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JOHN HOLDEN

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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John Holden biography
Hailing from Cheshire, England, a multi-instrumentalist / composer John HOLDEN has had a strong emotional connection to music in his young age, especially progressive rock. Having played and composed for many years, John made the decision to commit to creating a full album of original material. In collaboration with lots of session musicians (see his album page) John has recorded and released "Capture Light" in 2018.

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JOHN HOLDEN discography


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JOHN HOLDEN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.85 | 37 ratings
Capture Light
2018
3.72 | 68 ratings
Rise and Fall
2020
3.93 | 47 ratings
Circles in Time
2021
4.09 | 28 ratings
Kintsugi
2022
4.58 | 8 ratings
Proximity & Chance
2024

JOHN HOLDEN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

JOHN HOLDEN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

4.50 | 2 ratings
Together Apart (Charity album)
2021

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

4.50 | 2 ratings
13
2024

JOHN HOLDEN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Proximity & Chance by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2024
4.58 | 8 ratings

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Proximity & Chance
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by E Chance

4 stars

Proximity and Chance

The emergence of this new project from John made me both excited but nervous, much like the previous one. The reason is simple after being so thrilled by his previous work and his evolution as a musician I was concerned whether he could maintain the momentum and offer something new and interesting, which genuinely added to his canon. I need not have worried.

Rather than a track-by-track and musician call-out, I am going to offer a more organic less Germanic review, more about the themes that I hear in the music.

The music comes over as more dynamic and cuts through more than in the past and yet the arrangements with melody, counter melody and harmonics has more depth and weight. The bass playing, from the man himself, on the sub-Traffic opener, tracks and shadows Peter Jones, but equally offers some neat surprises and to my ears is more Roger Glover than the Late Chris Squire in terms of sound. Something else I noticed on this piece is Peter's voice is related to Steve Winwood's. I would not be at all surprised if he is a midland maniac.

The other standout feature which really shows John's developing skills is the quality of the orchestrations. I am old enough to remember The Nice, Deep Purple and Yes all using orchestras, for the most part, the judicious use of a Mellotron, which triggers string sounds, was much more dynamic and simpatico, the foundation stone of several bands' musical personality. In retrospect, the aforementioned projects sound naive, less a fusion and more a collision.

Here John does not add the strings, they are an integral part of the music, helping create the unique and singular atmosphere of pieces like "Burnt Cork" and "Agents" and because of the stories he is telling the orchestrations are often dark and spartan, Stravinsky like.

There are more gentle pieces, the instrumental "A Sense of Place." where Vikram Shanker duets with John Hackett. Vikram's ability to offer support to the tunes is well known from John's previous work, but again because of the more developed arrangements his accompaniment adds even more.

As well as Peter Jones and Sally Minnear, whose smiling alto delivery delights on Fini, a new edition is the Australian Tenor Shaun Holton. His sardonic delivery of the narrative on "Agents" is perfect but it took me a while to get used to him telling the story of Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King." Those Haggard, Kipling stories, set in a remote and unknown part of the world in the 19th Century, are propelled by a particular English heroism and some might argue delusions of grandeur. In the end, after listening to Shaun's performance several times, it does come off as heroic in the right way. The operatic delivery suits the hubristic story he is singing about.

There is a good deal to stimulate and repeatedly return to, but two pieces stand out for me. The fabulous evocation of Victorian Melodrama of Burnt Cork and the ridiculously joyous Chance (Under the Sun). They take you on a journey draw you in and get inside your psyche.

Burnt Cork begins evoking the atmosphere of the theatre where our protagonist is performing and then moves forward with a beautiful rhapsodic run from Vikram, wonderful, layered romantic strings, and then Mr Jones comes in with an intuitive, sensuous vocal. Throughout the orchestra is integral, sometimes, sweeping, full of pathos, and other times, dramatic jabs. This music is mature, considered and Peter narrates the antagonist's pain and suffering and developing hatred with a real sense of connection. This has that Progressive Rock Musical feel of KV62. It's in the middle of the piece the orchestrations go supernova, supporting Peter's vocal. The atmosphere is full of menace, the orchestrations communicate that with darting, determined, muscular pulsing. These are the sections that put me in mind of Stravinsky. The drama over, Peter takes us out through the angst and madness of the murderer. Such good storytelling and such simpatico arrangements.

