Call it natural progression or a meeting of similar minds. Either which one it was, the choice to add vocalist Peter Jones to the; so far, instrumental band Red Bazar was a great move, which payed off in a stunning release. Tales From The Bookcase (2016, see review) turned out to be one of my favourite smoother progressive rock albums of that year. After the release, I kind of expected to see them return to an instrumental band or enlisting another vocalist, just due to the fact Peter Jones own band Tiger Moth Tales was gaining attention and he also became a frequent asked guest vocalist. Furthermore, he joined Camel on stage as their keyboard player! With Things As They Appear my secret hopes of him fronting Red Bazar again materialised and a new musical journey is about to begin. Although Peter remains it doesn't mean Red Bazar's new release sees the same line-up as the previous one, although keyboard player Gary Marsh was heavily involved in arrangements, playing keyboards and also designed artwork for Things As They Appear, he is no longer part of the band. The original trio of guitarist Andy Wilson, bass player Mick Wilson and drummer Paul Comerie remain as the solid base of the band.
Things As They Appear takes off where Tales Of The Bookcase left us; incredibly well played compositions, that keep your attention from begin to the end. The opener Temple combines soulful vocals with inventive artisanship, highlighting strong and defined instrumental passages of the initial trio over modest keyboard parts. Spoken parts and a solid guitar solo make this a worthy opener, making you want for more. Nothing Left softly takes you in another direction, where the band normally has a typical British progressive sound, this track adds Spock's Beard referring choruses. Very well done, but in a way, I don't think Red Bazar need to do that, as they have already created their own recognizable sound. By the way, “guest” Gary Marsh joins in with a fabulous keyboard solo, you don't want to miss. The following; Liar is a well-played accessible progressive rock song, where the bass dictates the flow of the song. A nice mellow composition with beautiful vocal parts and again a brilliant guitar solo. What starts smooth and atmospheric, turns into an eight-and-a-half-minute mood changing epical composition. Rocky Bone Runway's positive, happy parts are combined with more moody darker vocal laden parts, keeping each other in a perfect balance. Perhaps the emotional highlight of the album; Spiral, brings delicate keyboards and sober vocals to life. Both drums and guitars battle for the attention, during the second part of the song. Gary Marsh wins. For me the songs with the smoother vocal parts like Future Song are the ones that make Peter Jones shine, but during this track, he shines on both the softer as well as the more powerful parts. Again, the amazing instrumental break shows how talented these musicians are. The Parting brings a very positive vibe; a combination of up-tempo technical parts and intense vocals reminds me of a fusion of Marillion, Arena and Dream Theater. The song that slightly differs from the rest is the dark and moody We Will Find You, which closes the album. Vocal and atmosphere wise, the track frequently refers to Porcupine Tree and could indicate the exploration of new musical directions that might be interesting for Red Bazar.
With Red Bazar's new album Things As They Appear, new elements are added, especially during the last couple of tracks. Personally, I think these are quite interesting because vocalist Peter Jones needs to approach these compositions in a different way that he is used to. Making them more challengeable and fresher. Again, during this album I am impressed with the instrumentalists; great players putting on a wonderful display creating an amazing sound.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Dave Smith)
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