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Needlepoint - Walking Up That Valley CD (album) cover



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4 stars January 2021, under such a terrible pandemic situation, might not be so bad as expected, let me say. A Norwegian combo NEEDLEPOINT have released their fifth album "Walking Up That Valley" finally. Their previous work "The Diary Of Robert Reverie" has completely rung the bells of art rock fans, and let them look forward to the following creation. Guess this album should drive every single art rock fan crazy. Also in this opus, they play soft and smooth music while relaxing and easing themselves, but at the same time they squeeze incredible energy and power into every song's formation, especially melody lines and rhythmic basis. Their launching complicated phrases swimmingly like pop sounds reminds us of the similarity to one of Proto-Prog giants Iron Butterfly. Melodic construction via their creation is not simple but unexpected (in a good sense). It's exactly beautiful for them to introduce a variety of instruments boldly, to consider diversity as important, and to play as if everyone could do.

The very beginning of the first track "Rules Of A Mad Man" knocks me out. Exaggerated electric guitar choppings like late 60s / early 70s blues or psychedelic rock are very comfortable. Such a well-calculated instrumental departure illustrates their musical outline illusionarily, I guess. Old-fashioned keyboard performances in the latter part too. "I Offered You The Moon" is another colourful outer space, featuring swingy jazzy fascination and uptempo heavy appearance. Also good is a kinetically melodic interlude sandwiched with psychedelic keyboard works and oriental percussion kicks, in spite of pop texture. "Web Of Worthy" consists of their charming essence from the start until the end, where lots of instruments like acoustic guitar, flute, or authentic rock weapons, are unified and matured together for completing an art rock stuff. "So Far Away" is filled with flute-based delight and acoustic guitar-attributed brilliance. Pretty cool is also dry-fruity violin exposure in the last part. "Where The Ocean Meets The Sky" is flooded with psychedelic, jazz, improvisation, or pop ... various elements are precisely synchronized and developed to the opus. Bjørn's soft voices are cute and pleasant in "Carry Me Away", which has complex but splendid melody lines and vibes produced by wonderful keyboard plays in the latter scene. The chorus is especially excellent. Another catchy one "Another Day" reminds us of the similar vein to Paul McCartney or so. The last titled song has beautiful romanticism and poetic trip of pleasure. In the middle stage psychic keyboard agents and flavourful flute compote could evoke kinda dreamy fantasy from our memory and give us mystic aftertaste via the sudden finish. We should get tempted to such a dramatic epilogue.

In conclusion, we have again been immersed in their soundscape. Their complication should not be complicated for the audience, and their eccentricity should not be eccentric too. What a fantastic mystery.

Report this review (#2497923)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars Needlepoint's fifth work is a great example that prog can also be a very accessible genre; and therefore, it reminds us of its roots (pop - rock from the 60's). The band uses some Canterbury elements, mainly, and without fear of being wrong, influenced by the first Caravan albums. You will hear Jazz rhythms and solos, but also 1960s pop / rock vocal lines. All this in a psychedelic environment that seems to travel through time.

"Rules of a Mad Man" opens the album in a very nice way, with some vocal lines that will make you repeat the song over and over again. "I Offered You the Moon" is the best piece on the album, and the one that comes closest to the canterbury sound, with a minimoog sound that gives you goose bumps. These two songs are a summary of the entire album.

I recommend this work to those who want to listen to an album from 2021, but with the essence of the 60's and 70's. Those who love psychedelia and pleasant melodies.

Report this review (#2522299)
Posted Monday, March 8, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Norwegian band Needlepoint's Walking Up That Valley record is a very, very cool thing that should delight those who enjoyed the Magic Bus approach. Needlpoint does not play in Canterbury (although I find there a little Caravan / Cressida side especially in the way of singing and using semi-acoustic guitar sounds) but rather in English Psychedelic Rock from the end of the years. 60. Superb pieces, rich compositions and admirably interpreted! Special mention for drummer Olaf Olsen who knew how to breathe vital momentum throughout this record which otherwise would have risked being too soft. Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. Truly 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#2523384)
Posted Thursday, March 11, 2021 | Review Permalink
4 stars Walking Up That Valley is the new Needlepoint album, a band that is categorized as "crossover prog", but really should be considered canterbury scene. This seems to be their first album that's catching the attention of the prog community, but is their fifth overall. The most prominent influence throughout this album is Caravan, with Bjorn Klakegg's vocals sometimes verge on sounding just like Pye Hastings. However, I wouldn't reduce this band to just Caravan. The production sometimes reminds me of the softer King Gizzard records. That might be a stretch, but the point is that this is a very interesting blend of psychedelia and canterbury quirkiness in a rather lush and pastoral setting.

