Mark Rowen - Radiance

Mark Rowen – Radiance

I don’t know but can imagine that, like me, you like nothing better than trawling through boxes and racks of vinyl or piles of CDs in search of the ever elusive and obscure gem nestling tucked away in some dusty corner. These days with most of those places gone, replaced by Costa Coffee or Sainsbury’s Local, it’s harder to seek out obscure gems, and whilst I love the Amazon or eBay experience, it’s not the same somehow. So, in this realm, friends’ recommendations are crucial and very welcome in the ongoing musical quest for good or great overlooked or new releases. For that reason I’m very grateful for Brendan Eyre of Riversea who flagged this particular album up as being of interest.

I must confess, I don’t know Mark Rowen’s musical history, apart from him being part of a Mostly Autumn spin off project several years ago, but this album has certainly caught my attention. Mark is certainly a very fine guitarist and these songs benefit from his fretwork which impresses immediately from Opening Move, possessing an almost Steve Hackett type sound and style but also encompassing a more traditional rock style at times.

My Shadow Walks Alone has a Heart feel to these ears, Lisa Box is a fine singer but does remind me of the great Ann Wilson at times. No bad thing I must add. These songs all sound much better with repeated listening as their subtleties are unveiled.

There are three very decent longer tracks on offer here too, the first of which is Lure of the Siren with its sweeping keyboards and effects of a clock and the sounds of rowing in the surf. This is a very atmospheric piece that begins with gentle acoustic guitars before the ethereal vocals of Donna Marie Bottomley are introduced, and then the vocal loops of Cleo Harratt before Mark’s chunky guitar crashes the party, playing a meaty motif. There is a brief but melodious synth solo followed by a fine guitar break as the vocals finish their plaintive cry, then a synth outro fades to acoustic guitar again. A great song, and with great dynamics too.

Lure of the Siren is followed by Carousel, using the fairground image as a metaphor for life’s journey, powerfully conveying the important message to love a little deeper, live a little deeper. This is a fantastic song, very impressive, and with the depth being shown here it deserves to be heard by the many rather than the few. one of my favourites thus far, the song ends with a lovely melody from Rob Cottingham’s keyboards. It is swiftly followed by Trick of The Light which is further evidence of the Heart sound I mentioned earlier. There’s a strong chorus on this one too, certainly memorable and a fine song, topped off with another fine solo from Mark.

Love Is Like A Rock is another longer piece, opening with another meaty riff from Mark’s guitar and subtle bass from Paul Teasdale. There’s some fine recurring riffing and it’s almost bluesy, but not in the traditional way. Another fine chorus as the song draws the listener in to a tale of hope from heartbreak. There’s an extended guitar section three minutes in where Mark plays against the music and the chiming piano motif with a rhythmic guitar solo passage. Stirring drums are introduced before falling back to piano and synth strings, the vocal being reintroduced with a reminder of the chorus. With more fine guitar work on the outro – I just love that chunky riff – this is my second favourite piece on the album.

The last song, Shine, draws this majestic album to a close and once again Mark is in philosophical mode with a song about ageing (I think). Another sweet, short but graceful solo lifts the song into a thing of beauty as the album ends.

Radiance is simply fantastic, and I can’t recommend it enough. Check it out and see if you agree – for me this is Top Ten albums of the year material, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

01. Opening Move (1:47)
02. My Shadow Walks Alone (5:15)
03. Feel Like Letting Go (5:37)
04. On The Blue Horizon (5:01)
05. The Reason Why (6:55)
06. Time To Leave (4:46)
07. Lure Of The Siren (10:24)
08. Carousel (7:07)
09. Trick Of The Light (4:50)
10. Love Is Like A Rock (8:17)
11. Shine (3:57)

Total time – 64:01

Mark Rowen – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Guitar Synth, Keyboard Programming, Backing Vocals
Lisa Box – Lead & Backing Vocals
Barry Cassello – Drums
Leigh Perkins – Keyboards, Synths, Backing Vocals
PauL Teasdale – Bass
~ With:
Donna Marie Bottomley – Vocals (track 7)
Guy Manning – First Synth Solo (track 7)
Moray McDonald – Pads & Organ (tracks 1,3,6,7 & 10)
Rob Cottingham – Keyboards (track 8)
Cleo Harratt – Vocal Loop (track 7)
Jake Wilson – Gamelan
Ian Burwell, Simon Cooper Cabasa, Jenni Tarr – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st September 2018

Mark Rowen – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp