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GEOFFREY DOWNES

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Geoffrey Downes biography
Geoffrey (sometimes shortened Geoff) Downes is probably best known for his involvement with Yes and Asia, and before that with Trevor Horn in the Pop duo of The Buggles. After having enjoyed massive success with their 1979 debut single Video Killed The Radio Star and released their first album called The Age Of Plastic in 1980, both Downes and Horn were asked to join Yes to replace Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson respectively. This resulted in the excellent album Drama, also released in 1980. The line-up did not prove to be stable, however, and Yes disbanded in 1981.

This opened up the opportunity for Downes and Steve Howe to form Asia together with John Wetton (ex-King Crimson and UK) and Carl Palmer (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer). Asia enjoyed big success with their self-titled debut album released in 1982. Alpha followed the next year but there were line-up changes ahead with Howe and then Wetton leaving the group. Geoff would go on with Asia as the band's only stable member and produce many further albums with that band.

In 1986 Geoff would record his first solo album, the instrumental The Light Program for which he adopted the moniker of The New Dance Orchestra. This was followed by Vox Humana in 1992, a vocal album of a more Pop Rock nature. A few further albums using the New Dance Orchestra tag have since appeared including The World Service in 1999 and most recently Electronica in 2010.

Outside of Asia, Geoff has worked with John Wetton and the two of them have released several albums as a duo including three albums that went under the titles of Icon I, II, and III. These albums are listed under John Wetton's discography.

In 2011, Downes rejoined Yes again, more than 30 years after his original stint with that band! This resulted in the album Fly From Here, the title suite of which was based on a song that Downes had developed with Trevor Horn back in the early 1980's. A demo version of the song was recorded by The Buggles and has since been released (in two separate parts) as bonus tracks on that group's second album Adventures In Modern Recording. The song was performed live by Yes during the Drama period and a live recording of the song from New York 1980 appears in the box set The Word Is Live.

See also:
- Asia
- John Wetton

Geoffrey Downes official website

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  • East West The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra), 1986

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Vox HumanaVox Humana
Blueprint
Audio CD$9.68
$3.98 (used)
The Light ProgramThe Light Program
Import
Geffen 2012
Audio CD$14.98
Vox HumanaVox Humana
Import
Jimco Records 2010
Audio CD$4.61
$3.31 (used)
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GEOFFREY DOWNES discography


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GEOFFREY DOWNES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.36 | 7 ratings
The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra)
1986
1.95 | 2 ratings
Vox Humana (The New Dance Orchestra)
1992
1.14 | 2 ratings
Evolution
1993
1.00 | 1 ratings
The Work Tapes (with Glenn Hughes)
1998
3.00 | 1 ratings
The World Service (The New Dance Orchestra)
1999
2.10 | 2 ratings
Shadows & Reflections
2003
2.51 | 3 ratings
Electronica (The New Dance Orchestra)
2010
1.50 | 2 ratings
Pictures Of You (Downes Braide Association)
2012

GEOFFREY DOWNES Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GEOFFREY DOWNES Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

GEOFFREY DOWNES Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.00 | 1 ratings
The Collection (The New Dance Orchestra)
2003

GEOFFREY DOWNES Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Bridge (The New Dance Orchestra)
2006
2.00 | 1 ratings
Dreaming Of England (Downes Braide Association) (EP)
2014

GEOFFREY DOWNES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Collection (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
2.00 | 1 ratings

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The Collection (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars "And you remember the jingles used to go"

The Collection is a compilation album covering the career Geoff Downes, focusing primarily on his "New Dance Orchestra" albums from the 1980's and 90's. The CD opens with the epic instrumental East West from Downes' first and best solo album The Light Program originally released in 1986. Next up is a track from Geoff's collaboration with John Wetton which sounds like a second rate Asia song. Then follows four numbers from 1992's Vox Humana, the second "New Dance Orchestra" album. One of these is a re- recorded version of The Buggles' hit Video Killed The Radio Star with Glenn Hughes on lead vocals. Three numbers are taken from Geoff's cover album Evolution, and even if I hate that album I must admit that he has chosen the least bad tracks from it; The Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin, Procul Harum's A Whiter Shade Of Pale, and Kansas' Dust In The Wind. Don't Walk Away is a song from Geoff's collaboration with Glenn Hughes, released as The Work Tapes. This one is just awful!

