One of the most difficult things about reviewing the new disc from Galahad, Seas Of Change, (especially in this day and age of snippets and samples) is dedicating an uninterrupted 42 minutes and 43 seconds to fully appreciate the Suite that comprises the entirety of the album (other than to the two bonus tracks on the CD version which are edits of sections from the suite). In days gone by such a task would have been common practice but it seems that in today's fast paced world you quickly realize how pedestrian our listening habits have become...how our musical appetites have become attuned to the musical equivalent of fast food. So I must begin this review by thanking Galahad for reminding me what “listening to music” SHOULD be about. This is not an album to approach half-heartedly - this is an album that DEMANDS your undivided attention. Buckle up travellers because this is going to be a hell of a ride!
Galahad entered the world of progressive rock at a time when most people had given the genre up for dead. Had they arrived on the scene 10 or 12 years earlier we would probably be talking about them in the same breath as some of the giants of prog...but instead they carved out their own niche (which I am certain felt, at times, like it was occupied by very few outside of the band) but after 32 years they are perhaps poised to get the kind of recognition that they truly deserve. Their perseverance and faithfulness to their vision is worthy of praise and this album is a crowning moment.
The musicianship is second to none - moving from pastoral moments to rival early Genesis into segments of bombast reminiscent of Emerson Lake & Palmer and even moments of “orchestral” beauty (including choirs) in the vein of Rick Wakeman - keyboardist Dean Baker and “new” guitarist Lee Abraham (who was the band's bassist from 2005-2009) carry the complex melodies and the mood changes effortlessly while the rhythm section of Spencer Luckman on drums and Tim Ashton on bass keep the whole package glued together. Additionally Sarah Bolter (flute, clarinet, soprano sax) makes a couple of “guest” appearances to add an additional dimension to the music. But what truly takes this disc into the stratosphere is the vocals of founding member Stu Nicholson. Weaving an intricate story-line with an emotional range that runs the gamut from menacing, almost apocalyptic diatribes to flights of English humour, the story unfolds and Nicholson draws you into it completely.
If there is a weak point to the album, it would be the “sound effect/radio broadcast” segments - while they are important to the storyline and move the narrative forward, there is the odd time that they jar you out of the magical world that the music has created. Luckily these are very few and such a minor concern to as be overlooked very quickly.
The bonus tracks on the CD are two “edits” of segments from the complete suite (Dust and Smoke) which surprisingly stand well on their own and will, I'm sure, allow for some radio play on some of the prog channels that inhabit the internet without them having to allocate 40+ minutes. Each of these tracks give the casual listener an excellent cross-section of the musical movements of the full suite - quiet sections, hard-hitting sections and brilliant vocals. Smoke is perhaps my favourite with its biting political commentary and an absolutely killer, but brief, guitar solo from Lee Abraham.
When I began reviewing albums I made a conscious decision to never give any album a “top of the scale” rating (after all, nothing is “perfect”) - but this disc has made me break that self-imposed guideline. Take the journey on the Seas Of Change, take an hour out your busy day and give this album your full attention - believe me....you will not regret it!
***** David Carswell
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