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Steve Rothery


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4 stars As guitarist and founder member of Marillion, Steve Rothery plays in a vocals-dominated band. This rare instrumental solo project is therefore a most welcome opportunity to appreciate his work undiluted. It has all the hallmarks of the Neo-Prog sub-genre Rothery helped to found: easy-listening but interesting, musically conservative but imaginative. Very lush and absorbing. As seen with Marillion's classic Brave album, or more recently IQ's creepy Road of Bones, Neo-Prog has the ability to make pleasant listening of the most sinister themes. So Pripyat, the abandoned and quarantined Ukrainian city for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, does not really engender anything musical to make your flesh creep, and there is even something cool about the grim cover image.

Verdict: easily digestible for just about any rock fan.

Report this review (#1301192)
Posted Friday, November 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In another of prog's ongoing mysteries, celebrated guitarist Steve Rothery of Marillion fame waited almost 30 years to finally record an outright solo album (The Willow Tree was more of a project than anything solo). So it goes without saying that his long awaited instrumental debut "The Ghost of Pripyat" was met with great trepidation and required patience until it finally got distributed properly. True treasures are worth waiting for and this splendid release falls certainly in that category. When I read that Yatem Halimi was the bass player, I got even more excited as his clever playing on Panic Room's two latest masterpieces really grabbed my attention. Having the prolific Steve Hackett and the genial Steve Wilson join in only heightens the quality, as the two have obviously many technical traits in common with Mr. Rothery. Throw in second guitarist and co- composer Dave Foster of Mr. So & So, as well as the recent Legend line-up only increases the drama. Keyboardist Riccardo Romano of Italian band Ranestrane discreetly colors the scenes with some atmospheric renderings while drummer Leon Parr holds the rhythmic fort. In the old glory days of prog, there were the three Steves (Howe, Hackett and Hillage), now we have another trio with one returning member (Rothery, Hackett and Wilson). For those who do not follow history, a massive nuclear catastrophe befell the town of Pripyat in the Ukraine, back when it was part of the crumbling USSR in April 1986. The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl malfunctioned due to a variety of human and systematic errors that caused a massive meltdown of the reactor core. The town once boasted a population of 49,400 and today is entirely abandoned, a ghost town of epic and tragic proportions, a monument to human stupidity. This is a soundtrack for the ages, a remembrance of human frailty and arrogance in trying to harness powers that are perhaps too slippery to control. The entire disc is a pure delight to listen to, even though the material is influenced by the gravest of tragedies, the players demonstrate an incommensurable aptitude to express sorrow, desolation and fear. The stupendous interplay between the two axemen, the delicate keyboard tapestry, as well as the pulse are of the very highest order. Each of the 7 tracks, though all unique in sound and texture, seem to blend into an overall impression of intense inspiration, generally in the more mellow, atmospheric mode I happen to adore , with occasional bursts of cosmic energy (no not nuclear!). As befitting Rothery's style, his solos are deeply poignant affairs, never overtly complicated or extended beyond need, giving the other players enough room to dribble, pass and even volley when prompted.

"Morpheus" easily sets the vaporous tone that will permeate the entire work, leaving Master Hackett himself to bewitch the unsuspecting fans with his exemplary restraint and musical mind, his thrilling solo a burning glow of utter beauty, class and mastery at its finest. Reflective, diaphanous and highly panoramic, the electric flow is one of meticulous bravery.

The excellence of the compositional skills are beyond the norm, exuding mature and insightful arrangements, emotionally drenched soloing from the master himself on tracks like "Kendris" that have a slight East European flavor, outright blow outs such as on the raunchy "Old Man and the Sea" (solo by SW) and the colossal "White Pass", where Rothery's enchanted guitar dances into the mountainous twilight. This last one in particular is a very powerful cut, mindful of Dutch instrumental band Odyssice (that Bastiaan Peeters is a killer guitarist), chock full of minute bejeweled details that will make your head spin, from crystalline licks, volume pedal trickery to searing , scouring axe majesty.

On a whirlwind track like "Yesterday's Hero", the core (pun intended) sentiments are expressed with a kaleidoscopic pirouette, urgent and desperate. Though beginning with oozing delicacy, shifting into mellow inner drive as it's steered by a moody guitar streak, there is an immediate sense of gentle persuasion in the glittering technique. The slow build-up then evolves into a more buzzing affair, a solo that defines Rothery, a spiraling, passionate and exploratory guitar rant that is utterly brilliant, almost Floydian in delivery.

