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Don Airey - K2 (Tales Of Triumph & Tragedy) CD (album) cover


Don Airey

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Symphonic Team
2 stars Journey to the centre of... K2

For his first solo album, keyboard player Don Airey offers us a conceptual album about the mountain in Asia known as K2 - the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest. The narration that appears throughout readily brings to mind that of Rick Wakeman's concept album Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (which initially involves a mountain on Iceland). The music itself is actually not unlike that of Wakeman, but more of the 80's than of the 70's variety. Another band that springs to mind when listening to K2 is Alan Parsons Project and, indeed, both Chris Thompson and Colin Bluntstone contribute vocals. Guitars and drums are provided by Gary Moore and Cozy Powell with which Airey had worked previously in Collosseum II and Rainbow respectively. Moore contributes some fine guitar solos, but overall the presence of guitars, vocals and drums is rather scarce and the sound is mostly dominated by Airey's keyboards. Cozy Powell's usually thunderous drumming is not easily detected here and I wonder what he in fact did contribute to the album.

After having worked with such greats as Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne in the late 70's and early 80's, you might expect a solo album in the style of these bands. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This music owes more to Mike Oldfield, ELP and Alan Parsons Project than any of the bands Airey worked on before (and since). The production is heavily rooted in the 80's and the sound comes across as rather dated. Some songs are out-and-out 80's Pop of the worst Alan Parsons sort. Needless to say, this music has little to do with the Jazz-Rock/Fusion or Heavy Rock for which Airey is primarily known. It is indeed admirable that he was able to move outside of his comfort zone, but this venture is not particularly successful despite some nice moments. This release is far from worthless however, but there are many other albums by other artists that achieve the goals Airey set himself here much better.

On the version of this album that I have heard the songs Julie, Death Zone and Whiteout are combined into one long track, and this track holds some of the album's best and rockiest moments (Julie is not among them though). Had the whole album sounded like those best bits this would have been a far better album, but as it stands it lacks direction. Though tied together by a concept, it often sounds rather incoherent and lacking a unified structure.

A decent effort for sure, but not everyone's cup of tea

Report this review (#286867)
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is an album I have had in my collection from the day it was released.

Let's start with the background facts here. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and also the most difficult mountain in the world to climb. Even the standard route have several very difficult vertical passages. That means they are severe difficult even at sea level. In thin air and with heavy clothes and shoes, these passages even become more difficult. Add frequent storms, snowfall, the constant threat of avalanches and the remoteness of this mountain and it is perfectly understandable why K2 is rightly being called the king of all mountains. The only slightly higher Mount Everest is easy to climb compared to K2. Indeed, Mount Everest is sometimes used as a training climb for those who aspire to climb K2.

Julia Tullis was a famous British climber who aspired to climb K2. She finally managed to climb it in 1986. On her way down and still high on the mountain, she and others in her expedition had to seek shelter in the highest camp due to a savage storm. She died in her sleep up there and her body was buried some days later high on K2, never to be seen again. This event and many other death on K2 in 1986 was the worst mountaineering disaster up to that date and Julia's death made an immense impact here in Great Britain. K2 later also killed scores of other very experienced mountaineers on two more occasions and it is widely regarded as a savage mountain with a very high death rate. But Julia's 1986 expedition and her passing is the concept for this album.

Inspired by this tragedy, Don Airey wrote this concept album and hired in musicians to perform it. The sound is very typical 1980s and so is this concept album. It reminds me about this Chess concept album by the two Bjorn's in Abba. Don Airey starts with a long 1980s like keyboards intro over some spoken words who explains this concept to us. Vocals, guitars, bass and drums then comes in. Some of the vocals are pretty terrible. The whole concept is executed pretty horrible. This is a concept album, but this is not symphonic prog by any means. This is a mix of heavy metal and pomp rock. Mostly pomp rock. With the exception of the opening minutes, the material here is pretty bad. This album sounds dated and irrelevant where other many decades old concept albums sounds fresh and relevant. In short, this is not a good album.

For those of you interested in this mountain, I refer to the many books on this subject. Don't go for this album or the K2 movie which is even more revolting than this album. This though is not a revolting album. But it is only an album for nerds like myself. And even I don't rate this album.

2 stars

Report this review (#287033)
Posted Friday, June 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a fan of concept albums, I almost passed on this one based on previous reviews. Now I'm glad I did not. There is some adventurous stuff in here. It is a departure from Airey's metal/classic rock roots, but the music is still dynamic and spirited. If Alan Parson Project circa Eye in the Sky met Emerson, Lake and Powell this would be the offspring. The music is sweeping, cinematic, and straddles the line between neo prog and pop. I'm really enjoying this release, and encourage others who like prog with flourishes of majestic pomp to give it a shot.
Report this review (#299879)
Posted Monday, September 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Prolific British keyboardist, born in 1948 in Sunderland, and among the most well-known session musicians.Airey's career took off in mid-70's, playing for Cozy Powell's Hammer, later to join Black Sabbath for the ''Never Say Die!'' album.Between 1978 and 1981 he joined Rainbow for a couple of albums, followed by his recruitment on Ozzy Osborne's band in early- 80's.In 1987 Airey helped both Jethro Tull and Whitesnake as a session keyboardist and around the same time he wrote the material of what became his first solo output ''K2 (Tales of Triumph & Tragedy)'', originally released in 1988 on MCA Records.

With help by Gary Moore on guitars, Cozy Powell on drums, Manfred Mann's Earth Band's vocalist Chris Thompson and Keats' singer Colin Blunstone, Airey wrote a concept work around the deadly disaster took place on the K2 mountain between the 6th and 10th August of 1986, leading to the death of five mountaineers, and it is strongly recommended to the listener to follow the concept.The majority of the album consists of short tracks/themes around the fatal event, divided into narrations, bombastic orchestral passages and even some keyboard Fusion with a strong Hard Rock flavor overall.The atmosphere ranges from dynamic grooves to very dramatic solos, highlighted by Moore's exceptional solos and Airey's mournful synthesizers.Only some cheap sounding keyboards and the quite plastic production will spoil the so long very decent material.By the end of the album, just when the events peak their top emotional moments, Airey placed his longer and more sensitive compositions.Sensational vocal parts, orchestral and grandiose keyboard work along with Moore's thrilling trademark solos give birth to the excellent finish of the album and the story.

''K2 (Tales of Triumph & Tragedy)'' serves nicely the purpose of its existence.It is much a product of its time but it is also a very good concept release, where Hard Rock meets AOR meets keyboard-based Prog with a good alternation between different emotions.Recommended.

Report this review (#728670)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars When this album came out, I had no money to purchase it right away, having just completed my Slayer (!) collection. Later on, I found it hard to get in the local stores, and forgot about it, until about 5 years ago. After searching hard, and not finding it, I finally bought it in digital form online. From the day I got it, I liked the album a lot - although it is definitely an '80s album, it is also a piece of music brought by a fabulous set of musicians. It may not be neo prog, not even prog at all, but it keeps turning up on my playlist, simply because of the great keyboard and guitar work.

Love it or hate it, but this is one of my all time favourites. For not being prog, I'll rate it 3 stars, but on any generic rock or music site, I would have definely given it 4 stars.

Report this review (#882917)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2012 | Review Permalink

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