Monkman, Francis - 21st Century Blues CD (Mega Blowout Sale)

SKU 23-VP 244
"What happens when the most gifted keyboard player in rock music (or classical music, for that matter) decides to return to his guitar-playing days and dust off his Fender Strat and Gibson SG? The progressive music faithful receive 80 minutes of pure adrenalin rush, that's what.

Monkman, you may recall, was founder, composer, keyboard player and guitarist with the legendary Curved Air in the seventies, as well as tinkling the ivories and composing marvellous instrumental epics with the classical progressive band Sky. The sheer volume of his studio work is astounding, with contributions to albums by Darryl Way, Camel, Kate Bush, Renaissance, Phil Manzanera and 801, the Alan Parsons Project, and literally dozens of others. His only officially released solo projects were "Energism" in 1980 and "Dweller on the Threshold" and the soundtrack to "The Long Good Friday," both in 1981. He also recorded over a dozen music library albums in the seventies, eighties and nineties for the KPM, Bruton and Music House labels which have become collectors items.

Those of us fortunate enough to find this gem of a CD for sale on his website back in 1998 have been basking in it's brilliance for several years. Lovingly produced by the legendary George Chkiantz and Francis himself, "21st Century Blues" is a thoroughly modern and original take on progressive rock and the blues - often in the same track - often in the same breath. The production is thick, rich, crisp, and begs for high volume. Although credited to the Virtuous-Realiti Band, I suspect it's primarliy a one-man show - although Mr. Monkman won't officially confirm or deny. According to the liner notes, Curved Air's original drummer, the ultra-talented Florian Pilkington-Miksa, donated some cymbals for the sessions, but other than a thank you to guitarist Michael Gore other musicians are not mentioned. Vocals on the album are supplied by Monkman's close friend Julia "Jools" Rathbone, and by Francis himself. His vocals are growled, whispered, grumbled and distorted in the traditional "21st Century Schizoid Man" way (perhaps very appropriate to this project), and buried in the mix. Repeated listenings have brought forth more snippets of lyrics, but I would be hard-pressed to provide a full libretto.

Obvious highlights for this reviewer are the opener "Poisonality," "Train dun gone crazy," "Harvest Time," "Found in Space," and "iftruth." Not to slight the remaining ten tracks on the album, by any means. "Poisonality," is a raucous, guitar-riffing stunner. The extended instrumental break crawls around inside you, eats you alive, and spits you back out completely exhausted. "Train..." follows immediately, replete with flashes of Claptonesque guitar. "Harvest Time" is simply gorgeous - a tumbling, cascading, looping swirl of guitars and synths. "Found in Space" is a moody piece with an utterly beautiful, soaring middle section. The final track, "iftruth," is pure blues deposited in a progressive environment with extraordinary results. This track also contains the immortal line, "If truth came home to roost, where would it lay it's head?"

Francis has always been enamoured with inside jokes in his work -- see if you catch the Iron Butterfly reference in "Acid Casino." I give this album my highest recommendation."-Richard Wynne
  • LabelVoiceprint
  • UPC604388307623
Your Price $6.00
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