There was a time when rock music was about the younger generation and rebellion, with songs feverishly fixed upon love and sex. Somewhere along the line it seems rock has grown up and matured as that generation has aged, their minds turning to other issues, imbued with a sense of getting older and the challenges we all face. In The Long Goodbye, Galahad have produced a remarkable album, steeped in personal stories, insights and their now characteristic intoxicating mixture of styles and influences. Galahad have followed up their outstanding The Last Great Adventurer within a year, and like that release The Long Goodbye is an album filled with intensely personal reflections and wider observation, characterised with a sense of maturity, exploring important subjects with imaginative subtlety alongside passages of rock power.
Reviews often start at the beginning, but we are going right to the pinnacle of this album as it is a truly outstanding track, exemplifying the thematic maturity and quality of this release. There are some songs that REALLY stand out, that transfix you with their lyrical and musical impact and imagination, brimming with a sense of emotional truth. The title track of The Long Goodbye is one such song, resonating with lyrics from the heart and sensitively portrayed with stirring music. Stuart Nicholson’s lyrics are written in the first person, imagining how it may feel for a person trying to cope with dementia, which gives this emotional song such impact. It starts starkly with just Nicholson’s affecting voice over a simple piano from Dean Baker. For anyone who has experienced the decline of a loved one with dementia, as many of us have, these words will definitely strike a nerve. Stuart Nicholson has shared that his own father has recently been diagnosed with dementia and his family are facing the challenge of his decline, which makes the timing of this release feel rather ‘surreal’ to him. Lyrically, Nicholson has always had the ability to convey ideas and feelings with great honesty in a straightforward style, redolent with a sense of real experience. These words are sung through sonic distortion, mirroring the confused thoughts of the central figure:
The wiring inside is slowly becoming faulty,
My being is slowly disappearing.”
The Long Goodbye pivots in another direction as Baker leads with a great synth melody and Spencer Luckman pounds out such a crisp drumming performance. This section feels like the perspective of a person trying their best to cope in a world in which their mind is slowly disappearing, facing the challenge of something as simple as making a pot of tea in an object in which they have forgotten the name, for people they do not recognise:
To make some drinks for people in another room whose name escapes me,
I know that I should know them but I don’t recognise their faces…”
Musically, there is a strange mixture of the heroic, as the person tries to cope, alongside a sense of distinct unease as even the most mundane and familiar things are slipping away from them. This gives way to a more restrained synth and echoing vocal section as Nicholson sings of “rare moments of lucidity”. There is a real sense of poignancy with a tinkling xylophone-like sound as Nicholson portrays the person trying to remember those that loved them:
This is the cue for such a well known and apt line from a Peter Gabriel song, which should be instantly recognisable to most listeners. Not only is it perfect for this song, it may also evoke the sense that in their decline the main character is harking back to the music of their younger days – often those with dementia will be able to remember songs and lines from their distant youth a long time after they have forgotten most other things. Nicholson states a “humble doff of the cap to the legend that is Peter Gabriel” in the sleeve notes, but has shared that he wondered whether to use those lines – I can assure Stuart that those lines from I Don’t Remember are absolutely perfect for that moment. They are also the point where this wonderful song takes a beautiful turn.
Like sunlight through clouds, Lee Abraham’s acoustic guitar breaks in softly, joined by a lilting piano and some orchestrated violin. Abraham takes up the melody on electric guitar, and as the piece develops his guitar rises in the fluid way which has become so characteristic. As the guitar soars, a chorus repeatedly sing in the background “The Long Goodbye”. Mark Spencer really comes into his own in this section, intuitively arranging an orchestration which takes this song majestically on to another level, and Luckman’s drums scatter percussive magic over this finale. It is significant that this is the only song credited to the whole band, as it is clear they have all made such great contributions to this moving piece of music. There are various ways to interpret such a glorious instrumental finale to this piece – maybe these are the last lucid moments of the person in their ‘Long Goodbye’? Or the interpretation I take from this (and we all interpret art so personally) is that this wonderful bright finale may signify the love that has filled this person’s life and surrounds them now with care and love as they decline to their end… or it could be a combination of those things… or something else entirely – that’s the beauty of music, and let me assure you, this is truly beautiful music.
