Dave Foster is probably known to prog fans for his first band, Mr So & So, who released a few albums and once looked like they might ‘happen’, but ultimately fizzled out. Or perhaps for his role in the Steve Rothery Band, or more recently, in Big Big Train. Somehow though, he also finds time to record with his own band, fronted by Dutch singer Dinet Poortman, and the latest fruit of their association is the new album Glimmer.
The Dave Foster Band has little in common with his other projects, other than being lovingly crafted, a quality shared by both Rothery and Big Big Train. It is more straight ahead than your typical prog band, but the relative accessibility belies some interesting song structures and subtle depth, making repeated listening essential. Glimmer has two big strengths; Dinet’s voice and Dave’s guitar playing. His tone and style has some similarity with his mentor Steve Rothery, but on this album, there is a heaviness and swagger which I didn’t really expect. With this often full-blooded approach, the vocals need to be strong enough to compete, and Dinet strikes a good balance, holding her own without resorting to histrionics, which wouldn’t fit with these sophisticated songs.
The rest of the band are no slouches either. Bassist Neil Fairclough currently plays with Queen, so you’d expect quality, and drummer Leon Parr (Steve Rothery Band) is spot on, playing hard when called upon, and crisply relaxed elsewhere. The line-up is completed by Anthony Hindley who plays a deft piano, particularly on the less rocky songs. It all adds up to a tight band that sound as though they’ve been playing together for years.
Every Waking Moment serves as an introduction and is dominated by Foster’s guitar, at once fiery yet restrained, with a faint underlying menace. The craftsmanship is immediately apparent on this piece as it builds slowly but deliberately, and when Foster let’s rip, it’s a joy to hear. The album proper starts with Run, which has a lovely heavy crunch to the riff, as Poortman sings “We run away…” matching the guitars for heft. This song would have made a good single release; it’s instantly catchy and memorable. The only reason it isn’t the lead single is probably because someone might baulk at the “…if we don’t wake the fuck up” line, but it works in the context of the song. Hot on the heels of Run is another classy track, Stigma. Definitely one of my favourites, Dinet sounds angry and slightly dangerous, and Dave reels off one of his most outrageous solos, yet stays within the boundaries of taste and restraint… just! It’s a marvellous song that had me searching for my air guitar.
Chasing An Echo is more chilled out and atmospheric, with some lovely piano from Hindley and terrific slide guitar, and Poortman gets to shine on a less strident track. The almost whispered bridge section sounds slightly unhinged before returning to the more reassuring chorus, and meanwhile Foster gets to release his inner Rothery with some supremely tasteful licks. Dive In, which is the lead single, follows with a piano-led intro, but very quickly develops into another chunky rocker. It slips so easily between the quiet piano and voice sections and the anthemic riffs of the chorus, and the soloing from Foster at the end is magical.
The last couple of songs have very effective string arrangements, courtesy of Stephen Boyce Buckley, but are quite different in style. …Or You Steal Some is a mini epic, and one of the more ambitious songs here. The piano intro is quite beautiful, and Dinet’s vocal performance is superb, balanced between strength and vulnerability, the lyrics intriguing. The song changes part-way through with a funky bass line which develops into a sing along chorus swelled by the strings.
Final track The Rules Have Changed is a rocker, with a tricky riff which Foster makes seem easy. It’s another winning song, and the strings this time are unexpected but work a treat, rounding off a very satisfying album. There’s nothing overall which is especially ground-breaking, but the craftsmanship involved shines throughout the record. The production is perfect, the restraint shown admirable, allowing the band the freedom to rock out without ever losing the plot.
I have to say I’m quietly very impressed with Glimmer, and if there’s any justice, it should do well, as it has potentially wide appeal, and the love and care which has clearly been invested in it deserves respect at the very least.
01. Every Waking Moment (4:10)
02. Run (4:09)
03. Stigma (6:04)
04. Chasing An Echo (6:48)
05. Dive In (5:06)
06. Memory Box (4:19)
07. …Or You Steal Some (7:18)
08. The Rules Have Changed (5:14)
Total Time – 43:08
Dave Foster – Guitars, Keyboards, Voice
Dinet Poortman – Lead Vocals
Neil Fairclough – Bass
Leon Parr – Drums
Anthony Hindley – Piano
Stephen Boyce Buckley – Strings Arranger
Record Label: English Electric Recordings
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 24th April 2023