Not The Weapon But The Hand - Steve Hogarth,Richard Barbieri Album Review
This lavishly-packaged eight-track set is the long-awaited collaboration of two leading lights from the world of, whisper it, nu-progressive rock - thankfully, for the most part, it eschews the potentially pretentious patter that normally comes with the territory. Steve Hogarth will be familiar to Marillion fans as the vocalist and replacement catalyst for Fish since the late '80s, while Richard Barbieri provided atmospherics for future-glam-romantics Japan, before joining nu-proggers Porcupine Tree in the early '90s.
It comes as little surprise that the pair have worked together before (on Hogarth's side-project The H-Band in 1997 for the album, "Ice-Cream Genius"), toured together in their respective bands and even less of a surprise to hear both drawing sources of inspiration from their own preceding projects. Add in some accomplished guest-musicians such as XTC's erstwhile underrated guitarist Dave Gregory (who also appeared on the H-Band album and contributes string-arrangements here) and artisan double-bassist Danny Thompson and you have a formula that is, for the most part, rather engaging.
Opening track "Red Kite" contains sweeping orchestral-strings, plaintive keyboard hooks and Hogarth's sub-fragile and wavering vocals, all setting the scene for an album that emphasises the capabilities of each musician, rather than any songwriting breakthrough. The lyrics throughout are ambiguous, complex, simple, multi-textured and everything and nothing - in fact, the whole melange surprisingly works a treat. "A Cat With Seven Souls" evokes Barbieri's Rain Tree Crow and Steve Jansen-eras with its off-kilter percussion and deep resonating bass-timbre, while "Crack" is as rocky as it gets, almost bordering on intense as Hogarth declares, "I'm gonna love you/'til you crack".
The second half of the CD is where the album truly ignites, not in volume or in a lyrical sense, but holistically - suddenly the mood becomes more atmospheric, more organic even, almost as though the group had reconvened the sessions at a different time (which is highly likely, given their 'day-job' commitments). Perhaps the centrepiece of "Not The Weapon....." is the ambitious and epic "Only Love Will Make You Free". Sprawled over 8 minutes, the song contains the nearest thing to a chorus, lending itself to being issued for late-night radio-play. OK, lyrics like "Listen to the primitive, go to the place/Your own spirit, your own soul" might strike some as hippy-tosh, but Hogarth clearly has something personal to say. "F*** everybody and run", he exclaims in the closing stages. Quite.
"Not The Weapon But The Hand" rarely shifts into top gear or the fast lane, but instead opts for a reliable ride and a determined, spirited and spiritual journey that should appeal to fans of its creators and curious bystanders. Well worth the perseverance.
- Wed 11th Sep 2013 Steve Hogarth, Richard BarbieriThe Ritz (Manchester)Buy Tickets
- Thu 12th Sep 2013 Steve Hogarth, Richard BarbieriScala (London)Buy Tickets
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