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Balloon Astronomy


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Balloon Astronomy Balloon Astronomy album cover
3.93 | 52 ratings | 5 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Crows in the Field (1:26)
2. Even Odds (4:47)
3. Roots Run Deep (5:13)
4. The Odyssey (6:37)
5. Gentle Day (1:22)
6. Sourness of Days (4:07)
7. By the Strange Water's Edge (5:26)
8. Eagle (5:34)
9. Sigmoid Fletcher (3:35)
10. One Summer (6:00)
11. For Jackie (2:40)
12. Summer Afternoon (3:56)

Total Time 50:43

Line-up / Musicians

- Jim Ledger / voices, bass, guitars
- Glenn Little / keyboards, flutes

- Nick D'Virgilio / drums, percussion
- Jason Smith / drums, percussion
- Mike Keneally / acoustic guitar
- Max Werner / clarinet

Releases information

CD CDBaby (2011)

Thanks to damoxt7942 for the addition
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BALLOON ASTRONOMY Balloon Astronomy ratings distribution

(52 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

BALLOON ASTRONOMY Balloon Astronomy reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I'm sitting here on the sofa with raindrops drip dripping down the inside of my chimney, watching world events on the BBC news and listening to this album, and tapping my thoughts onto the screen on my lap. Who says men can't multi-task, eh? Anyway, for me, music has a lot to do with memories and associations, be they good or bad, and I'll be glad to see the back of 2012. But years from now, when I've grown old and indolent, when I'm a senile delinquent, and that surely won't be too long now, I wonder 'how will I remember this album?' I'll muse on that thought a few moments longer.

In passing I should say that Balloon Astronomy take their name from the observation of celestial objects from balloon-borne instruments and their debut album's cover-art, an aerostat floating skyward into dark plumes of cloud, manages to evoke an appropriate sense of vastness and power (and sadly we've all just witnessed the terrifying potential of nature). The artwork perhaps also gives a sense of following a great adventure rather than simply experiencing a temporary departure from day-to-day drudgery.

The music was forged through the Californian duo's high-school friendship and while it would be easy to rhyme off the names of any number UK prog artists from whom Balloon Astronomy seemingly borrow that isn't necessarily the dominant tradition here. American nature and culture of the recent past exert a profound influence with many related symbols of these things throughout the album. I guess that in a loose sense it's a conceptual work, and a work of real significance too, yet despite Balloon Astronomy's seemingly lofty vantage point it details aspects of an ordinary yet real life, rather than any magical realm. Twanging acoustic guitars and autoharp are right at home alongside Mellotron and Hammond effects, and in similar fashion this album would fit right in with any of the classics.

Without wishing to make it a big deal, it's my belief that American folk-rock isn't always welcomed as enthusiastically as the British variety. However, for someone weaned on a combination of UK prog and American singer-songwriters this album provides that killer combination. Balloon Astronomy infuse their brand of revivalist prog with elements of folk- rock and nostalgic lyrics that deal with a lost way of life and the passing of youth. The sound has a special purity, what I've come to think of as a refined campfire prog, and appropriately enough it seems in some respects to have a flavour of liberation.

And that brings me back to my initial thoughts about the way in which I'll think of this album in future. The album is itself very much an album of memories, no more so than the final three tracks that together form the elegiac 'Summer Suite.' This is a touching epic with the narrator recalling childhood memories of cowboy hats and silver stars. This will perhaps have particular meaning for men of a certain age like me, and ever since I can remember America has been a major influence on me, a place that is simultaneously familiar and exotic. But 'Summer Suite' is more than a child's dream vision; it's a song of life's transience and its sorrows, of familial love and loss. And listening to it I can almost hear the children's laughter and tears. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Then there's the alt-country of 'Roots Run Deep' with lyrics that now seem prophetic when profiled against the recent devastating events across the pond: 'The dawn is coming closer / The storm will soon be over / The skies are clearing over you and me.' The lightly strummed charango fits the bill perfectly on this one but the guys also take pleasure in letting fly with synthesizer flurries in a bittersweet song of childhood journeys through the swamp cypresses on the bayou: 'There came a time when the breezes blew / Far away in the willow trees / And the bright Mississippi moon / Cast their shadows low and long / And we found that their roots ran deep / And our memories of home had changed / No more sorrow, no more pain / Just the sweetest evening rain.'

Recently there was an unusual story about an American bald eagle on the loose from a local bird of prey centre here in Central Scotland, what a sight that must have been, and the connection with 'Eagle' is pretty obvious. This track features percussive acoustic guitar reminiscent of the band America, and this goes hand-in-hand with soaring flute and Mellotron to transmit the sense of the bird in flight; Mellotron seems to come with the territory here but I don't go along with the saying that you can have too much of a good thing, besides which these guys do everything with such style.

Their take on modern materialism in 'Sigmoid Fletcher' features the kind of satirical humour customary of Genesis. This contrasts with the reverential light of 'By The Strange Water's Edge' where transitory piano and big lazy clarinet arise out of ersatz gamelan impressions, or the jittery paranoia of 'Even Odds' where pavilions of Mellotron do much to deepen and darken the mood.

Coming across albums like this is one of the happy hazards of ProgAchives; happy because I have discovered an obscure gem and a hazard when that gem is just one in a seemingly endless seam to be mined. In answer to my original question I think there are any number of things that I will associate with this album in years to come. It might be a big ask for it to be currently considered a trophy album but while balloons offer a cheap alternative to satellites in the field of astronomical observation, in the world of prog rock Balloon Astronomy are the real deal. These guys are going places and it'll be a blast to go along for the ride. Don't allow this band to end up nestled away in obscurity on the site.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US act BALLOON ASTRONOMY is the creative vehicle for Jim Ledger and Glenn Little, two long time friends who have a common passion for music in general and progressive rock in particular. Enlisting some aid by musical friends, this self-titled CD is the first production to be released by this two-man project.

