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Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom

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The Gift biography
Founded in London, UK in 2003 - Hiatus between 2007-2013

THE GIFT are a Symphonic Prog band from, London, formed after Mike Morton (vocals, 6/12 string acoustic guitar, piano and string arrangements) and Leroy James (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals, samples, effects and programming, piano and string arrangements) came up with the idea of creating a band and making a concept album at the same time.

The concept was devised by Mike Morton and was initially meant to be just one piece.
They brought in other musicians to help with the recording, viz. Jim Thomas (bass), Rod Haverhill (keyboards) and David Storey (drums) and THE GIFT was born.

The band made some initial demos and pressed on with the idea. They sent the demos out to various places and general opinion was positive. So positive in fact, that the Cyclops label (responsible for bands such as Mostly Autumn, Pineapple Thief, Saens and Tr3nity) gave them a deal.

THE GIFT had the desire and conviction to record the album itself. The idea initially was to record one multi-themed piece (a suite called Awake and Dreaming), about "savagery and war and the final triumph of piece" (as their MySpace biography notes), but Cyclops felt it need to be longer and asked them to record a slightly extended finish. This ended up as another suite (of 30 minutes in length), called Fountains of Ash about "domestic violence, again seeking solace in the human spirit" (from their MySpace bio).

Their sound is quite varied, but takes on a definite symphonic rock air to it. They have hard rocking sections, pastoral songs, and "complex time signatures, wild key changes and ambitious concepts."

Their progressive rock influences include Pink Floyd, Genesis (Gabriel era), Yes, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Rush and Dream Theater. They also take influence from non-prog bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, The Who, Beatles, Massive Attack, U2, Sex Pistols and Prince.

Their debut album (a double CD) Awake and Dreaming, was released on October 9, 2006, by Cyclops.

James R. Yeowell

This album was never played live and the band was inactive for a long period of time. Mike MORTON was living darker times which lead him to wrote more songs and to finally play his second album "Land od Shadows" live in the UK. THE GIFT is now a 6 piece band with Leroy JAMES return on guitar, Gabrielle BALDOCCI on k...
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THE GIFT discography

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THE GIFT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 71 ratings
Awake And Dreaming
3.61 | 63 ratings
Land Of Shadows
3.84 | 113 ratings
Why The Sea Is Salt
3.14 | 12 ratings

THE GIFT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE GIFT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

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

THE GIFT Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Antenna by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.14 | 12 ratings

The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars 'A tastefully arranged change of musical direction'

The Gift is an English six piece formation that was founded in 2003, Antenna is its fourth album since 2006. I read about The Gift on the excellent band website interesting facts. 'The singer wanted to be Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry, Freddy Mercury and then he felt in love with Genesis and prog, he is also an actor. The drummer turned from Buddy Rich (his father was a jazz drummer) to Carl Palmer, the bass player is a former guitarist, the keyboard player is a classical concert pianist, but he grew up with a father who loved King Crimson, and the band hosts two guitar players.' And singer Mike Morton tells about the new album 'It is rockier, more contemporary sounding, we wanted to do something more direct and punchy.' Listening to this new album I quickly conclude that this new The Gift sound is a goodbey to epic symphonic rock and a welcome to more modern sounding song-oriented eclectic rock. The first track We Are Connected turned out to be a pretty disappointing experience with its typical Nineties Neo-Prog climate, and I was afraid for a more disappointing music. But after listening the entire album I analyse that the first, very Nineties Neo-Prog sounding track doesn't represent the music from The Gift. Because from the second to the final tenth song The Gift delivers very varied and tastefully arranged songs, with lots of surprising musical ideas.

From dreamy to bombastic eruptions with splendid rock guitar and excellent work on keyboards (piano, soaring strings, flashy synthesizer and swirling organ) in the varied Changeling.

First a bluesy harmonica, soft wah wah guitar, warm acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals, and then an accellaration with electric piano, rock guitar and a jazzy piano solo with swinging bass in Long Time Dead.

A dreamy Grand piano intro, then tender and melancholical vocals in the wonderful mellow Snowfall.

Warm acoustic guitars in the only instrumental Hand In Hand.

Awesome rock guitar and Phil Lynott-like vocals, along a delicate synthesizer solo, in the exciting Thin Lizzy tribute Wild Roses (by the way, I wachted Thin Lizzy in 1978, awesome!)..

And a mellow, a bit dark atmosphere with very melancholical vocals in When You Are Old.

Although I am more into symphonic rock this new The Gift album pleasantly surprised me, what a tastefully arranged song- oriented eclectic rock music, embellished with outstanding vocals and strong work on keyboards and guitar. If you are up to The Gift its musical change of direction, this is an album to discover.

My rating: 3,5 star.

