BENJAMIN CROFT – We Are Here To Help

Galactic Receiver 2024

From Leeds to London and onward to the stars: master of black-and-white ivories leads his clique of aides on a trip beyond the pale.

We Are Here To Help

Art-rock keyboardists quite often are a rather conservative breed who defy the very definition of their chosen genre by sticking to its clichĂ©s and classical foundations, but Benjamin Croft has been bucking such a trend for a few years now and sticking it up to stylistically limited players. Factor in a kind – if, perhaps, slightly tongue-in-cheek title of his third offering, and add a quote from “Long Distance Runaround” used close to the opus’ end, as a reflective, though funny, acknowledgement of his influences, and this album wouldn’t feel as ambitious as a record that marries prog to fusion and boasts an enviable ensemble should. Still, “We Are Here To Help” is not about performers who assist the British composer in getting his good-hearted message across; both instrumental and vocal-adorned pieces here are the gospel per se, with infectious melodies and inventive arrangements ruling the game.

And it is a game, what with streamlined, yet heady, opener “The Age Of Magrathea” – the epic which sees the waves of Croft’s piano and organ lap over Greg Howe’s cosmic passages and Stu Hamm’s perpetual pointillism before the blues lines flow in to get dissolved in an almost orchestral tide – wordlessly referencing the whirl of the Douglas Adams adventure map. By the same token, “Wrestling With Plato” applies fight tactics to philosophical, folk-informed balladry to find David Marks’ velvet bass caressing Lynsey Ward’s gently assertive voice until Benjamin’s synthesizers take off into space to speed the flight. Even more playful is the platter’s title track, where heavy Hammond riffs roar in tandem with Billy Sheehan‘s low-end throb to bolster Jeff Scott Soto’s pipes that deliver the pop-catchy chorus – while other ivories spar with Carter Arrington’s six-string licks to spice up the imagery – just like they do on “She Flies Softly On” to bring this journey to a dewy-eyed, heroic finale.

However, “You Made Me Miss” and “Lower Moat Manor” – both driven by Simon Phillips’ grooves – allow the keyboard maestro to indulge in his love for purified jazz-rock, as Mike Stern and Frank Gambale’s respective solos inject healthy doses of magic into the two fun-spreading pieces, the former lapsing into reggae and faux-flamenco and the latter pursuing romantic rock ‘n’ roll reveries. Strangely, the pseudo-metal assault inserted into “Same Siders” and “Caught In The Flypaper” – both fueled by Marco Minnemann’s drums – don’t sound alien in this exquisite environment; instead, it emphasizes the inherent, insistent wonder and warmth of Benjamin Croft’s existential music. His is an offer that’s impossible to refuse.


March 19, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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