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Martin Orford The Old Road album cover
3.83 | 126 ratings | 11 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Grand Designs (9:58)
2. Power and Speed (5:58)
3. Ray of Hope (3:53)
4. Take It to the Sun (5:26)
5. Prelude (1:36)
6. The Old Road (8:37)
7. Out in the Darkness (6:27)
8. The Time and the Season (10:46)
9. Endgame (5:20)

Total Time 58:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Martin Orford / lead (1,6) & backing vocals, keyboards, piano (5), electric, acoustic (3,9), & 12-string (7) guitars, treble recorder (1), flute (6), Moog Taurus pedals (1,6-8), composer & producer

- David Longdon / lead vocals (3,9)
- John Wetton / lead vocals (4,8), bass (4,6)
- Steve Thorne / acoustic (1,2,6,7) & electric (7) guitars, Fx & percussion (6), harmonica & vocals (7)
- John Mitchell / lead guitar (2,4,6,9)
- Gary Chandler / rhythm guitar (2,4,6-9), 12-string guitar (6-8)
- Mike Holmes / harmony guitar (8)
- Colm Murphy / fiddle (6)
- Dave Meros / bass (1,2,7,8), fretless bass (3,9)
- Andy Edwards / drums (1)
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums (2-9), tambourine (3)
- Dave Oberlé / tambourine (1), backing vocals (6)

Releases information

Artwork: Tony Lythgoe

CD Giant Electric Pea ‎- GEP CD1037 (2008, UK)

Thanks to Atykin for the addition
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MARTIN ORFORD The Old Road ratings distribution

(126 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

MARTIN ORFORD The Old Road reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Tarcisio Moura
3 stars A bit f a disappointment, really. Not that The Old Road is a bad record, far from it. It is in fact quite good, but from such prog icon like Martin Orford, I was expecting something a little more progressive. I mean, wouldn´t you want something like IQ or Jadis? I would. But The Old Road leans toward a more AOR/pop/celtic direction then any of his previous works. High quality AOR I should say, but still quite away from such prog masterpieces as The Dark Matter or Ever, to mention only two.

The first few bars from the opening track, Grand Designs (along with the its almost 10 minute length) gives the impression of an IQ outtake, but ithat feeling does not last. when the vocal comes in the impression is that you are hearing something from Asia. The presence of John Wetton singing on some tracks doesn´t exactly help to dissolve this Asia syndrome. Of course the musicians involved are very skilled and the perfomances are spotless. In fact they are, with the production, too clean and slick. Just like, Asia CD.

There are few exceptional moments like the instrumental Power and Speed (great guitar and Hammond licks) and the nice piano piece Prelude (unfortunatly there are only two instrumentals in the whole CD). The celtic side of the album is very well represented in the title track. And still the keys sound too much like Geoff Downes (no kidding!). The remainer tracks are only variations of those themes.

So in the end, after I recover from the initial shock, I found that I like this album. At least is very good AOR/pop with some prog and celtic flavors. If you like this kind of music chances are you´re gonna love The Old Road. But if you want something more in the vein of IQ and Jadis, I suggest you listen before you buy the CD.

Review by Hercules
5 stars Martin Orford is best known as the former keyboard wizard in IQ, but those expecting a solo album to be in that vein are in for a surprise. This is absolutely not a progressive album. It is in the style of progressive rock, but deliberately and unashamedly retro-prog and not a trace of neo-prog. Indeed, it sounds at times like Asia's first album and, had that band had a decent keyboard player and a desire to produce something a bit more meaningful, this might well be what they would have come up with. And it's an album made by a sad and disillusioned man. Martin Orford likes the old ways; not for him the England of downloads, global capitalism and facebook (he makes that abundantly clear in his sleevenotes). He likes old pubs, cricket and steam trains; he's very much on the old road and I'm with him all the way in his search for the lost gems of traditional England. He surrounds himself with some of the cream of modern prog; Nick D'Virgilio and Dave Meros, Gary Chandler, Steve Thorne, John Mitchell and David Longdon amongst them. He adds legendary bassist and vocalist John Wetton on some tracks and Mike Holmes, Colm Murphy, Andy Edwards and veteran Gryphon vocalist David Oberle also feature. Martin Orford contributes his usual bombastic keyboards but also plays a nifty lead guitar, flute and sings very effectively. Grand Designs opens with a celebration of English eccentricity, about the people who invent in their garden sheds and Power and Speed is an instrumental celebrating the age of steam. Ray of Hope is a truly beautiful, wistful song which suggests that there is still some hope in life.Take it to the Sun is the most Asia like track with Wetton on vocals, a song of despair for lost ambitions. Prelude is an instrumental which leads into The Old Road, which is utterly brilliant, a lament for lost England and a defiant statement of intent to step back from the mindless world of the computer screen to an older, better way. It has a Celtic feel at times. Out in the Darkness has a go at religious dogma and the false salvation it promises. The Time and the Season is another bitter, angry song about betrayal of trust and lost ambitions but urges us to seize the day when we can. The beautiful Endgame reprises Ray of Hope but crushes the last vestiges of hope: "In the endgame, bound for surrender We make no sound Taking the old road, leaving the download To claim our ground And no one stopped and cried, the day the music died Their faces turned aside, when they came to close us down" And that's the jist of this album; the destruction of prog by the free music brigade who steal music and mean that prog bands do not get the financial reward to fund further projects. Martin told me last week that he's no longer able to continue in music for financial reasons and I hope all the people who have stolen his (and IQ's) music feel really pleased that such a talented man has been forced to quit. If this is Martin's last effort it will stand as a fitting swansong; not a progressive album which pushes back the boundaries but an album full of superlative songs played by musicians who are at the top of their game. That's what he set out to do and he succeeded brilliantly. It's a complete masterpiece and may well be the album of the year and even the decade. Do yourself (and Martin) a favour - go out and buy it and tell everyone you know to do the same. You won't regret it.
Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a shame that Martin Orford has decided to bow out of the music industry but with The Old Road he has done it in fine style. With the help of many Prog heavyweights including Dave Meros, Nick D'virgilio, John Mitchell and John Wetton to name a few, he's produced an excellent old school melodic rock/prog album.