Well, that’s the finale, what about the rest of the album?
The first three songs are slices of scintillating rock with an electronic edge in the effervescent style Galahad have made their own. Behind the Veil of a Smile is a cracking opening song about toxic friendships, opening with a Faithless type synth intro from Dean Baker. The crisp drumming of Luckman presages a great keyboard melody from Baker. Spencer Luckman is on fine form throughout the album with some fantastic skilful drumming which stands out so well in this impeccably self-produced album, with the assistance of Karl Groom of Threshold. Most of the songs were written by Dean Baker and Stuart Nicholson, and credit must go to Dean for creating vibrant music to drive such accessible and catchy rock songs. There is a climactic middle break in this piece which Baker follows with a slick keyboard solo right out of the Genesis ’80s song book, but he takes it on and makes it sound fresh for this day and age. As the song plays out, towards the end the whole band is roaring along powerfully when Lee Abraham flies in with a distinctive soaring guitar finale. The electronic theme definitely comes to the fore again in Everything’s Changed with a pulsing, spasming synth intro reminiscent of Gary Numan. Nicholson has shared that this is “all about misunderstandings in relationships and how they can impact and cause problems, often inadvertently”. It rocks along with a flowing orchestrated chorus, echoing the Manic Street Preachers, and leads us to wonder just how Nicholson reaches those high notes!
The last song on what will presumably be ‘Side One’ on a planned vinyl version is Shadow in the Corner, which features an extended synth effects opening before triggering into a percussive, almost funky main melody, with Luckman’s drums exploding all over the place in this glittering piece. Nicholson has explained the theme of this songs as “the idea of having another version of one’s self in the background guiding in some way and keeping things on track but it also about the feeling that there is ‘someone’ or ‘something’ there in the background pulling the strings other than the physical version of yourself.” There are slight echoes (only slight!) of Marillion’s Assassing with a hint of Eastern rhythms and Nicholson whispering:
The whole band is locked into a great groove, especially Mark Spencer’s fluid bass, and Abraham throws in a brief but dazzling electric guitar passage as Luckman thunders away on drums. It is pure rock class from Galahad.
There are two bonus tracks on the CD edition: Darker Days is very much in the vein of the first three songs (possibly the only mistake for me on this album is sequencing it on the CD edition just after the splendour of The Long Goodbye, as its rather assertive thrusting rock/electronica feels a little jarring after the emotional journey and moving conclusion of the title track… so I have ‘playlisted the bonus tracks to play just after the opening triptych of songs and not after the title song!). Nicholson has shared that Darker Days is “about being overcome by a very dark place mentally and the battle to pull out of it”, which thankfully has a positive conclusion when a little light emerges. Darker Days is a quality song, but as it follows similar musical territory on the first three tracks it is perhaps understandable that it was added as a bonus piece. The other bonus track, Open Water, has a similar theme of facing difficult times and finding it hard to escape, but musically it is very different with the emphasis on Nicholson’s fine singing voice with a tender, restrained mainly piano led backing. There is also ultimately a positive ending… and Nicholson reveals that right at the very end there is the sound of a siren of an emergency vehicle passing at the time he recorded it, which they left in as it felt apt… however, he says it is VERY quiet and subtle, and I confess I was not able to hear it!
The penultimate track (and presumably the first on Side 2 of the vinyl) is the remarkably diverse and vibrant The Righteous and the Damned. The opening section will be familiar to most Galahad fans as it features Stuart Nicholson, apparently walking along some sort of street, deftly singing acapella the opening lines of their 2008 song Empires Never Last, which he felt were perfect for the theme of this piece. Nicholson has shared that the idea for this unusual but evocative opening came to him “whilst we were walking through the Jewish quarter in Krakow a few years ago with (Polish reviewer) Artur Chachlowski”. This atmospheric intro develops into a folky/Klezmer section which clearly has an Eastern European/Jewish feel – of course it does, Galahad seemingly have no boundaries and have often thrown in unusual influences to suit a song. Nicholson has shared that The Righteous and the Damned actually dates back a few years ago when conflict in the Middle East was constantly in the headlines. This whirling dervish of a song reels around all over the place with a violin solo and Luckman bashing the hell out of his drums. There is quite a sense of chaos (and no actual chorus), seemingly reflecting the pointless conflicts with Nicholson identifying “the role of European nations in the troubles as it was the UK, France and Russia that carved up the Middle East early in the 20th Century, literally using straight lines, effectively ‘inventing’ nation states that didn’t exist beforehand, forcing many different ethnic/religious groups to live in and share the same territories which inevitably caused friction as time went on.” There is real heft to the lyrics and music as the piece bombs along at quite a pace. Nicholson lyrically takes no prisoners, pointing the finger at the old Empires who sowed the seeds for the bitterness, division and war that continues to this day, and the super powers continuing to use such conflicts as testing grounds for their weapons. Nicholson and Galahad never shrink from saying what needs to be said, touching on important and hefty subjects in their songs.
