The Far Meadow -
Foreign Land

(2019, 52.14, Bad Elephant Music ‎- BEM068)

The tracks:
  1- Travelogue(18:55)
  2- Sulis Rise(8:22)
  3- Mud(5:11)
  4- The Fugitive(8:38)
  5- Foreign Land(11:08)

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The Far Meadow were founded in 2011 as a five-piece rock combo in London by Eliot Minn (keyboards), Paul Bringloe (drums), Paul Mallatratt (bass), Jon Barry (guitars), and Nok (voices). The band grew out of the remnants of Blind Panic, which featured Paul Bringloe (drums) and Eliot Minn (keyboards), Jon Barry (Gtr), who later played with Big Big Train, Paul Mallatratt (bass) plus Nokk on vocals. Under this name the band didn't release any music and, soon after, the name changed to The Far Meadow. They released their first album, Where Joys Abound, in 2012, but not too long afterwards, Nokk, Jon Barry and Paul Mallatratt all left the band, to be replaced by Keith Buckman (bass), Dennis Warren (gtr) and vocalist Marguerita Alexandrou.

In 2016 The Far Meadow released their second album, Given The Impossible (see review) and in 2019 the new album Foreign Land was released. This review is about the latter, my first musical encounter with this acclaimed UK prog formation.

1. Travelogue (18.55) : An intro with soaring keyboards and spacey synthesizer flights, then bass pedals and an acceleration featuring bombastic Keith Emerson type synthesizer runs, Tony Banks-like organ, a strong rhythm section, moving guitar, and powerful female vocals. This is very pleasant fluent up-tempo prog, with hints from Magenta, but more dynamic and harder-edged. Now the music alternates between more mellow and bombastic parts, very flowing and melodic. From halfway lots of shifting moods, from instrumental with church organ and catchy riffs to a mid-tempo with strong female vocals and a swirling Hammond organ solo (Emerson inspired). In the final part it turns mellow with sensitive volume pedal guitar runs, sparkling piano, a bass solo and wonderful vocals. This is topped with a long and compelling guitar solo, from howling to fiery, with deep bass and tight drum beats, now I am in Prog Heaven! The conclusion is a short build-up from dreamy to bombastic featuring strong vocals, moving electric guitar and again Emersonian keyboards, this epic is a very good start!

2. Sulis Rise (8.22) : It starts with beautiful orchestral keyboards, then many flowing changing climates featuring strong work on guitar (evoking Saga) and keyboards, topped with the excellent voice of Marguerita, what an ace. We can enjoy a fluent pitch bended driven synthesizer solo, a harder-edged guitar solo with fiery runs, a sparkling Banks-like synthesizer solo and a moving electric guitar solo. And every time in between that pleasant and strong female voice.

3. Mud (5.11) : After a short but sumptuous church organ sound the music turns into a dynamic and often bombastic piece with strong work on guitar and keyboards. The female voice does a very good job in every climate, and the band delivers lots of interesting musical ideas.

4. The Fugitive (8.38) : First a swinging rhythm with exciting work on keyboards and guitar, then a slow rhythm with dreamy vocals and beautiful piano runs (Dutch Flamborough Head comes to my mind). Halfway through a break with strong interplay between guitar and piano, followed by a fiery guitar solo with slap bass, it sounds as swinging jazz rock, another good musical idea by the band. Finally, again those dreamy vocals (with a melancholical undertone) and beautiful piano runs, culminating into a more lush sound, slowly fading away.

5. Foreign Land The Far (11.08) : The intro delivers a mellow atmosphere with subtle dreamy guitar and keyboards, topped with the varied female voice, gracefully meandering through the multiple flowing shifting moods in this alternating final track. The interplay between the vocals and piano is wonderful. Halfway a captivating instrumental break with bombastic keyboards and fiery guitar, how exciting! Then a mellow part with a buzzing bass, dreamy keyboards, after an acceleration follows a long and flashy synthesizer solo. Now it has become the realm of jazz rock featuring a strong, distinctive scale-acrobatic driven guitar solo, supported by a dynamic and powerful rhythm-section. Finally, bombastic keyboards and wonderful vocals, in a compelling symphonic rock grand finale with choir-like keyboards, fiery guitar runs and a powerful rhythm-section, wow!

To me this outstanding music, topped with superb female vocals, sounds like adventurous Neo Symphonic Rock, highly recommended!

**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)

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