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THE GIFT

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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The Gift biography
THE GIFT are a Symphonic Prog band from, London, formed after Mike Morton (vocals, 6/12 string acoustic guitar, piano and string arrangements) and Leroy James (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals, samples, effects and programming, piano and string arrangements) came up with the idea of creating a band and making a concept album at the same time.

The concept was devised by Mike Morton and was initially meant to be just one piece.
They brought in other musicians to help with the recording, viz. Jim Thomas (bass), Rod Haverhill (keyboards) and David Storey (drums) and THE GIFT was born.

The band made some initial demos and pressed on with the idea. They sent the demos out to various places and general opinion was positive. So positive in fact, that the Cyclops label (responsible for bands such as Mostly Autumn, Pineapple Thief, Saens and Tr3nity) gave them a deal.

THE GIFT had the desire and conviction to record the album itself. The idea initially was to record one multi-themed piece (a suite called Awake and Dreaming), about "savagery and war and the final triumph of piece" (as their MySpace biography notes), but Cyclops felt it need to be longer and asked them to record a slightly extended finish. This ended up as another suite (of 30 minutes in length), called Fountains of Ash about "domestic violence, again seeking solace in the human spirit" (from their MySpace bio).

Their sound is quite varied, but takes on a definite symphonic rock air to it. They have hard rocking sections, pastoral songs, and "complex time signatures, wild key changes and ambitious concepts."

Their progressive rock influences include Pink Floyd, Genesis (Gabriel era), Yes, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Rush and Dream Theater. They also take influence from non-prog bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, The Who, Beatles, Massive Attack, U2, Sex Pistols and Prince.

Their debut album (a double CD) Awake and Dreaming, was released on October 9, 2006, by Cyclops.

James R. Yeowell

This album was never played live and the band was inactive for a long period of time. Mike MORTON was living darker times which lead him to wrote more songs and to finally play his second album "Land od Shadows" live in the UK. THE GIFT is now a 6 piece band with Leroy JAMES return on guitar, Gabrielle BALDOCCI on keyboards, Dave LLOYD (guitar), Stefan DICKERS (bass) and Neil HAY...
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Why the Sea Is SaltWhy the Sea Is Salt
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THE GIFT discography


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

3.99 | 59 ratings
Awake And Dreaming
2006
3.64 | 56 ratings
Land Of Shadows
2014
4.37 | 48 ratings
Why the Sea is Salt
2016

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

THE GIFT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

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

THE GIFT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Why the Sea is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.37 | 48 ratings

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Why the Sea is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by PH