The strength of this album lies in it being so easily accessible with strong immediately likeable melodies, yet unlike so many albums that are so instantly appealing, still has much to offer after repeated plays. The standard of musicianship is excellent as expected with so many great players on board on the consistently strong material. Album opener Grand Designs grandiose instrumental beginnings lead into a track full of strong melodies and much excellent instrumental work. Not surprisingly the keyboard work is excellent and retro sounding like we've never left the seventies, brilliant!

Power and Speed is a powerful up tempo instrumental which after a rocking start goes into fusion territory for a while and some great guitar work from one of my favourite guitarists of recent years, John Mitchell. Ray of Hope is a short more restrained moment reminding me of Genesis in their more commercial days, not least because of vocalist David Longdon sounding a bit like Phil Collins.

Take It To The Sun is a fairly straightforward rock song with a strong vocal performance from John Wetton which is followed by the very acceptable, mainly piano, classical sounding Prelude.

The longer tracks tend to be the best, partly for the powerful, explosive instrumental solos and the title track The Old Road is one of these with another fine performance from John Mitchell; the guitar solo section in general reminding me of IQ.

Like Take It To The Sun, Out In The Darkness is an enjoyable, fairly simple melodic rock song which is followed by perhaps my favourite track, The Time And The Season. John Wetton sings again on this powerfully melodic piece. The instrumental ending of this 11 minute track is particularly enjoyable, once again having an IQ vibe to it with some lush keyboard sounds and soaring guitar work. Endgame, while being a fitting album closer, is the least satisfactory song here, but only because it's in such good company; still it's pleasant enough.

And there we have it, a very strong collection of accessible tunes and a fine way to end an illustrious musical career. If you've enjoyed any of Martin Orford's other work then I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy here too.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars At the close of the stylish booklet accompanying the CD, Martin Orford openly admits that "The Old Road" is not a progressive rock album, being instead 'unashamedly retro'. In a world where blatant rip-offs are often touted as wildly innovative, such an admission is refreshingly honest, to say the least. Indeed, even without being in any way ground-breaking or experimental, "The Old Road" has a lot to offer - outstanding musicianship and songwriting in a lavish packaging, complete with lyrics and other detailed information, as well as stunningly beautiful photography. 'Old-fashioned' is the word that comes most readily to mind when listening to "The Old Road", though the excellent production values are definitely modern. For his farewell to music, Martin Orford has taken the best of both worlds - which makes his decision even more poignant.

The main criticism that can be levelled at "The Old Road" is that it often sounds closer to AOR or pomp-rock than to 'authentic' progressive rock. In particular, the two songs interpreted by John Wetton (a long-time collaborator of Orford's) bear a distinct resemblance to Asia's best output. However, while I have never been too keen on the more radio-friendly varieties of rock, I believe a clear distinction should be made between blatantly commercial productions with very little intrinsic musical value, and those that manage to achieve that fine balance between accessibility and artistic quality. "The Old Road" is indeed a very accessible effort, the ideal listen for those moments of relax - music that flows smoothly and does not sound too taxing to the ears and the brain, though definitely more interesting that the average, quickly disposable radio hit.

