Despite the old saying that states not to judge a book by its cover, my first thoughts about Great & Terrible Potions were based entirely on its album cover. The excellent artwork - courtesy of none other than the legendary Roger Dean - provides a good insight into the music contained on this disc. Top-notch modern progressive rock is what you should expect from Great & Terrible Potions, and Ben Craven's admirable skills as a musician and songwriter are sure to have him recognized by prog fans around the globe. Believe it or not, Ben Craven actually handles everything related to the music on this album, including the vocals, instruments, and production. One-man acts often have a tendency to feel slightly underdeveloped or immature, but that is not the case with Great & Terrible Potions - this is modern prog rock at its best. Fans of Yes, Spock's Beard, Kevin Gilbert, and Echolyn should take notice.
Ben Craven's strongest asset as a musician is arguably in the songwriting department. Great & Terrible Potions is a fairly accessible album, and it's filled to the brim with memorable hooks, strong melodies, and well-composed arrangements. Ben simply knows how to create memorable progressive rock, and the well-executed musicianship gives the album an extra layer of professionalism. His skill as a guitarist and keyboardist shine especially brightly, and even though the drums and bass tend to take a bit of a backseat on this album, the arrangements never feel uneven. Ben is also quite a talented vocalist with a style that brings prog legend Neal Morse to mind. The production, despite being completely do-it-yourself, still sounds completely professional and it suits the music perfectly. It may be a bit too raw for some listeners, but I think Ben Craven also did an excellent job with this key aspect of the album.
If you're into progressive rock with a sleek, modern edge, it's difficult to go wrong with Great & Terrible Potions. Ben Craven's tremendous ability to combine memorable hooks with complex progressive rock and cinematic orchestral music is astounding, and I'll be keeping a very close eye on where this excellent Australian musician heads in the coming years. This album fits my 4 star recommendation like a glove - this is one of 2011's highlight progressive rock albums, and an essential acquisition for fans of the genre!
1. Diabolique (2:27)
2. Nobody Dies Forever Part 1 (2:37)
3. Aquamarine (5:07)
4. Ready to Lose (6:02)
5. The Conjurer (4:13)
6. No Specific Harm (10:58)
7. Solace (2:43)
8. Nobody Dies Forever Part 2 (1:51)
9. Great & Terrible Potions (9:06)
10. Ready to Lose (Single Edit) (3:39)
11. Nobody Dies Forever (Single Edit) (2:59)
12. No Specific Harm (Single Edit) (3:29)
Total time 55:11