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(53:41, Melodic Revolution Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mingulay Boatsong 9:14 2. The Whitby Smugglers Song 4:49 3. Empty Hands 6:36 4. Five O'Clock Line 6:03 5. Invictus the Captain of My Soul 4:59 6. Sails Off the Bay 5:18 7. Dancing with the Rhythm of the Shore 3:52 8. 6000 Friends 5:35 9. Fly Away 7:15 LINEUP: Andy John Bradford – guitars; vocals Marco Chiapini – keyboards Colin Tench – guitars Stef Flaming – bass Victor Tassone – drums With: Lorelei McBroom – vocals Andres Guazzelli – piano, orchestration
Prolusion. The multinational band OCEANS 5 revolves around the creative impulses of UK artist Andy John Bradford, who had been working with a specific concept for The Mingulay Boatsong for some time when he hooked up with fellow musicians online in 2011. This initial collaboration eventually led to a few more song ideas, then the formation of a band, and finally the recording and release of the album "Return to Mingulay" through the US label Melodic Revolution Records in 2013.
Analysis. Those with a detailed knowledge of progressive rock underground artists will recognize many of the members of Andy John Bradford's multinational band Oceans 5. All of them are recording artists, all of the members of bands that have released material through Melodic Revolution Records. As such, one might describe this venture as an in house one, although as I am familiar with both the label, the guy who runs it and some of the artists involved I know for a fact that this isn't the case. But on a superficial level one might get that impression. The real story is that this was an accidental venture, one born out of people getting to know each other and enjoy each other’s company online, with one thing leading to another and then suddenly an album was there ready to be released. While the greater majority of the musicians involved have a progressive rock background, this album really isn't one that belongs inside the progressive rock universe as such. It does hover in the borderlands towards it, but as far as general style goes we're dealing with an album somewhere inside the soft rock, folk rock and singer/songwriter triangle, with occasional flurries of a specific kind that will hit home with a progressive rock interested audience. The main core of the majority of these compositions is material of a distinct singer/songwriter approavh that appears to have been made with a sole acoustic guitar and vocals in mind. This core foundation has then been expanded with drums, bass, keyboards and electric guitars, alternating between a US-tinged country sound, more of a mainstream-tinged expression not too far away from late 80's and early 90's Jethro Tull, some elegant, careful sequences where the guitar details in particular brings Mark Knopfler to mind, and finally more richly layered, sophisticated passages sporting more of a late 70's Pink Floyd oriented style. The latter aspect mostly restricted to the instrumental passages. In some cases I was left with the impression that the song in general would have fared better with a less is more approach as far as the arrangements go, like with The Whitby Smugglers Song and Dancing With the Rhythm of the Shore. In other cases I found the arrangements to really succeed in bringing out the best qualities of the songs, with Empty Hands and Sails Off the Bay documenting this quite nicely to my ears. The song that kicked off this project in the first place, The Mingulay Boatsong, is another of the successful numbers here, with ghosts and remnants of shanties side by side with trace hauntings by the likes of Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd creating a nifty and entertaining song of the kind that does bring with it a whiff of salty sea breeze.
Conclusion. "Return to Mingulay" isn't an album that comes across as one with a strict progressive rock interested audience in mind. It will most likely be an advantage to have a certain interest in bands like Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd to be able to enjoy this production of course, but just as important will be to have a taste for compositions with a a core foundation placed well inside the singer/songwriter universe. Those who find that combination to be intriguing should be the ideal audience for this band, and I suspect many who recognize themselves in that description will cherish this album.
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