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The Swan Chorus biography
A Liverpool-oriented unit The SWAN CHORUS were founded in late 2010s as a rock sextet by John WILKINSON (voices), Dave KNOWLES (synthesizers, organ), Les NORTON (guitars), Dave JONES (bass), Peter DOVER (drums, percussion), and Eddie DEVLIN (guitars, voices) (John and Dave are members of Genesis tribute project MAMA). Their debut eponymous album (all songs composed by Colin McKAY and David KNOWLES) was released in August 2018 via their Bandcamp page.

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THE SWAN CHORUS discography

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THE SWAN CHORUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.81 | 7 ratings
The Swan Chorus
3.96 | 4 ratings
Achilles and the Difference Engine

THE SWAN CHORUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE SWAN CHORUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE SWAN CHORUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE SWAN CHORUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Achilles and the Difference Engine by SWAN CHORUS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2023
3.96 | 4 ratings

Achilles and the Difference Engine
The Swan Chorus Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Nothing like networking connections to make the web a perfect recipient for new encounters (if its good for the spider, its good for me!), as this veteran Liverpudlian band has sent me a request for review of their new album Achilles & the Difference Engine, a follow up to their 2018 self-titled review which I have yet to discover. Presumably, a recent review of a few UK bands helped the introduction. Main men David Knowles and Colin McKay are multi-instrumentalists and John Wilkinson the lead singer (along with Colin) as well as being super talented, they (John & Dave) also were part of Genesis tribute band Mama. I was immediately struck by some hints of influence as Difference Engine is pretty close to Difference Machine from Big Big Train, a current prog favourite with the community. Then there is a track here called English Electric! Ah, surely just a few coincidences (except, at my 'mature' age, I am positive those never happen). No worries, the album is a sterling collection of 10 tracks that really hit all the buttons, in terms of enjoyment.

"The Waffle House Index" is a jaunty introduction in a rather bright and early atmosphere, perhaps even offering a breakfast treat to provide some tasty morsels. The instrumental keyboard dense presence is paramount, the ideal platform for some mercurial vocals, with Wilkinson having a reverential and overt tone reminiscent of Uncle Phil Collins. There are sufficient dynamics in the arrangement to keep the focus homed in on the subject and as such, is an exhilarating and elongated opener. Effortless change of pace on the tropical-tinged "After Dark", a piece that may come across as a proggier version of Aussie legends Men At Work who featured a delightful vocalist in (are you ready?) Colin Hay, the sunny track has that leisurely stop and start beach volleyball feel which is cool because of the title name. A swirly-twirly guitar rampage (Les Norton?) only adds coconut slivers to the daiquiri. Prog with a large dose of fun. YUP! Then the Swan get really serious with "Being There", a more typical crossover prog track with a classic impressive piano driven intro, though the atmosphere is maintained with reflectively mellow shimmers, crowned with extraordinary vocals, dripping in dramatic expression, always my weakness, particularly in a highly melancholic setting. The compelling lyrics and the heroic orchestrations show off some serious creative thought and execution, keeping the listener engrossed and captivated. Another curling guitar solo takes this into the heavens. Killer tune. Back to earth we come with two shorter tracks, first on the keyboard heavy onslaught that gives us more than "Cold Comfort", a rocking, live in concert delivery, fresh and expansive with a zippy synthesizer flurry, only to be challenged by some huffing organ and more electric guitar acrobatics. The vocals have a slight Fish feel, 'Bartender, another round!'. Keeping things in pub/bar room style, "Contender" is another rocker with a Danny Boy reference, shirt sleeves rolled up and pounding away at the ivories as the vocalist channels a vaudevillian Freddie at times, and even the e guitar has a Sir Brian twang. Back to serious-minded again, as "My Little Vampire" showcases the prog element in vivid illustration, Wilkinson doing quite the Trick of the Tail-era workout on the microphone, at times its uncanny. Massive keyboard settings and those tingling acoustic guitar arpeggios that made the Charterhouse boys famous, slashed with a patented Phillips-ian solo that shrieks like a knife. An album highlight to be sure and my fave track here. With its grandiloquent entrance, "No Idea" keeps the foot firmly on the accelerator, a razor-sharp delivery with torrents of background synths, thumping piano, and a fevered voice, swerving contrasts pushed along by an athletic pace. Though the theme may be one of confusion, the deliverance is secure and confident. The manic synth final section is breathtaking, I am sure. The guitar centric rouser "English Electric" is comparatively speaking a tad more bare bones, a rock piece perhaps better suited for the stage but halfway through, the composition transitions into an altogether different engine with fat bass tones, jangling guitar strings and a more meditative mood, before incinerating it once again with a rambling, bruising and rousing finale. Clever Trevor, as Ian Dury used to say. Speaking of which, "Welcome home" has a slight punkier tone, insistent buzzsaw guitar solo and a snarly disposition, not too far removed from Liverpool stalwarts The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen or Big in Japan. I actually really, really LOVED this tune immensely. Finishing off with a gargantuan epic, "This Great Adventure "and its 13-minute running time, can only anoint this slick release with high honours. In fact, all the elements described above on the previous 9 tracks are found here in condensed form: technically profuse and inherently progressive, entertaining and riveting, honest and creative, undaunted and ambitious. A fantastic denouement and finale.

