Phil’s Festive 40 – 2014

ADVENT 30- 2014 AD

Before it was the Festive 40 in tribute to John Peel, then last year it was late so I called it the Easter 40, this time I’m doing it early in Advent. Anyways, it has to be the most extensive look at the year that is passing focusing on reviewing with some personal choices as well, doesn’t it?

PS The numbers are there so I can keep count and do not imply any numerical ranking.

OZMA- NEW TALE1    OZMA- NEW TALES  Listen to the breathtakingly haunting piece ‘Belouga’ but there is much more besides. While much of the music may be described ambient or even ‘shoe gaze’ jazz is at its heart as evidenced by the brilliant sax break on ‘The Launch’. Ozma has created a listen though atmospheric tour de force. (Self release)

2    CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS- THE NINE There is a touch of Kevin Coyne intensity and Peter Gabriel sardonicism about ‘Delivering The Goods’ which features a soaring guitar break from John Simms. Tim Jones leaves the guitar to concentrate on the vocals and is in fine form and the multi-tracked ghostly voices of Maxine Marten add ambience and atmosphere on songs like ‘Timelessness’. This is a great song about numbers, a topic very important in the C of H psychi…full review in ‘Acid Dragon.


German song writer Martin Schnella has put music to a story by Kiri Geile, various notable prog musicians taking vocal parts with an intriguing variation in instrumentation e.g. during the five part title track there is sax, cello, violin, recorder Uilleann Pipes and tin whistles (bodhran and mandolin also make thus entering the unusual realm of combining overtly folk influences with metal flourishes (not overstated) A rag time piano solo by Tobias Reiss would also seem oxymoronic within the context but it all works!……

4    Reissue/ remaster:  THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, a sometimes overlooked psych/ prog classic from 1968 led by eccentric genius Joseph Boyd- much more than ‘I Can’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You Sugar’– fully appraised in Acid Dragon magazine. (Esoteric Recordings)

5    Reissue/ remaster: DAVID SANCIOUS- FOREST OF FEELINGS Suite Cassandra’, the introduction of the E-Street Band keyboard player’s music to the record buying public, is an accomplished and energising 9 minutes or so of music, sounding like a crossover between Genesis and ELP with some delightful piano and synth and timpani played by producer Billy Cobham… (Esoteric Recordings)

6    Dewa Budjana with Jimmy Johnson & Vinnie Colaiuta- “Surya Namaskar”- Campuhan Hill’ is a tribute to Allan Holdsworth, recalling a visit to the legendary guitarist’s house in Los Angeles in 2013. Budjana turned 50 last year and ‘Fifty’, the opening track has Gary Husband on synth. It is hard to believe what a long way he has come from a million selling Indonesian pop star as part of Gigi to such musical creative heights. He still has many ambitions, including an unfulfilled one of playing with John McLaughlin, and was last heard of rehearsing a new album in New York. The marvellous trilogy of albums Dewa Budjana has recorded for Moon June Records have already created a magnificent legacy. (Moon June Records)

7    Reissue/ remasters: HAWKWIND- THE FLICKNIFE YEARS (box set) I am a real sucker for Hawkwind so an anthology like this is more than welcome! I was even inspired to write an article on it! (Atomhenge)

8    Help Yourself: “Reaffirmation: An Anthology 1971-1973”( 2 CD, Esoteric) It’s bordering on the criminal that a band as good as Help Yourself didn’t enjoy the success their music so richly deserved. An association with Welsh wizards Man developed after Deke Leonard heard them on the ‘All Good Clean Fun Tour’ and multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist Malcolm Morley and bass player Ken Whaley would eventually join Man. (Drummer Dave Charles also played with Leonard in his Iceberg group). Help Yourself were no Man though: they weren’t even Welsh- and they were steeped in Americana…….

9    Nice surprise of the year as Jack produces one of his best solo albums ever but tinged with great sadness at the death of a giant: JACK BRUCE- SILVER RAILS Why does this album work so well? Because it has a theme running through as Jack Bruce looks to the future as well as to the past which is good news for all of us. The material is varied, memorable and faces the issues of what makes us human head on. ‘Silver Rails’ is a considerable accomplishment that reminds us once again why this modest Glaswegian had, and continues to have, such an influence on generations of musicians. It demands maximum exposure. (Esoteric Antenna) (I was at a Steve Hackett concert when I heard the news of Jack’s death).

