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Martin Barre

Roads Less Travelled

Review by Gary Hill

Martin Barre is probably best known as the long time guitarist for Jethro Tull. I reviewed his Back to Steel album when it came out, and loved it. He did not disappoint with this one. It has a real blues rock vibe to much of it, and might not land under prog without Barre's Tull connection. That said, there is a lot of jazz and prog in the mix at different points. Most of the vocals here are handled aptly by Dan Crisp, but several tunes have different singers. If you like a solid AOR rock sound with a wide variety of influence and some killer quality, you really should check this out now. It's a great album and a fine addition to Barre's catalog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lone Wolf
A rocking chord section opens this. It gets accentuated by a mellower acoustic bit. The cut shifts between those two elements along the road of the introduction. It shifts to a rocking arrangement that has a lot of metal and mainstream rock in the mix. This is a killer AOR stomper. It has elements of Jethro Tull, but you'd expect that from Barre's songwriting. The guitar solo section has a killer bluesy basis to it.
Out of Time
Another with a lot of metallic  concepts, the prog is all over the fast paced changes on this tune. The whole arrangement is more proggy than the opener was. Still, it's set on a mainstream rock arrangement, too. The first part of the extensive instrumental section is full-on prog. It includes some particularly fiery guitar soloing, too. I'd even say that the movement wanders toward fusion for a time on the closing movement.
On My Way
This comes in with a mellower jam that has some of the trademark Tull Celtic elements. That evolves into another rather bluesy movement. That gives way to a somewhat mellower and bluesy song structure. In some ways this tune almost feels like a continuation of the previous piece.
Roads Less Travelled
The opening guitar texture on this has a decided metallic crunch. The cut is part fusion and part meaty prog rock, though. There are some intriguing tones and textures here. This piece is dramatic and powerful. The cut definitely has some of that bluesy rocking vibe, too. It also has some intriguing changes.
Badcore Blues
Some seriously bluesy sounds begin this. Given the title, though, what did you expect. Becca Langsford provides the vocals here, lending a real soulful, powerful sound to the piece. That change of singers also brings some variety. This has a lot of mellower slide guitar.
Seattle
Coming in rather playful and both jazzy and proggy, this has a completely different flavor in comparison to the last number. Crisp is back on the vocals. There is a reference to a "Zappa tune," and for some reason that got a smile from me on the first spin. This gets into more rocking stuff further down the road, but is one of the most purely progressive rock based things here. The arrangement is complex and meaty. Jazz and an almost metallic crunch are both on hand at times here.
For No Man
Dramatic mellower prog textures open this track. As the cut works out rather gradually, it becomes another that's among the most prog oriented of the disc. I love the guitar fills on this. They even make me think of both Carlos Santana and Al Di Meola a bit. The track has some particularly interesting changes and is another that features both jazz and blues tendencies.
(This Is) My Driving Song
One would expect a driving song to be energized and powered up. Well, that's what this is. There are still some progressive rock elements at play here, but the meaty bluesy rock really drives this tune. I love the guitar soloing section. It's really soaring, but a bit too short.
You Are an Angel
Alex Hart is the singer on this song, and her vocals bring definite variety. She doesn't have the vital, soulful sound that Langsford brought. Instead, there is a gentle beauty to her voice, but still she is able to achieve some power. The cut is a mellower, acoustic driven piece that's very much a jazz number. It is very beautiful.
Trinity
I love the intricate acoustic guitar that starts this piece. Some of the Tull reference in terms of Celtic textures is heard as this continues. It's an instrumental performed entirely by Barre. He really shows off his fret-board wizardry here. This mellow tune is quite proggy.
And the Band Played Only For Me
I love the killer retro sound on this number. It has a real blues rock vibe to it, but some serious early 1970s prog tendencies, too. Langsford is back on the vocals, bringing a real jazzy texture to the track. The mellower portions of the arrangement have that element to some degree anyway, but the vocals really cement the whole picture. I love the bass work on this, and the whole cut is just very cool and a nice change. This gets incredibly involved and powerful as it continues to build outward later. It's one of the best cuts here, and the closing section really makes this an excellent choice for final number as it really ends things in style.
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