Long Earth - Once Around The Sun,
A few months ago, I was sent this album to review, the second release from a band I must confess I had not previously heard of. While I was playing it, I kept being reminded of music from quite a long time ago, so in the end I turned to the biography which came with it (I generally play music without reading bios so that I can form an opinion without necessarily knowing who is involved or what happened in the recording). That was the point when I stared at what I was reading and went “really?”. I quickly grabbed my copy of TPU Vol 1 and started re-reading the Abel Ganz reviews I wrote back in 1994, and there you have it – drummer Ken Weir was there right at the beginning, appearing on ‘Gratuitous Flash’, and he was joined by bassist Gordon Mackie in time for ‘Gullible’s Travels’. Apparently newest member singer Martin Haggarty (Field of Vision, Lost Weekends, Masque) was a member of Abel Ganz for five or six gigs in 1985, while none other than Hew Montgomery (Abel Ganz, Comedy Of Errors, Grand Tour) took on the role of producer for both this and the previous album. The other members of the band are Mike Baxter (keyboards), who was a feature of the Glasgow music scene during the 1970’s and 1980’s, with the likes of Shoot The Moon, Glas Clas and Identity Crisis, playing with Gordon in those days as well, while guitarist Renaldo McKim (Suicide Underground) joined during the final stages of recording the debut. By strange coincidence, Mike, Ken, Gordon, Renaldo and Hew apparently all played at the same Glasgow Festival in the Eighties, in three different bands!
I have been playing quite a lot of “lost” prog music from back then recently, and if the recording quality was far worse, then it would be easy to say this had just been discovered in the back of someone’s drawer on a rapidly disintegrating cassette. This doesn’t sound as if it comes from the neo-prog scene of the 90’s, but is earlier, and given who is involved then that isn’t surprising at all. I guess for many people Abel Ganz will always be remembered as the band who had Alan Reed singing for them until he joined Pallas, but I have always felt that to be incredibly unfair, and while they suffered a great deal from line-up changes they consistently delivered some really nice albums. This is the first album with Haggarty, and he has a relaxed style which goes well with the music, which often has a fairly straightforward rhythm section, with the guitar and keyboards rarely in your face. The introduction to “The Man In The Mirror” has some very Hackett-like guitar, but given most of these guys were involved in the scene more than 35 years ago they are going to have that sort of influence, as did early Pallas, Comedy of Errors, Abel Ganz and others. This really does feel like a time warp, and for someone like me who remembers listening to and reviewing these bands all those years ago this is great, not just for the nostalgia but also as there are so few bands performing prog like this anymore. By the 90’s a lot of the innocence had gone from the scene, and neo-prog bands were often performing with much harder and rockier guitar, but here it is often much more in the background providing the support for the vocals, which are pure, clean, and never strained. Overall, this is a really enjoyable release.