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Alan Emslie - 2003 - "Driven Heavy"

(48 min, 'Emslie')

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Bitter Boy 3:39
2.  Help Me 4:26
3.  Big One 4:41
4.  Meditation 4:21
5.  Simple Groove 3:54
6.  Causeway 5:26
7.  Through the Valley 4:58
8.  Something in Your Eyes 6:49
Bonu stracks:
9.  Bitter Boy Instrumental 3:39
10. Downforce 4:54

All tracks: by Emslie. Produced by Emslie.


Alan Emslie - drums & percussion; keyboards; vocals
John Irvine - electric guitar
Greg Lawson - electric violin (2, 4, 7)
Jo Nicholson - bass clarinet (5, 7)
Pat Jackman - bass trombone (2)

Prolusion. Alan EMSLIE is a musician from the city of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK). His discography counts four official releases and includes one collaborative effort, "Floating" (with Soft Monster, 2001), and three solo albums: "Emotive Bay" (2002), "Driven Heavy" (2003) and "Dark Matter" (2005, which was released just lately).

Analysis. Alan Emslie wrote all the music and lyrics for "Driven Heavy", though I believe it was his principal partner in the performance department, John Irvine, who did the arrangement for guitar soloing parts. Four out of the ten tracks find the duo being joined either by one or two of the three session musicians. One of them, violinist Greg Lawson, has made a notable contribution to the music's diversity, whereas both wind instrumentalists play mainly in unison with the set basic themes (which is just a remark though, not criticism). "Driven Heavy" isn't Prog in a traditional sense, but it can't be considered Mainstream either, at least today. In any event, the album not only has certain common ground with Prog Rock, but also possesses the qualities that not all of the genre's legitimate representatives can boast about. A distinct compositional originality in conjunction with a truly exciting storyline is the sign that most of this music is marked with. By singular coincidences:-), the violinist plays the first violin in the arrangements on each of the tracks with his participation, namely: Help Me, Meditation and Through the Valley, all being instrumental pieces. The music is cloudily atmospheric, with viscous keyboard waves mixing strangely with quirky guitar and drum streams and the crying violin soaring over them like a lost soul flying over the dark waters somewhere very far from the Promised Land. I hope I won't be wide of the mark if I define the music as Space Rock. But as the works are exceptionally original and are much in the same style, they can easily be perceived as fragments of a Space Rock saga that had been untold until now. Most of the other 'official' tracks on the disc are also mesmerizing. It seems it's not that easy to walk Through the Valley as Mr. Emslie sees it. Although similar with the described ones in mood and complexity, that instrumental is noticeably heavier. The songs: Bitter Boy, Causeway and Something in Your Eyes are structurally something average between the latter and the other three instrumentals, retaining the album's typical emotional background. Overall however, they are more diverse, and not only because of the voice's appearance. (Emslie's vocals are rather harsh and aggressive, excellently suiting the music.) The innovation of these is striking, and I would call them the works of a transparent Cathedral Metal with elements of Space Fusion. While the remaining song, Big One, is Cathedral Metal in pure form and is a gem of the first water. The remaining 'official' track on the disc, the instrumental, Simple Groove, fully justifies its title. This is the only straightforward number here, with the unchangeable tempo and the same, endlessly repeated guitar riff, almost all of the other instruments singing the second part, at best in fourth or fifth. But even this simplistic music isn't devoid of some charm and lure. As for the bonus tracks, the first of them is an exact copy of Bitter Boy with no vocals, so I don't think its inclusion in the CD was necessary. The other, Downforce, is a new composition. It's pretty similar to its predecessor, but goes with programmed keyboards, inasmuch as it was recorded live. "Driven Heavy" is an enhanced CD, featuring the eleventh track, a video of Downforce, which can be played on any Macintosh or Intel computer with Windows-98 or higher. It has been shot and recorded in the duo's rehearsal room with no overdubs or edits, so anyone can see for himself how masterfully Alan commands his gigantic drum set. It also shows the duo's capabilities to play live, before an audience, which they do often. Particularly, they are currently on tour in the UK.

Conclusion. "Driven Heavy" is an amazingly impressive album overall, even though most of the music is instantly accessible. Recommended, particularly to those considering Blue Oyster Cult, Hawkwind and the like outfits sliding in their creation between heavy Rock and Prog.

VM: September 7, 2005

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Alan Emslie


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