Balloon Astronomy's self titled debut album is a nice blend of singer/songwriter oriented material and symphonic art rock. The compositions are distinctly melodic throughout, and more often than not the moods and atmospheres explored easily justify a description as melancholic. An album for those with a taste for the gentler side of the art rock universe in general, and in particular those among them with an affection for frequent use of acoustic based, stripped down themes throughout an album.

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I recently discovered this band thanks to the "Related Artists" function in Spotify and was attracted by the cover so I gave it a listen. I'm very thankful I did as it led me to one of the best albums in recent prog history (even though I was a bit late in discovering it).

Balloon Astronomy are a US duo consisting of Jim Ledger on vocals, bass and guitar and Glenn Little on keyboards and flute. The album also features the talents of Mike Keneally on guitar and Nick D'Virgilio on drums among others.

The short piano intro of "Crows in the Field" takes us into the throbbing keyboard intro of "Even Odds". Not a million miles away from Spocks Beard, this is obviously very well played and melodic modern prog. Distinctive and excellent vocals, instruments well played but this is not flashy technical music. This will appeal to anyone who likes the melodic end of the prog scale.

Next up is "Roots Run Deep", possibly the best track on the album with a memorable chorus ("you and I drifting down the bayou") and some subtle acoustic guitar work.

"The Odyssey" starts off with a deep hum and some mysteriously distorted vocals before breaking into the main song. Again no flashy instrumentals, just an understated acoustic guitar solo.

"Gentle Day" is a short instrumental, leading into "Sourness of Days" which features some excellent bass work.

"By the Strange Water's Edge" is another instrumental which leads into a chiming keyboard riff, reminiscent to these ears of sections of Mike Oldfield's "Incantations" album and also features some lovely piano and clarinet work. The latter is (presumably) by Max Werner of Kayak.

"Eagle" features what sounds very much like a Mellotron, which leads us to...

"Sigmoid Fletcher" is the song that really caught my ear on the first listen and is possibly the only prog song inspired by the name of a section of the lower bowel (Google it). It features an insanely catchy chorus which will worm it's way into your head on the first couple of plays. Sigmoid is perhaps an estranged relation of Harold The Barrel. Along with Big Big Train's "Uncle Jack" this song proves that prog bands can write short, melodic songs that could be played on the radio and appeal to the masses. I love the way the chorus at the end gradually introduces the crowd backing vocals.

"One Summer", "For Jackie" and "Summer Afternoon" form the "Summer Suite" of songs which end the album, the last two being instrumentals. "One Summer" is the heart-breaking story of the death of a child (presumably Jackie?) which I hope isn't based on fact, It's a very powerful lyric despite the depressing subject and is quite an ending to this wonderful album.

Overall this album should appeal to fans of bands like Spocks Beard and Echolyn and I can't recommend it highly enough. The band are apparently working on a new album and I for one cannot wait. 5 stars all the way, one of my favourite prog albums of the last 10 years already.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Generally speaking, Balloon Astronomy is a showcase of talented and engaging pop songs adorned by progressive rock staple instruments. Many times, I am reminded of post-Gabriel Genesis. While several of the songs are underwhelming and some of the transitions lacking cohesion, there are outstanding moments. The first time I heard it, "One Summer" left me shaken.

"Crows in the Field" Hauntingly beautiful, the peaceful beginning is like someone trying to recall a piece he used to play when a loved one was still alive.

"Even Odds" So it's bizarre to transition from "Crows in the Field" to electronic, Neo-Prog bombast and boisterous vocalizations. While the unruffled movements are agreeable, with crystal clear guitar and uplifting harmonies, the busier moments are an unfitting contrast.

"Roots Run Deep" Adopting a country pop style, "Roots Run Deep" is quite different from the previous track- almost as though a different band had begun performing. All the same, it's a fun, catchy ditty.

"The Odyssey" Following a mystifying bit of distorted vocals, the song proper consists of straight-ahead progressive pop rock, sometimes even breaking away for simple acoustic guitar strums.

"Gentle Day" Returning to serene piano and adding graceful acoustic guitar is this interlude.

"Sourness of Days" Somewhat meditative, this otherwise upbeat song especially reminds me of post-Gabriel Genesis.

"By the Strange Water's Edge" After a menacing series of wails comes a smattering of percussive tones because abandoning that delicate piano. The clarinet pierces through in a plaintive way. As with the transition from the first track to the second, I'm scratching my head regarding the shifts from one section to the other in this instrumental; the individual parts seem to arrive and leave without any sense of cohesiveness.

"Eagle" Darker, organ-led rock with soaring lead vocals makes me think of IQ even though the composition is not as complex. The bass and Mellotron in the coda make for an elevating experience.

"Sigmoid Fletcher" Peppy and peculiar, this short number takes on the atmosphere of a bar tune.

"One Summer" This song does a good job evoking the feeling of spending the evening at a summer fair, when the air is hot but not unpleasantly so. It's easy to just listen and enjoy the lovely instrumentation, gentle vocal presence, and that slide guitar solo. In this particular instance, I had to read the words without the music. Now I know that this is one of the saddest songs I have ever heard.

"For Jackie" A third piano work provides a graceful moment- almost a requiem for "One Summer."

"Summer Afternoon" The final piece begins like a hymn in a church and ends like little girl at her ballet recital.

Latest members reviews

3 stars 7/10 This is a fantastic debut album. Balloon Astronomy has created a bright future for itself with this album. The musicianship on the album is very good, and fits along well with the Neo-Prog subgenre. The lyrics complement the music very well, however they are lacking in certain songs in ... (read more)

Report this review (#1008955) | Posted by Meegan | Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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