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Red Jasper: 777

Following a comprehensive retrospective campaign, Angel Air Records released the first all new Red Jasper album in nearly two decades, The Great And Secret Show in 2015. It was an album which both impressed and disappointed, new singer (and old drummer) David Clifford making that switch reasonably smoothly and new drummer (and not old singer) Nick Harredance making a mighty impression. A band long known for a unique take on Prog via an English folk sensibility, that folk edge was much less in evidence, leaving a straight up, possibly slightly dated, neo-prog attack as the band's main weapon. 777 continues those themes, Clifford still a singer capable of evoking neo-prog sounds of the 80s, as his band's music also stays firmly in that mould. Ex-Shadowland drummer Harredance has moved on, Florin Werner a convincing replacement.

Personally I'm a big neo-prog fan, however there's a certain unexpected side to hearing a brand new album so closely following a time gone by, the production on 777 verging on pastiche, such is its clattery, echoing authenticity. The keyboard sounds and guitar tones also ape a time of three decades or so ago and while there's no doubt that the songs are well constructed, I have to be honest and say that the stifling production sucks a lot of the atmosphere from the likes of "Nothing To Believe" and "The Gathering". The more pastoral and extremely English sounding (ironically given its name) "Forth Of Fife" resets the balance, the slow deep build quite expertly handled as Lloyd George's keyboards shine brightly. "She Waits" on the other hand struggles to wheeze into life, a waltz breathlessly hoping to inject a change of pace, which it does by coming close to a deathly stop.

However with "Reaching Out" bringing a brighter tone to proceedings and Robin Harrison's early Rothery inspired guitar styling taking hold, it's a genuine, classy highlight of this album. As with the band's precious release, lyrically the work of writer Clive Barker has inspired the exploration of human nature, religion and belief. Along with an intriguing album cover that evokes the most recent series of American Horror Story (Hotel), the imagery, both physical and mental is strong. When Red Jasper really hit their stride, they easily match that level of atmosphere. However to do so throughout and to live up to the full potential of the music they create, a more cutting edge sound would make the world of difference. It wouldn't stop 777 sounding like an album inspired by another time, but it would avoid it sounding as though it could already do with a slick remaster.

Track Listing
1. 7
2. Nothing To Believe
3. She Waits
4. Forth Of Fife
5. The Gathering
6. Reaching Out
7. Blessed With Gold
8. Dragonfly
9. Paradise Folly
*Bonus track*
10. October And April (unplugged)

Added: July 2nd 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Red Jasper online
Hits: 1914
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Red Jasper: 777
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-07-02 18:12:32
My Score:

United Kingdom progressive rock band Red Jasper formed in the mid '80s and have released seven albums to date, including their latest titled 777. The band disappeared for a number of years (1998-2011) and produced their comeback effort The Great And Secret Show last year which was an enjoyable effort. It is nice to see the band hard at work as it did not take them long to produce a follow-up which should be welcome news to many progressive music fans.

The new album, like its predecessor is influenced by the works of horror writer Clive Barker. The not so subtle album cover conveys the horror theme and reminded me of the classic movie The Shining the first time I looked at it.

The disc opens with the catchy rhythms and melodic vocal lines of "7", a great track to start the album. It's quite a dense track with rumbling guitar chords, great lead vocals and layers of atmospheric keyboards. The chorus is incredibly catchy and the quieter bits laced with sporadic piano and percolating synths create tremendous atmosphere. "Nothing To Believe" is another hook laden rock tune with proggy touches here and there and another excellent vocal performance from David Clifford. "She Waits" is a bit of English twee with a carnival/circus melody and some darker riffs which really suit the album's ominous themes. Robin Harrison lays down some fiery lead guitar work as well. In "Forth Of Fife" waves of keyboards and slow rhythms form a thick wall of sound laden with atmosphere before a solitary keyboard leads us to the core of the track highlighted with layers of melodic vocals and catchy synth sounds. The crystal clear keyboards shimmer and the band really gets into a great groove. I love the theatrical nature of this track as the band reaches new dramatic heights that should delight progressive music fans across the board. "The Gathering" is one of the heavier tracks showcasing the band's chops with thick bass lines, pounding drums and huge main riffs. "Reaching Out" is another favourite beginning with soaring lead guitar and an overall sound reminding me of Arena, especially the lead vocals and keyboard work.

There are ten tracks and not a bad one in the bunch. Red Jasper has made a memorable and accessible progressive rock album with 777. Let's hope their creative juices will continue to flow.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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