This review was recently published on the Dutch progrock website Background Magazine, in a slightly different version.

 Antenna by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.14 | 12 ratings

The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Second Endeavour

4 stars THE GIFT first made an impact on my musical consciousness when I heard the majestic CD "Awake And Dreaming" thirteen years ago. That fabulous debut immediately made me their devoted fan. Ever since I always can rely upon Mike Morton and cohorts, because they deliver the top notch records again and again. Their latest disc 'Antenna' (2019) is no exception. Based on a scheme of clever variations, the emotion laden melodious music sounds like a medley of contrasting influences superbly glued together. Is this new release any different from the previous works? Oh, yes! Hence, those who thought The Gift could demonstrate only a familiar approach, you should better change your judgment - the sooner the better. Here, the British team have managed to provide the largely unexpectable material in cross-over style. And it would be fair to say, the new record has its own potpourri-like nature, although retaining an evident stamp of The Gift that I know and love. This time around, the band decided to veer their route a bit away from pure progressive rock with a goal to employ some other components, serving to form the diverse sonical palette. Arranged in 10 compositions, CD 'Antenna' is one of those albums that works perfectly from the get go, ensuring lots of pleasure. This offer draws in, leaving in high anticipation of what will come next and making us want more and more. The opener 'We Are Connected' ensures an enveloping pop-rock pastiche. This is one of those rare showcases that resembles Talk Talk, INXS and Tears For Fears left, right and between yet maintaining The Gift's own integrity. The meticulous tweaks at soundscape lead to the pitch-perfect articulation. The follow-up 'Changeling' comes along to give another dimension for the album, when we delve into almost 10 minutes of the musical adventure built on a few contrasting ideas. Make no doubt, these guys still remember how to successfully handle a complicated prog-rock piece brimming with noteworthy hooks. The elaboration and virtuosity on display in this epic are arresting. The variable guitar melodies are working with the versatile bass and drums, gradually building tension, whilst confined keyboard moods thrown in, revealing a wonderful hybrid of accessibility. The charismatic voice of Mike Morton hits the mark every time to enrich the whole mix crafted by the skillful juxtaposition of instruments. Then, the things devolve to a more straightforward song 'Back To Eden' which is fascinating either way. Moving on. The fourth number 'Long Time Dead' introduce extra colours. In fact, most of it resembles to Tom Petty with the almost bluesy guitar moves. Not necessarily because of similar accents but more due to the meticulous way in which it combines together. What has left an explicit furrow in my soul is the tender ballad 'Snowfall' dedicated to former wife of Mike Morton. We hear the sensual singing gently escorted by piano of Gabriele Baldocci. There are also very subtle strings and pads in the background. The following testament to the variety of musical strains became 'Far Stranger' leaning towards a slightly theatrical execution. It holds its suitable place integrating to the overall sonic tapestry. The instrumental cut 'Hand In Hand' puts the ever-changing set in a favorable perspective to benefit from elegant interplay of two acoustic guitars afforded by David Lloyd and Stefan Dickers. This is something of a musical interlude that features pleasantly nice punctuations. Frustratingly, a brief track fades too quickly. The exploration of enigmatic alchemy continues with the strong 'Wild Roses' that may be described as a salute to Thin Lizzy. The guitarist Leroy James wrote it, being a longtime fan of late Phil Lynott. Well done. Next song confirms that the band continue to experiment. Functioning on a mystic level, 'When You Are Old' slows the pace down to provide a strange contrast with the rest of material. I cannot explain why but I was really embraced by its spacey, psychedelic resonation. The general feeling is like it's coming from other plane of existence, thanks to the group's willingness to experiment with different ideas. That might leave some people scratching their heads, but trust me, it works. And finally, disc ends out with a plot titled 'Closer' (the self-explanatory of course). In terms of instrumentation, it's one of the most catchy tracks on the entire set. The added value is astounding singing of Mike Morton who bears the lyrical message of this chapter. Everything is done for a worthy reason, because these musicians know when and how to represent something. Now it's a right time, where I have to stop and claim that CD 'Antenna' sounds exciting throughout, from the very first notes of the opening song until the farewell chords of closing track. Ever and anon changing material exhibits the uniform high level of care and craftsmanship. The production of this album is clear, deep and bright; all performers do one hell of a job with lots of transitions. It is also worth giving a quick mention with regard to the nice accompanying booklet. So what are you waiting for? BUY IT!...
 Antenna by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.14 | 12 ratings

The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

3 stars "The Gift", founded in 2003 in the UK, was originally intended to be a "one-off" project with their first album. Founders Mike Morton and Leroy James started this Symphonic Prog band with the idea of creating a band to make a concept album. Soon, other members were brought in and in 2006, the concept album was released. Over 8 years, Mike had written some new songs and in 2014, a 2nd album was finally released with a follow up in 2016. Their 4th full length album is called "Antenna" and was released in June of 2019.

