Geoff Downes has been a major presence on the prog scene for quite some while and, with Yes and Asia, he’s had an impact, even if some of Asia’s later works have been rather sub-par. Away from his day jobs, though, he plays in Downes Braide Association alongside Chris Braide, a renowned songsmith in his own right and, while their work together tends to be overlooked given Downes’ contributions to Yes and Asia, nonetheless, together, they’ve evolved into a very productive working relationship, with the result being a series of albums which have been consistently melodic and extremely pleasing on the ear. DBA are a kind of merging of rock, pop and prog and there probably aren’t too many out there doing what they do.
Previous album Halcyon Hymns was one dripping with nostalgia and seeped with wistful memories of times past, whereas Celestial Songs goes a little deeper into the human psyche and lyrically addresses themes like the anxiety of the constantly changing modern world and the confusion of modern living, though there are also messages of love and hope mixed in. There are eleven tracks involved, all well-constructed, as you’d expect from two top songsmiths, and the playing is always spot on. They recorded this album with some other top notch players, notably Andy Hodge (bass) and Ash Soen (drums) but, in particular, Lifesigns guitar man Dave Bainbridge, whose superb axe work is such a key feature of this album – notably on tracks like Clear Light, which has more than a touch of Asia about it, as does the slightly dramatic Will To Power, as well as the prog tinged Goodbye To You (sister shame) where Bainbridge is all over the piece. Francis Dunnery also adds some guitar sparkle to Keep On Moving, a song about loves from way back in the day. The album concludes with the lengthy Beyond The Stars, where it’s easy imagining Jon Anderson singing the intro verse, and with Dave Bainbridge again making his mark on what is a stellar track.
The connection between Darker Side Of Fame, which includes a contribution from Marc Almond, and the emotive Heart Shaped Hole are the themes of ‘be careful what you wish for, and what happens when all the fame disappears.’ Hey Kid is mostly Chris Braide with angst-ridden lyrics which could be from Roger Waters, and the excellent Dear Petra is a very heartfelt stirring piece.
In sum, this is an uplifting album offering melodic pieces with very catchy hooks. There’s nothing overly dramatic about Celestial Songs, it’s an album grounded in solid soft prog from two guys who know they’re good at what they do, and there could even be a case for saying DBA should be the main act and Yes / Asia the part time projects.