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Red Jasper - The Great and Secret Show CD (album) cover

THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW

Red Jasper

Prog Folk


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kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars New for 2015 we have yet another tale of a band's lead singer leaving and the drummer stepping forward to handle those duties as easily as if he had been secretly practicing all those years...wait, could it be? One could certainly argue that the 18 years that have passed since the release of "Anagramary" afforded RED JASPER sufficient interval to find a replacement, but they opted to promote from within, always a good strategy for a non profit.

David Clifford's deep and lightly theatrical voice is not exactly a dead ringer for the departed Davey Dodds, but it's close enough that, when blended with the acoustic guitars and neo prog backing for which this band is known, leads to the correct guess well within the bounds of 20 questions. Already on "Anagramary", the band had eschewed its more overt English folk flavor and was sounding like MARILLION meets latter day TULL, even if the cover art conjures up the band, and country's, now distant past. "The Great and Secret Show" is a logical extension of that late 1990s effort, and indeed, apart from the sterling more hard rock production, sounds like it could have come hot on the heels of its predecessor.

While the band continues to sound one misstep away from faceless neo prog, their lyrical and performance oriented panache and their subtle insistence on melodic development continue to overachieve within the limited confines of the sub genre. Robin Harrison's lead and rhythm guitars are heavy at times but always with purpose, while Lloyd George's mellotronic strings can sound divine even when they are doing little more than mood setting. "An Hour of Time" exemplifies these favorable qualities while "Bonds Beyond Reason" works brilliantly as a menacing duet between Clifford and Soheila Clifford (perhaps relation?) , with hard riffs by Harrison as the jealous third wheel, and reminds me of Quebec's ELIPHASZ.

This edition of RED JASPER does not seem to have an Achilles' heel, and you might in fact find 2 other random tracks to be your favorites here. While the more folk oriented among us might continue to lament the loss of one of the few such proponents left in neo prog, RED JASPER seems intent on having us keep this great secret from everyone including ourselves. Magic!

Report this review (#1406617)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars A few years back I was thinking about Red Jasper one evening, and decided to google them to see what they were doing. Shortly thereafter I found myself having email conversations with D.C. (David Clifford), and we soon started talking about the potential for reissuing their albums on CD. I suggested that he talk to Peter Purnell at Angel Air, and a short while later I found myself writing the booklets, and the conversations turned to potentially a new album? Well, here it is, released at the beginning of 2015. Original frontman Davey Dodds had decided that he no longer wanted to be involved with the music scene, but in drummer D.C. they already had a replacement as by now he had been making a name for himself as a singer with Clive Nolan's Caamora company, and had one of the lead male role on the incredible 'Alchemy'. The rest of the gang were all on board for the journey, but as D.C. felt he was no longer a drummer they brought in Nick Harradence, who was drummer with Shadowland when the two bands toured together some twenty years earlier! It was obvious that Red Jasper were going to sound very different to how they used to, as D.C. is such a different singer, and Davey also used to provide mandolins and whistles, so could they carry it off?

Thankfully the answer to that is a very strong and emphatic "Yes"!! Musically they are a different beast, and have moved more into a neo-prog area, but it still contains the folkier elements for which they were known. The biggest difference, though, is in the approach and style of the vocals. Not only does D.C. sing in a higher register than Davey, but he is also more used to a theatrical style of singing, where there may or may not be good microphones and there is a need to project. As opposed to someone just using their vocal cords with not much effort, here he is putting his all into each song so that each one becomes much more of a performance. Of course, the Jaspers were also always well-known for the power of Robin Harrison's guitars, and he has lost none of the knack of enthralling listeners with either gentle notes or hard-struck power chords. This is particularly true on "The Time Is Right", where the use of a guest sax also adds an additional element. Interestingly, the sax player is none other than Pat D'Arcy who was in an earlier line-up of the band, and was with them when they released 'Sting In The Tale'. D.C's daughter Sohelia duets with him on "The Time Is Right", just as she did for the original live performances of 'Alchemy', and their voices work well together.

Jon Thornton (bass) and Lloyd George (keyboards) tie in with Nick and Robin in a manner that belies the truth that this is a band that hasn't performed for eighteen years. I mean, really? Somehow, I never saw them play live back in the Nineties, although Davey and I used to catch up every so often, and now they're back playing and I live on the wrong side of the world! But, this comeback album is an incredible statement, the Jaspers are back and long may this continue.

Report this review (#1731402)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2017 | Review Permalink

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