ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Valerie Gracious / Steve Unruh / Phideaux Xavier - 2020 - "71319. Live at Monforti Manor"

(103:47; Bloodfish Music)


On July 13th, 2019, a very special concert took place at Monforti Manor, when Steve Unruh (acoustic guitar), violin, flute, kimbala, foot pedals (percussion and effects), vocals), Phideaux Xavier (acoustic guitar, bass, electric piano, vocals) and Valerie Gracious (electric piano, vocals) came together. They had been practicing their parts individually, but not together, so when they arrived from their respective cities they went into two days of hard rehearsals. If that was not enough, it was decided to also record the gig, as why not? The night was deemed to be a wonderful success by all who were there, and the foresight of having it recorded was superb as now we can share in that experience. The idea was a simple one, Steve would perform the first set (starting on his own and then being joined by Phideaux and Valerie), while the second set would belong to Phideaux supported by Valerie and Steve. Unruh is one of those musicians who is not only a multi-instrumentalist but is able to find ways to get everything working in a live environment as well, yet one soon stops thinking about how clever it all is and fall inside the magic of his music. He has a warm vocal style, and in this stripped back environment there is plenty of space for his lyrics and arrangements to shine. He even provides us with the spoken word piece “Focus”, with its drive and dynamics. Although I had not previously come across any of his solo material, and only one album by Resistor, I have to say how much I enjoyed this on the very time of hearing. As for Phideaux, it has been nearly 20 years since I first came across one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated musicians in the prog scene. His albums are always a delight and he has his own style, mixing prog with pop and art rock to create something which is instantly recognizable, yet here he was working in a stripped-down environment so how would it work? The answer is of course that it was brilliant, as I knew it would be as his music is always built around real songs as opposed to exercises in self-indulgence, so even when there is little in the way of instruments there will never be an issues with the arrangement as the material shines through. Valerie also has far more opportunity to shine in his set, not only with her wonderful piano but with her vocals, either harmonizing with Phideaux or taking the lead herself. Of course, it is always handy having a multi-instrumentalist playing with you and Steve takes on whatever role he feels will add, often that being the violin, and his role in “The Error Lives On” is superb. This double CD set is a wonderful introduction to all three musicians for those yet to come across them, and is an absolute delight from beginning to end. Highly recommended to all lovers of good music, no matter the genre. As Steve says at one point, “This is not prog, but that’s okay”, but there is plenty of prog in here as well.

Progtector: February 2023

Related Links:

Steve Unruh Bloodfish Music


ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages