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31.10.10

Combination Head


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Combination Head - Combination Head - 2006 - S.A.M. Records

“They just embody the essence of what progressive rock is all about ...High energy music that is infectious enough to hit the repeat button when the CD is over…..This may be the year of Combination Head.” Ron Fuchs ( San Diego) Prognaut
COMBINATION HEAD a Neo-Prog band from the UK originally formed as a trio of Paul Birchall on Keyboards, Keith Ashcroft on bass and guitar, and Paul Burgess on drums. Paul Birchall had previously worked with the likes of THE CORRS, Geri Halliwell and Cher and recorded singles with them all. Although he has previously worked with bands and performers who have nothing to do with progressive rock, he takes inspiration from keyboardists such as Emerson, Bardens and Jobson. He has also worked with jazz-fusion guitarist Gary Boyle as well as Jim Diamond. Paul Burgess may be a familiar name to Progressive Rock fans, as he has played drums with CAMEL, JETHRO TULL and 10CC. Taking inspiration from CAMEL and ELP, and augmenting the band with Gareth Moulton on guitars, Dominic Finley on bass and a couple of additional drummers, the band released its all-instrumental self-titled debut album in 2006. © Prog Archives, All rights reserved http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=4845
COMBINATION HEAD (Fab Instrumental Prog - Stock 984512) Well, this is truly fine piece of work that all you instrumental ELP/Camel fans out there are going to go absolutely ga ga over for sure! Combination Head are a new UK instrumental prog band fronted by Paul Birchall (keyboards) and Keith Ashcroft (basses, guitars and effects), with drum and percussion duties being shared by Paul Burgess, Carl Hutchison and Phil Knight. Birchall uses a whole gamut of keyboards, including Hammond organ (with Leslie speakers), Moog, Korg & Roland synthesizers, piano and more, and what you hear is like a cross between early ELP and classic period Peter Bardens era Camel, with touches of jazz-rock fusion here and there. The fact that the guitarist/bassist uses a Rickenbacker 4002 and fretless bass guitars gives a distinctive sound to the bottom end as well. When the Hammond or a synthesizer is not being used to take the lead, the electric guitars fire away on top of a backdrop of organ and other keyboard textures, but the keyboards tend to be the main melodic driving force for most of the album. The melodies are clean and distinct with lots of counter keyboard work adding extra dimensions to a sound that any fan of keyboard driven 70's prog-rock is going to fall head over heels for. The two 'Clover Road' tracks are sensational standout pieces, the first being more symphonic and firmly rooted in the sound of early Camel, and the second into '1st Album' and 'Tarkus' period ELP with it's raunchy driving Hammond and soaring Moog work. The title track is the most intense piece on the album with fast electric guitars sharing the leads with the keyboards over a powerful driving force rhythm section. 'Blue Waters' provides a gentle rest bite in the middle of the set, until the Hammond riffs and guitar breaks of 'The Bonk' up the anti once more.'Fourteen' is classy piece that finds the synthesizers and guitar sharing the limelight on a 'Moonmadness' Camel influenced track, then the catchy album closer: 'For What?' will quickly find a place in your heart with its ultra melodic Latimer-esq lead guitar sound taking the melody line for the most part, set over a bed of solid synth and chunky organ work. Overall, if you like either of the aforementioned bands, you should really get off on the finely crafted music of Combination Head and we sincerely expect you all to be ordering this up in droves by return. Dave Shoesmith CD SERVICES Tracklist: Clover Rd A B C (9:52), Devonshire Crescent (2:58), Combination Head (5:03), Blue Waters (2:34), The Bonk (5:03), Clover Rd D E F (4:23), Fourteen (3:52), For What? (4:18) What do M People, S Club 7, B*Witched, The Corrs, Blue, Geri Halliwell and Cher all have in common, apart from the fact you never expected to see any of their names on this site? The answer is producer and keyboardist Paul Birchall, who has recorded singles with them all. Now, before you scroll down to the next review and I lose you, I’ll quickly redress the situation with the names Keith Emerson, Jon Lord, Eddie Jobson, Gary Brooker and Vangelis. To my knowledge, Birchall has not worked with any of them, but his affinity for their style is captured on this debut album. He is one third of Combination Head, with Keith Ashcroft taking care of both guitar and bass duties, and Paul Burgess on drums and percussion. Ashcroft and Burgess have been around a bit themselves, with the drummer being best remembered for his work with 10cc, Jethro Tull and Camel. Birchall has a creditable side to his past