Abel Ganz — Abel Ganz
(Abel Records ARAG003CD, 2014, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-08-24
Hard to believe it’s been over 25 years since this Scottish band’s debut The Dangers of Strangers, and while drummer Denis Smith is still behind the kit and contributing vocals, key founding members Hugh Carter and Huw Montgomery are only present on one song or another as guests, with Carter contributing lyrics to one tune, and most of the current core band members have joined during or after the band’s previous 2008 album Shooting Albatross. Most of the songwriting is group written, but one can bet that keyboardist Jack Webb had a major role in that department, as did vocalist / guitarist Mick Macfarlane and guitarist Davie Mitchell. Stephen Donnely plays bass throughout, and the newest member is keys player Stephen Lightbody – so new in fact, that he only plays on one track. Theirs is a majestic sound combining strong folk and Celtic elements with a solid foundation of progressive rock, hints of country, classical, and more.
After an opening symphonic instrumental “Delusions of Grandeur,” the band gets right down to business with the 23 minute 5-part opus “Obsolescence,” which was probably recorded in five parts and then stitched together, but that matters not, it is very effective as an opener and sets the tone for everything that follows. A couple pieces are sung partially or entirely in the Scottish Gaelic language; one of these is the beautiful and tranquil “Heartland” which features guest vocalist Joy Dunlop, the other being the down-home and warm “Thank You” which features Jerry Donahue (guitar) and Malcolm Jones (accordion) of the Scottish folk band Runrig. A couple Macfarlane penned acoustic guitar pieces “Spring” and “A Portion of Noodles” punctuate the program nicely, the latter with an unforgettable melody that will get stuck in your head for days. There are numerous guests playing everything from additional 12-string, resonator guitar, congas, recorders, oboe, flute, cornet, tenor horn, euphonium, trombone, trumpet, low whistle, saxophones, and much more, all track depending. Of special note is pedal steel player Iain Sloan, who makes several appearances throughout the album, and brightens up every passage he touches. Of all the Abel Ganz releases to date, this latest is by far their most impressive.
Related artist(s): Abel Ganz
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more