It has been a decade since I first discovered the music of gifted Liverpudlian composer and guitarist Neil Campbell, a journey which began in 2005 with the release of The Neil Campbell Collective’s 3 O’Clock Sky. Along with the aforementioned release, and by way of some further insight, I also obtained a copy of Neil’s first solo album Through The Looking Glass (03) at the same time. I mention this, as similar to the Tabula Rasa Suite, both are primarily Neil Campbell and classical guitar.
Since that first encounter Neil has released a contrasting and impressive body of work, including the absorbing Fall (06) album with cellist Nicole Collarbone, undertook the impressive classical-rock audio/visual Frankenstein, released several collaborative works – notably the jazz/blues album Perri and Neil featuring vocalist Perri Alleyne-Hughes and more recently in 2013 as part of the superb and critically acclaimed Bulbs quartet with the release of On. The Tabula Rasa Suite however sees Neil return exclusively to the classical guitar for his third solo album…
“Tabula Rasa Suite is a very personal series of pieces for solo guitar and environmental sounds. Early in 2013 I moved to a beautiful leafy area very close to Liverpool’s Sefton Park and Princes Park. I wanted this music to reflect the change of scenery in my life – a sort of new beginning.”
And it is easy to empathise with those thoughts as the suite comprises of nine beautifully composed and performed pieces allowing a glimpse into a tranquil place centred around an English park. To this end Neil has enlisted environmental sound composer Manuella Blackburn to offer the subtle backdrop to the pieces, ranging from rain and thunder, through birdsong and also the joyous sounds of children at play.
The overall texture of the suite is one of tranquillity, although each of the movements have their own distinctive flavour capturing the different facets surrounding the local environment. I’ve elected not to single out the tracks for individual comment as at a mere fraction under thirty minutes Tabula Rasa Suite is best enjoyed in its entirety – something I have done personally and with great pleasure over the last month.
On the surface it may seem a little mean to release a CD with only thirty minutes of music and perhaps conscious of this Neil has added 19th Century composer Eric Saties’ Trois Gymnopédies to make up a more respectable running time. Originally written for piano, Neil’s interpretation of the three movements is delightful and so well compliments the mood created earlier. I’m sure the piece will be familiar to many, so perhaps let us just listen…
Looking forward to 2015 Neil is currently working on an new album, eMErgence, scheduled for release this year featuring music from Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. And with the The Perri and Neil Quartet a live interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s Blue (71) album.
Tabula Rasa Suite (I-IX)
01. I (3:03)
02. II (3:16)
03. III (4:41)
04. IV (2:31)
05. V (2:57)
06. VI (3:07)
07. VII (1:42)
08. VIII (3:13)
09. IX [Tor] (5:27)
10. Gymnopédie No. 1 (3:29)
11. Gymnopédie No. 2 (3:00)
12. Gymnopédie No. 3 (2:37)
Total Time – 39:03
Neil Campbell – Classical Guitar
Manuella Blackburn – Environmental Sound Recordings
Perri Alleyne-Hughes – Wordless Voice (8)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th December 2014