It’s the time of year to look back at the previous year and the focus here is upon Lee Abraham’s most recent solo release Colours, in which he displays his love of AOR and softer rock. The last 12 months or so has been a productive and interesting year for Lee Abraham as he rejoined Galahad, this time as lead guitarist rather than his previous stint as bassist, on their truly epic and outstanding Seas of Change. Colours is a world away from that politically charged slab of complex orchestral progressive rock. Instead, Lee Abraham has produced a set of melodic, hook filled rock songs, which is no mean feat. There is great skill in writing and playing such music, lest anyone is under the illusion that writing more straightforward but high quality melodic songs is in some way simple!
Lee has gradually developed his skills as a writer and performer since his first tentative debut album, View from the Bridge in 2005. His confidence and ability on lead guitar has certainly grown significantly since his outstanding Black and White album in 2009, in which he used guest guitarists, such as the ubiquitous John Mitchell, for some of the solos. As the albums have progressed Abraham has taken on more of the guitar duties and on Colours he handles all the guitar duties with great aplomb. Alongside his proficiency on guitar he also skilfully handles keyboards, with his long time collaborator Rob Arnold providing great piano work, particularly on standout song The Mirror Falls, in which he also contributes Hammond Organ.
Alongside Rob Arnold, Lee is joined once again by his core band members; Gerald Mulligan and Alistair Begg on drums and bass respectively. Mulligan particularly shines in the rocking Warning Sign, driving this throbbing, chunky rocker along with power and touch, providing a rock solid base for Dec Burke’s assured vocals and Abraham’s scintillating guitar runs.
Over his solo career Lee Abraham has gathered around him a retinue of high quality guest vocalists for whom he adeptly tailors differing styles of songs. Dec Burke (previously of Frost*) also features in the catchy and energetic title track, with Begg driving the rhythm along on bass. Perhaps most notably and significantly for Abraham, he persuaded one of his heroes, Steve Overland of ’80s AOR rockers F.M., to sing guest vocals on the sometimes Journey-like Always Yours, which glides along on an ’80s rhythm and a feel at times not a million miles away from The Police’s Every Breath you Take. Marc Atkinson adds his wonderful vocal tones to Broken Dreams, with its opening U2-like chiming guitars and a typical soaring Abraham guitar break. Find Another Way features the atmospheric and soulful voice of Robin Armstrong from Cosmograf, who has become a very assured singer. This is an emotional song which builds in power with Abraham on synths, fully utilising Armstrong’s distinctive voice.
Simon Godfrey, currently with U.S. band Valdez and his own solo project Shineback, has collaborated successfully with Abraham previously and his singing on Survive is one of the highlights of the album. Colours gradually morphs from a lighter, more AOR inflected opening into a more resonant and musically ambitious finale, as shown in Survive, which grows in power as it progresses across an evocative musical landscape. Godfrey’s voice is filled with yearning and restrained rage, emotively singing memorable hook filled lines, contrasting with Abraham’s tasteful, rippling guitar work:
The pinnacle of this album sweeps you away majestically in the finale The Mirror Falls, which features the vocals of Jadis’ front man, Gary Chandler. Abraham and his band beautifully develop the song from a gently flowing piano intro with a beguiling melody that draws in the listener. Mulligan’s drums and Begg’s bass join the piece with increasing layers of sound. A synth solo ascends as a forerunner to a characteristic Abraham soaring guitar run, reaching a glorious crescendo for a great four minute introductory fanfare… and then Chandler’s voice embarks on one of the best vocal performances of his career. The song develops with a chugging rhythm and organ backing as the tempo and power increases, before Lee rips out a stratospheric guitar break. The piano-led theme returns with heroic, impassioned vocals as the guitar circles overhead, swooping and diving all over the song… and then recedes into a delicate piano ending (or so it seems as it’s a false ending). This is a truly outstanding finale, so the additional ‘coda’ with Floydian guitar is not really necessary… sometimes less is actually more.
Some fans of Lee Abraham’s more musically ambitious ‘proggy’ efforts may find some of the softer AOR influenced earlier songs on this album less satisfying, although Abraham has always leaned towards accessible rock themes even on some of his more ‘epic’ pieces. He has certainly demonstrated his skilful song writing ability with an ear for memorable melodies and crafted songs, tailored perfectly for the differing singing styles of his chosen stellar array of vocalists. Part of me yearned for the more ornate and complex arrangements of my ‘first love’ of Abraham’s career, the brilliant Black and White suite of songs, but some of the earlier songs on that album could easily sit on this album. Abraham has chosen to pay homage to a style of music he loves which has motivated him to produce an album of quality rock songs. They won’t change your life with deep lyrical insights and the songs won’t blow you away with their complexity, but they are catchy, melodic and genuinely enjoyable… and in my view I am hard pressed to think of a song in the last few years I have enjoyed more than the wonderful The Mirror Falls. It will be interesting to see which direction Abraham chooses to take on his next solo album, and the influence he will bring to bear upon Galahad’s next album.
01. Colours (4:40)
02. Broken Dreams (6:28)
03. Always Yours (6:17)
04. Find Another Way (7:07)
05. Warning Sign (5:03)
06. Survive (6:29)
07. The Mirror Falls (14:01)
Total Time – 50:05
Lee Abraham – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Chorus Lead Vocals (track 2)
Alistair Begg – Bass Guitar
Gerald Mulligan – Drums
Rob Arnold – Piano, Electric Piano, Hammond Organ (track 7)
Dec Burke – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 1 & 5)
Marc Atkinson – Verse & Backing vocals (track 2)
Steve Overland – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 3)
Robin Armstrong – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 4)
Simon Godfrey – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 6)
Gary Chandler – Lead & Backing Vocals (track 7)
Chris Harrison – Backing Vocals (tracks 5,6 & 7)
Record Label: F2 Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th November 2017
– Pictures in The Hall (2004) – (CD-R originally, now only digital)
– A View from the Bridge (2005)
– Black and White (2009)
– Distant Days (2014)
– The Seasons Turn (2016)
– Colours (2017)