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Don Airey - A Light In The Sky CD (album) cover


Don Airey

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5 stars This album is a real treat! After disappointing debut album "K2 (Tales of Triumph & Tragedy)", full of pop/rock, 80' Rainbowish songs and some digital, "high-tech" synthesizers exercises I didn't expect so much from 2nd Airey's effort. But man, I was so wrong! His debut can't be called even prog-related, while "A Light in The Sky" is 100%, 24- carat progressive rock effort full of eclectic ideas like symphonic, jazz, heavy prog and space rock. Thanks to Deep Purple experience Don came back to rely on Hammond, Moog & piano, just like on his first albums recorded with "Colosseum II".

Let's check the tracks one by one. There are 17, but don't worry some of them are only few seconds instrumental interludes so there is enough space for well developed prog songs with long, perfectly-composed solos of main keyboards Maestro (as well guitarist Rob Harris from time to time).

1. "Big Bang" - 1 minute intro with space-like waving synthesizer and no other instruments. It finishes with fanfare of "BOOM!" on the keyboards. Nice ditty which introduces us to main cosmic topic of the album.

2. "Ripples in the Fabric of Time" - beginning of this instrumental track is similar to previous one. Some syntheizer noises a la Pink Floyd's "Echoes" & slow rhythm bass, after few seconds drums "join the party" and along with background organs become more and more interesting. Atmosphere is similar to some of the best Ayreon's compositions. After 2 minutes suddenly guitar kick-in with all its power and present tasteful solo. But when Don starts seriously push his organ in front composition reach the hights. Hammond/guitar interluding solos are placed one after another and we almost feel that Keith Emerson is jamming with Blackmore here. But it's not even jamming! Music flows perfectly organized and tight. No show-off. Simple enjoyment of music.

3. "Shooting Star" - first track with vocals delivered here by Carl Sentance. And what kind of song is it! Extremely catchy, "bouncy" guitar riffing & roaring Hammaond + great 70' inspired hard rock vocal. Sounds like Deep Purple from their best period. The only difference is that I've never heard such fantastic, high-pitched Moog solo in any DP's recordings!

4. "Space Troll Patrol" - this instrumental composition with quirky title perfectly catch the essence of organ driven progressive rock a la The Nice, ELP or Tiumvirat. Only Hammond organ, drums and deep sounding bass guitar (ok, also a little synth in a background from time to time). Dynamic, full-enjoyment composition with perfectly sounding, "real thing" Hammond A100 organ with surely good-old Leslie effect. You need to hear these endless soloing which don't sound tiresome even for a second!

5. "Andromeda M31" - without doubt Don was full of fresh ideas when he sat in the studio to record this phenomenal album 'cos here is another big prog-rock hit. It starts with guitar mid-tempo playing based on nice "eternal" synths background. Somehow Pink Floyd style of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Around 2 minutes organ joins again with marvelous solos. Everything is closed with another electric guitar solo. I can hear some obvious echoes of early "Eloy" in this composition - organ-driven space-rock if you axe me.

6. "Endless Night" - second arrive of Carl Sentance vocalist and another DeeP Purple oriented song. Great heavy prog which could be as well recorded in early 70s. Carl sounds like a mix of Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes here. We also have obligatory guitar solo, but the real treat is a dynamic Hammond showcase of Mr. Airey in the middle of the song. Lord (Jon of course :-) is surely proud of him 'cos it seems he learnt a lot from him.

7. "Rocket To The Moon" - short (only 1:20 minutes) 50s-like rock'n'roll but with Brian Auger/Jimmy Smith like organ instead of guitar. To be more interesting drummer Harry James is a lead vocalist on this one! And don't worry song is short, but Don is Don and he found a place to fit another tasty Hammond solo...

8. "Lift Off" - short interlude in the same style as "Big Bang". Calm synthesizer "landscapes" which are inspired by Jean Michel Jarre. Nice 1 minute to take a breath.

