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Cairo - Say CD (album) cover



Crossover Prog

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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars One of my roles on ProgArchives is being a member of the Crossover sub-genre team. We are asked to listen to bands and gauge whether we believe that they should firstly be listen on PA, and secondly if they should be classified as 'Crossover Prog' or sent to another team for them to see what they think. It certainly leads to interesting discussions, and I get to hear a lot of music I wouldn't otherwise. But, I rarely read any information we are also provided with (which can be as much as full history or as a little as a name), as I just want to listen to the music. One of the bands we recently assessed was Cairo, who we quickly and duly passed, and I then contacted the band to see if they could provide me with a biography. So, I was quite surprised to get a response from Rob Cottingham, who I have known since Touchstone first started, as I thought he was still with that band and hadn't realised that he had formed a new one.

Listening to an album to determine style is quite different to listening to it for review purposes, and I was glad to have the opportunity and go back and play it a few more times with a different set of ears. What immediately strikes the listener right from the introductory beginnings, is that this is an incredibly mature piece of work, and the production from John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost*, Arena and others) is simply spot on. With Rob being joined on lead vocals by Rachel Hill, the use of both harmony and different lead vocals adds to what is a sumptuous and incredibly deep music soundscape. Some albums feel light, as if something is missing, while others are overtly complex and want to tie the listeners in knots while they try to follow one overly-intricate musical thread after another. Not so with Cairo, this is a band confident in their abilities, whether it is the few fretless bass notes to draw the music in with a warmth, or the delicate piano, or those simple guitar lines, percussion, or unaccompanied vocals.

Each time I play the album I get something more from it, and I fell in love with it the very first time, and the more I play it the more I realise just how special it is. This isn't something that is going to hit the listener in the face, but rather is an arm around the shoulders gently guiding the listener to the best seat in the house, by the fire, and enwrapping them with a blanket that is majestic yet never over the top. This is something very special indeed, and must be treated as such: if you enjoy melodic prog then you will love this.

Report this review (#1700297)
Posted Friday, March 10, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars UK band CAIRO (not to be confused with the US band of the same name) was launched in 2016, and is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Rob Cottingham, formerly of Touchstone. Their debut album "Say" was released in the fall of 2016 through Cottingham's own label Heavy Right Foot Records.

Those who tend to enjoy bands described as neo-progressive rock just as much as artists placed in the same general context as Porcupine Tree should have a field day with Rob Cottingham's latest venture Cairo. Compelling and accessible progressive rock with a contemporary sheen, a strong focus on melodies and harmonies, with a superb mix and production ans the proverbial icing on the cake. A highly recommended album for those with a taste for the accessible side of modern progressive rock, in particular for those who find great pleasure in listening to a very well mixed and produced album in that context.

Report this review (#1704299)
Posted Wednesday, March 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars At the risk of repeating myself, one of the main attractions of prog is the proverbial hunt for the next elusive prey, diligently reconnoitering the vast global expanse for something that will shake the foundations and the pleasure nodes. With a little help from my friends (just like the Beatles /Joe Cocker classic), I get introduced to some new nugget, hidden and obscured by clouds of distance. Hints of potential comes with a recognizable name, here and there, to excite the senses and securing the decision to order. I was familiar with Rob Cottingham when he was steering Touchstone, a harder-edged prog band that got my attention, interestingly enough in the same manner, when I saw the name Henry Rogers on drums. This brilliant kitman has graced a slew of albums that blew me sideways (namely the recent Heather Findlay solo outing 'I Am Snow'). Touchstone released 4 studio albums, as well as a live one and disbanded a few years ago. I am happy to announce that his new project Cairo is a leap up and forward , particularly due to his proggier keyboard presence, though many of the other classic elements are present. A line-up that features a fabulous guitarist in James Hards, a stellar bassist in Paul Stocker, while the drums are powerfully manned by Graham Brown. Lead vocals are handled by Rachel Hill, another addition to a growing list of stunning female prog vocalists, who frankly really outdo the men in quality and talent.

But it is Cottingham who really owns the crown, composing tender and memorable melodies such as on the tremendous 'Say', the dizzying Random Acts of Kindness' and the breathtaking 'Searching'. His sweeping keyboard add orchestrated drama to all the compositions as well as letting his fingers linger on the piano, a most welcome initiative that some prog keyboardists tend to forget at times. He also sings at the appropriate times, an expressive tone that feeds the musical thrill, best illustrated on the penultimate track 'Dancing the Gossamer Thread'. The core of this exhilarating debut, introduced with such flair by seasoned colleague Kev Rowland, is found in the middle tracks with the 2 part 'Nothing to Prove', encompassing 12 and a half minutes of blistering prog rock of the finest vintage. Accessible perhaps but very creative with constant shifts in mood and atmosphere, from preciously chiseled to powerfully bombastic.

'Katrina' comes in two versions, a short and more direct one, as well as final curtain that is extended with assorted effects , including a moment of silence, into a 9 minute whirlwind of aching gorgeousness and unbelievable angst in describing the New Orleans disaster . 'Back from the Widerness' is another jewel of illuminated scintillation, simple and beautiful, a lullaby of unique majesty. Guitarist Hards sends a glittering electric missile into the night sky, igniting a furious second half that spotlights Graham Brown's frenetic Rogers-like drumming (Graham, I just gave you the loftiest compliment!), a sensational slab among other sensational tracks.

From the beginning to the end, this polished production (no other than the genius John Mitchell) makes this into the very rare 'PERFECT DEBUT' category, a fascinating musical journey with no weak moments and easily earns'

5 Pyramids of utterance

Bravo ROB !!!! Masterpiece.

Report this review (#1707623)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2017 | Review Permalink

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