Long time no reviews... I need to put that right.
Firstly here is a first for good old Luddite Furtheron, funny I work in IT and generally do believe that technology is a great thing, look at what it does give us... just look around you now; simply from the clothes you are wearing, the chair you are (probably) sitting in, the computer you are reading this on, the internet that delivered it, the electricity needed all over the place to do that and provide the light, heating, cooling etc. etc. I'm going on a bit but anyway... the first of these reviews is actually... a download review!!! I know, I know but it is true Furtheron for once didn't buy a hard copy CD so that he could then read the lyrics, timing of tracks to the nearest second, muse on the value of the various engineers on particular tracks etc. I decided to buy something, went to Amazon, clicked on it, downloaded it and bunged it on my MP3 player in a matter of seconds... damn clever all this new fangled stuff isn't it? :-)
Opeth - Heritage
There is more than a sense of irony that my first ever major release purchase on line (I've bought single tracks and stuff before) is actually a new album that harks back to previous time. I've liked Opeth stuff I've heard before (Son-of-Furtheron has some of theirs) up until the point the singing starts then sadly the death metal, throat stripping shouty things are just not for me try as I might since I like the sound of the music underneath.
However I'd listened to this on a streaming service a day or so before it came out and was really pleased that the vocals were not like that. Also musically the whole thing is clearly a homage to the influences from the 70s that have shaped Opeth as one of the stand out groups in modern prog rock. To my ears much more King Crimson than Genesis or Yes but others may look to BJH and others in there as well. For modern parallels it is very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree material. If you are an old prog-head that bemoans lack of new music you like then do try this I think you'll be convinced there is valid prog being created out there in the 21st century and not just from the likes of Yes getting themselves back to a good creative space.
John Martyn - Heaven and Earth
A difficult CD for me to review this. Regular readers of this blog may know that Johnny holds an intensely special place in my heart. I discovered him through BBC Rock Goes to College I think back in the 70s when I saw him perform one of his solo acoustic but with a pickup gaffer taped onto his Martin through a bunch of effects, not least his Echoplex. I won't say it was love at first sight, it took me a while to get into his stuff but that initial meeting blew me away. It must have been about the time I read Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and was confronted by people doing stuff in music and writing I just found as utterly bewildering at first contact but alluring and exciting as well. I then was a great admirer of John's "band" period with Grace and Danger still one of my all time favourite albums which some Martyn fans will find perhaps odd but the emotion and musicianship on that album still are to me amazing.
As many of you will no doubt know John passed away last year. I'm friends with a cousin of his who is still struggling to come to terms with that on a personal level which shows the mark of the man. Heaven and Earth is a collection of "unfiinished" work that he had been producing in the lead up to his death. Therefore this has been completed after his sad and untimely demise. In that is a worry as you wonder what he would have left on, taken off, changed or added to. Who knows but I'm still very pleased it was released, whereas his previous release On the Cobbles was a part return to the more acoustic troubadour material this is back into the jazzy band flavour which is as I've said stuff I love from him. Phill Collins a collaborator on Grace and Danger and subsequently releases and tours is back with John again and his vocals with John's is a spine tingling combination. A fitting farewell? For me I'd say yes without a doubt, it is clear he wasn't a well man at some points but frankly this is a mighty Martyn release. The real stand out track for me is the Phil Collins written Can't Turn Back the Years - given the subsequent events a more poignant epitaph cannot be created. At least with John we have the legacy of his albums, I defy anyone not to listen to Solid Air, Grace and Danger and Heaven and Earth and not be left with a conundrum of feelings all centring your thoughts on what a genius Mr Martyn was in capturing emotion in music.
Joshua Radin - The Rock and The Tide
I bought this having seen it on the discount rack in HMV. Now I bought Simple Times a while back when we saw him backing up Jools Holland at the Rochester Castle gig in July 2009, before he started to get the bigger recognition. I remember my daughter singing along to a song of his on the radio and I said something about the rest of the album and she was impress/dismayed (take your pick :-)) that I was so hip!
Anyway - this album is actually closer to what I remember from that stormy night in Rochester where Mr Radin was more aghast at playing in the setting of a Norman Castle than anything else. It is less whimsical solo guitar and voice and a bit more band/rock orientated and that is fine by me. I like this album quiet a bit and it is a good driving / train listening album, something not requiring the attention of something like Opeth but with songs that pull you in... Mrs F and Daughter-of-Furtheron like it too hence enhancing it's choice as a car journey accompaniment... Son-of-Furtheron would no doubt refer to this as middle class coffee table music. :-)
Incubus - If Not Now, When?
I discovered Incubus a few years ago and was lucky enough to see an impressive performance of them some years back at the Reading festival - whenever it was that Iron Maiden headlined there. The last CD of theirs was Light Grenades which I thought a brilliant release. Since then they have had a little bit of a hiatus over the last 5 years they return with a really credible platter. They are a very restrained and thoughtful band I feel, they have times of very sparse instrumentation that couple with super vocal performances to deliver some powerful songs which lyrically all appear to be on the theme of love. Strong stand outs are the opening title track itself and Isadore which certainly sticks in my head. Perhaps more laid back than previous outings for them it is none the worse for it and worth a listen if you've liked any of their previous efforts or want to find something a little of the standard radio playlist fodder for Coldplay, Snow Patrol etc. but in a similar vein.