Grey Lady Down - Star-Crossed

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Perfect Pop
Catalog Number: PPOPCD01
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:21:00

When I last wrote about Grey Lady Down, I was lamenting their demise as a band, as I saw the potential in Fear, a potential that would allow them to break out, to not always be compared to Marillion, except in the abstract. Well, hearing Grey Lady Down again with new material was like sharing stories with an old friend not seen in a while. Time hasn't changed Grey Lady Down except to make them stronger. There is an intensity here that comes from, I'm sure, the band's determination to re-debut with something strong, something that makes the bold statement "We are back!"

Back they are, and they continue to explore the kind of prog Marillion, Galahad, and perhaps even IQ have left behind. Does this make them sound dated? Yes and no. Sure, there are the swirly keyboard phrases (Mark Westworth), the dramatic presentation, searing guitar leads (Julian Hunt), and other hallmarks that give this style of music the tag "neo-prog." The classic Marillion influence is still on their sleeves, but if you listen behind the keyboards and guitars, you will hear what makes Grey Lady Down not just a "Marillion wannabe" as a colleague of mine once accused them of being - and I mostly concurred. Well, okay, in re-reading my review of The Crime, I guess I more than "mostly" concurred. They have picked up where they left off, essentially, with Fear, though The Time Of Our Lives was released in between, a live album looking back on the career that was -- and seems to be again. So, yes, the band still sounds very much like Marillion. I'd say more a Marillion/Jadis hybrid. There was a moment on "New Age Tyranny" when I thought of Arena, but GLD aren't nearly as hard. They're not soft either, for that matter.

But they are off to a very good start with the rest of their career, as Star-Crossed is a very good album. I have to honestly say that I like it, and like it very much. The album opens with the powerful "Fading Faith" a strident and confident track that verily motors its way through, chugging along the booming bass lines of Sean Spear, lead by vocalist Martin Wilson's distinctive voice. Phill Millichamp provides the percussive force. Here Westworth's keys and Millichamp's percussion seems to hang in the air expectantly. "Shattered," too, flirts with the feeling that the song will explode at any minute, building tension. It just manages to keep things reigned in, keeping the tension taut. Upped a notched, it'd be a metal styled tune. But GLD doesn't go that far in that direction. The line-up is a bit different than the last time out, as Millichamp replaces Mark Robotham on drums and Julian Hunt returns on guitar, replacing Steve Anderson.

For all the comparisons, there is something about Grey Lady Down that will (hopefully) keep GLD being named along side Spock's Beard, the also-newly-reformed Echolyn, and even the Flower Kings, as the current state of prog rock. Actually, more so than Echolyn, I'd have to name their offshoot Finneus Gauge with "As The Brakes Fail," which for brief spots during the chorus makes me also think of the Motels track "Annie Told Me." I'll admit, though, that that may just be me, and one shouldn't really hold onto that. Just as you shouldn't hold on to the acoustic guitar intro of "Sands Of Time" sounding familiar either, though I personally thought of the Orleans hit "Dance With Me" (um, yes, the 70's soft-rock cum disco track). The overall rhythm is totally different of course, and I'm chalking it up to coincidence. But it is a mellow track that you could sit next to Spock's Beard's "June." Maybe it's because of the word "Sand," but I can't help but think of California rock - of the sun setting on a beach, while warm breezes roll in off the ocean, swaying palm trees. Plus there is a bit of orchestration here (that made me think of Moody Blues) along with a light flute played by guest Hughie McMillan, that add just another bit of something. Mellow yes, but a very nice track.

"Fallen" is a 13-minute plus epic that holds for me all the things I love about this style and about GLD -- shimmering guitars and percussion, and emotional keyboards (in this case; as you regular readers know, I'm quite fond of emotional guitar leads as well). "Truth" has a long intro that is, perhaps, 2 or 3 repetitions too long. But when one is concentrating on an album, examining it like a specimen in a petri dish, everything comes into view. Once past here, the basic rhythm is mellow and, again, low-key. Think of Chicago's "Make Me Smile." It goes off into other, more neo-proggish directions, bass and percussion humming along, keeping everything moving forward. There are moments that are akin to Spock's Beard, and a brief moment where one could say Westworth is Emersonian, but this passes by quickly.

Grey Lady Down are back, and as I recently did for Echolyn, I'm cheering.

The design, logo, layout, and artwork for the cover is credited to Steve Anderson, so he's not totally uninvolved.

Fading Faith (9:12) / Shattered (5:26) / As The Brakes Fail (7:56) / Fallen (13:55) / New Age Tyranny (7:05) / Sands Of Time (4:29) / Truth (10:38) / Crossfire (7:33)

Sean Spear - bass
Martin Wilson - vocals
Mark Westworth - synthesizers, 12-string, mellotron
Julian Hunt - guitars
Phill Millichamp - drums
Hughie McMillan - flute (6)
Bernie Marsden - guitar (8)

The Crime (1994)
Forces (1996)
Fear (1997)
The Time Of Our Lives (1998)
Star-Crossed (2001)

Genre: Neo Prog

Origin UK

Added: June 13th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1839
Language: english


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