There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most exciting drummers to come out of the scene in the last 30 years has been Nick D’Virgilio, who of course these days can be found behind the kit for Big Big Train, and while he recorded with Genesis and played with Tears for Fears for many years, for me he will always be the man at the back during the classic years of Spock’s Beard. I was fortunate enough to interview him a couple of times during that period, and also saw him with the band on four different occasions, the last time when he had moved to become the frontman following Neal’s departure. Now, it must be said I was not a fan of his previous debut solo album, ‘Karma’, which came out some 20 years ago, and his time as singer with Spock’s Beard is probably my least favourite period, but this has nothing to do with his abilities as a singer and drummer, but more with the songs and arrangements he has utilised. There are many bands who would relish having him at the front of the stage, while he is definitely one of the best drummers around today, so what would his new solo album be like?
He has been able to bring in a host of famous guests, and there is no doubt that these guys are all at the top of their field, with the likes of Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Jem Godfrey (Frost*), Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Steve Hackett), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big, Racer X), Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) and Carl Verheyen (Supertramp) all involved. Although many of the musicians are from a prog background, I would not have necessarily expected a prog album, and indeed that is what has happened with Nick taking the opportunity to work through many different styles of music. His version of “'Money (That’s What I Want)” is a strange hybrid of Motown, rock and pop, and we get plenty of ballads and slower numbers in the likes of “Waiting For No One”. The real issue for me is that it all feels somewhat middle of the road with little in the ways of excitement and real interest. When the songs and arrangements are good then they can be really uplifting, whereas there are plenty of others when it feels quite mundane. I realised it got to the point where I was not looking forward to playing the album repeatedly as it felt more like a chore as opposed to a pleasure, which is not what it should be like at all. It is a positive move from his 2001 release, but there is still a long way to go to make it indispensable.