ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Neil Campbell - 2008 - "Ghost Stories"

(38:50, ‘Neil Campbell’)



1.  Ghost Stories Suite 29:30
2.  Ghost Tango 4:10
3.  Volk 3:34
4.  Sketch-5 1:37


Neil Campbell – guitar
Anne Taft – vocalizations
Michael Beiert – electronics

Prolusion. “Ghost Stories” is the debut solo effort by Neil CAMPBELL, from England. However, Neil’s general discography includes two more outings, “3 O'clock Sky” (2005) and “Particle Theory” (2007), both coming under the moniker of The Neil Campbell Collective.

Analysis. It is always easier for a reviewer to carry out his work when he has a concept album as an object of his explorations, especially if few instruments are deployed on such a recording – just like on this particular one. It consists nominally of five plots-tracks, but the music is uniform throughout it: in terms of composition, arrangement and style all alike. OK, this is a quasi-concept creation, since it has no lyrical content. The opening track, Ghost Stories Suite, which clocks in at half an hour, covering three fourths of the album, can hardly be defined otherwise than as a piece for classical guitar and female vocalizations. While there are traces of Michael Beiert’s usage of electronics, those are distinct only at the very beginning as well as the end of the composition, in both cases resembling synth-like drones, while otherwise I only hear occasional effects (imitating the noise of the wind) which seem to pop up only to almost instantly disappear. These episodes don’t come across as bridges between different musical storylines. They’re just served up as pauses which divide the suite into parts, all of which are recognized by the disc player as separate tracks (totaling 10), although each of the successive ones is the logical sequel of its predecessor, some passages representing variations on the piece’s initial theme. The music as such is the alteration of segments with only guitar in the arrangement and those featuring singing as well, of which the former are usually longer. Playing his instrument exclusively by fingering, Neil sounds like a classically trained guitarist as much as Steve Hackett does, though on this recording he generally appears as Hackett’s apprentice in absentia. Anne Taft has an operatic voice, but while her singing as such doesn’t remind me of anyone else’s, the overall musical picture instantly brings to mind that composition from “Voyage of the Acolyte” (sorry, forgot its title) which most of you know and love for Sarah Oldfield’s vocals and poetry in particular. No, I don’t put Neil’s creation on the same plane as the implied one: the suite has a lesser emotional affect on me (no lyrical filling, to cite a factor), but the resemblance occurs anyhow. The remaining tracks, Ghost Tango, Volk and Sketch-5, all actually continue the suite, strictly following the same canons and so on, the last-named cut representing nothing other than part of it, its maternal piece, just excerpted from there and placed at the end of the disc. Okay, there are only real pauses between these three and no signs of sound design in general. Though I hear some chimes on Ghost Tango, I believe Michael Beiert is only employed on the first track, at least as the ‘electronics manager’.

Conclusion. In general, these “Ghost Stories” are quality acoustic Art-Rock. However, since most of the music is slow (only two times within the suite, and also on the third track, Neil plays relatively up-tempo), the recording has some feel of sameness to it. If it had been released during the heyday of Progressive or even in the ‘80s, I would have rated it as a merely good output. Nowadays, however, such honest, well-labored, efforts as this one are like preciously rare black lambs in a gigantic flock of cloned white Dollies (please take this as a metaphor) and are more than welcome. Imagine the main storyline of the afore-hinted-at composition from “Voyage of the Acolyte” and mix it up with everything-on-“Momentum” by the same Mr. Hackett, and if you like what you get as a result of these, your mental operations, I earnestly recommend you to have this disc among others in your collection.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 5, 2008
The Rating Room

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