9. "Love You Too Much" - in the middle of the album arrives a little surprise - power ballad. After first couple of Deep Purple, ELP and Jarre inspired tracks this one is surely a big change of mood, but I have to admit that it's a really good song which I like to listen a lot. It reminds me late Rainbow output but I much prefer Danny Bowes' vocal (yes, it's the first & only song sang by him on this album), than Joe Lynn Turner's one. He has much more power and passion in his voice. This composition is mainly piano-driven but in the middle we can listen to good, atmospheric synthesizer solo too.

10. "Cartwheel Eso 350-40" - 3rd sort ditty of electronic sounding synth, but with a bit Eastern-style melody this time.

11. "Somarero M104" - another great instrumental here. Fantastic Grand piano performance but in contrary to other prog-rock artists which like to add such compositions (like Attilio Perrone or La Torre Dell' Alchimista) except piano we can also hear great drumming and some background synths which make the track "fuller'. "Somarero M104" is very dynamic and Airey's playing is truly virtuosic. Everything sound very symphonic, almost like real classical music.

12. "Into Orbit" - another instrumental track is much different then the previous one. This time Don proves that he can also play very calm, dreamy passages on his piano. However the real hero is Lidia Baich in here. Her violin is truly breathtaking and melodic in the same time. This composition sounds like classical music with an inch of psychedelia similar to violin-loaded 1st album of Japanese keyboardist Hiro Yanagida called "Milk Time".

13. "A Light in the Sky, Pt. 2" - no matter what happened with part 1, "A Light in the Sky, Pt. 2" is one of the best songs on this album. Mix of Deep Purple with the hardest ELP output (a la "Knife-Edge" or "A Time and a Place") makes it a must-have for everybody. Carl Sentance again delivers passionate heavy metal vocal (I could swear it's young Ian Gillan!) and Don play the hardest possible Hammond organ chops. It's the longest track on the recording so we can also enjoy bunch of good solos: Moog and Hammond in the middle, electric guitar near the end and everything finishes with another long, crunchy organ solo where Airey goes crazy in a clear Vincent Crane's way (from "Atomic Rooster" band).

14. "Pale Blue Dot" - along with "Space Troll Patrol" this is another The Nice-like organ- dominated performance. The main Arabic or Indian-like theme is marvelous and makes a big difference compared to classical music inspired music of Emerson. Solid Hammond A100 organ freak out!

15. "Metallicity" - another short interlude but this time except cosmic synthesizer also drums and electric piano are presented.

16. "Big Crunch" - I've read interview with Don Airey that this album was intended as some kind of tribute to Keith Emerson (obvious in many, especially instrumental compositions), J.M. Jarre (mainly in this 1 minute long ditties) and Mahavishnu Orchestra. As far as I know Mahavishnu Orchestra is a jazz-rock band but I've never listened to them to I can only suppose that this track is strictly dedicated to them. It's quite long (almost 7 minutes) jazz jamming with powerful, dynamic drums and thundering violin, synthesizers and electric piano solos (no organ this time). For me it's just OK, but maybe for fans of such genre it can be even more interesting.

17. "Lost in the End of Time" - the closing composition is also an instrumental one. It's a very beautiful track driven by acoustic piano with orchestra-like synthesizers, violin and electric guitar for good measure. Everything sound very symphonic, classical oriented. I really dig all of these fanfare-like, pompous keyboards "explosions", they perfectly blend with Airey's splendid piano runs.

All in all this is a must-have for prog-rock lovers, especially these ones who prefer classic 70s style full of good melodies, passionate vocals and powerful instrumentals loaded with analog keyboards. In general I would like to recommend this album to fans of keyboards-driven prog and especially to Hammond organ freaks (like me :-). To be more precise this album reminds me the most 3 other artists: Ryo Okumoto's latest album called "Coming Through"(similar mix of different styles, analog gear), Collossus Project "The Empire & the Rebellion" (similar vocals & old school keyboards) and Ayreon's output (mix of organ with electronic sounding digital synths and analog Moogs). For me this is surely 5 stars effort.

