Like many, I first came across Jeff Green a few years back with the release of his debut solo album Jessica, his heartfelt musical tribute for the loss of his daughter. His second album Elder Creek sees him on another personal journey and one in which he explores “the concept of memory, its loss and the part it plays in our lives, the lives of loved ones and society in general”.
Initial thoughts when I first heard Elder Creek were that it was a little light on the progressive elements and with the rich tapestry of harmony vocals and layers of sweetly resonant guitars lent a more West Coast flavour to the music (The Eagles, Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, etc). A question I posed to Jeff in an interview I had with him recently – you can read his thoughts HERE.
This said, and after some haunting atmospherics, accompanied by guitar harmonics and a whizzy analogue synth, an infectious 7/8 guitar motif takes us into Theseus Falls. The first three and a half minutes of the track are dedicated to an ever increasing medley of instrumentation – fantastic stuff. Following this lengthy instrumental introduction we enter the equally catchy vocal section with a combination of well executed ‘pop’ sensibilities along with strong layers of rich harmony vocals. As the track concludes we move into an, all too short, acoustic guitar and piano outro – one that might have sat very comfortably on the Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman’s Ravens And Lullabies album.
Next up is the title track and if there was to be a single from the album then this would surely be it. It begins with and old gramophone recording of a haunting, reverb drenched piano, before launching into the song proper. The song features the first of the guest singers, Sean Filkins, who does an excellent job carrying the strong melody and certainly makes the vocal line “his own”. Again the multi-layering of harmony vocals adds greatly to the richness to the song, however I can’t leave this track without mention of the rhythm section, who underpin the music. Pete Riley demonstrates why he is such an in demand drummer whilst Andy Staples sits in playing some great parts.
Although Mike Stobbie has been present throughout the opening two tracks, it is during Our First Meeting that he rises more on the surface. A gentler piece with acoustic guitar and nicely textured strings and the middle instrumental section best illustrates this, starting with the lush bed of strings which form the setting for his befitting Moog solo. As the track unfolds Mike’s synth combines with Jeff’s guitar splendidly.
Unlike the Jessica album, Elder Creek features only one instrumental and Point Blunt Light showcases Jeff Green’s undeniable technique and I’m pleased to report however that this is not at the expense of musicality…
Now not wanting to repeat myself, I can tell you that the album builds on its strengths – the strong writing/arrangements, great instrumentation with splendid vocals – all amply displayed in the rocky Gordian’s Knot and the ballad Loops And Threads. One thing not touched upon previously however is Jeff’s great voice, which more than stands out in these two tracks. So all that’s left is the closing track!
I had mentioned earlier that my initial thoughts towards Elder Creek were that it was perhaps a little prog-lite, however, having now sat with the album for a few weeks I can safely say those notions have long been dispelled, but had they not been, then the final twenty minute closing piece, A Long Time From Now, would have.
A Long Time From Now is in the truest sense a prog epic and following in time worn tradition. I will make no comparisons to past epics but suffice to say those who have enjoyed tracks that filled an entire side of an album will find much to enjoy here.
Split into seven sub sections, broadly speaking, ties in the key elements of the album concept, intertwined within a loose Greek mythological framework. Jeff explains this far better in the interview (please see link below). Musically as with many of the tracks on the album, there are some dreamy atmospherics and ‘found sounds’ to open the piece, before a riff hungry theme takes hold of proceedings. This segues, via a brief instrumental, effortlessly into an ear friendly vocal section. Alan Reed takes on the vocal duties here and on what is a very vocally strong album, he turns in a superb performance. Now there’s a familiarity to this opening vocal section, but for the life of me I can’t pinpoint it, so I’ll just put it down to the fact that I just can’t get it out of my head.
Although split into sub-sections, the exact timings are not given, so I apologise for any inaccuracies in my interpretation of where the tracks change. So following on from the first vocal section we enter Pink Floyd territory with echoes of another album featuring a single track on one side. Mike Stobbie grits up the Hammond, à la Jon Lord, for Out To Sea and unleashes a brief but great little instrumental. From there we move into The Mirror Man and I have to say I love the vocals here – reminiscent in many respects to Steely Dan. In turn this moves into the equally engaging Two For Tea With Mnemosyne where hints of Focus lead us firstly to the return to the opening riff before taking us headlong into an extended instrumental workout.
Kicked off by Pete Riley, Along The Lethe, sees Mike Stobbie in fine Emerson/Lord mode – Hammond blazing – before we enter the keyboard/guitar duel. Great stuff! By way of bookending the track we return to the opening atmospherics and vocal section with only the superbly melodic Euturpe to take us out. At just over twenty minutes, A Long Time From Now could so easily have outstayed its welcome – but it really doesn’t. Press play again…
I enjoyed Jeff’s debut album and it still finds its way into my rotation of music, so I was looking forward to hearing Elder Creek. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much more assured the album would be and the way it has a distinct flow across the seven tracks. Icing on the cake are the production values, so all credit to Jeff Green, Phil Hilborne and Andy Jackson (final mastering), for the crystalline clarity of the songs in what is a fairly densely layered mix.
Elder Creek may not appeal to those who like their prog spikey, edgy or with copious amounts instrumental sections, but I reckon given the right exposure this album could have a fairly wide appeal, not just in progressive circles. 2014 is proving to be a good year, for me at least and this release from Jeff Green is certainly another welcome addition.
01. Theseus Falls (8:18)
– i. Entrance
– ii. Questions
– iii. Exit
02. Elder Creek (5:09)
03. Our First Meeting (7:53)
04. Point Blunt Light (6:25)
05. Gordian’s Knot (6:30)
06. Loops And Threads [A Lullaby In Reverse] (4:19)
07. A Long Time From Now (20:05)
– i. Building The Ship
– ii. Out To Sea
– iii. The Mirror Man
– iv. Two For Tea With Mnemosyne
– v. Along The Lethe
– vi. Arrival
– vii. Euturpe
Total Time: 58:39
Jeff Green – Guitars, Mandolin, Guitar Synthesizer, Vocals & Programming
Pete Riley – Drums
Andy Staples – Bass
Mike Stobbie – Keyboards
Phil Hilborne – Guitar
Sean Filkins – Lead Vocal (2)
Alan Reed – Lead Vocal (7)
Garreth Hicklin – Lead & Backing Vocals
Imogen Hendricks – Backing Vocals
Laura Green – Backing Vocals
Pamela Kelly – Backing Vocals
Sinead O’Donnell- Stoltz – Backing Vocals
Record Label: Festival Music (Progrock Records)
Year Of Release: 2014
Elder Creek – 2014
Jessica – 2009