Tuneleak Records [Release date: 29.03.16]
Ben Craven is an Australian multi-instrumentalist – self-described as a ‘cinematic progressive rock singer-songwriter’.
‘Last Chance To Hear’ is his third studio album to date following ‘Two False Idols’ in 2005 and 2011’s ‘Great And Terrible Potions’ which garnered four stars in my review – having been docked one star for its occasionally twee lyrics.
This latest effort extrapolates Craven’s fears regarding the future of music as an art form with record companies re-issuing, remastering and re-packaging old product in a desperate attempt to make as much as they can before online streaming deals the fatal blow to that particular golden goose.
In a monstrous irony, ‘Last Chance To Hear’ will likely do very little to encourage the buying of hard-product as most of the album, whilst certainly ‘cinematic’ in the literal sense of the word, sounds like a cobbled-together compilation of ‘70s and ‘80s science fiction ‘B’ movie soundtracks.
So where is that heading – other than being shunted into the ‘niche-market’ siding and thence to the bargain-bin of despair?
What compounds this bum/custard interface scenario is the appearence of one William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk, folks) to lend his overblown half-sung / half-spoken vocals to what should be the centrepiece of the album.
‘Spy In The Sky – Part 3’ begins promisingly with an excellent synth-driven riff before Shatner sh*ts all over it – his grating style of emphasising certain words almost for comic effect is not clever and it most certainly isn’t funny.
What’s the point? One or two might be mildly amused, and Star Trek fans might be mildly interested but I suspect most self-respecting music fans will give it the two fingers of derision.
As for the rest of the album, it has its moments and you can’t argue that it’s all very well played, but the overriding impression is one of a mangled collection of music fusing together the soundtracks of ‘Revenge Of The Swamp Monster’, ‘Aliens At The Edge Of Time’, an unseen ‘60s James Bond film and ‘Scooby Doo’.
And this is what is so depressing about the whole thing – we know from his previous albums that Craven is a good songwriter and an exceptional musician, so exactly what he’s doing here is probably beyond my ken.
A wasted opportunity to build on his last album’s promise – and too clever by half. **
Review by Alan Jones
Alan sequences “The Eclectic Mix” on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, third Sunday of the month at 16:00. Expect some prog. Maybe not Ben Craven.
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