Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Jeff Green - Jessica

Inspired by and describing events leading up to the tragic still birth of his daughter Jessica in 1996, and Jessica's enduring legacy, Jeff Green's album was 11 years in the making, as he naturally needed to get it right and of course it must have been a painful and cathartic, but at the same time celebratory experience for him and his family. All profits from the sale of this cd are being donated to a hospital in the UK towards the creation of a bereavement room for families who suffer the same awful fate in the future. Read Jessica's deeply moving story here.

Jeff is a guitarist originally from Northern California, now residing in Ireland, via the UK. To help him make the album he called upon the vast experience of Mike Stobbie (keyboards - ex Pallas), Pete Riley (drums - John Wetton, Keith Emerson Band & Guthrie Govan) and top UK guitarist Phil Hilborne. The music they have created crosses all aspects of Classic Prog to produce a varied and interesting listen. Drawing on the influences of Floyd, Yes, Rush, Genesis, and all things classic rock, Jeff and the band produce music that encompasses hope, pride, reflection, fear joy, anger, loss, grief, and a resolving inner strength - in fact the entire gamut of human emotion. It sure can't have been easy making this album and as it took so long to put together it is perhaps to be expected that emotionally at least, one would see a change through the years. It would be interesting to know which parts of the album were written when, as it hangs together very well and it's not really possible to make any distinction between the "then" and the "now", much to Jeff's credit.

As you would expect with two guitarists in the band that instrument dominates, and there is some fine soloing and harmony work, especially on On This Night, the longest song at just over 9 minutes on this 12 song album. The following track Willing The Clouds Away has some nice keyboard touches, and more impressive axe-spanking. There are a few short pieces that serve as links between the longer workouts, one of which reminds me of Horizons, and the lyrics which are sparingly used are unsurprisingly plaintive in places and never less than heartfelt. Jessica's Theme is sad but uplifting at the same time, and the following three closing songs on the album is where the whole thing takes off. Tomorrow Never Came lets out Jeff's anger and hurt at the sheer unfairness of the hand that fate has dealt. One wonders how many takes it took to get down a line like "I thought today would be the day I would be holding you." It's hard enough being a disconnected listener, so God knows what recording this must have been like. Cathartic only begins to describe it I'd imagine. The lovely and atmospheric Prittlewell Chase then calms things down with some reflective Celtic inspired sounds, conjuring images of a favourite beauty spot perhaps? Halfway through the song morphs into proto-funk electronica backing with still restrained wah guitar and harmony guitars to the fore. The album closes with Live Forever, the sentiment expressed in the title needing no explanation I hope, and ends with some fittingly uplifting guitar runs full of joie de vivre.

Overall I suppose Symphonic Prog is the label that might apply, were it not for the subject matter showing up pigeonholing as the largely pointless exercise it always is. This album is an emotionally wrought experience, obviously for the creator, and for the listener too, without ever coming across as mawkish or overly sentimental, and I defy any listener not to be touched by this album.

Although not my usual aural cup of tea, I will return to it when I need a bit of grounding, such is its impact.

Listen and buy here.

Beyond marking, but 3 out of 5 if you insist!

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