5 stars Honestly, I rate THE GIFT as one of the premier progressive-rock bands at this juncture. What I've always liked about Mike Morton and his squad is that their output is very melodic and soft in places, yet really complex and intriguing - as it's developed to a high degree of sophistication on the group's own terms, rather than simply being imitative of some seminal acts. Staying loyal to their own musical principles and exploring renewed sonic dimensions, The Gift just released the 3rd studio album 'Why The Sea Is Salt' to exceed all our expectations. There's a different line-up featuring the core members Mike Morton (lead vocals), David Lloyd (guitars & backing vocals) and Leroy James (guitars & backing vocals) who have recruited Gabriele Baldocci (keyboards courtesy), Stefan Dickers (bass duties) and Neil Hayman (drums & percussion kit). Neither partner dominates this record; each puts a peculiar stamp upon the CD. Indeed, the result is a richer musical palette than The Gift had ever had to work with, and their most ambitious record to date. Hopefully, my words will become the credentials for your immediate order. So here's my definition. The magnificent opener 'At Sea' consists of five parts: namely, 'Bon Voyage', 'Battle Stations', 'Storm Force', 'Becalmed' and 'Tritons'. They are glued together to make a cohesive whole, firmly planted in diverse progressive traditions, albeit the nice piano passages bring a pure classical feel. Some interesting key changes and mood swings transfer from gentle portion to unsettling. A wide range of themes and motifs to play around is providing a superb framework of reference for the co-operation. The sensitive vocals of Mike Morton appear to enhance the beauty of this chapter. From the lyrical standpoint, it is about human impuissance in front of the raging force of nature. Absolutely wondrous introduction to the album! The second track on disc, 'Sweeper Of Dreamers' is a more energetic piece which delivers quite aggressive, even ominous tone. The generated tension embodies both vibrant propulsion and exquisite refinement. The racy voice of Mike Morton penetrates into the texture, highlighting the strengths of the material. The deliberate switching of melodies and tempos combined with abrupt shifts from coarse push to startling interludes manage the listener's attention. There are some obvious aspects throughout, reminding of Alex Harvey template. That's a challenging however engaging track with the good balance between variegated instrumentation and bizarre singing. The Gift cools down for the successor, 'Tuesday's Child', an exclusive sample of melodic sensibilities. This composition includes three distinct sections fascinating as one. Marvelous grace comes in the shape of initial part - 'Road Of Ashes' - and it resembles 'Crying For Help VIII (Guidance)' by Arena - at least, to me. Cos' I hear a perfect synthesis of heavenly choir-chant and ethereal soundscapes, thereby providing the mysterious imagery. The musical grandeur slowly turns into another segment titled 'The First Flower' which embodies the elegant vocal delivery atop of the versatile guitar-key-rhythm interplay. The ultimate instrumental 'New Horizon' seems to be a logical progression from two previous outings. The dual guitar wizardry of Leroy James and David Lloyd can literally take your breath away. Just now, in terms of aura and structure, I have to think about mid-90's Pendragon. Next up, 'The Tallest Tree', supremely emotive message with a deep feel. Beyond any doubt, the lyrical context has a major impact on the appeal of this particular song (it's dedicated to Mike Morton's father who passed away in January 2016). Maestro Anthony Phillips offers his twelve-string acoustic lace, a special mood fleshes out by the Irish whistle of Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tail). Erelong, the heartfelt voice of Mike Morton comes to the fore. The vocal execution is at once really stunning but also par of exchange for the general sonic palette. Having a luxurious continuity, the track develops to momentous guitar solo from Steve Hackett (Genesis fame), whereas the keyboardist Gabriele Baldocci, bassist Stefan Dickers and drummer Neil Hayman join to the proceedings. Great stuff all the way. Noteworthy is a stupendous canvas titled 'All These Things' on which the group applies a variety of different colors, tones and variations with the result coming off like a priceless painting. To say 20+ min. opus sounds merely interesting is a serious understatement. With the hallmarks of a grandiose work of art, the multifaceted epic is divided into six sub-sections ('The Vow', 'Harvest Of The Hollow', 'Feeding Time', 'The Jackdaw, Magpie And Me', 'Swan And Butterfly', 'Heartfire'), each venturing into characteristic musical areas. The Gift go across the board progressive wise, and fans of Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush, Kino, Frost, Dream Theater, Led Zeppelin, Queen as well as admires of '70's rock ballads, can find something to their liking in this package. There is the bizarre combination of much drama and magic, startling interludes and aggressive moments, folky nuances altered by church organ, latino rhythms and poignant electric guitars, tortuous synth-lines and deft rhythm section, delicate piano, excellent lead vocals and catchy harmonies. Let's also don't forget about metaphorical lyrics. OMG! What else the band can pull out of the bag of musical tricks? The final item 'At Sea - Reprise (Ondine's Song)' wraps things up in honorable manner. Its mystically strange atmosphere conveys subtle resemblance to ELO (at the earliest '70's). A shared sentiment is nurtured by the vocal performance a'la Jeff Lynne. The song slips into a slow-tempo, amidst the dominant synthesizers accompanied by flexible bass and elegant drums. This pattern gradually evolves to the guitar solo during the latter half. Nearby, patently familiar harmonies infiltrate the melodic formula using a fadeaway to close everything. Then the album lingers in my brain long after the last song ends!.. Overall, I can only hope that the exposure gained from 'Why The Sea Is Salt' will help The Gift come into the BIG PROG- LEAGUE. Either way, this amazing CD should be at the very top place in my personal list of 2016.
 Why the Sea is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.37 | 48 ratings

