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PAUL BRETT

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Paul Brett biography
PAUL BRETT began his career appearing (while still a teenager) as an uncredited backing guitarist on ROY HARPER's 1966 debut 'Sophisticated Beggar' which is generally acknowledged as contemporary British folk classic although not especially progressive when compared to some of Harper's later work into the mid-seventies and beyond.

The same can be said of AL STEWART's 'Zero She Flies', recorded in 1969 with Brett again appearing as a nameless studio musician while other studio players such as Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway of FOTHERINGAY do appear in the liner notes.

Brett appeared (with credits) on the STRAWBS' 'Dragonfly' studio album which was also recorded in 1969, and cut a couple of singles with ARTHUR BROWN. That same year he played guitar on most of ELMER GANTRY'S VELVET OPERA second and final release 'Ride a Hustler's Dream', and closed out the decade as a member of the short-lived psych band FIRE, largely leading the studio effort for the now ultra-rare 'The Magic Shoemaker' LP.

After his work with the STRAWBS Brett formed his own band (PAUL BRETT SAGE) and released three studio albums between 1970-1972. That group consisted at various times of Nicky Higginbottom (flute, saxophone), Mike Piggot (later of the PENTANGLE), bassist Dick Dufall (STRAWBS, FIRE), Stuart Cowell (guitars) and percussionist Bob Voice (FIRE), among others. The band's sound ranged from contemporary to progressive folk and mildly heavy rock with occasional blues-rock and even a bit of jazz.

Brett would go on to a lengthy solo career as a mostly 12-string guitarist, recording contemporary rock albums, along with a few progressive works including the complex guitar instrumentals 'Earth Birth' and 'Interlife'. In later years he would release a number of modern folk, instructional and mainstream albums including several K-Tel records. He also amassed a lengthy body of work as a session and touring musician, appearing with the likes of STEVE HILLAGE, JIMI HENDRIX, VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR, MOTT THE HOOOPLE, STATUS QUO, FREE and many others.

>>bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth)<<

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PAUL BRETT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PAUL BRETT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 6 ratings
Paul Brett Sage
1970
2.51 | 3 ratings
Jubilation Foundry
1971
2.93 | 4 ratings
Schizophrenia
1972
3.00 | 1 ratings
Paul Brett
1973
3.00 | 1 ratings
Clocks
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Phoenix Future
1975
3.00 | 1 ratings
Earth Birth
1977
3.34 | 4 ratings
Interlife
1978
4.00 | 1 ratings
Eclipse
1979
2.00 | 1 ratings
Guitar Trek
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Romantic Guitar
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Acoustic Power (with Johnny Joyce)
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Free Spirit
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Anal Tap
2005
3.00 | 1 ratings
Songs from the Compleat Angler
2009
3.00 | 1 ratings
Calm Before the Storm
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Blues for 12 String Guitar
2009
3.00 | 1 ratings
Emergence
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
12 String Instrumental Power
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
12 String Blues Power
2015

PAUL BRETT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

PAUL BRETT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
The 1970s
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Derelict Songs
2016

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

3.00 | 1 ratings
The Unreleased Early Songs
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Fox's Prophecy
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Bullet
2016

PAUL BRETT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Unreleased Early Songs by BRETT, PAUL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Unreleased Early Songs
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars With the PAUL BRETT SAGE albums being the only ones from Brett's extensive back catalog to be readily available in digital form, a mini resurgence in interest in the legendary prog-folk-psych band which he fronted from 1970-1972 should not be surprising. Apart from a solid comeback album, "Emergence", in 2014, and a 2016 single entitled "Bullet", the vaults have been cracked open just enough to allow 5 early recordings to escape, which form the subject of this review.

From the title, and from the instrumentation and mood, I would estimate that at least a few of these tracks herald from the first incarnation of Sage, graced as it was by the seductive flutes of Nicky Higginbottom. The melodies, arrangements, and vocal style and harmonies of the prototypical early 1970s songs "Ulysees the Traveller" and "Queen of my Day" would have fit perfectly well on Sage's debut, where they would have been among the more erudite offerings. They compare to early STRAWBS, and are the most progressive samples here. "The Time isn't write for your loving" is notable for its impressive riff and psych guitar solo, while "Love is a Four Letter Word" recalls AMAZING BLONDEL's first album's poppy side. The only weak link is the repetitive "Ragman", which exhibits the traits of the less memorable cuts on the SAGE debut.