"Antenna" is comprised of 10 tracks with a total run time of over an hour. The band line-up consists of both founders Mike Morton on lead vocals and Leroy James on guitars and backing vocals. The remainder of the current core band consists of Dave Lloyd on guitars and backing vocals, Gabriele Baldocci on keys, Stefan Dickers on bass and Neil Hayman on drums and percussion. The album is available on both CD and digitally.

"We Are Connected" starts with a rock riff similar to Foreigner's "Hot Blooded". Keys and vocals soon come in giving the mostly straightforward song a sound of its own. Vocals and instruments are all strong, not necessarily heavy, but a moderate rock sound. After a bridge that is a bit softer, there is a guitar break before returning to the last chorus. "Changeling" makes a move towards a more prog sound with vocals supported by soft keys and guitar, hand claps and a more complex feel and lyrics. The track nears the 10 minute mark this time, and has a softer Genesis type feel (Phil Collins era around the "Abacab" era). Before 3 minutes, the track strengthens then moves into a much heavier sound with a pounding riff and a great synth solo. After this, things get atmospheric for a minute before returning to the prior heaviness, with more riffage and synth soloing and progressive runs. It then turns to a soft piano solo backed by synths and vocals return. A new sound, vocal melody and catchy rhythm then comes in taking us into a different feel altogether. Great track, much better than the first track, and hopefully we are going to continue with better tracks like this one.

"Back to Eden", however, opts for a more commercial sound, but the melody is still good and enticing with strummed guitars, a bright, upbeat rhythm and overall sound. Not really progressive, but nice anyway, and cow bell after the softer, piano-led bridge section, everything to brighten your mood. "Long Time Dead" starts with guitar and harmonica playing the same riff. The rhythm starts and the music settles into a "dusty western" style with a blues-oriented sound (ala Bon Jovi, but a bit better). There is a nice guitar solo in the middle complete with the rattle sound produced like you expected, there is a short foray into jazz with the piano and the vocals return. A bit corny, but not too bad, just predictable, with the main western feeling running through all 7 minutes.

"Snowfall" starts as a piano-led ballad with pensive vocals that become more emotional in the chorus. This has some occasional synth effects added in, but remains slow and soft with no rhythm section. "Far Stranger" also begins with solo piano, but with more tension. Vocals bring in guitar, bass and eventually hesitant drums. The melody is a bit more complex, but still mostly safe. As it approaches the chorus, things become more intensified. The instrumental break becomes a little more progressive with some nice guitar/synth passages. Another level is reached and the vocals start with more passion now and a more complex sound. It all culminates in returning to a slower rhythm and more vocals ending the track. "Hand in Hand" is a nice, solo acoustic guitar interlude lasting almost 3 minutes.

"Wild Roses" starts with a tropical percussive sound and "orchestra hits" and then guitars start in creating a heavier feel. For a symphonic band, there has been very little symphonic feel, and this is the first track where you might notice more of a lean in that direction, but its rather minimal. The melody has a bit of complexity to it, but remains pretty safe, even with the slightly darker guitar riffs. However, the lyrics don't reflect a darker theme as it has a more romantic theme that plays against an attempt to have an Americana feel. The entire track comes across as a mostly conventional rock sound than anything however. It's a bit weak and uninteresting, not really generating the excitement that it attempts to create. "When You Are Old" goes for a slow and atmospheric sound with pensive vocals with echoing effects whispering in the background. The song never really develops into anything, but the vocals seem to meander a bit and no real feeling seems to come out of this track.

The album ends with the appropriately named "Closer" which is another track that nears the 10 minute mark. A moderate rhythm is established as vocals and chiming guitars come in. The tapping rhythm builds a bit of tension, but when everything else comes in, it's not really the payoff you expect. A bit after the 2 minute mark, the music makes a sudden left turn and a more progressive sound starts with heavy guitars and synths providing alternating backing and solos. After this, at 4 minutes, things calm to a strummed guitar and more vocals, there is a pause, and then drums join in. After the verse, a nice laid-back guitar solo comes in, backed by synths, followed by a lovely piano solo while everything remains at the constant tempo.

This album has a few great high points as in the tracks "Changeling" and "Far Stranger", but it has just as many weak moments as in "Wild Roses" and "When You Are Old". The other long track "Closer" is simply just OK as are many of the other tracks like "Back to Eden" and "Long Time Dead" and pretty much all of the other tracks that are enjoyable, but pretty average and predictable. In the end, there is a lot of weight placed on the final track, whether it can save the album, or just keep it average. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite deliver on it's expectations, and pushes the overall score down to 3 stars. The two excellent songs on this album just can't pull the weight of the average or lower than average tracks. By the way, this album is not really what I would consider symphonic, but seems to be more of a prog related (or Crossover prog at best) affair.