Chance is probably John's first standard; I would expect people to cover this. It is a very strong piece. "A future yet to know the past behind us." My goodness we need that. Echoing rotating guitar, the glorious tune, the gorgeous chorus, a Ringo drum pattern and then Luke Machin's solo doing all the things a guitar can do to support and elevate a piece upwards. I am humming this constantly.

More vivid production, dynamic sophisticated arrangements and great vocal performances enhance a programme of music which includes a couple of pieces, which are his best work yet.

I had nothing to worry about. It's a privilege and a joy to say nice things about music from such a down to earth but very clever man.

 Proximity & Chance by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2024
4.58 | 8 ratings

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Proximity & Chance
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Since 2018, this composer and multi-instrumentalist has not only been consistently delivering standout albums that I am proud to possess and review, all very highly rated but also because the recipe ingredients and manpower invited happen to vary from album to album. So before delving into the intricacies of this fifth chapter, I invite all those readers still unfamiliar with this Cheshire cat, to travel back into his past 4 albums and discover all the pleasures therein. The bar is set pretty high because the previous "Kintsugi" was a tour de force that earned it my highest praise. Vocalists Sally Minnear and the celebrated Peter Jones are back, not surprising they are stellar performers, as is keyboardist Vikram Shankar. New allies are Luke Machin, a gifted guitarist who seems to be equally prolific, playing on a multitude of recordings, John Hackett needs no intro at all, and Southern Empire's Shaun Holton sings on a couple of tracks. Lastly, Dave Brons tosses in a couple of bars at the end of the opening track, while Moray MacDonald blows a mean trumpet on one number.

"13" sets the immediate tone for the remainder of the set list, as Holden lays down a solid rhythmic pulse, with snarling bass, solid riffs, and some nice drum programming. Peter Jones grasps the microphone, and his fluid voice is always a delight, delivering that mythical story of how the number 13 is a superstition that will not go away. Friday the 13th, 13 people at a table, open umbrellas, broken mirrors, walking under ladders, black cats, touch wood, and rabbit foot. Poetry for the mind. We enter epic land with a musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King", the lengthiest piece and adventurous as can be, an ideal setting for Shaun to show off his singing skills. The sense of mountainous elevations, imagining the Khyber Pass and Everest beyond, an imperial trumpet announcing the fantasy of soldiers of misfortune wanting to become gods, and rule by force or by will over vast territories of immense riches. The allusion to Alexander the Great also comes through in the cinematographic arrangement. Close your eyes and let the shifting variations induce the imagination to wander. Vikram peels off a nifty synth solo as the final denouement arrives. Gong!

With the piano and the flute ruling the space, "A Sense of Place" has that quintessential pastoral Welsh feel, a lovely instrumental pause, a shimmering ode to tranquility. The title could well have been A Sense of Peace, and no one would have dared a word. Plain beautiful. With a tale about insane jealousy and competitive revenge, "Burnt Cork and Limelight" has certainly dramaturgical, I daresay, Shakespearean tendencies. The faultless melody is a masterful addition to an arrangement lush with immaculate orchestrations that truly emit a sense of stage music for actors who hide their dark side by pretending to follow the script but desperately seeking to murder their alleged foe. Peter Jones delivers one of his finest deliveries ever, utterly convincing. Applause from the captive audience is the final straw. 10 minutes + of enchanting entertainment.

The subject of recent covert assassinations of defectors in the UK, "Agents" tackles the open-faced gall of sending killers armed with nerve agents to eliminate any threats to the Kremlin's authority with apparent immunity. The music is suitably anxious, with shadowy figures hiding behind diplomatic immunity, carrying vials of lethal poison, and seeking out their targets. Luke rips off a cloak and dagger axe rant. Revenge is a bitter pill, tastelessly dropped in a teapot. A passionate visit to Paris does not mean one can 100% find love, sometimes it's the exact opposite, a realization that may hurt on the moment but better now than 20 years later. Sally Minnear sings her plight in the City of Light, Notre Dame casting a long shadow, the book vendors on the embankments of the Seine offering fictional non-fiction editions of a love not meant to be. The musical atmosphere is suitably restrained and romantic. L'amour fait mal (Love hurts).