If you are intrigued by this unjustly obscure artist, I would recommend picking up the first SAGE album and then circling back to this archive recording, although I suppose reversing those steps might save you both time and money. Not quite 3.5 stars.

 The 1970s by BRETT, PAUL album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The 1970s
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars While I am delighted to find this compilation readily available for download and on streaming sites, the question that has kept me almost as entertained as the music is whether it's for fans only or worthwhile for the uninitiated. The short answer is "Yes", and here's why.

This collection of 30 tracks does indeed span the works of guitarist/singer/songwriter PAUL BRETT during his most prolific decade, and draws from 4 albums that, to the best of my knowledge, have yet to receive legitimate digital treatment: the more vocal oriented "Paul Brett" aka "Site and Speculation" (1973) and "Clocks" (1974), and the largely instrumental RCA releases "Interlife" (1978) and "Eclipse" (1979). It omits the solo guitar "Earth Birth" (1977), from which numerous tracks have surfaced on another new compilation, "12 String Instrumental Power", and the virtually unattainable "Phoenix Future" (1975), from which one song has been resurrected on another new quasi-compilation, "Derelict Songs".

From a progressive perspective, it is unfortunate that, while 80% of the tracks of his best solo album, "Interlife" are represented, every one of them has been abridged, none more so than the genre spanning title cut, edited to well under half its 16+ minutes. That said, the splicing was skillfully executed, but, given the lengthy running time of "The 1970s", I would argue unnecessary. Its placement at the very beginning was astute, as was following it immediately with the overtly jazzy and fun-loving original album closer "Intolife", which fits much better without the interceding more placid instrumentals in the original running order.

"Eclipse" is also given short shrift, with only 4 of the original 10 tracks included, in slightly remixed form. Luckily, the three best pieces are offered: the Celtic inspired and infectious title track, the gently rechristened and scintillating flute and acoustic guitar pairing "The Other Side of Paradise", and the grandly baroque "Overture for Decadence". The only egregious exclusion is the superb rendition of DAVE BRUBECK's "Take Five". Of note, the "12 String Instrumental Power" compilation includes one other track, the decent "Silent Runner", re-branded as "The Fasting", while a recent single by PAUL BRETT SAGE took up the aptly named vocal track "Chaos" once again.

The remaining 22 tracks, apart from one fun acoustic instrumental "Jazz Eyes" of unknown origin, include the vast majority of the 2 earlier albums, and clarify that "Sight and Speculation" is by far the better of the two, and the heir apparent to PAUL BRETT SAGE, particularly in "The Spanish Main" and "A Handful of Rain", which could have sat nicely on the first SAGE album, right down to the flute interludes. "March of the Giant Hedgehogs" trots out the best of this incarnation instrumentally, with an unexpected piano portion for variety. The "Clocks" tracks are the weak link here, as there are just too many of them! Still, works like "Hunter of Angels", "What you Mean to me" and "Summer Drifting" propose a more pastoral and string laden approach similar to what AMAZING BLONDEL achieved at that time, and distinguish themselves from the overly represented blues and middle of the road soft rock to a greater extent than they had on the original release.

This is a flawed yet noteworthy compilation that expands the scope of what the average listener has normally been privy to. Had a few tracks from "Clocks" been sacrificed in the service of the full version of "Interlife" and one or two more selections from "Eclipse", I would be rounding up instead of down. Recommended, but not quite as much as those late 1970s original LPs.

 Emergence by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Emergence
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Paul Brett's discography is becoming increasingly cryptic and unknowable, with his own web site rendering an incomplete account and directing the curious to itunes for the minimal subset that is readily available in digital form. Even some of the "compilations" seem only partially sourced from previously released material. However, one thing is certain: "Emergence" is the first album of original contributions from "Paul Brett Sage" since 1972. What possessed the prolific and talented Brett to resurrect the Sage name at this late date is appropriately unclear, especially given that the credits reveal none of the members from the early incarnations. It could simply be because most of the man's solo work is just that, whereas here he has recruited a band in a conventional sense. Motivations aside, let's examine what has emerged from this "reformation".

