Balloon Astronomy are a band from San Diego, California (USA). The core of the band is formed by the collaboration of long-time friends Jim Ledger (vocals, bass, guitars) and Glenn Little (keyboards, flutes), who both share the same fascination for music from the classic progressive rock era. Ledger and Little met in junior high and discovered that they both listened to the progressive rock bands of the seventies. Especially the music of Genesis made a deep impression on them. Like many other prog heads they also enjoyed the music of other bands in the genre like, amongst others, Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Anthony Phillips, Mike Oldfield, Supertramp and Renaissance. While studying on high school and college they jammed with like-minded friends and started to write their own compositions. Over the years their list of artists that influenced them grew bigger including the names of Spock's Beard, Kevin Gilbert, Porcupine Tree, Eleven, Neil Finn and Muse. This finally led to the release of their eponymous debut album in 2011.
For the recordings of this album they invited several guest musicians in order to release a professional album. They managed to ask Nick D'Virgilio (ex-Spock's Beard) to play the drums and percussion. However, Jason Smith was also asked to play the drums on two tracks. They even managed to get Mike Keneally to play the acoustic guitar on one track. Finally my compatriot Max Werner (ex- Kayak) had been invited to play the clarinet on one song. Rich Mouser, who worked with Neal Morse and Spock's Beard, got the job to do the mixing and mastering of the album. These collaborations led to a debut album that is worthwhile listening to. The above-mentioned names undoubtedly influenced the music on the twelve tracks that were recorded for Balloon Astronomy. That especially applies to the more song-orientated compositions in the style of Genesis with Peter Gabriel that can be heard throughout the album. Good examples are songs as Roots Run Deep, The Odyssey, Gentle Day and Sourness Of Days. However, on tracks as Crows In The Field, By The Strange Water's Edge and Even Odds I also heard more modern influences.
Fact is that all compositions are well-written. In one way or another, these songs are very enjoyable for people who like progressive rock music. The highlight on the album is without doubt Eagle. Thanks to the superb Mellotron-parts in combination with the excellent drum patterns this song builds up to an outstanding musical climax with echoes of the old Genesis. The album as a whole made me think of the latest albums recorded by the British band Big Big Train. This band also managed to relive the old days of progressive rock. In addition BBT also had on most tracks the amazing Nick D'Virgilio behind the drum kit.
I have to compliment Jim Ledger and Glenn Little with the release of their debut album Balloon Astronomy. Their music gave me many fine moments that made me above all think of the early days of Genesis. Therefore I highly recommend this album to people who fancy this famous British prog band.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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