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Downes Braide Association

Skyscraper Souls

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit that I was initially drawn to this act because of Geoff Downes. As a fan of Yes and The Buggles, I follow his work. Well, having heard the albums leading up to this one, I'd rank this one as the best yet from this outfit. It does a great job of creating a brilliant prog rock album that holds up from start to finish. There is even an epic here in the form of the title track. There are a number of guests including Kate Pierson (of the B52s), Andy Partridge, Tim Bowness and Marc Almond. If you've liked this act in the past, pick this up immediately. It's their best. If you've never given them a try, I don't think there is a better introduction.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Prelude
Piano starts this cut. It works forward from there as the backdrop for an evocative vocal performance. There is some intriguing guitar work and layers of symphonic sounding keyboards later in the piece, really adding to the emotion and passion of the piece.
Skyscraper Souls
An epic piece, this is over eighteen minutes in length. The piano again brings it into being. There is a poem reading type of thing as other keyboard elements reinforce the drama of the piece. It works from there to a faster moving electronic styled jam that feels a bit like The Buggles. I like Kate Pierson's backing vocals on this a lot. The cut grows steadily upward and outward as it continues. An instrumental segment around three minute mark changes to concept just a bit. The vocals return is a bit different arrangement and progression. It works into a new motif from there. Another break brings some intriguing keyboard textures and a tasty guitar solo. There are definitely elements that call to mind Yes on this instrumental section. Another short vocal based movement is heard and then we're out into a different instrumental section. This one gets into some intriguing rocking stuff before dropping way down to more atmospheric textures to continue. The piece continues evolving as it works forward. It reaches and peak and then drops down for a mellower section for a time. It works out from there to rocking stuff again. After the eleven minute mark it drops back to mellower stuff and there is another poetry reading. As the arrangement gradually intensifies there is some horn heard. I love the crunchy sort of soaring guitar part that comes in here. This eventually gives way to another mellower movement from there. It builds up a bit before dropping way down again for an electronics as background vocal movement. It works up a bit more before a piano solo section takes control. Downes' keyboards dominate the piece, creating wonderful textures and melodies from there to eventually take it to its end. What a ride this is. It's arguably the best song this outfit has ever done.
Glacier Girl
I love the pretty keyboard textures that open this. The vocals join, and we're taken into a motif that's more or less balladic. The song works through an intriguing break before moving into a piano driven movement for the next vocals section. A guitar movement comes in and Pierson's vocals soar over the top as this works forward. That section takes it to the close.
Angel on Your Shoulder
I dig the rocking, rather Buggles-like, section that starts this. They work into a keyboard based arrangement of that opening movement for the vocals to enter. As this build out later there is some killer guitar work. This is quite an effective rocker. It's catchy, meaty and has some great changes to it. There is another poetry recitation on the mellower section at the end.
Tomorrow
I love the intricate keyboard section that begins this. It works forward with a mellow motif for the first vocals. It works through a number of shifts as it continues. Parts are more hard rocking, pushing upward as the cut goes along. An intricate and rather classically oriented drop back is heard later with the sounds of birds built into it along with some flute to accompany the keys. That portion ends the cut.      
Lighthouse
I dig the AOR prog rocking sound of this piece. It has a good energy and vibe. There is both some great guitar and great keyboard sounds in the mix. I love the vocal arrangement, too. This is arguably the most accessible cut here. It definitely has some of that Buggles vibe, but with more of a rocking edge. There is a poetry reading at the end of this cut.
Skin Deep
Piano led sounds serve as the backdrop for the vocals on the evocative opening of this cut. At times this feels like the balladic side of Dream Theater to me. This has some vocoder type processed vocals.
Darker Times
There is a spoken section at the beginning of this, accompanied only by slightly creepy keyboard textures. That section makes up almost the first minute of the cut. Piano and Braides' voice take command from there. I love the multiple layers of vocals that are heard as this continues later. It's a fairly slow moving, but nicely building piece that really works well.
Finale

This ties directly into the opening piece, bringing a nice bookend closing to an exceptionally strong disc.

 
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