Mark Almond is one of the most musically satisfying albums I own, it’s not AOR, but it’s good music for fans of Chris Rea or early Steely Dan.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Mark Almond
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Jon Mark – lead vocals, classical guitar, electric guitar, percussion * Johnny Almond – saxophone, vibes, flute, percussion, vocals * Dannie Richmond – drums, percussion, vocals * Geoff Condon – fluegel horn, trumpet, cornet, flute, saxophone, percussion, vocals * Ken Craddock – piano, electric piano, guitar, percussion, vocals * Colin Gibson – bass, percussion, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Monday Bluesong * 02 Song For A Sad Musician * 03 Organ Grinder * 04 I’ll Be Leaving Soon * 05 What Am I Living For * 06 Riding Free * 07 The Little Prince * 08 The Phoenix
Too often when someone mentions progressive rock, we automatically think of prog dinosaurs Yes and Genesis, not to mention the imagery of artist Roger Dean and for good reason.
Their influence on the genre is incalculable, but they were not the beginning nor the end of prog rock, just the most upfront when it came to media exposure which was (to be frank), quite limited at best during that early 70’s time frame. However, the duo of Mark Almond released what I consider some of the best progressive music written and recorded in the 1970’s, yet they almost seem to be forgotten.
They were not ‘progressive’ in the traditional sense. You never found soaring keyboards, twenty minute ‘movements’ and tales of dragons and kings on their albums, more like tales of love lost after midnight, deserted highways and smokey bars with a decidedly jazzy bent.
British musicians Jon Mark and John (Johnny) Almond’s musical relationship can be traced to the late 60’s working with people like Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall among others. Leaving John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1970, Mark and Almond released their first album.
It was followed by nearly four years of heavy touring with Black Sabbath, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Poco and Procol Harum along with many others. ‘Rising’ was their third album, probably the most successful of their recorded output and in my opinion probably the duo’s best.
The album starts off on a jazzy note with ‘Monday Bluesong’, like sitting in a piano bar after hours contemplating what went wrong with the world. It’s highlighted by gorgeous guitar and trumpet work, offset by Jon Mark’s bluesy vocals, the song is both tragic and uplifting at the same time.
‘Song For A Sad Musician’ again, is a quiet jazz piece reminding me of Van Morrison‘s lighter work. ‘Organ Grinder’ is a little more up-tempo with traces of Colin Blunstone it’s a whimsical almost child-like piece.
Side two’s most impressive track is ‘Riding Free’. Initially this song is clearly influenced by Blood Sweat And Tears with its use of brass and a vocal style very similar to that of David Clayton-Thomas, but it develops into something much more and in the end, quite original.
‘Rising’ is one of the most musically satisfying albums I own and naturally I give it my highest recommendation. No it’s not AOR as you would have guessed if you got this far down in the review, but good music is good music nonetheless, and if you groove to the bluesy sounds of some of Chris Rea‘s stuff or the early Steely Dan albums, then ‘Rising’ might be right up your alley.