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Dave Bainbridge — To the Far Away
(Open Sky 003, 2022, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-07-02

To the Far Away Cover art

Dave Bainbridge is known among many for his work with Iona, a band he co-founded in the late 80s and worked with until their 2016 cease of activity, but I know him mostly from his work with Dave Cousins and Strawbs. To the Far Away is his fourth solo album, and his credits as collaborator and sideman are too extensive to go into here. This is lush symphonic rock music with a generous dose of Celtic folk influence. On this outing, Bainbridge handles keyboards and a variety of stringed instruments — guitars, mandolin, bouzouki — along with singing backing vocals. He’s joined by a rhythm section of Frank van Essen (drums) and Jon Poole (bass); Iain Hornal and Sally Minnear share the lead vocals; and a number of others contribute: Jonas Pap plays cello, Troy Donockley plays high and low whistles plus Uilleann pipes, and van Essen provides some lovely violin and viola. There are also a few other players on individual tracks. (Donockley and van Essen are Iona bandmates, Poole was in Cardiacs, and Minnear is the daughter of Gentle Giant keyboardist Kerry Minnear.) Bainbridge is known for his arranging skills, and they are in evidence here, most notably on the lush backing vocals, which lend some moments an Enya-like fullness. All the songs, from under two minutes to more than 14, flow impeccably, providing powerful climaxes and moments of respite. Bainbridge favors soaring melodies and harmonies without much in the way of dissonance, as befits his base of Celtic folk music. “Infinitude (Region of the Stars)” consists mostly of some really lovely string writing, and “Cathedral Thinkers” has some elaborate piano that might recall Rick Wakeman. Hornal and Minnear are both good singers, with clear, pleasant tones and not a lot of frills to their interpretations. Bainbridge is of course a skilled guitarist, and his solos are flashy without taking control of the music. There are some nicely energetic moments, though I wouldn’t say it ever rocks. For those unfamiliar with Bainbridge’s work, I would compare it to later Steve Hackett solo albums, though with more focus on Celtic influences than Hackett’s wider range; for those who are familiar with his work, To the Far Away is another solid entry in the catalog.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Dave Bainbridge

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