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Why the Sea is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars I took my sweet time to get my hands on this only because I knew that "Why the Sea is Salt" is going to get me, anyway. I love the Gift, their first album "Awake & Dreaming" is a perennial classic that rekindles many fond memories of travelling throughout North America , playing dizzying prog at the traffic lights in some small Kentucky town, the local folk looking at me askance but polite. "Land of Shadows" was, by Mike Morton's admission, a murkier affair, remarkably dense and demanding but still 'gifted' with some fabulous moments. Obviously a more personal affair that emoted with palpitation. But a period of intense touring as well as rekindling the partnership found on the debut with guitarist Leroy James has altered the course for this London band, taking it straight up into a vertical of dizzying heights. Together with the talented fretman David Lloyd, James seems inspired and involved. I have always felt that the talent shown on "Awake and Dreams" was too good just to fade away. It won't with this stellar release, I can all assure you. Consecration? Proof? What would you like? Mike Morton is one of the finest singers in prog anywhere. That being firmly stated, the quality of the instrumentalists is off the charts, with new bassist Stefan Dickers and drum maestro Neil Hayman in complete harmony and "in the zone". Keyboardist is Italian Gabriele Baldocci, adding RPI?like stylistics to the brew, loaded with innovation and taste. Throw in guests such as ex-Genesis guitarists Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips and Peter Jones, who quickly is becoming the 'enfant terrible' of modern prog, here displaying some Irish whistling pizzazz. This time around, there is less gloom and more energy, a welcome twist for this stirring band in its ascendency, proposing tracks that are immediate, ravishing and expertly blooming with confidence. When directing a larger epic, all the talent comes to the fore, especially Gabriele when unleashing his classical heritage, supported by clever riffs and leads from the dual axes, expertly fueled by the rhythm corps.

So it's only fitting to kick off with a 10 minute musical voyage, "At Sea" glides effortlessly into the bay, splashing excitedly, buoyed by a dedicated vision. "At Sea- Reprise" at the end will shut the parentheses. The elegant piano takes the spotlight in thrilling fashion, as Gabriele shows his considerable mettle, with bass guitar as adventure companion, rippling flourishes and an outright classical aroma. Shimmering guitar reverberations heighten the emboldened mood, as the signature starts evolving towards a rock riff, a tortuous synth leading the charge. The arrangement turns into a rather complicate formula of swirling notes, the electric guitar raging, massive drums pounding and that darn piano acting out romantic fantasies. Mike Morton then seizes the mike and intones in fine manner the salty refrain, 'steering the ship of fools' into cascades of ocean spray, highly evocative of tall ships scouring the waves. The main melody bursts through, seagulls screeching overhead, as the guitar slices over the white water crests. Very nice indeed!

The more traditional neo-prog of "Sweeper of Dreams" is there to remind fans that they seek to entertain and tell stories that have meaning. Nevertheless, the gifted sounds are jarring, explosive and razor-sharp, the thumping rhythmic tandem in particular, the disturbed snarl in Mike's voice unrepentant. The dual guitar growls interlace nicely, a momentary vocal tinted with childlike innocence and savage insanity,

Celestial swoons, colossal symphonics and unabashed passion coalesce on the magnificent "Tuesday's Child", a typical prog piece of endearing beauty and trembling fragility, the guitars mingling in pastoral delight, acoustic and electric feelings, almost a classic the Strawbs?like feel, Mike doing the melancholic nostalgia thingy, also recouping that slight Western pickin' style and sound that was so prevalent on Awake and Dreaming. The 'sing-along in the pub as we guzzle our brew' sensation really leaps out at the listener. Now throw in some Hackettisms to complete the picture and kneel at the shrine of classic prog, once again. A thriller of maximum proportions, as typical The Gift tune as one could hope for.

In response to the yearning for never ending adventure, "The Tallest Tree" features the guests and it takes on a life of its own, Ant Phillips leading on the 12 string and Steve Hackett taking over just like in the old days (LOL). Definitely a heady tribute to the glory days of musical discovery, missing only a Ghost and perhaps some Geese to complete the bucolic picture. Prog lullaby, evocative and memorable, Mike giving quite a performance. 'Only love remains'. When Steve enters the fray, one cannot help but smile, realizing the genius of this crafty musician, a true master of long sustained notes, lyrical purity and heavenly discourse.

"All These Things" is the mammoth epic and the showcase piece, without any doubt. Over 20 minutes of inspiring adventure, a strange fusion of acoustic genius, unremorseful angst, odd hand claps and an abrupt church organ flurry that asks 'to kiss the chosen one'. Bassman Stef Dickers does the Chas Cronk routine perfectly, pushing booming notes in all directions, and prepping the table for a full-blown prog workout, introducing raunchy dual guitar spasms, roiling organ splotches and a heavy yet driving pulse. Deep Purple comes to mind at one point, featuring a series of blitzkrieg guitar explosions that shiver, shake and quake. Oh my! Thick density and apoplectic rage; then, out of the blue, a piano! Halfway through, crystalline licks alter the mindscape, a melancholia-ridden lament sung expertly by Mister Morton and the looped bass pirouetting in the Andalusian night sky. 'Where the heart meets the horizon' intones Captain Morton, one leg firmly placed on the rum barrel, the proverbial parrot on his shoulder, telling his wise man's tale, piano in tow. The astute poetry really hits home, just as the pace quickens, a concoction of emotional consequences best described by one who has seen the world and attempted to understand. The music is very British, with just a hint of twang and countrified air, again referencing classic the Strawbs, in my opinion. A modern follow up to the glorious "Ghosts" album, me thinks. Lloyd and James doing the Lambert/Cousins act perfectly or so it seems to my ears.