The "Downes solo" is a live recording taken from the Asia album Live Acoustic and The Journey Begins is taken from the Asia album Rare. The latter album is indeed very rare and it doesn't sound at all like an Asia album but is rather much more in line with Downes' solo output making its presence here very fitting. I believe that this instrumental album was initially meant to be released as a Goeff Downes solo album, but since John Payne played on it the record label insisted on releasing it as an Asia album.

Four tracks are taken from 1999's World Service, another all instrumental "New Dance Orchestra" album. Everything up to this point has been previously released and available on other albums, but the final two tracks are rarer and were new to me. One is a very short demo version of You Can Fly From Here, a song that Geoff has written prior to joining Yes in the early 80's and which were performed by Yes then and which many years later became the title track of a Yes album. Finally, there is an instrumental piano version of Video Killed The Radio Star from a Korg Sampler CD. Personally, I think this is the best version of that song and in general it is the instrumentals of this collection that stand out. But like in most cases, you should start with the source albums.

 Electronica (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 2010
2.51 | 3 ratings

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Electronica (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars My only peeve with prog-rock critics is the common reviewing fallacy (in all spheres of music BTW) that seeks to highlight and hammer at: WHAT a musician SHOULD be creating, instead of what they ARE creating. I have always felt that premise to be quite an arrogant and misplaced entitlement, giving the writer some kind of divine perspective on something that does not belong to him in the first place. It's not his muse, nor his inspiration. It belongs uniquely to the artist. Therefore my view has always been based on the quality of the work for what it is, not what it should have been! Many long-careered artists have faced this stupid tendency, be it Jethro Tull's electronic phase (Under Wraps), Oldfield's more new age stuff or even Tangerine Dream's 90s 'fluffier' production. What do you want Thick as a Brick, ad nauseam? Tubular Bells VI? Really?

Geoff Downes is probably one of the most controversial and thus ultra-targeted musicians in prog, still slandered by the 'buggling' Video Star label, still maligned by the Asia AOR slant and unjustly reviled by many as a sell-out. Perhaps that is true in a multitude of ways but his keyboard playing has been superlative on albums such as the 2 Buggles albums, Yes' Drama and more expressly, the dazzling display on the Light Program, the New Dance Orchestra's debut work. The disc remains a sensational example of modern keyboard-driven symphonics. Hey, Geoff has laid a few poor releases, of that there is no doubt but so is life, artistic life in particular. 'You can't always get what you want' was a clever Stones lyric (a rare event IMHO) that should argue against any undue criticism. Yes, 'Electronica' is pure electro-pop, much like acts like recent Midge Ure ('Fragile'), the still urgent Depeche Mode and past wonders like The Beloved, Telex or John Foxx. Intelligent electronic pop music is still better that the slop available on the radio, no? Two great attributes crown this disc: firstly, Ann-Marie Helder is a sensational voice, famous for her work with Karnataka, Panic Room, Luna Rossa, Mostly Autumn, Steve Hackett, Fish, Dave Kilminster, Parade and Tigerdragon. She is my favorite PROG vocalist by a long shot. Secondly, Geoff really does create some stunning melodies throughout and the man has incredible talent on his keyboards.

The end result is to judge for what this is and not what we the fans would wish it to be. There is a lot of good stuff interspersed with little details that suck, best exemplified by the opener 'Shine On', a sublime melody with a perfect delivery from Ann-Marie, great main melody and production but irritated by sloppy 'whoop-whoop' synth loops that make it sound like an old Madonna outtake and then the rather puerile lyrics that do kind of grate on the ears. 7

Then you have a perfect pop song like 'Forgiven', where all is pardoned due to a crushing melody, a heavenly chorus and a mesmerizing searing in the soul. This is one hell of a great song, simple, effective and memorable. 10

'Moving On' shuffles along convincingly, just a bit too accessible but Helder really uses her rich voice brilliantly, you just can't help admire her immense talent. 8

Back to utter sonic beauty with the subtle 'Rainbow's End', a truly lovely melody and a whopping lead vocal that would leave anyone shivering, the synths are breathtakingly haunting while the mechanical percussion is well- conceived. 10

'Breaking the Spell' is very close to the Beloved, a smartly played pop song with dance tendencies, very radio/club friendly. Choppy e-drums and slippery synths rule the roost. 8

