On the wings of a dream, British duo with prog pedigree deliver a filigree album to defy expectations and lets imagination fly.
What’s in a name? For this little ensemble – everything and nothing. Magic and simplicity… if simplicity is a factor in Maurice Douglas and Jon Camp’s virtuoso venture, except for the fact that their names are components of the “MoJo” moniker and that there’s a genuine lucky charm in it. Guitarist Douglas was half of twin guitar engine in Martin Turner’s WISHBONE ASH, and singing bassist Camp an integral unit of classic RENAISSANCE, yet neither of those references can prepare the listener for the record Jon and Maurice came up with together. The latter’s solo oeuvre would provide some genre-related hints, but the former has never worked outside a collective and is a wild card, albeit in the veteran’s reluctance to dwell on past tropes and readiness to embrace pop idiom he may be the most progressive of his erstwhile colleagues. The more surprising the result of the pair’s sessions is, then, in its stylistic variety and mostly voiceless wonder.
Starting it all with a crackling sound of a much-spun, and presumably well-loved, vinyl single, “45 RPM” revolves around riff and rumble, the piece’s effervescent elasticity so infectious in instrumental scope that effects-laden vocals come in quite unexpectedly to lend tension and release to the cut which can easily be linked to the album’s title track – insistent and tinctured with exotic excitement. Just as striking, in an Eastern sort of way, and redolent of “Concierto de Aranjuez,” the unhurried steps of “Raga in D” are riveting in their contrast to occasional drone and dreamy chant, while there’s an exquisite acoustic lace to “Desert Beauty” whose tenderly textured twang bursts in glorious, day-glo bright, 3D after four strings add depth to the six-strings pattern, and keyboards inform the panorama with orchestral uplift.
Yet the flight is anchored with a down-to-earth funk of “LIBA” – standing for “Let It Be Art” – whose levity also has a fusion gravity to it, as does the taut “Something Out Of This World” which weaves many a warm layer into a transparent tapestry, unlike the chamber flutter that will take “Icarus” higher and higher where delicate interplay holds a lot of drama. Such baroque delight is shattered again, though, once the throb of “Towards The Sky” drives the number in the disco direction before the blues-tinged “Winged Messenger” rolls a slide across the board in the most sensual manner, simultaneously rocking hard, if slyly. But “Mods & Rockers” marries cinematic conflict to retrofuturistic playfulness, with bass and guitar tempering their fierce force only to unleash “Rhapsody For Bouncer” for a shift from a folk-inspired court dance to organ-laden prog attack, so what could look like a tight-but-loose new-age has much more nuclear power than a cursory run through the album might reveal. There’s a real sense of urgency on this deceptively serene record – a true triumph for the duo.
Read the musicians’ account of the album’s background here.