Album Review: STEVEN WILSON – Drive Home

Steven Wilson - Drive Home

Kscope [Release Date: 21.10.13]

What a busy boy Steven Wilson is these days.

Fresh from the release earlier this year of his third solo album ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, the release of the fourth Blackfield album and his excellent work re-mastering/re-mixing the Jethro Tull and King Crimson back catalogues – I see he has now done a job on Yes’s classic ‘Close To The Edge’ album – picked up yet another gong at this year’s ‘Prog Awards’ and has now released this outstanding CD/DVD multimedia package.

I don’t know how he finds time to go to the bog if I’m honest.

As ever, with anything Steven Wilson does, you have to try and blank out the sycophantic, over-the-top hype trowelled on by certain reviewers and publications (you know who you are) and try to focus on the material.

If you can manage to do that, what usually comes across is well-crafted, thoughtful and meaningful music played by consummate musicians.

And that is exactly what we have here.

‘Drive Home’ is a two disc set – Disc One is a DVD featuring the Jess Cope directed videos for two of the tracks from ‘The Raven..’ (‘Drive Home’ and ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’) and four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt (‘The Holy Drinker’, ‘Insurgentes’, ‘The Watchmaker’ and ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’), plus two audio tracks in 5.1 surround audio (the unreleased ‘The Birthday Party’ and an orchestral version of ‘The Raven…).

Disc Two, the CD features ‘Drive Home’, ‘The Birthday Party’ the orchestral ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ plus the four live tracks from the Frankfurt concert.

The two Jess Cope videos are animations and both quite moving in their own quaint way – elevated, of course by the excellence of the music.

The real gems though are the live recordings.

Wilson has assembled a top notch coterie of musicians and they have delivered in spades. A particularly inspired choice – although they’re all superb – is Guthrie Govan on guitar, not a name particularly well-known outside guitar-players’ circles but, to those in the know, an exceptional player.

All four tracks – three from ‘The Raven’ album and one ‘Insurgentes’ from the album of the same name, lean towards the quieter end of the Wilson spectrum with plenty of diverse passages but with less emphasis on the avant-garde squonks and squawls that sometimes dominate his solo work.

The embodiment of this is ‘The Watchmaker’, a brooding, moving piece initially played with acoustics and Theo Travis’s flute to the fore but then ripped up with an amazing Guthrie Govan solo.

Another highlight is ‘The Holy Drinker’, a prog fan’s dream with time signature changes a-plenty and a rare opportunity, courtesy of Nick Beggs to see and hear a Chapman Stick in full flow.

So, much here for fans to drool over – especially as all the audio content is unreleased stuff and ‘The Birthday Party’ is a new track – written at the time of ‘The Raven..’ but not included.

Hard for a reviewer to sum up without resorting, as Fish would say, to the old cliches – but it has to be said that ‘Drive Home’ can only be described as a triumph, catching the genuinely self-effacing Wilson at the absolute peak of his powers and cementing his place as one of the most innovative artists in progressive rock.

Thought I’d just ramp up the hype one more notch…

*****

Review by Alan Jones 

 


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