Root - Illumination

Year of Release: 2005
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:00:00

Illumination is a much different album than 2003's Resolution. First of all, Kendall has moved away from staying in a mellow gear for an entire album. There are upbeat songs ("Wishing Man", "The Meaning"), followed by mellow songs, followed by mid-tempo songs ... all creating a nice diversity that enhances all the contrasts between the tempos and moods. There are, perhaps a few more pop-rock elements here - not unlike latter day Genesis and Marillion (the peppy "The Meaning" for example). And yes, the latter is enhanced by the fact that Kendall sounds like - though less so here - Steve Hogarth. Basically, Kendall has moved away from "dwelling" in Marillion's "Memory Of Water"/"This Strange Engine" atmosphere (except for the moody, bassy "Always," which also at times makes me think of "Out Of This World"). While I liked Resolution, it pales in comparison to the much more colourful Illumination - the palette includes many more, and more brightly um ... illuminated colours.

The album's title may have a spiritual/religious meaning, but Kendall hasn't made it so very finite. That is, those who are uncomfortable with Neal Morse's religious fervor, will find Kendall is less specific, a la Yes. You can read into Kendall's lyrics what you want to, whatever your particular point of view is. But like Morse, the music is so very engaging that only the staunchest of... folk can fail to be moved. The emotional quality of Kendall's vocal delivery is heartfelt, and such at times can hit you "right there." And speaking of Morse, Spock's Beard will come to mind, briefly, with "My Pride" and will Echolyn. It's an open, spacey piece - tinkling piano, acoustic feel, languid pace.

Root is still David Kendall playing everything - guitars, drums, keys, etc., and still providing some great harmony vocals. The production is a little less warm than on previous outings, but the instrumentation and arrangements maintain a certain melodic warmth. What it results in is some great progressive rock that has just a slight... silvery-ness around the edges. Not sure how else to describe it... most noticeable around the percussion. A soft and squishy sound; the percussion that is, as the drums do have solidity. The playing is wonderful, the music lush and beautiful, the highlight Kendall's guitar playing, but he's no slouch on the other instruments. The stronger pieces and passages remain the mellower and mid-tempo pieces, Kendall's comfort zone I feel... his voice more suited to dreamy, laidback material. And, there's no feeling of overindulgence; sure he solos often, but never in a show-off kind of way. It fits the material and seems wholly organic to the "story" he wants to tell (there's a terrific example in "No Mercy").

I haven't really found a favorite track, though "Anything" is very strong contender... and it's companion piece "Anymore." Yes, these are some the mellower of the pieces, and the first features a fabulous guitar solo. And it features some lovely tinkling piano, humming keyboards over sparse production. Piano doesn't make an appearance in "Anymore," though keyboards do have a stronger presence (though in fact they may all be actually keyboards). These pair of tracks will be Kendall classics, I'm sure. As will "My Pride," also a contender for favorite track.

"The Most" has a 70s-like feel at times... and a shroud of familiarity... at various times I thought of the Eagles (some of their darker, earlier period pieces), the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and one piece of music that is just at the fringes of my memory (and it may be a PF tune I'm thinking of). Nice acoustic guitar here solos, before a throaty and loose electric guitar solo takes over and closes out the piece (in very Floydian fashion).

The CD does end abruptly, but this is a minor flaw on an otherwise nearly excellent album. Great stuff, beautiful playing, engaging material... Kendall has released his best so far.

Wishing Man / Anything / The Meaning / Healing In Me / Sometimes / Anymore / The Most / Always / My Pride / No Mercy / Younger / Boy Genius

David Kendall - vocals, guitars, keys, etc.

Dreams Of Green (1998)
Follow The Dawn (1999)
Poles Apart (2000)
Resolution (2003)
Illumination (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: December 18th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1034
Language: english


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