Rules of a Mad Man opens the album and quickly envelops your ears with the excellent blend of acoustic guitars, organ, piano, and the rather charming vocals. Their singer has a strong norwegian accent that might get on your nerves if you're in the wrong mood. I've come full circle, and I think I actually really enjoy it. I love how Rules of a Mad Man strips itself down to a quasi-drum solo section. It's things like this that really evoke the Canterbury sense of jazz while still being rooted in psych rock. I Offered You the Moon follows, another excellent track with a real gem of a synth solo halfway through. Overall, I really appreciate the dynamics on this album. It's refreshing to my ears to hear a 2021 album use so much space and atmosphere in a way that doesn't flood the record.

Web of Worry continues to tone down the record, featuring some excellent drumming that is simultaniously fast paced but atmospheric. I think they generally really nailed the sound of the drums on this record. So Far Away is definitely the most peaceful song on here. It's a very warm and well written ballad. There's even a bit of soul influence on the singing of this song. I cannot get enough of how smooth this album can sound.

Where the Ocean Meets the Sky picks the album back up in energy. While a lot of these songs blend together in atmosphere, it never gets to the point where I can't keep track of each song. The guitars switch often from atmospheric and reverb-drenched comping to orchestrated lines with some interplay with the keys. Carry Me Away continues down this path, this time actually evoking Gong to my ears. Or a less chaotic version of Gong. The choir on the chorus on this song is so beautiful, and I would say is the song that's stuck with me the most from this record. it also is the song that depicts the cover art in its lyrics.

Another Day, the penultimate track, continues with the lush vocal harmonies. The keys add a slight harpsichord-esque classical flair that really compliments the song. Walking Up That Valley, the title track, is an evocative and peaceful track that recounts the titular journey into the valley. The lyrics might be a bit cheesy, but I really appreciate this track regardless. It's the most prog-folk song on this record, driven by acoustic guitar and slowly adding soft percussion and bass as it (oh no I'm gonna say it) progresses. I really appreciate songs that take you on a journey and can pull it off. It's a well executed terminal climax. It sadly ends on a bad note, something I was really disappointed by. It closes on a guitar solo that just fades out, which is really bad because it sounds like the album was supposed to continue. It's a shame that the album doesn't properly close.

Overall, Walking Up That Valley is a very calm, refreshing, and beautiful collection of neo-canterbury songs. I think this is a very masterful record, there's so much detail in each song between the production, the mixing, and the orchestration of it all. I'm looking forward to listening to their earlier albums. Needlepoint is an excellent band, and I really hope that this album is their break into the prog community and hopefully broader.

Report this review (#2570538)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars When I first heard this album I saw other reviews had mentioned that this album/artist sounds like Caravan which led to my somewhat disappointment as the music was not what I had in mind. After further listens I've come to agree with the Caravan vibe, however, I find the this album brings to mind less In The Land Of Grey And Pink and more Blind Dog At St Dunstans. In other words I think this album sounds like the work of Pye Hastings (lead vocalist actually sounds a bit like him) rather than Richard/Dave Sinclair.

The music itself is very chill pretty music with clear inspirations from the late 60s early 70s albeit less raw, better production/mixing. There is a lot of singing not very much instrumental work and the tracks are all around four minutes aside from I Offer You The Moon and Walking Up That Valley. The longer tracks don't really have any instrumental moments, there length being in my eyes a bit of a waste. I think this is very much so a three star album for me, it's good but certainly never excellent or even great.

Overall this is a solid album that should please fans of Caravans Pye Hastings heavy albums and those looking for something pretty lighthearted. Canterbury Sound Score 3/5

Report this review (#2592607)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2021 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Refreshing psychedelic folk from Norway that brings back nostalgic feelings from 1967's Summer of Love--when love and optimism were still at the center of the Hippie/Flower Power movement--before the tragic death of cult icon John Griggs in 1969.

