Written by: Kev Rowland
Back in the late Seventies, a musical phenomenon swept called the UK, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Def Leppard, Saxon and Iron Maiden were the front runners, but snapping at their heels were bands like Tygers of Pan Tang, Venom, Raven and Samson. The last of these may not have produced the strongest debut album, but by the time of the second they were firmly in their prime, and while a young Mr. Bruce gained all the acclaim for his screams, I was always impressed by the man at the back, Thunderstick, who graced the cover of ‘Head On’. Why am I mentioning a NWOBHM band in a prog review? Well, although Paul Samson is sadly no longer with us, and Mr. Bruce has regained his proper surname and is touring the world with Maiden, Thunderstick is still Thunderstick, and his most recent album featured none other than Lucie V on vocals, now singer with The Kentish Spires. Bassist Paul Warren also played in a band with the mad drummer at one point, as well as with multi-instrumentalist Danny Chang, who I will always think of as being with The Fyreworks (along with drummer Tim Robinson) even though he is probably best known for his film and TV work. Joining these four are Paul Hornsby (reeds, keyboards) and Rik Loveridge (keyboards, guitar). A third member of The Fyreworks, Rob Reed (Cyan, Magenta and solo), has also assisted with production.
Lucie has a very English voice, and at times I find myself being reminded of Maggie Bell or Chrissie Hammond. Musically the band have obviously been heavily influenced by the Canterbury scene, and there is just no way that this sounds as if it has been released in 2018. The use of a real sax makes a huge difference in the sound, while the Hammond organ is used to provide wonderful footnotes and trills, and Lucie either sings in a distinctively English accent or can provide ‘Great Gig In The Sky” style vocals in the background while the instruments take the lead.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising, given the pedigree of those involved, that this never comes across as a debut album from a virtually unknown band, as it is incredibly polished yet still contains the exuberance and stylings of bands such as Procol Harum, and it certainly feels as if it was recorded fifty years ago as opposed to now. There is a sense of fun and enjoyment in the album, one can almost feel everyone looking at each other and smiling as the songs are recorded. Numbers such as “Spirit Of The Skies” are bright and full of light, even if again it all sounds very dated indeed. It doesn’t take long for the listener to feel that this sense of authenticity and return to the early days of the progressive rock movement is very much part of the overall sound and it is to be welcome and enjoyed for what it is.
When the flute and piano are bouncing off each other all the listener can do is close their eyes and just go with the flow, become one with it all. Traditional progressive music, if there is such a thing, is rarely better than this, and it is incredible to realise that this is just the debut. What is going to happen when they have been together for much longer? If you are a proghead then this is essential.
1. Kingdom of Kent
2. Clarity (Rob Reed mix)
3. Sprit of the Skies
7. The Last Harvest
8. Hengist Ridge