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(43:36; Gonzo Multimedia)
TRACK LIST: 1. Riding the Thermal 3:07 2. Ravensgate 1:31 3. Elemental 1:07 4. Circling 4:41 5. Night Ride 1:29 6. Boy on a Bike 6:30 7. Elegy 1:52 8. For a Moment 4:52 9. The Clock 1:04 10. Wolfgate 3:09 11. The Brushmarks of Heaven 3:27 12. Cloudgate 1:46 13. Cycling Tour 3:29 14. Stitching 4:08 15. Gardengate 1:24 LINEUP: Sean Drabitt - bass Wayne Kozak - saxophone James MacPherson - drums, keyboards Norm MacPherson - guitars, keyboards, bassoon Martin Springett - vocals, guitars with: Sari Alesh - violin Peter Dowse - bass Morry Stearns - piano Leon Torres - percussion Dave Wilkie - mandolin Denise Withnell - vocals
Prolusion. Canadian band THE GARDENING CLUB is the creative vehicle of Canadian based - or is that naturalized Canadian by now? - Martin Springett. The name of the band dates back to his first solo album that was released back in 1983, and one might assume the band name used on two more albums since then is to separate the music on these from the material Springett explores on his other solo albums. "Boy on a Bike" is the second album by The Gardening Club as a band venture, and was released through Gonzo Multimedia in 2019.
Analysis. I see that on many of Springett's solo albums, folk music and similar descriptions are tossed around a lot. How different those productions are in scope and style to this band venture I don't know, but of there is one thing that is crystal clear then it is that folk music details is a running red thread throughout most of this album. In many ways this is an album that looks back in time to the spirit of the late 60's and early 70's progressive rock bands. In approach as much as sound and mood I should add. The latter kind of emphasizing the former, as the former in itself isn't an era typical denominator. To specify a bit more. Acoustic guitars are the main providers of folk music details throughout, with the mandolin coming into play on occasion. In some cases the songs may well be shorter, instrumental affairs with something of a medieval touch to them, even bordering on chamber music at times. On other occasions we are treated to a more stylized and entertaining art rock or art pop creation, with strings or string details added in for good measure in a more straight blend with rock music, albeit an expressive one I might add. Further enriching the landscapes explored on this production is the often subtle inclusion of jazz elements, at times bordering the Canterbury tradition if I'm not mistaken. Light and elegant more often than not, but sometimes the compositions appears to explore a certain mood and atmosphere rather than venturing from a starting position to an ending point. Personally I found these creations the least interesting, but they do serve a function in the album experience. It is as individual entities I feel they doesn't quite manage to strike a strong mark. That being said, the most striking features of this album are the ones that doesn't fit into the descriptions given above quite as readily. Cue opening cut 'Riding the Thermal' and the following 'Ravensgate'. These are darker and quirkier affairs, especially the opening cut, with liberal use of textured instrument sounds, eerie atmospheres and a very distinct vocal style. All of these impulses combines into a very specific sound, which makes me regard these creations as just about perfect companion pieces to King Crimson's early 80's album "Three of a Perfect Pair". And specifically the A side of that album. These two songs are the most striking on this album by far in my opinion. Some of those tendencies are explored later on as well, on second to last song 'Stitching', which is another album highlight in my book.
Conclusion. There is a lot of the late 60's and early 70's about this album as far as general mood and spirit is concerned. An expressive blend of folk music and rock music is sort of a foundation here, with some jazz flavorings thrown in for good measure while other details makes me suspect that creator Springett probably knows his way around classical music too. While the Crimsonian creations are my personal favorites here, those who know and love vintage art rock and art pop that knows how to use and work folk music and jazz details into the compositions strikes me as the audience that would found it easiest to appreciate this album.
Progmessor: April 2020
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