Magical Thinker Records [Release date 29.11.19]
Geoff Downes has been involved in a whole range of projects over the years, outside of Asia and Yes. His collaboration with UK born, LA-based Chris Braide seems to be one of the more durable. We described their 2015 album ‘Suburban Ghosts’ thus: “…a breath of fresh air with a heady mix of classy songwriting and musical craftsmanship.”.
The two first collaborated on the Trevor Horn-led The Producers album in 2006 and met up again at a Buggles reunion gig in 2010. Geoff Downes has always had heightened pop sensibilities and his orchestrations matched to Braide’s contemporary sounding vocal and writing skills makes for a great team and a great listen.
This, their first live album, was recorded at their first ever live concert at East Sussex’s Trading Boundaries in September 2018.
The gig majors on the band’s current studio offering ‘Skyscraper Souls’ (including the 23 minute title track) whilst adding in a few more familiar classics in the form of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, ‘Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘The Smile Has Left Your Eyes’.
If you like superbly crafted pop rock with increasingly more proggy elements, whilst rooted in the 1980s, DBA are for you. Comparisons might be made with The Alan Parsons Project, especially with the additional narration and high production values (the gig also featured visuals by Chris Braide’s wife Olivia).
By playing all the current album, and several songs from ‘Suburban Ghosts’, it’s a shame that there’s nothing from their 2012 debut ‘Pictures Of You’. The likes of ‘The Radiant Children’ or even the title track would have certainly struck a chord with the average Trading Boundaries punter.
Throughout, the duo are ably aided by Andy Hodge (bass) and Dave Colquhoun (guitar) – although somewhat in a sequencing straitjacket – both of whom figure also on the latest studio album but strangely there’s an absence of live drums for such a significant gig. This suggests that DBA haven’t completely broken away from their essentially studio-based cocoon.
Big Big Train’s David Longdon provides additional vocals and flute (especially on ‘Tomorrow’) although a female vocal on ‘Skyscraper Souls’ goes un-credited. Also on backing track, Barney Ashton-Bullock adds a bit of thespian drama with narration.
Roger Dean artwork (and an on-stage introduction) and a DVD complete a great first live record for a band that by their own admission never intended to play live gigs. They’ll defy that statement again early in 2020 when they play the same venue. ****
Review by David Randall
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