Lightnin’ Fingers [Release date 06.11.20]
Different Horizons is that rare thing, a finely honed mature album by a heritage rock- band, full of spark, creativity and inspired playing.
It’s an adventurous rock album with an enveloping wall of sound, salient prog influences, jazzy edges and a bluesy soul, which overall represents a significant departure for a band better known for its tasteful post Robert Cray stylings.
It’s also a concept album in all but name which deals with change. But no one could have foreseen guitarist Bob Moore’s untimely passing, an event which brings an extra poignant feel to an album which he dominates with the sheer joy of his tonal and stylistic explorations.
And while the album is the glorious sum of its parts, in which each band member plays to the very best of their abilities, it is Moore’s presence supported by Ian Salisbury’s keyboard work that glues it all together, with a mix of chunky rhythms, subtle tones and defining solos.
It’s an honest album that balances passion and integrity, but those worthy building blocks don’t necessarily make a coherent whole on their own.
The corner stone to this album is both the enquiring nature of the songs and the band’s willingness to change and explore a more rock-based imperative to answer their own questions.
This has given them a bigger creative canvas, which they fill with a musical vision made up of conceptually related songs and inspired playing. Everything is overseen by engineer and co-producer Martin Atkinson, whose attention to sonic detail gives the session its vitality.
The album opens with a significant open-ended title ‘Horizons’ (a demi-title if you prefer) and a maternal question “All right love?”, which is voiced over background of chirping birds to suggest a content status quo. This is in sharp contrast to the album title and the song’s lyrics: “New horizon in the haze, Change where certainty held sway,
Wake and listen to the call, Time to find a different way.”
Guitarist Bob Moore’s deft touch, tone, and mellifluous intensity is writ large in the track as he works alongside Stuart Maxwell’s soaring vocal toward an imperious solo a subtle fade with a bird song coda.
‘Different Horizons’ is carried by lyrical weight, musical heft and a reborn band who revel in Ian Salisbury’s layered keyboards.
It’s an album with an inherent flow, built on some gnawing grooves, dynamic solos and gritty phrasing from vocalist Maxwell, who changes his attack according to the nature of the song.
‘Different Horizons’ brings together rock, blues, funk, prog and jazzy elements in a generically titled album that combines 9 interrelated tracks.
The thoughtful sequencing also brings a coherence and flow, as evidenced by the contrasting nature of Bob Moore’s flint-edged guitar tone and angular runs on ‘Call It Midlife’, and the Floydian ‘Can’t Sleep For Dreaming’, which gives the album real momentum.
The latter benefits from Moore’s David Gilmour style slide and some clipped rhythm playing with layered Hammond and a crisp rhythm track. The subtle whispered bv’s also help create a big screen feel which leaves enough breathing space for Moore to add a final sumptuously toned solo on one of several album highlights.
Similarly the juxtaposition of ‘Dreaming’ with ‘Long Road’ means the latter’s melodic Knopfler style guitar and Hammond work, acts as a counterweight to what has gone before, while the opening line almost feels like a re-statement of an underlying theme of change and the ability to deal with it: “It’s a long long road, When you don’t know what lies ahead.”
And it’s that constant reference to change that also helps provide the band with the outstanding ‘Stranger’.
Opening with a voice collage, it’s fleshed out by cushioned tom-toms, electronic percussion, caustic chords, synth, Hammond and a majestic guitar solo either side of some expressive vocals. Maxwell really gets inside the lyrics to evoke the musical feel of the song: “Feel like a stranger, Landed in a distant place, Walking to a different rhythm, A different kind of pace.”
There’s a return to their bluesy roots on the snappy groove ‘Come On In,’ which seamlessly combines a gnawing guitar tone with keyboards and a train-time harp.
Not everything works perfectly though, as they almost over reach themselves on ‘Tell The Truth. Anchored by Derek White’s funky bass line and featuring Maxwell’s post-Rory Gallagher primal husky growl, its features intricately woven, discordant linear and angular guitar lines, wah-wah and is framed by Russ Chaney’s exaggerated cymbal splashes.
It’s a good example of how sometimes the band’s has to work hard for their best moments which don’t necessarily come with the best songs, but rather in the middle of a piece when they have to resolve a proggy musical puzzle of their own making.
Everything flows into the mid-tempo riff-driven finale of ‘Questions’, which provides a smooth finish to a well-crafted album, made with loving care and real inspiration.
The band tells us the album was inspired by working with Focus. Truth be told, the Dutch prog giants would surely be more than delighted to cut an album as good as this. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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