The Highlander Company Records (19.10.18)
41point9 is a fascinating mix of prog and pop from a couple of guys who evidently don’t feel constrained by genre. Bassist Bob Madsen and vocalist Brian Cline first collaborated in 1995 but it was only a decade or so ago that they decided to form the current band. Throughout, the album is driven by the duo’s ear for a good tune.
There’s obvious reference points. Cline’s vocals, for example, evoke Peter Cox from Go West on ‘Confessions At Midnight’ while an eighties vibe is perpetuated on a song like ‘The Black Line’.
‘For The King’ is characterised typically by Madsen’s resonant and funky bass lines and the synths and orchestrations reflect Wakeman-esque pomp at its best. Plus lashings of well considered guitar from Kenny Steel. And this really sets the blueprint. Lovers of modern prog will be impressed, especially those who lapped up the neo-prog movement that brought to light bands like Arena, IQ and Pendragon. And, on the other side of the pond, Spock’s Beard.
I haven’t mentioned American progsters Enchant but there is a direct connection. Cline was their original vocalist whilst Madsen contributed to their 1998 album ‘Break’.
The band’s instrumental prowess is well displayed on ‘Tilting At Windmills’, a seven minute fusion blow-out par excellence whilst Grant Reeves adds sax to ‘Don’t Cut Down The Rose’. There are poignant moments too as the band dedicate the song ‘These Four Lands’ to the late Tom Size who engineered several tracks on this and their debut – ‘Still Looking For Answers’ – in 2011.
‘Big Data’ benefits from female backing vocals and an early-Marillion guitar chime a la Rothery (who also contributed to the debut Enchant album).
The track listing on our CD liner unfortunately has the wrong running order and misses out track 3 ‘The Marine’ (which has prompted the band’s recent video with proceeds to a 9/11 survivors charity) and a nine second filler called ‘And Now…’ (track 10).
The bonus tracks provide further evidence of genre-busting with ‘The Loch’ introducing Scottish pipes and a folksy element which doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album. ‘Familiar Strangers’ however is a gem, with Peter Cox/Brian Cline back on vocals and a gorgeous eighties pop funk vibe.
All together, one of the best examples of what might best be described as progressive/pomp rock meets AOR. (Another that comes to mind is Robert Berry’s 3.2 offering). Certainly one to check out. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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 20 September 2020.
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