by Paul Quinton
When I first had the idea for this column, I had two things in mind. Firstly not to restrict myself to writing about the legendary bands such as Yes, Floyd etc., and secondly to make a point of featuring the new, less well-known bands. Even so, I was conscious that I’d championed the cause of The Reasoning ever since I started contributing to Midlands Rocks, and I wanted to make a point of turning the spotlight elsewhere this month. However, some extremely worrying news has come out of the Welsh band’s camp in the last few weeks, and I make no apology for drawing your attention to it. As I said last month, guitarist Owain Roberts had recently taken leave of absence from the band for health reasons, but on 10th March, he left his home in Cardigan, apparently to walk the coast path nearby, and has not been seen since. The police were informed, but there have been no further developments, nor, apparently, any sightings of him, in the time since then. His friends and family are desperate for any news of him, at least to know that he’s safe and well. It would be a long shot for anyone reading this to have any solid information about Owain, but all I can ask is that people help spread the word. There is a Facebook page, Find Owain Roberts, which includes the posters issued by the police and that excellent charity, the National Missing Persons Helpline, now known as Missing People. Please visit the page and share or link to it on your own page to help in the search for any news of Owain, and if by any chance Owain is reading this, please, bud, let your family know you’re safe and well at least.
Onto more mundane matters, and Timeless Wavelengths spent a highly interesting evening in Yorkshire last month, at the Classic Rock Society Awards night. The CRS have done a fantastic job over the years in promoting music, not only giving bands like Mostly Autumn early exposure, but also taking the chance on importing bands such as Riverside, The Rocket Scientists and Black Bonzo, who we might never otherwise have seen in the UK. Their awards night is a well established event, and they always manage to attract some well-known guests and put on some great music to make the event go well. This year’s awards were entertainingly compered by writer Steve Lambe and the trophies presented by Adam Wakeman, and the whole event turned out to be something of a celebration for Pendragon, who cleaned up in most of the categories they were nominated, including Best Album, for ‘Passion’, Best Live Band, Best Song for This Green and Pleasant Land, and in the individual categories, Clive Nolan scooped the pool as Best Keyboard Player and Scott Higham as Best Drummer. Elsewhere, Jon Jowitt (IQ, Ark, Arena) won the prize for Best Bassist, an award he wins so often many have suggested it be renamed in his honour, and Damian Wilson got a well-deserved gong for Best Male Vocalist. Apparently Damian was due to collect his award in person, but it was claimed his car had broken on the way to the gig. I’m sure that doesn’t happen at The Oscars, well, not very often, anyway.
Meanwhile the award for Best Female Singer went to Magenta’s Christina Booth, who gave the crowd a typically irrepressible acceptance speech, and had even managed to dig out a nice frock for the occasion. The Best New Band award, which had one of the most diverse nominations lists, including symphonic metal band Winter in Eden, ex Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay and Hampshire proggers Cosmograf, eventually went to aspiring prog metallers Concrete Lake, and Timeless Wavelengths was very pleased to see some representatives from internet radio station ARFM be awarded the Unsung Hero Ward. If ever you get tired of the somewhat restrictive playlist of Planet Rock, give these chaps a try, particularly Steve Price’s melodic rock show and Paul Baker’s wondrous Soundscapes.show, which is essential listening for prog fans.
Possibly the most surprising award was that for Best Band. Even allowing for Pendragon not bagging this as well, it surprised a few people when Mostly Autumn got the nod. That’s not to say it’s undeserved, they’ve made some brilliant music over the years, but in a year when they’d released no new material, and when we’ve had fine new music from the likes of Opeth, Dream Theater, and Pendragon, among many others, it seemed a strange choice. However, I’m sure everyone there welcomed the award of Best Guitarist to the legendary Steve Hackett, especially when it transpired that the great man had turned up in person to receive his award. Musical entertainment on the evening was by ex-Pallas singer Alan Reed and headlined by Arena, complete with new singer Paul Manzi. Congrats to everyone connected with the CRS for a great evening. ‘Classic Rock Presents Prog’, or just plain Prog, as they’re known these days, have been floating the idea of doing their own awards ceremony in future and they could a lot worse than learn from the CRS, particularly as the CRS make it essentially an evening for the fans and artists, rather than just an industry bash. But we shall see.
Some other things I think I think:-
Firstly, I think I’m all a–quiver at the news that the new Rush album, ‘Clockwork Angels’ is now officially due at the end of June. The band have already debuted two songs, BU2B and Caravan, live and now a new single from the album, Headlong Flight, is also available. One interesting development is that a couple of weeks before the album is officially out in the UK, it will be available as one of the Classic Rock ‘fanpacks’, which will include the album, a 100+ page magazine with all manner of ‘exclusive content’, a poster and a keyring. Obviously hardcore Rush fans will want both versions, assuming there may be various bonus tracks and possibly a different sleeve, but whether you want to pay £15 for the fan package is entirely up to you.
Secondly, I think I’m already impressed by some of the gigs that are being lined up around the region for this coming autumn. We have Marillion coming to Wolverhampton Civic in September, not to mention, for those with more extreme tastes, Meshuggah at the Slade Rooms, The Robin has visits from Magenta, Mostly Autumn (twice), second 2012 gigs from Karnataka and IO Earth, the latter an attractive double bill with The Tangent, and a really interesting package of Also Eden, Mr.So and So and Crimson Sky on September 23rd. Absurdly good value for the £8.00 advance ticket price. Karnataka are also playing Leamington Spa Assembly in November, as are Arena. We’re also quite likely to see more gigs from the wonderful Panic Room, who make their first visit to the Midlands in 2012 on June 24th, when they’ll no doubt be unveiling tracks from their new album ‘Skin’, at the Robin.
I think I also ought to draw your attention to Solihull’s finest Prog export, IO Earth who play The Robin for the initial time this year, on April 22nd, with the excellent Solstice in support. Dave Cureton and Co’s new album, ‘Moments’ is genuinely ambitious, diverse and a fascinating listen, in other words, a proper progressive album. The band are due to play Rosfest in Pennsylvania in early May, along with IQ, DeeExpus, and many others, on what sounds like a great event.
Finally this month, and turning back to a band who can now be described as ‘multi-CRS=award winning’, Pendragon will play what will probably be their only UK show this year, at Leamington Assembly, on May 5th. Support will come from the Paul Menel Band, joined on the night by Martin Orford, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of IQ’s landmark album, ‘Nomzamo’. Tickets are available from the band’s website, if you fancy a great night of music.