OK, hand on heart, this is going to be a very biased review simply because it features one of the most truly innovative musicians this world has ever produced and if anyone ever thoroughly deserved the title of legend then it must be the one and only Peter Hammill. I am a huge Van Der Graaf Generator fan and I know they can be the marmite of prog but one thing that you cannot do is ignore them and if you have Hammill on-board the you better be prepared for something very special. That said, it’s now time to get on with the review but I have to say that if you are any sort of progressive rock fan then you most probably bought this album as soon as it came out as any album that features Hammill alongside Tim Bowness (No-Man, Henry Fool, Centrozoom, Memories Of Machines etc) and the delightful woman of immense talent Karen Eden surely has to be on everyone’s wish list!
Saro Cosentino is a Rome born but Prague based composer and producer with The Road To Now being his third album with his last release, Ones And Zeros, going all the way back to 2007. Initially a blues musician he rapidly became involved in experimental and electronic music teaming up with the Italian singer songwriter Franco Battiato and they even wrote Italy’s 1984 Eurovision entry with Battiato performing in the competition. Remember, on Continental Europe Eurovision is as big as music comes and not regarded as the minor and rather kitsch experience we in the UK view it as. Just to show that the man is something of a prodigious talent both he and Battiato later produced two operas which just shows how diverse they are! Cosentino has always worked with guest musicians with Hammill, Bowness, Eden and Trey Gunn (King Crimson) also appearing on Ones And Zeros so they certainly must enjoy the recording process together. Between them they have produced an emotional, melancholic and atmospheric album that is truly soul-searing and achingly beautiful.
The Road To Now was recorded in England, America and Prague with the final mix being done at the Real World Studios in Bath which helps to give the album something of a quintessential English prog sound even though it is a truly international affair. The album opens with the sublime You’re The Story with the soft and rich vocals of Tim Bowness setting the scene and announcing that this is a major release that commands both respect and attention. Peter Hammill features on four of the eight tracks and his beautifully fragile and reflective delivery, whilst very much trademark Hammill, helps to reinforce the wistful theme of the album and further draws you into Cosentio’s perfect, ambient and rather abstract world. Karen Eden features on two of the tracks and she has a wealth of talent as a session singer and in-demand vocalist with credits including William Orbit and Chris Rea as well as recording tracks for Disney. She has a very warm, rich and passionate delivery rather similar to that of the wonderful Alanis Morissette and she continues the plaintive, yearning feel of the album although US (Scars On The Skin) is more upbeat and definitely has something of a Disney soundtrack flavour to it. The track Howl is effectively instrumental being a wistful and reflective piece very much in keeping with the themes explored throughout the album with some stunning guitar as well as featuring truly beautiful and evocative trumpet from Radim Knapp which reminds very much of the work on the 12″ version of Soft Cell’s Torch. The closing track, When My Parents Danced, is immense and sees Hammill in bitter-sweet mode and this song very easily have come from his stunning Over album.
Vocally, this record is as perfect as you can get and when you factor in the musicians involved including the eclectic Trey Gunn on warr guitar (a variation of the Chapman stick) and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief) then you know that you have something very special indeed in front of you. Saro Cosentino is a master conductor and pulls all the strings to ensure sonic perfection throughout as well as performing on guitar, keyboards and bass too.
The Road To Now is destined to become an all-time classic album and will appeal across genres but if you are a progressive rock fan then this album will most definitely appeal directly to your heart and your head. There is a distinct No-Man, Nosound, ambient Porcupine Tree vibe to the album and I know I use this expression far too often but this album truly is a must have work of art, buy it now!
The Road To Now
- You’re The Story (feat Tim Bowness)
- The Joke (feat Peter Hammill)
- Pray (feat Karen Eden)
- November (feat Peter Hammill & Tim Bowness)
- US (Scars on Skin) (feat Karen Eden)
- Time To Go (feat Peter Hammill)
- When Your Parents Danced (feat Peter Hammill)
The Road To Now is available now on Cat Sounds