 Awake And Dreaming by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.96 | 71 ratings

Awake And Dreaming
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by javajeff

4 stars It took a few listens for this to click with me, but I have to say that it is a stunning album. The great thing about having a new album in "Why The Sea Is Salt" is that it gives us a opportunity to discover new bands and their back catalog of albums. I think "Awake And Dreaming" is a great debut that is much better than the sophomore release. However, it may just be a matter of timing, taste, or personal preference. I am happy that I discovered The Gift since this is some excellent progressive rock. Awake And Dreaming features two long compositions broken down into tracks for the song loving population, but they each have a theme and flow that makes them unique. There are some rocking moments in tracks like Novature, but there are plenty of very lush, soft, piano moments that change speeds on a dime. I really believe that any Symphonic and Neo Prog fan should receive The Gift for their collections. Highly recommended. 4/5 stars.
 Why The Sea Is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 113 ratings

Why The Sea Is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The world does not really need a rebirth of 1970s BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, but here we have it, and they're getting a lot of attention. I don't get it--this longing or need for repeat or replication of old bands. I want something new and refreshing and inventive and creative and different.

Best songs: the MIKE RUTHERFORD/NOEL MACALLA-sounding, "At Sea" (Reprise) (5:15) (8/10); the slower, more melody-oriented Southern Rock, 3. "Tuesday's Child" (9:44) (8/10); the bland ANT PHILLIPS-sounding, 4. "The Tallest Tree" (6:14) with its guest performances from Anthony Phillips (12-string guitar), Steve Hackett (lead guitar), and Peter Jones (Irish whistle) (8/10), and; the cheesy and second-rate instrument choices (and embarrassingly poor singing) of the album's melodramatic epic, 5. "All These Things" (22:43) (7/10).

A solid three star album; good, but definitely not anything special.