Things get interesting with 'Love Is not Enough', a lover's lament at the obvious disappointment of a failed relationship, Geoff's piano glides amid the synthesized carpets, blown away by Ann-Marie's powerful and convincing vocals, full of soul, pain and despair. 9

'Jinx' is quite fun, a slight change of pace and mood that sits well within the flow, a more brooding melody and a quirky synthesized delivery that hints at New Muzik at times, echoing electronic patches , and another conclusive vocal performance from the Helder. 9

The mood shifts once again into a slight more experimental slant with the more dramatic 'Hanging by a Thread', still very commercial but sharply performed, giving the impression that this has been heard before somewhere, sometime. That wee native Indian riff is quite clever and the arrangement gets more room to develop. 8

'Remember the Day' is another top notch tune, pushed by a strong bass synth riff, colliding synth riffs, very electronic and something Madonna would have done with William Orbit in tow. Helder's voice nears a whispering pant which is extremely attractive, seductive and downright sensual. 10

The dance floor shakes with the suave onslaught of 'Dance to the Music of Time', a moody shakedown of pouting lips 'moving to a beating drum', a searing chorus punctuated by a shrill mellotron sound, clanging keys and stunning rhythmic pulses. 10

'Walking through the Fire' continues the melodic onslaught, delivering another divine melody and a masterful display of a voice that understands emotion and feeling. Simple but hypnotic, accessible but utterly pleasing. 9

The much-maligned disc ends with 'Golden Days', a Downes'led piano that thrills mightily, evoking Wakeman at his finest while Ann-Marie convinces us once again with a lovely performance. 10

Though I am a devoted and dedicated progman and have certainly the credentials to prove it, I cannot help to be swayed by wonderful melodies and then be totally seduced by a voice that makes my knees shake. It must be the stupid romantic in me, influenced by the sweet honey of unrequited love. It all started with those 'chansons de geste' I was subjected to in French school! That being said, this will do fine when I have a lightweight day in mind, maybe some cuddling or caressing with my little lady, if I am a good boy!

Am I 'Forgiven' ?

4 pop soda synths

 Electronica (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 2010
2.51 | 3 ratings

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Electronica (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars Vox humana

Geoffrey Downes has to date released four full-length albums under the name "New Dance Orchestra". These four albums are rather different from each other. The best of the four is by far the 1986 debut The Light Program, an all-instrumental, keyboard-driven symphony in five parts. The second best New Dance Orchestra album is 1999's The World Service, likewise an all-instrumental work. 1992's Vox Humana was more of a song-based album with various guests singing lead on different tracks. This brings us to the present album, released in 2010, entitled Electronica. Comparing this to the previous three New Dance Orchestra albums, the most similar is Vox Humana in virtue of this being a song-based, vocally driven album.

The vocals on all 12 songs are handled by Anne-Marie Helder who has a fine voice. Downes himself stands for keyboards and programming. There are no other musicians involved and there are no real drums on this album and neither is there bass, guitar, or any other instruments. The songs are not poor as such, it is just that this is not the kind of music that I want Geoff Downes to make. Electronica is 100% pure electronic Pop music with absolutely nothing progressive about it. As such, it bears no relation whatsoever to Geoff's previous solo albums or to his day jobs in Yes, Asia or even The Buggles.

Best avoided!

 Evolution by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 1993
1.14 | 2 ratings

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Evolution
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars Degeneration!

Evolution is an instrumental cover album that Geoffrey Downes released in 1993, one year after his vocal album Vox Humana. This is the kind of instrumental covers that you would have expected from some unknown guy playing Midi- keyboards in a bar and not from a professional musician who had played with major acts like Yes and Asia. Geoff here decided to record insipid, instrumental covers of familiar songs by acts like Toto, Foreigner, and Styx. The result is cheesy with extra cheese. The Moody Blues' Nights In White Satin, Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade Of Pale, and Kansas' Dust In The Wind are slightly better, but still fall far short of the originals.

Geoff could have done something special with some of these songs, but he decided instead to just play it simple in both arrangements and instruments. Frankly, this is an utterly embarrassing album and I wish that this had never been released. How could Downes sink this low?

Strictly for completionists with strong stomachs.

