Rubystorm Records [Release Date: 11.11.13]
For a pair of musicians whose day job involves being in one of the top tribute bands around, it must be very difficult to break free of the constraints of that musical straight-jacket and decide not only to write your own material but also release that material as a full-blown progressive rock concept album.
But that is exactly what Pete Riley (keyboards) and Andy Nixon (guitar) – cornerstones of the Pink Floyd tribute band Dark Side Of The Wall – have done and to great effect too as this is nothing short of a triumph.
Inspired by Riley’s childhood memories of his grandfather Cpl. Robert Wilson’s experiences in the trenches, the album’s central theme is the juxtaposition of the harrowing experiences of the rank and file World War 1 soldiers with the relative comfort of the officer class and unforgivable indifference of the politicians.
It would be very easy to slip into the cynical Blackadder view of the war, but the subject matter has been handled with the utmost respect and sincerity to produce a work worthy as a tribute to all those who served and fell, especially so in this year of remembrance.
That the album has countless Floydian moments is inevitable given the band’s alter-egos – it must be hard-wired into their musical psyche – and with the opening keyboard swells of opener ‘Rain Pt.1’ you could be forgiven for thinking this is the best album Pink Floyd never made.
But think again.
This is all their own work, and during the course of the album’s fifteen tracks the band emerges, butterfly-like, from its musical chrysalis to produce a piece of work chock-full of memorable moments and peerless musicianship.
The theme of rain occurs throughout the album in both in a meteorological and musical sense as the band paint the picture of life in the wet and how the ordinary soldiers fell like rain on the battlefield.
There are highlights and poignant moments everywhere – the atmospheric title track, the cinematic melancholy of ‘Anywhere Else But Here’ segueing into the crunching riff of ‘Path Of Reason’, the charming acoustic riff and chiming electric guitar on the Echoes-like ‘Rain Pt.2’, the central theme appearing again in ‘Rain Pt.4’ this time with a hundred voice choir.
For me though, there is one moment that encapsulates the whole work.
At the beginning of ‘One Hundred And Twenty’ the keyboard intro is exactly the same as ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ but just as you expect Gilmour’s ‘da da da daaa’ a bugle cuts in with The Last Post – so unexpected yet so apposite it would bring tears to a glass eye.
Taken in the round, ‘Rain’ is a stunning piece of work that manages to be both respectful and sensitive to the subject matter without any of the cloying sentimentality that often permeates this type of work and, perhaps just as importantly, without sounding like mere Floyd clones.
A big ask, yes, but Freedom To Glide have carried it off with their own musical credibility intact.
Review by Alan Jones
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 July.. In the first hour David pays tribute to the blues/rock guitarist Peter Green.
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