Many readers of Background Magazine will know Eddie Mulder as being a member of Dutch (neo) progressive rock groups Flamborough Head, Trion, and Leap Day. Not everyone may know that he also is a rather prolific solo artist.
It seems that this is the eighth solo album already, meaning that I have missed the first seven. But wait, that is not true, I actually reviewed his solo debut Dreamcatcher (see review) from 2015. Apparently, it did not make a truly lasting impression although I judged it as “beautiful”, asking for “a bit more 'bite' and 'crunch'” on future releases. My bad for not following up, but after listening to Signature for a couple of time I must conclude that Eddie did step up his game and I will remember this one for sure as it's one of the most fun albums from last year.
This album was recorded with a couple of known names. On the album we find next to Eddie, Colin Bass, Gert van Engelenburg, Rafal Paluszek, Ton Scherpenzeel, Albert Schoonbeek, and Henk Stel and Peter Stel.
The disc opens relatively heavy with the almost eight minutes long title track. For a couple of chords, one might even be inclined to think that this is some hard rock disc. Then, however, things turn first to powerful neo prog and then into a Camel-like direction with soaring guitars. The latter reference is suitable, since bassist Colin Bass (Camel) guests on this piece.
The second track, Seahaven, starts calm, dreamy and mostly acoustic with floating keys. After a while, however, the soaring guitar takes it a different direction.
Winter Solstice 2021, then, is a beautiful acoustic guitar piece. A bit folky, a bit medieval. I am somewhat reminded of the work of Gordon Giltrap. Empty Woods continues the acoustic line, but where Winter Solstice 2021 was uplifting, this piece is, suiting its title, quite dark. There is a flute accompanying the slow pace. Would do good in some movie soundtracks, I imagine. Halfway through electric instruments join in and the piece gets more powerful.
Then, the character of the album changes once more, taking us to the early 1970s. The flute of Old Places immediately gives the place a jazzy vibe and also the guitar and other instruments remind of something from 50 years ago in a most pleasant way. Camel, Focus, take your pick.
Moods sounds like a piece taken from Camel's Raindances fused with widdly-widdly neo prog from the early 1980s.
I wasn't really planning to describe every piece because you should get the picture by now. This album contains high class instrumental progressive rock with a good variation between acoustic pieces and more jazz-rock/fusion oriented work. The latter direction seems to be more prominent towards the end of the disc, by the way. And I must emphasize that while there is a good variation, the album manages to sound very coherent. Good stuff, and I found myself several times just restarting the album.
****- Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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