New Album Review: Not a Diamond, but this Jasper is still a Gem!

RED JASPER, THE GREATEST AND SECRET SHOW (Angel Air, 2015)

I don’t have a lot of money to spend every month on music. This is simply the way of the world but it is a nice tie-back memory to how my music buying life was forty years ago…and still is.

So I’m always grateful to read a positive record review from someone whose opinions I’ve come to trust. I’ve been reading the website SEA OF TRANQUILITY for years now. And though I’m more interested in their melodic and symphonic prog reviews than the heavier metal stuff, it’s a darn good repository for reviews all the way from Uriah Heep to Glass Hammer to Behemoth. It’s worth a look.

The other day one of my favorite reviewers, Jon Neudorf, gave a pretty decent review of a new album by a hitherto unknown (to me) band named RED JASPER. With a name like that I was already predisposed to liking them. So after discovering that their new album The Great And Secret Show was available to hear on Bandcamp, I listened to it straightway.

I like it a whole lot more than even Neudorf.

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   While the title and album cover-art might elicit hopes that the music will be a prog version of Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Circus of Dr. Lao, or even Carnivale, the disappointment that it’s not soon vanishes in a beautiful feel-good song cycle of Nektar meets Jethro Tull with a bit of Styx thrown in for fun. The title track at 8:02, the longest on the album, starts off the disc with, if not a ‘bang,’ then with an achingly nostalgic paean to the passage of time in the life of an aging and tired performer—whether a circus entertainer or rock musician.

There’s not a clunker on this record and though veering at times towards power balladry and symphonic crossover rock territory, there are enough great prog guitar solos and riffs (sometimes Rothery-like in emotion) underpinned by great synths and prog saxophone the way “it ought to be done!” So, if at time the listener thinks he’s stumbled upon a collaboration of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jim Steinman, TSO, and Dennis DeYoung, (not that that’s bad) he need only wait a minute or two before the next pastoral keyboard run or solid bass line.

Vocalist David Clifford sings the intelligent lyrics with understated sincerity and is joined by guest vocalist Sohelia Clifford on a rich and romantic ballad, Bonds Beyond Reason. The whole band is tight and cohesive but standouts are Lloyd George on keyboards and guest saxophonist Pat D’Arcy. Mel Collins would give a ‘tip o’ the reed’ to Mr. D.

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   From an almost “Bowie-esque” power-prog tune, New Man, to the anthemic Ray of Darkness, to the closing “sing-along-chorus vibed” Living The Life, this is an energetic and tuneful record of synth-driven symphonic prog.

I wanted to purchase the disc after only three tracks in, and I heartily recommend you check it out.

Red Jasper—great name for a British band, eh?

 

Mellotron On!

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