 Why The Sea Is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 113 ratings

Why The Sea Is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by PH

5 stars Honestly, I rate THE GIFT as one of the premier progressive-rock bands at this juncture. What I've always liked about Mike Morton and his squad is that their output is very melodic and soft in places, yet really complex and intriguing - as it's developed to a high degree of sophistication on the group's own terms, rather than simply being imitative of some seminal acts. Staying loyal to their own musical principles and exploring renewed sonic dimensions, The Gift just released the 3rd studio album 'Why The Sea Is Salt' to exceed all our expectations. There's a different line-up featuring the core members Mike Morton (lead vocals), David Lloyd (guitars & backing vocals) and Leroy James (guitars & backing vocals) who have recruited Gabriele Baldocci (keyboards courtesy), Stefan Dickers (bass duties) and Neil Hayman (drums & percussion kit). Neither partner dominates this record; each puts a peculiar stamp upon the CD. Indeed, the result is a richer musical palette than The Gift had ever had to work with, and their most ambitious record to date. Hopefully, my words will become the credentials for your immediate order. So here's my definition. The magnificent opener 'At Sea' consists of five parts: namely, 'Bon Voyage', 'Battle Stations', 'Storm Force', 'Becalmed' and 'Tritons'. They are glued together to make a cohesive whole, firmly planted in diverse progressive traditions, albeit the nice piano passages bring a pure classical feel. Some interesting key changes and mood swings transfer from gentle portion to unsettling. A wide range of themes and motifs to play around is providing a superb framework of reference for the co-operation. The sensitive vocals of Mike Morton appear to enhance the beauty of this chapter. From the lyrical standpoint, it is about human impuissance in front of the raging force of nature. Absolutely wondrous introduction to the album! The second track on disc, 'Sweeper Of Dreamers' is a more energetic piece which delivers quite aggressive, even ominous tone. The generated tension embodies both vibrant propulsion and exquisite refinement. The racy voice of Mike Morton penetrates into the texture, highlighting the strengths of the material. The deliberate switching of melodies and tempos combined with abrupt shifts from coarse push to startling interludes manage the listener's attention. There are some obvious aspects throughout, reminding of Alex Harvey template. That's a challenging however engaging track with the good balance between variegated instrumentation and bizarre singing. The Gift cools down for the successor, 'Tuesday's Child', an exclusive sample of melodic sensibilities. This composition includes three distinct sections fascinating as one. Marvelous grace comes in the shape of initial part - 'Road Of Ashes' - and it resembles 'Crying For Help VIII (Guidance)' by Arena - at least, to me. Cos' I hear a perfect synthesis of heavenly choir-chant and ethereal soundscapes, thereby providing the mysterious imagery. The musical grandeur slowly turns into another segment titled 'The First Flower' which embodies the elegant vocal delivery atop of the versatile guitar-key-rhythm interplay. The ultimate instrumental 'New Horizon' seems to be a logical progression from two previous outings. The dual guitar wizardry of Leroy James and David Lloyd can literally take your breath away. Just now, in terms of aura and structure, I have to think about mid-90's Pendragon. Next up, 'The Tallest Tree', supremely emotive message with a deep feel. Beyond any doubt, the lyrical context has a major impact on the appeal of this particular song (it's dedicated to Mike Morton's father who passed away in January 2016). Maestro Anthony Phillips offers his twelve-string acoustic lace, a special mood fleshes out by the Irish whistle of Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tail). Erelong, the heartfelt voice of Mike Morton comes to the fore. The vocal execution is at once really stunning but also par of exchange for the general sonic palette. Having a luxurious continuity, the track develops to momentous guitar solo from Steve Hackett (Genesis fame), whereas the keyboardist Gabriele Baldocci, bassist Stefan Dickers and drummer Neil Hayman join to the proceedings. Great stuff all the way. Noteworthy is a stupendous canvas titled 'All These Things' on which the group applies a variety of different colors, tones and variations with the result coming off like a priceless painting. To say 20+ min. opus sounds merely interesting is a serious understatement. With the hallmarks of a grandiose work of art, the multifaceted epic is divided into six sub-sections ('The Vow', 'Harvest Of The Hollow', 'Feeding Time', 'The Jackdaw, Magpie And Me', 'Swan And Butterfly', 'Heartfire'), each venturing into characteristic musical areas. The Gift go across the board progressive wise, and fans of Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Rush, Kino, Frost, Dream Theater, Led Zeppelin, Queen as well as admires of '70's rock ballads, can find something to their liking in this package. There is the bizarre combination of much drama and magic, startling interludes and aggressive moments, folky nuances altered by church organ, latino rhythms and poignant electric guitars, tortuous synth-lines and deft rhythm section, delicate piano, excellent lead vocals and catchy harmonies. Let's also don't forget about metaphorical lyrics. OMG! What else the band can pull out of the bag of musical tricks? The final item 'At Sea - Reprise (Ondine's Song)' wraps things up in honorable manner. Its mystically strange atmosphere conveys subtle resemblance to ELO (at the earliest '70's). A shared sentiment is nurtured by the vocal performance a'la Jeff Lynne. The song slips into a slow-tempo, amidst the dominant synthesizers accompanied by flexible bass and elegant drums. This pattern gradually evolves to the guitar solo during the latter half. Nearby, patently familiar harmonies infiltrate the melodic formula using a fadeaway to close everything. Then the album lingers in my brain long after the last song ends!.. Overall, I can only hope that the exposure gained from 'Why The Sea Is Salt' will help The Gift come into the BIG PROG- LEAGUE. Either way, this amazing CD should be at the very top place in my personal list of 2016.
 Why The Sea Is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 113 ratings

Why The Sea Is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars I took my sweet time to get my hands on this only because I knew that "Why the Sea is Salt" is going to get me, anyway. I love the Gift, their first album "Awake & Dreaming" is a perennial classic that rekindles many fond memories of travelling throughout North America , playing dizzying prog at the traffic lights in some small Kentucky town, the local folk looking at me askance but polite. "Land of Shadows" was, by Mike Morton's admission, a murkier affair, remarkably dense and demanding but still 'gifted' with some fabulous moments. Obviously a more personal affair that emoted with palpitation. But a period of intense touring as well as rekindling the partnership found on the debut with guitarist Leroy James has altered the course for this London band, taking it straight up into a vertical of dizzying heights. Together with the talented fretman David Lloyd, James seems inspired and involved. I have always felt that the talent shown on "Awake and Dreams" was too good just to fade away. It won't with this stellar release, I can all assure you. Consecration? Proof? What would you like? Mike Morton is one of the finest singers in prog anywhere. That being firmly stated, the quality of the instrumentalists is off the charts, with new bassist Stefan Dickers and drum maestro Neil Hayman in complete harmony and "in the zone". Keyboardist is Italian Gabriele Baldocci, adding RPI?like stylistics to the brew, loaded with innovation and taste. Throw in guests such as ex-Genesis guitarists Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips and Peter Jones, who quickly is becoming the 'enfant terrible' of modern prog, here displaying some Irish whistling pizzazz. This time around, there is less gloom and more energy, a welcome twist for this stirring band in its ascendency, proposing tracks that are immediate, ravishing and expertly blooming with confidence. When directing a larger epic, all the talent comes to the fore, especially Gabriele when unleashing his classical heritage, supported by clever riffs and leads from the dual axes, expertly fueled by the rhythm corps.

