The follow up to last year’s The Last Harvest see’s this Canterbury scene inspired band gain a couple of new members (drummer James Hall and woodwind player Chris Egan). It was recorded over a 40 day period, where the band worked quickly and, according to the press release, discarded anything that didn’t fit.
What you get is 8 tracks of contemporary progressive rock in quite a folky vein, with nods and hints to previous eras, particularly with the lovely warm Hammond sound and the woodwind that effortlessly ebbs and flows throughout this album.
What really pulls it all together though is the amazing vocals of Lucie V, however, it seems that whilst I was polishing off this review Lucie and the band have parted company, which is a real shame as her vocals were an integral part of the band, and indeed this album.
Starting with a loose trilogy, Overture gently sets the scene for the album, before Lucie and the boys go really folky on the rather wonderful A Sea Shanty, which leads into the first curiosity on the album, a wonderfully psyche piece of woodwind and folk, with goonish voices intoning “Don’t shoot the albatross”. It sounds bonkers written down, but in reality it’s a really funky piece of music, showcasing all the virtuoso performances that the band can pull together.
The way that founders Danny Chang, Rik Loveridge and Phil Warren jam together is wonderful to hear, new boy Chris Egan given space to fill with his reeds, showing how much confidence the band have in him.
Feeling like an offcut, or link to the debut album, Horsa from Beyond the Grave returns to the band’s roots, a wonderfully epic piece from one of the legendary brothers Horsa and Hengist, who as everyone knows turned against King Vortigern, with Horsa dying in battle and Hengist being first King of Kent. The impassioned vocals from Lucie implore Hengist to turn away from destruction and towards peace, and with some amazing musicianship from the band, this nod to the debut is one of the strongest pieces on the album.
The next trilogy, Tale of Three Lovers, starts with the folky Wishing Well. Again the band are focusing more on folk-rock elements than the previous album, and this gives the songs room to breathe, making the instrumentation more subtle, and allowing songs to work their way into your head, but they soon kick it up a gear, again a different mood change from the debut album, and one that really showcases the amazing power of Lucie’s voice.
You Better Shut Your Mouth is one of the best on the album for me, with an absolute killer bass groove that kicks into a full-on rock track, allowing Chang to showcase his phenomenal guitar work, and some brilliant woodwind from Egan, but it’s Lucie who steals the show here, her versatile and powerful vocals running the gamut from scorned to scornful, with the absolute killer line “I burnt your records, I never did like Prog rock anyway” – pure genius on a powerfully funky track.
Following this is the absolute 360 degree turn around, based on true life experience. Never Tell On Me is one of those songs with a wonderful melody, and is the most commercial sounding track on here, with really dark lyrics (a trick pulled off by bands like Squeeze and the Beautiful South). It’s quite a harrowing track about domestic abuse, and by God it’s effective, again kudos to Lucie for her vocal performance.
Rounding it off is the slow-burning, almost Floydian Last Goodbye, the band really does change gear again and go all atmospheric and moody with some superb performances all round, and this is the fitting way to finish.
So, to sum up, Sprezzatura is a totally different beast to its predecessor, giving the band plenty of room to grow and experiment, and it sounds very much like a band working out where they want to go next and who they want to be going forward.
Unfortunately, instead of being a transitional album, it’s now a full stop, rather than being a stepping stone to the next album with Lucie, it’s now the end of an era.
Wherever the band and Lucie head next on their own individual musical journeys we wish them the best, and can look back on the burst of creativity that produced these two wonderful albums with fondness and relish the fact that whilst their journeys continue in a different direction, we have these musical postcards from the road to treasure.
Knots (A Trilogy):
– 01. Overture (2:46)
– 02. A Sea Shanty (4:53)
– 03. Don’t Shoot the Albatross (2:44)
04. Horsa From Beyond the Grave (6:18)
Tale of Three Lovers (A Trilogy):
– 05. Wishing Well (5:58)
– 06. You Better Shut Your Mouth (4:13)
– 07. Never Tell on Me (6:08)
08. The Long Goodbye (7:53)
Lucie V – Vocals
Chris Egan – Reeds, Woodwinds, Wind Synth
Danny Chang – Guitars
Rik Loveridge – Hammond Organ, Synths
Phil Warren – Bass
James Hall – Drums
Record Label: White Knight Records
Producer: Danny Chang
Date of Release: 9th August 2019