The final two tracks deal with the two choices offered in the title, "Proximity" peering at the Red Planet and simply wondering if it was perhaps a former home once long ago, having had to settle on Earth, to find a more suitable climate. The glorious hymn "Chance "is the segue that tackles the complex notion of 'what if?', and 'who am I?'. It has a Jon Anderson-Yes positive feel to it that is most up lifting. Within the realm of logic, each person is nothing more than the amalgamation of all the preceding relatives from both ancestral chains, an intricate evolution with no clear starting point unless it was from the universe itself. DNA does not stand for Do Not Admit. All three vocalists join in on the choir, singing a hopeful message, "that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal". The only absolute is that there is only one sun. John Holden is a progressive rock force to be reckoned with. Get close and get lucky.

5 Vicinities and risks

 Kintsugi by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.09 | 28 ratings

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Kintsugi
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Another impeccably-realized collection of uniquely-perspective sonic adventures from one of England's most uniquely reverential voices.

1. "Achilles" (10:48) a gorgeous song in which That Joe Payne puts on exhibit the most restrained and mature vocal performance that I've heard from him to date--a performance that is so perfect for this music and subject as to be so emotionally powerful! At the end of the seventh minute, the music shifts in direction into something much heavier, much more in-your-face, for a brief minute until rejoining the atmospheric, almost New Age keyboard-based motif of the opening two sections. Incredible multi-layered and multi-faceted vocal performance by Joe Payne. (18.667/20)

2. "Ringing the Changes" (3:43) light-hearted music over which Sally Minnear sings. There is almost a Christmas carol feel to this, though the song subject seems much more quotidian--like a Victorian poem of everyday life. Captures a time and style not our own impeccably. (9/10)

3. "Kintsugi" (7:04) one forgets how similar Dave Longdon's voice was to that of Peter Jones until one hears a song like this: so similar to a Big Big Train song, a fair BBT train song at that. (12.75/15)

4. "Flying Train" (5:33) a nice instrumental that opens with a voice sample from a man speaking in German. Apparently it's a song commemorating the prediction of flying trains. (8.667/10)

5. "Xenos (5:43) another very pretty little BBT-like song. (8.75/10)

6. "Against the Tide" (5:27) a little jazz-pop song that sounds like Al Jarreau, Ambrosia's David Pack, or Phil Collins should be singing. (8.667/10)

7. "Peggy's Cove" (4:21) after a mood-setting Celtic opening, a more African-rhythm establishes a musical feel more akin to something by Peter Gabriel, Sally Minnear's lilting little voice soon establishes the fact that we're singing about a legendary person who may (or may not) have survived a shipwreck that happened long ago in Nova Scotia. Cute and catchy little sea ditty! (8.75/10)

8. "Building Heaven" (11:34) opens with a very classical theatric orchestral feel before Sally Minnear's (purposefully?) youthful voice starts singing in a "Who Will Buy?" kind of style (and setting). Flutes and 12-string guitars help fill the gentle, pastoral feel as Sally introduces a story of war and tribulation that is intended as a tribute to illustrate the professed mission of Jesus of Nazareth. The song goes instrumental for about five minutes, from the four-minute mark and its air raid sirens and distant bomb explosions to the gentle guitar and keyboard arpeggio-supported point at which Dave Bainbridge's soaring electric guitar announces the arrival of a chorus and choral weave of Peter Jones, Joe Payne, and Sally Minnear singing praises of Christ's mission to "Build Heaven." Interesting but ultimately packing far less of a punch than I think might have been intended. Methinks this could have been built into something much more grand, more expanded and multi-faceted. (17.25/20)

Total Time 54:13

I have, from the beginning of John's presence in Prog World, often felt a very strong background in religious music to John's style of composition and sound construction--as if he is writing from a background or perspective of someone who has come from or lives in a monastic or religious life. On this, his fourth studio album, I fear John has fallen into the Big Big Train/Galahad pattern of historical worship.

B/four stars; a very nice excursion through some very pleasant songs realised with the utmost care and perfection-- songs that sometimes fall a bit short of "prog expectations". Still, a very nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--one that will probably deliver little gems and subtleties for many listens.

 Kintsugi by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.09 | 28 ratings

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Kintsugi
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

4 stars JOHN HOLDEN is this English multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer who creates typed pastoral progressive sounds; he manages to bring in beautiful people for a condensed rock, folk, jazz, hard, flamenco and classical, he who has composed and kept an emotional link with the progressive since the start. 2018 is his personal musical birth with a good neo where the voices are often female. A universe quite varied in terms of musical genre, an album here on the art of repairing oneself and becoming stronger, a little resilience in fact useful in this completely inhuman world. Symphonic prog rock in my opinion eclectic but let's see.

