Gizmo: Marlowe's Children Pt.1 The Innocence CANTERCD5
(Also available on 180gm vinyl CANTERLP5)
Canterbury prog rockers begin an epic three-part journey. After a twenty-year hiatus Canterbury prog outfit Gizmo returned in 2012 with their self-titled fourth record.
While it made for a striking comeback, this second post-reunion release ups the ante significantly.
The first part of a trilogy; Marlowe's Children is a concept album that tells the story of late Canterbury musician Jack Simmonds and his band, Marlowe's Children. Whose rise to fame was cut short by his untimely death. Although a fictional story, the narrative takes much influence from the real life death of Gizmo guitarist Martin Reed who died from a brain tumour in 2013.
That said this collection of tracks is a celebration of childhood, focussing on the early life of Jack and that characters optimism - and the joys of youthful innocence - in the face of tragedy. All of which is captured by the airy dreaminess of 'You've Gotta To Listen To Your Heart', the insistent folk-prog stomp of 'Another Kind Of Gone' and the cosmic strains of 'Remember When We Were Young'. Yet there's a darkness too, in the glowering title track - an anguished, existential journey of which King Crimson would be proud and hints at what will follow down the line as the story unravels.
Gizmo: Marlowe's Children Pt.1 The Innocence CANTERCD5
Prog-rockers Gizmo have flown the flag for original music in Kent for over four decades, staying true to their experimental roots rather than following musical fads and trends.
Although there have been lulls in appearances and productivity, the nucleus built around guitartist/vocalist Dave Radford remains strong and during 2015 the band released the first of what is promised to be a trilogy of works, possibly augmented by live dates.
Ramsgate drummer and percussionist Steve Wyse has played a large part in the Gizmo story and is proud of all the the band has achieved, describing their latest work as "refreshing, honest, and above all, original."
Now available on all formats having recently been released on high-grade vinyl, Gizmo's Marlowe's Children is the story of a band of the same name.
The album is retold lyrically and musically in retrospect by a band colleague of Marlowe's Children, singer-songwriter Jack Simmonds.
Jack was born in Canterbury in the late 1940s, and despite their considerable talent, the band never broke through into the mainstream.
Tragically, Jack died just as his revived band was about to sign to a major record label.
This first album is about the rite of passage of young Canterbury musicians who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.
It follows their history from cradle to grave and was inspired in-part by the loss of two Gizmo members: guitarist Martin Reed and bassist Hugh Hopper.
Part One ~ The Innocence is the story of Jack's early years as recalled by those who loved him, in particular life-long friends Bill and Kelly.
They hint at the tragedies of his childhood, including the untimely death of both his parents and how he remained optimistic, inspiring others with his generosity and love of music.
As ever the Gizmo output is creative with many changes, colours, textures and themes, with solid and inspired performances by Dave, Steve, keyboard wizard Brian Gould and other accomplished musicians: Tony Rico Richardson on saxes & flute, Alex Powley on bass & double bass and Matt Barwick on mandolin & guitar.
Evocative and emotional, the first album lays the foundation for two more sonic trips to the world of Marlowe's Children with part 2 seeing the band grow, develop and become part of Canterbury's thriving prog-rock scene, while the final offering will bring the story up-to-date with some sad farewells.
Clearly a lot of energy, time, effort and ability has gone into the album: from concept, songwriting and lyrics, through to performance and production.
If you like original music, give Gizmo's Marlowe's Children a listen with an open mind and open ears - you will be surprised at what you discover.
Not heard of Gizmo? Well, as I do not wish to spend too much time repeating myself, I suggest you read the long and hopefully not too rambling intro to my review of the Canterbury band's previous and self-titled album, released in 2013, which hopefully will tell you all you need to know – it can be found HERE. Suffice to say, their almost invisible profile outside their native county is largely down to bad timing, which is a shame as the winsome and typically English pastoral rock music they make is worthy of attention.
Two years on from the previous comeback album, a return that could so easily have been prematurely halted by the untimely demise of group reformation catalyst Martin Reed, Gizmo return invigorated, and full of no little ambition. Marlowe's Children is part one of a trilogy depicting the life and times of one "Jack Simmonds... a talented guitarist and songwriter who was born in Canterbury in the late 1940s", and his band "Marlowe's Children who never broke through into the mainstream" but "tragically, Jack died just as his revived band were just about to sign to a major label". It doesn't take much extrapolation to surmise that this project is in effect a tribute to Martin, the departed guitarist. Dave Radford's original story is further developed by writer Paul Campton, whose resulting novel is hopefully not far from publication.
The music is a collection of whimsical but not insubstantial and always enjoyable songs and musical sketches woven together by short linking pieces, some containing narrative from the novel. Dave Radford wrote most of the songs here, and that is no mean feat for a man who was only persuaded out of a long retirement from music in 2011.
Starting off at the end of Jack's life with You've Gotta Listen To Your Heart, a heartfelt and poignant tale of endings and new beginnings as an introduction to the concept, we are taken through the formative years of Jack's life, with children narrating The Innocence #1/"Jack Be Nimble", and the following reminiscence of long-lost childhood innocence on Merry-Go-Round, through to a coming of age and the first affairs of the heart with Another Kind Of Gone. Dave's knack at storytelling through song shines through, carrying on an English tradition in pop established by Ray Davies and the many who have followed his lead.
Note: This is the only audio clip I can find from the album, and it is not exactly representative, being an extract from the instrumental title track. The accompanying apocalyptic film has nothing to do with the concept, either. Still, it will give you an idea, I hope!
And so we wend our way through Jack's early life to a backdrop of a charmingly unaffected musical tableaux, with no particular player stepping forward to hog the spotlight, instead thematic ensemble playing is the order of the day. That said there are standout moments; the brief almost classical piano interlude of Almost There is quite lovely, and the simple but effective acoustic and presumably e-bowed guitar (or uncredited cello?) combination on Innocence #2 is quite fetching.
Not all is sweetness and light, as the haunting If Only You Could See takes us to a darker place, which continues with the instrumental title track, that despite reminding me of Martha & The Muffins' Echo Beach in the chorus, hints at more turbulent times ahead. The best song on here, for me at least, is Kelly's In Love, which has that effortless summery Canterbury vibe that Gizmo make their trademark. Enlivened by some great sax work and a rather fine wah-wah section, this song shows that had Gizmo existed at the right time they would surely have achieved a far wider audience.
Marlowe's Children Part One is a thoughtful and well put together concept album containing some fine music in the lighter Canterbury tradition, and I'm already looking forward to Part Two.
I wanted to live with this album for a while before writing a review since it is a stylistic departure from their previous output. As with all Gizmo albums, it benefits from repeated listens and once you get into it, it is another fantastic album. Much of the album is in a more folkloric or acoustic rock style than earlier albums – think perhaps, John Barleycorn era Traffic but with the assured Gizmo stamp.
It is the first of a trio of concept albums which tell the story of Marlowe's Children, a fictional band based loosely on the experiences of Dave Radford and the late Martin Reed. Volume 1. is subtitled "The Innocence" and explores memories of childhood and melancholic reflections of an earlier, simpler time in life.
Gizmo have a knack of including a couple of ear-worms on every release – those songs which are difficult to stop humming after hearing them once. In this case it is the opener You've Gotta Listen to Your Heart and the portentous Another Kind of Gone. There are spoken word segments and one song, The Innocence #1/Jack Be Nimble, is sung by children. Both of these may not have worn well after a few listens, but actually become quite endearing and nicely illustrate the themes of the album.
What I particularly liked was the musical coherence of the album. Not only do the lyrics follow a consistent theme but the music also makes use of motifs and themes which recur later. One instrumental, Child's Play, appears twice in completely different arrangements.
I bought the vinyl copy of the album which is highly recommended. The pressing is of a very high standard (as is usually the case with new 180gm records) and the sound quality is fabulous. Not only that, but you also get a beautifully designed gatefold sleeve. A tongue-in-cheek detail is the inclusion of the information message, "This stereo record can be played on mono reproducers... If in doubt consult your dealer", which used to be printed on the sleeve of all stereo records in the sixties and seventies.
Gizmo never fail to surprise and impress and I would repeat, it is just great to have them back and making new music again. I look forward to volume 2.