The return voyage heading back to the bay is evident on "At Sea Reprise", a weary but content air of satisfaction in having traveled in exalted company, the deck swabbed cleanly, the sails unfurled and the rudder held by firm and calloused hands, this is quite the ride. A howling synthesizer leads the ship into the dry dock of restful awakening. This just might be the top album of 2016, bar any last minute interception at the goal line. Also one of the finest cover artwork in eons, all shiny and glossy. Multiple return visits will only accentuate the quality of what is being proposed here.

5 Saline solutions

 Why the Sea is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.37 | 48 ratings

BUY
Why the Sea is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Cetacean282

5 stars This is The Gift in their third incarnation on their third album. Why the Sea is Salt is both exhilarating and challenging as the band, and audience to a degree, step out of their respective comfort zones. The writing team has expanded, the band play as a far tighter unit and, from the evidence of live performances, they appear happy. In version one, singer Mike Morton and guitarist Leroy James wrote together. After a couple of hiatuses, Leroy has returned to join Stef Dickers (bass), David Lloyd (guitars) and latest recruits Neil Hayman (drums & percussion) from Konchordat and Gabrielle Baldocci (keyboards). For a band that sometimes describe themselves as Symphonic Melodic Rock there is a lot of power in their stage performance.  Six tracks make up the album, just under an hour in total with the longest, All These Things, clocking in at just over twenty minutes; an epic piece, select the beverage of choice, or even take a picnic for that one, but there is much to enjoy. Challenging? The band still acknowledge their roots in seventies progressive music, some give clear nods to that heritage, but overall their efforts are fresh and contemporary. All These Things is almost like a musical history lesson, opening with a simple guitar melody it is almost medieval in structure, simple, and beautiful as Mike Morton sings in choral tones. His voice is pure, the first couple of times I expected the phrase "And a hey, nonny, nonny" but to my relief this did not occur (one for the live act Mike?). With each change the ensemble players address little fragments of musical history to my ears; the keyboards channelling, Banks, Kaye, Wakeman, Lord, Emerson and I suspect many others, a tribute in the best sense of that word rather than a direct copy. The twin guitars complimenting and competing with each other would work as well without the additions, more Hotel Chocolat than Thornton's. It moves through many changes, and looking at it with a critical eye I do wonder if it could have been more elementally defined, like the passages for Alan Parsons' Turn of a Friendly Card and the repeating refrain. It is a long piece, it requires your concentration, but I do find the time given is justly rewarded.

The opening motif could have served as a repeating refrain throughout, but, like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects?there are hand claps which will make some wince, however they work for me. The church organ adds to the historical feel of a track that seems to reflect on our environment and the human impact, and then again about the passage through life and the changes that come upon us. Complicated? Yes, probably. The Gift's Supper's Ready? Yes and no. There is some Led Zeppelin, a pinch of Jon Lord from Deep Purple's Book of Taliesyn, ELP, Neil Hayman providing Phil Collins-like fills ? so many reference points. I cannot make a direct comparison, it has its own strengths, melodrama and pathos. I sit back and enjoy listening to the Hackett-isms and Pink Floyd undertones. This is my fifth listen; abandon hope, I am going down with the ship of fools. Fools? Well, it is daring to produce something this long and involving in the attention deficit 21st Century. Is it self-indulgent? No. Is it clever? Ultimately your choice, but I say yes. Does it require toilet breaks? I shall cross my legs so as not to miss anything. Played back through four Tannoy Revolution 1's and a hefty KEF centre at volume, it works for me. It is a sort of Genesis/Yes/Queen mash up with a touch of the Fab Four plus a smidgen of When the Sour Turns to Sweet. But I have rambled enough and there are five more tracks!

So from Genesis to revelation, At Sea is unusual and daring, from the first keys of Gabriele's piano, mimicking the sea and its moods, you know this is a different album from The Gift. With hints of Debussy, Ravel, Grieg and others, it shows Signor Baldocci's classical training and influences from the likes of Firth of Fifth, the fade out of Life On Mars and perhaps Rick Wakeman's Elgin Mansions. I close my eyes and reflect on the various beaches where I have sat just listening to the sea and I am transported back to my youth towards the end of this instrumental passage. Leroy, David, Stef and Neil join in; it is sublime. The last man at the table joins after about six minutes, Mr Morton's soulful voice, almost a lament, brings the words. Like All These Things they have labelled the parts, I acknowledge their names, evocative of the music each part portrays, but my thoughts differ. There is no right or wrong.

