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Combination Head


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Combination Head Combination Head album cover
4.13 | 58 ratings | 3 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Clover Road A,B,C (9:52)
2. Devonshire Crescent (2:58)
3. Combination Head (5:03)
4. Blue Waters (2:34)
5. The Bonk (5:03)
6. Clover Road D,E,F (4:23)
7. Fourteen (3:52)
8. For What? (4:18)

Line-up / Musicians

Paul Birchall/Keyboards
Keith Ashcroft/Guitar
Gareth Moulton/Guitar
Dominic Finley/Bass
Paul Burgess/Drums (1,5,6,7)

Guest Musicians:
Phil Knight/Drums (3)
Carl Hutchinson/Drums (2,8)

Releases information

S.A.M. Records

Buy COMBINATION HEAD Combination Head Music

COMBINATION HEAD Combination Head ratings distribution

(58 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

COMBINATION HEAD Combination Head reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you ever find out the past on the music scene of COMBINATION HEAD's leader/keyboardist Paul Birchall,you will propably skip this article.Birchall has collaborated with Cher,Geri Halliwell and M People among others,but surprisingly his influences come from 70's progressive rock keyboardists: KEITH EMERSON, EDDIE JOBSON, PETER BARDENS etc.!For this project he is accompanied by guitarist/bassist Keith Ashcroft and drummer Paul Burgess,who has worked with 10CC,Jethro Tull and CAMEL.Their first album carried the name of the trio as a title,released on S.A.M. Records in 2006.

I can tell you,this album is million miles far from Birchall's past works.This is 100% melodic instrumental progressive rock with symphonic and Fusion touches with influences coming from the afore-mentioned keyboardists as well as CAMEL,U.K.,THE FLOWER KINGS, SPOCK'S BEARD and GENESIS,while adding some strong NIACIN echoes here and there won't be far from reality.This is obviously much of a keyboard-driven album with Birchall prooving to be a fantastic keyboardist,working his way through heavy yet inspiring organ passages,classical piano moments,obscure synth parts (I'm reminded of EDDIE JOBSON's style on U.K. releases here) and deep chaotic electronics!This is one of the finest keyboard works I've heard lately!Ashcroft is also a pure power for the band,rising the sound to a higher level with his strong and dynamic solos,while he also uses his smoother style of playing on the more atmospheric and calmer instrumental passages,not unlike ANDY LATIMER.Burgess is just the right piece to end the puzzle:strong,steady and confident drumming all the way.All non-progheads out there should listen to this work and finally get in touch with what good progressive rock is all-about.For the prog community,no comments:This is almost a must- have release!

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars It´s amazing of how many excellent instrumental prog albums I have happened to find recently. And Combination Head is the newest one. I read about this english group here on PA and I must say I was quite surprised by their sound. The only member here that has a familiar name for proghead is the one of drummer Paul Burguess (who played with Camel, Jethro Tull and 10cc) and even then, he is not featured on all the tracks. However, the band does a great job here: their self title debut CD is all about fine melodies, tasteful arrangements, strong musicanship and impeccable perfomances. Ok, nothing´s really new or groundbreaking here. Just good music, with a keyboardsman (Paul Brichall) very much influenced by Keith Emerson and Peter Bardens (yes! Lots of vintage Hammond runs!), while guitarrists Keith Ashcroft and Gareth Moulton are skillful and versatile musicians, handling very well both the rocking moments and the more complex, jazzy parts with the same ease. Also of note is Dominic Finley´s fine, fluid, bass lines.

The CD is quite varied but it keeps the high quality of the songs all the way through, with no filler nor weak parts. It is ok that they surely could be a little more adventurous on some tracks, since they have the chops to do so (maybe the reason why they were labeled here as neo instead of the more fitting symphonic rock banner), but they decided to keep it short and direct. And they did it very well, by the way. My only gripe with this CD is its short overall time (a little over 38 minutes). It makes you long for more. And then you press the repeat buton over and over.

If you like instrumental prog rock with lots of conviction and passion, this is a must have. They showed a strong personality from the very start and I´m looking foward to hear their next works.

Ratinhg: 4 strong stars.

