HOW FAR TO HITCHIN
Black Bead Eye
(2019 - One-Seven-Two-Music - UK)
Dews displays the keen nose that pushes above the established cloudline, to smell yet more new air. When an album begins with ('Queen of Malice') timpani (kettledrum) roll, followed by classical orchestration, all progressive rock lovers light up. Quickly diving into a purely Steve Hackett inspired gem of syncopated drums, soaring lead guitar, harmony warmed vocals, and driving body, shifting with acoustic guitar interlude; the goose bumps appear and the expectations of this 2nd official full length release by one Mr. Paul Dews (under the title How Far To Hitchin) is not only satisfied, but surpassed.
'Desensitised' (track #2) brings on more of that pastoral early ('Voyage of the Acolyte') Hackett-like glory. More hairs standing on end, and more glee in the ears and heart of the lucky listener. If you don't know by now, Paul Dews is a man of multiple talents. Not only is he a superior graphic designer/artist who does all his own art for his releases, but others hire him to do their cover art and various projects. Among many reasons I cherish the physical format so much (I still love compact discs) is getting great artwork like this. 'Black Bead Eye' comes with fully and absolutely beautifully illustrated booklet with lyrics and information, along with curious and enchanting cover art by Dews. By the way, when you go to his website to order the CD, it comes in two different versions. The music on the CDs are all the same, but you get a larger lyric booklet with extra artwork on 'Rook' version, plus they are signed with an added badge. 'Jackdaw' version is just the regular booklet and CD.
His debut 'Easy Targets' (2016 copyright, 2017 official international release), which I also reviewed, also has intriguing and outstanding art. We have what proves to be a top tier vocalist, multi-instrumentalist (yes he covers guitars, bass, Chapman Stick, mandolin, ukulele, flute, keyboards, drums, percussion, vocals, and all programming), composer, arranger, producer, disciplined creator, and both a humble and super nice guy. On his debut he played all instruments (he listed anagrams of his own name, as different members of his "band"- and that cleverness was also in his cover art, with neat touches, much like a puzzle). On this sophomore release, he plays and sings everything except for his partner Emma Gee doing vocals on track 4 ('Woman Screaming at Trees').
With the prized early classic progressive sound, he adds songs in the electronic, techno Rupert Hine/Mich Karn and latter Japan styled world. 'Instant Gratification' (track #3) is a good example, however, many of these tunes gradually move to a more ethereal place. Even a bit of electronica is thrown in on the last cut of the album. He uses contrast the same way an experienced painter does, on a large canvas, to present textures and pastiche. Paul has a long history of good taste and influences in varied music styles, thus the ability to write with a wide stroke and vivid imagination. He has the touch, translating to the skill, to balance those mellow sweetly hypnagogic passages that Anthony Phillips always does so well, and the more eclectic diversions which make for both an unpredictable and fully engaged listen. 'The Crow' (track #6 on player, listed as Side Two, cut 2 on actual back cover) is a four part beauty. The word epic has been so overused, but this composition is fully deserving of that term. It is stunning and worth the price of the release alone. I need not say more. Just buy this destined to be a classic CD. My TOP CHOICES list of 2019 runneth over, but 'Black Bead Eye' has just been added to it. A wonderfully executed recording, with applause from this writer and music lover. TOTALLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 10 - 1 - 2019