as well, having worked extensively with jazz-fusion guitarist Gary Boyle (ex Isotope) and Jim Diamond. Combination Head are proclaimed as a prog rock fusion trio, which is a fair description I guess. Obvious comparisons would be ELP and UK, but this work has a more modern sound thanks to Birchall’s slick and glossy production. This is an all-instrumental album with Birchall responsible for all compositions, with the exception of three tracks co-written with Ashcroft. Several tracks curiously take their titles from street names, references from Birchall’s past perhaps, or did he simply flick through the A to Z for inspiration? The opener, Clover Rd A B C is as the title suggests split into three parts, each with their own distinct mood, providing a perfect start to the proceedings. A short atmospheric piano introduction blossoms into a stately symphonic sound with digital keys against a hypnotic widescreen organ backdrop. The bass and drum playing is suitably understated but at the same time clear and prominent in the mix. The music is so smooth it wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of the next Bond movie. It flows seamlessly into the up-tempo middle section with sweeping guitar taking over lead duties and a strong melody. Mellotron like washes provide an atmospheric soundscape, with dynamic organ flourishes and Vangelis flavoured spacey synth sounds. Another change of pace for the final part, which features bluesy Clapton style guitar and a laidback Hammond sound that brings the work of Gary Brooker to mind. The mid tempo Devonshire Crescent lays down an incessant guitar melody doubled by organ. This develops into a jazzy Hammond solo, and features some impressive proggy keys and guitar interplay. Dramatic cascading keys introduce Combination Head, with its rich rhythmic organ sound. An aggressive Jon Lord Hammond sound dominates offset by bubbling synth atmospherics evoking Vangelis’ Spiral album. An inspired lightning fast guitar solo with bombastic metal overtones demonstrates its not all one-way traffic in favour of the keys. The only down side is the drum sound, this time courtesy of Phil Knight, which is energetic enough but lacks dynamics. In complete contrast, Blue Waters is a pastoral classical solo piano piece providing a gentle, reflective mood. Purple to Chopin in one bound! The crisp and sprightly tone of The Bonk is supplied by swirling synth sounds and a repetitive organ riff that comes close to Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past. Tranquil interruptions are provided by moody jazz like guitar and warm bass lines. The only drawback for me is the mechanical drum sound. Clover Rd D E F will strike an instant chord with ELP fans. The nimble organ and synth work brings Karn Evil 9 to mind, with Burgess playing his part laying down a rich Carl Palmer like tom-tom sound. It develops into a glorious wall of sound created by muscular keys work and guitar straight out of the same stable as Manfred Mann’s Earthband and Argent. A compelling slice of prog that ends all to quickly. Fourteen is a modern light jazz and orchestral fusion piece in the same vein as the work of Craig Armstrong. A spiralling harpsichord like synth sound and programmed drums dominate. The album closes on a high note with the majestic For What? Unselfishly, Birchall allows the lyrical guitar work of Ashcroft to take centre stage from the start. The soaring melody of this mid tempo piece put me in mind of Andy Latimer’s work with Camel. Lively drumming, this time from Carl Hutchinson, and inspired bass work feature strongly. Not to be completely out done, Birchall produces a cool Jan Hammer style keys solo to provide a fitting conclusion. A promo copy of this disc first came my way in March of this year and I’m happy to report that in the intervening months my opinion hasn’t changed. True, it may seem a little on the short side by present day standards, certainly for followers of The Flower Kings at least. However, at 38 minutes it has the same playing time as Yes’ Close To The Edge, and there can be no finer endorsement in my book! I believe Birchall has made a wise decision here, with the economical timing allowing the band to deliver a potent musical punch before you even begin to miss the vocals. Birchall, Ashcroft and Burgess play with consummate skill throughout, and the production quality blows just about everything else I’ve heard recently clean out of the water. The sound is mature and sophisticated, and given half a chance, it could even give prog a respectable name once more amongst the uninitiated! If you like prog with polish, where vocals are not a prerequisite, then this is for you. If you yearn for the days when the sound of the Hammond was keyboard king then it’s an absolute must! Conclusion: 8 out of 10 © GEOFF FEAKES © 1995 - 2010 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page http://www.dprp.net/reviews/200651.php#combination

