A door opens and beautifully played progressive rock music fills the room. That's exactly what happened when I listened to Diabolique, the first track of Great & Terrible Potions, the latest album of the Australian composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Craven. He made his first steps in the music scene back in 2005, when he released his first solo effort Two False Idols. This debut as a solo artist was the result of being tired of the band-project approach and the only way to do everything on his own. However, at first he didn't use his own name, but worked under the moniker of Tunisia. In 2007 Craven recorded the EP Under Deconstruction as a free download, which was more or less a kind of protest against the music industry.
Great & Terrible Potions, released in August 2011, was the first full-length album under his own name. I discovered the album because of the excellent art work created by the legendary Roger Dean. However, a great work of art on the cover isn't always a guarantee for getting the same high quality on the disc inside. Anyway, I soon found out that the disc contained nine top-notch modern progressive rock tracks. Ben Craven's admirable skills as a musician and a songwriter are shown up well on these tracks. He played all instruments by himself without being helped by other musicians. He sang all of the vocal lines, played the keyboards, guitars, the bass and anything else he could lay his hands on. In addition he was also responsible for the production.
Great & Terrible Potions is above all a homage to the wonderful music of Pink Floyd. The link with this band is evident and the track The Conjurer is even dedicated to the late Richard Wright. However, the music of Ben Craven sounds more modern than at the time Pink Floyd released their albums. Sure, not everything sounds like Floyd; Ben Craven has also been influenced by bands as Yes and Spock's Beard. The album ends with three additional tracks mentioned as single edits. Maybe progressive rock songs get the chance to hit the charts in Australia, but not in Europe otherwise he wouldn't have included Ready To Lose, Nobody Dies Forever and No Specific Harm in slightly different versions.
For me Great & Terrible Potions was a fine introduction to the wonderful music created by multi-instrumentalist Ben Craven. Hopefully this review will invite you to listen to this album. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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