Downes Braide Association - IV: Halcyon Hymns,
As can be surmised from the title, here we have the fourth album from DBA (the last few albums have been using this instead of the longer Downes Braide Association), the band put together by keyboard player Geoff Downes (Buggles, Asia, Yes) and singer-songwriter-pianist Chris Braide (Sia, Lana Del Rey, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears and Marc Almond). It is interesting to note that the last of these provides lead vocals on one song, with David Longdon singing on two, with the band being completed by Ash Soen (drums), Andy Hodge (bass) and Dave Bainbridge (guitars). I have been a fan of Dave for some 30 years, and here he has been allowed to not only provide some wonderful acoustic moments but also far heavier driving guitar than I have come across from him previously.
There is no doubt that Downes is a wonderful keyboard player who has had major impact on the music scene over the years, but he has also been involved with some releases that are best described as sub-par. However, there is something about his relationship with Braide which means their albums together have been consistently melodic and thoroughly enjoyable. While there is nothing incredibly dramatic about them, and they are solid middle of the road prog, they are still always a delight and that is very much the case here. The vocals are wonderful, and even though this is a group put together by two keyboard players they are never too over the top in their performances and this really does feel like a band as opposed to a project. The use of poet Barney Ashton Bullock to provide some narration is also a nice touch, adding some additional gravitas which assists in removing some of the sweetness.
The overall result is a release which any proghead will sit and enjoy on first hearing, and it just gets better with time.