FRANK WYATT & FRIENDS
(2019 - Crafty Hands Music - USA)
A brilliant album by former main member of Happy The Man, Frank Wyatt (piano. keyboards), who has brought that same sparkling rhythmic progressive classical rock fusion with 'Zeitgeist'. Along with a few original members of that classic American band (Stan Whitaker - guitar, vocals), (Kit Watkins - keyboards), with Rick Kennell (bass) and Ron Riddle (drums) joining on their 2nd stunner 'Crafty Hands' (1978). Over the later albums were Joe Bergamini (drums), David Rosenthal (keyboards), Mike Beck (drums, percussion), and Cliff Fortney (vocals). Also contributing are Chris Mack (from Pedal Giant Animals, Oblivion Sun), Peter Princiotto (orchestration, sitar), who was in another great American progressive outfit However, (and participated on 'Pedal Giant Animals') and Bill Brasso (drums) a member of Oblivion Sun, and drummer for Cell15 on the album 'River Utopia' (2018). Andrew Colyer (keyboards) also in Cell15, has an enormous resume and discography. He was asked to join Oblivion Sun just at the time Frank had to stop touring live, but due to those circumstances, never played on anything until the 'Zeitgeist' gathering. Other notable friends are David Hughes (bass) also of Oblivion Sun. And now that the exhausting research is done, let us get on with the music at hand.
The opening cut brings in some shades of Peter Gabriel or Nad Sylvan, along with Happy The Man stylings. Stan Whitaker is on vocals and does great job. An addition to that original sound is a Steve Hackett mid to late period solo feel. The entire release has extra touches of the past progressive rock classics, yet never abandons that famous mostly instrumental symphonic music that had key elements of the fancier Camel, extra appealing Gentle Giant odd rhythms, smooth flow adjacent to zigzag changes like Focus, and the mellow dreamy pieces such as 'Eleventh Hour' (track #4), with echoes of Barclay James Harvest (helping that out is vocalist Cliff Fortney).
Some heavily orchestrated (with keyboards) works escort the epic moments such as 'The Approach' (track #5) which was actually started by Wyatt when Happy The Man went to record 'The Muse Awakens' album (2004), but was not completed or used until now. The addition of Peter Princiotto on sitar is a bonus. 'Fred's Song' (track #6) is classic HTM with all the glorious peaks and valleys, shots of adrenaline and sky sailing passage. A remembrance song for a friend of Frank's (Fred Brown) who had passed on. Due to the impossibility to write proper words to it, the composition was left all instrumental with fabulous result. The grand finale is a 4 part orchestral suite ('Perelandra Movement' I, II, III, IV), based on the second book by C.S. Lewis, from the Space Trilogy. Performed totally by Frank, using keyboard samples to create the many instruments and playing piano, he successfully makes a magnificent tour de force. So many colors, emotions, and scope, that birth a symphonic work of marvel. Wyatt's modesty and fear that this would not be up to standards is just his perfection and professional traits kicking in. It brings the audience to their knees, then on their feet, to applaud such a work.
Truly an album to brag about and cherish. A four year, often shaky due to his treatments and overwhelming schedules of some of the other musicians, but live to make happen recording, did indeed see the light. A huge achievement for Mr Wyatt. To know that he had cancer and felt it might be his last recording is a testament to his determination, strength, and dedication to music. We would all be the losers if this project had not been realized. A perfect mingling of classical, progressive rock, reverie, dazzling display, critical thinking, and execution. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 12 - 21 - 2019