For me it's Robinson Crusoe of long school holidays; classical, contemporary and emotional. You can see the sea shimmering, and as the first guitars appear, the wind takes sail and the voyage begins. Picking up, we are racing, ships in full sheet, waiting for battle. It's elemental, my dear Morton. The bass line from the man in the cap, Stef Dickers, is tight and controlled; the keyboard passage preceding Yes, the Wakeman years. Homage not copy, and then he sings. Lyrical and artistic, reminding me of Le Radeau de la Méduse (The Raft of Medusa) by Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, or the tale of Odysseus, avoiding the Sirens call. Myths placed from childhood. How many lines are referenced? Perhaps the music has fuelled my imagination, which has then leapt to further conclusions ? Nursery Cryme, Procol Harum ? if it is not my mind then it is very clever. I would say also that Trespass and Queen II are referenced, but not stolen ? no plagiarism from these scurvy dogs.

Sweeper of Dreams is Misplaced Childhood in its drive, the Marillion of Fish, and though darkness is threaded through the vocal it has a different sort of menace from that of Mr Dick, and more of the roll of the sensation Alex Harvey. It is a bit of both. Sweeper? is gutsy, close to that raw energy The Gift have live, David and Leroy battling for space, Neil and Stef holding the rhythm, Gabriele's keys flourishing; this track will really work well live.

The balance between noise and toys is right. Tuesday's Child opens chorally, as if you are ever to meet such a bunch of unlikely choirboys ? more Joseph Wambaugh than St Paul's Cathedral! Gabriele's piano and the guitar solo leave goosebumps, and when the singing begins, the intonation similar to Walk into the Water from Land of Shadows; well if you can't steal from yourself?. It is as close as you will get to a sing-a-long on Why the Sea is Salt; this for me again is early Genesis, Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot. There is one key change that takes them into dire straits. The sea metaphors still appear like a ghost ships from the mist. No one is really producing material like this, nostalgic but still original, and if anyone dare say 'Genesis-lite', well sod them.

And then there were two; The Tallest Tree is topped by Anthony Phillips and tailed by Steve Hackett ? now there a trick. Not the first time they have appeared on the same track, Anthony plays on two tracks from Steve's Out of the Tunnel's Mouth. Combined with the Irish Whistle of Tiger Moth Tales' Peter Jones, it starts a little bit like More Fool Me from Selling England by the Pound, the vocal angelic, choirboy (cough) rising, ethereal; it is simple, or at least appears so, almost folk-like, but then 'only love remains'. The keys when they join at about two minutes in just add to the whole. With the inclusion of Anthony and Steve, if you cannot have that band, The Gift have at least delivered the dream in part.

Final track, a reprise of At Sea subtitled Ondine's Song, strikes me as a lament. There is sadness and emotion in the vocal, sea metaphors, ancient and modern, combine as we take a little trip back. Neil is superb. There's an afterglow, a warm and fuzzy end to a beautiful album, finishing with another great guitar solo ? or is it solos ? and I descend into peaceful, silent slumber, if that is wise. [According to French and German mythology, the nymph Ondine/Undine discovered that her husband had committed adultery. Because he had promised his every waking breath to her, she cursed him that so long as he was awake he could breathe, but if he ever fell asleep he would stop breathing and die. Nice girl?]

The artwork of Mark Buckingham is stunning, a painting worth hanging on my mythical walls. It adds to the delight, and is befitting of the album.

Purchase wise, it fits in my 'Must Haves' for 2016 and I have bought it. I would recommend it to you, particularly if you love melody. I think it is a massive step up for The Gift; you can feel the love in the music, the craftsmanship. The recording of Mike Morton's voice is probably the best I've ever heard it. David and Leroy bring the best from each other, Neil and Stef quietly gluing it together, and finally Gabriele Baldocci bringing not so much resonance as renaissance. It is a triumph, I hope that it pleases them as much as I. In the end, gentle reader, your choice, but the quality cannot be denied. 5 stars, just in case the edit doesn't work!

#They will be performing some of this album at the Masquerade Festival on the 11 December 2016; at The Bedford, Balham, London in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care. £15. Six bands.