So it's only fitting to kick off with a 10 minute musical voyage, "At Sea" glides effortlessly into the bay, splashing excitedly, buoyed by a dedicated vision. "At Sea- Reprise" at the end will shut the parentheses. The elegant piano takes the spotlight in thrilling fashion, as Gabriele shows his considerable mettle, with bass guitar as adventure companion, rippling flourishes and an outright classical aroma. Shimmering guitar reverberations heighten the emboldened mood, as the signature starts evolving towards a rock riff, a tortuous synth leading the charge. The arrangement turns into a rather complicate formula of swirling notes, the electric guitar raging, massive drums pounding and that darn piano acting out romantic fantasies. Mike Morton then seizes the mike and intones in fine manner the salty refrain, 'steering the ship of fools' into cascades of ocean spray, highly evocative of tall ships scouring the waves. The main melody bursts through, seagulls screeching overhead, as the guitar slices over the white water crests. Very nice indeed!

The more traditional neo-prog of "Sweeper of Dreams" is there to remind fans that they seek to entertain and tell stories that have meaning. Nevertheless, the gifted sounds are jarring, explosive and razor-sharp, the thumping rhythmic tandem in particular, the disturbed snarl in Mike's voice unrepentant. The dual guitar growls interlace nicely, a momentary vocal tinted with childlike innocence and savage insanity,

Celestial swoons, colossal symphonics and unabashed passion coalesce on the magnificent "Tuesday's Child", a typical prog piece of endearing beauty and trembling fragility, the guitars mingling in pastoral delight, acoustic and electric feelings, almost a classic the Strawbs?like feel, Mike doing the melancholic nostalgia thingy, also recouping that slight Western pickin' style and sound that was so prevalent on Awake and Dreaming. The 'sing-along in the pub as we guzzle our brew' sensation really leaps out at the listener. Now throw in some Hackettisms to complete the picture and kneel at the shrine of classic prog, once again. A thriller of maximum proportions, as typical The Gift tune as one could hope for.

In response to the yearning for never ending adventure, "The Tallest Tree" features the guests and it takes on a life of its own, Ant Phillips leading on the 12 string and Steve Hackett taking over just like in the old days (LOL). Definitely a heady tribute to the glory days of musical discovery, missing only a Ghost and perhaps some Geese to complete the bucolic picture. Prog lullaby, evocative and memorable, Mike giving quite a performance. 'Only love remains'. When Steve enters the fray, one cannot help but smile, realizing the genius of this crafty musician, a true master of long sustained notes, lyrical purity and heavenly discourse.

"All These Things" is the mammoth epic and the showcase piece, without any doubt. Over 20 minutes of inspiring adventure, a strange fusion of acoustic genius, unremorseful angst, odd hand claps and an abrupt church organ flurry that asks 'to kiss the chosen one'. Bassman Stef Dickers does the Chas Cronk routine perfectly, pushing booming notes in all directions, and prepping the table for a full-blown prog workout, introducing raunchy dual guitar spasms, roiling organ splotches and a heavy yet driving pulse. Deep Purple comes to mind at one point, featuring a series of blitzkrieg guitar explosions that shiver, shake and quake. Oh my! Thick density and apoplectic rage; then, out of the blue, a piano! Halfway through, crystalline licks alter the mindscape, a melancholia-ridden lament sung expertly by Mister Morton and the looped bass pirouetting in the Andalusian night sky. 'Where the heart meets the horizon' intones Captain Morton, one leg firmly placed on the rum barrel, the proverbial parrot on his shoulder, telling his wise man's tale, piano in tow. The astute poetry really hits home, just as the pace quickens, a concoction of emotional consequences best described by one who has seen the world and attempted to understand. The music is very British, with just a hint of twang and countrified air, again referencing classic the Strawbs, in my opinion. A modern follow up to the glorious "Ghosts" album, me thinks. Lloyd and James doing the Lambert/Cousins act perfectly or so it seems to my ears.

The return voyage heading back to the bay is evident on "At Sea Reprise", a weary but content air of satisfaction in having traveled in exalted company, the deck swabbed cleanly, the sails unfurled and the rudder held by firm and calloused hands, this is quite the ride. A howling synthesizer leads the ship into the dry dock of restful awakening. This just might be the top album of 2016, bar any last minute interception at the goal line. Also one of the finest cover artwork in eons, all shiny and glossy. Multiple return visits will only accentuate the quality of what is being proposed here.

