electric energy, with the drumming popping in with a cool beat before giving the synths space; then the jump back in with another fill, and it just works amazingly.

Overall, a very good album with a distinctive sound that, as it stands, is unique in my prog collection.

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Send comments to TheGazzardian (BETA) | Report this review (#299651)
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Sound of Rain

Although Pop-Prog is certainly an oxymoron if I've ever heard one, this particular music scene is constantly growing in high-quality modern musicians. One of these multi-instrumentalists and composers is Canada's Ken Baird. Further Out is his fifth album, and was released six years after his previous full-length, the critically praised Martin Road. So, needless to say, this album was quite an anticipated release by fans of Ken's distinct pop/prog style. If you're a newcomer, but enjoy acts like Radiohead, new-era Marillion, or Kevin Gilbert, this album should be right up your alley.

One thing that really amazed me about this album is Ken Baird's immense compositional talents. Although I can't fully appreciate everything about this release, Ken really knows how to craft a great song. Of the 9 songs on Further Out, my favorites are As Highway Greets a Friend, the IQ-esque Reflections in the Lake, and especially the epic Further Out. The rest of the songs are still very strong, but simply don't appeal to my own personal tastes very much. The second half of the album is far superior to the first half in my opinion, mostly due to the masterpiece of a title track. This ten-plus minute song is simply a masterpiece of progressive rock, and shows what Ken Baird is fully capable when he goes all-out. Had the whole album contained a few more songs as strong as this one, I surely would've been more enthusiastic about this release as a whole.

The musicianship on Further Out is very solid and professional. I especially have to applaud Ken Baird for mastering so many different instrument and vocal styles. There's nothing too overtly complex here, but the cast of musicians show their chops throughout Further Out.

The production is really great. It's clean, powerful, and very professional.

Conclusion:

Further Out is a high-quality, professional album from a very talented musician. If you're a fan of more commercial-sounding progressive rock, I can't recommend this album enough. If you're not a pop/prog fan, I can even highly recommend it because of the masterpiece of a title track. 3.5 stars are well deserved here for a solid, enjoyable album.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#301517)
Posted Saturday, October 02, 2010 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Interesting album from this Canadian talent!

His name is Ken Baird, a creative progressive rock artist who created his first album back in 1996 with the title of "August"; thirteen years later he released his so far latest album, entitled "Further Out", and the one I will review. With his music, we can enjoy once again a musician whose creativity and skills are very interesting, playing keyboards, guitars and singing, Ken Baird offers now a cool and gentle album which offers nine songs and a total time of 44 minutes.

The album opens with "Spinning Wheels" with a nice and comfortable sound, made mainly by the delicate piano and accompanied by cool drums, nice bass lines and a sweet female voice. Then the song changes and Ken Baird's voice appears for the first time, I like his voice it has a clean and soft sound that everyone could listen without getting annoyed. There is a nice guitar solo before the fourth minute, and then it slows down a little bit. Nice opening track.

"A Thousand Years" is a soft melodic piece that starts with piano and seconds later the voice appears. This is a light song that has some backing vocals and a tense background in moments, but honestly a forgettable one. Then we have "The Sound of Rain" which starts faster and seems to have more power on it. There is a constant keyboard sound that works as background and creates a cool atmosphere. The song keeps the same line until minute 2:30 when it slows down and the panorama changes, then it returns to its original form.

The next song could be actually like the second part of the previous one, or even of the first track, since it has a particular and alike sound. The music is again gentle and in moments catchy, comfortable and charming. However, in moments "Stainless Skies" becomes repetitive and boring, I don't mean to be harsh, but I had to say it.

"Where I came From" is another short, soft and catchy track, whose music is pretty nice and becomes better where the flute appears, there is also a nice guitar solo. I would have liked this as a longer song, but well it was the musician's decision. "As the Highway Greets a Friend" is a song I enjoy a lot because of that mix of soft and (in moments) heavier music, the chorus is pretty catchy, as a considerable part of the album is. Here there is a nice musical passage after minute three where the music creates different images and scenarios.

"Reflections in the Lake" is a melodic guitar acoustic-driven song that has nice vocals, keyboards and creates good nuances. However, in a bad day, I would skip this song, sorry Ken. "Everything to Lose" continues with that soft and catchy sound that clearly labels Ken Baird (at least on this site) as a crossover-prog artist. A chorus to sing, nice keyboard moments and good atmospheres that can make you enjoy this song. The addition of the flute always helps the music in this album.

The last track is the longest and what you would say the most progressive one. Entitled "Further Out", it starts with nice drums and keyboards that in some seconds create a clean structure, with a poppish sound; but later a cool keyboard solo adds that magic flavor that puts you in the music's mood. During the song we can enjoy the game of backing vocals creating harmony, until minute four where it stops and only a relaxing and atmospheric keyboard sound remains, this is a sweet moment actually. A minute later a new spacey sound appears and interplays with drums. That long instrumental passage is excellent, well composed and better transmitted. Later the female vocals that we heard on the first track appear again. This is the best track on the album, without a doubt.

The album is quite good, Ken Baird's talent is evident, however, I never felt as trapped by its music as I would have liked. My final grade will be three stars.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#306069)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#310240)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink

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