Baird, Ken - August

Year of Release: 1996
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: KBCD-001
Format: CD
Total Time: 39:44:00

Ken Baird's first album August is often Celtic sounding fare. While synthesizers are used, the overall feel is acoustic - and that Baird uses acoustic piano, guitar, and drums certainly explains why. This gives the album a very warm, very natural feel. All instrumental but for one track, Baird gives plenty of room for the music to expand and breathe. We are unhurried as we watch summer start to fade into fall. Of course, august is also a term used when describing something that inspires awe. The wind effects that breeze in the background of "Trio" give the impression of a vast emptiness, dark and flat as far as the eye can see, as a sweet but slightly melancholy classical guitar strums away. Trio is a two-part track, where the second part features parping keys over a heavily rhythmic drumbeat. I though of more recent Tangerine Dream, though the feel is more earthy than that. Maybe early Steve Roach would be a better comparison. The composition is rather nice, but the keys sound a little too a polyester/rayon blend pretending to be silk, rather than the real thing. Though I'm not sure what "the real thing" would be in this case - piano perhaps. It's not bad of course, but it's much cooler than the rest of the album. The phrases are repeated briefly on a trumpet - warmer, though a bit brassy.

"Song Of Summer," the only truly vocal track, is a duet between vocalist Sue Fraser and Baird and made me think of Renaissance, though Fraser has a much lighter and sweeter voice. Oddly enough, this song sounds like it should be a winter holiday song - whether it's the penny whistle and recorder that make this so or not, I'm not sure, but I couldn't help but think of fireplaces and chimneys and hot chocolate. Of course, the lyrics of the song have nothing to do with any of these. When we get to the end of summer and into winter, it is often used as a metaphor for dying - where we're born in spring and die in winter. This is a song that is both using summer as a global metaphor - the dying earth - as well as a metaphor for the individual aging, trying to hold onto their youth, fighting the inevitable. And yet, I don't think that quite captures the sum of it, either.

The title track, "August," clocks in at nearly 20 minutes - at points the keyboards swirl and the drums pulse. There were moments where I thought, but for chugging guitars and a little more attitude this'd be a symphonic metal track - a comparison I make only because I've been listening to a lot of the latter of late. Don't worry though if you aren't a metal fan, this never comes close to metal. It's just when Baird lets his fingers have full reign of the keyboard in Rick Wakeman like fashion, and the drums pound out behind it, I think this what many a metal artist does, only punches it up and tweaks it. Equally there a times when this is like very martial sounding Celtic music - again it's the recorder and whistle making this so. I'm thinking of Tempest and Red Jasper in the Celtic-rock genre as well ... maybe of the more twiddly "neo-prog" bands with the parping keys...maybe a bit like Italian prog as well...maybe more like Italian prog (Ezra Winston, Eris Pluvia, Banco, etc. (yes, those that I know)). The majority of the track is smooth and pastoral.

If you are into mellower music - not quite new age but that which often gets classified that way - then may I suggest you seek out Ken Baird? Besides August, there's also Fields and Orion.

Prelude (3:21) / Trio (9:24) / Evening (4:20) / Song Of Summer (3:26) / August (19:53)

Ken Baird - acoustic piano, synthesizers, vocals, classical guitar, steelstring acoustic guitar, penny whistle, recorder, trumpet, drums and percussion
Sue Fraser - vocals

August (1996)
Fields (1998)
Orion (2000)
Martin Road (2003)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: March 15th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1308
Language: english


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