The focus is on songwriting and vocals first and foremost, with many of the lyrics imparting at times blunt social and political commentary, and the melodies paired cleverly to Brett's weathered but still earnest and appealing voice. The opener "Amsterdam" introduces all of these facets in a representative 3 minutes. From here, Brett's scathing stylus takes on ecology, big oil and gas, big media, and other easy targets, but interspersed with the lighthearted "Psychedelic Pauline" and the grandiose mini epics "the Tempest", "Evening Star", and "The Pit and the Pendulum" which are curiously concentrated towards the tail end of the disk, and among my preferred pieces. The production closes strongly with the ominous "There's a Wolf at your door", not the only piece that reminds me of the relatively recent collaboration between fellow virtuoso GORDON GILTRAP and OLIVER WAKEMAN. Comparisons to the song oriented period of MIKE OLDFIELD, ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA are valid, primarily in an appreciation for the theatrical and the melodramatic.

The only lead instruments are Brett's acoustic and electric guitars, which are, as usual, technically brilliant and succinct, whether in accompaniment to the vocal passages or on their own. "Emergence" can best be characterized as a synthesis of the original SAGE sprinkled with the acoustic-electric essence of "Interlife" and the bite of "Queen's Shilling", with occasional reference to "the Compleat Angler". In all, a quality release that defies submergence.

 Jubilation Foundry by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.51 | 3 ratings

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Jubilation Foundry
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars After an electrifying debut that announced the new decade while still winking back at the 1960s, PAUL BRETT's SAGE well and truly regressed in both ambition and appeal with "Jubilation Foundry". Tilting in a blues pop direction, tracks like "Hold my Hand Mother", "Pasadena Days", and "Goodbye Forever" seem a far cry from the kinetic explorations of the prior year, and indeed even Brett's accompaniment is curtailed, a pity since his aptitude possesses the capacity to elevate even mediocre and derivative songwriting. Instead, apart from on "Help me Jesus", it is mostly exploited on a few of the better compositions, particularly the CSNY like "Tuesday Evening" and to PHIL OCHS/GORDON LIGHTFOOT styled "I Fell so Far". Mike Gibbs is credited with "orchestral arrangements", which do enhance "Keeper of my Heart" and the aforementioned "Tuesday Evening". These relative high points do little more than salvage clunky cast iron from "Jubilation Foundry". though fans of old rock may regard it as a hot mess.

 Paul Brett Sage by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.98 | 6 ratings

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Paul Brett Sage
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars The term virtuoso is bandied about all too freely, especially in progressive rock circles, but it well and truly applies to guitarist PAUL BRETT. Unfortunately for him in the commercial sense, his prodigious talents were most in evidence on all manner of acoustic guitar. My first encounter with his name and his work was during the holiday season as the 1970s drew to a close, when the never mainstream Carleton University radio featured his then current RCA release "Eclipse" album as a suitable holiday gift for people of all ages. OK, that sounds dubious, but the title track drew me in, as did the album and its predecessor "Interlife" which I immediately sought out. It was only later when I discovered that he had in fact played on STRAWBS "Dragonfly and had other tenuous ties to that band via ELMER GANTRY's VELVET OPERA and FIRE. I mistakenly wrote off his earlier releases after sampling the rather tepid "Clocks" from 1974, and never gave his 3 albums fronting "Paul Brett Sage" (sometimes written in the possessive) their due. Better late than never, for the first of these, in particular, through its eclectic influences, brilliant musicianship and arrangements, and an eyes wide open communal spirit and ebullience that cannot be feigned, merits re-appraisal as a prog rock classic.

The 1960s were barely in the rear view mirror, and, while Sage obviously owes much to the guitar oriented and psych bands of that period, this is a forward looking release in that the band is exploring new ways to be around the basic rock band configuration. This elasticity is typified by swapping out a standard drum kit in favor of Brett's percussive 12 string attack and Bob Voice's well placed and played alternatives. Another variation is in the flutes and sax of Nicky Higginbottom, which aerate and expand while actually fortifying the Sage sound. Keyboards are represented by brilliant uncredited organ in several tracks to lend a mournful ambiance devoid of sulking. I haven't mentioned Brett's rough and ready vocals but it seems clear that the material was worked to complement his delivery and vice versa, and the result is a resounding success. Finally, his fret work is dazzling in almost every track, while rarely overpowering the arrangements, a testament to both. His skills on the electric notwithstanding, it's his acoustic work that has earned him a reputation as one of the world's foremost guitarists, and which ultimately places Sage in league of its own, although in its more frenetic moments they seem close in spirit to the even more obscure "Matthew Mark Luke and John" from METHUSELAH, released in 1969.

