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Gordon Giltrap - Ravens & Lullabies (Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman) CD (album) cover


Gordon Giltrap


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3.70 | 20 ratings

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4 stars Guitarist GORDON GILTRAP appears to have an "in" with the WAKEMAN family, having collaborated with the patriarch in the past, including a 2009 album, and following it up in 2013 with OLIVER. My only prior exposure to Rick's eldest son was through his respectable performance on STRAWBS' last studio release "Dancing to the Devil's Beat". "Ravens and Lullabies" is similar to that effort in the sense that Wakeman's flourishes tend to be tasteful and complement the other instrumentation rather than co-opt leadership. Where it differs, to its credit, is in being a true collaboration, with both artists participating in generally thoughtful songwriting and dividing musical labours more or less down the middle. The inclusion of PAUL MANZI scales the vocals to the same elevation as the music.

This is a superb crossover prog album with symphonic, folk, and neo prog adornments, which is apparently a return to this genre for Giltrap after decades in a purely folk realm. It brims with emotional lyrics, intoxicating melodies, and pellucid production. "Moneyfacturing" is a born opener driven by a 12 string attack and acerbic lyrics. "From the Turn of the Card" includes BENOIT DAVID, ex of YES, on guest lead vocals and its initially awkward lyrics are quickly forgotten by the time the vibrant chorus enters. I assume "LJW" is dedicated to a Wakeman, perhaps Oliver's other half, and its essentially a marvelous piano solo filled in by delicate acoustic guitar. "Maybe Tomorrow" is a radiant PENDRAGON styled ballad driven primarily by voice and Giltrap's acoustic guitar. "Wherever There was Beauty" reprises the style of Giltrap's late 1970s olde Englishe instrumentals but with amelioration in orchestration thanks to Oliver.

Other highlights include the jaunty piano led "A Perfect Day", which blends the folk and classical roots touchingly; another optimistic ballad "Anyone can Fly" and the closer "Ravens will Fly Away", both of which count the two gentleman as partners in every aspect. The latter reminds me of ELTON JOHN at his best, or maybe the gentler solo work of DAMIAN WILSON.

"Credit Carnival" has the foreboding aspect of the orchestrated studio version of the BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST classic "Medicine Man", or early ALAN PARSONS, but with blazing keys that clearly set it apart, and surprisingly heavy guitars. It presents as a companion to "Moneyfacturing". But the most absorbing track is by far the longest, that being "Is this the last Song I write", a song within a song that lays bare the artist's insecurities in a manner not heard since STRAWBS' "Hanging in the Gallery". You are only as good as your last concert, your last album, your last autograph, and you cannot know your legacy during your lifetime. Perhaps the most triumphant aspect of this relatively complex and gratifying piece is how it avoids sounding self important or melodramatic. It is relevant for anyone who strives for any achievement in life, in whatever form, especially if one loves one's work and derives a degree of self esteem from it. From a well arranged gentle song it transforms into a more enigmatic rocker and back again. The only constant is attention to detail and emphasis on inducing receptivity to the album's title theme through the melody and arrangements.

While clearly influenced by all the aforementioned artists and many others, this association by two of the best in their fields paradoxically yields far more than it has any right to, which ought to be a testament to the purity of the motivations of Mr Giltrap and Wakeman. They are even going on tour. Whether the lullabies put you at ease or the ravens set you on edge, they are who they are, and they know themselves.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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