Adventurous, daring, diverse, definitely rogue (much to my delight), sophisticated, gritty, humorous, and playful, all these words (and those above) are what the Swan Chorus is about, and it is no coincidence that I enjoyed this album enormously. Intrepid music and otherworldly vocals, what more could you wish for? More please. 4.5 Heels and machines

 The Swan Chorus by SWAN CHORUS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.81 | 7 ratings

The Swan Chorus
The Swan Chorus Crossover Prog

Review by Squonk19

4 stars The Swan Chorus are a six-piece progressive rock group of seasoned musicians from the Liverpool-area. Formed as a result of the reunion of the song-writing duo of David Knowles (keyboards) and Colin McKay in 2015, they soon recruited a number of talented local musicians ? including vocalist John Wilkinson and bassist Dave Jones (both members of the popular Genesis-tribute band, 'Mama' and more recently Tim Bowness's fictitious band project, Moonshot). Along with Peter Dover on drums and Les Norton and Eddie Devlin on guitars ? they released their eponymous debut back in 2018.

Like so many hard-working progressive rock bands, it is so often the case that quality music releases, that deserve a wider audience, just 'fall through the cracks.' I was personally unaware of their existence until a fellow TPA reviewer asked me to have a listen to them a week or so ago. I'm very pleased I did!

Over 10 tracks, including several of an extended length, you get some very enjoyable prog-pop to dive into. Music that is both vibrant, melodic, accessible, and song-orientated; yet also instrumentally progressive. Powerful, confident vocals and a deeper lyrical content throughout. This is infectious prog that needs to be spread to a wider audience.

Describing their style and sound is not straightforward, as the band have created their own soundscape, whilst signalling their influences across their diverse collection of tracks. There is, not surprisingly, a strong later-period Genesis feel ? largely related to John's impressive Collins-like vocals and David's melodic, later-period, Banks-style compositional structure. However, David is not afraid to add a layer of classic-era keyboards and synthesizers when appropriate.

Overall, though, I hear the 80s shiny, prog-pop of It Bites the most, along with echoes of the likes of Jellyfish, A.C.T., Unitopia, Southern Empire, Saga, lighter-style Marillion and Frost*, later-period BJH, Spock's Beard, I Am The Manic Whale and even Mr Mister, perhaps. Whilst the 'sounds like?' approach of an album review remains a useful way to draw a reader into exploring a band further ? it should never underplay the quality of the song-writing and the synergy the musicians have created between them.