GIZMO Marlowe's Children Pt.1 'The Innocence' www.gizmo.uk.com...
Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of reviewing this band's self titled release.
This is quite a different album, both in sound & in concept. First of a forthcoming trilogy due to appear in novel form by Paul Crompton, this is a snapshot of bygone times using the talents of band & friends to look back at the life & times of Jack Simmonds.
A talented guitarist & song writer from Canterbury. His band Marlowe's Children were about to sign to a well known record label when he died tragically. This is the story of his early years recalled by those who loved him with hints of the tragedies of youth, including the untimely death of both parents, but how his optimism, generosity and love of music inspired others.
Home spun and personal with likeable songs mixing with satifying vignettes, it is an evocative trip back in time to childhood innocence.
Try a mix of early CRS faves jump or Manning, Ezra or Cartanarc for a sense of their sound.
The fifth album or so from this English band.
This band has been around since the mid 1970s on a hobby basis. I have reviewed a couple of their albums. Hence, I got this album sent to me. It has taken me long time to get my head around it.
I thought Gizmo was history after the tragic passing of their guitarist Martin Reed. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Gizmo is a bit all-over-the-place in their history. I don't really understand why they're not listed in ProgArchives as they are a proper prog rock band in my view. An eccentric English prog rock band, that is Weird, in other words... Proper weird.
The band sounded like a blend of Bowie, Zappa, Caravan and 'Generator on their self titled 2012 album. On Marlowe's Children, they have still retained those above to a larger and/or smaller degree. This though is a concept album. A forty minute long concept album with a lot of weird stuff. Some of the weird stuff reminds me a lot about Madness and that off kilter ska scene. Nevertheless; the first band that pops into my head when listening to this album is Gong.
Yes, Daevid Allen would have been pleased with this album. There's a lot of Gong'esque over the very nice and uncomplicated pop tunes on this album. Pop tunes, but still weird as proper eccentricity.
The songs here are very good and so is the weirdo stuff too. The vocals are also very very good, almost Beatles-like at times, and funnily enough, The Beatles is also another very good reference for this album.
In short; this is a very good album from a criminally underrated band.
While Caravan and Soft Machine may have been the better-known
proponents of the Canterbury Scene, Gizmo's prog-rock was also archetypal of the genre. This self-titled full-length is their first record for two decades and is a welcome return to a laidback, easy-going era when life seemed that much simpler and innocent.
Songs such as Just A Dream and the powerfully beautiful-yet-tragic Starlight somehow exist both in the past and in the present, but aren't confined or defined by either. Rather, they soar with a freedom that seems to elude the majority of bands these days. Elsewhere, bonus track House With No Door - a soothing, dreamy psychedelic journey of a song - features the late Hugh Hopper, serving as a poignant tribute to the former Soft Machine member.
Singer Dave Radford's quintessentially English vocals lend Gizmo a wonderfully authentic charm; this is music without affection, made by old friends who once again felt that creative urge after spending many years without it. As such, it's a record that's both timeless and anachronistic, its wistful songs fitting in with, but also sitting on the edge of, the modern world.
"If Caravan and Soft Machine were the Patriarchs of The Canterbury Scene then Gizmo was the naughty schoolboy, but that all ends with their latest offering.
Gizmo, the album, is full of all the trademark pieces that their die-hard fans will expect but added into the mix are very memorable hooks and the finest musicianship.
Throughout its history and evolving membership Gizmo could always be identified by Dave Radford’s distinctive vocals and the same remains true here but the songwriting has matured and blossomed.
Martin Reed's guitar playing is simply superb, one track in particular, Just A Dream, evoking strong memories of those wonderful Steve Hackett days in Yes.
Alex Powley and Ian Harris lay a solid yet flowing foundation for Grant Matcham's keyboard artistry.
As with all music of this genre, the first listen will simply whet your palate, but with this album the second listen will have you well and truly hooked!
In my opinion the best offering yet from this iconic Canterbury band, release is imminent, buy it with all haste!"
It was only due an idle Google search on a quiet evening last year that I discovered that Gizmo were about to reform. Nearly a year on from seeing them for the first time in over 30 years (gulp!) comes the revelation of a new album.
