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When one decides to have a website where reviews will be posted, it's very common to receive lots of CDs to review. In my case, also to play these albums in my Podcast. To be honest, it's not every time that I receive very good albums. In fact, the really good albums are rare. But of course this happens from time to time. I can say that Willowglass is a case of a very good album!

Willowglass is the brainchild of the English musician Andrew Marshall. The Dream Harbour (2013) is his third album. The album was produced by Andrew himself and recorded at Maythorne Studios in the UK, Under The Ark studios at Germany and InvisibleStudios in the USA. The marvelous artwork of gatefold design was made by Lee Gaskins, who has already worked with Willowglass and also with the band Pilgrym.

The Dream Harbour (2013) was self-released in May and it was recorded by Andrew Marshall (electric & acoustic guitars, 12-string guitar, classical guitar, keyboards, bass guitar and bass pedals), Hans Jörg Schmitz (drums and percussion) and Steve Unruh (violin, flutes and guitars).

Willowglass is an instrumental project, but their music is focused on the melodies, not on the complexity. The opener track 'A House Of Cards Pt. 1' is very clear in showing us that. This epic is almost 21 minutes long and has clear signs of Jethro Tull. Well, to tell you the truth, it is quite hard to have flutes in your Prog band and not sound as Ian Anderson. In Willowglass case they're far away from being a copy. Not just that, Steve Unruh violins give the music a Classical feeling. Some passages with violins and acoustic guitars are just wonderful. The keyboards are on the background most of the time, but they make the perfect counterpoint to the riffs. Astonishing track! Second track, as the name suggests, 'A Short Intermission', is just that, a short theme based on flutes, keyboard and bass. Then we have the closing of the first track with 'A House Of Cards Pt. 2'. This track is one of my favorites. There's a Triumvirat feeling in it, especially because of the synths. Also, the Steve violins once again play a big role in Willowglass' music. In fact, Steve himself plays a big role in Willowglass third album. Of course, Andrew Marshall compositions are the strong point in here, but Steve added so many colors to the album. On top of that, we have some well played drums by the German Hans Jörg Schmitz.

'Interlude No. 2' comes to 'divide' the album, as a second side in an LP. As the name suggests, this is an interlude played exclusively by the classical guitar. Some Steve Hackett influence for sure, but at the same time, this is the old classical music period, and pieces like that are spread throughout many musical genres. The title-track is very Genesis influenced. The duo keyboards/acoustic guitar was quite a trade mark of the English band. The flutes on the top came to crown the song.

'Helleborine' is once again an intermission, short track based on flutes, shy keyboards and acoustic guitars. 'The Face Of Eurydice' is the final track in The Dream Harbour (2013) and it comes just to conclude what we know since track one, Willowglass is very much influenced by the Prog bands that carry classical music background. In this track we have a fragile keyboard melody followed by good drums and a simple bass line, at least till the middle. After that the song takes a different path, a bit more chaotic, a bit more King Crimson if you like. The final track is a good one, but very different from the rest of the album.

The Dream Harbour (2013) was my first meeting with Willowglass' music, but I can surely say that the compositions are mature, well-structured and the addition of violins and flutes was a great idea, they just come to add more and more pretty colors to the music. Usually I have some trouble to get through instrumental albums. I admit that an instrumental album is much better than an album with a bad singer, but I like Prog Rock with vocalists. I think it adds another dimension to the music. But, when it comes to the new Willowglass album I have got no problem at all. The melodies speak for themselves.

All in all, despite the obvious influences here and there, The Dream Harbour (2013) is one of the strongest albums I've listened this year so far.

Prog Archives - July 2013

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The Dream Harbour

Three albums in and Willowglass continue to produce clever, if somewhat derivative, instrumental old-school prog. Such are the overwhelming musical connections, it’s perhaps surprising that the band are called Willowglass and not Willow Farm, after the Genesis track. Centered around talented Yorkshire multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marshall, and with Steve Unruh adding valuable strings and flute, it’s apparent that pushing at musical boundaries isn’t exactly a priority. Ironically though, the mere fact that tracks such as The Dream Harbour and both parts of A House Of Cards sound as though they have been performed by Genesis circa 1973 is a compliment in itself. Marshall’s ability to pack elegant melodies into each of the tracks here just enhances his reputation as a shrewd composer. The acoustic Helleborine is introspectively calm, and despite the childlike Bontempi organ sound that fleetingly appears in The Face Of Eurydice, it’s an unexpectedly assertive track. However, there’s still that nagging thought that, for all the dexterity, utilising a vocalist would provide the missing dimension. It also makes you wonder what Marshall could achieve if he used his flair to create something truly original.

Prog Magazine - July 2013

The Dream Harbour

Click HERE for reviews of Book Of Hours.