Geoff Penn Rating 95/100
It seems a long time back to February 2019 when Emerald Dawn released their wonderful third album entitled ‘Nocturne. A gorgeous album full of originality, melodic charm, and polished arrangements.
So, it was certainly not unexpected that the magical flavours of ‘Emerald Dawn’s symphonic proficiency would not falter and that their cultured approach to progressive rock music would be central to their new album ‘To Touch the Sky’. It is an album where all of ‘Emerald Dawn’s philharmonic progressive rock hallmarks have once again come to the fore and, in fact, have been protracted to reinforce the musical pedigree of this truly remarkable British band.
With the spirit of the music creating a distinctly atmospheric edge and in addition encompassing a melancholy feeling of fearful anticipation, it would not be an exaggeration to compare this latest ‘Emerald Dawn’ epic to a modern orchestral work of classical proportions.
It is an album with a conceptual theme based loosely around a crew of brave adventurers straying off the path and getting themselves lost. Where this mishap might have occurred is not clear but one could imagine, knowing that Emerald Dawn are based down in St.Ives in Cornwall, that a likely location could be’ Brown Willy’, the highest point in Cornwall, on ‘Bodmin Moor’ not too far from the Emeralds’ home base. Purely a guess of course but an area of natural beauty and untamed wildness and not a place from which to stray!!
- The Awakening -The adventure opens with a simple repetitive piano chord sequence further amplified by strong bass lines, categorical drumming and choral infused keys. A dramatic start paving the way for ‘Tree Stewarts’ ethereal vocal introduction to a more robust instrumental passage. A platform for deft guitar work and emphatic reoccurring bass. A passage closing with the same but more brightly concocted piano chord sequence and an elegant guitar outro hinting a flavour of Pink Floyd.
- And I Stood Transfixed. The middle section of this symphonic suite presents to us some glorious but edgy saxophone set within an up-tempo framework of purposeful drumming and multitudes of discordant instrumental passages that altogether conjure up images of the unknown and feelings of uncertainty. But the created scenes are ever-changing as the music twists and turns through various patterns of light and dark, warmth and chilling ambiguity
- The Ascent The third movement opens with a church like swathe of deeply resonant organ overlaid with rasps of a haunting choral flavoured background, that is before giving way to the ever dramatic but sweetly delivered structured classical piano. Incoming layers of exquisite flute are then later joined with jolts of determined and extremely powerful lines of melodic guitar. The overall spirit of the music conjuring up a feeling of warm familiarity as the soundscapes and musical patterns return to the main repetitive themes. It is at such a point that the musical pathways become more defined with the returning themes and the sanctity of hope for our intrepid explorers.
Summary: Sitting with headphones tightly clamped and losing oneself to the majesty of the music it is impossible not to create your own interpretation of the storyline and let your imagination to be carried away. My interpretation of the storyline is probably way off the mark, to that intended by the authors, but it matters little because it is an epic suite of music. There are two distinctive melodic keyboard themes that thread their way through the entire programme with a series of exquisite flute, jagged saxophone and mixtures of different lead guitar incursions that add colour and vibrancy. The wonderful basslines are such an important feature of the overall compositional writing process and really do provide a magical impetus and together with the ever-changing drumming arrangements whose patterns cleverly direct the subtle time changes which together with an outstanding percussive foundation for the entire music and its forward development.
On this album
Tree Stewart sings and plays keyboards, Roli Seaboard, 12-string acoustic guitar and flute
Ally Carter plays electric guitar, guitar synthesizer, and tenor saxophone and keyboards
David Greenaway plays 4-string fretless and 6-string fretted bass guitars
Tom Jackson plays drums.
‘The Awakening’: Music ® 2021 Katrina Jane Stewart, Alan Brian Carter, David John
Greenaway & Thomas Idris Jackson; lyrics © 2021 Katrina Jane Stewart & Alan Brian Carter
‘And I Stood Transfixed’: Music ® 2021 Alan Brian Carter, Katrina Jane Stewart, David John
Greenaway & Thomas Idris Jackson; lyrics © 2021 Alan Brian Carter & Katrina Jane Stewart
‘The Ascent’: Music ® 2021 Alan Brian Carter, Katrina Jane Stewart, David John Greenaway & Thomas Idris Jackson; lyrics © 2021 Alan Brian Carter & Katrina Jane Stewart
Engineered, produced and mixed by Ally Carter at Dragon Studio, World’s End, West Penwith. Cornwall
The album is wonderfully illustrated with Inside and outside cover paintings by Tree Stewart © 2021 Katrina Jane Stewart