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COALITION

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Coalition biography
UK trio COALITION was formed in 2010 by Steve Gresswell, who had been using this moniker as an on and off project name since the early 1990's. On this latest incarnation he brought in Paul Bulger and Phil Braithwaite, with a specific goal in mind: To record and release an album, and then perform the material live as often as possible. The first step of this plan was accomplished when the threesome issued the CD "In Search of Forever" in March 2012.

See also: THE INNER ROAD

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COALITION discography


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

3.14 | 18 ratings
In Search of Forever
2012
4.03 | 17 ratings
Bridge Across Time
2016
3.29 | 7 ratings
Ballad of Reading Gaol
2017

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

COALITION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

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

COALITION Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Bridge Across Time by COALITION album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 17 ratings

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Bridge Across Time
Coalition Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Familiar names always help in choosing new additions to my prog collection. I discovered the Inner Road and enjoyed their two instrumental releases immensely. Main man, composer and keyboardist Steve Gresswell has a lighter side named Coalition, in which he can develop more openly neo adventures, featuring lead vocals and a trio format. On Coalition's 2012 debut entitled "In Search of Forever", the voice chores were handled by Paul Bulger and the guitars Phil Braithwaite (who adorned the first Inner Road opus), while Gresswell played all the keyboards, bass and drums.

On this sophomore release "Bridge Across Time", two thirds of the trio have been substituted for some more famous names, such as the irascible Colin Tench, a maestro guitarist who can pick his axe with the very best and singer Blake Carpenter, a communal associate of the Tenchman, working together on the former's the Minstrel's Ghost masterpiece and the latter's Corvus Stone project.

Hurtling waves, exigent seagull squawks and suddenly, Colin's vibrant guitar sweeps in between the low clouds, veering around pockets of cool fog and screaming straight into a familiar accessible area, a song with hushed vocals and imposing urgency. Blake has a rather original voice, perhaps taking time to getting used to, as it is often snuffling and high-pitched. Nevertheless, Blake has mastered the various theatrical tones needed to convey the lyrical message but honestly, Colin's undulating guitar excursions are worth every euro, krone or pound. His graceful style can wink easily at Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana and Steve Hackett, when deemed indispensable. This was "Across the Sea" and a fine opener it is.

No, Ricardo Montalban does not sing on "Fantasy Island", its Blake's twangy voice instead, recalling an inspired vocalist like Fish, and while Colin Tench can surely imitate Tatoo (on guitar, silly!) , the piece is another breezy ballad where Steve excels on bass guitar, drums and an arrangement that has loads of pulsating contrasts. A coral-colored atoll of impressive sounds and serene deliveries. Yes, it's accessible but absolutely prog.

"Labyrinth" is where these lads get serious, as it finds Blake stretching his tonsils on this one, while Colin having a love relationship with his guitar which often means he can make it cry, out of passion and not fear. To reiterate FragileKings' judicious comment, while the music may seem initially way more accessible than your usual symphonic/polyrhythmic prog, the dexterity here is very tortuous and quite arduous, flush with various time changes and complex shifts that keep things fresh and delightful.

Another lushly developed piece is "Land of Dreams", a rancorous guitar-driven song swept by intense piano tinkling and colliding waves of strings, thus establishing a pensive expanse on which Blake can warble away undeterred. Dynamic guitar and synth interplay give much significance to the arrangement, with Colin peeling off a rippling guitar solo , sounding like Al Di Meola at times (ooh, that is fast). Vaguely hushed voices and ambient effects crawl into the mix, distant laughter among them, a subtle distraction and a furtherance of the mood. Blake's second pass through adds a sense of ruined urgency, pushed by evident orchestrations, this is a winning piece! Serving almost as a continuation, "Lost Soul" showcases Blake's slight nasal twang, as he forlornly extols the pain of an absent craving, shoved along by rather intense drum programming and a sublime wailing backing voice (a trait I am a total sucker for, gagagaga), this is another absolute persuasive track.

Undeterred, the beat goes on (as Frank Zappa would have said) with a vacillating "River Song" ride, Blake again commanding his lungs forever forward , with Colin doing some serious axe damage (did his ancestor chop Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard? Just wonderin'), the fluid grace of the melodic pace just keeps rolling along, undeterred (stop the poetry, Tommy!). A much more luminous, frisky and bright affair is "The Light", incorporating some vocal gymnastics that resemble vintage Gentle Giant, what with that little marimba/vibraphone undertow, a refreshing ditty that eschews any pretension, just good old fashioned complex polyrhythmic fun! Colin undulates supremely as the spotlight shines on him, while Steve adds all the ivory colorations needed to make this piece shine. Blake does a real good job here, his unique vocals are quirky and resolute. "Valley of Shadows" is a continuation of the vocal roller coaster singing, with inspired Spanish-flavored guitar slinging (Colin is a persuasive Santana fan-boy) and creative keyboard slinking, again infected with some occasional Zappa-isms, such as when Colin makes his fret board sound like a brass instrument (damn him , he is so talented!). Tweeting birds start and end this thunderous piece.

Let's end this opus with the longest track yet, the voluptuous and idiosyncratic "The Watcher", perhaps encompassing all the traits that make Coalition a true coalescence of talents. Blake does wonders on the microphone, an instrument that is given some effects to enhance his manic delivery, sounding very much like a high-pitched minstrel prancing mightily. This is my favorite track, a constantly engaging slalom race with intriguing niceties, encumbered with ingenious bursts of synth, clasps of mellotron and sizzles of guitar madness.

Coalition is thoroughly enjoyable collection of three talents, all that is needed to put together an rousing work of accessible prog rock in the crossover mode, with enough bejeweled particulars to keep things constantly stimulating.

4.5 interval spans

 Bridge Across Time by COALITION album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 17 ratings

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Bridge Across Time
Coalition Neo-Prog

Review by spacefolk

4 stars Although the initial creation of this musical project goes back to the early 1990's, COALITION was officially formed as a trio from the United Kingdom in 2010 by Steve GRESSWELL. The initial intent of the creator of COALITION was clear: to record an album. To do so he contacted two of his friends, Phil BRAITHWAITE and Paul BULGER, to help him realize his dream. It became true in March 2012 with the release of "In Search of Forever". Who is Steve GRESSWELL? You may know him from another project of his called The INNER ROAD which was created a year after COALITION and who, up to now, also gave us two albums: "Visions" in 2011 and "Ascension" in 2013 (both were reviewed on the Profile radio show at the time). But let us go back to the main reason for this review, which is the release of the second album of COALITION "Bridge Across Time". With this new release we observe an important change in the line-up, the well-known guitarist Colin TENCH (Corvus Stone) and singer Blake CARPENTER (The Minstrel's Ghost) being the newcomers while Steve GRESSWELL takes care of everything else. By the way, the album will be released in digital format on October 7th.

"Bridge Across time" was created as a concept album which talks about the search for another world where it is possible to be reborn. Reading the titles of the songs could make you believe that some of the songs are dark and oppressive, which is not really the case because the whole album is quite positive. Musically, the listener is treated to a lot. Of course we think of the guitars or keyboards, but there is much more. There is also the effective presence of brass and string sections as well as additional male and female voices which adds even more depth to the compositions. The album begins with two catchy songs: 'Across the Sea' and 'Fantasy Island', melodies which at first may seem easy to play but which contain small treasures. I think here of the really subtle and brilliant guitar playing. And, by further listening to these songs, you will discover many other pleasures such as the various keyboards and the singing accompanied by guitar. The atmosphere changes with the song "Labyrinth", rightly introducing us to brass instruments and classical style voices. Several tempo changes are to the menu and, for our greatest pleasure, the unique guitar style of Mr. TENCH, without forgetting the omnipresence of Steve GRESSWELL. 'Land of Dreams' is where Blake CARPENTER displays all his singing skills to make us feel and live this song. Several complex musical theme variations are shown here with another great performance of Colin TENCH on his 6-strings, all of it in the purest Prog tradition. There are several other interesting moments on this album for the fans, including 'Valley of Shadow' and 'The Watcher' which end this surprising album. All the musical talents mentioned earlier get together giving us, as a final result, a pleasure to renew again and again.

So, to sum it up, we have the essential voice of Blake CARPENTER, a great guitar job by Colin TENCH, and Steve GRESSWELL, who masterfully handles keyboards, bass, and drums. There are string and brass sections as a bonus and finally the additional voices who offers the listener surprising and coherent moments. COALITION is a band to be watched and listened today and in the future.

 Bridge Across Time by COALITION album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 17 ratings

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Bridge Across Time
Coalition Neo-Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Early on in the year, someone in this band asked me if I would be interested in getting a pre-release listen to this album. I jumped on the opportunity with a big "Yes, please!" I'm not so far up the food chain that I get many pre- release listens. I listened and listened again. And again. I began to formulate a review ready for when the big day arrived.

And then nothing happened.

