REVIEW: TIM BOWNESS – “Lost In The Ghost Light”
The 1970’s were the heyday for prog rock. Although birthed in the late 60’s, no one can argue that the 70′s is where the sounds became a fully developed and complex form of rock music. Often formed of 20 minute plus long pieces, bands like Yes, E.L.P, and Pink Floyd went on to conquer the world and influence the thousands of bands and artists today. Along the way those rockers aged, their fingers slowed, and they began to wonder where they would go next. And it is into that world that Tim Bowness takes us with his new concept album ‘Lost in the Ghost Light’. The album follows an aging rock musician both on and backstage by the name of Moonshot, and the songs from his inner musings, thoughts and fears, and it’s a story worth following.
The album begins with “Worlds of Yesterday” which as the title suggests tells of the main character’s past, and it begins in a rather subdued manner. This isn’t very surprising, as Bowness is probably best known for his band no-man with Steven Wilson, which is generally quite quiet and subdued as well, which matches his vocal style which is very laid back, almost breathy in nature. But soon the music picks up, and the sounds of classic prog come into the forefront. I hasten to say now though, that although the album in some ways is a love letter to the classic prog of the 70′s it is not a rehash, nor derivative, and Tim has his own take on the sound. And the music works very well and will likely please fans of early Genesis or Camel, while still sounding new.
The album picks up a bit with “Kill the Pain That’s Killing You” which has a more raucous beginning and middle section, with some ripping guitar work courtesy of guitarist Bruce Soord (of The Pineapple Thief). It is unlike much else that Bowness has done over the years and is a refreshing shot of energy in the arm of the album. The rest of the album goes back to a more laid back sound, with the exception of the instrumental section of “You Wanted to be Seen,” which goes full synthesizer prog, and certainly the highlight of the album. And the playing is outstanding throughout that section as well as the album as a whole.
Exceptional playing is neither surprising nor an accident when you realize the team of people that Bowness has brought on board to make his vision a reality. It’s a powerhouse of prog legends, both from the classic days, and also the modern. From the classic era Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) plays one of his signature fiery flute solos on the closing track “Distant Summers,” and Bowness brings in Kit Watkins of Camel fame to provide some of the wonderful keyboard work. From the modern age, along with the aforementioned Bruce Soord, bassist extraordinaire Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree provides both subtle and thunderous work throughout. And to round it off, Tim’s no-man partner Stev
With the solid writing, and the talent assembled to play the music, it is perhaps ironic that the weak link of the album is its creator. Now I’m a fan of Tim’s main band no-man and his above mentioned vocals fit the music of that band very well, mostly because their music has a very dream-like quality to it. But he has no real variety in his tone or delivery. Often times it sounds almost like he’s singing the same breathy vocal line over every song, just with different lyrics. And that asthmatic approach I don’t think works very well with the straighter prog style of much of the music he surrounds them with. The exception is the quiet and more somber closing song “Distant Summers” with its lush string arrangement; his vocals float quietly over the top of them and forms a very appropriate closing piece and works perfectly. However anyone familiar with any of his work already knows what to expect from his vocals, if they work for you then you’ll have no problem, if like me you sometimes find them a tad uninspired then know that this album is no different.
‘Lost in the Ghost Light’ is a love letter to the music and inspirations of Tim Bowness’s youth, while remaining an original and well written concept album. It is also a tightly performed piece of work that will appeal to fans of classic prog rock, and his fans as well. And while the vocals lack any punch or variety, the final result is certainly worthwhile. Recommended to fans of his other work; or someone looking for a more laid back, old school sounding prog album.