Solid Rockhouse 2014
Time is when there is no need to stop and rearrange it, and no time to leave the glory – back in all its grace.
There’s a subtle hint on the cover, as the all-eyes mythological giant was called Argus, and those who’ve been waiting for Andy Powell‘s band to pick up the sword thrown down at the album titled after the eternal watcher can rejoice now. The same subtlety flows out of this record’s jubilant finale “All There Is To Say” which almost quotes classic themes but drives their Celtic spirit, abetted by co-writer Pat McManus’ fiddle and bouzouki, into different waters. It’s a tad foreboding – “Nothing left undone, no song in our hearts unsung” sounds like a valediction – yet the aftertaste, and undercurrent, of it all is one of fulfillingness. It’s stated from the off, as riveting opener “Take It Back” lays claim to the past with familiar twang and sweet, if belligerent, vocal harmonies, whereas the sense of delightful surprise imbues “Strange (How Things Come Back Around)” for the slow funk to coil and release the tension.
Demonstrating much more vigor than on 2011’s "Elegant Stealth" the quartet also state their presence in the “now”: their unique blend of hard rock and art rock – which many a new progger reproduced without ever crediting the originators – carries the gale of “Way Down South” as its echo of Roy Orbison counterbalances the song’s spacey resolution. Close to the end, the title mini-epic unfolds the group’s romantic banners even further to link the lyricism back to “Deep Blues” where Bob Skeat’s bass and Joe Crabtree’s drums swing fiercely and fire up the twin guitar wigout, while Muddy Manninen‘s six-string rocks around and along with the leader’s one. In an interesting twist, some of the solos are tagged to the pieces in such a way that they sound like separate instrumental cuts. Thus, the ensemble go “past the point of no return” in “Being One” to wedge a sharp riff in its serene soul. Another omen?
Hardly so, because this refusal to cast a glance over one’s shoulder may well be an acceptance of things to come, before the fusionesque, although politically-minded, breeze of “American Century” dispels the “Mary Jane” careless boogie. But its the battle cry of “Tally Ho!” that packs the strongest punch here when it takes on the ways of the world rather than matters of the heart – ain’t no time to sheathe the blade yet.