ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Tom Kelly - 2018 - "Burnt Peas / The Tolling of St John's Bells"

(58:41; 19:35 Records)


This is the first of three albums which have been compiled by Tom’s wife Nickie after his passing in 2017. Although Tom had been a member of bands such as Museum and Mistress Quickly, he had worked solo since the Seventies, dispensing with vocals and providing all the instrumentation himself. His first love was the guitar, having been fortunate enough to see Segovia in concert when he was only five, but he was also a very good keyboard player using both piano and multiple synths. What I am having a hard job understanding is why it has taken this long for this material to come out, and why wasn’t it released during his lifetime? This is where I should start a rant on the state of the music business and the seeming virtue of style and looks over substance and ability, but if you are reading this then you are already very much aware and probably in agreement. But at least we can hear it now, thanks to Nickie and one of Tom’s old bandmates, David Hurst, who worked to make these available. The recording quality is excellent, and there are no sonic indicators that these were recorded without any record label support. One thing that is of note, and is wonderful to hear, is the lack of drums. Tom is a very good musician, and there is no need for a drum machine (which in my opinion always spoils music anyway), and I am not sure if a “real” drummer would have added anything anyway (although there are little bits and pieces where drums are used, but sparingly). In some ways this will be likened to Oldfield, especially when he brings in distorted guitar, but to my ears there are times when Tom is aggressive in a way that I can never imagine Oldfield being. Also, he is a better pianist (remember Oldfield often recorded keyboards in a lower tone at slow speed so it would sound correct when played at the correct speed), and there is a much stronger use of acoustic guitar. There is a lightness, and on songs such as “God & The Flatlanders” one can imagine Twice Bitten being involved. Tom is a musical magpie, moving from one theme to another. Apart from the first song “The Tolling of St. John’s Bells”, which was his earliest solo piece written in 1978, the rest of the songs were designed as a single suite, “Burnt Peas” (hence the double name of the album itself). There are times when one is convinced the album is built around piano, at others it is the guitar, whereas he can also provide funky bass. He is a fine guitarist, and it is his hard rock approach to solos and melodies which makes this stand out so much from many multi-instrumentalists. This isn’t music designed to be played gentle in the background as the musician meanders through, but instead this is music with direction and force which demands to be heard front and centre. Listening to “Staring It In The Face (Part 1)” there is a section where he blasts away as if he were Steve Vai, not something one would normally expect on an album of this type. All this music was written and recorded between 1978 and 2000, and it is a real shame Tom didn’t get to release it during his lifetime, as this is incredibly enjoyable and any fan of crossover or symphonic progressive rock should seek this out.

Progtector: June 2019


ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages