(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Mr. Burness has been on the prog scene for quite a while, leading his band Burnessence during the neo-prog revival of the 1980s, but has more recently been working as a solo artist, as well as contributing to albums by the ambient group Tuu.
This is probably his most substantial release as a solo artist, an album containing 12 tracks that range from melodic pop (e.g. “Open Man”, “Stepping Out”) and progressive rock (e.g. “Unstoppable Waves Of Joy”, “Love Is For Giving”) to ambient/experimental instrumentals and twiddly bits (e.g. “Returning To You”, “Beneath The Surface”, “Tomorrow's God”). Overall, on this album at least, Tim more often than not embraces the more poppy end of the prog spectrum, existing in a musical zone alongside the likes of say Francis Dunnery, Howard Jones and Tony Banks. The Howard Jones reference is particularly relevant, I feel, because Tim freely admits that Jones was one of his biggest influences from the 1980s and there's definitely some similarity between their vocal styles too.
The album starts with the comic 20-second “Count In” before launching into the aforementioned “Open Man” and “Stepping Out”, both of which are quite enjoyable pop-rock songs, good as far as they go but nothing remarkable (I don't wish to do them a disservice – a lot of bands would love to have songs as good as this on their albums, it's just that there are more interesting things to come).
“Returning To You” is an instrumental consisting of backwards guitars and it has an interesting atmosphere, though it really just acts as a 40-second segue into “Heal Your Soul”, one of many tracks that has a ‘new-age-feel’ to its lyrics. “Heal Your Soul” is definitely one of the first tracks on the album that really stood out for me, a more sombre piece with an appropriately minimal and atmospheric arrangement that ends with Steve Hackett-like guitar.
The next track, “Unstoppable Waves Of Joy”, is undoubtedly a favourite of mine, an instrumental that is again reminiscent of Steve Hackett but also has a lot of Pink Floyd about it. It's a really great track for the die-hard prog rock fans in the audience but that won't make it inaccessible to any non-proggers out there.
The instrumental theme continues but there's a definite change of pace with the next track, “An Interlude With Monty”, which allows Monty Oxy Moron (keyboardist on this album as well as for legendary psychedelic punks The Damned) the chance to show off his classical skills on what is a rather lovely solo piano piece, in the best spirit of say Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman. I've heard it suggested that this piece sounds out of place, which of course it does because there's nothing else like it on the album, but since when did that become a bad thing? This all-instrumental section of the album comes to a close with a dark ambient electronic piece, “Beneath The Surface”, which clocks in at about a minute and a half.
Tim heads back to the microphone for “Love Is For Giving”, a track that bridges the gap between the earlier pop/rock numbers and Tim's proggier side because it's definitely in the neo-progressive/pop-prog vein, but don't let that put you off because it's also one of the strongest tracks on the album, a solid song with great use of guitar and keyboard sounds.
“Tomorrow's God” is another favourite and another instrumental, a very ethereal ambienty piece that makes use of synthesizers, electric guitars and the unmistakable sound of the hammer dulcimer to excellent effect. I'm sure that Robert Fripp would be very happy if someone mistook this for one of his ambient excursions. And there's more Fripp-like guitar work on “Walk Through The Darkness” though this time it's at the rockier end of the scale as the album takes another abrupt change in style with this unexpectedly gritty number. I'd like to hear Tim do more tracks like this in the future because he clearly has a talent for them.
The album ends with “One Dream”, which starts off as an acoustic guitar rocker but then slides into more of Burness' own interpretation of 'Frippertronics'. It's an original way to the end the album but perhaps something of an anti-climax after the grinding and angular rock of “Walk Through The Darkness”.
On this album eclecticism is the key word and it's both the album's strength as well as perhaps its occasional weakness. I very much like the way that it constantly wrong-foots the listener and embraces so many different moods and styles, though critics might feel that this interrupts the flow and cohesiveness of the album as a whole. For me it definitely does work, though I will admit to being rather excited by Tim's promise that the next album will be more of a band thing, with a bit more focus and probably more prog than adult pop. As good as Finding New Ways To Love is Tim's next album might be just the ticket!
Best tracks: “Unstoppable Waves Of Joy”, “An Interlude With Monty”, “Love Is For Giving”, “Tomorrow's God”, “Walk Through The Darkness”.