Album with two long tracks including "Achilles" and the fabulous voice of Joe PAYNE telling the story of the hero, to shiver; a slow rise where the voice bewitches while waiting for the thunderous solo break, guitar and synths bordering on heavy, which shows that metal has really taken over; grandiloquent air coming from the Heavens, the mother's complaint can do nothing to the destiny of her son, a remarkable progressive musical tragedy to listen to in view of the musical research. "Ringing the Changes" for the country folk rhyme, piano, acoustic guitar, violin, bells to protect oneself from urban life; childish air, a little used and overrated, good for listening at Christmas. "Kintsugi" with Peter JONES on vocals, on a phrasing of the archangel to talk about the current life, sublime; air a tad Japanese before the progressive rise; Frank's violin break in the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA all in symphony, the emotion is at the rendezvous on this monolithic tune sublimated by a solo by Michel from MYSTERY which reminds us that prog or art-rock has the most beautiful solos in genre. "Flying Train" intro on the German SNCF and the announcement of an ominous train going to WUPPERTAL; latent atmosphere, dark pads letting imagine the advancing vehicle, a bit of flute, in short prog rock at the bottom. Japanese keyboards in the background to extend the previous title then the whole orchestra, perched on a wagon, gives a moving vibration; aerial instrumental piece where the final piano seems to show the way, very beautiful, high and symphonic.

"Xenos" on the reception, not easy in these uncertain times, air à la ALAN PARSONS or ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, that's good Iain is present. Plaintive then high voice giving a groovy, soulful air well supported by Vikram's crystalline organ; consensus title deja vu. "Against the Tide" with its brass parts on BRAND X see TOTO; romantic air which denotes on a prog album, evolution or turn, the sax between melancholy and emotional sweetness for a jazzy soft funk because it has to be called that, it's up to you to decide. "Peggy's Cove" sublime intro that catches up with the listener with an Irish / Scottish air to make the hairs of the progs stand up (yes the hair must be more and more rare for them!); arrival in Nova Scotia and Sally gives a bounding Celtic folk sound to take as an interlude before "Building Heaven" and the second long cult track, good easy since it is about the elevation of the COVENTRY cathedral. Flute by Jean from Les MYSTERY to give voice to Sally, classical orchestration with violins, jangling, brass and guitar arpeggio from Genesis; the break with the siren, the planes show the hell undergone, the heavy violins amplify the climate; stunning progressive piece with a dazzling rising guitar solo before returning to an Andalusian arpeggio where bossa nova notes seem to translate drops of water; the finale with the choirs, the bells send me back to Mike OLDFIELD for the characteristic atmosphere and the end, the silence still seems to be part of the title.

John HOLDEN asks me questions with his albums; mat titles, pastoral, folk, groovy, good but presenting nothing fundamentally new and ready to come and rank among other achievements; and then some titles sublimate the album to the point of imagining it as the album of the month. Such is the result of listening to this convoluted, varied and disconcerting symphonic progressive. We feel the search, the desire to share an unforgettable moment; a non-retro progressive because showing the evolution of this kind of music that never stops evolving. For those who loved the creativity of GENESIS in its time, run and listen, buy it and keep it hidden for you, it's a nugget that would have exploded much more without the two jazzy folk tracks in the middle. 4.5 points for info.

 Kintsugi by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.09 | 28 ratings

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Kintsugi
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars John Holden is a British composer, arranger, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has an uncanny relationship with the progressive rock community, in that he can clearly enlist some top shelf fellow artists of the highest calibre to collaborate with him on his musical quests. His three previous albums, Circles in Time, Rise and Fall and the debut Capture Light, have made quite the impact as they have been universally acclaimed for consistently raising the bar with superlative efforts, undoubtedly crowned by this 4th album Kintsugi. Some of my favourite players are here, from the incredible Dave Bainbridge and Michel St-Pere on guitars, the illustrious Frank van Essen on viola and violin, my current drummer of choice Henry Rogers, talented keyboardist Vikram Shankar as well as a slew of first-rate vocalists, such as Sally Minnear, Iain Hornal, Joe Payne, Peter Jones, and Jean Pageau. There are a few key storylines that seem almost directed at me, namely history, culture, and fate.

