Sometimes reading an accompanying biography that you got with a promo album can be very educational. “John Simms is one of the originators of early British heavy rock. Former lead guitarist of Clear Blue Sky, he was also one of the youngest musicians around at that time.” Impressive so to say and I have to admit I was quite unaware of that band's existance up to now. I guess I was more focussing on listening to Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash and Jeff Beck at the time, so please forgive me for what I have missed.
Chromatology is the first John Simms' Light Trails album and also his first solo album I guess. An album that brings a varied range of musical influences together, from rock, progressive music to jazz and fusion. But always trying to be original and not copying others. Night Star; the album's opener is a solid guitar track, heavily drenched in the seventies, with clear references to the aforementioned Jeff Beck, regarding his guitar playing. Basically, the same goes for the following, Step Into The Light. Adding many spacy elements, even Ozric Tentacles come to mind at certain points. Although the music seems to be, at least, partly programmed, it does work well for these tracks. The atmosphere from Step Into The Light continues on Incandescence, only adding delicate reggae parts and vocals. For me these dreamy vocals do not really do the trick, I was happy all along without the vocal parts. Luckily the synth solo during the mid-section cheers things up. A very interesting track is Lodestar, where Jeff beck referring guitar parts fuse with fine spacy synth parts and occasional powerful outbursts of guitar. Light Trails adds a bit of oriental music to the already complex music of John Simms. The percussive mid-section works pretty well and so does the solo part towards the end. Again, the vocals during the first parts are the least interesting for me. The Mystery Of Light is a nice slow jazz composition with furious guitar parts and well suited female vocals, in a way Frank Zappa would have liked them. For me Circle At Dawn is the least interesting track from the album, a kind of pale and simple pop song, drenched in the seventies sound. The space elements resurrect on the final beautiful composition; Are We Nothing. Great guitar soloing and a solid bass are the basics for this fine track; even the vocals suit this song.
Chromatology takes you back in time, but also adds modern space elements and fine fusion soloing. I guess this is one of those albums that you have to sit down for and give it a listen. You will not be disappointed.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Dave Smith)
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