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Although back in the day Phideaux Xavier sent me his second, fourth and fifth albums to review, I had never previously come across his third release, 2004’s ‘Ghost Story’. With him making his complete back catalogue available free as digital downloads I felt I ought to correct that and listen to this album some 16 years on from when it was originally released. One of the things I noticed, even before playing it, is that this is very much a group album instead of the rather larger ensembles which often appears. Here Phideaux (vocals, guitars, bass) is joined by the ever-present Rich Hutchins (acoustic and electric drums, gongs), Mark Sherkus (organ, piano, synths (MiniMoog), guitars), Gabriel Moffat (Fx) and guest Sam Fenster (bass). This is a small line-up indeed yet is the perfect size for a wonderful collection of songs. At times we find Phideaux channelling his inner Lou Reed, while at others it is incredibly psychedelic. Take “Kiteman” for example, it is really only the production that lets one know this is not from 1968 or 1969. In many ways this makes me think of Jeremy Morris, another musician who seems to be at home in whatever genre takes his fancy. Vocals are very much front and centre, while acoustic guitar is also a mainstay of the songs, and it could almost be Cat Stevens with other instruments kept to the rear, so the emphasis is on the man behind the microphone. Rich is always there, providing the correct emphasis, which may be dramatic drum fills, a hard-hitting snare, or just sitting there doing nothing which at that moment is the proper accompaniment. The electric guitars, often fuzzed and distorted, are the ones which take us into more progressive territory, making us think at times of Pink Floyd and at others of Gong, with the overall result being an album which appeals across the board. Looking at the reviews on PA it is something of a shame to realise that there has not been a Collaborator/Expert review of this album for some 12 years, and given the amount of exposure the more recent releases have been getting I am quite surprised. This may be different in many ways to what he is now more well known for, but this is a delight and one which progheads need to rediscover, especially if they enjoy shorter more psychedelic material as opposed to more drawn out affairs.
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