The high point is attained on the shimmering "Summer's End", a suave, silk and velvet composition that starts out as a hot and humid little affair and then gradually morphs into this tectonic conflagration of sound that inspires trembling delirium, egged on by a roiling Hammond organ rant, propulsed by Parr's solid bashing, while Halim keeps things grounded and level. The at times raging and exuberant solos are simply extraordinary.

The lush title track is perhaps the most intriguing as it relates directly to the topic, a delicate and intricate duet of acoustic guitars that paint a rather bucolic atmosphere, with Foster coughing up a slick and complex riff, with that slight Eastern feel once again, interwoven with the churning organ. The groove settles in and Steve is ready to glide over the mid-section with his insistent licks, I was almost momentarily reminded of an instrumental Allman bros Band. There is a sense of unforgivable sadness and melancholy that behooves an abandoned and atomized city, with disfigured stray dogs yelping their solitude for no one to hear. The despair and the finality of it all come through clearly with Steve 's guitar weeping tragically.

Fans of old and new Marillion are obvious targets but any instrumental guitar fan needs to check this delicious effort out and linger in its perfect musical glory.

5 radioactive phantoms

Report this review (#1387581)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pripyat, an abandoned city in The Ukraine, abandoned because of the shocking Chernobyl disaster. Given that this shell of a place lends its name to the album, or, rather, the ghosts who haunt it, you would not really expect to have that much a of a laugh fest, really.

Actually, though, there are some wonderfully uplifting moments here, in addition to the evocative, and downright haunting.

This is the debut Steve Rothery solo album, which is something of a surprise given that he has delighted us with Marillion for more than 30 years now. Yes, there have been the two exceptional Wishing Tree collaborations with the lovely Hannah Stobart, and other guest appearances, most notably recently with Steve Hackett, who returns the favour by guesting on the rather understated opener, Morpheus, and then returns on the third track, Old Man Of The Sea, alongside the colossus of modern prog, Mr Wilson, and the result is every bit as good as one would expect with three virtuoso musicians working together. The closing riffs are wonderfully thunderous, with a genuine wall of sound being lovingly created.

Actually, the comment regarding the three "stars" on that track is a tad unfair, because, in reality, this is, really, The Steve Rothery Band, such is the fine support he receives from Dave Foster on guitar, Riccardo Romano's exceptional soundscapes on keyboards, Yatim Halimi on bass, who has been wonderful on the recent Panic Room albums, and Leon Parr on drums. This feels and sounds like a band who have been together far longer than they actually have - tight and knowing.

Rothery, it is fair to say, gets to stretch his riffs, including some very heavy passages, far more than he has in recent Marillion releases, although, of course, his day job is part of a collective writing machine. Here, he gets to express himself free from those constraints. The riffs on the wonderfully Gothic White Pass are a very good example of this freedom of expression, quite unlike anything the parent band have ever produced.

There are no lyrics here, just music. Sometimes, as in the title track which closes proceedings, this delivers an incredibly sad mood, but, elsewhere, you genuinely feel as if you are getting to know the characters Rothery evokes, without having to read about them. The music delivers all.

I have admired, very passionately, Steve's work with Marillion since the very early days, so this album was, for me, a no-brainier to purchase. I would, though, make the very important point that this should not be confined merely to Marillion fans. Far from it, this album is an exercise in quality musicianship, and all lovers of this, especially virtuoso guitar playing, will be interested.

Four stars. Quite excellent, and I cannot wait for the follow-up.

Report this review (#1456040)
Posted Monday, August 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars Ghosts of Pripyat, a release by perpetually underrated Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery, is a haunting, nuanced, and richly layered album of rock expressionism that more than checks off everything needed for a great instrumental album.

First, it showcases the performer's talent. Rothery is one of the best not because of up-front technical brilliance or dexterity, but because he understands what makes soulful music, and is masterful at expressing himself through his instrument. While I don't think there's the same level of soaring solo work that we heard on some of the best Marillion albums, Ghosts of Pripyat is a constant demonstration of Rothery's talent for crafting artistic songs and sounds through his guitar. Rothery uses perpetually changing dynamics, vibrato, effects, riffs, and solo work that will impress any one who enjoys the instrument, and certainly fans of his Marillion legacy.

Second, the songs on Ghosts of Pripyat are thoughtful, well crafted, diverse, and full of character. Each song tells a story or creates a particular feeling in the listener. Not being able to benefit from lyrics or a vocalist, this is no small feat, but Rothery and his supporting band do an outstanding job at giving one impressions or feelings to experience as they listen. Typically mellow and mature, these feelings shift between the uplifting to the desperate or lonely. Ghosts of Pripyat creates feelings of introspection or reflection on one's past, encouraging one to replay or imagine events with its songs as the score playing in the background. The songs work very well as background music, or when listened to and studied actively.