That takes us to The Long Goodbye, which is where we started this review. It is no coincidence that we have gone full circle because I am betting that this remarkable and truly moving song will similarly impel listeners to hit ‘repeat’ (or replace the needle back on the vinyl). After the gloriously orchestrated and emotional finale this final song gently fades away, leaving just Nicholson’s plaintive voice simply saying “Goodbye” – bearing in mind Stuart’s own family challenge right now, one can only imagine how he will be able to sing that on stage. This is simply one of the best and most moving songs Galahad have ever produced and will surely be regarded as one of the best rock songs of 2023.
It is utterly remarkable that 38 years into their career Galahad appear to be on such a creative kick right now as The Long Goodbye follows closely on the heels of the outstanding The Last Great Adventurer. The power and attraction of The Long Goodbye is the willingness of the band to touch on very personal subjects and to also address important issues, conveyed with captivating rock music that draws on a range of influences and styles. Galahad continue to push boundaries and produce high quality and meaningful music, and in The Long Goodbye they have undoubtedly produced one of the best albums of their whole career.
01. Behind the Veil of a Smile (6:20)
02. Everything’s Changed (7:40)
03. Shadow in the Corner (5:28)
04. The Righteous and the Damned (8:37)
05. The Long Goodbye (13:09)
– Bonus Tracks:
06. Darker Days (7:45)
07. Open Water (4:09)
Total Time – 52:53
Stuart Nicholson – Vocals & Backing Vocals
Dean Baker – Keyboards, Orchestration, Programming, Backing Vocals
Spencer Luckman – Drums, Percussion
Lee Abraham – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mark Spencer – Bass Guitars, Backing Vocals, Orchestral Arrangements
Record Label: Avalon Records | Vinyl Version – Oskar Records / Independent Music Market
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th October 2023
• Nothing is Written (1991)
• In a Moment of Complete Madness (1993)
• Sleepers (1995 – Remastered 2015)
• Classic Rock Live (1996 – Remastered 2008, Remastered & expanded 2019)
• Other Crimes & Misdemeanours II (1997 – Re-released 2009)
• Following Ghosts (1998 – Remastered 2007)
• Other Crimes & Misdemeanours III (2001 – Re-released 2009)
• Year Zero (2002 – Re-released in an expanded version 2012)
• Resonance – Live in Poland (2006)
• Empires Never Last (2007 – Re-released in Deluxe edition 2015)
• Other Crimes and Misdemeanours (2008 – CD version of 1992 Cassette only release)
• Sleepless In Phoenixville – Live at Rosfest (2009)
• Whitchurch 92/93 – Live Archives Vol. 2 (2012)
• Battle Scars (2012)
• Beyond the Realms of Euphoria (2012)
• Seize the Day [EP] (2014)
• Guardian Angel [EP] (2014)
• Mein Herz Brennt [EP] (2014)
• ’30’ [EP] (2015)
• Solidarity – Live in Konin (2015)
• When Worlds Collide (2015) [Compilation]
• Quiet Storms (2016)
• Seas of Change (2018)
• The Last Great Adventurer (2022)
• The Long Goodbye (2023)
Galahad Acoustic Quintet:
• Not All There (1995)
Galahad Electric Company:
• De-Constructing Ghosts (Re-mix album) (1999)
• When the Battle is Over (2020)
• Soul Therapy (2021)