Mixing prog, pop and AOR, the first album by World Trade is somewhat of a cult classic. Showcasing Billy Sherwood’s multi-layered sound, the record is essential listening for fans of ‘Images of Forever’ by Cannata, ‘90125’ era Yes and ‘Hold Your Fire’ era Rush. Given it’s technical approach and sophisticated choruses, it’s no wonder Billy became a member of the Yes family tree a short time later. Six years on, a second World Trade album appeared, but ‘Euphoria’ seemed to not quite match expectations. Maybe it’s because both Guy Allison and Bruce Gowdy had founded AOR band Unruly Child with Marcie Free in the interim and had other interests; maybe it was just a difficult second record. The record, while enjoyable, lacked the focus of the debut and re-used tracks that Sherwood had previously demoed with Chris Squire alongside other material.
With Sherwood having other projects taking his time and also taking on the unenviable position of full time bassist with the ever-touring Yes in 2015, and with Gowdy and Allison having commitments with Unruly Child, it seemed we’d heard the last of World Trade…and then a third album appeared somewhat unexpectedly on Frontiers Records in 2017.
In March 2017, retro rock band King Black Acid released their ‘Twin Flames‘ EP. Despite ’17 barely being a few months old at that point, it was clear that the EP was special enough to potentially be one of the year’s best releases. Bringing together the sounds of Crazy Horse, Band of Horses and more besides (not necessarily horse related), its three tracks dropped the listener into a twenty minute musical cycle that was both other worldly and pretty much timeless. If ever there were a great example of music being utterly satisfying, then ‘Twin Flames’ most assuredly fit the bill.
When a musician is both prolific and open to lots of influences, they’ll end up with lots of musical ideas that don’t quite fit their regular outlet. Such is the case for multi-instrumentalist Adrian Jones. Whilst working on the Nine Stones Close album ‘One Eye On The Sunrise’, he and studio engineer/multi-instrumentalist Michel Simons recorded various pieces of music of a more laid-back and ambient nature. Rather more rooted within electronica and the darker worlds of Massive Attack than rock, the musical ideas were eventually released as an album, ‘The Path of Least Existence‘ credited to Jet Black Sea in 2013. With Jones returning to Nine Stones Close almost immediately afterwards and their ‘Leaves‘ album featuring some very dark and anguished material, it seemed like Jet Black Sea was merely a temporary outlet. A brilliant outlet, but not necessarily an ongoing fixture in the 9SC family tree. However, three years after their first Sea voyage, Jones and Simons re-entered the studio.
The Islington Assembly Hall always feels like a venue of two moods. The stage and balcony areas have a feeling of old theatre about them, much like the Empire at Shepherd’s Bush and fitting for a Grade II listed building. In other respects, visiting other parts the venue feels like stepping into a parochial town hall, albeit a rather large one. It’s easy to imagine a large table set up on a weekday afternoon with a man banging a little gavel, making announcements about Mrs. Jones’s award winning marmalade before alerting the neighbourhood watch team to a potential catastrophe regarding a missing moggie. On this evening, that feeling isn’t quite as strong as when Snakecharmer took the Assembly Hall’s stage in 2013, and even less so as the house lights dim.
Roger Waters, ex-Pink Floyd bassist, songwriter and heavy-handed social commentator, released his third solo album, the rather grand ‘Amused To Death’ in 1992. A concept piece about media propaganda and news coverage, the album was one of the best sounding records of the year. It blended a few familiar Floydian motifs with the more atmospheric elements of his own ‘Pros & Cons of Hitch-Hiking’ and resulted in a cult classic. From then on, very little was heard from Waters with regard to studio material. It was perhaps wise to take some time out, of course, for to follow such a near-perfect record (at least for the style) would have been a fools errand.