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Simon, Alan: Songwriter

With the release of his Excalibur IV album, it would appear that there's a sudden attempt to broaden the awareness of French songwriter Alan Simon, twenty five year's worth of material cut down to a thematically split two disc best of called Songwriter. Disc one is titled My World & Symphonic Side, as a selection of pieces from Simon's rock operas are gathered together to illustrate his classical skills, most of this disc inspired by the myth and history of The Celts. As such it all often carries the feel and tone of a less expansive Lord Of The Rings soundtrack, pipes and strings combining to set an intriguing tone. The scope and grandiose attack is something to behold and yet, removed from their parent albums and gathered together in this way things often lose context and begin to meander. Not everything on this disc is instrumental, the much missed John Wetton showing up on "The Vision" for a trademark vocal that adds 'place' in a way that some of the other pieces lack. He's not alone in guesting on this disc, Jethro Tull's Martin Barre appearing on "Dun Aengus", while Fairport Convention add their inimitable approach on more than one occasion. Interesting though it is, as a stand alone disc, I have to be honest and say that while there's no denying the craft behind everything in evidence, there's little that draws me back for more.

Something that can be said less for disc two, My British Side, the more rock and song approach on this disc often misrepresented by that suffix. For while there is on occasion a prog like pastoral feel there's much more going on here than a purely 'British' approach – whatever that may be? If disc one featured a clutch of guests, the second helping is positively overflowing with them. With many notable names from the world of prog and rock showing up to add (mainly) vocal contributions, there's almost an embarrassment of riches at Simon's disposal. Jon Anderson is possibly the biggest name to show up, an unmistakable vocal gracing the relaxed spiritual vibe of "Circle Of Life", while The Moody Blues' Justin Hayward gives the sort of impassioned vocal performance on "On The Road" that only he could. Wetton and Barre are back again for "Lugh", the gentle folk piece an understated highlight of this whole collection. Add in Zuchero on "World", Maddy Prior on "Secret Garden", Heather Small of M People for "Peace On Earth" and Midnight Oil for "No Man's Land" and amongst many others, the names just keep on coming. In many ways however, that's the issue here. For while it's understandable both in terms of kudos and gaining attention for Alan Simon, highlighting all of these guest appearances on this compilation actually makes you wonder who the mainman really is. When Jon Anderson turns up, Simon writes a song that sounds like a Jon Anderson song, when Justin Hayward is behind the mic, things sound remarkably Moody Bluesish, while when Heather Small takes the spotlight we are treated to a soulful vocal led cut that, while impressive, simply asks the singer to do what she's very good at. Don't get me wrong, having the skill to turn his hand to (not to mention the classical fare on disc one) prog, pastoral, folk, euro-pop – crikey, "Come" is so AOR it's actually Westcoast jazz (so much for 'British') – obviously illustrates Simon's versatile talents and yet it makes him and his music feel strangely like they are the sideman to the guests and not the other way round.

Songwriter is a hugely impressive and in places engaging introduction to an obviously underrated talent. And yet rather than answer the question 'who is Alan Simon?', this collection actually leaves you with more quandaries than you had to start with, but, unfortunately, not really with the inquisitiveness to want to find out more.

Track Listing
1. CELTIC RING (Feat. Alan Parsons)
3. WORLD (Feat. Brankica Vasic)
5. THE ORIGINS PT 1 (Feat. Moya Brennan)
7. LETTRE À YSEULT (Feat. Christian Décamps)
9. WAR
10. AD LIBITUM (Feat. Carlos Nũnez)
12. BELTAINE (Feat. Fairport Convention)
13. SKYE (Feat. Skilda)
14. CASTLE ROCK (Feat. Fairport Convention)
15. DUN AENGUS (Feat. Martin Barre)
18. THE VISION (Feat. John Wetton)
19. ADELA (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg)
20. I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg And John Helliwell)

1. NO MAN'S LAND (Feat. Midnight Oil)
2. COME (Feat. Jesse Siebenberg)
3. THE ELEMENTS (Feat. Roger Hodgson & Dan Ar Braz)
4. DANCING HEART (Feat. Roberto Tiranti)
5. CIRCLE OF LIFE (Feat. Jon Anderson)
6. FAME AND GLORY (Feat. Fairport Convention)
7. PEACE ON EARTH (Feat. Heather Small & Billy Preston)
8. ANGEL'S TEARS (Feat. Jeremy Spencer)
9. WHERE IS THE WAY (Feat. Billy Preston)
10. ON THE ROAD (Feat. Justin Hayward)
11. JANGADERO (Feat. Cesaria Evora)
12. EVIL DAY (Feat. Roberto Tiranti)
13. SECRET GARDEN (Feat. Maddy Prior)
14. WORLD (Feat. Zucchero & Anggun)
15. MOTHERLAND (Feat. Jimmy O Neill)
16. SAMAN (Feat. Les Holroyd & Mick Fleetwood)
17. MARIE LA CORDELIÈRE (Feat. James Wood & Fairport Convention)
18. LUGH (Feat. John Wetton & Martin Barre)
19. DESIRE (Feat. Les Holroyd)
20. A PRAYER FOR MY LOVER (Feat. Siobhan Owen)

Added: December 26th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Alan Simon online
Hits: 1232
Language: english

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