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Alan Simon

Songwriter

Review by Gary Hill

I don't think I had heard of Alan Simon until recently. This double disc set captures a lot of his previous work. He has worked with some amazing people. The thing is, his music is amazing. There is a great range of sound here. Not everything is progressive rock oriented, but a lot of it is. At least there is enough to land this under that category. He focuses on Celtic and folk based stuff a lot, but there are plenty of other sounds here. A good chunk of the first disc is symphonic and instrumental. There are plenty of hard rockers, but the bulk of the set lands closer to the melodic end of things. I can't imagine a better introduction to this artist. If you like adventurous, but accessible, melodic music, give this a try.

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
CD 1: My World and Symphonic Side
    
Celtic Ring (Feat. Alan Parsons)

This comes in with some cool mellow electronic prog. It works up with a mellow Celtic vibe from there. I suppose with that title, you would have to expect that, right?

Les Cavaliers Du Vent

Mellower and more symphonic, this is quite an intriguing piece of music.

World (Feat. Brankica Vasic)

This starts with piano. Then the world music vocals (non-lyrical) come over the top. This is pretty, exotic and haunting.

Morholt (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)

This is a killer tune. It's a dramatic, rocking number. It's prog and also Celtic in nature. This is a powerhouse.

The Origins pt. 1 (Feat. Moya Brennan)

Again, some of the vocals on this cut are non-lyrical, however some are lyrical. While one might expect a decidedly Celtic vibe, this is more universal than that. This is quite a pretty piece that has a real world folk music vibe to it. It's lush and powerful.

The Kings (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)

Quite symphonic and beautiful, I like this a lot. It's dramatic, but in a classical music kind of style. It's really quite powerful and dynamic.

Lettre À Yseult (Feat. Christian Décamps)

With spoken lyrics in French, this is a symphonic type piece that works pretty well.

Dihun (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)
Here we have another cut that's very symphonic in nature. There are some intriguing melodies built into this. They seem to paint pictures. Isn't that really what music should do?
War (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)

Coming in with a lot more rocking vibe, this is classy stuff. There are Celtic elements over the top along with a lot of symphonic things.

Ad Libitum (Feat. Carlos Núnez)

Gregorian chant styled vocals begin this. Since they are (I believe) in Latin, it lends a real monastic vibe. The cut works out from there into some pretty symphonically tinged sounds.

Celtic Land (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)

Another Celtic rocker, this is a cool number.

Beltaine (Feat. Fairport Convention)

I love the violin on this smoking hot Celtic rocker.

Skye (Feat. Skilda)

Folk prog and world music merge on this classy number.  The lyrics are not in English, but this makes great use of the vocal presence. There are some great symphonic elements here.

Castle Rock (Feat. Fairport Convention)

Another hard rocking Celtic based masterpiece, this is just plain on fire.

Dun Aengus (Feat. Martin Barre)

Symphonic and yet rock based, the guitar solo is so strong. Of course, what else would you expect. I love the tone and vibe of the whole piece really. It's full of beauty, majesty and power. The non-lyrical chorale styled vocals later bring something particularly special to this. It drops later in the track to some weirdness that takes it to its closing.

The End (feat. The Excalibur Symphonic Orchestra)
Very symphonic in nature, this is a powerful piece of music that really manages to soar.
In the Wind of the Celtic Dream (Feat. Konan Mevel)

Another pretty symphonic styled Celtic piece, there is a big section of a storm and the sounds of nature later in the cut.

The Vision (Feat. John Wetton)

With some intricate guitar work, this is a folk styled number. John Wetton's vocals work really well here. The cut gets more layers of sound and energy as it works forward.

I'm Not the Only One (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg and John Helliwell)

I love the smooth, soulful jazz vibe of this piece. This is one of the most mainstream cuts here. It's also very powerful and effective.

Adela (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg)

The acoustic guitar work on this is so intricate and beautiful. Symphonic elements create a lush layer of sound over the top of it. This is such a pretty folk styled number.

CD 2: My British Side
   
No Man's Land (Feat. Midnight Oil)
Piano and atmospherics open this with the sounds of ground control chatter from a space mission. The number works out from there into a cool rocker. I've always loved Midnight Oil and it's great to hear them on this cut.
Come (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg)

A smooth moving cut, there is a lot of great jazzy sound on this number. I like it a lot. It just has such a great vibe to it.

