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Galahad: Following Ghosts - Expanded Edition

If Galahad’s 1995 album Sleepers had been something of a coming of age, then their subsequent release, Following Ghosts, surely must been seen as the dawning of a new era. Inner turmoil never appeared to be far away from the band during this time and hence Galahad went into the sessions for their final album of the 90s with a new keyboard player in place, even as his predecessor continued to fill the role for live shows. Hence, holed up in the studio, key-master Dean Baker was afforded the time to not only build an impressive bond with his new partners - singer Stu Nicholson, guitar player Roy Keyworth, bassist Neil Pepper and drummer Spencer Luckman - but to also understand the band’s ever reaching song writing philosophy. With hindsight, the results set the course for what has been, to me certainly, Galahad’s elevation from being an excellent prog rock outfit into one of the leading lights of the genre, ever more eager to push boundaries, take chances and refuse to stand still.

For Following Ghosts, the introduction of samples, programming, sequencers and electro-beats was a brave move sure to test the more set in their ways prog brigade, but with organic embellishments such as flute, clarinet, piano and the backing vocals of Sarah Quilter also blended into this new Galahad sound, the care taken to bring everyone along for the ride paid off in bucket loads. These themes would go on to be explored and broadened right across the band’s work to follow but there shouldn’t be any underestimation of the bravery required to present an album such as this in 1998 as they incorporated current sounds into a scene even now known for its backwards glancing.

That willingness to throw caution to the wind has continued on, hence it should have been less surprising than it was that Galahad decided in 1999 to, well technically create a remixed version of Following Ghosts, but in reality De-Constructing Ghosts was such a reimagining that it really has to be seen as an album more ‘based on’, than it is ‘sourced from’. And that exploration of their own songs shows no signs of slowing, with Following Ghosts being reimagined once more for this lush reissue, with Alternative Ghosts finding the band re-recording and reshaping the album’s material for another presentation of this still remarkably relevant set of songs. Alongside excellent liner notes from Nicholson, Baker, journalist Kev Rowland and others involved in the creation of all three versions of Following Ghosts (the alternate viewpoints offering real insight) and new artwork, all three versions of this 1998/1999/2019 album are gathered together here for what is undoubtedly the definitive package.

So, what of the music itself? Well, it’s only fitting to begin with the original really, and what an album it is. With a biting riff and uncompromising anger “Myopia” bolts out of the speakers as a clear challenge to the listener that this is a new Galahad, and one able to bring their own spin to the more prevalent progressive metal sound that was beginning to dominate the scene. The stabs of strings that colour the later sections of this deceptively singable piece and Nicholson’s hugely characterful vocals draw you in and hold you in place but when the track darts for the finish via a frantic fiddle solo, the message is clear - Galahad will not be pigeon holed. And as Spanish guitar works its way into the intro of the captivating “Imago”, what’s impressive is that through lush keys and Nicholson’s masterfully restrained vocal, it’s a maxim clearly mastered here. With little sections that are slightly more ebullient, the flow between the male lead voice and Sarah Quilter’s beautiful interjections also create quite the experience.

The two part “A Short Reflection On Two Past Lives”, which fit in as tracks three and seven prove to be quite clever palate cleansers, while “Perfection Personified” keeps things a little more to the point. However, for me it’s the atmospheric and controlled “Karma For One” and closing epic of “Shine” - the latter of which is possibly the album’s most obvious nod to classic prog - that really begin to elevate Following Ghosts into the stratosphere. However, it might just be the now firm live favourite “Bug Eye” that encapsulates this album’s ethos at its best and runs with it as all manner of sampled sections and synthed wonders come crashing into an ever evolving landscape that simply refuses to remain in any one mode. Arguably this is a blueprint for much that has followed - although without ever simply retreading old ground - from the Galahad camp and it’s a credit to the band and their fans that they’ve been wiling and able to undertake this journey together.

So, what of the new version? Well, impressively, without undoing all of that incredible work, Alternative Ghosts both stays true and moves on from the original. Right from the start it’s clear that nothing is off limits with the spoken word/newsreader introduction to the original (which hasn’t aged well, if truth be told) immediately ditched, while “Karma For One” suddenly becomes a Middle Eastern swirl and delight. “Myopia” and “Karma…” evolve into more forceful plays, while holding onto their essences, and arguably become even more intriguing as a result.

The shortening and in the former’s case, smoothening of “Bug Eye” and “Shine” is understandable, but possibly less daring for their reinterpretations, although if I’d never heard the originals, I’d be raving about them, whereas “Ocean Blue” seems to have been set free in a way that the original never quite wanted to be. Add in the grandiose performances from Nicholson, Luckman, Baker, Lee Abraham (whose guitar solo on “Perfection Personified” is quite something!) and bassist Mark Spencer, and this new recording overseen by Karl Groom (Threshold) hugely adds to this excellent album’s legacy.

If the band’s keenness to experiment wasn’t evident enough on the two full versions of Following Ghosts then it is left in no doubt on disc three here, De-Constructing Ghosts - an album so left field that it was originally released under the name Galahad Electric Company so as to both obviously separate and link it to the main discography. Doubtless even with that clear caveat I’d be surprised if a lot of hardened Galahadeers weren’t completely blindsided by an album that’s more of a dance/electro-fest than it is anything approaching progressive rock. And yet arguably for that very fact it might be the most ‘progressive’ thing in sight here. Truth be told though, even with the likes of “Imago Separation Mix” being close to a revelation, most of this album falls a little short of those sort of accolades with a few tracks such as “Great Portland Beats” reminding of the thumping of a boy racer car as it speeds past mercifully fast. That said, in terms of completeness, including this disc does the perfect job of telling the entire story of this release.

Following Ghosts is a fantastic, under recognised prog album of epic proportions and one that deserves much more recognition than it receives. In fact the only reason that I haven’t given it the full five stars out of five is that there has even better to come from Galahad.

Track Listing
CD 1: Following Ghosts (2019 Mix)
1. Myopia (4:55)
2. Imago (5:57)
3. A Short Reflection On Two Past Lives - Part One (3:53)
4. Karma For One (6:06)
5. Perfection Personified (4:51)
6. Bug Eye (13.55)
7. A Short Reflection On Two Past Lives - Part Two (6:03)
8. Ocean Blue (7:13)
9. Rejuvenation (2:14)
10. Easier Said Than Done (4:30)
11. Shine (14:14) i) Like A Bolt Out Of The Blue
ii) The Pain She Feels Inside
iii) Shine On…

CD 2: Following Ghosts (Alternative Ghosts)
1. Myopia (5:34)
2. Imago (5:32)
3. A Short Reflection On Two Past Lives - Part One (3:46)
4. Karma For One (7:32)
5. Perfection Personified (6:30)
6. Bug Eye (8:55)
7. A Short Reflection On Two Past Lives - Part Two (5:15)
8. Ocean Blue (7:03)
9. Rejuvenation (2:01)
10. Easier Said Than Done (4:21)
11. Shine (9:15)

CD 3: De-Constructing Ghosts (2019 Re-Master)
1. Dusty Rhodes
2. Imago Separation Mix
3. Cheese Roll Rozwell
4. Ultra Shine
5. Holy Curry Land
6. Ocean Black
7. Karma Divine
8. The Bliss Police
9. Myopic Distortion
10. Stu Goes to Morocco
11. Ennshillar Surf Punk Mix
12. Great Portland Beats
13. Blind
14. Sludge Flute Landing Zone
15. (We Will Always) Remember the Good Times…

Added: September 20th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Galahad online
Hits: 1045
Language: english

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