White Knight Records [Release date: 14.03.17]
You can take the boy out of Pallas but you can’t take Pallas out of the boy…
Alan Reed, unceremoniously dumped from Scottish progsters Pallas a few years back, returns with his second studio album following his critically acclaimed 2012 debut ‘First In A Field Of One’.
And he’s turned up the volume.
Whereas his debut was infused with an acoustic, Celtic flavour, ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’ both darkens the mood and ups the energy quotient to produce a harder-edged incisiveness which takes things closer to his Pallas roots.
Reed has been making a name for himself by extensive touring and support slots for the likes of Steve Hackett and the experience has proved pivotal in what is (with the odd caveat) an excellent album.
And his standing in the prog ‘community’ is evidenced by a guest list that includes Hackett himself (on harmonica (!)), Jeff Green (Illegal Eagles), Mike Stobbie (ex-Pallas), Scott Higham (Pendragon) and Christina Booth (Magenta).
The eight tracks get underway with ‘My Sunlit Room’, its cascading proggy keys introducing heavy riffing and highlighting the Pallas sound that runs through this album like a stick of rock.
‘Razor’ is next up which, rather disturbingly, initially sounds like Prince singing lyrics given to him by Fish – but which redeems itself with a great Hackett harmonica solo.
‘Cross My Palm’ with its soaring keys and great guitar work is a highlight as is ‘Leaving’ whose acoustic, folky feel brings to mind Paul Simon.
‘The Other Side Of Morning’ is a must-listen for all fans of Close To The Edge-era Yes with acoustic guitar and Wakeman-esque keys – to which you can add a taste of Cream’s ‘White Room’ in the vocals.
‘The Covenanter’ is the track that really defines this album – superb musicianship from all concerned and evocative lyrics decrying all the hate in the world, all set to a punctuating riff which takes the track to the album’s high point. Incidentally, the track is dedicated to (and you work out the surnames): Anjem, Tommy, Donald and Boris – with a special mention in dispatches for the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre.
The closing two tracks are perhaps where the caveats kick in.
‘Used To Be’ has a bit of a Coldplay/Phil Collins feel to it reinforced by a Mike & The Mechanics ‘Living Years’ guitar riff and ‘Northern Light’ inauspiciously has an almost ‘Boney M’ vibe to begin with – luckily, this is resolved by some distinctly Celtic guitar and a Keith Emerson-esque keyboard outro.
Truth is though, despite these odd bum/custard interface scenarios, Reed has excelled here with a diverse and lyrically outstanding set of songs, backed up with musicians and musicianship of the highest order combining to deliver a hugely satisfying listen.
Great stuff. ****
Review by Alan Jones
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