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Rory Ridley-Duff - 2006 - "Passing Decades Vol. 1"

(55:00 / 'Protos Music')



1.  Passing Decades 3:35
2.  Variations 5:24
3.  Night Time 2:07
4.  Hunting Extremely Large Animals 2:49
5.  London-125 3:17
6.  Tempest 13:45 
7.  The Maiden 6:19 
8.  What Did I Drink 5:13
9.  Space 12:13


Rory Ridley-Duff - keyboards; programming

Prolusion. "Passing Decades Vol. 1" is the debut solo album by English keyboardist and songwriter Rory RIDLEY-DUFF, although the musician's creative biography dates as far back as 1979, when he formed the band Protos (review here).

Analysis. While playing only digital keyboards on this all-instrumental album, additionally utilizing a drum machine, Rory tries all his best to winkle everything possible out of his synthesizers, so the recording's sonic palette is rich in sounds that imitate various brass, chamber and string instruments, though of course, their synthetic nature is more than merely striking. On the other slightly negative side, the man resorts to bass guitar pads not as often as I would like him to, meaning when it's necessary (which in turn not in the least concerns the movements referring to pure Classical music). In other words, some of the disc's nine tracks have a sound that can relatively be compared to that of a classic keyboard trio, others not - being devoid of deep tones, those just lack dynamism. "Passing Decades Vol. 1" is subtitled "Jazz / Rock", but only two of the tunes, Passing Decades and London-125, more or less suitably fit the requirements of the former genre, both standing out for their 'slap bass', most often coming to the fore in harness with either 'trumpet' or 'trombone'. The title number combines, say, natural symphonic and quasi-improvisational patterns and is generally more intriguing than London-125, which reveals some obvious reiterations. Furthermore, the jazz component rather often takes the form of standard Funk on this cut, though there are even some smooth-jazz intonations to be found here. The other pieces, while all referring exclusively to symphonic music, range in quality as well. At least compositionally, Variations, Tempest and The Maiden, are each a fully-fledged art-rock creation, the former being the absolute winner in my eyes - perhaps because most of its content belongs not only to the said style, but also to Classical Academic and classic Minimalist music as well. Tempest, approaching 14 minutes in its duration, is the most diverse piece on the disc, though on the other hand, it also leaves the impression that it was created without much desire for dynamic contrast. There are a number of sections where the music is slow and rather quiet, and these often follow one another instead of being aptly distributed among those with intense arrangements. While being an art-rock piece overall, Hunting Extremely Large Animals is both too short and repetitive to take seriously. As to the allusions, Variations is beyond comparison; Tempest in places resembles Genesis, The Maiden ELP, and Hunting Extremely Large Animals Rick Wakeman's late-'70s work at its most average. To be objective however, I must note that the influences are usually transitory; therefore originality appears to be one of this recording's main virtues. The other short cut, Night Time, steers towards Classical music, but is clearly underdeveloped, having no proper finale or distinct coda either. The 12+-minute last track, Space, is just what its title suggests - a slow symphonic space music piece with occasional classical influences, which though, leaves the impression of being somewhat sketchy. Anyway the arrangements, while stretching to fill the epic length, are simplistic, with nothing to really challenge the experienced listener. However it is What Did I Drink that is the only real disappointment here, representing just a set of light variations on the same theme, which reminds me of a cross between circus music and a cartoon soundtrack.

Conclusion. No less than half of the tracks that form the content of "Passing Decades Vol. 1" are fine in everything that concerns their compositional and performance department. The only really major problem I have with this CD is that it sounds like a homemade recording. Indeed, all this could have easily been performed on a single up-to-date synthesizer.

VM: April 27, 2007

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Rory Ridley-Duff


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