 Why the Sea is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.37 | 48 ratings

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Why the Sea is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by The Hutch

5 stars The incredible third album from The Gift is a huge step forward for this ever evolving band. With the return of original collaborator Leroy James and the addition of the amazing drums skills of Neil Hayman and the classically trained keyboard player Gabriele Baldocci, The Gift have moved into the premier league of classic progressive rock bands. The six tracks are all perfectly judged to form one of the best albums of this or any year. From the beautiful opening bars of 'At Sea' through the powerful driving rock of 'Sweeper of Dreams', the delightful Tuesday's Child and 'The Tallest Tree's' who's who of prog rock featuring Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips and Peter Jones, you are taken of an engrossing musical journey with nods to the good and great of the genre. The highlight is, undoubtedly, the 'prog epic', all twenty plus minutes of 'All These Things' which will have you reaching the highs that only wonderful music can bring and the whole brilliant album is brought to a close by the endearing charm of 'At Sea - Reprise (Ondine's Song)'. An astounding album that should be on anybody's wish list!
 Land Of Shadows by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 56 ratings

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Land Of Shadows
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Dirkteur

2 stars I bought this album blindly, because of the former masterpiece. But even with these big historical credits, after some months listening, I'm not running enthousiastic for it. There aren't any thundering parts that make me shiver, like in Awake & dreaming. Instead, the river is slowly meandering and this experience is quite the same during the songs, the big and wide views aren't appearing. I couldn't create it myself, so that should save some respect, but as a listener I feel the band is trying very much, sadly not touching my inwards with this second piece. Still grateful though, for the mean out of 2 album is still above average.
 Awake And Dreaming by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.99 | 59 ratings

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Awake And Dreaming
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars London-based band, established in 2003 by singers and multi-instrumentalists Mike Morton and Leroy James, the two of them had been working together for two decades in mainstream groups.Immediately they started working on a 45-min. epic piece, influenced by the invasion in Iraq, called ''Awake and dreaming''.As they felt during the process that they would need some help with this project, they recruited Jim Thomas on keyboards, Rod Haverhill on bass and ex-The Enid David Storey on drums.Two years later the piece was complete and sent to Cyclops.Malcolm Parker, owner of the label, was really surprised, but asked the band to offer some more minutes of music to complete a long CD issue.The Gift came up with a second epic, the 30-min. ''Fountains of ash'' and eventually their debut ''Awake and dreaming'' was shelved in 2006.

While listening to the title-track (the final version of which clocked at about 40 minutes) I can see plenty of reasons why Cyclops' boss wanted to sign the band instantly.This is a great, well-composed and socially sensitive piece of modern Prog with Neo and symphonic references along the lines of SPOCK'S BEARD, ARENA, MAGIC PIE and the likes with a rich sound and a vast palette of atmospheres, delivering at moments some superb musicianship.The music is melodic, grandiose and dreamy with emphasis on refined piano arrangements, bombastic keyboards, guitars with both an angular and more laid-back edge and some decent blinks to the past with a few organ themes.The same occurs for the vocals, which are clean and expressive.''Awake and dreaming'' is divided in 12 short movements with a tight coherence and the result is pretty close to compatriots ALSO EDEN, music evolving from the 70's but served in a contemporary way.Lovely work indeed."Fountains of Ash" is pretty nice as well, albeit a bit less strong than the opening epic, and divided in 7 segments.The band retains the standard British flavor of the sound, which comes a little closer to PINK FLOYD at moments and offering again some beautiful lyricism.Musically it stands a bit on the edges compared to the previous piece, characterized either by mascular guitar work and powerful keyboards or smooth musicianship with piano, vocals and mellow guitars in evidence.Despite the more pronounced use of vintage keyboards like organ and Mellotron and some discreet string sections, the overall style flirts more intensely with classic British Neo Prog like PALLAS, QUASAR or PENDRAGON.The melodies are striking and memorable and the arrangements are well-performed with a good balance.

