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Dave Bainbridge - Veil Of Gossamer CD (album) cover


Dave Bainbridge


Crossover Prog

4.17 | 62 ratings

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4 stars Being an avid fan of Iona, it was a no brainer in adding Dave Bainbridge's solo album to my collection. For those of you who aren't familiar with Iona's music I can best describe it as very progressive, modern symphonic Irish folk with a lyrical content that draws from the spiritual and/or Christian realm. And this multi-talented man contributes in a major way to their admirable creations. Therefore, I expected Dave's "Veil of Gossamer" to be crafted in that same motif but what I thought it would be and what it is are two different things. Since he's so imbedded in that band's sound there are certainly similarities to be found here and there but overall it comes off as an opportunity for him to expand his horizons toward more aggressive territories that Iona wouldn't be comfortable venturing into. All I can say is that, as a progger, if you aren't at least a smidgen impressed with Bainbridge's versatile composition skills and his ability to master a myriad of instruments then you're one tough nut to crack.

Actually, the short opener, "Chanting Waves," is very much in the vein of what Iona would do. The feathery vocal of Mae McKenna singing in the Gaelic tongue is the embodiment of serenity and Dave surrounds her voice with his trademark depth of field and swirls of musical colors. But on "Over the Waters" the Iona comparison ends abruptly for here you get your first exposure to DB's expressive and lightning-fast electric guitar expertise. Using a warm distortion much like that employed by Texas legend Eric Johnson, he literally flies over a strong foundation of a loping 4/4 beat and his layered strums from the Bouzouki, Mandolin and Balafon. This scintillating instrumental number then opens up into a wordless chorus of an angelic choir for a few bars before it reunites with the driving rhythm. Bainbridge's excellent arrangement takes the tune through many intriguing peaks and valleys but, more than anything else, you come away thinking "Wow! This guy can shred with the best of 'em. Who knew?" Variety is the most prominent characteristic of this CD, however, and the title cut is a 180 degree turn from the previous song. It is pure, unadulterated bliss with a grand piano and cello interacting with each other until Troy Donockley's tin whistle appears. It's a very moving, emotional number and DB even manages to work his electric guitar into the mix.

As if you've walked into an aviary of some sort, "The Seen and the Unseen" begins with bird sounds and then the velvety tones of Dave's acoustic guitars take over. It's a short solo piece that is soothing, to be sure, but not particularly memorable. "The Everlasting Hills," the first of two extended epics on this album, makes a grand entrance with DB's spirited electric guitar following a highly complex pattern of chords and key changes. It is jaw-dropping good and his fret work is killer. This opening segment builds to a climax involving roaring tympani, a chorale of ethereal voices and a deep cathedral organ droning underneath. Goose bump time. Next comes McKenna's voice crooning in Gaelic over deep keyboards. Then something unexpected occurs. Rachel Jones and Joanne Hogg enter stage right, speaking verses in English over Mae's lines. Not sure I've ever heard anything like that before. A whispery chant leads to the next part where acoustic guitar, violin and cello combine before a different chanted melody joins in. Dave's electric guitar ensues and the cathedral organ ushers in big orchestration soaring atop percussive outbursts. A piano etude performed solo follows, a graceful mixture of jazz and classical influences. The track almost explodes from there into a kickin' 7/8 time signature that brings the spotlight back to DB's hot axe work as he zips over banks of symphonic synthesizers. It all ends in enormous, forceful accents and fades away upon airy wisps. While I admire the scope of what Bainbridge attempted to do in this 20-minute extravaganza, I feel that there's a lack of continuity and it detracts from the intended impact. Just too many well-meant but disconnected ideas flying about for me.

"Seahouses" is another acoustic guitar air but this time Dave leaves it unadorned and unaccompanied by additional layers. Very peaceful and soothing. The best melody and the one I carry in my head long after the CD has finished is "Until the Tide Turns," a song that would fit comfortably on any Iona album mainly because it involves everyone in that group. Joanne's vocal is saccharine, Troy's Uilleann Pipes are breathtaking, Nick Beggs' fretless bass is seamless, Frank Van Essen's drums and violin tastefully fill in the gaps and Bainbridge supplies the fluid keyboards and Bouzouki to make it complete. All it needs is the gargantuan, towering finish and he doesn't fail to deliver. It's awesome. According to the liner notes "The Homeward Race" was written around an existing drum rhythm in 7/8 time created by Van Essen and it sizzles with energy. It's yet another chance for DB to thrill with his sleek electric guitar runs as he races faultlessly through a difficult maze of key changes.

"Star-filled Skies" is the second epic-sized track on the album. This one starts on a quieter note with Mae once again singing in Gaelic over light acoustic guitars and sparse percussion. But you can't keep Dave's fiery Irish blood down for long and Part 2 is a bit of a lively, traditional-sounding jig that soon turns into a straight-ahead rocker with the electric guitar and violin squaring off in a sparring match. In Part 3 things settle down with intertwining cello and violin before a lonely Tin Whistle blows somberly in the distance. Like an approaching storm, however, Part 4 slowly builds in intensity until the drums break in along with the electric guitar for the knockout punch at the end. A brief reprise of McKenna's opening verse for "Chanting Waves" brings the album full circle and closes it with a prayer-like coda. Unlike the somewhat forced "The Everlasting Hills," this collage of musical thoughts is much more cohesive and fulfilling.

While I won't bestow the "masterpiece" gold medal on "Veil of Gossamer," I can say without hesitation that it comes quite close and is a wonderful example of adventurous progressive music performed on a lofty plateau of expertise and elegance. The sound is immaculate and the packaging utilizing photos of textile art fits the atmosphere of the album perfectly. It definitely represents a side of prog that you should have in your stash because there are going to be moments in your life when this kind of music is essential. 4.4 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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