 Shadows & Reflections by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 2003
2.10 | 2 ratings

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Shadows & Reflections
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars Stream of consciousness

Shadows & Reflections was Geoffrey Downes' fifth solo album overall and the second one not to use the "New Dance Orchestra" name. This absence of that name is appropriate as this album is different from The Light Program, Vox Humana, and The World Service in that on Shadows & Reflections Downes decided to go full ambient. Like The Light Program, the present album holds long tracks with only two this time: one called Shadows and the other called Reflections. The former has a running time of over 20 minutes and the second is over 30 minutes in length. But unlike the melodic "electronic symphony" found on The Light Program, what we have here is mostly soundscapes and dreamy, relaxing mood music. Still, there are a few moments here and there where Geoff breaks out of the ambient mood and indulges in some electronic synth excursions and even plays some classical piano. Comparisons to the music of Vangelis is never far off when hearing Shadows & Reflections.

I find this album pleasant and enjoyable for the most part but it is a step backwards compared to the previous The World Service. Recommended only for people with a taste for ambient, electronic music.

 The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.36 | 7 ratings

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The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars One of prog's finest attributes is that the fan and the artist can have different opinions on the music created, proving that beauty is in the ear of the beholder. As fans and reviewers, we are constantly faced with decisions based on whether an artist or an album is or is not prog. Steve Wilson is perhaps the current prog standard bearer but he is adamant in describing his music in non prog-rock terms, which many of us find odd and yet amusing. Yes, I have opinions too, for example, I believe that genial acts such as John Foxx, Ultravox, Mick Karn and Magazine should be included in progworld but there is a serious argument by some collaborators against it. Well so be it!

So I was thrilled to bits in seeing Geoff Downes being added to the prog universe, even though his credentials with the commercial side of prog may turn a few heads (Asia, Downes/Wetton and the recent Yes meanderings) , the truth remains that his debut New Dance Orchestra album, "the Light Program" has been one of my all-time masterpiece selections, owning both LP and CD versions to my utter delight. I never thought it would be welcomed into the progressive community, because it may have been perceived (wrongly) as a dance/electronica monstrosity that may be closer to Depeche Mode or Blancmange, even though there are no vocals on this recording whatsoever.

In my humble opinion, "The Light Program" is as fundamental to modern keyboards as the celebrated "The 6 Wives of Henry VIII" by Rick Wakeman (see review below, how is that for timing, eh?), a solo work of phenomenal melodies that immediately grabs ones attention for ever more. The synthesizer work is simply outstanding, the bass synth beyond belief and frankly, the programmed percussion is some of the finest ever recorded. The arrangements span a wide variety of styles from symphonic bombast, electro-funk and medieval-tinged folk balladry to almost calypso-like patches that constantly astound. What makes "the Light Program" so tantalizing even after so many years is the editing, a long suite of brilliant snippets of genius that never bogs down into repetition (a common occurrence with electronica). The brief piano melody on "French" is sheer scintillation lasts only a couple of minutes but what a thrill! Same can be said for all the other tracks as well, an endless river of stellar sounds and creative expression that boggles (Buggles?) the mind! There are a few series of pieces such as the fore mentioned "French" that leads through quite a convoy = the stunning "Daybreak", the slick "Steam" and the cosmic "Surfin" , a cavalcade of shimmering beauty.

This segue style is repeated a few times , such as with the 5 part section that starts with the peaceful "Bouree" , and lingers on with the pulsating "Merrydown" , the Irish lilt of "Jigtime", continues on with the playful "Jethro" and the stimulating "Finale" and ends with cinematic "Iceman" . Totally refreshing synthesized pleasure! The kicker is the final section that has the glittering and ultimate melodic beauty of "Shooters II", followed by "Groundfunk", "Geoffunk "and "Stevie". All of these gems strive for a sense of sonic accomplishment that still holds my attention after nearly 29 years of continuous replays. The final "Regiman" is electronic reggae that will make the coconut trees sway in the warm Caribbean breeze.

One of my all-time favorite recordings, a sheer monument in the progressive pantheon.

5 sunlit agendas

 The World Service (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The World Service (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars From Moscow to London via Xanado

The World Service was the third album that Geoff Downes released under the New Dance Orchestra name tagged on to his own name. This album would have been a much more fitting follow-up to his first solo outing The Light Program than the stylistically rather different Vox Humana that came in between. Indeed, despite the fact that the present album appeared more than a decade after the 1986 debut, these two albums have many things in common. Like The Light Program before it, The World Service is an all instrumental affair and the music is entirely driven by Downes' keyboards. This 1999 album is however somewhat more reserved and less assertive musically than the first New Dance Orchestra album. There is a slightly more clear concept behind the music which is inspired by the BBC World Service - the world's largest international broadcaster. The many short tracks are named after cities and places around the globe. For the most part the separate parts meld together and feel like sections of a longer musical journey around the world.

