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MARTIN ORFORD

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Martin Orford biography
Martin ORFORD is the keyboard player and founder member of IQ. Since 1995 Martin has been working regularly with legendary KING CRIMSON, ASIA and UK bassist/vocalist John Wetton. He has just released his first solo album entitled "Classical Music and Popular Songs" (2000). On this recording he combines his own compositions played by himself and some of his mates, i.e. all of IQ and JADIS. The musical focus reaches from neo prog, AOR to symhonic classical tracks. All songs are very melodic and harmonic This disc will please his neo fans while opening up some new avenues for his very capable classical skills.

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Old RoadOld Road
Import
Phantom Sound & Vision 2008
Audio CD$13.76
$11.98 (used)
Classical Music & Popular SongsClassical Music & Popular Songs
Import
Giant Electric Pea 2004
Audio CD$49.75
$31.42 (used)
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3.55 | 41 ratings
Classical Music and Popular Songs
2000
3.66 | 89 ratings
The Old Road
2008

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MARTIN ORFORD Reviews


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 Classical Music and Popular Songs  by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.55 | 41 ratings

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Classical Music and Popular Songs
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars It has been far too long in coming, but since Widge is in one or two bands, and does the odd bit of touring along with running a record label I suppose he has an excuse. Seriously, this is a solo album that many progheads have been looking forward to. No lyrics in the booklet, but a bit about each song and also the players. Martin has gathered around him musicians he has been playing with for years, so Dave Kilminster and John Wetton join him from, um, John Wetton, while the rest of Jadis are here and the rest of IQ, but only the final song has a 'complete' band line-up as Jadis play out with an instrumental. While Martin provides most of the vocals, John guests on one while Peter Nicholls guests on another.

The album opens with long held-down keyboard chords, with some lilting flute over the top, then some mandolin touches (all played by Martin) leading us gently into "The Field Of Fallen Angels". This soon goes into some Rush-style runs (with some great bass from JJ), then into a bombastic Jadis-style number. Martin is a great vocalist in his own right, as anybody who has caught him on a solo show will know, and it is wonderful to hear him on CD not just providing backing vocals. The song develops into a much more intricate keyboard-driven piece without ever losing the central theme before switching tracks altogether into a more acoustic piece.

By the end of that, I knew that this album was a winner. Up next was "A Part Of Me", which Martin co-wrote with John Wetton who provides the vocals. A fairly laid-back beginning with a repeated piano motif gave no hint of what was to come. It turns into a song that Asia would have been proud of, layered vocals and Gary Chandler and Dave Kilminster locking horns on guitar. A speeding keyboard/guitar harmony shows just how well these players understand each other. This song in itself is enough to make me want to grab each of you by the scruff of the neck and force you to buy this superb album.

There is the superb solo instrumental of "Quilmes" which Martin performs as a solo piece when on tour with John Wetton, or "Tatras" which is Martin's classical number. There is "Fusion" which used to feature in gigs by The Lens so lead guitarist on this is Michael Holmes. This is a fun uptempo number with some great guitar leads. Oh [&*!#], I could write about this album forever. I love it. If I have just time to mention one more song, then it ought to be "The Overload" which Martin co-wrote with Peter Nicholls who guests on vocals and is the closest thing to an IQ-style song on the CD. .

A great album from one of the nicest guys in the business. .

. Originally appeared in Feedback #60

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Harry Hood

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 keyboardist, but a talented multi- instrumentalist, lyricist, and songwriter as well.

Orford has gone all out in producing his final masterpiece, sparing no expense in assembling an incredible supergroup of musicians, including the infamous Spock's Beard rhythm section of NDV and David Meros, Arena axeman John Mitchell, Jadis mastermind Gary Chandler, and prog legend and longtime collaborator John Wetton. IQ mates Andy Edwards and Mike Holmes also make an appearance, giving their final farewells to their fallen comrade.

The album opens brilliantly with the mini-epic Grand Designs. And what a grand opening it is, featuring all of the melodic bombast one would expect from a progressive masterpiece such as this. The track carries an optimistic and triumphant tone, with Orford-san singing about hope for the future.

