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(76:44, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Summer Soldier 33:03 2. A New Light 3:03 3. For Jay 9:13 4. Kettering Road 8:08 5. Propaganda -1 1:58 6. Was I Wrong 4:37 7. That could've been Us 8:03 8. Second Chances 2:47 9. Saigo Ni Moichido 5:52 LINEUP: Steve Hughes vocals; keyboards; drums, bass, guitars With: Maciej Zolnowski violin Alex Tsentides bass Keith Winter guitars J. C. Strand guitars Dec Burke guitars Katja Piel vocals Angie Hughes vocals
Prolusion. UK composer and musician Steve HUGHES is a rather well known name in progressive rock circles, known for his tenures in bands like Kino and The Enid, as well as his past in the current progressive rock darling Big Big Train. In 2013 Hughes launched a solo career with the release of the album "Tales from the Silent Ocean". "Once We Were-I" is his sophomore studio production, and was released by Progressive Promotion Records in the spring of 2016.
Analysis. Those fond of progressive rock heralding the spirit of the golden age of the genre should feel the opening track on this CD to be a highly rewarding one. More than 30 minutes of high-quality and impressively made progressive rock, with a vast array of themes and arrangements visited throughout, of which around 20 minutes are mainly instrumental. Most often with a strong orientation towards classic symphonic progressive rock, but also with ambient passages, cinematic interludes and a few sections with a slight touch of jazz added in for good measure. It is a fairly challenging creation, which should further endear hardened progressive rock fans to the charms of this epic. As the CD unfolds, it does become clear that this is something of an eclectic one. The purebred symphonic progressive territories aren't revisited all that often, but there are multiple instances of compositions rather difficult to pigeonhole into any specific approach, style and direction within the progressive rock universe. Details from both jazz and folk music have their natural place in these compositions, plus there's often room for passages of a more careful and perhaps even ambient expression, and the piano is often a key provider of both lead and support motifs. Songs with a closer alignment to contemporary neo-progressive rock have their place here as well, if not in whole then at least in part. Up to and including some rather tasteful guitar and keyboard arrangements with a firm expression and a subtly harder edged sound. Only on rare occasions do we encounter a specific theme or arrangement explored in length and in depth; movements, developments and more or less subtle alterations are the order of the day here. Sometimes more challenging, at times rather more accessible, but the music always stays sophisticated and elegant, although it may be a tad eclectic at times.
Conclusion. Hughes own description of his music is progressive ambient art rock. Personally I'll opt for eclectic to be a better description of the contents, as there's a whole lot of music at hand here that couldn't be described as ambient other than in minor parts. The key ingredients appear to be classic symphonic prog and neo-progressive rock, with a subtle addition of elements from folk music and jazz here and there, explored in a context that, at least in sum, comes across as hard to accurately define. Those fond of sophisticated progressive rock with strong ties to the symphonic and neo-progressive aspects of the genre appear as a likely key audience for this production, and at least for me, this is a recording that is well worth spending some time getting familiar with.
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