The new album, simply called Gizmo, arrived a couple of weeks ago and... it's really stunning. The reference point for me is the first album which has been a favourite for thirty-odd years and this is a logical progression from that - still musically original but lyrically more developed and reflective. The standard of writing is outstanding, the songs imaginatively arranged and beautifully played and there is a musical coherence to the album – it sounds like an album meant to be listened to as a whole, which is some achievement in the era of downloads.
I've found myself humming different songs off the album each day – every track is really that strong. The climax of the album though is undoubtedly the tragic tour de force of Starlight.
Buy with confidence - this is a terrific album and deserves to get a wider audience for the band. Best of all, it sounds like Gizmo and that's great to hear.
Gizmo have been together now for the best part of 40 years. Based around founder-member, Dave Radford, the band are still very much an interesting, evolving and active unit. Moreover, this latest eponymous album, their 4th to date, is so much more than the musings of a semi-professional unit, obliged to record their current output for posterity. Indeed, their new album, simply entitled 'Gizmo', is a powerful and emotional collection of 'intelligent rock' tracks to rival the likes of Porcupine Tree, or even Pink Floyd.
Following an ominously beautiful piano intro, the track 'ICU Juicy Me' kicks off with a tricky neo-prog riff before launching into the punk-flavoured verse. Dave's voice has never been better here as he offers the first of many 'flavours' to be enjoyed on this album. The middle-eight is a return to the wonderful Gentle Giant-meets-Dave Gilmour melange before a return to the harder edged verse. Note the barbed reference to 'Lounge on the Farm' in the lyrics.
The instrumental 'Almost Starlight' is a reminder of the 'Victims' album, before it segues into 'Suddenly', and classic Gizmo territory. This is a beautifully introspective track that you could almost imagine being covered by more established voices if it were better known. Still, it's early days yet.
'Little Man (Ditty)' is another instrumental link track that brings us into the folky 'Sailing on a Dream'. I defy anyone not to join-in with the addictive sing-along chorus. Throughout, acoustic guitars and an 'accordion' abound alongside Dave's strong vibrato-tinged vocals. Electric keyboards keep a respectable distance, but still add something positive to the overall feel of the track. The song ends appropriately with the sea crashing onto the beach along the north Kent coast.
'Just a Dream', with its organ-based riff and odd time signature, offers a reminder of Caravan, and other Canterbury-based bands. Dave delivers another compelling and memorable chorus, and the blistering guitar solo cannot be ignored either. The whole things wraps up with a riff that even Steven Wilson would be proud of.
Another powerful rock riff, exchanges places with a nursery-style celeste, in the poignant introduction to 'The Little Man that Sang': a track inspired by a family member of Dave's. That see-sawing rock riff announces its presence throughout the track, including its somewhat chaotic and 'trippy' ending.
'The promise' guides us towards calmer waters, accompanied by some lovely piano playing from Grant Matcham. Dave's voice is as plaintive as I've ever heard it before; in fact, the man's vocal dexterity has never been more obvious. Some lovely guitar work and thrilling chord sequences recall early Steve Hackett, but actually manage to surpass him here.
'Starlight' carries on from the above track, and in the same mood, but is perhaps even more agonisingly beautiful, with its lyrics about a lover lost to suicide. By now, the hairs on the back of the neck are really rising. This, very much the album's 'Day in the Life', is appropriately jointly written by Dave Radford and fellow guitarist Martin Reed.
The main body of the album closes with 'Sailing on a Dream (Reprise), with its drunken revellers and Grove Ferry ducks.
The album's 'bonus' track is the wonderfully epic, tour-de force 'House with no Door'. It also gives us the flavour of a previous line-up, as well as having the late and legendary Hugh Hopper on bass. And we are offered yet another fabulous sing-along chorus, alongside the sax playing of the Canterbury-based Tony Rico.
Upon hearing this album, the first thing you'll want to do is play it again, to make sure it was as bloody good as you thought it had been the first time through. You won't be disappointed either; nor will you change your mind. Of all the Gizmo albums recorded to date, this one utterly deserves a mainstream release, so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Tell your friends; spread the word!