10    Reissue/ Remaster: John Cale and Terry Riley- “Church of Anthrax”

The music is far from Riley’s most famous work ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air’ (or ‘In C’) but still retains some ‘minimalism’ in terms of hitting a groove and sticking with it. Another way of describing it might be ‘tumultuous funk’, a rollercoaster of a listen, for sure. The sleeve is nice too. (Esoteric Recordings)

11    Reissue/ remaster PFM- “Paper Charms: The Complete BBC Recordings 1974-1976” (Boxset) (Esoteric) Brilliant though the CDs are the real treat for me is the third disc a DVD showing three Old Grey Whistle Test sessions between 1974 and 1976 introduced by ‘whispering’ Bob Harris.

12    KING CREOSOTE- FROM SCOTLAND WITH LOVE In the year of the referendum and a democratic and political revival after years of sleepwalking Kenny Anderson produced his most coherent and convincing statement yet. At firstI thought it was different artists on the brilliant film of the same name. (Domino)

13    LED ZEPPELIN- LED ZEPPELIN (2 CD set): The best of the reissued because of the live concert that goes with it. Still their best album in my view, unsurpassed progressive blues rock. (Atlantic)

14    TINARIWEN: EMMAAR I buy everything by Tinariwen as soon as it is released. Like Tamikrest you just know it’s going to be good, good, good! (PIAS)

15    ELBOW- THE TAKE OFF AND LANDING OF EVERYTHING An unusual beast, an album where you wouldn’t replace or skip anything on it, a sign that Elbow are truly the best at what they do. (Fiction).

16    NOSHIR MODY- STORIES FROM THE YEARS OF LIVING PASSIONATELY-  Self taught Bombay guitarist’s influences come from Indian classical music, Al Di Meola and Pat Metheny as well as more overt rock infleunces..the 17 minute long ‘India’ is worth the price of admission alone…. (

17    SPACE DEBRIS- PHONOMORPHOSIS – Connoisseurs and curators of their art and a beautiful double LP to look at and listen to (Yes, vinyl is my preferred medium) 4 side long pieces by a time honoured combination of guitar, organ, electric piano, synth, bass and drums with references to chief exponents of the art like Focus, the mighty Doors, magic and mystery, return the needle to side one and play again. Take a bow, Christian, Tommy, Mitja and Winnie. (Visit the website and look on You Tube)

18    Reissue: THE DOORS- WEIRD SCENES FROM THE GOLDMINE-Speaking of the mighty Doors I have no idea why I bought this on CD already having the vinyl- for the car I guess- except that it’s one of the greatest compilations ever. This was also the year I returned to ‘An American Prayer’ for some strange reason.

19    ADAM SMALE- OUT OF THE BLUE It has taken until reaching his 46th year for Adam Smale to release his first album which is all the more astonishing when you witness the quality of playing and original composition on ‘Out of the Blue’. I thought the first two tracks must be standards so assured were they but in fact there is only one cover, of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Yes or No’ with a marvellous piano solo from Matt Fries of recording band Tri-fi and an extraordinary reinvention of a track dating back to 1964. ‘…(self released available on CD Baby)

20    DANIEL SMITH- SMOKIN’ HOT BASSOON BLUES If you like cool arrangements of jazz standards, inspired breaks and the sound of a bassoon this album is for you. It is tinged with sadness as it is dedicated to his wife, Judith, who passed away last year. However, it is also inspirational and a fitting tribute to her. It is top jazz musicians at their best playing jazz (and some blues). (Summit Records)

21    SASSAFRAS- EXPECTING COMPANY Now we have all heard of Man, and you will know I am a big fan, but how many of you remember Sassafras, also from Wales but named after the number of a Texas band called Bubble Puppy, ‘Hot Smoke and Sassafras’? A hard gigging group, Sassafras were pretty confident by the time their first LP with its clever cover, was released in 1973 and the twin guitars of Dai Shell and Ralph Evans drew obvious comparisons with Wishbone Ash (you hear that on the politically incorrect ‘School Days’) but, actually, they started off doing covers of ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ and the opening two numbers on the album are in blues Rock (a la Status Quo) and country blues mode.….Thanks, Esoteric for filling in another listening gap!