Orford continues the positive vibes with the next track, the instrumental "Power And Speed". The melodies bring to mind such upbeat tracks as the classic "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", "Pinball Wizard" by The Who, and music from the Kirby games (mere coincidence, as Morford-sama would never play a video game in his life). The Martymaestro also demonstrates his talents on guitar throughout the song, playing leads that show-off the sort of technical prowess that would make Michelangelo Batio blush, but with beautiful melodic sensibility as well. Truly an uplifting and inspirational piece of music.

That powerful track is followed by the delicate ballad "Ray Of Hope". The lyrics paint a harrowing picture of a group of survivors journeying through post-apocolyptica Despite their everyday struggles through the desloate wasteland, the travelers do their best to maintain an optimistic outlook. Melodically the track sounds like it could have been an IQ outtake. Beautifully pastoral 12-string guitars, soothing synthesizers, and gorgeously delicate vocals from Morford-kun himself, the track also features an incredible lead guitar passage courtesy of Mr. John Mitchell.

The tone of the album changes with the next track, "Take It To The Sun". The first track on the album to feature the legendary John Wetton, the song utilizes the hooks and melodic drive of AOR, but with the much darker bite. The song is a cautionary tale, detailing the journey of a group of American astronauts who journey through space after Earth is deprived of all it's resources. With the US falling behind in the space-race, Russia and China have taken Mars, South America and the EU share Venus, leaving the US with the next closest planet, Mercury. Upon arriving, however, they find the planet to be completely desolate and uninhabitable, a sharp contrast to what they'd been promised when they left on their journey. With no home left to go to, the astronauts are left with a tough decision, and rather than starving to death they decide to use their resources and journey to the Sun. The crew reflects on their various regrets as their ship bursts into flames. Truly a tragic story and one of the most emotionally impactful songs of the progressive genre.

After a brief classical piano Prelude the album continues with the title track, "The Old Road", a scathing attack on modern society, Morford speaks on his longing to return to a time before computers and other life sucking technologies. Martin longs to return to a simpler time in England, with green pastures, open skies, and butter churners. Musicially the song brings to mind the band Kansas, with an acoustic guitar that brings to mind "Carry On Wayward Son", and some incredible violin solos from the masterful Colm Murphy. An instrumental passage towards the end brings to mind IQ's glory days, and John Mitchell once again plays an amazing lead. There is also a Gentle-Giant-esque multi-vocal section.

Morfy continues his critique on society with the next track, "Out In The Darkness". This song was co-written with album collaborator Steve Thorne. The lyrics provide one sick burn after another, detailing every wrong religion has ever committed on society. Musically it's another track that wouldn't have sounded out-of-place on an IQ release, and makes you wonder how much he really contributed to those albums. They're definitely missing something without him.

Stepping away from the darkness, and back into the positivity that began the album, "The Time And The Season" is the album's second mini-epic. Wetton returns for bass and vocal duties, and demonstrates why he's one of the best in the business, giving a spectacular performance that brings to mind some of his best work from his glory days, particularly Asia hits "Sole Survivor" and "The Heat Goes On". The track is incredibly dense, there's always something exciting going on, and many different parts all provide unique counterpoint to one another. There's even a few references to IQ's Subterranea album buried in there! This track represents everything that is great about prog.

The album ends, rather appropriately, with the postlude "Endgame". The track brings together various lyrical and melodic themes present throughout the album, and wraps up the album wonderfully. A very fitting and personal swan song representing all the best aspects of Orford's career, it's the sort of thing that brings a tear to the eye of any listener with a heart. Mike Holmes sends off his old friend with a fitting harmony guitar passage accompanied by a harrowing and emotional Orford vocal solo.