So, the stage is set for another exhilarating progressive musical adventure that seeks only to inspire one to overt escapism, and "to fire the imagination". No prisoners are taken on the tragic and exceptionally epic "Achilles" as the first notes instill all the bombast and pageantry associated since time immemorial with Homer's Illiad, the most famous of all Greek mythology warriors, whose heel was the only vulnerable part of his body. Within mere seconds, the listener is transported to some fabled space, where acoustic guitar, rippling piano, vocals chants combine to set up the sorrowful vocals from Joe Payne as the glorious hero's story unfolds. Rogers enters the fray, elevating the symphonics with delicacy and subtlety. Holden rips off a few blistering thunderbolts as if Zeus himself was behind him, the second volley heavier, grittier as it dances along with the slippery synths. Just like his storied life, all tragic ebb and conquering flow, the victorious mood wanders from mountain to valley, towards a destiny with the Gods.

In contrast, the soothing pastoral ballad, "Ringing the Changes", has piano and Sally Minnear's lovely vocals to admire, a very typical English folk song that is both endearing and effortless. The bells ring indeed. A perfect intermezzo before the title track kicks in, Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with fillings highlighted instead of being "camouflaged", respectfully restoring what was once broken, a clear metaphor for spiritual healing or renewal. One of the busiest musicians in prog handles the vocals with his usual impressive timbre, Peter Jones certainly understands emotion and his voice conveys it to perfection. Majestic, soaring effortlessly and ultimately a classic, the terrific electric guitar solo is sheer mastery, as Van Essen adds his orchestral ornamentation to the arrangement.

The chugging "Flying Train" refers to the landmark elevated suspension railway with hanging cars built in 1901 in the German town of Wuppertal, considered even today as a technological marvel. This is an instrumental affair that unites a variety of moody textures, dense orchestral atmospherics, train effects (bass and drums) as well as soft flute and ornate piano. A soundtrack for a monorail! Truly wunderbar stuff!

Culture : "Xenos" has to do with xenophobia (and not another chapter of Greek Mythology !), as our global world struggles to come to terms with identity, acceptance and societal needs to adapt in a more binary sense. This is a subject matter that hits home with me as I went to an international school in Switzerland whose motto was "Be proud of your heritage but respect those of others. Iain Hornal (ELO, 10cc) handles the microphone here, in a breezy, spacious musical context, perhaps aiming to a more conciliatory tone. Peter Jones' lustrous voice reappears for one more suave performance on "Against the Tide", a more conventional prog-pop song that is accessible, laden with solid playing , a rolling bass line in particular and a fiery sax solo courtesy of the lead vocalist. The mood is reminiscent of Ace's smoky hit single "How Long" (Paul Carrack was the singer), snapping fingers not withstanding

Fate: "Peggy's Cove" has a profound meaning for me, as I missed Swissair flight 111 that crashed off this Unesco Heritage sight on September 2, 1998. I had cancelled my seat the day before? Suddenly, my life was in overtime mode (or bonus tracks if you want) and altered everything?. It is a beautiful, windswept, picture postcard type of place, with a memorial to those who perished there, did not see my name there when I visited years later but one of a schoolmate of 30 years previous. There is no such thing as random or coincidence. The track here is a fitting personal remembrance, a Celtic-tinged ditty sung by Minnear with the necessary grace and serenity. Gulp!

History again: The longest track, "Building Heaven" is the grand finale and a most appropriate one indeed. Acoustic guitar, piano and strings prepare the banquet table for the feast to begin. The construction of this piece defines why prog can have such a foundational effect on the listener, it is clever, crafty, intricate, persuasive, and more often than not, drop dead beautiful. The city of Coventry was razed by a Luftwaffe bombing raid that even gave birth to a verb in the French language (Coventriser), a tragedy made worse only because it came out much later that the British government knew of the impending raid of 300 hundred bombers via its decoding of Ultra, the Nazi Enigma cypher but did not know the exact target for that night. The track is a solemn rendition of faith and fate, as both male and female vocalists espouse the virtues of defiant courage, resolute determination, and the will to rebuilding lives from the ashes. The mournful tone is pungent and obstinate , just like the resistance to the arial enemy. The sizzling guitar work from master musician Dave Bainbridge is simply outstanding, as I have been a huge fan of his since the Iona days, all the way up to his stunning solo work as well as with Lifesigns.

Sandwiched by two epic historical pieces, this work really consecrates John Holden as a force to be reckoned with, a passionate and consummate artist whose vision should continue to shine with more works of this stature. With a little help from (my) friends.