Report this review (#283251)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Deep Purple in space!

Don Airey is perhaps most well known today for being the permanent keyboardist of Rock institution Deep Purple since Jon Lord's departure early in this millennium, but Airey has a long career of working with many distinguished bands and artists in the Jazz-Rock/Fusion, Heavy Metal and Prog areas. Some people on this site may know him for his work with Jon Hiseman's Jazz-Rock/Fusion group Colosseum II in the 70's (remember Dark Side Of The Moog?), but Airey has since provided his impressive keyboard skills to albums and live concerts by such great bands as Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Jethro Tull and Judas Priest. The list of famous guitarists with which he has played is truly impressive and include Gary Moore, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Brian May, Martin Barre, Glenn Tipton/K.K. Downing, Uli Jon Roth and Steve Morse! These are generally (and rightly) considered some of the best guitarists in the history of Rock! It is perhaps strange that Airey himself remains relatively unknown in comparison, but maybe Rock keyboard players are doomed to be less famous than guitarists?

A Light In The Sky is Don Airey's second solo album and the music here reminds of Deep Purple in the vocal moments and ELP in many of the instrumental passages. The mighty Hammond organ has pride of place here, but a plethora of other keyboards are used as well. Some songs utilizes violin and in places, like on the title track, Kansas may spring to mind. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Airey relies on unknown musicians here and he does not invite any of the famous people he has worked with over the years like he did for his first solo album (on which Gary Moore and Cozy Powell provided guitars and drums respectively). The vocalist here is clearly in the Deep Purple-school of singing and the same might be said of the rest of the band. Though, A Light In The Sky is clearly jazzier and "spacier" than anything by Deep Purple.

The album consists of 17 tracks, some of which are short interludes. Many of the songs flown into each other and there is little to distinguish where one song ends and another begins. However, I hesitate to call the whole album a suite. There are no real standout tracks as such and the album must be judged as a whole. I must say that while thoroughly enjoyable, it is not really memorable (though, I would say the same about most of the Colosseum II output). I constantly get the impression that this has come about as a series of jams rather than a committed writing process.

Good, but certainly not essential

Report this review (#286865)
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Don Airey has been behind the keyboards in some pretty big bands over the decades. He's played with Cozy Powell, Gary Moore, Ritchie Blackmore, Ozzy Osbourne, David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner, Glen Tipton to name just a few. Currently he's playing for Deep Purple and is possibly the only one who could have stepped behind the Hammond organ after Jon Lord decided to retire from the band. Airey's previous solo album K2 was about 20 years ago. Musically it was diverse and showcased Airey's talent as a musician and composer but it was steeped in the 80s sound, which is something you love, hate or tolerate. Light in the Sky is, in my opinion, a surprisingly fantastic album. Airey makes excellent use of his skills behind the piano, hammond organ and synthesizer (his big thing in the 70s was a Moog synthesizer) and also showcases his talent as a composer.

The album starts of with a short instrumental that might make you think you are at the movies and watching the add for Digital Sound or THX. Then there's an instrumental that will let you imagine yourself at the planetarium watching a documentary of the galaxy with a rock band performing. The album moves on with different flavours and textures, sometimes going heavy with guitar and hard rock vocals, sometimes going all SF, and sometimes even waxing classical.

Towards the end of the album we can hear some fabulous piano work on Into Orbit, accompanied by violin, and on Sombrero, which is my favourite track off the album for its frantic pace and almost Spanish feel. It's hard to imagine that the guy who played so many standard synthesizer chords on some famous guitar band albums is ripping up the keys here like a blitzkrieg.

There's a heavy Hammond organ instrumental called Pale Blue Dot and the impressive closing instrumental Til the End with more fast finger work on the piano keys. The album offers a few songs with vocals as well in case you are not up for a completely instrumental album.