Months went by, and one day I saw a track from this album was included on a playlist for someone's prog radio program. I sent out an inquiry: was the album to be released soon? A reply came from two of the members stating that they didn't know when. How odd. Here was an album complete and sounding great and it was hiding out in a shoe box in someone's home.

Well, at last I saw the announcement on PA and after checking the band's web site, I learned that the album is to be officially released on October 7th.

So what's so great about it? Well, let's see, we've got Blake Carpenter on vocals. You might have heard of him on the Minstrel's Ghost album "Road to Avalon" or perhaps as a guest on the Corvus Stone albums. Or maybe even you heard him singing on Petri Lindstrom's recent solo project digital album "Hail to Sabbath". Then there's Colin Tench on guitars. He just released his marvelous Colin Tench Project "Hair in a G-String" on September 30th but you've likely also heard him play on a number of albums and recordings this year, not to mention Corvus Stone. Then there's Steve Gresswell who is the captain of this ship. Not only does he play drums, bass, and keyboards but he's also responsible for all the orchestration on this album. You'll hear lots of brass and strings here and, hey, that reminds me, Steve did the orchestration for CTP's opening track, Part 1 of "Hair in a G-String"!

I get the impression that this is a concept album of sorts. From what I gather, the lyrics tell of seeking that higher place, shedding the old life and being reborn. With song titles like "Labyrinth", "Land of Dreams", "Lost Soul" and "Valley of Shadows", you'd think it's a pretty serious and sombre album. But most of the music is rather upbeat and carries a positive vibe.

The majority of the songs are over eight minutes long with only one falling under seven minutes. Musically, there's a lot going on here and often there's not only the band in full motion but extra guitars and keyboards plus operatic vocals both male and female, a string section, and some punchy brass ("The River" has some great brass going for it!). The music also can be surprising as it can take you along on a smooth journey with a standard meter and then abruptly switch tempo and time. The album features a number of these more challenging musical moments, and Colin, who had to provide all the guitars for this album, has claimed that it was very difficult at times. He has, however, pulled off yet another stellar performance, placing notes in all the right spots with never a note wasted or wanting. It's his ability to play so well to music that keeps getting him invited to appear on albums.

Blake Carpenter's vocals are quite good. I do feel he sounds his best with Minstrel's Ghost but he sure sings well here, too. He does have a particular style and sound which can get a little long at times. It's these moments I would welcome some singing in his lower range which we do get. Sometimes I feel the challenge of singing to this music is forcing him to strain for some of the notes. He gets them mind you. But I feel a need to come back down after with something a little more comfortable for the vocal chords.

The album is very enjoyable to listen to and many of the songs have ear-arresting parts. If I have any criticism it's that the atmosphere of the album remains more or less constant. There's a bit of piano to introduce "Land of Dreams" and "The River" plus sound effects like walking feet and bird song, but once the music gets going there is a similar sound and feeling. We have Blake's vocals, Colin's relentless lead guitar work, and Steve giving us keyboards, bass, and drums along with all those extra layers of instruments and music, and sometimes it just has me hoping for a bigger surprise. Yes, there are some pleasant surprises along the way, however, overall the album is very coherent in its lyrical and musical themes, and perhaps at times almost too much so for its own good. Of course that is probably what Steve Gresswell was going for. I'd personally prefer a little more variety.

Nevertheless, all the high points beat out any low points. I'll be ordering the CD after payday!

 In Search of Forever by COALITION album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.14 | 18 ratings

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In Search of Forever
Coalition Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

3 stars Steve Gresswell (bass, keys, drums) has been using the name Coalition on and off for a number of years, and actually released an album using that name back in 1993, but this release is rather more recent, from 2012. For this he brought in guitarist Phil Braithwaite (who works with Steve in his Inner Visions project), and singer Paul Bulger. Overall this is a neo-prog album, but one that is quite different in that often the star is Braithwaite who proves that he can shred like a master, which gives a very different feel to a prog work. Steve is also a good musician, but for the most part he works on providing the perfect backdrop for Phil to shine, which he does whenever he is given the opportunity.

The overall sound reminds me of the underground scene of twenty years ago, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in my book, but overall this is let down by the quality of the songs themselves and the vocals. There is a mish mash between the fluid soloing from Phil, and Paul's vocals where he seems to struggle slightly, and I found that it jarred too much. Given how much focus is given to Phil it might be an idea to rethink the approach and have this as an instrumental project, and see how they go from there. It is still a good album in many ways, and I have been playing it quite a bit, but there are hints that show that they could do much more.

Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition. and to E&O Team for the last updates

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