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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 5 July 2013
I've often thought that Gordon Giltrap is one of the most under-rated British musicians in contemporary history.

Listen to one of his own albums and unlike the aimless meanderings of most (non-folkie) contemporary acoustic guitarists, Giltrap has that strange ability to not just compose one key melody/memorable piece, but to pack the entire album with the same, release-after-release.

I have never worked-out quite how he does it. Listening to his contemporaries on either side of the Atlantic and beyond, such as Clive Carroll, Preston Reed, Doug Smith, Al Petteway, Tommy Emmanuel, Kaki King etc. reveals that although some might be more 'technical' than Giltrap, they don't even come close when it comes to have the 'composing chops'. Basically they can play wonderfully, but invariably what they play is just some complex doodling.

Of course with Giltrap we get the trademark legatos, the blindingly swift lead runs, the gorgeous tones he entices from a guitar...but always it is the piece/song which takes precedence. No showing-off for showing-offs sake.

So that is Giltrap, the virtual Lennon-and-McCartney of the instrumental guitar world. What about Oliver Wakeman, is he an equal cohort?

Well, despite being a Yes fan from the age of (no need to reveal that) I have easily resisted any desire to see Yes live for several years now, since the hilarious merry-go-round with vocalists commenced. So I missed all of Oliver's Yes career in its entirety. I knew of his dad, having seen him live with Yes and on his own (I remember watching a rib-splitting gig in Coventry when Rick accidentally thumped his lead vocalist with a microphone).

So I was a bit apprehensive about Olivers contribution to Ravens'.

In the end, that concern was all unnecessary. Oliver manages to step beyond his fathers (somewhat lengthy) shadow and asserts himself on this recording. And that's no mean feat when your 'oppo' is a composing machine like Gordon Giltrap.

Raven's was the second of two CD's I purchased the same month with 'ravens' in the title, the other being Stephen Wilson's 'The Raven That Refused To Sing'. Wilson's album, recorded live in a studio and packed to the eyebrows with top-notch musicians is a wondrous thing, except in one regard - regrettably Wilson just doesn't have the 'composing chops'. The musicians on the album are fine, but the tracks, though superbly arranged, just aren't memorable.

Giltrap and Wakeman's Raven's is different beast altogether. Here the pieces/songs are distinctly memorable. Wakeman avoids the 'Richard Clayderman Trap' with his piano playing, whilst his composing skils and playing match those of Giltrap. On their solo pieces, each contributes equally fine works to the album, but together, particularly with the albums standout track 'Is This The Last Song I Write' they have not just the chops but also the technical ability to match anything Wilson thought his band was capable-of. The pick of additional musicians is adroit, particularly the vocalists.

If there is any weakness, it's the same that others have noted - that the release jumps across too many genre's, as if Wakeman and Giltrap were fearful of being pidgeon-holed. Perhaps writing to a concept (this is after all 'progressive' music) might be better for another project they pursue. There are some particular instrumental highlights for me - Oliver's lead work which is speedy, confident and accurate, and Giltrap on a nylon guitar, which is a real treat. Some pieces could have done with a bit of beefing-up, but live renditions invariably fix this. A female vocalist for at least one track might have been an idea.

Otherwise though, the criteria for whether a release gets a 5-star or not from me is simple; does it get played more than once? For me, months after purchase, Ravens & Lullabies still gets played. Poor young Mr. Wilson's release has disappeared somewhere deep into my CD collection, gathering dust.
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on 2 May 2014
I have to say that this album is one of my favourite releases of the past few years.
One listen was enough to get me hooked.
Brilliant musicianship from the very first track and a great collaboration with Wakeman.
Giltrap is one of those rare artists who exudes class and rarely could be said (if ever ) to have produced anything that wasn't of the highest standard.
The acoustic guitar of Giltrap just sounds sensational.
The tracks are varied in their style and that is what makes this release so engaging.
If you love real musicians and excellent music, then please don't let this one pass you by.
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on 7 March 2013
The year is 1978 and Gordon Giltrap with his own band, including a young Simon Phillips on drums, releases the highly acclaimed album "Fear of the Dark". The power of the opening track "Roots", intensity of "Fear of the Dark" and the soaring guitar solo on "Visitation" help to make this progressive rock album something very special. Fast forward to 2013 and we find Giltrap returning to his prog rock days, although this time the dynamic is somewhat different......

"Ravens and Lullabies" is a collaboration between Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman, the virtuoso keyboard player formerly of The Strawbs and Yes. Anyone fortunate enough to catch one of their live performances together in 2012 will already know how these two performers work VERY well together.