This album is truly one of the most underrated gems of the progressive rock genre from one of progressive rocks most overlooked geniuses. Martin Orford sums up his decades long career and looks brightly toward the future, whatever that may be for him. Hopefully he'll return someday, but we'll always have this album, and the dozens of others he's worked on, as a reminder to why he's one of the greats. We miss you Martin. Shine on you crazy diamond.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Classical Music and Popular Songs  by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.55 | 41 ratings

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Classical Music and Popular Songs
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Martin Orford's first solo album is a collection of light songs mostly in the neo-prog vein you would expect of Orford if you are familiar with his work in Jadis or IQ - for my part, I think the material leans more towards the Jadis end of the spectrum than the IQ end, not least because of the lack of any complex and sophisticated epics and because of the occasional AOR leaning.

Unlike The Old Road, which seemed to be constructed as something of a conscious swansong for Orford prior to his retirement from the music industry, Classical Music and Popular Songs comes across as a side project - a chance to record a few pieces developed by Martin over the years which, for one reason or another, he never got to use with IQ, Jadis or John Wetton. In other words, it sounds like an odds and sods collection - an alright one with some good songs, but there's nothing here so compelling as to make it a necessary part of anyone's IQ or Jadis collections.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Classical Music and Popular Songs  by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.55 | 41 ratings

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Classical Music and Popular Songs
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars One of the worst album titles I have come across (haha). This is Martin Orford's first solo offering. Martin of course is most well known as the former keyboardist for IQ but people often forget he played the same role in JADIS. In fact it's JADIS who are the core band here, although we do get some IQ members helping out as well as John Wetton singing on one track. Interesting that Neal Morse actually offered his singing services for this record but Martin didn't feel like he had the right song for him to sing. Andy Latimer was asked to help out and he apparently was willing but CAMEL duties prevented him from helping out.

"The Field Of Fallen Angels" is pastoral to start then it becomes uptempo after a minute.Vocals from Martin before 2 minutes. Keyboards swirl after 3 minutes then it settles back with vocals. "A Part Of Me" with Wetton on vocals really sounds like an ASIA track. "Quilmes" is Orford on his piano by himself offering up beautiful melodies. "The Days Of Our Lives" is a vocal led track with some guest sax 2 minutes in.This sounds like a contemporary Christian song. I do like the guitar late from Chandler that goes on and on. "Fusion" kicks in quickly and I really like the lead guitar from Holmes (IQ) that comes and goes.

"The Final Solution" is a vocal led track.There is a synth solo after 3 minutes. "The Picnic" is another track with Martin playing piano by himself. "The Overload" features all the IQ members except Holmes. So yeah we have Nicholls singing on this one which is my favourite track. It's interesting that Nicholls and Orford wrote this during the "Subterranea" sessions. "Tatras" opens with piano as this orchestral flavour accompanies.Orford sounds amazing on piano here. "Evensong" is an instrumental with orchestration and piano leading the way. Drums and a fuller sound after 2 1/2 minutes.

A good album but not very proggy, but then Martin (as the album's title suggests) was just trying to create good songs.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Raff
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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 means a bad thing. The result is an AOR album which at times touches onto neo-prog and pomp rock. The music is easy accessible and straight forward. ASIA is a good reference.

The good melodies, the guitar solos and the bombastic keyboards makes The Old Road a pleasant experience. The ten minutes long opening track Grand Designs is very good with some references to MAGELLAN. This is the best track of the album. The title track is also very good. The almost elleven minutes long The Time And The Season is more like lukewarm tea with it's references to the 1980s pomp rock scene. The rest of the tracks is good, but nothing more.

My main gripe with this album is the lack of challenges it offers. I find very little progressive rock here and too much AOR. Neither do I like the references to the 1980s pomp rock scene. I have to admit that this album was not made for the likes of myself who has got tired of the rock scene and is exploring new territories in the Jazz and Classical Music land. This album is far too much rock and far too little progressive. You can take this as a recommondation of this album if you like rock.

This is an acceptable album with some good tunes. Sorry !

3 stars.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

Review by Nightfly
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

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.

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 The Old Road by ORFORD, MARTIN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 89 ratings

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The Old Road
Martin Orford Neo-Prog

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.

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