5 Saline solutions

 Why The Sea Is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 113 ratings

Why The Sea Is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Cetacean282

5 stars This is The Gift in their third incarnation on their third album. Why the Sea is Salt is both exhilarating and challenging as the band, and audience to a degree, step out of their respective comfort zones. The writing team has expanded, the band play as a far tighter unit and, from the evidence of live performances, they appear happy. In version one, singer Mike Morton and guitarist Leroy James wrote together. After a couple of hiatuses, Leroy has returned to join Stef Dickers (bass), David Lloyd (guitars) and latest recruits Neil Hayman (drums & percussion) from Konchordat and Gabrielle Baldocci (keyboards). For a band that sometimes describe themselves as Symphonic Melodic Rock there is a lot of power in their stage performance.  Six tracks make up the album, just under an hour in total with the longest, All These Things, clocking in at just over twenty minutes; an epic piece, select the beverage of choice, or even take a picnic for that one, but there is much to enjoy. Challenging? The band still acknowledge their roots in seventies progressive music, some give clear nods to that heritage, but overall their efforts are fresh and contemporary. All These Things is almost like a musical history lesson, opening with a simple guitar melody it is almost medieval in structure, simple, and beautiful as Mike Morton sings in choral tones. His voice is pure, the first couple of times I expected the phrase "And a hey, nonny, nonny" but to my relief this did not occur (one for the live act Mike?). With each change the ensemble players address little fragments of musical history to my ears; the keyboards channelling, Banks, Kaye, Wakeman, Lord, Emerson and I suspect many others, a tribute in the best sense of that word rather than a direct copy. The twin guitars complimenting and competing with each other would work as well without the additions, more Hotel Chocolat than Thornton's. It moves through many changes, and looking at it with a critical eye I do wonder if it could have been more elementally defined, like the passages for Alan Parsons' Turn of a Friendly Card and the repeating refrain. It is a long piece, it requires your concentration, but I do find the time given is justly rewarded.

The opening motif could have served as a repeating refrain throughout, but, like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects?there are hand claps which will make some wince, however they work for me. The church organ adds to the historical feel of a track that seems to reflect on our environment and the human impact, and then again about the passage through life and the changes that come upon us. Complicated? Yes, probably. The Gift's Supper's Ready? Yes and no. There is some Led Zeppelin, a pinch of Jon Lord from Deep Purple's Book of Taliesyn, ELP, Neil Hayman providing Phil Collins-like fills ? so many reference points. I cannot make a direct comparison, it has its own strengths, melodrama and pathos. I sit back and enjoy listening to the Hackett-isms and Pink Floyd undertones. This is my fifth listen; abandon hope, I am going down with the ship of fools. Fools? Well, it is daring to produce something this long and involving in the attention deficit 21st Century. Is it self-indulgent? No. Is it clever? Ultimately your choice, but I say yes. Does it require toilet breaks? I shall cross my legs so as not to miss anything. Played back through four Tannoy Revolution 1's and a hefty KEF centre at volume, it works for me. It is a sort of Genesis/Yes/Queen mash up with a touch of the Fab Four plus a smidgen of When the Sour Turns to Sweet. But I have rambled enough and there are five more tracks!

So from Genesis to revelation, At Sea is unusual and daring, from the first keys of Gabriele's piano, mimicking the sea and its moods, you know this is a different album from The Gift. With hints of Debussy, Ravel, Grieg and others, it shows Signor Baldocci's classical training and influences from the likes of Firth of Fifth, the fade out of Life On Mars and perhaps Rick Wakeman's Elgin Mansions. I close my eyes and reflect on the various beaches where I have sat just listening to the sea and I am transported back to my youth towards the end of this instrumental passage. Leroy, David, Stef and Neil join in; it is sublime. The last man at the table joins after about six minutes, Mr Morton's soulful voice, almost a lament, brings the words. Like All These Things they have labelled the parts, I acknowledge their names, evocative of the music each part portrays, but my thoughts differ. There is no right or wrong.

For me it's Robinson Crusoe of long school holidays; classical, contemporary and emotional. You can see the sea shimmering, and as the first guitars appear, the wind takes sail and the voyage begins. Picking up, we are racing, ships in full sheet, waiting for battle. It's elemental, my dear Morton. The bass line from the man in the cap, Stef Dickers, is tight and controlled; the keyboard passage preceding Yes, the Wakeman years. Homage not copy, and then he sings. Lyrical and artistic, reminding me of Le Radeau de la Méduse (The Raft of Medusa) by Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault, or the tale of Odysseus, avoiding the Sirens call. Myths placed from childhood. How many lines are referenced? Perhaps the music has fuelled my imagination, which has then leapt to further conclusions ? Nursery Cryme, Procol Harum ? if it is not my mind then it is very clever. I would say also that Trespass and Queen II are referenced, but not stolen ? no plagiarism from these scurvy dogs.