Finally, it's got class, and isn't just an excuse for the instrumentalists to show off. The compositions and performances throughout Ghosts of Pripyat are elegant and sensitive; never excessive or out of place.

Fans of Rothery will be very excited to experience Ghosts of Pripyat. Yes, there are some Marillion-like sounds here, which is to be expected, and really isn't a bad thing, but this album mostly shows us Rothery's skill at composing thoughtful instrumental work that slips between moods with grace and emotion.

Especially recommended if you're seeking something moody or instrumental.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: NA - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#1463913)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have been a Marillion fan over many years and I was very glad to hear that the guitarplayer of Marillion, Steve Rothery finally had launched an album. The Ghosts of Pripyat is an instrumental album. No singing at all and I think that is nice. The album features the legendary Genesis guitar player, Steve Hackett on a couple of tracks. The album is about the ghosttown Pripyat in Ukraine that was abandoned after the Tsjernobyl nuklear disaster. The album opens with the track Morpheus featuring Steve Hackett. It opens with a very nice quiet guitar playing together with a quiet Pink Floyd'ish synth. This is one of my favourite tracks of the album. It has av strong melody line and it takes it very easy. They are not in a hurry. It moves slowly forwards and it is melodic. You can somehow feel the mood from Pripyat as it moves forwards. After a while a piano comes in playing very nicely. The rest of the track is solo guitar. Very strong track! Kendris is the second track. It opens with a quiet clapping sound together with a quiet guitar. This track is more rytmic and uptempo. Also a nice track. The third track Old man of the seas is more than 11 minutes long is also a very strong track. Opens with the sea rolling in and then a quiet guitar. Then some harmonica. All very quiet and slow. Steve Rothery is not in a hurry. And thats good. He is just a great guitar player and has a sense for harmonic lines. This track also features Steve Hackett. They play extremely well together. After a while the theme changes, but it is still slow. After about 8 minutes the pace changes to a more uptempo music line and there is a keyboard coming in. In the last part of the record both Hackett and Rothery plays together and it will climax in the end. I think this is the best track of the album.The next track is White Pass and it opens quiet with a guitar and then of course more guitar. A bit more uptempo in the beginning with the drums playing a special rythm. After approx 5 minutes it changes into a heavy guitar sound and also changes rythm. It is more heavy but still melodic. After a while the solo guitar comes in together with the heavy riff in the background. Also a good track, but not as good as the others before. The next track Yesterday's Hero opens with a slow rythm and guitar also rather laid back and quiet. After a while Rothery takes it up to a higher tempo and the solo guitar gets harder and stronger. Also a nice track but not as good as the others. The next track Summer's End opens very slow. The guitar is quiet. After approx 5 minutes the mood changes and the tempo is faster and the guitar gets harder. The rest is faster and heavier and gets stronger and stronger. The title track and the last track The Ghosts of Pripyat opens with a 12 string guitar. This is the shortest track. After a couple of minutes he changes to electric guitar, more than one. In the end it gets harder and harder. Also with a synth playing. In the end the solo guitar is playing and more guitars and synth. This is a great album and is absolutely worth buying. I am already looking forward to the next one.
Report this review (#1522369)
Posted Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steve Rothery's first solo album, The Ghosts of Pripyat, is a masterful showcase of guitar virtuosity. Accompanied by a cadre of excellent musicians, Rothers delivers almost an hour of instrumental progressive rock. Steve Hackett makes guest appearances on Morpheus and Old Man of the Sea, which also features Steven Wilson (interesting fact: Wilson played with Pride of Passion where he replaced ex-Marillion keyboard played Brian Jelliman; ex-Marillion bassist Diz Minnitt was also a member). The three Steves blend guitar licks seamlessly on the track, which escalates in intensity as it progresses.

Of the backing band, I want to single out Riccardo Romano for his understated keyboard work, with many sustained ethereal chords that act as a perfect counterpoint to Rothers' mellifluous playing. Actually, I should also acknowledge Rothers' friend and fellow guitarist Dave Foster, but I don't know which parts he was responsible for.

In spite of the bleak title and cover art (Pripyat is a ghost town near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant), the music is not as moody as I was led to believe. Rather, almost all tracks start off in a subdued and melancholy manner, but evolve into rockier affairs. With the exception of the title track, all compositions are longer than six minutes, which allows time for the themes to develop properly.

Compared to many newer albums no longer constrained by the 45 minute limit imposed by the LP format, the music does not drag on. A stunning, stunning album that I wholeheartedly recommend to fans of melodic instrumental prog.

Report this review (#1699619)
Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2017 | Review Permalink

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