(All Album Reviews by Vinylroolz)
It's not often that an album's cover art accurately mirrors the music inside. The debut from Willowglass, with artwork from Lee Gaskins, does just that. The music is as lush, pretty and British as the cover.
Let's get the obvious buzzwords out of the way right now, shall we? Pastoral. Symphonic. Mellotron-drenched.
Willowglass has Dave Brightman on drums and Andrew Marshall on absolutely everything else: guitars, keyboards, bass and flute. Marshall also composes, arranges and produces everything. Your basic one-man band who had the intelligence to know that you can't replace a real drummer, and who also didn't fall into the trap of thinking that a prog album needs vocals. This is wonderfully instrumental in it's entirety.
Andrew Marshall's influences are obvious: Genesis, Anthony Phillips, Camel and Pink Floyd. He mixes these influences liberally. For example, in "Remembering", I hear Andy Latimer's guitar tone playing over Richard Wright's Hammond.
"Garden" channels Genesis with the 12-string guitar intro, then a flute melody over a mellotron. The flute gives way to a synth lead and finishes with a Tony Banks inspired synth melody over strumming guitars and bass.
"Tower of the King's Daughter" is similarly influenced, with a multi-track mellotron workout leading into another Banksish synth lead over Hammond chords.
"Into the Chase" brings us back to the Camel side of things. A bouncy little number in 7/4 that starts out great, bogs down from inactivity in the middle, then rebounds (albeit in straight 4) with arpeggiated Hammond chords over the mellotron, some nice drum fills and finally a doubled Hackett-style guitar melody.
"A Blinding Light" and "Waking the Angels" are a couple of tracks that take too long to get started and ultimately don't go anywhere. Luckily, these are at the end of the album. Let's call these "bonus tracks". They just don't hold up to the others.
Mixed into the track list are four short ideas, each composed for a single instrument. "Peace" (piano), "Interlude 1" (guitar), "Summer's Leave" (mellotron) and "The End" (bass). Nice ideas, but that's all they are.
I hope Andrew Marshall can put together a touring band. Other players might inject some excitement and energy that would elevate these songs and get to the next level. I could see them opening for the likes of Steve Hackett and being a big hit!
Willowglass is a nicely produced and performed album of pretty, sometimes beautiful, music that comes in a nice package. It has all the right sounds and references, but it obviously isn't terribly original. If that doesn't bother you, and you like mellotrons, then by all means pick this up. I'll give this 3.5 out of 5 stars.