Sweeper of Dreams is Misplaced Childhood in its drive, the Marillion of Fish, and though darkness is threaded through the vocal it has a different sort of menace from that of Mr Dick, and more of the roll of the sensation Alex Harvey. It is a bit of both. Sweeper? is gutsy, close to that raw energy The Gift have live, David and Leroy battling for space, Neil and Stef holding the rhythm, Gabriele's keys flourishing; this track will really work well live.

The balance between noise and toys is right. Tuesday's Child opens chorally, as if you are ever to meet such a bunch of unlikely choirboys ? more Joseph Wambaugh than St Paul's Cathedral! Gabriele's piano and the guitar solo leave goosebumps, and when the singing begins, the intonation similar to Walk into the Water from Land of Shadows; well if you can't steal from yourself?. It is as close as you will get to a sing-a-long on Why the Sea is Salt; this for me again is early Genesis, Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot. There is one key change that takes them into dire straits. The sea metaphors still appear like a ghost ships from the mist. No one is really producing material like this, nostalgic but still original, and if anyone dare say 'Genesis-lite', well sod them.

And then there were two; The Tallest Tree is topped by Anthony Phillips and tailed by Steve Hackett ? now there a trick. Not the first time they have appeared on the same track, Anthony plays on two tracks from Steve's Out of the Tunnel's Mouth. Combined with the Irish Whistle of Tiger Moth Tales' Peter Jones, it starts a little bit like More Fool Me from Selling England by the Pound, the vocal angelic, choirboy (cough) rising, ethereal; it is simple, or at least appears so, almost folk-like, but then 'only love remains'. The keys when they join at about two minutes in just add to the whole. With the inclusion of Anthony and Steve, if you cannot have that band, The Gift have at least delivered the dream in part.

Final track, a reprise of At Sea subtitled Ondine's Song, strikes me as a lament. There is sadness and emotion in the vocal, sea metaphors, ancient and modern, combine as we take a little trip back. Neil is superb. There's an afterglow, a warm and fuzzy end to a beautiful album, finishing with another great guitar solo ? or is it solos ? and I descend into peaceful, silent slumber, if that is wise. [According to French and German mythology, the nymph Ondine/Undine discovered that her husband had committed adultery. Because he had promised his every waking breath to her, she cursed him that so long as he was awake he could breathe, but if he ever fell asleep he would stop breathing and die. Nice girl?]

The artwork of Mark Buckingham is stunning, a painting worth hanging on my mythical walls. It adds to the delight, and is befitting of the album.

Purchase wise, it fits in my 'Must Haves' for 2016 and I have bought it. I would recommend it to you, particularly if you love melody. I think it is a massive step up for The Gift; you can feel the love in the music, the craftsmanship. The recording of Mike Morton's voice is probably the best I've ever heard it. David and Leroy bring the best from each other, Neil and Stef quietly gluing it together, and finally Gabriele Baldocci bringing not so much resonance as renaissance. It is a triumph, I hope that it pleases them as much as I. In the end, gentle reader, your choice, but the quality cannot be denied. 5 stars, just in case the edit doesn't work!

#They will be performing some of this album at the Masquerade Festival on the 11 December 2016; at The Bedford, Balham, London in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care. £15. Six bands.

 Why The Sea Is Salt by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 113 ratings

Why The Sea Is Salt
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by The Hutch

5 stars The incredible third album from The Gift is a huge step forward for this ever evolving band. With the return of original collaborator Leroy James and the addition of the amazing drums skills of Neil Hayman and the classically trained keyboard player Gabriele Baldocci, The Gift have moved into the premier league of classic progressive rock bands. The six tracks are all perfectly judged to form one of the best albums of this or any year. From the beautiful opening bars of 'At Sea' through the powerful driving rock of 'Sweeper of Dreams', the delightful Tuesday's Child and 'The Tallest Tree's' who's who of prog rock featuring Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips and Peter Jones, you are taken of an engrossing musical journey with nods to the good and great of the genre. The highlight is, undoubtedly, the 'prog epic', all twenty plus minutes of 'All These Things' which will have you reaching the highs that only wonderful music can bring and the whole brilliant album is brought to a close by the endearing charm of 'At Sea - Reprise (Ondine's Song)'. An astounding album that should be on anybody's wish list!
 Land Of Shadows by GIFT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.61 | 63 ratings

Land Of Shadows
The Gift Symphonic Prog

Review by Dirkteur

2 stars I bought this album blindly, because of the former masterpiece. But even with these big historical credits, after some months listening, I'm not running enthousiastic for it. There aren't any thundering parts that make me shiver, like in Awake & dreaming. Instead, the river is slowly meandering and this experience is quite the same during the songs, the big and wide views aren't appearing. I couldn't create it myself, so that should save some respect, but as a listener I feel the band is trying very much, sadly not touching my inwards with this second piece. Still grateful though, for the mean out of 2 album is still above average.
Thanks to Symphonic Prog Team for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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