Broken Parachute is a musical project that features Marcus Taylor (guitarist and composer behind Kashgar and also one half of the Crosswinds duo) and Ben Bell (known for his work with Gandalf's Fist and Fusion Orchestra 2, and for his multi-instrumentalist solo project Patchwork Cacophony), the duo have been working together musically in various forms since they met at the university in Warwick, in the mid-Nineties. Around 2010 Marcus started working on the material, it was a solo thing ("Marcus Taylor's Broken Parachute") and he asked Ben to add keyboards and vocals. By the time the first album was released the "Marcus Taylor's" bit had been dropped and it was more of a two-person thing. Ben was living South of London and Marcus had moved to the Canadian city Kingston at that time. So, in fact Broken Parachute is an Anglo-Canadian duo. In the early days these collaborations tended to be live events, but now separated by the Atlantic they are studio endeavors. Sometimes it's guesting on each other's other projects, and sometimes it's full-on collaborations under the Broken Parachute band name. The first Broken Parachute album was released in 2013, and was a light-hearted experiment into collaborating remotely, mining their mutual classic rock influences. After a long hiatus the new album Living Dangerously was released in 2019, it sees Broken Parachute exploring darker, and proggier influences. As with the previous release, the lyrics and musical direction are driven by Marcus, it marks a strong stylistic shift towards darker, more complex compositions. And with Ben developing (“and sometimes hijacking”) the initial demos, the tracks traveled back and forth across the Atlantic as their final form took shape. On this new release the duo is joined by drummer James Chapman who brings moments of both raw muscle and jazzier finesse to the tracks.
From the very first moment I listened to this album I was pleasantly surprised by the music, and noticed a 'Broken Parachute trademark': blending elements from legendary Seventies prog and rock bands (Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Yes and Gentle Giant) with song-oriented modern prog (Porcupine Tree, Transatlantic, The Tangent), in a very varied and dynamic way, and with lots of flowing shifting moods and surprising musical ideas. This is topped with outstanding work on the Hammond organ, excellent harder-edged guitar playing and strong vocals, with a range from dreamy to powerful. In one moment you hear bombastic eruptions with blistering wah wah drenched guitar solos and swirling Hammond, the other moment a swinging rhythm with a synthesizer solo and sparkling electric piano runs. The climates easily shift from Seventies symphonic rock to Heavy Prog, or from modern song oriented prog to a romantic ballad, variety and musical surprises rule on this album!
Devils (9:17) : First a slow rhythm with delicate work on guitar and Hammond, dreamy vocals and beautiful orchestral keyboards, to me it sounds like the mellow and song-oriented side of Eighties Camel. Then a break featuring a heavy guitar solo with biting runs, in a tight mid-tempo with powerful drums. The music is embellished with vocal harmonies, freaky synthesizer flights and another exciting Hammond solo. Finally, the music turns mellow with dreamy vocals, and then bombastic with powerful vocals and guitar. What variety and dynamics!
Ghost (5:42) : It starts dreamy with howling guitar and mellow electric piano, then a slow rhythm with Floydian guitar runs. The drum work is very subtle. Now an acceleration with tight drums, and a more lush sound, the colouring is wonderful with a majestic Mellotron violin sound, a sensitive electric guitar solo with Hammond, The build-up and finale in this composition is very well crafted.
Living Dangerously (5:16) : The title track begins with a dreamy climate and vocals, then a bombastic eruption, heavy guitars and Hammond rule. The following part strongly evokes Gentle Giant featuring vocal harmonies, lots of musical ideas and surprising shifting moods. The final part contains a swirling Hammond solo, backed by a great rhythm-section, I love the funky bass.
Light (7:45) : Another varied and dynamic song, starting with a swinging rhythm featuring pleasant work on the piano and Hammond, and topped with melancholically vocals. Then the music turns first into a romantic ballad, embellished with subtle synthesizer drops, and then culminates in a sumptuous finale with beautiful work on keyboards.
Bad Politics (4:54) : In a swinging rhythm with a jazzy atmosphere it is Hammond Extravaganza, wow!
If you are up to a blend of Old School - and modern prog, topped with outstanding work on the Hammond organ and exciting harder-edged guitar play, and fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section, this is an album to discover!
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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