Root - Poles Apart

Year of Release: 2000
Label: A Fireside Recording
Catalog Number: FS8900
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:05:00

Root is David Kendall (as in, he plays all instruments and does the vocals). But if you didn't know that and merely heard the music you'd think it was Steve Hogarth. Though on the first track, "Kim," Kendall also sounds a bit like Bryan Adams, overall, it's Hogarth. Even more so, much of the music on this album is very much like Marillion circa Afraid Of Sunlight and This Strange Engine. "Perfect" echoes "A Thousand Faces," musically at least, although there are a few words here and there that can be heard in both tracks. Okay, this isn't a selling point to those who dislike Hogarth - for whatever reason. But knowing that I do like Hogarth and Marilllion, this isn't a bad thing for me. Interestingly, for the most part Kendall's guitar playing is nothing like Rothery. Thus he creates the Marillion effect mainly with atmosphere and mood; the exception to this is the guitar leads on the closing track "Brightest Star" (the second best track here), which are somewhat Rothery-esque. The acoustic guitar sections on the track are more in the style of Steve Howe, however (Steve However?). Every once in a while, echoes (no pun intended) of Pink Floyd creep in, though they are very covert.

The title track is an energetic, big track. One of those defining statement kind of songs -- the one released as a single that everyone gets up and sings along with. Stepping away from the Marillion aspects, this is more like a sweeping roots rock piece, a country rock piece where the rock element is stronger than the country element. I personally don't care for Kendall's vocal performance here, and not just because he doesn't sound like Hogarth in this instance. But, otherwise it is an effective track.

Interestingly, the most overall effective material is when Kendell sounds the most like Marillion/Hogarth. It seems a much more comfortable place for him, that in trying not to sound like Hogarth (presumption on my part), he loses focus. It sounds like a strange thing to say, I know. But I get the sense that he just happens to sound like Hogarth and that to try for some other vocal effect is...well, the focus becomes that rather than on performance or communication. For example, the two tracks that follow "Poles Apart" are much stronger overall. "Blind Faith" and the one that follows it, "All That He Could Be" remind me of This Strange Engine's title track and "Memory Of Water." And yet, they are quite different from each other -- the former is rumative and thoughtful, the latter building into a mellow rocker -- guitar solos and all. There is a strange, flat and tinny bit of production during the solos, some instrument (not sure which exactly) have a very high, dry wheeze. But perhaps not noticable if you aren't putting the CD under a microscope -- I know I didn't until getting down to the "fine tooth comb" stage.

While the sentimental (and yet not corny) "Only You" follows a by now familiar power ballad format - calm first verse, build up for the chorus carrying through to the rest of the song - this is still a very nice track and one of the best on the album. Along with the Hogarthisms, and the bit of Adams, there are a few seconds where I thought of, of all people, Bob Dylan. Kendall plays one of "those" solos -- notes lovingly extended, reaching, soaring and singing.

The album ends on the three part "Brightest Star" which opens with a gentle and lilting acoustic guitar passage (Howe-esque), "Part 2" is much rockier, electric guitar driven passage, and part three comes to a point in between -- mid-tempo (structurally, "The Great Escape" came to mind, even if sonically this sounds nothing like it; "Part 1" and "Part 2" did remind me of "Made Again," though).

By the way, Kendall is another one of those artists with multiple talents, as he also did the album artwork and design. Too often when the lyrics are printed, the background artwork swallows up the text, but Kendall had the good sense to make the backgrounds less opaque -- more like a watermark than a background - so one gets the illustration and the text. So very high marks for this. (Credit production to Kendall, too, which is excellent).

Poles Apart is Kendall's third album, released in November 2000 (though I'm certain I've not had it here that long). It is, overall, a very good album, though not all aspects work for me. And yet, if you miss that mid to late-90s period of Marillion, this will fit the bill.

Kim (8:03) / Perfect (4:00) / Poles Apart (4:51) / Should've Known (5:34) / Blind Faith (5:09) / All That He Could Be (7:45) / Natural Gift (6:17) / Only You (7:27) / Brightest Star (9:59)

David Kendall - vocals, guitar, drums and percussion, etc.

Dreams Of Green (1998)
Follow The Dawn (1999)
Poles Apart (2000)
Resolution (2003)
Illumination (2005)
Wooden Hill (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: February 23rd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 645
Language: english


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