Review by ozzy_tom
5 stars Self-titled release from 2006 is the first and definitely the best album of British prog-rock band "Combination Head". Definitely it isn't such a diverse disk like next two offerings of these guys, this one is completely devoted to organ-driven melodic symphonic prog rock in the vain of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and you won't find any electronic/pop songs like in "Progress?" and "Museum" here. And you won't find any vocals neither, 'cos it's the only instrumental album in CH's career (so far...). I simply love this staff because it truly reminds me about 70s golden era of prog music. This is how retro-prog should sound for me!

1. "Clover Road A,B,C" - album begins surprisingly soft with classical sounding acoustic piano passages a la Rick Wakeman. Later come synthesizer and backing organ layers. So far nothing spectacular and while you're listening to it, you can start to think that it has nothing to do with ELPish prog I just mentioned in the beginning. Sounds more like neo-prog or even some kind of soundtrack music. But don't be mislead, it's just a beginning of this longest track. Later on tempo picks up significantly and we can enjoy tons of great synthesizer leads backed by mighty guitar licks, something very much in the vain of Jobson's UK. But the real treat are the last 4 minutes where Paul Birchall plays some fantastic, percussive-effects implemented Hammond organ solos which sound like taken directly from some undiscovered ELP's "Tarkus" session. Truly memorable part.

2. "Devonshire Crescent" - short (less than 3 minutes) but great piece of music which picks up where "Clover Road A,B,C" finished. Lots of organ solos backed by very catchy guitar melodies. ELP meets Don Airey (check out Don Airey's second album if you don't believe me!).

3. "Combination Head" - this one is undoubtedly another winner here. Very up-tempo, energetic track loaded with unstoppable Hammond organ, additional synthesizer sounds & surprisingly hard edged electric guitar solo which makes it sound almost like prog-metal in the style of Ayreon. I can also think about Japanese keyboard-led super bands Gerard & Ars Nova here, seems that Paul Birchall was also inspired by these groups too.

4. "Blue Waters" - short interlude piece entirely played on acoustic piano. Just to let you take a breath between one keyboards extravaganza and another.

5. "The Bonk" - slightly jazzy track led by groovy organ riffs (with this great percussive sound masterminded by Keith Emerson in early 70s). Rather slow-paced but really interesting. All of those quirky melodies here sound a bit Egg-like for me. This specific Canterbury Scene atmosphere is definitely here.

6. "Clover Road D,E,F" - simply extraordinary Hammond organ & Moog synthesizer heaven. Highly dynamic non-stop bashing of analog keyboards is exactly what I'm looking for in my retro-prog. Organ sounds almost exactly like Jurgen Fritz's gear on Triumvirat's mini-epic called "Panic on 5th Avenue", and it's a great compliment 'cos I simply love it!

7. "Fourteen" - undoubtedly the weakest track on the album, very electronic sounding (almost like J.M. Jarre or Klaus Schultze) but thankfully we have a real drummer, not a machine here. All of these synth-made atmospheric noodling can be tiresome.

8. "For What?" - albums ends with a bit more mainstream sounding piece, but it's still enjoyable. Guitar riffs, organ layers, frenetic drums & additional synths, all in all not bad at all, but sounds too much like some TV advertisement soundtrack. I like this Moog solo near the end, very wakemanish.

In one word: must-have. Combination Head's debut is the album I highly recommend to all symphonic (retro) prog fans and especially to Hammond-oriented music maniacs. I can easily compare them Emerson, Lake & Palmer from they prime days (1970-1974) but I'd like to also mention Japanese keyboard-player Motoi Sakuraba who seems to have very similar style to Paul Birchall. Other bands/artists you'll surely enjoy if you like this release: Triumvirat, UK, Don Airey, Trace, Ars Nova, Gerard, Social Tension, Nexus, The Nice, Little Tragedies, Collegium Musicum, Pr Lindh Project, The Load, Duncan Mackay, Lalo Huber, Subliminal, Le Orme, Quill, Nuova Era and Taproban.

Overall Combination Head seems to be one of only two (relatively) new British bands I enjoy (the other one is The Tangent)! Let it be a good recommendation for you.

Best tracks: "Clover Road D,E,F" & "Combination Head".

5 stars (with only small minus) from ozzy_tom

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