About thirty years ago The Lens was introduced to the progressive rock audience with a cassette called No TV Tonite. In 2001 A Word In Your Eye was released that featured new recordings from that tape. It's a wonderful album that partly explained how IQ got their great progressive rock sound. Of course this is quite common if you know that The Lens featured members that later on participated in IQ. The musicians who were mainly responsible for the outstanding album A Word In Your Eye are Martin Orford (keyboards, flute, vocals) and Mike Holmes (guitar, bass, keyboards). At the time they both were core members of IQ. When I heard that a brand-new album from The Lens would be released, I realized that it wouldn't feature Mr. Orford this time. In 2008 he retired from the music scene and only occasionally he does some guest appearances on other releases.
Well, if I should tell you that Regeneration has more or less become a solo album of Mike Holmes, I think it's not far beside the truth. Only three other musicians helped him out to record Regeneration: saxophone player Tony Wright and drummers Paul Cook (IQ) and Niall Hayden (ex-The Lens). Together they recorded an outstanding album including eight great compositions. However, I think the music probably is not to everyone's liking. Mike's idea was to release an album that could have been recorded if The Lens would still have existed all those years and IQ had never been established. This certainly means that a number of tracks on Regeneration couldn't have been released on an IQ-album. It also means that the music substantially differs from A Word In Your Eye.
The new album by The Lens can be regarded as an outlet for the musical ambitions of Mike Holmes, because many compositions on Regeneration are indeed not appropriate for IQ. Nevertheless, many prog heads will enjoy this album which is proved by the opening piece Choosing A Farmer, part IV. On this track Holmes probably tried to create a song that sounds like an old Pink Floyd- tune. The saxophone and organ parts reminded me of Us And Them. The second track .. .To The Power Of 5 is superb as well and moves in the direction of IQ. The Mellotron-parts could have been taken from Frequency or The Wake. The synth and guitar solos on this track are just stunning. Sequential sounds a bit like IQ too, but the more ambient-oriented pieces may not find favour with most prog heads, but I enjoyed every single second of Twenty Eight, A Little Robot Juice and Slowdown. Also Dreams is a song that might not be appreciated by fans of IQ. However, in the old days I heard a lot of techno, rave and danceable music after a concert of IQ. And also several concert intros contained rave influences. Well, if you liked that music I think you enjoy Dreams too which contains influences from Hawkwind as well. However, the beautiful Mellotron-samples provide for some prog elements.
If you have an open mind for other musical styles Regeneration really is a must. Mike Holmes knows exactly how to integrate different styles to a progressive melting pot, because that's what you get if you buy this album. The album has been recorded by a talented musician, who's not afraid to experiment with other musical genres. Bravo, that's progressive in the literal sense of the word! If only more musicians would have the courage to experiment then the kind of music we all love so much got more ways to survive!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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