My personal favorites are the more brooding numbers "The Sun Died" and "The Tower". While their messages are hardly oblique, they are practically arcane relative to Brett's more recent solo albums as well as the 2014 resurrection of SAGE. These two tracks in particular seem to have formed the blueprint for a few of the better pieces on UK folk rockers DECAMERON's "Third Light" that appeared in 1975, as well as a few early 1970s Strawbs tunes like "Keep the Devil Outside", but overall I would say that the technical and serendipitous confluence of Sage would have been too hard for most artists to emulate. If there is a flaw, it might be in the awkwardness of a few of the choruses that tend to repeat the song titles, such as in the otherwise captivating "The Warlock", or in "Mediterranean Lazy Heat wave". The CD re-issues include two worthwhile bonus tracks whose origins are clearly from other sessions since they both include actual drums.

You would be sage to pick this one up whether you normally enjoy prog folk or not. That pretty much covers everyone here.

 Guitar Trek by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Guitar Trek
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars The final album of guitar virtuoso PAUL BRETT's 3 disk contract with RCA, "Guitar Trek" is by far the most obscure. It was met with a dearth of promotional effort, but it's hard to know whether this was because Brett had already signed on to produce a K-Tel record, its predecessors were fracturing the cutout bins or their day, or it's the least inspired of the three.

Nothing is missing from Brett's technique, which is more focused on acoustic guitar in a rock setting, but most tracks do seem almost like placeholders for exhibits of the man's awesome fretting power. His ability is such that he can overpower pieces that other guitarists might complement better. Here and there we find snippets of what was generally better developed on prior albums; for instance, "In Search of Aztecs" hearkens back to the suite "Interlife" while failing to capture the ensemble effect that really propelled the flow of those choice 16 minutes. "Alternative 12-string" at times approximates works like "Calypso" and "Silent Runner" off "Eclipse" but tries out too many concepts for its own good in under 6 minutes. Gershwin's "Summertime" does not revive the magic of Brett's prior adaptation of Brubeck's "Take Five", but perhaps it is just not as fresh or appealing a number to begin with.

The three tracks that work the best do so for different reasons - "Forever Autumn" succeeds as much because the Jeff Wayne composition is so brilliant as anything, but one must give substantial credit to Brett for treating it sensitively and imbuing it with his own identity, while leaving its spirit intact. "Even when the sun shines" expands upon the courtly folk of "Overture for Decadence" off "Eclipse", but incorporates more rock aspects, consistent with the album as a whole. Finally, the closer "Blood on the Frets" actually parlays the guitarist's prowess into the realm of country, bluegrass and rock and roll all at once, succeeding brilliantly.

I wouldn't particularly recommend this to you unless you are a big fan of PAUL BRETT and acoustic guitar prowess, but, if you do happen upon it smothered in a musty corner by multiple copies of "Interlife" and "Eclipse", you might want to dust it off and go where this man has gone before. 2.5 stars rounded down.

 Interlife by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.34 | 4 ratings

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Interlife
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars English guitarist, born in 1947 in Fulham.He spent much of his early career as supporting guitarist for Roy Harper, Al Stewart and The Strawbs among others as well as a member of Psych Rockers Velvet Opera, before forming the Psychedelic/Folk Rock group Paul Brett's Sage in 1970.After three albums Brett decided to focus on 12-string guitar and move on to a solo career.His acoustic suite ''Earthlife'' from 1977 was much in the vein of ANTHONY PHILLIPS' acoustic albums, before Brett made an attempt to Soft Progressive Rock with the RCA-released album ''Interlife'' in 1978 (for both the UK and US market but with a different cover).Among his guest musicians were The Strawbs' drummer Rod Coombes and King Crimson's Mel Collins on brass instruments.

The album is highlighted by the 16-min. sidelong eponymous track, an attempt by Brett to mix acoustic soundscapes with his 12-string guitar with soft electric passages.Resemblances with ANTHONY PHILLPS' and GORDON GILTRAP's works are more than strong.His guitar touch on the electric parts has a light STEVE HACKETT leaning, while his 12-string guitar passages are very dreamy and folky-sounding.All his work is supported by the calm background synths of Derek Austin and, at moments, by Collins' melodic sax work, covering the spectrums of Folk Rock and Prog.This particular style continues on ''Celebration'' and ''Segregation'', a good alternation of acoustic and electric instrumentals with ethereal keyboards and smooth brass sections.''Isolation'' is another instrumental, this time entirely based on Brett's 12-string guitars, very mellow and slightly boring for my tastes.The closing ''Into life'' marks the more psychedelic side of Brett, a groovy Psych Rocker with very interesting guitar work, which also contains a funky piano/keyboard-based middle section.

