WHERE ONCE GIANTS TROD Beggars’ Gate
Firstly thank you to Cliff Wootton for providing me with this album for review at last Fridays SMART meet.
Beggars’ Gate are Pete Cornford (vocals/guitar), John Farebrother (guitar/guitar vibesware/Ebow/ambient sound), Steve Harland (keyboards, synth, vocals), Cliff Wootton (bass guitars) and Jules Blake (sound engineer) and the band are based around Tunbridge Wells. I’m sure some of you will know these guys, for those of you who don’t then I urge you to make their acquaintance through this album. I have no wish to try and place the music they make into any particular genre, they have been described as prog/folk/rock, which is I suppose fair, however there are so many other elements at work here, classical, tribal, celtic, ambient are just some of the additional adjectives I would choose to use. The 10 tracks take you on a journey where all the aforementioned elements appear and samples and Gregorian chants also make well placed appearances. The liner notes written by Pete (who I assume wrote all the lyrics) start thus ‘At risk of sounding old fashioned, this recording was always going to be a concept album’. Which sounds slightly apologetic, well let me say there’s nothing wrong with a ‘concept album’ in my book whether it be from the early 70’s or the uneasy world of 2017 we all inhabit. Clearly this is a deeply personal and heartfelt expression for us to take a look at our past and where we might be heading. The crashing waves, chants and tribal drumbeats that kick off the opening title track immediately evoke a feel of ancestry and transport you to a Tolkienesque world of open wild landscapes and create a cinematic image in your head, well they did in this head, then sliding perfectly into the gentler ‘Orkney Stone’ a paen to ancient stones, with some excellent guitar (surely some Floyd influences here) and some damn fine piano. The first of two ‘instrumental’ tracks follow ‘Insolitude’ with a simple haunting piano over natural birdsounds works beautifully as a lead in to the celtic vibe of ‘Banks of Lindisfarne’. ‘Now The Road Is Calling’ has some, for me, of the best lyrics on the whole album and a fine vocal. However lyrically ‘The Walls Of Separation’ essentially a anti war protest song takes first place. ‘Protest’ songs can often come across as shallow and trite (not intentionally), this is far from the case here where the words ring chillingly true and certainly hit their mark and had me returning to this track more than once, a very fine song indeed. The magnum opus of the album I think goes to the final track ‘Sanctuary Gates’ which closes the album in epic form building as it does to a crescendo that fully delivers, and I suspect the band themselves know that.
As I spend the vast majority of my time reviewing national and international artists its a pleasure to have something ‘local’. I wish Beggars’ Gate all the luck with this release and getting it out there to the widest possible audience to enjoy.
Til next time………..Colin
Alan Esdaile… Sounds GREAT. I’m playing it at the moment and also heard Sarah Harvey play it on her show last night.