Baird, Ken - Orion

Year of Release: 2000
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: KBCD 003
Format: CD
Total Time: 36:47:00

Ken Baird's latest release, Orion, which also features Sue Fraser on vocals, is a folk based, gentle progressive rock, along the lines of Renaissance. Fraser has a lilting voice that for brief moments during "Waving Goodbye" sounded a bit like Barbra Streisand. But in "Open Doors," I thought more of Natalie Merchant. Of course, the obvious comparison would be to Annie Haslem, but Fraser's voice is a bit stronger, steadier.

On the other hand, I find Ken Baird sounds a bit like Dan Fogelberg. This is enhanced to by the arrangement of the music and style in which Baird sings. "Dolphins," for example, is full of gentle, light harmonies. There is a very 70's feel to the music - perhaps it's the mainly analog (or analog sounding) instruments, which harks back to a seemingly simpler time.

In an age when music seems to be full of sharp edges, biting and sardonic commentary, and dark images of a doomed future, Baird is a refreshing change of pace. The music is beautiful and Baird has surrounded himself with some crack musicians - Jacob Moon and Steve Cochrane on guitar (though it is Baird on some tracks), John Mamone on bass, and Chris Lamont on drums.

The centerpiece of the album is the 12-minute plus "Orion." The first instrumental section is each instrument in equal measure, though vaguely reminiscent of ELP. But where ELP had hard edges, Baird softens those edges. The keyboards don't go to shrieking heights, though they do parp with similar tones. The second instrumental section is far different, swirling instruments beneath and around Fraser's vocalizations - very warm and pastoral, evoking an element of medieval fantasy. The third section is more militaristic, percussion and almost shrill keys in the lead. Over a triumphant phrase, Fraser delivers the third verse, where the fourth and final verse is the epilogue.

"Shadow Walls" is one of my favourite pieces on this album. There is a guitar part by Baird at about halfway in that is...well ... it intrigues me. It has a somewhat spacey feel that I can't quite describe other than that. It is soaring with out taking off to far. Some beautiful piano work as well here, also Baird. There are parts that are similar to IQ, both musically and vocally, though Baird only sounds a tweensy bit like Peter Nicholls.

The album closes as it starts with "Waving Goodbye," though here it is slightly longer. There are two themes running throughout the album, one is the sense of being adrift, of being lost. The bookends of "Waving Goodbye" set this theme and each track returns in some fashion to this idea - not necessarily in a literal sense, and even "Waving" is surely metaphorical. The other theme is second chances, which is the antithesis to the first - you're adrift, find your way. Quite an uplifting album.

Waving Goodbye (1:45) / Dolphins (4:20) / Fields (4:00) / Open Doors (3:34) / Orion (12:40) / Shadow Walls (9:00) / Waving Goodbye (2:08)

Ken Baird - vocals, keyboards, recorder, guitar
Sue Fraser - vocals
Chris Lamont - drums
John Mamone - bass
Jacob Moon - guitars (2)
Steve Cochrane - guitars (3, 4)

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

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 937
Language: english


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