White Knight Records [Release date: 07.10.16]
Following in the giant footsteps of all those great Rock Progressivo Italiano pathfinders such as PFM, Le Orme, Celeste and Finisterre come AltaVia with their own take on the genre.
I say their own take rather reluctantly as, taken in the round, this is the best album Yes never made – the early influence of one of the UK’s finest purveyors of the genre being all over ‘Kreosote’, the second foray into the studio following 2011’s interesting debut ‘Girt Dog’.
Whenever a progressive band is fronted by a female vocalist it is all too easy to make comparisons with the likes of Anne-Marie Helder, Christina Booth and Heather Findlay – but it’s not the case here as the vocal stylings of Betty Copeta are more akin to those of Jon Anderson, which, at the risk of of upsetting a few Yes fans, always have been at the “lady-end” of the register.
At the core of ‘Kreosote’ though, is classic melodic prog, beautifully played and using the quintessential template of time signature changes a-plenty, mood-swings by the dozen and the requisite quota of off-kilter lyrics.
The eight tracks get underway with the twelve minute epic ‘About To Fade’ where the Yes comparisons first surface among some lovely passages of guitar arpeggios and tinkling piano motifs.
These comparisons are nailed down in the second track ‘So Far So Good’ – which opens with an almost funky guitar riff that turns considerably darker as it progresses and where you would swear that Anderson was in the room.
Next up ‘Road To Nowhere’ has a riff that worms its way into your subconscious, followed by the paradox that is ‘Paradox’ – the paradox being that it is probably the weakest track on the album yet would easily be the best track on a number of albums I could name…mmmm.
The Yes template goes out of the window with ‘Love Is Worth A Try’ which sounds rather more like Mike And The Mechanics and is a little repetitive with somewhat trite lyrics and ‘You Are The Sailor’ which, to be honest, is one of those ‘what were they thinking of’ moments.
Sandwiched around ‘You Are The Sailor’ are two of the album’s finest moments – ‘The Storm’ with its folky beginning and lovely piano triplets seguéing into passages of anthemic guitar work, and the almost instrumental ‘Velathri’ which utilises what vocals there are almost as an ancillary instrument – both tracks where the band really pushed the envelope to reinforce their prog credentials and which hopefully give an indication of their future direction of travel.
So, are the Yes influences plagiarism? Of course not – is no-one allowed to sound like anyone else? And let’s face it, can you think of a great Yes album since 1972’s ‘Close To The Edge’? I thought not.
They’re not a tribute band, so let’s enjoy this for what it is – classic melodic prog rock which, yes(!), wears its influences on its sleeve but which is, in many ways, so much the better for it. ****
Review by Alan Jones
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