The Gift - Antenna

(CD 2019, 62:05, Bad Elephant Music)

The tracks:
  1- We Are Connected(4:32)
  2- Changeling(9:52)
  3- Back To Eden(4:28)
  4- Long Time Dead(7:06)
  5- Snowfall(5:49)
  6- Far Stranger(5:25)
  7- Hand In Hand(2:57)
  8- Wild Roses(6:27)
  9- When You Are Old(5:27)
10- Closer(9:41)

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This six piece English band was founded in 2003, in London, Antenna is its fourth album since 2006. I read about The Gift on the excellent band website interesting facts. “The singer wanted to be Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry, Freddy Mercury and then he felt in love with Genesis and prog, he is also an actor. The drummer turned from Buddy Rich (his father was a jazz drummer) to Carl Palmer, the bass player is a former guitarist, the keyboard player is a classical concert pianist, but he grew up with a father who loved King Crimson, and the band hosts two guitar players.” And singer Mike Morton tells about the new album “It is rockier, more contemporary sounding, we wanted to do something more direct and punchy.”

I am only familiar with The Gifts debut album Awake And Dreaming from 2006, I wrote about it “The Gift sounds melodic and accessible but the compositions are varied and elaborate” and “I am delighted about the way The Gift blends 'classic Seventies symphonic prog' (obvious Genesis echoes) and some neo-prog (like early Marillion) with fresh ideas and a modern sound.”

Well, listening to this new album I quickly conclude that this new The Gift sound is a goodbye to epic symphonic rock and welcome to more modern sounding song-oriented eclectic rock. The first track We Are Connected turned out to be a pretty disappointing experience with its typical Nineties Neo-Prog climate, and I was afraid for more disappointing music. But after listening to the entire album I analyzed that the first, very Nineties Neo-Prog sounding track doesn't represent the music from The Gift. Because from the second to the final tenth song The Gift delivers very varied and tastefully arranged songs, with lots of surprising musical ideas.

From dreamy to bombastic eruptions with splendid rock guitar and excellent work on keyboards (piano, soaring strings, flashy synthesizer and swirling organ) in the varied Changeling.

First a bluesy harmonica, soft wah wah guitar, warm acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals, and then an acceleration with electric piano, rock guitar and a jazzy piano solo with swinging bass in Long Time Dead.

A dreamy Grand piano intro, then tender and melancholiac vocals in the wonderful mellow Snowfall.

Warm acoustic guitars in the only instrumental Hand In Hand.

Awesome rock guitar and Phil Lynott-like vocals, along a delicate synthesizer solo, in the exciting Thin Lizzy tribute Wild Roses.

And a mellow, a bit dark atmosphere with very melancholiac vocals in When You Are Old.

This is not the The Gift sound as on its debut album (with the focus on epic symphonic rock), but if you like tastefully arranged and song-oriented, modern sounding eclectic rock, with outstanding vocals and work on guitar and keyboards, this is an album to discover.

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

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