Simon McKechnie -
From My Head To My Feet

(CD 2016, 52:57, Voyager 5)

The tracks:
  1- Hymn Of Apollo(6:34)
  2- Jane Wenham's Trial(6:29)
  3- Year Of Light(7:47)
  4- From My Head To My Feet(4:08)
  5- Melita(6:48)
  6- Once Upon A Time(12:28)
  7- The Harpist's Song(8:43)

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In the past, there have been occasions where I have heard albums that were so bad, or unoriginal, or so unappealing to me, that I asked myself: “What on earth am I going to write about this release?” It is much stranger when you come across an album that you like so much that it induces the opposite kind of writer's block: albums that you play over, and over, and over again, that you love to pieces, but that leave you clueless as to how to catch the fascination in words. After this introduction, it may not come as a big surprise; here we have a specimen from the latter group of rare albums.

Not only is From My Head To My Feet a hot candidate from my personal 'Album of the Year 2016', it's also clearly the Surprise of the Year as far as I am concerned. Expectations were not exactly high when I unwrapped the package it came in. Unknown name, solo album, looks like dull singer/songwriter with folky/proggy elements. Well, probably okay to listen to while travelling. That was as high as my expectations were-until I started listening!

Some basic facts first: Simon McKechnie (which is pronounced as Makeknee) is a composer, arranger and musician who is based in London. From My Head To My Feet was released in February 2016 and is Simon's third progressive rock release following Newton's Alchemy (2014) and Clocks And Dark Clouds (2013). His 2011 release London Reborn is a collection of interpretations of old London folk songs.

Simon has written for BBC television, classical ensembles Golden Section and The Society Of Strange And Ancient Instruments, and written arrangements for Roberto Pla's Latin Jazz Orchestra. He was the founder, leader and composer of the music for the jazz fusion group Azul (their 2004 tour with a contemporary dancer was a Jazz Pick of the Week in The Guardian). He also played guitar with Portuguese Fado singer Nuno Silva and wrote a musical with author Gary Waterman, based on the life of the 18th century Sephardi boxer Daniel Mendoza.

From My Head To My Feet was recorded with Adam Riley (drums), Richard Exall (saxophones, clarinet) and Imogen Small (harmony vocals) with all other instruments and lead vocals by Simon McKechnie.

The first piece, Hymn Of Apollo, opens in a perfect way and hits the sweet spot immediately. We are treated to fantastic pastoral-flavoured typical British progressive rock that reminds me of Genesis (somewhere around 1976) and Steve Hackett and immediately makes you long for more. But if you think that Simon is stuck in this one style then you are in for a serious surprise...

Instead I hear superb variation including parts that remind me of Änglagård (but not quite that 1970s oriented), there are wind instruments lightening up the sound and adding an original touch (should I compare it to King Crimson's Lizard, or shouldn't I?), there are clear echoes from The Flower Kings (especially Once Upon A Time with typical guitar and flute Mellotron) and the (harmony) vocals are sometimes like Pain Of Salvation. Melita has Arabic singing and The Harpist's Song even reminds me of the brilliant Guilt Machine album.

Great sound. Good singer. Great instrumental work (I must mention Simon's keys and guitar work). Please let some label pick up this talented guy! Laser's Edge? InsideOut? Please?
I have to get the other albums! Looking forward to hear those!

***** Carsten Busch (edited by Robert James Pashman)

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