With winds in their sails, keyboards-driven British trio set off to the triumphant shores.
An interesting sort of math has been performed recently by Nick Steed: the Mancunian not only reduced the number of his band’s members from five, who delivered the brilliant "Feeling For The Blues" back in 2018, to three but also removed his name from that of a new ensemble’s, making THR33 a collective of equals, although the ivories maestro didn’t relinquish his leadership – the condition for the group’s refreshed style. If previously Steed used to serve up classic rhythm-and-blues, in the company of axeman Peter Mason and drummer Greg Morgan Nick is moving on to something more complex, albeit no less enjoyable.
It’s not a simple rebranding, as the trio’s approach feels tight and loose at the same time, the latter adjective perfectly describing the way they go about opener “Set Me Free” whose breezy blend of funk and fusion can’t fail but captivate the listener with a soft purr of organ, fluid guitar and intimate voice, and the former outlining the playful proto-prog of “Behind You” where the sophisticated interplay may defy a merry melody. It’s an approach both Vincent Crane and Brian Auger would have approved of, with the groovy instrumental “Freefall” soaring on a six-strings wings to the synthesizer-lined jazzy skies, and “Freedom” channeling joie de vivre via jubilant roar.
Yet while the romantic “Hanging On” unfolds a spiritual cocoon in the bluesy-hued ether and the smoldering ballad “Shadows” seeps into one’s psyche before licks are briefly kicked into fervent action, slowed down again and dissolved in harmonic bliss, the wordless “Pumpkin Soup” produces a comically cinematic vibe, given cosmic keyboards, earthly twang and a well-grounded drum solo. Cymbals spice up the lyrical drift of “If Only Dreams Were Like This” until it gains momentum to swirl, wildly and wondrously, and waltz, and then “Shadows” come back for another majestic spell – this time propelled by piano – to sign off on a faux-symphonic note.
Whether this is an indication of the band’s subsequent route remains to be seen but, as it is, this is a nice way to harness the raptures of a reverie.