[Review] Ian Neal – Barkston Ash

Ian Neal is an English multi-instrumentalist and composer who offers 70s-inspired Progressive Rock sounds, proposed in a modern key. The fourth album “Barkston Ash” was released on July 16, 2022 and contains 6 long-running tracks, in which she participates as a guest on vocals Evgenia Papamikrouli. The album opens with “Fair Winds” a track that immediately plunges us into the musical atmospheres of the artist with intertwining keyboards and guitar and an elaborate rhythmic session, enriched by tempo changes. A Symphonic Prog with long instrumental sections which, as in the best tradition, alternate softer passages with more intricate ones. The keyboards and the guitar duet well, enhancing both the compositional and executive technique of the artist, skilled and technical with all the instruments. The following “Ash Phrixus” is characterized by a long intro with softer sounds with the intensity increasing with the passing of the minutes. In addition to the increasing intensity, the piece also becomes more elaborate, with keyboard solo inserts in the central part, and then returns to softer and dilated sounds in the final. “Barley Harvest” is the album’s only short-lived track, a sweet 2-minute interlude featuring guitar, percussion and piano arpeggios with dreamy atmospheres. Guitar arpeggios and the time marked by the bells open “Holst’s Hollows” with the entry of the keyboards first and then the drumming. A track that moves slowly, maintaining the dreamy atmospheres in the first part, and then increasing in intensity with the passing of the minutes and enriching itself with changes in tempo. Another good composition, which develops the theme of the piece well with intertwining guitars and keyboards, a deep and supporting bass line and all the intensity of the Symphonic sounds of the Prog. A spoken vocal introduces us to “The Vale of Linden,” the longest track on the album, an epic of over 12 minutes that contains all the features of the Prog suites. The intro is soft and the song slowly moves between tempo changes and refined interweaving of guitar and keyboards towards more intricate and pompous sounds. The male and female vocals intertwine gently, alternating with the long instrumental sections, enhanced by the solo parts of keyboards and guitar. Sweeter and more melodic parts intertwine with more aggressive openings, always keeping the compositional and executive level high. The album ends with “Come Harvesting!” another long-running track, touching 10 minutes, with a dreamy intro with guitar arpeggios and a warm male vocal. A track that alternates more energetic parts and very delicate symphonic openings with dilated sounds with a background of Mellotron. After a second part in crescendo, it ends with the bells and keyboards, leaving us with good sensations. A pleasant album, where the artist proposes his vision of Symphonic Prog, inspired by the classics of the 70s and proposing a modern sound with his own personal touch. Long-lasting tracks in which we all find what a Prog lover looks for in an album, good mixes of guitars and keyboards, solid and elaborate rhythmic sessions enriched by tempo changes. A recommended listening and an artist who confirms the good heard in previous works.

Tracklist

01. Fair Winds (09:51)
02. Ash Phrixus (08:35)
03. Barley Harvest (02:07)
04. Holst’s Hollows (05:19)
05. The Vale of Linden (12:40)
06. Come Harvesting! (10:00)

Lineup

Ian Neal / Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals, Virtual Mellotron, Organ, Piano
Evgenia Papamikrouli / Vocals and Spoken Narration on “The Vale of Linden

Ian Neal |Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Spotify|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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