Dave Bainbridge is the co-founder of Celtic progressive folk rock band Iona, he toured the world with the band between 1989 and 2015, releasing 13 critically acclaimed albums. Dave's multi-faceted career as a solo artist, keyboardist, guitarist, bouzouki player, composer, improviser, producer, arranger, teacher, musical director and sound mixer has led him into many musical genres and work with numerous artists, from The Strawbs, Buddy Guy and Gloria Gaynor to Robert Fripp, Annie Haslam, Neal Morse and Damian Wilson, wow. To The Far Away is his fourth solo album, and my first musical encounter with his music.
To me this CD sounds like a wonderful blend of folk and melodic - and symphonic rock, very harmonic, melodic and tastefully arranged. The 13 tracks are embellished with a range of folk instruments (from tin-whistles and Uilleann pipes to Cumbrian voices) and classical instruments (violins and cellos), and topped with the celestial voice of Sally Minnear, a true asset on this album! A strong element is the tension between the mellow, more folky parts and the bombastic parts, often with harder-edged electric guitar play. My highlights ... many!
Girl And The Magical Sky: First a dreamy atmosphere with female spoken words, then a slow rhythm with a bombastic mood and beautiful strong female vocals. The fiery electric guitar with slide and the tin-whistle flute delivers a distinctive Celtic flavour. Halfway a harder-edged guitar solo, in an excellent build-up with huge tension, a great opening of this album.
Clear Skies: This song alternates between mellow moods and sumptuous outbursts with lots of short flowing changing atmospheres, from soaring strings and folky flutes to powerful drums and fiery guitar leads. Sally Minnear shines again with her celestial voice.
The epic composition Ghost Light starts with a howling Pink Floyd kind of guitar solo and mellow keyboards, then dreamy with high pitched female voice, halfway a fiery guitar solo with tight drum beats, and in second part more howling guitar runs.
Cathedral Thinkers contains a tender piano intro, then a slow rhythm with soft synthesizer flights, powerful drums beats and moving guitar, finally sparkling piano play, Dave Bainbridge in his full splendour.
The short As Night Falls is built around a sensitive electric guitar solo (Andy Latimer inspired) with soaring keyboards and violin/cello, simply beautiful.
Infinitude (Region Of The Stars) features a melancholy climate with soaring strings, and a long intense violin solo, goose bumps.
Speed Your Journey is a cheerful and folky track with the distinctive Uilleann pipes, then swinging piano in catchy mid-tempo with again the Uilleann pipes, blended with strong female vocals and a powerful bass, this sounds like an awesome blend of folk and melodic rock.
Fells Point is another example of the tasteful arrangements made by Dave Bainbridge, now fiery guitar rules, first with a folky undertone, then the music turns into more bombastic with a majestic Mellotron choir sound, wow.
Finally Something Astonishing, it starts mellow with sensitive electric guitar and Cumbrian voices, then slowly culminates into a bombastic conclusion, another captivating blend of folk, rock and symphonic!
If you are up to folky prog this is wonderful and very pleasant music to discover.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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