Steve Rothery escapes the boundaries of Marillion for his first solo album, purely instrumental, showing Steve’s distinctive guitar styling’s that are central to that Marillion sound, but that is not the end of the matter.
In 1972, the town of Pripyat was constructed to service the requirements of the local nuclear power station, it quickly grew from a community of a few thousand, to one of over 49,000 souls before being abandoned 27th April 1992. Other than scientists and the odd Top Gear presenter, no one visits. Pripyat served the Chernobyl power station. The cover artwork shows the lost city with the source of it’s undoing in the background on the horizon. Capture in cold colour its bleakness, snow on the ground, undisturbed, it symbolises the abandoned city.
Music works best when it tells a story, with a song, the narrative is often clear. Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, has a sense of flight as it moves from the opening bars to its end. For an instrumental to work for me, it needs to be more than technical ability. Appropriate somehow that a track named for one of the gods of dreams that the tune follows a dream like passage. Slipping into sleep, the structure building, a sense of both calm & urgency, utopia & nightmare. The balance between the instruments maintained and not merely a showcase for our guitarist hero.
Kendris is a nice tune, that feels like a girl dancing alone in her room. Radically different in style from Morpheus and with slight hints of the band he plays with, but nonetheless a pleasant piece of music. Old Man Of The Sea (featuring Steve Hackett & Steven Wilson), is back to the story telling – combined with sea soundscapes, a feeling of a journey under sail. I do get a sense of the sea from this and at eleven minutes long, a full voyage with nuances and changes – a good feel to it but perhaps about 2 minutes too long.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying White Pass very much, but I hear Pink Floyd meets Johnny Cash. Sounds disparaging, but no, the drums give a train like sound and I can just imagine a soulful Cash vocal over the top of it. This is my second most liked of the tracks, possibly for what I perceive to be its simplicity. I can’t put my finger on why, but Yesterday’s Hero is my favourite piece, I just like the way it flows from beginning to end and it seems to be just the right length.
Summer’s End is a blend of musical influences from jazz to rock to lounge and here you do get a feeling for the end of summer, some excellent solo’s on this track both guitar and keyboard.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the title track; a feeling of abandonment, emptiness, desolation? Nice acoustic introduction leading into music that towers over what went before, I suppose the ghosts are the life of a lost city rather than individual spirits – my take on this is the calm day to day living that changes with the accident to an increasingly urgent evacuation. In that sense it works.
If you are expecting Marillion, then it is only in the sense that the diversity and versatility of that band are shown here. This is a craftsman piece, in every sense, a bespoke piece of aural furniture that your ears can admire for many a year. I have found it relaxing, and as someone who loves words and how we use them, I have not found their absence disappointing. I like background music whilst I read or write, with this I can either let it wash over me or give it the attention it deserves.
With the title and the historic back story I was expecting a sort of spacious bleak musical landscape, it’s not that, nor are there any cod Ukrainian folk tunes pasted in, musically given the subject matter, it is a very uplifting album. Steve Rothery can tell me if I’m wrong, but it is not a concept album. It is a collection of tunes, lovingly crafted, demonstrating a range of styles that will dispel a few preconceptions of what Steve will or can play.
The support given by the other musicians is never less than you would expect, the inclusion of Steve Hackett & Steven Wilson are interesting in that they have guested, but I think Mr Rothery would have produced something equally of interest without them.
So if you like music to relax to, something of quality and yet not intrusive, then find some shelf space. I find overall it is a good album, I have enjoyed different elements at different times, it benefits from a good stereo system with the channels suitably spaced, and each time I have listened I have heard different things. Two ways to look at that; one, it’s nice, but does not fully hold your attention; or two, there is a lot to hear and time should be given to appreciate the album. I’m sitting on the fence. I have space for it in my life, and I would possibly buy it browsing in the record shop, but amongst a full store I may have bought something else.
01. Morpheus (7:57)
02. Kendris (6:11)
03. The Old Man Of The Sea (11:41)
04. White Pass (7:53)
05. Yesterday’s Hero (7:22)
06. Summer’s End (8:47)
07. The Ghosts Of Pripyat (5:33)
Total Time – 55:19
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Yatim Halimi – Bass
Leon Parr – Drums
Dave Foster – Guitars
Riccardo Romano – Keyboards & Acoustic Guitar
Steve Hackett – Guitar (1 & 3)
Steven Wilson – Guitar (3)
Record Label: Racket Records
Year Of Release: 2014
Main Website: Steve Rothery
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