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Patterson - Eyre - Northlands CD (album) cover

NORTHLANDS

Patterson - Eyre

 

Crossover Prog

3.65 | 55 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars Patterson/Eyre may just be that hidden gem that may go entirely unnoticed and cause a great degree of consternation, as the debut 'Northlands' may well just be the sleeper prog album of 2014. Fans of neo-prog, symphonic, crossover, folk and even psychedelic will take a huge liking to this super smooth masterpiece. Everything about this album is sheer perfection, from the brilliant sound, the lovely artwork and booklet, the crisp production, the stellar guests (including the prolific Steve Hackett, his brother John, Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close), Tim Esau (IQ) and Nick Magnus, among many others) and a first class vocalist in Tony Patterson (ReGenesis), a magnificent voice that wanders into visual delights, expressive and honest, causing many shakes of the head in amazement throughout this jewel, as well as the tremendously gifted keyboardist Brendan Eyre (Nine Stones Close and Riversea), whose predilection for the piano only heightens his impact and pedigree. There are numerous influences that run the gamut, from hints of jazzier material like Sting, China Crisis, Spandau Ballet to more symphonic elements like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Anthony Phillips, Camel and Penguin Caf' Orchestra.

To have the balls to kick off an album with a glorious 24 minute, 7 part epic shows the kind of quiet confidence exuded here, a masterful symphony of sounds that clearly span the entire prog spectrum, involving all the little intricacies that makes good music even better. The massive 'Northbound' suite is a symphonic breeze of the highest order, a lone earnest piano searching for its shadow, an awakening flute and a sublime melody initiate the sequence that will eventually invite dense orchestrations into a swirling thing of beauty. Highly cinematographic , as if a soundtrack from some obscure romantic flick, the neo-classical symphonics are clearly first rate, presenting a very British pastoral beauty as Tony takes over the microphone, and begins his 'coming home', a heady mixture of choir and vocal expression. The suite morphs into a more up-tempo groove, drums beating like a pulsating heart, with a cool Peter Gabriel feel, not surprising in lieu of Tony's work with ReGenesis. A brief dip into the carnival-like atmosphere of Brighton on the beach, sea gulls squeaking in the air, a lush flute and a glorious Genesisian vocal section and Ant Phillips-like acoustic guitars, one feels transported into the depths of nostalgia with enormous reverence. Brendan segues with a simple but mesmerizing piano motif, very pastoral and circumspect, infusing sparkling mandolin to add some sunshine. The sophisticated arrangement is never rushed, as if profoundly spiritual and searching to imbue the listener with images of a time gone by, a simpler, gentler world, far from the raging madness. The luminous finale seems to evoke a sense of hope, of rekindling old passions, a genuine return to roots, all expressed by a sterling guitar solo. Sheer perfection, a magnificent opus of the very highest order.

The restrained sound of oboe scours the horizon on the effusive 'Northlands Rhapsody', a brief orchestral moment that sets the luxuriant tone for the next series of tracks, a devoutly symphonic ditty that would fit nicely on any The Enid album. Utterly dazzling, again, for all its brevity. The quaint 'A Picture in Time' is a straight masterpiece again, featuring meandering female voices (Carrie Melbourne), shuffling drums and some shifting electronics that give it a lovely modern sheen. While extremely mellow and low-key, the distant orchestrations and permeating choir work recalls the fanatical wailing on Deep Purple's 'Sweet Child in Time', intense and deliberate. Music of this ilk is just plain spellbinding, as it flows on in atmospheric jubilation.

Brendan sits down on the piano, Tony next to him on the microphone and they are both watching 'And the River Flows', vivid and fragile as the oboe swerves into the picture, seductive to no end. Proof once more that the very simple can be very complex, when orchestrated accordingly, seemingly echoing along eternally. Change of pace? The urban cool of 'Rainy Day on Dean Street' has a China Crisis-like flow, with astonishing piano playing by both Patterson and guest Doug Melbourne, a brooding pace that may wink at the jazzier side of Sting's early solo career. Hints of Moulin Rouge, Mardi Gras and the Big Easy waffle along, hot and humid as the sexy flugelhorn blows just a little breeze. Groovy, aromatic and sensual, as guest Fred Arlington supplies sax and horn work of the very highest order. A defiant prog hit if there ever was one, appealing to any hip crowd, bluesy and smoky with an eyelash of decadence.

The hauntingly spectral 'Legacy' is another monumental instrumental delight, a fantastic musical universe where a silky smooth piano suggests only the deepest emotions, aided by a slithering flute from Mr. Hackett, some ethereal and voluptuous choir work, combined with the densest orchestrations. The chugging lilt reflects on the history of train travel, the atmospherics are impenetrable, the cloak of years gone by gloriously detailed and grandiose, another winner on an album of perfect victors. I recently watched the compelling British film 'The Railway Man', a momentous essay on forgiveness (gulp) and this would have fit in admirably.

'I Dare to Dream' continues that pensive sequence, this time infusing some soporific vocals that will soothe and inspire, adding a shifting beat and some glittering acoustic guitar in the mix. Gentle piano and a forlorn flugelhorn and then some trumpet will take us all to heaven and beyond. It has a Beatles 'like intelligence, a soft-rock promontory and an urban cool, mitigating sounds that coalesce with a romantic fervor, almost sexual, especially when that damned saxophone blows its top! No perspiration on this tuxedoed bad-boy hunk, he is a coooool man! A proggier Spandau Ballet comes to mind, in a very good sense.

The crushing beauty of a track like 'So Long the Day' is why I remain so thoroughly mesmerized by the progressive style, a mammoth melody, a mystical delivery bathing in lush arrangements and some overtly emotional vocals combine to let the listener close their eye and dream away. This sound is close to Riversea, Sound of Contact, Peter Gabriel or classic Steve Hackett, as the legend blisters forth on the electric guitar, forging a scorching solo so typical of his career, it will blow you simply sideways. One of the finest songs ever recorded.

A romantic piano etude leads the way to a just and glorious finale, a sense of serene accomplishment and pleasure obvious and comforting. 'A Sense of Place' is just perfect, gulls screeching goodbye.

This, proggers and progettes, is a bloody masterpiece, a highly personal set list of meaningful songs played to perfection. It felt like a devoted lover serenading me with emotional bliss.

5 arctic domains

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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