In 2018, Finally George (a.k.a. Hamburg studio technician George Hahn) astonished the (prog)world with his debut album, Life Is A Killer. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to learn of the release of a sophomore album that proves to be equally as good – or even better – than its predecessor.
Everything is just right on this album, entitled Icy Skies, and the production is simply great. It all sounds beautifully rich and warm and all the instruments come through very well in the mix. The music as a whole reminds me strongly of mid-seventies Pink Floyd, in terms of tempo, guitars and vocals, like in the title track. But I also hear bits and pieces of George’s fellow countrymen RPWL, which is unsurprising.
You can also hear echoes of the likes of Supertramp and Genesis, the latter for example in the dramatic When the Angels Cry, in which acoustic guitars and song structure are reminiscent of the legendary British band. I particularly like George’s voice, somewhat akin to a young Dave Gilmour, although much smoother and dreamier. Without any accent, it has the capability to reach the high notes as well, as evidenced by Long Way Home and, in particular, Old Friend.
But what impresses me most is the space between the notes. Marillion already said it: “Less is more”. This is especially valid for Icy Skies, the superb Beautiful being an excellent example. Listen to the build-up, culminating in a wonderful instrumental finale. I also like the natural balance between the instruments, more specifically between guitars and keyboards. Something he shares with fellow German musician Frank Us (Legacy Pilots) on whose most recent album The Penrose Triangle he plays a guest role on vocals and guitars. Both albums have a splendid and transparent production in common.
George is also known to use guest musicians on his albums, albeit with somewhat more restraint than Us. But hiring renowned Styx drummer Todd Sucherman once again was an excellent choice. Aside from being one of the best drummers in the world, he also acted as a soundboard for George and contributed valuable input on many of the songs.
If I have to single out one particular ‘flaw’ then it should be the fact that the pace is largely the same throughout the album. But somehow, as I was lying in the sun on a sunlit island, listening to these enjoyable tracks over and over again, it didn’t strike me as odd. In fact, it reminds me of David Gilmour’s much praised On an Island from 2006. The same lazy, mellow and relaxing feeling, absolutely brilliant.
Personal favourites are the title track and I Adore You, in which fragments of Genesis, Pink Floyd, but also Camel shine through. George is featured with compelling keyboard and guitar playing. And what about When Dreams Don’t Die with its amazing trumpet solo? The love for progressive rock is oozing from this album. Each track is a journey in itself and a true ode to our beloved genre.
“Football is a simple game: 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, in the end, the Germans always win”, Gary Lineker once said. Perhaps this is also valid for prog rock. Judging by this new album, it may very well be the case.
01. Icy Skies (5:05)
02. Beautiful (5:38)
03. Old Friend (5:55)
04. When the Angels Cry (5:39)
05. Message (5:41)
06. I Adore You (8:31)
07. When Dreams Don’t Die (6:12)
08. Long Way Home (7:13)
09. Father & Son (0:40)
Total Time – 50:34
Todd Sucherman – Drums, Percussion
Matthias Pogoda – Piano (tracks 4,7 & 8)
Detlef Bösche – Hammond Organ (tracks 1,2 & 4-8)
John Engehausen – Lead Guitars (tracks 3 & 8)
Martin Scheffler – Lead Guitars (track 5)
Ingolf Burkhardt – Trumpet (tracks 4 & 7)
Anja Bublitz – Background Vocals (tracks 2,3,5,6 & 8)
Anne de Wolff – Violin (track 1)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 13th September 2021
– Icy Skies (2021)
– Life Is A Killer (2018)