22    Nick Magnus- “N’monix’ Wow, this is good. Nick Magnus is the keyboard player in the Steve Hackett Band (a live essential) and ex-member of The Enid. His work with Hackett goes back to the legendary album ‘Spectral Mornings’. Here he is accompanied by Hackett….. reviewed in Acid Dragon (Esoteric Antenna)

23    Star Period Star- “Can’t See The Forest” What drew me in was the restless invention ‘keeping this side of atonality’, a powerhouse drummer (I like those!) and the fact it made me think of High Tide, Mike Ratledge, Gong/ Hillage, Egg, prog with a bit of 60s psych thrown

Schnauser24    Schnauser- ‘Protein For Everyone’ They set out to shock and the piece of best steak replacing the head and hand of the main protagonist on the cover, and also depicted on the label, should not put you off because like trailblazers before them like Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, Blossom Toes and The Soft Machine they have the musical licks to prove that humour really does belong in music. I have been with this group since the beginning since Simon Felton of Pink hedgehog blazed a trail for them. I wrote a career resumé(3 albums in) for Acid Dragon that ends as follows: “The final track ‘Disposable Outcomes’ is nearly 17 minutes long, in no less than ten parts and with lengthy subtitles that took me back to Hatfield and The North’s ‘The Rotter’s Club’ and a Bonzo Dog imploration to ‘please oblige, don’t disapprove if we now get carried away’ as, indeed they do. A comparison with early Soft Machine is irresistible with a Mothers of Invention zaniness that will always demarcate Schnauser as ‘outsiders’ which is, I suspect, where they want to be.” (Now they’ve hit the ‘big time’, have an album on Esoteric Antenna and are getting good reviews in publications like Mojo…happy days!)


25    CASTING CROWNS- THRIVE  I also read Mark Hall’s book this year-inspiring!     (Sony/ Beach Street/ Reunion)

26    TONY PATTERSON & BRENDAN EYRE- NORTHLANDS Brilliant new album on Esoteric Antenna- haven’t written review yet but can’t stop playing it. For fans of Genesis, Camel and beautiful orchestrations and piano. The Hacketts are there as well. (on Esoteric Antenna).

27    ANDY JACKSON- SIGNAL TO NOISE Album by Pink Floyd engineer/ producer lives up to all the hype and may well have out Floyded ‘Endless River’. Review to follow. (Esoteric Antenna)

28    Reissue/ remaster: ANDERSON, BRUFORD, WAKEMAN, HOWE (2 CD) We are reminded of what a great album this was for its time, a time that treated prog rather disdainfully, a useful bonus CD of different edits as well- has stood the test of time (Esoteric Recordings)

29    XAVI REIJA- RESOLUTION Catalan drummer Reija assembles brilliant group to produce new kind of jazz fusion (Moon June)

30    JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR- THE DIRTY TRUTH In my book nothing can surpass ‘Almost Always Never’ but this comes close. (Axe) The greatest blues player of her generation.

I have still not heard these right through:

Pink Floyd- The Endless River

Robert Plant- Lullaby And.. The Ceaseless Roar’

Temples- Sun Structures

The War on Drugs- Lost In The Dream

The Jim Mullen Organ Trio- Catch My Drift

So this list may expand and I will be adding a few more over Advent to get to that magic 40.


In an extreme act of self indulgence I have allowed myself 60 minutes or so as a reminder of the passing year- a difficult task!












FISH ON FRIDAY- GODSPEED (title track- Esoteric Antenna)





pArAdoX OnE news

The project I was hoping to release has been delayed for the best of reasons as Tim Jones works on it in his Stone Premonitions studio in the north of England. There is a lot of new material to choose from and eventually it will appear as ‘THIS FRAGILE PEACE’. Hopefully it will appear before too long.

I am also working slowly in my ‘7’ studio on a reconfiguration of my first album ‘REALITY QUAKE’ which was released in 2000. It garnered many appreciative reviews (and some minor sales!!!!) but, as I have honed my production and playing skills and updated keyboards I figured it deserves a refresh. It will also incorporate parts of ‘DIMENSION OF MIRACLES’ which was not such a coherent album. Indeed there will be a further grouping of material from subsequent albums. If you haven’t heard it please do pre-order. I am doing a special deal (this will expire in Easter, 2015) with THIS FRAGILE PEACE, REALITY QUAKE 2 (with some spare copies I have of my last album WATCH THE SKIES for free) for £5 P&P included. I can’t speak fairer than that.

Please support independent solo artists as I have tried to do through various ‘Voices’ projects. We cannot make music without you. I don’t need payment at the moment just an expression of interest and a PAYPAL payment to when the time comes (or another payment method will be arranged if PayPal doesn’t suit). Correspondence is also welcomed through

Reviewers can, of course, request promo copies.

Thanks for visiting!

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