5 golden repair kits

 Circles in Time by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.93 | 47 ratings

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Circles in Time
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars When asked what type of music I enjoy, I normally answer saying that it depends on my mood, but I prefer music made by musicians, whether that be folk, jazz, blues, singer-songwriter, rock, prog, metal, industrial etc. Music does not have to be within a certain genre for me to enjoy it and years back I divided music into "good" (based on my own personal tastes) and "bad". Long before Olav Bjørnsen and I became friends I used to follow his writings on different forums as I realised, he had very similar tastes to my own, which meant I could use his reviews as a guide to discover more music for myself. My tastes in music have expanded greatly over the years, and I am sure it is this which allows me to enjoy the work of John Holden so much as he is also not constrained by trying to fit into any particular box. Some people try to pigeonhole music, but the problem with that is music isn't a pigeon! Here we find John moving away from what many people define as prog, and into areas which are far more theatrical. Just because he has used many progressive musicians and singers does not this a prog album make, at least not in its sense as defined by some, whereas I feel that music is progressing when it is crossing boundaries and bringing in elements from different areas.

I had to smile when I realised that Sally Minnear is one of the singers involved, as that means I will have reviewed her twice in one sitting and given the album she is singing on 10/10 each time. I am sure it is just a coincidence, but Sally could use that when looking for session work! There is so much on this album that one just does not know where to start. How about the flamenco influence on "Dreams of Cadiz"? It is a style rarely brought into rock, and is a delight from beginning to end (if you enjoy this I urge you to track down Carmen's 'Fandangos In Space', surely the finest prog album ever to be totally devoted to the style). But hang on, "High Line" has Peter Jones performing at his very best as he walks through New York while Sally is her usual best on "The Secret of Chapel Field".

The first five songs are all about 5 or 6 minutes in length, but then we get to album closer "KV62" which is much closer to 20 minutes. Telling the story of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, the narration is provided by none other than Jeremy Irons, and there are plenty of Egyptian musical motifs to remind us of where the story is set. This is an epic tale, with some wonderful underlying piano from Vikram Shankar, while both Peter Jones and That Joe Payne provide some great vocals as the two main protagonists. Again, this feels as if John has been inspired by the recent works of Clive Nolan, moving into a far more theatrical area, bringing the story to life. It would have been interesting to have heard this performed with a full-blown orchestra as opposed to "just" samples, but there will always be constraint on recordings like this.

Not only do we get all the lyrics in the booklet, but also a breakdown of what inspired each song and then a far more detailed breakdown again for "KV62". It takes me back in time to when a record was so much more than just a record, as I would sit and stare at the artwork, read the words and whatever else was available, all while playing the music. In so many ways, this is a step backwards to when music was valued and not see as a disposable commodity of little or no worth. This is an album with great depth and presence and one I have enjoyed playing immensely.

 Circles in Time by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.93 | 47 ratings

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Circles in Time
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I am always excited to see a new John Holden project; his compositions and productions are almost unparalleled in terms of quality and scholarly sincerity.

1. "Avalanche" (6:18) a very polished, professional YES/Neo Prog opening with some amazing drumming (thanks, Nick D'Virgilio!) and awesome guitar play lead into a very theatric Jean Pageau (MYSTERY) vocal set within a very stage-appropriate soundscape. In the fourth minute we get a little keyboard-centered interlude before returning to main vocal themes, but the at 4:25 we're off into another, more serious, instrumental passage. Nice soli all around from LA session guitarist Eric "Potz" Potapenko and John's keys. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

2. "High Line" (6:58) led by an excellent, emotional vocal by prog journeyman and devotee, Peter Jones (Progzilla, The Colin Tench Project, Red Bazaar, Barock Project, Tiger Moth Tales, Cyan, Camel, etc.) A solid song; my second top three song. (13/15)

3. "The Secret of Chapel Field" (7:36) a spacious, simply constructed and arranged song created to accompany a father-daughter ballad as performed by Sally Minnear and Marc Atkinson (Mostly Autumn, Nine Stones Close, Riversea). Guitars, piano, violin, mandolin, double bass, and synth strings make sparse contributions to airily accompany the lovers tale. Very theatric. Marc's performance as the father feels much more invested, genuinely emotional, than that of Sally as the daughter. The music is quite lovely--especially in the passages that fill space between the vocals. My other top three song. (13.25/15)

4. "Dreams of Cadiz" (5:17) classical-sounding piano--sounding very much like the stage showy stuff that Liberace would perform--opens this before stepping out in lieu of Oliver Day's multiple tracks of Spanish guitars. Piano returns with guitar accompaniment, and the two take turns dancing with the lead, sometimes at the same time, while bass and hand drums lend intermittent support. Electric instruments and jazzy drum kit join in for the final 90 seconds. Impressive but, is this prog? (8.75/10)

