Galahad - Year Zero-10th Anniversary Expanded Edition,
It is safe to say that the end of the Nineties and into the Millenium was a trying time for Galahad. From the middle of 1992 until 1998 they had kept the same line-up, but in 1998 not only did they have to find a new keyboard player but also Roy Keyworth had left. Given that Roy was the only original member apart from Stu, this was quite a shock to everyone involved with the band and I clearly remember hours of conversation with Stu at the time. Luckily Roy returned the following year, and with new keyboard player Dean Baker on board they started work on ‘Year Zero’. Galahad have never been afraid of pushing boundaries, and had released albums as Galahad Acoustic Quintet and Galahad Electric Company, but here they stayed much more within the prog field but definitely changed their approach.
This is their only concept album (so far), with one piece of continuous music broken down into fifteen digestible chunks (to make it easier for CDs) and they had clearly spread their musical wings. In fact it takes until nearly halfway through the second track for the album to become recognisable as Galahad, as they are utilising the talents of Dean on keyboards to take the music in a new direction. He certainly brought a great many new sounds and effects to the band, some sounding much more like Hawkwind or Ozric Tentacles than Genesis! When Roy starts riffing it soon becomes clear that this is the old band with a lot of new ideas, which even allowed for John Wetton to sing a few lead lines, which certainly confuses the ear as he is quite different to Stu but was trying to sing in Stu’s style.
It would be easy to fall into the cliché and say that this is the album where Galahad grew up, yet in many ways that is very true. They started with a clean palette and brought many new styles and colours to their sound, so many that at times it is hard to think that this was the same band that brought us ‘Nothing Is Written’. Except of course it isn’t. They had already been through a few keyboard players and bassists by then, and everyone was older, and that is reflected in the music that is far more mature and thoughtful. There is space, which allows the music to live and breathe.
That isn’t to say that this is a sit back and relax mellowed out album, but rather one where ideas and energy have been allowed to flow and grow. “Charlotte Suite” is a short instrumental interlude and is instantly recognisable as Galahad, yet on the following “Haunted” it is really only Stu’s distinctive vocals that mark it out as being by them.
This is the tenth anniversary edition which is a double disc digipak, with the second disc containing a rare live performance of ‘Year Zero’ taken directly from the desk of a Galahad show at Mr Kyps in Poole in 2003, by which time Neil Pepper had already left the band to be replaced by Peter Wallbridge. This is an interesting piece of history, and is fun to listen to, but is probably only going to be of interest to hardcore fans. Overall this is a really nice set, and having listened to this album for the first time in a while I wonder just how many have overlooked this period of the band as this is a fine album. It marked the starting point of the journey that led to ‘Battle Scars’ and ‘Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria’, and although the guys have been unable to have a stable line-up it was the ‘Year Zero’ members that recorded those albums. Worth investigating.