The Elements (Feat. Roger Hodgson & Dan Ar Braz)

Roger Hodgson's vocal works so well on this tune. Then again, it's Hodgson, so what do you expect. This is a folk based number, but it's still quite proggy. It's also very intricate and pretty. It turns out to a harder rocking jam later in the track that is so cool. This whole thing is so dramatic and powerful.

Dancing Heart (Feat. Roberto Tiranti)

I love the piano that drives so much of this piece. It starts in a rather folk prog style, but shifts out from there to a more powerhouse, faster paced jam that's so cool. There is a lot of jazz built into this.

Circle of Life (Feat. Jon Anderson)

A harder rocking number, this one is cool. It's complex and yet manages to be catchy. While it has some intriguing musical elements at play, for me it's Jon Anderson's vocal that really sells it. There are some cool Celtic instrumental parts that come in later. This is just such a great tune.

Fame and Glory (Feat. Fairport Convention)

I love the expressive and intricate acoustic guitar work on this number. The vocals are quite low in tone here. This has a lot of folk music in the mix.

Peace on Earth (Feat. Heather Small & Billy Preston)

I love the sound of Billy Preston's organ here. This is a soulful kind of rocker. While this is effective, I prefer the more purely proggy stuff here.

Angel's Tears (Feat. Jeremy Spencer)

This is a classy kind of folk rocker. It's perhaps not the most prog rock based piece here, but it is a good one.

Where Is the Way (Feat. Billy Preston)

We're back into soulful territory on this number. I like the organ on it and the vocal arrangement. The cool organ meets saxophone jam later in the piece is a nice touch.

On the Road (Feat. Justin Hayward)

There is almost a bluesy vibe to this piece. It's still a folk prog kind of number. It's very classy stuff.

Jangadero (Feat. Cesaria Evora)

This cut is in Spanish. It's built around some flamenco guitar. It has an interesting and classic flavor to it.

Evil Day (Feat. Roberto Tiranti)

We are back into full on rocking territory here with this high energy intense prog rocker. This has a lot of power and style. While I am really enamored with a lot of the instrumental work here, the vocals really bring a lot of power and passion to this.

Secret Garden (Feat. Maddy Prior)

This is a delicate Celtic based cut. It's quite pretty, and the vocal presence has an old world beauty to it.

World (Feat. Zucchero & Anggun)

Rising up with more of a rocking sound, there are some world elements along with some almost bluesy power to it. While this feels more like rock music, it has an acoustic instrument based sound. It turns crunchier and more hard edged yesterday as it really drives home with style. The instrumental sections bring both a rocking intensity and world music elements. This has a great balance between mellower and more powerful stuff. The dual vocal section later in the track is so potent. It brings passion and fire to the whole thing, reaching some major peaks.

Motherland (Feat. Jimmy O Neill)

Acoustic guitar opens this, and the cut grows out gradually from there. The cut is overall folk based, and sometimes Celtic in texture. It's a solid cut, but far from the proggiest thing here.

Saman (Feat. Les Holroyd & Mick Fleetwood)

This is a fast paced rocker that has some classic tones at its heart.

Marie la Cordelière (Feat. James Wood & Fairport Convention)

Intricate acoustic guitar is at the heart of this cool Celtic folk piece. This is a playful cut with a lot of style and charm.

Lugh (Feat. John Wetton & Martin Barre)

I love the acoustic guitar that starts this. John Wetton's vocal performance is particularly effective on the balladic first half of this cut. It works out after a time to some rocking guitar based prog rock. There is an AOR element at play. I love Martin Barre's guitar work on this thing.

Desire (Feat. Les Holroyd)

More of a bluesy hard rocking sound opens this. The cut works out to a folk prog style from there. There is a lot of Celtic edge here. There is some killer melodic guitar work later in the piece.

A Prayer for My Lover (Feat. Siobhan Owen)

Gentle piano opens this cut. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. The arrangement fills out from there. This is a very traditional Celtic type of piece. It is a pretty, intricate and quite powerful. It's a nice way to end the set in an organic way. Owen's harp serves as the background for the vocals on the closing movement.

 
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