When I became aware of the collaboration between guitarist Gordon Giltrap and keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, I was very surprised. While listening to the music on Ravens & Lullabies it unmistakably showed who are playing on it. The typical sound of both musicians can be heard throughout the album: Giltrap's excellent playing on the acoustic guitars and Wakeman's fine keyboard sound which provided him a temporary membership of Yes and Strawbs. However, strangely enough the album was never intended to be a duo album.
Early 2012, Giltrap contacted Wakeman with a request for doing some keyboard services for an album idea he had. Within 24 hours the initial idea had changed beyond recognition and a full-blown musical partnership was in the making. At first I was a bit afraid that the music on this album would sound similar to the music on From Brush & Stone (2009), a duo album by Giltrap and Rick Wakeman. This was a rather mellow and a bit disappointing album. I guess Rick's son Oliver had some musical ideas that fit better to the music written by Gordon Giltrap. At some points Ravens & Lullabies reminds me of The 3 Ages Of Magick (2001), an album Oliver made with Steve Howe (Yes). On this album I heard for the first time that Oliver's playing was quite similar to the way father Rick touches the keys. On Ravens & Lullabies you can hear the same kind of MiniMoog sounds. Songs as Moneyfacturing and From The Turn Of A Card are good examples showing clearly that Oliver and Rick have the same musical genes. However, there's also a strong resemblance in the way they play the piano. Listen for example to pieces like LJW and A Mayfair Kiss and you know what I mean.
Of course this review is not only about Wakeman's excellent keyboard playing. Gordon Giltrap is one of the most innovative acoustic guitarists in the UK for a very long time and he has developed his own unique style. On this album he proves again to belong to the best guitarists in the world. His fine playing on the acoustic guitars can be heard throughout, but especially on tracks as Fiona's Smile and Wherever There Was Beauty. He can also manage well with the electric guitar as can be heard on Credit Carnival. On all tracks the chemistry between both musicians is clearly present; they musically complement each other. Giltrap states: “Working with Oliver is like a breath of fresh air. I knew of his reputation as a fine musician, and it made perfect sense for me to tap into his creative energy, not only to bring out certain elements of my musical gifts but to create something new and exciting, at the same time giving a nod in the direction of our respective progressive rock roots.” And Wakeman adds: “After working with Yes, the chance of working with another legendary artist was an opportunity too good to miss. I'm having a wonderful productive time working with Gordon and feel we are creating something genuinely unique in our Raven's & Lullabies project.”
The compositions prove that the album wasn't made to show off otherwise they wouldn't have asked other musicians to contribute. By doing so the album contains a lot of variety. Especially the lead singers were a good choice with main vocalist Paul Manzi, who was a member of the Oliver Wakeman Band for the last six years. He appeared on the live DVD Coming To Town (2008, see review) and he currently is the lead vocalist for Arena. The album also features a special appearance by Benoit David on From The Turn Of A Card. He was Oliver's old band mate with Yes. This track was written by Oliver Wakeman during the Yes recording sessions in 2010. Furthermore there are guest performances from bass player Steve Amadeo, who's currently performing with blues guitarist Aynsley Lister. On drums you'll hear Johanne James who has been with Threshold for the last twelve years. As far as I'm concerned, the album doesn't contain any special favourite songs. All of the compositions are outstanding and worth listening to whether they're mellow, up-tempo, instrumental or vocalized.
Raven's & Lullabies is a thirteen-song collection of hard hitting memorable rock pieces coupled with thought provoking lyrics alongside acoustic duets featuring fine instrumental interplay. I think that's the best way to describe the album. It's available in two formats: a single CD featuring thirteen new pieces and a double pack special edition containing a bonus CD with live recordings from their 2012 tour and re-recordings of pieces from both musicians' back catalogue.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013