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Book Of Hours

Yorkshire's Willowglass follow up their eponymous debut album with Book Of Hours. The team who created that first album stays the same with composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marshall playing just about everything (electric, acoustic, 12-string and classical guitars, keyboards, bass pedals, bass guitar, flute, recorder, drums and percussion) with Dave Brightman contributing the majority of the drum work. Artwork throughout the stunning 16-page booklet is again by Lee Gaskins; check out his website for further information and images from the CD booklet, as well as some of his other impressive artwork. The Book Of Hours is loosely based on Cervantes' Don Quixote, who can be seen on his horse Rocinante and followed by his faithful companion and servant Sancho Panza. If you've not read the book then it's well worth it as it is a fantastically enjoyable piece of literature - a perect accompianment to listening to the album perhaps!

Speaking of enjoyable, that is one term that can easily be applied to the music on Book Of Hours. As on the debut album, Marshall's music harks back to the early seventies era of epic and lush compositions. Inevitably, given the nature of the keyboard sounds employed throughout a lot of the album there are the ever-present comparisons to Camel, particularly on opening number Argamasilla, named after Quixote's home town. However, it is not as if the music is in anyway a pastiche of that band, it has a style all of its own and manages to avoid sounding dated. I suppose, one could call it 'timeless'; the gorgeous Willowglass with its flute and classical guitar is a prime exemplification of this. The opening of The Maythorne Cross, a landmark of South Yorkshire, sounds eerily familiar to The Undercover Man by Van Der Graaf Generator but with all the acerbity of Hammill's band of troubadours smoothed out. Elsewhere, this piece blends the sounds of the Mellotron, Hammond organ and Minimoog as well as a host of other classic keyboard sounds to wondrous effect. Whereas the debut album was, in parts, reminiscent of Ant Phillips, the new album has some echoes of another ex-Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett. Again, the references are not overt and are more hints that provoke the similarities, like some of the themes in the title track and the opening classical guitar Prelude of The Labyrinth.

The 17-minute Labyrinth is split into six sections which are easily identifiable by the different moods spread across the piece. Expert use of the plethora of keyboard sounds that Marshall has at his disposable define the sections with, for example, the very realistic church organ which is prevalent in Nature's Cathedral. However, it is the way that the different sounds have been overlaid with each other that make the piece so rewarding. The combination of piano, various Mellotron sounds and synthesisers with the electric and acoustic guitars is quite masterful. As the writing, arranging and performing is all done by Marshall there is never any struggle for dominance between keyboards and guitar, they are in harmony throughout. The drumming is kept to just the right level and only appears when necessary, there are large sections when they are simply not needed and would actually interfere with the atmosphere generated by the other instrumentation. Themes are taken up and expanded upon, particularly in the closing section which needs to be played loud to generate best effect!

Speculation that Marshall is planning to attempt reproducing the music from his two albums live are intriguing to say the least. It would certainly be an experience to be witnessed and one would imagine plenty of rehearsals and some rearrangements would be required before that happens, but here's hoping it does. In the meantime one is left with the enjoyment provided by this album, a second solid release which is worthy of its recommended tag. With independent CDs sounding as good as this, combined with the quality of the booklet and CD art (something you can't appreciate with downloads), no wonder record companies are worried.

Dutch Progressive Rock Pages - September 2008


Book Of Hours

The spirit of Cervantes could have been a better title for this second full CD release by instrumental all-rounder, Andrew Marshall. This Yorkshire based English composer goes right back into the heart of early 70’s instrumental progrock. “What, not again…” I just heard you thinking. Well then you are one of the guys Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza were fighting against. Please drop all these prejudices and listen with an open mind. Today’s progmusic is at least as interesting and fascinating as the big names from the seventies. Marshall is absolutely influenced by Genesis, Tull, Crimson and Camel. But so what? Who cares? This Book of Hours isn’t anything you haven’t heard before , but it’s also something you rarely have heard done this well in the last 30 years!

And this is a remarkable achievement ! This CD is, without any doubt, a top release in its genre. If you enjoy Camel and looking for a similar mood, atmosphere and top quality songs, please do not look any further. The cd I am holding into my hands right now, is what you are looking for. Two thumbs up for this fantastic release!

Prog-Nose - August 2008