Great first step for The Gift.Dense but always melodic Neo/Symphonic Prog with fantastic vocals and tight musicianship.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

 Land Of Shadows by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 56 ratings

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Land Of Shadows
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by PH

5 stars THE GIFT returns with the superb follow up to 2006's debut 'Awake And Dreaming'. This time round we have a founder member Mike Morton (vocals, keyboards, 12 string guitar, flute), David Lloyd (electric & acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards) and Joseph Morton (drums & percussion), accompanied by several guest musicians. Definitely, like its brilliant predecessor, CD 'Land Of Shadows' is a work of art to be savoured. From the narrative opener 'I Sing Of Change' to desperate 'The Willows', from the dramatic tension of 'Road Runs On 'Til Morning' to the soothing lushness of 'Walk Into The Water', from the nimble tempo of 'Too Many Hands' to restrained ballad 'You Are The Song', from 19-minute plus epic 'The Comforting Cold' to the bright sadness of closure 'As', all compositions here are well conceived, expertly arranged and have a synergy effect. The band demonstrates ability to produce very emotive and intriguing material full of details that demand for conscious listening. With diverse influences from the 70's era of British progressive rock, but with an eye to the horizon, mainman and his partners pack the great style meandering through a myriad of strategically placed changes. There are plenty of majestic keyboard passages, tasty drums and virtuoso guitar licks, encircled by string components (violin, cello, viola). Whilst elsewhere, the piercing riffs allow the sound to be harder but not too heavy. The hypnotizing vocals of Mike Morton bring a special charm to provide the ideal combination between gentle atmosphere and dynamics. A powerful medium, indeed... In summary. It's a vast well of inspiration from which The Gift draws. As was to be expected, CD 'Land Of Shadows' basically continues the style of the debut release. But the group have grown in their joint creation. This is a new chapter encrusted with jewels of love and care. Just follow my advice. Check out and be captivated!
 Awake And Dreaming by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.99 | 59 ratings

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Awake And Dreaming
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

3 stars Firstly, I'd like to give credit to James, who wrote the band's Bio. He is spot on and leaves me to provide an opinion/preference, only.

This band is like a kaleidoscope of numerous influences, many of whom are considered as Prog giants. The only problem is that THE GIFT appears to be focused on elements of their peers' works that represent the least exciting bits. Like a sandwich with no meat in the middle.

Make no mistake, they are quite capable musicians - except that their work here fails to excite me. Indeed bordering on what puts people off Neo-Prog which it essentially is. Boring to the point of irritating, this is not something I'd put on returning home at the end of the day - rather the opposite.

Judging by the high ratings this work has appeal to many. Well, I am not one of them, but in fairness I am prepared to rate it as a 3, a piece I will probably disregard as somewhat irrelevant to be part of my rather extensive collection of more pleasing works.

 Land Of Shadows by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 56 ratings

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Land Of Shadows
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars The Gift is back after a long hiatus due to reasons that are the usual garden variety of life struggles and making music that won't really pay the bills and provide a rock 'n roll lifestyle of wasteful debauchery and stuttering stupidity (Hey, Ozzie!). Their previous 2006 effort "Awake and Dreaming" was a progressive rock revelation, an original collection of sharp and exciting songs expertly played and sung with immense talent by Mike Morton. To witness such an album of complex symphonic prog played with flair and a strong sense of masculinity is a treat to any progressive rock fan worthy of such a lofty title. Their debut remains a perennial monument in this reviewer's prog pantheon of fame. The interim years have revamped the line-up with entirely new musicians, save for the microphone king.

Enter new guitarist David Lloyd, owner of a distinctive tone and style that is both hard and soft (which was also present with first guitarist Leroy James) and the main vehicle for Morton's aural assault, ably supported by keyboardist Howard Boder and bassist Kirk Watson. Morton's relative Joseph handles the drum kit. Apparently Mike Morton and Lloyd are the only ones left and have already new members lined up for upcoming 2014 gigs. Musical chairs, wot?

After a brief spoken intro, the epic "the Willows" arrive in archetypal The Gift style, piano and voice articulating 'the sweetest song' , Mike Morton displaying why he is the most underestimated British prog vocalist, a clear and resonating voice that owes little to the usual suspects in terms of tone and style. Soon, the mood invariably becomes metallic and rambunctious as Lloyd's guitar carves hard and relentless, the bass fiendish and reptilian, the drums along for the booming ride. Synthesizer flutterings, change of pace and soaring electric leads intermingle with fresh expectations of symphonic splendor. Children musing about some harsh lullaby, twangy guitar licks (they like to sprinkle slight country music attitudes as a tasty condiment), something the Strawbs enjoyed greatly on occasion. Just a sterling epic piece of 'finesse' prog.

The monumental mellotron blasts unafraid to announce the "Road Runs on Til Morning" , another delicious Morton vocal , a 7 minute ride that has all the ingredients for a successful tune, great lyrics, expert delivery and a slight rock 'n roll feel that will frankly never grow old. Lloyd then zips off a slinky solo on the 'gueetar', crystalline and adventurous, exuding a sense of courage and passion. This is what makes the Gift so appealing, very British yet also very American, as if a perfect hybrid. Dibble dabble, let's play scrabble!

