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Kelly, Tom: Burnt Peas / A Quail’s House / Spinning Through Eternity

You may not know the name Tom Kelly, but like the majority of the music business - or what passes for a business these days - the one time founder of Still, Yellow Autumn and Mistress Quickly quietly went about creating interesting music appreciated by the few who got to experience it. The latter of those bands tried to get signed to record labels as the prog scene was moving towards the disco age and with their demos failing to gain traction, soon came to an end. At that stage multi-instrumentalist Kelly decided to go down the one-man route, writing, performing and recording everything on his own, with no real plans as to how, or indeed if, he’d get the results out to a wider audience. Tragically Kelly died in 2017 and it was only after his wife made some low key compilations of his music to give to some of Tom’s friends as gifts did the idea of releasing the three albums her husband had recorded begin to form.

The results are the three simultaneously released albums reviewed here, Burnt Peas, A Quail’s House and Spinning Through Eternity, where a symphonic rock base is used to weave soundscapes that are individual, personal and yet still far reaching. Comparisons have been made at times to Mike Oldfield, Steve Hackett and The Enid and I can see why, although in the end the three albums presented sound not very much like any of that trio of artists. Personally I’d add Anthony Phillips to that list; not because Tom Kelly pulls from the ex-Genesis man for inspiration, but more that they feel like kindred spirits, using their own personal inspirations to create their music with no real interest in the scenes and trends outside of the rooms in which the recordings took place. Thankfully, just like Phillips, these musings are also willing to unravel themselves to a wider audience and bring you along on trips that you had previously never imagined.

Also like Phillips, you can almost immediately identify that this is the creation of one man alone; the isolation in the recordings (although not in broader terms) coming across quite strongly. Often sitting on piano or synth themes, the first of the three albums, Burnt Peas, is something of a slow grower, with “The Tolling Of St. John’s Bells” easing you into Kelly’s world. “Burnt Peas (Parts I & II)” takes a slightly more boisterous approach; wind instruments introduced to add a more plaintive edge, but there is also the skirl of electric guitars in the mix, as well as some more tender and reflective piano tones. Whereas the more pastoral feel of “Nothing Ends, Nothing Begins” offers a real change of mood, but then so does the deeper, dirtier, “Sloppy Love At Bodie’s Flat”.

The more regal sounding “A Slight Overture Of Sorts” opens album two, A Quail’s House, but it is, with the occasional outbursts of gushing water (or sizzling bacon, or compressed applause) a much tougher nut to crack. The electric guitar buzzes away and the percussion becomes a click clack-a-whack, but still we play out on tender keyboard emotions. The four part “The Wayfarer” is, for all that it remains a controlled and restrained piece, a much more forceful example of Kelly’s approach, although there can at times be what might in less sedate settings be described as a searing guitar solo. Whereas “The Fork”, “West Fork”, “East Fork” and “Fork Boogie” show a keen ability to take different attacks to a similar theme and end up with something completely stand alone. In many ways I found this the hardest of the three albums to come to terms with, but it’s also the one I now keep coming back to.

That’s not to dismiss Spinning Through Eternity, an album where the slow grower of “Ma & Pa Kettle Go To Hell” sits on an (almost) unsteady beat and yet still holds some authority. Unfortunately an unwelcome buzz plays underneath the tender “Cows Appear Out Of Nowhere” on my copy of this disc, but it’s a fleeting issue, the closing “A Book Wife’s Dream Of Her Own Imposter” suite a confident and varied 23 minutes plus of electronic chamber music that shape shifts with ease throughout.

Credit to Nickie Harte Kelly, for making sure her husband’s musical legacy hasn’t been allowed to simply gather dust on a shelf, or fill space on a computer. Instead we can all now spend time with Tom Kelly and his individual, personal but still hugely engaging music. It’s a varied, skilled and rewarding journey to be a part of.

Track Listing
Burnt Peas
1. The Tolling of St. John's Bells
2. Burnt Peas (Parts 1 & 2)
3. God & The Flatlanders (Waltz Version)
4. Burnt Peas (Part 3)
5. Burnt Peas (Part 4)
6. March of the Spirit Peas
7. Burnt Peas Finale
8. Nothing Ends, Nothing Begins
9. Fugue in B Minor
10. God & The Flatlanders (Acoustic Celtic)
11. Sloppy Love At Bodie Flats
12. Staring It In the Face (Part 1)
13. Staring It In the Face (Part 2)
14. Love IS Money

A Quail’s House
1. A Slight Overture of Sorts
2. The Wayfarer (Part 1)
3. The Wayfarer (Part 2)
4. The Wayfarer (Part 3)
5. The Wayfarer (Part 4)
6. The Fork
7. West Fork
8. East Fork
9. Imagination or Knowledge?
10. Travels (Part 1)
11. Travels (Part 2)
12. Travels (Part 3)
13. The Keys
14. The Bend (Waltz in E Minor)
15. The Fork Boogie

Spinning Through Eternity
1. Remains of Childhood Lost
2. Ma & Pa Kettle Go To Hell
3. Cows Appear Out Of Nowhere
4. Catherine
5. A Book Wife's Dream of Her Own Imposter ~ Dedication
ii Forward
iii Chapter One ~ A Book Wife
iv A Book Wife's Dream
v Spinning Through Eternity

Added: March 10th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Tom Kelly @ CD Baby
Hits: 1171
Language: english

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