The cover and inner booklet photos of the Dogstar Poets' first CD, Off-Planet, show two musicians, gracefully aged, their hair silvery-white, venerable, dignified…alright, let's cut the crap. These guys are up there in years, approaching or past 60, I figure. The music on this CD certainly doesn't suggest advanced age, neither does guitarist David Duhig's playing: he sounds like he's channelling Hendrix, the man can really burn it up. Though keyboards are to his credit, I suspect he also plays guitar synth, which would be included under "secret sounds." The other Poet is bassist/vocalist Glyn Havard, who left Jade Warrior in 1972, shortly before they would ink a deal with Island Records (Duhig remained, and his brother Tony was also a member). Fellow Jade Warrior alumnus Allan Price adds his tabla talent on two cuts, while drum duty goes to Dave Lewis.
Glyn deliberately reins in his vocals—a singer more or less of the 'restrained' sort, but he can belt out notes with more force if called for. In the context of the music, this is exactly what is required: a song like "Burning Bridges" is no less compelling. One other thing: "That's some real deep bass, there, Homer." This is the first track, so make sure the bass setting isn't maxed out, because those notes just throb, not to mention the entire tune has a mesmeric quality. "Karmakaze" is equally infectious, if not more so, and so what if the harp is synthetic or sampled? [Synth]Harp, Duhig's talking guitar, and Price's tablas spell out eclectic.
Time lengths aren't printed in the booklet nor on the disc itself; when Glyn's voice didn't enter on the twelve minute-long "Turn That Wave" for nearly four minutes, I thought it might be an instrumental. When he does, he sings about an octave lower than usual, and the result is somewhat creepy (in a cool way). David overdubs some searing electric leads over his acoustic parts; he isn't guilty of soulless wanking, for if he was, it would all sound meaningless. His soloing is very melodic, always colorful, tends toward hectic, and he really goes off in the final section. "Turn That Wave" receives the nod for best track of the album from this reviewer.
"Dear John" is a little blues ditty where Duhig switches to channelling Stevie Ray instead of Jimi. Likewise, "Passion Play" is largely acoustic, a little more complex, and has some intriguing lyrics—no spoiler, save this last line, which Havard sings twice: In Corpus Christus Mentum. "Fare Thee Well" is almost placid, folksy, and patently mantralike; Brian Imig, an American, plays hammered dulcimer on this track—the dulcimer is a Celtic instrument, and the first two syllables are derived from dulcis, which is Latin for sweet ("dulce," from Spanish, is more commonly known). This track is indeed sweet, and an apt closer.
The track sequence of Off-Planet is like a high hill or mountain, and "Turn That Wave" must be the peak. This is a hill worth scaling; this album may not have arrived with a bang, but at the very least, it should graduate to sleeper status—it's that good. The potential lies therein to allow a whole new flock of young progressive music enthusiasts to discover the music of Jade Warrior.