STEVE ROTHERY BAND
‘Live In Rome’
Release Date: 25th August 2014
Steve Rothery has been the guitarist in UK prog act Marillion for 35 years now during which time he has forged himself a reputation as a consummate, tasteful guitarist. His fluid playing and warm tones mean he is often compared favourably with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour amongst others which shows the high regard for his talents.
His standing was confirmed when news came out that he was going to release an album of instrumental songs called ‘The Ghosts Of Pripyat’ funded by a crowdfunding initiative, something Marillion have had success with in the past.
Normally the thought of the dreaded “guitarist releases solo album” announcement sends people running in the opposite direction but instead he reached his target in a day and ended up exceeding it enormously. Obviously many people really want to hear it.
‘The Ghosts Of Pripyat’ is on the way then with some star guests including Steve Hackett and Don Airey but Mr Rothery has decided to record one of the live shows done in preparation for the album and release it on cd and dvd. The audio only version sent to me is a double album featuring one set of songs from the forthcoming album and a second set of Marillion songs.
Backed by a high quality set of musicians the six new instrumental numbers sound exactly as I imagined they would. Ranging in length from six to twelve minutes they are beautifully played, warm, ambient pieces of music full of mellow introspective sections and sometimes building up into more epic full on mode though never losing that sense of control or melodic edge.
I am not always a fan of guitarists noodling away to themselves self indulgently like this but this English progressive rock master has earned the right to be an exception and the playing throughout is exemplary, whether he is gently picking out mellow notes in ‘Yesterday’s Hero’ or carving out the long intense soloing which is the climax to ‘White Pass’. He covers all the range of expressions from his guitar in his arsenal and is a pleasure to listen to throughout.
The second set of songs from his Marillion years feature vocals from Italians Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi which gives these well known tunes a different feel and is an interesting change from the originals. Using a female vocal on the haunting ‘Sugar Mice’ gives the song a different perspective to Fish’s original take on the song and works beautifully but Alessandro Carmassi’s vocal on ‘Cinderella Search’ sounds awkward and forced and it is almost a relief when the guitar solo comes around.
The male half of the vocal team sounds more at home on the Steve Hogarth era material like ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ and ‘Easter’ where he acquits himself well. The guitar on all the Marillion songs here still grabs the attention though, there is no doubt who the star of this show is.
There is some quality music here but overall it seems to me to be a slightly strange release. With the studio album on the way why preempt it by putting out live versions of six of the songs? I wonder how the album’s crowdfunders feel about that? In addition while the music is fine the atmosphere on the audio comes over as flat and restrained and I suspect the dvd may not be the most exciting watch in the whole world.
There is much to enjoy here though and lovers of well crafted progressive rock and Mr Rothery’s work in particular will I’m sure be keen to add it to their collections. For everyone else I fear that the mellow vibe will see them lose interest and miss the chance to hear a truly great guitar player at work.
The Old man Of The Sea
Waiting To Happen
Afraid Of Sunlightv
Steve Rothery – Lead Guitar
Yatim Halimi – Bass Guitar
Leon Parr – Drums
Dave Foster – Guitar
Manuela Milanese– Vocals