The first striking feature of the CD is the artwork, which is cleverly themed, well thought out and overall very impressive. Next, onto the music itself. Those familiar with Giltrap and Wakeman as solo artistes will know that their music can be very diverse; a solo Gordon Giltrap acoustic set can on one hand contain a reflective piece of music such as "Em's Tune", and then finish with the full-blooded power and intensity of "Lucifer's Cage". Well more of the same here too, as this 13 track CD consists of a collection of rock songs interspersed with lighter acoustic pieces. It opens with the excellent "Moneyfacturing", featuring the full band sound, followed by the reflective "Fiona's smile", an acoustic track which is already well-known to Giltrap fans. The contrasts continue all the way through the CD ,which reflects the "Ravens and lullabies" theme.

As you would expect from these two musicians, all of the material is strong in it's own right whether individually or jointly written and certainly Wakeman's lyrics are meaningful, and I suspect somewhat personal. The playing too is top-notch - Wakeman equally impressive on synthesisers and piano, while the electric guitars of Giltrap are powerful and expressive, and may come as a surprise to those more familiar with his acoustic work. There is a worthy supporting cast too - vocals are provided by Paul Manzi (Arena) and Beniot David (Yes), with Steve Amadeo on bass. Special mention must go to Johanne James (Threshold) on drums, whose playing is always very robust and yet precise, and contributes much to every track he plays on. The album was recorded and mixed by "Threshold" guitarist Jarl Groom - good job done here too.

For me the highlights of the CD are "Moneyfacturing" and the EPIC "Is this the last song I write", although standards are high throughout and there are many instances of musical excellence, in fact too many to mention here.

For those lucky enough to purchase the limited edition package, the bonus CD includes live recordings from the Giltrap and Wakeman 2012 tour plus some new studio recordings. The live material is well-chosen and provides a good representation of those excellent gigs from last year, while the studio recordings include Wakeman's fine "The Forgotten King" and a stunning version of "Roots" from Giltrap's "Fear of the Dark" - fast rewind back to 1978!!!

Some might say that this was an ambitious project to undertake - after all, Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman are still relatively new to each other and it's a long time since Giltrap's prog rock days. Question is do they pull it off? Well in my opinion yes they do in fine style!

To conclude this well-crafted offering deserves recognition and success. Let's hope it marks the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership too! BUY IT!
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on 30 May 2013
To call this album an outstanding debut is misleading when writing about two established performers with the exceptional track records of Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman. However, it is the first time they have worked together and the result is an excellent debut album. Gordon Giltrap's outstanding and unique guitar work and Oliver Wakeman's masterful piano and keyboard playing complement each other perfectly. Paul Manzi and Benoit David add their own vocal talents to a consistently strong album. Personal favorites include Fiona's Smile, From the Turn of a Card, LJW, Wherever There Was Beauty, Anyone Can Fly, One for Billie and Ravens Will Fly Away, but there isn't a weak track. If you can get the limited edition 2-disc version you should, because the second disc with studio and live tracks includes stunning versions of Bach's Praeludium and Roots. It also includes Gordon's signature pieces On Camber Sands and Isabella's Wedding and Oliver's Natures Way which brilliantly integrates Gordon's Nursery Chimes. Either disc would be a worthy addition to any music collection, but together they are a must buy!
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on 4 March 2013
This album has been well worth the wait.Right from the opening track "Moneyfacturing" to the closer "Ravens will fly away" it's a broad spectrum of virtuoso musicianship,great vocals and a superb rhythmn section.This album should appeal not only to fans of Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman but should find a following of anyone who just likes well written and well performed acoustic/electric rock.
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on 11 March 2013
An incredible collection of tracks. I am a long-time GG fan who still likes Fear of the Dark and Perilous Journey at full volume and this is most definitely a full volume album. That's not to say that there are not beautiful under-stated and low key tracks but there are melodies and songs that scream 'turn me up'. Moneyfacturing is a great opener and Ravens a luscious final song. Inbetween there is the glorious Wherever There Was Beauty and the maddeningly too short Anyone Can Fly featuring solo keyboard and guitar in an incredible last two minutes. If you get the bonus cd then you are in for more treats from some live and studio tracks. I guarantee you that if you like early GG you are going to love this. I'm new to OW but you just have to see this guy play to recognise talent. He writes some great tunes too! Buy it.
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on 13 April 2013
Gordon Giltrap never does the same thing twice. I can't offer higher praise to a musician and writer. That perhaps explains why his two hour concerts of guitar instrumentals can remain engaging to people other than guitar technique junkies. He can call on an arsenal of guitar techniques, alternate tunings, guitar synths and delay pedals, and always manages bring something fresh to the table.

