Dutch musician Ruud Dielen (the man behind Glorious Wolf) has a long history with cover bands , playing songs from Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Toto and Genesis. After many years touring in the more commercial circuit, he decided that it was time to write his own music. In 2017 he produced his first album entitled Aquarius (8 tracks, running time around 35 minutes), as a one-man-band. On that first effort Ruud used a breathtaking array of legendary vintage gear, from a Fender Strat from 1965, a Fender Precision bass, a Gibson Les Paul '59 reissue, a Gibson ES335 and a Gibson ES175 from 1990 to a Mesa Boogie amplifier and an Ibanez IMG2010 guitar synthesizer that he connects with the E-mu Vintage Keys module (for the Moog, Mellotron and Hammond organ sounds). About the Aquarius album I wrote: “excellent, highly acclaimed guitar playing and inventive use of the guitar synthesizer and Emu Vintage keys”, “very interesting musical ideas!” and “I am looking forward to his next work and will keep an eye on this promising fellow Dutchman”.
Well, two years later Ruud released this second album entitled Zodiac as Glorious Wolf (guitars, bass, synthesizers, programming, composer) but now with contributions from guest musicians. And the amazing Ed Unitsky, an international master of digital painting, collage creation and photo manipulation. Ed has done the cover art on more than 150 albums, from The Tangent, The Flower Kings, The Samurai Of Prog to Guy Manning, Tomas Bodin, Starcastle, Moongarden, Unitopia and Mandalaband, check out his website, really mindblowing stuff! But back to the music, on this new album “variety rules”, also due to the contributions of the guest musicians. Especially the two singers who colour the songs with their different voices.
In the compelling Seventies Pink Floyd inspired first track Constellations (ominous intro with piano and guitar) Oscar Venema does a decent job, but at some moments he lacks a bit of power. Especially in comparison with Ruud his biting guitar runs, and André Van De Ven his fiery saxophone solo. In the following tracks Close To The World (strong musical ideas, like a blend of Spanish flavor and heavy guitar) and the title track (hypnotizing climate and wonderfully coloured with Hammond, Mellotron and slide guitar) Oscar has a tender, emotional and slightly theatrical voice which matches more with the music. Composition #4 delivers strong interplay between the other singer Frans Verouden (only on 1 song) and Ruud his excellent acoustic guitar playing (solo, rhythm and flageolets), embellished with propulsive percussive sounds and Mellotron violins.
Next it's blues time in Feelin' Blue (with Ad Boot on bass). First an intro with the mighty Mellotron featuring the violin - and choir section, then pure blues with intense guitar and Hammond organ. Singer Oscar does his best to put emotion into the music, but to me it sounds a bit thin. Then David Gilmour kind of slide guitar and Hammond, gradually the sound turns into more lush. Ruud shines with exciting blues guitar ( from howling and biting to wah wah), like a less raw Gary Moore.
The final part of this CD contains three instrumentals, and one with vocals. That song is the varied The Game: the one moment it sounds chart friendly (between melodic rock and pop), the other moment bombastic with powerful guitar (like a heavy David Gilmour) and lush Hammond, or with spoken words and ominous keyboards, variety rules again!
The three instrumentals feature Glorious Wolf in its full splendor!
For You And I. Starts dreamy with tender electric guitar and soft Mellotron choirs, then a slow rhythm with wonderful powerful sensitive electric guitar (fusion oriented) and a tight rhythm. In between spacey Mini Moog synthesizer flights, embellished with Mellotron choir sound, and swinging bass.
Questions. First awesome Mellotron violins and fat synthesizers, then a biting guitar joins (like 'Jeff Beck meets Satriani'). Now a subtle guitar solo with soaring Mellotron violins, what a captivating musical idea, then again powerful and biting guitar. Another strong idea is the overdubbing of guitars, blended with a tight beat, in the end again Mellotron violins and fat synthesizer sounds, wonderful.
Finally the track Aquarius (Seeding the Future). It opens with a sumptuous and compelling sound featuring guitar and keyboards, and a propulsive rhythm-section, at some moments the music evokes King Crimson to me (Red-era). The final part contains voices in the background, exciting powerful (slide) guitar with biting runs, accompanied by lush strings. The final part delivers a dreamy atmosphere with beautiful strings and delicate bass, what a subtle conclusion. By the way, the final two tracks are bonus tracks, remastered from the debut CD Aquarius.
Not every track is my cup of tea (including a few critical notes about the vocals), but in general I am impressed by Ruud his compositional skills, his work on guitars, the tasteful blend of vintage keyboards, and his captivating musical ideas and professional approach in every way (from music to cover art).
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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