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The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road To Avalon CD (album) cover


The Minstrel's Ghost


Crossover Prog

3.74 | 83 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The Minstrel's Ghost is a project that has as its founder Blake Carpenter, and he first came to my attention when he posted a couple of You Tube videos of this, the second recorded release under the project. I was struck not just by the music, but also by the sheer beauty of the artwork that accompanied it. If you get the chance, you really must take a look.

Anyhow, when Blake asked me to undertake a review, I gladly accepted. The subject matter is, of course, those Arthurian legends of Ye Olde Englande (or Wales. It depends upon where you live!). Naturally, many people might be forgiven for wondering just whether the world is ready for yet another slab of such stuff - after all, in the 1970's, a certain Mr Wakeman entertained us all with his own take on the legend, and very successful it was too. Having said that, I personally find that, as good as it was back then, it has rather dated, which is not particularly surprising given that it utilised the cutting edge technology of the time, and this has moved on to the nth degree since.

And Carpenter and his very able band of merry knights give us a wonderful musical scenario, steeped in the latest digital technology and soundscapes. As concept albums go, this one very deftly avoids the easy pothole of the silly and twee, not a particularly straightforward task given the subject matter. Instead, this is a mature and serious piece of art, and I particularly love the "death of Arthur" sequence that closes the album, with sensitive vocals and an expansive rock drama that recalls the best of classic rock. In fact, the only quibble I have is that I don't find the battle effects shortly onto Part Two to be wholly necessary, given the fact that the music itself is more than capable of projecting this. However, this is a minor moan on my part.

On his debut work, Dreams Things True, Carpenter handled all of the instruments. On this, wisely for such an ambitious project, he has had help, although it has taken twelve full years from the time a short song called Avalon was written for it to come to fruition. Appearing with him are Zoltan Csorsz Jr (ex Flower Kings) on drums, Colin Tench (Corvus Stone & Bunchakeze) providing some wonderful guitar work, Troy James Martin (LeeAnne Savage) on bass, and Marco Chiappini (Gandalf's Project) contributing keyboard work.

Having said that, Carpenter is really at the centre of all things, and the pleasant surprise that strikes you immediately is just how damn nice his rather distinct voice is - think Art Garfunkel in a prog setting (this is not a joke, by the way), and you won't be that far off. As mentioned before, the lyrics themselves tell a good story, not a twee one, and musically it is precisely the type of expansive, colourful, and symphonic progressive rock I love. Full of swirling keyboards and intricate guitar work, all backed by delicate and complex rhythm section which allow the story to flow along. If you are a fan of modern thrash, metallic, gloomy prog, then you should avoid this like the plague. If, however, you, like me, sometimes just like to sit back and allow an extremely pleasant piece of music to wash all over you, then I cannot recommend this highly enough.

In addition, the cd is worth buying simply for the sumptuous artwork, provided by Ed Unitsky. If you go to the homepage for Carpenter, you can find a link to Unitsky's own page, and well worth a visit it is, too.

To summarise, collaborator's at Prog Archives get sent a fair bit of music by artists to review. Some of it is exceptional, mostly it is very good, and you get the occasional stinker. This one falls well and truly into the excellent and very pleasant surprise category, and I have no hesitation in awarding this four stars for its sheer warmth and enjoyable listening experience.

In fact, in closing, I can't help thinking that the old Maestro Wakeman himself, might, actually, rather enjoy this, and also think to himself.....this isn't that far off what I would have recorded if I was still that young bloke from the 1970's transplanted to 2012.

My thanks to Blake for providing me with an official pre-release MP3 download. The cd itself is released in December, but can be pre ordered from the website now. Go on, treat yourself with that money gift from Aunty for Christmas. I think you will enjoy.

lazland | 4/5 |


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