Things get really proggy with the mercurial "Walk Into Water" , parping keys and pomp, yet governed by simplicity and a certain elegance that gives elevation to words such as 'wash away the pain, so much pain' and finish off with an extended killer perfect axe solo, sensitive and soaring towards the stars. Miam miam! Repeat button activated!

"Too Many Hands" has a hushed vocal that 'sweetens the song', morphing into a pretty classic mid-tempo rock 'n roll ballad that has a fiery instrumental section (including another wicked guitar spot) and suave contrasts in the pained gentle vocal parts, crowned by a typical British style buoyant chorus . This is followed by a somber piano-led sliver of gorgeous melancholia, "You Are the Song", a fragile showcase Morton tune that clearly divulges his distinctive voice, graceful mellotron sweepings and dignified lyrics. The instrumental breakout is colossal in its restraint and aching beauty.

"The Comforting Cold" is the epic monster that gives this release its full prog credentials, a whopping nearly 20 minute romp that encompasses all the classic prog moves (slow build- up, mellotron strings, contrasting sections, alternate melodies etc?) , all sugared by the Gift's gift for style and tone. Things get tight and hard as the guitar assault flexes its mighty muscles, hauling the remaining crew along for the ride, impetuous bass carving hard and providing Morton to really show off his various accents and stylings, perspiring profusely about near-death paranoia, Kafka-esque dysfunction and the eternal damnation of the soul. The arrangement goes off into tangent universes that utilize the full panoply of synthesized keyboard colorations, confident of proposing ambient intervals of ponderous thought of space and time, undoubtedly the band finest creative exploration. Trepidation vocals, church-organ solemnity and resurrection guitar scouring, this is one hell of a prog classic. The raunchy guitar rampage dive-bombs through the murky clouds, dropping an arsenal of explosive rhythms and deadly lead missiles, both tortuous and deranged synth barrages and supreme heavy metal convulsions that wink at classic Thin Lizzy. When you least expect it, the song returns for another spin at the front of the stage, Morton really doing a cleverly convincing job on the microphone. Pretty impressive!

As befits their reputation, the album ends in a brief farewell, lush with fragility and sheer beauty.

A fine follow up to a masterful debut that remains iconic, so any comparisons are rather unfair and quite unnecessary, it's just another present from Mr. Morton, a new adventure to place under the gilded prog tree.

4.5 Parcels of Obscurity

 Land Of Shadows by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 56 ratings

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Land Of Shadows
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Hutchy123

5 stars The Gift return after an eight year hiatus following the much lauded 'Awake and Dreaming', After many highs and lows and line-up changes, including a new co-collaborator (David Lloyd), frontman Mike Morton has produced an album that touches on dark themes but always has hope and dynamism.

Starting the superb stentorian spoken word introduction of 'I Sing of Change', we then move on to the first of the albums two epic tracks, 'The Willows' shows Mike at his minstrel best, imagined playing his guitar on a lonely mountain top moaning the fate of modern Britain. A post-apocalyptical scene in the cultural sense. There is a hint of the theatrical about 'Road Runs on Until Morning' cleverly paced with a catchy chorus and distinctive guitar.

The Gift and Mike Morton become expressive and soulful on 'Walk into the Water' an ode to Mike's late father-in-law. The whole song is cathartic, peaceful and radiant. A great example of the light shining through from the darkness. 'Too Many Hands' is upbeat and fast paced yet still dark in its initial nature.An ode for a modern age sung by a modern-day bard. The guitar solo follows a theme that David and Mike have introduced wherein it imitates the vocal line, very clever.

Sublime and ardently beautiful, 'You are the Song' is the most directly ballad like track on the album. It really plucks at your heartstrings, exquisite and perfectly formed.

The second epic on the album 'The Comforting Tale' tells the story of man close to death who is brought back to life. Based on the Lazarus myth, it asks the question that, if this man has had a happy and fulfilling life, should we really be bring him back? Would he prefer to be left to go to the afterlife. Mike has a fascination with near death experiences and this is his homage to it. Another brilliantly written and performed track. Harmonious and inspiring, it is a truly emotional journey. The final track 'As' is a sentimental and touching and a gentle finale to a superb album.

'Land of Shadows' carries on from the amazing 'Awake and Dreaming' and takes The Gift to another level of brilliance. It is uplifting, life confirming and, tantamount to genius.

Thanks to Symphonic Prog Team for the artist addition. and to rdtprog for the last updates

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