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Rob Cottingham - 2019 - "Back Behind The Orchard Tree"

(52:00; Rob Cottingham)


*****!

These days Rob Cottingham is fairly well-known within the prog scene, having been involved in a few bands over the years, and indeed we have known each other since he sent me Touchstones debut EP Curious Angel which I reviewed back towards the beginning of 2005. What I wasnt aware of was that he had recorded a solo album a few years earlier, Behind The Orchard Tree, and that Touchstone was the band he pulled together initially to be able to perform some of the music live. Indeed, it is only now when I look that I can see Hear Me, which was on the second EP I heard from Touchstone, Mad Hatters, originally appeared on the other album. But, like many artists who have stayed working in the scene over the years, Rob has an itch he needed to scratch, and for him it was all the things on the debut album which he wished he had been able to undertake with the benefit of his experience and what he had learned over the years. So, the only thing to do in his case, was totally re-record it! This time he asked John Mitchell, multi-award-winning guitarist with Kino, Frost*, Arena, It Bites and his own solo project, Lonely Robot, to become involved. Apparently, he said to him, John, this album is just you and me against the world!! Rob undertook most of the work himself, including lead vocals of course, but in a nice tie in with the original album, Andy Wildman (drums and cover art) may not be there this time, but his daughter Esther provides some backing vocals and Robs own daughter Kerry duets with Rob on an orchestral version of Hero while also providing backing. The only other person involved was saxophonist Anatoliy Vyacheslavov who plays on the track Find Me. I honestly thought Touchstone were going to be a huge act in the UK, and really wished I had caught them in concert, but moving to the other side of the world does have quite an impact on that sort of thing. The last thing I heard from Rob was Cairos Say album in 2016, which I awarded maximum marks to, and rightly so, and this is another strong contender. I love his John Wetton/Greg Lake style of singing, and the understated approach he has, combined with simply wonderful songs. The more I play this album the more I love it, and I look forward to him re-recording the whole thing again in the near future as a duet with his daughter. Their song together, which closes the album, is a thing of sheer beauty, and knowing the relationship it makes the words even more special. There cant be anything left to say about the guitar playing of John Mitchell, but his picked classical guitar on this song is perfection. Contrast this to the opening number such as Hear Me, and one realises this is an album of incredible depth and power, all based around Robs superb vocals and songs. His voice is always front and centre, with the music designed to provide the perfect accompaniment, whether it is layered keyboards or John bringing in the aggression. While Hero ends the album gently, this is the perfect introduction, as gradually it becomes more dynamic and full of strength. An album of majesty and might, this re-recording of an album originally released back in 2002 is going to find Rob a whole new series of fans. Awesome.

Progtector: September 2019


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Rob Cottingham


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