If you like the works of STEVE HACKETT, ANTHONY PHILLIPS or GORDON GILTRAP, Paul Brett's ''Interlife'' definitely deserves a chance.Cool guitar instrumentals with decent arrangements, played with passion and emotion.Recommended.

 Interlife by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.34 | 4 ratings

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Interlife
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Nice "easy listening" Prog

With a handful of albums that I wanted to hear that are not available on CD or digital download, I decided a few years ago to purchase a USB turntable and the wanted albums on vinyl LP. Paul Brett's Interlife was one of them. Inspired by the previous review (by kenethlevine), I wanted to check this album out and now I have it my computer, personally transferred from vinyl.

This album is my first and only acquaintance with Paul Brett and while a pleasant listen throughout, I cannot claim to be very excited. The music is wholly instrumental and reminds of Mike Oldfield's and Gordon Giltrap's respective works. This means subtle, folksy, guitar-based instrumental Rock. Interlife also adds a Jazz flavour. A more recent purveyor of this kind of music is Collin Masson, especially his Isle of Eight album.

As I said, this is wholly pleasant and enjoyable music, but for me, it is a bit too easy on the ear and it works primarily as background music. It is music for hearing, but not for listening.

Good, but by no means essential or even particularly special or memorable.

 Earth Birth by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Earth Birth
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Perhaps PAUL BRETT's first wholly progressive release, "Earth Birth" utilized an unlikely instrumental approach to the genre - solo 12 string acoustic guitar and....that's it. Nonetheless, this is no folk album. It consists of intricate work that pretty much solidifies Brett's status as one of the world's best.

Paul Brett was later to produce instructional videos for 12 string guitar technique, and in many ways "Earth Birth" serves as an audio predecessor to those targeted items. Therein lies the major problem I have with this admittedly groundbreaking work - it's a triumph of technique over art, of tutelage over composition. Not being capable of playing much more than my iPOD, I am nonetheless able to appreciate that many of his nifty moves probably have a name that would resonate with axepersons far and wide, and I enjoy them for their clarity and appealing sonic images. But my attention wanders, and a few melodies like the main theme of "Christened by Fire" would be more than welcome. Here and there we find the embryos of the album's successors "Interlife" and "Eclipse", germs of ideas lacking maturity.

"Earth Birth" is caught in the netherworld of releases, too significant to warrant less than 3 stars and too academic to warrant more. Luckily it whelped several superior progressive albums by Brett in the years that followed.

 Calm Before the Storm by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Calm Before the Storm
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars It's hard to find much information about this Paul Brett effort, even the year of release. In fact, the near omnipresence of cheesy new age keyboards raises questions about whether this is in fact the same Paul Brett who is a world renowned 12 string guitarist and not a bad lead player. "Mercury the Messenger", the opener, is devoid of any such contribution but is nonetheless perhaps the best entirely electronic piece here thanks to reasonable development, not unlike some of PETE BARDENS' later work.

Luckily Brett does enough axe-work to lift this disc well above the average California baby-boomer Zen. This is especially true of "Metamorphosis" which begins acoustically mellow before his plaintive MIKE OLDFIELD styled lead makes its first of several welcome entrances on this album, all the while underpinned by the expressive acoustic work. Brett sports a flamenco style on "Wave Dancer", with a middle section that will have any budding guitarist drooling, even if the synth accompaniment is a bit tacky. Probably the best cut here is "All that Mine Eyes Can See", with bright celtic inspired acoustic work that references his earlier classics. Just in case you missed it here, the main tune of the title cut of his "Eclipse" album is reprised at the start of "The Altar and the Crown", which then wisely breaks away and becomes its own worthwhile exercise in closing this gentle oeuvre.

While you might want to stay clear of what is basically a new age effort, "Calm Before the Storm" does showcase enough of Paul Brett's prowess as musician and arranger to warrant due credit, even if this is so calm it's liable to put the pending storm to sleep.

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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