The Bardic Depths released their eponymous album in 2020 (see review). Band leader Dave Bandana probably didn't know at the time, that it would become an album that was loved in the progressive rock scene in many ways. Now four years later they are releasing a third album titled What We Really Like in Stories that comes two years after their excellent second album Promises Of Hope (2022, see review). Now with releasing a new album every two years you might say that they have become a steady band. Something which was also not foreseen back in 2020. This steady band features Dave Bandana himself on vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass. Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales, Camel, Cyan) on vocals, trumpet,
clarinet and alto saxophone. Gareth Cole (One Sided Horse, Fractal Mirror) on guitars and vocals. Last but not least Tim Gehrt (Streets, Steve Walsh) on drums and vocals. So, bravo to Bandana to pull it all off in such a short time.
What We Really Like In Stories was mixed and mastered by Robin Armstrong. It was produced by Dave Bandana and Robin Armstrong. This time around it was not released on the Gravity Dream record label as all of its predecessors were. Unfortunately, Armstrong had to announce with some regret that Gravity Dream will no longer be offering services as a record label with bands and therefore the new Bardic Depths Music record label was founded to release this album.
As for the songs, most of them are written by Bandana, Cole and Birzer. Bradley Birzer is Dave's American friend who provides lyrics to the songs he writes. Although the record is not a concept album, it has a continuous theme of authors and their stories with each song dedicated to writers across the years including Alan Moore, Willa Carther, Walter Miller, Lewis and Tolkien (again) and Robert Rankin. The lyrics were written by Brad Birzer and Dave Bandana based on the book Mythic Realms by Brad Birzer. The album contains eight tracks. I will go through them for you.
The album starts with Genius. This is an impressive beautiful orchestral piece of music which lasts unfortunately only one minute. This instrumental is mainly performed on the keyboards.
It is followed by What We Really Like in Stories. The title track is an excellent up-tempo tune. It features some fine synthesizer parts which moves the song into a neo prog kind of musical style. The strong lead vocals are sung by Jones and therefore Tiger Moth Tales comes to mind as well. Without any doubt the first musical highlight.
Next up You've Written Poetry My Boy. It's the first single with a Genesis kind of opening on the acoustic guitars. It has some great sax and clarinet playing by Jones. This time around the lead vocal is sung by Bandana. Please check out the beautiful video on YouTube.
Follow up Vendetta again has a Genesis kind of acoustic intro. It is a song with great guitar work by Cole and fantastic harmony vocals from all of the band members. It has some strong Mellotron flute parts and a nice drum beat as well. But also the sax and synthesizer solos near the end are excellently done and moves the song yet again into a neo prog kind of musical style. Certainly, one of the musical highlights for me personally.
We continue with Old Delights which is a short but excellent mellow piece of music with again, very strong lead vocals performed by Jones. This melancholic tune occasionally moves into the direction of a ballad sung by Phil Collins in Genesis.
After that it is time for The Feast Is Over which starts with some nice playing on the Church organ by Richard Krueger. This composition is another rather mellow tune with strong lead vocals from Bandana. In a way it is a nice sing-a-long tune with beautiful keyboards and guitar parts arranged by Bandana and Cole.
Before the final composition there is first Stillpoint to enjoy. This one can again be labelled as a rather mellow tune with strong lead vocals duetted by Bandana and Jones. In the background you can hear the beautiful saxophone going crazy.
The album ends with Whispers In Space. With a total time of ten minutes on the clock it is the longest track on the album. It starts with a spoken word passage narrated by Martin Haskell. The song features some great guitar (Cole) and sax (Jones) parts with very strong lead vocals again sung by Jones reminding me of Genesis. You could also say it is a Pink Floyd kind of tune which finishes the album in an excellent way. Another highlight for sure.
Finally, a word about the album cover. The cover art was painted by Kevin Thompson who has previously painted for Big Big Train. It will look fabulous on a T-shirt. In a way it made me think about the album covers Mark Wilkinson made for Marillion.
The members of The Bardic Depths can be very proud of what they have achieved on this excellent third album release. What We Really Like in Stories is a real rich professional sounding album that will be enjoyed by lovers of acts such as Pink Floyd, Tiger Moth Tales and Genesis. But also, those who are into neo prog will love this album whole hearted. I guess lovers of progressive rock will enjoy it in general. Therefore, it is highly recommended.
Listening tips; What We Really Like In Stories, Vendetta and Whispers In Space!
**** Henri Strik
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