(All Album Reviews by maribor)
Martin Morgan – all instruments, programming
Yak was originally a band that started playing in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. They consisted of drummer John Wynn, bass player Simon Snell, guitarist Robin Hodder and keyboard wiz Martin Morgan. The band mostly played jam sessions and gigs were basically non-existent. The band split up after every member moved to a different part of England. Martin Morgan felt it would be a shame not to continue the work they had already begun and so he revived the project more than twenty years later. They had been working on certain tunes as a band, so Morgan thought he’d put those melodies to use. For this project, he decided to play on his own, without the addition of the rest of the past band members.
The album opens with a dark and ominous opening, slightly reminiscent of vintage Tangerine Dream or Vangelis (the track “Himalaya” comes to mind). It’s a good way to kick off the album. I was expecting a really dark and atmospheric album after I had heard this track. The second track brings about one of the progressive rock clichés – the song title. Just about every critic who has absolutely no clue about progressive rock thinks that the lyrics in this style are mainly about dragons and wizards and Tolkien. The track has a nice piano opening and it gets a bit livelier after the drums kick in. There are only a couple of melodies used here with lots of variations and soloing on top.
“Leylines of Yak” is a better structured song with some complex melodies. However, the annoying programmed drums and lame synthesiser sounds make it a bit worse than it deserves to be. The first part of “Yakrise” is slow with a basic piano melody and synthesiser on top. The second part of the song is faster and it includes some exceptional solos that remind of Peter Bardens (Camel). Again, some lame effects are used to tarnish an otherwise fine piece of music. “Frustration” starts off where the previous song finished (wind sounds). It is quite a complex piece but again the frustrating synthesiser sounds tarnish it quite a bit. The piano at the end reminded me of Tony Banks’ A Curious Feeling.
The next song is “Migration”. The title isn’t the only thing in common with Camel, the beginning reminds of classic Bardens yet again. I could also sense some Keith Emerson influences. “Earthogrub” is a song that begins with some nice Emerson-like piano and when the synthesiser joins in you can’t help but wonder if Rick Wakeman was also an influence. The album finishes pretty much like it started – with a nice mellow song on piano.
It is obvious that Martin Morgan tried to recapture that 1970s feel on this record. However, his inclusion of those lame 80s sounding keyboards made it a worse record. Sometimes I felt as if I was playing one of those 80s computer games with the cheesy music playing in the background. This is very unfortunate since the song-writing is very solid. Morgan shows a lot of potential, however the execution leaves a lot to be desired. If he had added real drums and bass, it would have made a world of difference. There’s no doubt that he is a talented man capable of writing some very sophisticated and complex material, I only wish he had waited one more year so that his band mates could have joined him. The record would have been much better. As it is, it’s only a ‘what could have been’ album.