The Hilary Step starts the album with an upbeat, chiming rhythm and pop sensibilities ? yet David's symphonic keyboard chords add nice proggy touches (especially towards the end) and John's clear vocals send out a hard- hitting statement of American politics over a mountaineering analogy ? "When I get to the bottom, I am never going up again!" Light and shade for sure. Don't Talk About is all 80s-style shiny pop on the surface, but the keyboards and guitar chords create a nice contrast and when simple guitar notes signal a change in tempo, it is an effective respite before the main tune reappears. Powerful guitar riffing by Les, over soaring keyboards begin The Dark Passenger, before Dave's hypnotic bass line introduces some biting, acerbic lyrics which echo the feel of Marillion's 'The Uninvited Guest'.

The Check is all clean, powerful, neo-prog instrumentation and flowing vocal harmonies. The diatribe against television evangelism might be similar to that sung by Phil Collins in 'Jesus He Knows Me', but I think this prog take on the subject works even better. Acoustic guitar over retro-70s organ begins Stand Together - one of the album highlights. However, the track soon gains pace and power, with some lovely, well-pitched guitar soloing followed by atmospheric keyboards. Politically-charged lyrics provide a real edge as well. It is where you will find the comparison with 80s Genesis most obvious, but frankly, if this had appeared on the 'Genesis' or 'Invisible Touch' albums, I might have listened to those albums more than I did at the time!

Pure Fate Star Shadow starts with haunting, ethereal voices before a very melodic theme takes over. The vocals now have a Fish-style to them, and the Moon Safari-like harmonised vocals and futuristic synthesizers work very well. The lyrics express aspects of Daoist metaphysics and philosophy and the interpretation of trigrams, all sung against a ridiculously catchy It Bites drum and bass rhythm provided by Peter and Dave. Another album highlight for sure. Performance Anxiety drives along nicely with a lyrical content you'd expect from I Am The Manic Whale.

The House That Jack Built ? the second longest track ? might start off with a Police-style guitar riff, and some mainstream rock themes, but there is plenty of room for some of the most progressive instrumentation on the album. Lush retro-keyboards and guitar noodlings run through to a resonating conclusion, but all wrapped around contemplative and intelligent lyrics. Poster Boy might be the most catchy, accessible, pop song on the album, but the dark lyrics, "I'm planning my revenge on the world, I'm becoming a poster-boy for raging paranoia" provide the sort of juxtaposition that John Mitchell has been so successful in creating in recent years in his many projects.

At over 17 minutes, Walk the Same Road, is the band declaring their prog credentials alongside their more pop- orientated output. It is something that both eras of It Bites did with some success, and their ambition deserves to be recognised. The smooth harmonies at the start have a touch of Barclay James Harvest and even hints of Big Big Train and The Beatles, before the music opens up into Genesis-style progressive themes and quirky time signature changes. An echo of Spock's Beard 'Go the Way You Go' prior to the mid-way change in tempo, perhaps. A sleepy interlude provides a refreshing contrast, although I felt it drifted on for a little longer than it needed to. Some smooth guitars runs do lift the mood, and we eventually regain the musical power and momentum from earlier. The track looks all set for a 'New Jerusalem/Afterglow' prog climax with the uplifting, intertwining lyrics of separation and reconciliation ? but it never quite catches fire and instead gently fades away ? although it does it rather well still with subtle acoustic guitar from Les.

For followers of the prog-pop of the 80s from Collins-era Genesis and Dunnery-era It Bites, where melodic, pop- orientated music could sit comfortably with full-blown progressive rock elements, the 2018 debut release from Merseyside's The Swan Chorus is well worth tracking down via Bandcamp. The extended period of lockdown and some personal health issues, have delayed progress on a second album and curtailed any possible live performances, but the recent posting of a new 'work in progress' demo hopefully suggest that this will not be a one-off project for these talented musicians. They definitely deserve your support.

(From The Progressive Aspect)

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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