Intelligent Music [Release date 12.02.20, 24.12.18*]
There must be something in the Bulgarian water. One time Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton has also used that country’s musicians in recent years and actually appears on the first two ‘Intelligent’ releases.
This Bulgarian music collective have enlisted a bunch of well known musicians giving more credibility, and visibility, to their work. A constant thread in the series has been Toto drummer Simon Phillips and on the fourth album – Sorcery Inside* – he is joined by Toto vocalist Joseph Williams, Carl Sentance (Nazareth) and John Payne (Asia).
As you might expect there are echoes of Toto on ‘Yesterdays That Mattered’, ‘Every Morning’ and ‘Looking For The Feeling’ whilst a gospel choir is deployed on the Sentance-fronted ‘As If’ and the Latin-flavoured ‘Viva’ evokes Supernatural-era Santana. ****
The latest album – Life Motion – features a more sonorous Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Lords Of Black) sharing lead vocals with Richard Grisman (River Hounds) and John Payne on two tracks with Phillips on drums.
The songwriting consistency is excellent throughout, and yes there are touches of Payne-era Asia on ‘A Kind Of Real Life’ and ‘By The Side Of The Minute’. There’s even a touch of Queen on ‘Letting Me In’ although Phillips’ drum frills on ‘Reflecting’ and ‘Rising’ seem somewhat incongruous, as if to reinforce that he hasn’t yet left the building. ***1/2
On both albums the vocals are actually shared on each song which may be disconcerting for some listeners and giving a more theatrical flavour. This may be a weakness with – as often happens in this approach – the music subjugated to the lyrical content. In this respect thankfully musical supremo Milen Vrabevski has employed a “language consultant”.
For my ears – and with some great players - there could have been more instrumental content (especially on Life Motion), and the production is a little too rigid, but those who like Alan Parsons and Tom Galley’s Phenomena project will find much of interest.
Review by David Randall
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.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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