The album opens with the stately keyboard and guitar strains of "Grand Designs", a song dedicated to people who love to invent new objects without getting any recognition for their efforts. Not surprisingly, the song is very much keyboard-driven, with Orford doubling up on electric guitar as well, and delivering a very tasty solo in the second half of the song. Though the second longest track on the album at almost 10 minutes, it manages to sound epic without descending into self-indulgence. The keyboard parts in the elegant instrumental "Power and Speed", celebrating the glory days of the steam engine, are often reminiscent of the typical Canterbury sound, while John Mitchell provides some fine lead guitar work. As already mentioned, "Take It to the Sun", masterfully interpreted by John Wetton, would not be out of place on a vintage Asia album. One cannot help but wonder at the effortless power and warmth of Wetton's voice, which seems to have matured and improved over the years.

Introduced by a short piano "Prelude", the title-track is an unabashed celebration of the bygone days of 'old England', with a strong Celtic vibe reinforced by flute and lively fiddle interludes. Orford's appropriately wistful vocals and the lavish, richly melodic instrumentation make this track the album's undisputed highlight. "Out of the Darkness", written and interpreted by singer-songwriter Steve Thorne, with its virulent attack on organised religion feels somewhat out of character; while "The Time and the Season", the album's longest track at over 10 minutes, is a majestic creation with a lush tapestry of keyboards and another commanding vocal performance by John Wetton. Finally, "Endgame" closes the album in suitably melancholy fashion, mourning 'the day the music died'.

Although the simple song structures and occasional radio-friendly vibe may put off the more demanding prog listeners, this album oozes class, as well as warmth and passion - the swan song of a very talented musician who will surely be a loss to the progressive rock world.

Review by lazland
4 stars It is a great shame that Martin Orford has become almost as famous for the manner of his leaving the world of professional music as he was for his immense contribution to it as a founder member of IQ, certainly one of the most important and creative of the neo-prog bands which exploded out of the UK in the early 1980's. Further, if, as now seems very likely, this is Orford's swansong as a recording artist, then I for one am very sad, because this is, as would be expected, a very accomplished production.

To create this album, Orford invited a host of stars, most notably John Wetton, his old bandmate Mike Holmes, John Mitchell, and Nick D'Virgilio. That they all accepted bears testament to the lure of working with a maestro, because that is certainly what this great man is.

Opener, Grand Designs, weighs in at almost ten minutes, and is instantly recognisable as the type of track that would have sat very nicely indeed on an IQ album. Not only do Orford's keys shine (you would expect them to), but he also proves himself to be a very adept guitar player as well, delivering a lush and proud solo. Bombastic, and recognisably neo, this is a great start.

The pace continues on the marvellous instrumental Power & Speed, which delivers what it says on the tin, really. It moves along at a cracking pace, and is thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

I just love the following track, Ray Of Hope, which strikes me as being completely out of kilter with the mood Orford must have been in when this album was recorded, what with financial worries and all else. The pastoral soundscape is lush, and the vocals by David Longden are a joy to behold, and a clear highlight of this album. It is one of those tracks which takes you to another level, and has become one of my favourites of the decade.

Wetton makes his first appearance on Take It To The Sun. Here, I suppose, I should provide prospective purchasers of this album reading this review with a warning. If you dislike or hate Asia, then you will find nothing to please you here. This is a track extremely reminiscent of the work produced by Wetton on Omega and Phoenix. I like it a great deal. It is extremely commercial, it is extremely well performed, and is a joy. Much like the day job, I suppose, and Orford is a match for Downes on the ivories any day.

Prelude is a gorgeous short piano piece, which highlights the virtuosity of the man, and this takes us nicely into the title track, and the high point of the album. Steve Thorne shines on acoustic guitar and Colm Murphy on fiddle, and it is a testament to the songwriting skills of Orford that he allows space for his guests to be heard in the midst of a keyboard led song. This is one of those songs which I have always enjoyed. An intelligent, and extremely melancholic lyrically, paeon to an England that is virtually gone, certainly in the eyes of those who run the country, and we are all the poorer for it. Orford sings extremely well, and this is simply a fantastic piece of music that should be essential, in my opinion, for all lovers of prog rock, and is another piece of music that puts pay to the fiction that there is nothing original in neo-prog. Yes, there are shades of mid period Genesis stamped all over it, but it is never anything less than a marvellous Orford composition, and, again, would have sat very nicely on either Dark Matter or Frequency by his old band.

Out In The Darkness sees Thorne take lead vocal and guitar duties on a track which takes a pop at all things religious, and that with an intensity which I find slightly surprising, given the importance that organisations such as The Church of England played in the Old England that Orford mourned in the previous track. That ridiculously pedantic niggle aside, this is a very enjoyable rock track, with clear commercial sensitivities and always exceptionally performed.

