DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION – Skyscraper Souls (2017)
Legendary keyboardist Geoff Downes & and young talent Chris Braide, known as the DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION (DBA), release their new album “Skyscraper Souls” via Cherry Red Records. This is their 3rd collaboration and follows their two previous critically-acclaimed releases Pictures of You (2012) and Suburban Ghosts (2015) – both featured here on the blog.
“Skyscraper Souls” is quite different from the previous, with the duo reaching new heights.
From the cover artwork designed by Roger Dean (Yes, Magnum, et all) you can detect this is a different effort by DBA.
“Skyscraper Souls” is a much more traditional progressive / classic rock album than the previous two, with Geoff and Chris supplemented by real musicians replacing the programmed drums of previous releases, and a variety of guest vocal and instrumental contributors including David Longdon (Big Big Train), Kate Pierson (B’52s), Tim Bowness (No Man), and Andy Partridge (XTC).
Most the songs were created around Downes’s ideas during a break from his extensive touring with his two main bands; YES and ASIA. While more ‘progressive’ in essence – the title tracks runs over 18 minutes – “Skyscraper Souls” still retains the strong rock&pop aesthetic of DBA.
In fact, despite its length, title track is one of the more commercial song on the album, divided into several parts, all quite captivating with a sound recalling YES 90125 / Trevor Rabin era. Fans of ALAN PARSONS will love this as well.
The moods and melodies shift and change, from air punching anthem to mellow piano led refrains, with some superb guitar solos along the way and Downes’ signature vocoder. The final section of this epic brings things to a gentle close, with space, texture and sound effects backing Braide’s sweet vocals.
It’s an amazing track that rewards the listener with repeated listening.
The Andy Partridge–sung “Glacier Girl” carries the listener back to Pop balladry and nonsuch ecstasy with its rippling piano flourishes and complementary haunting female voices of Kate Pierson.
Switching the tempo to a higher gear is the smooth and soulful, metallic guitar–adorned stomper “Angel on Your Shoulder.” The song begins with a very Asia sounding intro, which is, of course, classic Downes. Supporting vocals here come from performer / producer Matthew Koma and the song features great guitar/ keyboard interplay reminiscent of ASIA. A sytupendous classic rock/pop hybrid of a track and a highlight.
Another sentimental track comes next in the form of “Tomorrow,” whose stark Pop sensibilities and melodic guitar interlude make it a good mid-album highlight. A similar sophisticated vibe flows flawlessly into the ensuing, slightly more upbeat “Lighthouse,” illuminating the listener’s emotional path before he turns to a gloomy curve.
Both the sonic and lyrical sentiments turn more dramatic with the heartrending slow ballad “Skin Deep,” which features the silky, soaring voice of SOFT CELL’s Marc Almond.
Then, before they drop the final curtain, Downes / Braide drape their “Skyscraper Souls” with another richly textured and well-orchestrated expression of poignancy—“Darker Times” indeed.
Downes Braide Association’s latest work may be a taller, grander, and more concept-oriented affair compared with its predecessors, but it remains grounded, accessible, and easily relatable.
The prog rock and classic rock sound is there via Downes, while Braide throws in more current and pop sounds. The mix works and as a result one gets an unique album.
“Skyscraper Souls” is extremely well mixed and produced, flows beautifully and is another welcome addition to both of these musical geniuses’ respective catalogs.
01 – Prelude
02 – Skyscraper Souls
03 – Glacier Girl
04 – Angel on Your Shoulder
05 – Tomorrow
06 – Lighthouse
07 – Skin Deep
08 – Darker Times
09 – Finale
Geoff Downes: Keyboards, Vocals, Programming
Chris Braide: Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Ash Soan: Drums
Andy Hodge: Bass
BUY IT !