5. "Circles" (5:47) piano and acoustic guitar accompany Sally Minnear (on multiple tracks supporting herself) for the first 90 seconds. Bass and incidental synth sounds joins in for the second verse and then programmed drums and percussion and more synths are added for an instrumental passage. Enter drums and the soundscape fills and broadens out a bit, but then we strip back down to bare bones for the third verse. At 4:20 drums, electric bass, and other synth-generated sounds fill more of the field as Sally sings the chorus. We end with a simple version, bringing us back to the beginning. Cute, enjoyable, and innocuous but nothing to write home about. (8.5/10)

6. "KV62" (19:23) a truly theatric epic about the discovery of the tomb of the Egyptian Pharoah Tuth-Ank-Amon. It's gorgeous and definitely ordered as a sequential narrative with great performances from vocalists Pete Jones and That Joe Payne, Vikram Shankar's piano, and John's keyboard orchestration. It is, however, in this latter department that the song falls short, I'm afraid, as either the computer keyboards John had access to during the recording were inferior to some of the modern sample/replicators or else he should have hired the real orchestra to perform the score as he tried to do on his computer keyboard. I appreciate the scoring and effort to carefully realize the orchestral parts on keyboard, but it just doesn't measure up to the real thing. Then there is the fact of so few emotional high points in the song--it seems to travel along at one and the same pace and energy level from start to finish--which is something no one would expect from a prog epic. And the talents of those enlisted within the 20- minute piece are sadly under-utilized. (32/40)

Total Time 51:19

I have to admit that I'm disappointed with this new release of John's. I'm not really sure that this is prog rock-- especially as rock drum kit, electric bass, electric guitar, and electric synths are absent over fully 50% of this music. While the quality of his compositions and engineering are top notch, I'm not as drawn back to the songs of this album as much as with his previous two albums.

B-/3.5 stars; a collection of well-composed and impeccably-produced theatricities; just not up to proggy par of John's previous albums.

 Circles in Time by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.93 | 47 ratings

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Circles in Time
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

5 stars John HOLDEN is this english multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer who creates distinctive pastoral progressive sounds; he manages to bring in beautiful people for a condensed rock, folk, jazz, hard, flamenco and classical and is accompanied here by Vikram Shankar on keyboards. Stories of murder, madness and one about Egypt to travel to the universe of Chrisma or that of Lewis Caroll. A unique sound that will make you prick up (rabbit's) ears

"Avalanche" attacks hard with a riff on the edge of hard which drops deep; the mysterious voice of Jean Pageau mated to Nick's drums add pep; the harmonious instrumental part reminds me of the most beautiful moments of Asia or the Yes of the 80's "High Line" starts off with a jazzy track, Supertramp atmosphere for the sax; Steely Dan on one side too; it's Pete Jones who sings well here on a cotton cloud; Frank des Iona's violin amplifies this intimate and warm title and plays with the sax "The Secret of Chapel Field" for an Irish slap with violin, rhyme that goes off the beaten track; Sally of the Lords of Dance and Celestial Fire rather than for her father's name duels with Marc Atkinson of the Nine Stones Close and other Riversea to stop time; spleen violin on a sad story of lost love, sublime "Dreams of Cadiz" for a piano instrumental gently bringing the Andalusian guitar, flamenco style "leg to model" on the solo of Innuendo "in the background; a digression where the arpeggio is king, where the legs move on their own; a little synth to fill the space and a musical pearl has just passed "Circles" for a ballad narrating the unhealthy convolutions; Robin of the Cosmograf and Big Big Train accompanies Sally on a progressive air, a latent evolutionary crescendo more complicated than it seems; title that sends you out of time "KV62" for the concept slap on the discovery of Tutankhamun, dark and mystical oriental atmosphere in 7 scenes: Theban song by Jérémy Irons, percussions, choirs, everything is there to signify Death; New Orleans break with That Joe Payne and his divine voice speaking out about the soul reincarnated in a solar barge; discovery of the tomb with a well-paced afro sound bordering on grandiloquent orchestral and flamboyant with an obvious and well-managed progressive latency. It rises in a divine way on the addition of Peter, on instruments that assemble without thinking, we are amazed, we regress to the dantesque pieces of the dinos in their time; A melody across the Atlantic as a final reminder that leaves you doubtful, ecstasy comes at this price. A magnificent album which transcends style, genre, prog movement; there is The Enid, Alan Parsons, Yes, John Holden, of course of great quality; fantastic album which sets the prog record straight just for the track KV62.

