Spiral 2001 / Angel Air 2017
Spiritual rekindling of old flame to warm up one’s karma and give samsara a new tune.
From THE YARDBIRDS’ “Shape Of Things” on, Jim McCarty‘s wonder at the ways of the world and personal philosophy permeated most of his music – enriching the musical aspect of RENAISSANCE debut album and the first LP by ILLUSION. Yet it took the veteran a STAIRWAY ascension to feel the need, on the cusp of a new millennium, to close the circle and channel his thoughts through collective experience, in the company of former colleagues, the kindred spirits who could elevate this set of meditative songs to a riveting cycle of tunes which lodge themselves into the listener’s brain to swirl like a mantra. “I’m coming home to the beat of the Earth”: delivered by a drummer, this line may imply a solid linking of sacred and profane, although it’s a process rather than result that’s the pivot of the album.
This point is brought into focus on “One More Turn Of The Wheel” – a pensive piece that, sprung out of Louis Cennamo’s bass portent, grows in scope to flood a perceptive soul with a dark, if positive, vibe and pave the road for reflections to follow. Personal in the change-registering “My Old Friend” and universal in “Mystery Of Being” where a chant reigns, the ensemble observe mesmeric melodies through the prism of raga and baroque, the twain meeting and blending into each other on “Glorious One” whose sunshine riff and refrain are bound to stay with the listener for a long time. Drops of drone and drama subside on the enchanting “Good Heart” as Jane Relf’s barely-there vocals add silver lining to McCarty’s gloomy singing, while Dzal Martin’s electric strings, and exquisite acoustic lace on the title track, roll the ballads toward the “Madonna Blue” and “Face Of Yesterday” domain of the band’s previous incarnations.
There’s spectral gravity to “Blowing Away” – anchored to a chamber stasis with John Hawken’s elegiac piano – and timeless sorrow to “Beyond The Day” that’s lifted thanks to a fluttering flute, a Celtic motif linking the moment to the roundabout of life, whereas the previously unreleased “If There Was Something I Could Change” gives a wider perspective to the record’s original concept. Also out of obscurity, “Moving On” is making what was a cycle a spiral, so the circle may stay unbroken but it should hold a door open to those wishing to step into the darkness to better see the light of the eternal flame – the fire which has been burning brightly to keep the music, and the spirit, alive.