"You've restored my faith in contemporary music - less fluff, more stuff!" is part of a message sent to Paul Birchall's Combination Head by Tony Visconti, the legendary American record producer (Moody Blues, Gentle Giant,Thin Lizzy, Stranglers, T.Rex, Iggy Pop, David Bowie). This is a short, but exceptional s/t album from the great, but obscure progressive rock band, Combination Head. The music is original and inventive, and encompasses melodic, symphonic prog. rock, fusion, jazz, Canterbury rock, and more. Musicians include Keith Ashcroft, the great keyboardist Paul Birchall, and the terrific drummer Paul Burgess who has played with 10 cc and Camel. This kind of music is rare in the 2000's. It harks back to the days of ELP, Yes, and even Jethro Tull. If you like bands like Camel, you may find this album to your liking. HR by A.O.O.F.C. Listen to the band's "Progress?" album

TRACKS

1.Clover Rd A B C (9:52)
2.Devonshire Crescent (2:58)
3.Combination Head (5:03)
4.Blue Waters (2:34)
5.The Bonk (5:03)
6.Clover Rd D E F (4:23)
7.Fourteen (3:52)
8.For What? (4:18)

All songs composed by Keith Ashcroft & Paul Birchall or Paul Birchall

BAND

Keith Ashcroft (guitar and bass)
Paul Birchall (keyboards)
Paul Burgess (drums and percussion)
Phil Knight, Carl Hutchingson (drums)

WHAT THE PRESS SAY

"'Progress?' Blows away everything I've heard recently.With a thorough soaking of Hammond organ included I thoroughly recommend it to any lover of classic rock .” Martin Hudson - Classic Rock Society

“They just embody the essence of what progressive rock is all about ...High energy music that is infectious enough to hit the repeat button when the CD is over…..This may be the year of Combination Head.” Ron Fuchs ( San Diego) Prognaut

“ The high quality musicianship of these well-talented musicians is making this CD a must-have for people who enjoy acts like IQ, CAMEL…” STRUTTER MAGAZINE

“Combination Head is quite a recommendation.” Yokes Rindfrey Babyblaue Seite
“The music just does all the talking. I did not hear a wrong word. Bravo!” **** (4 out of 5) Henri Strik BACKGROUND MUSIC

“Well, the band was able to create a strong debut album, widely recommended to the instrumental symphonic rock fans. …And they're growing up, more and more.” Luca Alberici TALES OF WONDER

“a ‘prog -supergroup’....Prog fans won’t be able to get enough of these chaps.” Martin hudson Classic rock society Combination Head , Classic Rock Society Album review Nov/Dec 2006 Given the chance by a few ears Combination Head could make a big mark in certain musical circles .It is musicianship of the highest quality. A promo copy of this album e.g. this album has already been covered by us and I gave it a big thumbs up. We did have the band marked for a gig - but as you might expect - ticket sales were slow for a band that know one knew . Here’s your chance to enjoy a band that is based around the keyboards of Paul “ Birchy “ Birchall and boasts Paul Burgess on drums and percussion amongst others and the dextrose Keith Ashcroft on bass and guitars . Instrumental prog. with a Camel edge that just has to be heard. © Martin Hudson CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY © 2003-2010 Myspace, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This is the latest and greatest prog band out of England,an instrumental band formed by veteran musicians,of which prog fans should at least be familiar with drummer Paul Burgess for his stints with Camel and Jethro Tull . The primary composer is Paul Birchall , who a long resume in the music industry. Birchall focuses on Hammond and other vintage keys and so the style here is very 1970s prog - oriented , but done with modern production and high-energy.In fact , it may be the best instrumental prog to come out of England since the 70s .The music often has the flowing nature of Camel , and there are also aspects of Caravan,ELP,Argent,and other classic prog bands. Its no wonder reviewers are stumbling over each other to heap praise upon this band.Combination Head seems unlikley to be a one-shot wonder as they re already working on the follow-up album.The other 70s-oriented aspect of theiir debut is that it clocks in at 38-minutes,but you would nt pass on Close To The Edge for that reason,would you? If you visit the C.H website, you’ll find a video at the Audio Visual link. KINESIS CD.COM © 2003-2010 Myspace, Inc. All Rights Reserved

6 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINK

p/w aoofc

Anonymous said...

Thanks!
GP

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,Numero Uno (GP)! Did you listen to Combination Head. I think it's a great album. Cheers!

DSJ said...

Great one
Thanks

A.O.O.F.C said...

HI,DSJ. A great album that slipped through the net. Thanks. TTU soon

Purpleblues said...

and the combination seems to have changed .. boo hoo....