 Capture Light by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.85 | 37 ratings

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Capture Light
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars Last year I was fortunate enough to hear John's second album, 'Rise and Fall', and it is safe to say I was blown away by what I was hearing. Here was a multi-instrumentalist who had brought together a group of singers and additional musicians to deliver an album that was simply epic. John and I got to talking afterwards, and that of course led to me wondering what was the debut like? Well, I can honestly say that it is another absolute delight. As well as providing all the material and producing the album, John also provides guitars, bass, keyboards, and programming, but he has also brought in a host of star names to assist including the likes of Emily Dolan Davies, Gary O'Toole, Billy Sherwood, Oliver Wakeman, Peter Jones etc. Then to cap it all he some wonderful singers in Joe Payne (The Enid), Jean Pageau (Mystery) and Julie Gater. Although the album is fairly split between male and female vocals, Julie had a huge part to play as she sang the vast majority of songs as they were being developed (John admits he is unable to sing) and provided guide vocals to the others so they knew what John required.

This is one of those albums where it is difficult to describe what is the most important aspect of the overall. All performances are wonderful, with complex arrangements, the vocal melodies are sublime, while the lyrics are often thought-provoking. Take for example "One Race" which is all about Jesse Owens, not only that race itself at the 1936 Olympics but his return to the States. It actually got me thinking about the man who was famous for setting four world records on the same day and defeating the myth of Aryan supremacy in front of Hitler, so much so that I undertook some research and discovered that not only did Hitler actually shake his hand, but that in many ways he was disowned by his home country on his return due to the colour of his skin. It reminded me of the story of Muhammed Ali returning from the Rome Olympics and then throwing his gold medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were refused service at a restaurant.

One of my favourites is "Dreamcatching", which is mostly instrumental, featuring some wonderful flute, saxophone, and fretless bass, along with some spoken words about where dreamcatchers hail from and the significance of the different elements. Interestingly, Peter Jones added the flute and saxophone as he was undertaking some backing vocals, and then presented them to John to use if he wished, yet they are an integral part of the overall sound. There is no real theme to the album, and each song is quite different to the rest, yet it is always the strength of the arrangements combined with complexity and simplicity which makes this such a compelling piece of work. That it is a debut from an "unknown" is just incredible, as it is polished and refined in a way that convinces the listener they are playing an album by someone who has been at the very top of their game for a great many years. This is polished progressive rock that is commercial, yet also refined and combing both elements of the Seventies and today to combine in one album that is simply essential for anyone who enjoys this style of music. Check out John's informative website for more details on his albums, all the musicians involved, and then buy them. Simply superb from beginning to the very end.

 Circles in Time by HOLDEN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.93 | 47 ratings

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Circles in Time
John Holden Neo-Prog

Review by Theo Verstrael

5 stars Another excellent release from John Holden, just shortly after his great second album Rise and Fall. Musically he goes a few steps further in the six songs that form the album. The musical styles range from quite heavy prog (Avalanche, quite a strong opener), laid-back jazziness (The high line, very Steely- Dan like with an great 'Í'm living in the big city but seek some quietness and comfort'-feel), sheer beauty of Celtic folk (the unbelievable ballad The secret of Chapel Hill, what a song!) through to traditional Andalusian foklore (the instrumental Dreams of Cadiz) and a honest, open and personal song about despair and hope (Circles). The epic is based on the true but sad story of the real discovery of the worldfamous sarcofage of Egypts best-known pharaoh, Tuth-Ank-Amon. Inthat epic Holden takes the listener again through many different moods in a flowing, ever-changing song that is captivating and beautiful. Add to this a really beautiful booklet that is complete and very informative on the inspiration of all the songs and you'll come to the conclusion that John Holden is a more than welcome addition to the prog world. That he is supported by some very fine musicians like Vikram Shankar, Nick D'Virgilio, Michel St. Pere, Frank Van Essen and Oliver Wakeman and has some of the finest vocalists such as Sally Minnear, Marc Atkinson and That Joe Payne has certainlky helped to make this a stand-out album for everyone who likes real melodies and a varied yet consistent diet of musical styles. No doubt this is a five star.
Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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