1. "Rules of a Mad Man" (5:11) reminds me of The BYRDS, The ASSOCIATION, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and Sweden's The AMAZING. (8.75/10)

2. "I Offered You the Moon" (7:51) an intricately woven Summer of Love like pop psychedelic song that has an unexpected jazzy feel. Amazing Pat Metheny Group/RTF/Chick Corea-like instrumental passage in the fifth and sixth minutes. Love Erik Nylander's congas! And then the bass, Fender Rhodes, and drums really get to shine over the final 90 seconds. Wow! (14/15)

3. "Web of Worry" (3:34) As if Paul Simon wrote and sang a Stevie Wonder song. At the two minute mark, during the instrumental passage, it turns full Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. So cool! (9.25/10)

4. "So Far Away" (3:11) could be acoustic LED ZEPPELIN, BREAD, CELESTE, or PAUL SIMON. And then it goes Massive Attack unplugged at 2:20! Just brilliant. (9/10)

5. "Where the Ocean Meets the Sky" (4:25) more complex, sophisticated jazz-tinged pop psychedelia that sounds like it comes straight out of a California Pop Festival of 1968 or 69. Again, strongly reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young from this era--especially the front-and-center bass play and perfect vocal harmonies. Brilliant and beautiful. Again, great hand percussion play to go with the gorgeous drumming and richly nuanced instrumental tapestry. (9.25/10)

6. "Carry Me Away" (3:56) has a very Brian Auger's Oblivion Express and, less, Santana feel to it. The guitar solo over the is so straight out of Eumir Deodato's 1973 world-wide jazz funk version of Ricard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" as inspired from the 1968 classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. (9/10)

7. "Another Day" (4:45) despite its interesting instrumental palette (including harpsichord), this one drags a little too much. (8.25/10)

8. "Walking Up That Valley" (10:44) opes like it's going to break into "Hair" by The Cowsills. But with the appearance of the vocal we can see that it is a true folk song--a gorgeous one at that. Simple guitar with solo voce, gradually joined by other guitars and Hammond. At 4:30 we transition into a uptempo, more jazz-rock instrumental passage. The sound palette of guitars, bass, and snare drums and cymbals is very cool thought the flanged lead guitar is nothing too exciting. I'm quite reminded of Gadi Caplan's masterful jazzy Prog Folk album from 2016, Morning Sun. As a matter of fact, this entire album has a similarity to that wonderful album. The guitar solo over the zoom-along AMAZING-like passage in the ninth minute is astonishing! What an amazing passage! Some of Al Stewart and Donovan in the gorgeous next session. The way we're cut off from the continued jam at the end feels like robbery! One of the best prog epics of the year--maybe the best. (19.75/20)

Total Time 43:37

A collection of sophisticated, deeply layered folk psychedelia that issues new and pleasant discoveries with each and every listen. Wonderful. Each and every song seems so lovingly created--from composition, lyrics, and performance to recording and mix. An absolute treasure. One of my favorite albums of 2021.

A-/five stars; clearly a masterpiece of retro-psych Prog Folk; an album that any prog lover will surely appreciate and love--especially the old-timers who were alive in the 1960s.

Report this review (#2597618)
Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars This is a very talented four piece band out of Norway and "Walking Up That Valley" sits only behind SHAMBLEMATH's second record when it comes to my favourite albums from 2021. Norway is taking over! The bass player plays in MOSTER! and ELEPHANT9. We get a guest Swedish drummer and guest choir. The singer has this whimsical, Canterbury-like voice and he plays guitar, violin, cello and flute. The keyboardist adds clavinet, organ, harpsichord, fender rhodes and synths. And I have to mention the drummer who is a very much in demand session guy but also plays on a lot of tours for bands. Anyway he really stood out to the point of me looking him up. Very active. This album is all about the details. The overall mood is light and sunny but man there are some fiery passages along with distortion and dissonance. This album has it all and I actually right now have it tied with "Aimless Mary" as my favourites from them. Two absolutely incredible 5 star albums.

I was surprised at how moved I was at times, the lyrics really resonate with me, especially the ones about nature. While I do have a top three here I have checked every song but one and that's "So far Away" a relaxed 3 minute folky piece but the rest are outstanding and the reason this gets 5 stars. Top three songs for me include the second track "I Offered You The Moon" along with the final two tracks "Another Day" which is so moving and the title track that ends this record. Check out the lyrics on that title track. Just takes me to another place. I have fallen hard for this one, it's just perfect.

Report this review (#2857298)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2022 | Review Permalink

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