Long time fans will know the same is true of his solo albums. The compare the bright and jolly melodies of Perilous Journey that gave way to the darker tone Fear of the Dark, or contrast rich acoustic tones of Drifter with bright synthesised shades of Shining Morn. Where most artists develop a signature sound and rely on it, Gordon Giltrap really does push himself into new territory with every new album. So it was probably a mistake for me to hope that his collaboration with Oliver Wakeman would be a sequel to the excellent From Brush and Stone, the collaboration with Rick Wakeman that kick started my serious interest in acoustic music. Both Oliver Wakeman and Gordon Giltrap clearly wanted this project to be something different.

The slightly sinister artwork is the first clue. The girl covering her eyes as ravens wheel around her. A hand bleeding, pierced by a black quill pen (in my case the artwork was signed, thanks guys!) The second is the growling modern guitar sound that backs Gordon's powerful acoustic strum on Moneyfacturing, a savage attack on the world of modern finance. The portmanteau suggests both the creation of nothing but money and the unreality of the circumstances that surround it's creation. Credit Carnival offers a similar theme, depicting people desperately throwing away their lasts chances in the hopes of finding happiness, and the growl and whine of synth and guitar leads into some blistering solos spots. Paul Manzi's vocals are spot on for both these songs and Gordon's guitar work sounds distinctly modern. But why be surprised, he was a real prog rock guitarist back in the day.

Is this the Last Song I Write? is an epic composition about fame and creativity with a rich, detailed background of layered synths, built around an acoustic riff, that prove Oliver Wakeman is really creative keyboardist, who is capable of leaving the right amount of space for vocals and guitars. I was less keen on From the Turn of the Card, with its cheesy mysticism about Tarot. Maybe Tomorrow pairs thoughtful lyrics with detailed acoustic guitar parts as does Anyone Can Fly. Fiona's Smile and One For Billie are examples of the acoustic Giltrap that we know, backed by sensitive piano work, while A Mayfair Kiss and LJW show off Oliver's skills. Ravens Will Fly rounds off the album with a gentle song.

This edition also features a bonus track of live material and bonus material from the same sessions. Classic Giltrap repertoire like Isabella's Wedding and On Camber Sands is always good and there is an interesting take on Roots too.

If there is a downside to this album its that the mix of styles and song structures keeps you guessing about what is coming next, but each of the compositions feels true to itself, definitely not just pieced together in a studio, but real performances by musicians in collaboration. The lyrics evoke modern concerns as well as timeless themes of fame, friendship, and forgiveness, so this album offers lots to enjoy. I also think this material will be great live. If you're already a fan of either artist there is no reason not pick this one up. I'll be fascinated to see what they do next.
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on 6 May 2013
I have not been able to listen to all of the album due to interruptions - just waiting for a quite couple of hours to do justice to the work put in by the musicians. I have listened to the first 8 tracks and, so far, wow! Superb!

I saw the live performance of 'Ravens & Lullabies' by Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman in October 2012 and spent around two hours walllowing in the music and performance of two consumately supreme musicians. How could that be bettered? Well, this album delivers above and beyond the live performance. The addition of vocals enhances the performances though Gordon and Oliver deliver in their inimitable way music of almost hypnotic quality. There are some very familiar pieces of music on the album and others not previously heard. I must find the time to sit, in peace, and listen to the whole album.

Although Gordon Giltrap is, in my opinion, the pre-eminent guitarist of our time, the combination of his and Oliver Wakeman's keyboard skills produces music and an album far above the sum of those two individuals.

I highly recommend this album.
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on 30 April 2013
This collaboration between two outstanding musicians has resulted in a superb album that comtrasts - musically - the darker parts of life ( Ravens ) and the corresponding lighter moments that uplift ( Lullabies ). The talent, skill and musicianship of both Oliver and Gordon shines through - and the lyrics - delivered by the melifluous voice of Paul Manzi - are both meaningful and enunciated beautifully. This album will be appreciated by fans of both Mr.Giltrap and Mr.Wakeman but deserves to introduce a wider audience to their music. The sum result of this combination is most assuredly greater than the individual parts.
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on 14 June 2013
I bought this on the strength of hearing one track featured on the Prog magazine cover CD plus I have long enjoyed Oliver's Mothers Ruin album and was very pleasantly surprised. Remaniscent of (ex IQ keyboardist) Martin Orford's first solo album this is an album that has wide stream appeal and will satisfy the prog fan without alienating the rest of the household. Great vocals from Arena/Oliver Wakeman Band vocalist Paul Manzi plus an appearance by Benoit David (ex Yes/Mystery) make this a hugely enjoyable listen.
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