It's back to the John Wetton show on the longest track on offer on the album, The Time and the Season. As with the other track he appears on, this is magnificently essential for any fan of the work Wetton has done in the latter part of his lengthy career. In other words, if you think he was a bum after Crimson & UK, then this isn't going to change your mind in any way, shape, or form. For my money, this is an enjoyable romp, fantastically produced and performed, and straying very much into more Pomp/Crossover territory quite deliberately.

The album closes with the appropriate Endgame. David Longden is, in my opinion, quite easily the finest vocal performance on this album, the presence of the great and legendary Wetton not withstanding. His voice is, once again, quite wonderful in its emotion, and this is a truly melancholic piece of music that really needs no explanation, given the events that would unfold. It ends, silently, with only the sound of birdsong to remind us the disc is still playing.

This album is, perhaps somewhat ironically given the manner of Orford's retirement, available as a download from Amazon for the incredibly cheap price of £4.99. Give it a few listens on legal streams such as Spotify, and then I urge you, buy this. I still hold out some hope that Orford can be tempted to return to record again. It doesn't have to be with IQ, because, as Frequency and this album prove, they are both capable of forging a path for themselves and producing damn fine music.

For if this is a swansong, then the loss to our genre and to the music world as a whole is a huge one. I rate this as four stars, an excellent addition to any prog rock collection, but in doing so, can state that it only just falls short of the masterpiece status that is surely in him for any future release. For me, the two Wetton tracks are hugely enjoyable, but not significantly so to allow the album the full five stars. The rest of the work easily justifies such a rating.

Come back Martin. The world of great music is a sight poorer without you.

Review by Warthur
2 stars Martin Orford's final recording before his retirement from music (aside from a few live appearances now and then) isn't much of a step up from his previous solo album, Classical Music and Popular Songs. It's alright, but I think most neo-prog bands would expect more from the keyboard powerhouse of IQ and Jadis. In particular, whilst he seems to have tried to expand the range of instruments he uses aside from the keyboards, I wouldn't call him a sufficiently skilled multi-instrumentalist to really pull that off; his guitar playing is reasonable but not particularly special, whilst his efforts at lead vocals are... um... I'm just going to go with "regrettable" and leave it at that.

Prog fans in general may find the long list of guest stars exciting, though to be perfectly frank I think the main player here was simply not on form for this album. Considering that this was meant to be his final substantive musical statement, this is particularly regrettable.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars Martin Orford is one of the leading figures in neo prog zone and aswell one of co founders of excellent IQ in early '80s. Also he was part of Jadis and aswell has a solo career. He releases under his name 2 albums, one in 2000 and second offer is coming later on in 2008 named The old road. Sadly, this is his last album he ever wrote or participate in, because he decided to anounced his farewell to musical bussines after 30+ years career. The old road is a solid melodic neo prog album with AOR elements thrown in .The line up is brilliant, the musicians involved here are among the best in bussines, among others Gary Chadler from Jadis, Nick D'Virgilio, Jogh Wetton, David LOngton from Big Big Train, his mate from IQ Mike Holmes and more. The music is well balanced, performed, a mature work with each instrument at full capacity plus Orford keyboards shining from start to finish. The opening Grand design is for sure a winner, the pieces is clocking around 10 min and is a pure joy to listen and I think the best from here. All in all for me a great one, sadly his last musical document. Martin Orford remaining one of the most inteligent keybordist from prog zone in last 30 years. A well desearved 4 stars from me, nice art work.

Latest members reviews

4 stars O.K., it's not great, but it's pretty durn good. The musicianship is high - it comes from groups like IQ, Arena, Pallas, Jadis, Asia and Spock's Beard. The music itself is not necessarily as challenging or intricate as some of the great progressive stuff from other bands over the years, but it's ... (read more)

Report this review (#2439601) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Thursday, August 20, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In the booklet Martin Orford writes about his second solo album (2008) that "this is not a progressive rock album", "it's unashamedly retro" and "you may think that world has gone forever, but it's still there if you know where to find it. And I have ? I am on the old road". As a huge fan of ... (read more)

Report this review (#2043523) | Posted by TenYearsAfter | Friday, October 12, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time As Martin Orford stated in his final interview before his all-too-early retirement, "there's lots of things I'm good at". He wasn't kidding. On his solo swan song The Old Road, Martin Orford proves not only to be an accomplished keyboard ... (read more)

Report this review (#794113) | Posted by Harry Hood | Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Wrong person, wrong album. The opening tones of this album is very bombastic and it sets the trend for this album. This is the final album from Martin Orford and I guess he has tried to make this a smorgasboard of all his influences. His choice of musicians also indicate this. This is by no me ... (read more)

Report this review (#213415) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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