Chester Thompson -
Wake Up Call

(CD 2023, 41:24,'s Essentials)

The tracks:
  1- Wake Up Call(4:04)
  2- Sunrise(4:50)
  3- Hide and Seek(4:14)
  4- Feel It(5:04)
  5- Smack 'Em(4:17)
  6- Sometime Soon(4:43)
  7- Attitude(4:24)
  8- Joy! Joy! Joy!(4:13)
  9- Reflection(5:46)

Website      samples      ProgRock Records

Some older people in the progressive rock scene know drummer Chester Thompson from his playing in Genesis during concerts. He actually never played on their studio albums. However he was the drummer on the band's famous live album Seconds Out (1977), except for one track on which Bill Bruford was sitting behind the drums. Chester is of course also known for his playing with Phil Collins during many tours they did together. But before playing with Genesis and Collins he already worked with Frank Zappa and Weather Report. Nowadays he is back in the progressive rock scene by playing drums in Unitopia and contributed on their latest studio album Seven Chambers (2013). But I guess some people don't know that he actually already released two solo albums. Namely 1991's A Joyful Noise and 2019's Steppin'. And now a third one can be welcomed as well. Titled Wake Up Call!

Strangely enough this new album never was intended to be made. Wake Up Call is a musical labour of love that was intended to kill time and raise spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic. It sees him reunited with old bandmates bassist Robert "Pewee" Hill and keyboard player Michiko Hill. The album takes a journey through Chester's prog, jazz and fusion heartlands. It also features a special guest appearance from his son, Akil Thompson on guitar. How proud can a father be!

Thompson explains how the album got together by accident;" At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I called bassist Robert "Peewee" Hill to see how he and his wife pianist Michiko were coping with the shutdown. Robert said they were just jamming with a drum machine. My response was, 'Don't do that! Let me send you something to jam with.' I'd laid down a drum track and sent it to them and what they added to it blew me away. That turned into the third track on the album, titled Hide And Seek. So, I sent them another drum track and that became the second piece, Sunrise. That process continued over the course of the year, and eventually, we had the nine songs that comprise Wake-Up Call."

Michiko and Robert "Peewee" Hill are the most important musicians on the album. But they are only a couple of the handful of returning players who previously appeared on A Joyful Noise and/or Steppin'. For instance, guitarist Ronnie Vann and Thompson's earlier mentioned son also came back to ensure that Wake-Up Call is as vibrant and multifaceted as possible.

Thompson said:"All of these musicians were people I've worked with live or in the studio, with the exception of percussionist Walter Rodriguez," Thompson clarifies. "He heard some of the early versions of what we were doing and offered his services".

This also occurs for the other guest on the album. They were all done the same way because of the pandemic. Chester said he would sit down and play a drum thing and send it to them. A couple of times he had sent a melody that he heard with it and you know, they would develop that as well. But for the most part, he just laid the drum tracks first and then they wrote around them. Eventually, as they listened they realised okay, they need some horns here and some guitars there and that sort of thing. We were just having fun, you know explained Chester in the end!

As for the music on the album I will not go into detail about each of the 9 songs composed by Chester Thompson, Michiko Hill and Peewee Hill. But I can tell you that all of those instrumentals are worth listening even if you are into progressive rock. He presents an album of sizzling Fusion, Funk, Jazz rock and Jazz sometimes in combination of influences taken from our beloved genre. All of the guest musicians gets all the space to play their solo's. Even Chester himself is up front playing on his instrument.

Overall Wake-Up Call is a nice instrumental album which keeps you awake all the time. An album that probably would not have been made if the pandemic never had happened. I guess we might have missed something interesting to listen to. So sometimes something good comes out of something bad!

*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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