GORDON GILTRAP & OLIVER WAKEMAN – Ravens & Lullabies (2013)
GORDON GILTRAP is a British guitarist with more than fourty years of experience and although he has ventured into Prog music at times – working with Rick Wakeman to name one – is mostly known for his folk music.
So it’s quite surprising that he has joined keyboardist OLIVER WAKEMAN (Rick’s son) for a Rock oriented album, most precisely Neo Prog infused with a modern sound and melodies titled “Ravens & Lullabies”.
“Ravens & Lullabies” is dynamic and eclectic piece of work from two talented musicians helped by a cleverly chosen crew to provide this recording with a modern sound, melodic accessible arrangements and updated production.
First of all, Gordon and Oliver enlisted Karl Groom as producer. Groom (apart from being a founding member of progressive metal band Threshold and Neo-Prog act Shadowland and several others) has previously produced albums by John Wetton, Pendragon, Galahad, Landmarq and many others. Expect a bright sound and mix plenty of nuances.
Then take a look to the supporting band; Paul Manzi of Arena on lead vocals, Johanne James of Threshold play the drums, and Steve Amadeo (Ian Parker band) the bass. Benoit David of Mystery and with whom Oliver has recently played in YES contributes a guest vocal on a track. All these musicians are in top Prog bands of the actual scene and add to this project a truly current playing and vibrance.
So “Ravens & Lullabies” is a contemporary Neo Prog album with Giltrap playing some excellent passages both on acoustic and electric guitar, Oliver similarly alternating between piano and various other keyboards in his characteristic style (which is strongly reminiscent of his father) and the rest of the musicians providing a modern day dynamism to the music.
Uptempo, full band numbers as the great opener “Moneyfacturing” are interspersed with more intimate, lighter acoustic pieces like the reflective following track “Fiona’s Smile”. The contrasts continue all the way through the CD, which reflects the “Ravens & Lullabies” theme.
Amongst these short tracks emphasizing the song format we find some exquisite cuts like the jaunty piano led “A Perfect Day” and “Wherever There Was Beauty”, both blending the two gentleman rock and classical roots touchingly, and the extremely melodic and commercial ballad “Ravens Will Fly Away”.
“From The Turn Of A Card” turns out superbly as Oliver brings in his former Yes compatriot Benoit David. On this performance Benoit pulls off a neat song which is a unique demonstration of his abilities.
The truly Neo Proggy “Credit Carnival” is one of my favorites, with a scent of Barclay James Harvest and early Alan Parsons but with blazing keys that clearly set it apart, and surprisingly heavy guitars.
There’s also one and only long composition in the form of “Is This the Last Song I Write?”. It’s an absorbing, captivating song within a song with wonderful musical pictures, emotive vocals and interesting lyrical content talking about the artist’s insecurities; you are only as good as your last concert, your last album, your last autograph, and you cannot know your legacy during your lifetime.
Perhaps the most triumphant aspect of this relatively complex and gratifying piece is how it avoids sounding self important or melodramatic. From a well arranged gentle song it transforms into a more enigmatic rocker and back again. The only constant is attention to detail and emphasis on inducing receptivity to the album’s title theme through the melody and arrangements.
Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman’s “Ravens & Lullabies” is an impressive piece of work, a musical fest from start to finish.
The songwriting from both is amazing and the arrangements are stunning. Giltrap is a very classic guitarist, with a warm tone on the electric and showcasing a tasteful hand pickin’ with the acoustics, perfectly complemented by lots of fat, squelchy synths from Wakeman alongside his fluid enchanting piano parts.
The full band approach to the tracks is fantastic, with all really enhancing the sound. Special mention must go to Johanne James (Threshold) on drums and percussion whose playing is always very robust and yet precise, delicate, and contributes much to every track he plays on. Also remarkable is Karl Groom’s crystal clear production, avoiding saturation and boosting the melodies.
This album will appeal not only to fans of Neo Prog but should find a following of anyone who just likes superbly written and soulfully performed electric / acoustic rock. It worked equally great for me as background music at work as well when I enjoyed every detail sitting in my preferred couch with a glass of scotch in my hand.
01 – Moneyfacturing
02 – Fiona’s Smile
03 – From the Turn of a Card
04 – LJW
05 – Maybe Tomorrow
06 – Wherever There Was Beauty
07 – Is This the Last Song I Write?
08 – The Forgotten King
09 – A Mayfair Kiss
10 – Anyone Can Fly
11 – A Perfect Day
12 – Credit Carnival
13 – One for Billie
14 – Ravens Will Fly Away
15 – Roots (bonus track)
Gordon Giltrap – guitars
Oliver Wakeman – keyboards
Paul Manzi (Arena) – vocals
Steve Amadeo – bass
Johanne James (Threshold) – drums, percussion
Special vocal appearance by Benoit David on 3
BUY IT !