Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Multi-instrumentalist Bainbridge gained much praise for 2004's 'Veil Of Gossamer' and this is, if anything, a much more ambitious project. Although most Cross Rhythms readers will know Mr B as the foundation stone of those much loved veterans Iona, fans of that musical institution may be a little surprised at just how much Bainbridge has expanded his creative palate beyond their epic Celtic soundscapes. Certainly there are Celtic folk elements heard on 'Celestial Fire' and indeed past and present members of Iona (David Fitzgerald, Troy Donockley, Joanne Hogg, Frank van Essen) make guest appearances here, it is the musical approach of '70s progressive rock which dominate. On his website Dave namechecks Yes, Curved Air, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Keith Emerson, Deep Purple and Gentle Giant as his "early musical heroes" and those familiar with these prog rock giants of yesteryear will find much to enjoy here. Personally, I half enjoyed 'Celestial Fire'. Being neither a full scale prog devotee who thinks that complex time signatures, frequent key and tempo changes and classical-influenced suites make for the finest rock music, nor a prog hater who calls such musical complexities "pretentious" or "overblown" I found myself admiring the stunning musicianship provided by top rate contributors like Randy George (bass), Collin Leijenaar (drums) and of course Dave's dazzling range of instruments (everything from electric and acoustic guitars to finger cymbals and Indian leg bells) without being drawn into the centre of the intricate soundscapes. In fact it was the array of guest vocalists which would from time to time capture my attention. Yvonne Lyon on the 15 and a half minutes long title track is wonderful as are the harmonies of Sally Minnear (daughter of Gentle Giant's Kerry Minnear) on "The First Autumn". My favourite moment of all comes on the 14 and a half minute "In The Moment" when the ethereal tones of Joanne Hogg and Andrea Alonso weave their magic on lyrics "inspired by some amazing events that took place in the USA in 1997/98 which were directly inspired by the track 'Reels' from the Iona album 'Heaven's Bright Sun'." Let me conclude by saying if you enjoy the works of Yes or King Crimson, this album is a must-have.
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