This is a really fine album. Full of poise, creativity and craft. It is Jeff Green’s second album and has been some while in the making since the debut ‘Jessica’ appeared in 2009. Not that Green has been inactive, having also fronted Eagles tribute band Illegal Eagles. But his timing of a second opus could hardly be better, given the recent revival in prog and its many derivatives.
‘Elder Creek’ is a conceptual piece. It explores the idea that memory can define us and – the flip-side – ponders who or what we are without memories. Much of the inspiration has come from poems penned by Jeff’s Father. As such this is a very personal, almost spiritual journey. And it shows. In a good way.
All the elements are here. Album opener ‘Theseus Falls’ is characteristic of much of this collection in the maturity of pace, interaction of instrumentation and precise construction. In this case, a subtle and sweet guitar lick provides the basis for an explorative soundscape that draws in mandolin, synthesizer, guitars and a constantly shifting rhythm.
Elsewhere, such as on ‘Our First Meeting’ and ‘Gordian Knot’ there are passages of heavy guitar and driving grooves interspersed with the aural pictures. The former in particular, is the album’s first showstopper with some wonderful, fluid guitar work, interchanging with the keyboards over some sweeping orchestral textures. It features extended guitar solos that initially shadow the synth harmony before cranking up and hitting one emotional peak after another.
This theme is repeated throughout. Green is on top form and showcases his full range of talents. Check out the sumptuous riff that kicks off ‘Gordian Knot’ and the metal-influenced solos.
The vocals are a real joy here. Not only top notch and (again) perfectly paced, but often sensitively handled too. Particularly ‘Gordian Knot’ where the risk of soap opera-style cheesy production has been avoided with a powerful narrative that goes for an emotional jugular.
It is wonderful to hear Alan Reed, ex-Pallas, guesting on ‘A Long Time From Now’. Mixing up the album’s contributors makes it feel more like a project that a solo album. Reed’s characterful voice takes me right back to those early Pallas gigs in Stoke-On-Trent Shelley’s in the mid-80’s. It’s not just Green’s memories that are being tampered with here!
Mike Stobbie, also ex-Pallas, handles the keyboards with aplomb. His mix of modern and vintage technology gives the collection a classic feel. Melotron’s scattered around the place are inevitably redolent of a bit of Genesis and perhaps even more-so, Marillion circa ‘Incubus’. Evoking memories of long nights trying to penetrate Fish’s tortured lyrics.
There are inevitably Yes references. And why not? ‘Elder Bridge’ perhaps most obviously. It’s the least ‘epic’ feeling track here and maybe not the strongest. But the hints of pomp and some funk- inspired guitar work lift it beyond the ordinary.
And if you haven’t had your fill of the movements, passages and layers, then kick back and wallow in the nineteen minute closer, ‘A Long Time From Here’.
I’ve lived with this album for a couple of days. The instant high points stay high, but characteristically of a good album, the parts that I initially found a harder listen have revealed their attractions by subtle degrees. No hesitation in giving this one the full handful. *****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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