Overall I was very impressed with this album. But I also noticed that after a few months it was not available anymore. Airey's new album is out and I would love a chance to snag it before it becomes a rarity. If it's anything like this, it will be amazing! Truly an essential addition with serious consideration for a masterpiece!

Report this review (#839111)
Posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars In the late Seventies I stumbled upon Don Airey while looking at the back cover of the album Electric Savage (1977) by Colosseum II, on a picture he was playing a Minimoog synthesizer. The music blew me away, what an exciting blend of jazz rock and symphonic rock and what a great work on the Minimoog by Don Airey (see PA video Colosseum II : The Scorch Live). I became a fan and watched him in 1981 with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and more recently in 2012 as Don Airey & Friends, playing on the mighty Hammond B3 organ. Along an endless list of bands he joined (like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake, Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy) Don Airey also released four solo albums between 1988 and 2014. And On May 25th he will release his new solo album entitled One Of A Kind, including a live bonus CD (4 tracks, Germany 2017). This review is about my favourite one, his second entitled A Light In The Sky from 2008.

During my first listening session I concluded very quickly: what an exciting and varied album featuring mindblowing work on the Hammond organ and Grand piano! As a huge fan of the very distinctive Hammond I was blown away by Don Airey, he let his Hammond moan and groan and scream during swirling solos in Ripples In The Fabric Of Time, Space Troll Patrol, Endless Night and A Light In The Sky Pt.2. But also a big hand for his vituosic work on the Grand piano like in Love You Too Much (wonderful ballad with warm vocals), Sombrero M104 (sparkling with flamenco hints), Into Orbit (swirling duet with a violin) and the strongly build-up final song Lost In The End Of Time (beautiful interplay between electric guitar and a melancholical violin).

And what a variety in the other songs.

Rainbow-like Heavy Prog with powerful vocals in Shooting Star (Hammond sound like Jon Lord and a flashy Minimoog synthesizer solo with pitchbend) and A Light In The Sky Pt.2.

Rockabilly (in the vein of The Strays Cats) with Hammond organ in Rocket To the Moon.

Fiery guitar with a jazzy Fender Rhodes electric piano in Big Crunch.

And ambient keyboard sounds in several short songs like Big Bang, Lift Off and Metallicity.

Especially during the 12 instrumental tracks Don Airey showcases his impressive skills on a wide range of keyboards, what an exciting, varied and genuine progressive album.

Report this review (#1918272)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars A light in the sky is a mixed but inspired bag of songs that show how versatile a hard-rock keyboard player can be. The album contains instrumental electronic tinged music, progressive rock and jazz driven compositions as well vocalized hard-rock numbers. The first track sets the exploratory mood to continue with a semi progressive, semi-Jarreau-like work. As displayed here and continuing throughout the album, there is not much detail laid on the compositional side of things, the groove and sound take preference. Since every number differs significantly from the previous one, there's a certain guarantee that the listener won't get bored. "Shooting start" is the closest number to Deep Purple with similarly scoped vocals and guitar riffs. "Space Troll Patrol" bears basic resemblance to the ELP sound - probably the most popular keyboard instrument by Don Airey - Hammond organ. The second part of the album is actually more interesting for the progressive listener since instrumental tracks have even more dominance there. "Sombrero M140" is versed between jazzy chops and Latin grooves. "Into Orbit" is a violin-piano duo and reminds of acoustic jazz-fusion tracks of the late 70's. "Big crunch" may well be the most appropriate track for a progressive listener - packed with instrumentation from various keyboards, tempo changes and drum solo, there is plenty of stock to be consumed. The last virtuoso piano track sets more reflective mood and showcases the instrumental prowess by Don Airey.

Overall, this is a recommended effort for accessible rock with progressive and jazz influences.

Report this review (#2085997)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2018 | Review Permalink

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