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Ashley Hersey, Iain: The Holy Grail

Wow, what a surprise this CD was! I had never heard of Iain Ashley Hersey and I randomly popped my copy of The Holy Grail into my car stereo not knowing what to expect. I neglected to read the promotional material and by the time I got to track 9, I was thinking to myself, "Hey, who is that Graham Bonnet sound alike?! He's pretty good!" As it turns out, it is Graham Bonnet singing "Going Down" as well as several other cuts here.

The Holy Grail is composer/guitarist Hersey's second release overall, but his first for Lion Music. He hails from New England (not Ireland as I had very wrongly assumed!) and assembled a band that included four vocalists for this particular album; aside from Bonnet, we also have David "Swan" Montgomery, Randy Williams and Carsten "Lizard" Schulz. Overall, the sound is a nice comfortable mixture of 70s hard rock and 80s era Rainbow. A more recent comparison may liken them to Cornerstone or the Hughes/Turner Project. In fact, "Swan" Montgomery's vocals on opener "Blood of Kings" are a dead ringer for Glenn Hughes (yes that's a compliment)…and if you want to talk about dead ringers, check out "Lizard" Schulz's vocal melodies for the verses of "Lost and Foolish"; they are eerily similar to Joe Lynn Turner on the Rainbow hit "Stone Cold".

But the Iain Ashley Hersey Band is no mere copycat imitation and they utilize their influences to great effect. The focus is generally on Hersey's formidable guitar playing, which is never overtly flashy, but instead fits in perfectly with his compositions. Hersey attended Berklee College of Music and includes a song called "Toccata in D Minor" but thankfully he never goes down the Malmsteem/Vai/Satriani Notes a Million Path. I really enjoy the mix of keyboards too and although I wouldn't have complained if Hersey had sprinkled in a couple of solos, they work well within their respective arrangements.

I find that there's a dramatic shift once we get to the Graham Bonnet tracks on the second half of the album. Ironically, the songs sound less Euro Rainbow-ish and closer to American southern hard rock. There's even some boogie woogie piano here and there. In fact, tracks like "Walking the Talk" and "Going Down" may make you wonder if you're listening to the same band.

Overall, I'm deeply impressed by Iain Ashley Hersey and The Holy Grail. Hersey has quite a roster of talent at his side. Here's hoping that Lion Music can help give the man the higher profile he clearly deserves.

Track Listing

  1. Blood of Kings
  2. In the Light
  3. To the Sea
  4. Blink of an Eye
  5. Empty Planet
  6. Lost and Foolish
  7. Calling for the Moon
  8. Toccata in D Minor
  9. Goin' Down
  10. Walking the Talk
  11. The Holy Grail
  12. Auf Wiedersehen

Added: March 25th 2006
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: Official Iain Ashley Hersey Web Page
Hits: 2584
Language: english

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