The music has a somewhat laid back nature but it is by no means music for pure relaxation, and neither is it music for dancing (as the "New Dance Orchestra" name misleadingly indicates). Comparisons to Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, or even Mike Oldfield (though without guitars) suggest themselves. I find this music pleasant and enjoyable and it is as good as or better than many albums of its kind, but it doesn't excite me as much as did The Light Program. Still, The World Service it is a worthy companion to The Light Program and is recommended for those who liked that album.

 Vox Humana (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 1992
1.95 | 2 ratings

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Vox Humana (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars The new age of plastic

Vox Humana was Geoffrey Downes' second solo album and also the second album for which he used the New Dance Orchestra name in addition to his own name. As the title indicates this is a vocal album and not another instrumental work like his first solo effort The Light Program. As such, the present album is very different from the previous one. Vox Humana features 13 tracks and almost as many vocalists. Geoff revisits his past here with re-makes of three older songs, Man In A White Car from Yes' Drama and Video Killed The Radio Star and The Plastic Age from The Buggles' The Age Of Plastic.

Max Bacon who sang lead vocals on the GTR album featuring Steve Howe and Steve Hackett and which Geoff produced sings on the opening track called Tears. John Payne, with whom Geoff would go on to make numerous Asia albums, sings on Plastic Age. Several other male and female vocalists appear including one that I initially thought was Chris Rainbow but which turned out to be someone else. Video Killed The Radio Star is erroneously listed as an instrumental in the CD booklet but it is a vocal version sung by what sounds like Glen Hughes (Hughes is not credited on this album, but knowing that Geoff worked with him elsewhere I'm pretty sure it must be him).

Given the presence of multiple vocalists and some brief keyboard dominated instrumentals in between this album reminded me a lot of 80's Alan Parsons Project albums. Naturally, there are some similarities with Asia but there is a lot less of Hard-edged Rock here. You could perhaps say that it sounds like an emasculated Asia without guitars. Geoff's partner in Yes and Asia, Steve Howe does appear on one track but he contributes only acoustic guitar.

Vox Humana is not a bad album but also not a very good one. If you expect something on the lines of The Light Program you are in for a disappointment but if you appreciate the music of the likes of Alan Parsons Project you might enjoy this album.

 The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra) by DOWNES, GEOFFREY album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.36 | 7 ratings

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The Light Program (The New Dance Orchestra)
Geoffrey Downes Crossover Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Ethnic dances

In 1986 Asia was on hold and Geoffrey Downes found himself on his own. This situation gave him the opportunity to record his first solo album for which he adopted the moniker of The New Dance Orchestra. There is no orchestra here, however, and neither is this by any means dance music. Rather, what we have here is an electronic symphony of sorts, with everything done by Geoff himself on his multitude of electronic keyboards and acoustic piano.

The Light Progam consists of five long tracks ranging from 11 and a half to 16 and a half minutes in length. All of the five movements are packed with strong melodic ideas and despite the album's considerable running time of well over an hour, Downes still manages to keep the listeners interest throughout. Admittedly, it is quite possible that this music could have sounded even better than it does had Geoff hired a real band to back him up. Some real drums, some bass guitar, and perhaps some electric and acoustic guitars could probably have done wonders. However, what is here is surprisingly good and the programmed drums sound surprisingly lively and Geoff succeeds well in mimicking other instruments with his plethora of synths and keyboard instruments.

What carries the music forward is the melodies that are here in abundance. No part overstays its welcome but moves into something new just at the right times to keep things fresh and exciting. The melodies are varied and there are many different styles and sounds perfectly interwoven to form an appealing musical tapestry. I especially enjoy the several ethnic and folky elements.

Of course this music cannot be compared to that which Downes had made with Yes or Asia, but it does compare very favourably with many other keyboard players' solo efforts and you can hear how Downes is influenced by Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman and how he in turn influenced Erik Norlander whose Galactic Collective album is a reference point here.

Downes' best solo album and an excellent album of its kind!

Thanks to southsideofthesky for the artist addition.

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