Halcyon Hymns is the fifth collaboration of DBA, the studio-based project, comprising keyboards maestro Geoff Downes (Buggles, Yes, Asia) and singer-songwriter Chris Braide, who has also composed for diverse range of artists including Marc Almond, Sia and David Guetta as well as co-composing the theme music for Sir David Attenborough's acclaimed television series, Seven Worlds One Planet.
With the gorgeously evocative album artwork created by Roger Dean, it's easy to think this could be a Yes offshoot and though there are echoes of the prog legends throughout, their music inhabits its own world where prog, pop and classic rock all co-exist.
Recorded and mixed in Los Angeles between March and August 2020, the duo has enlisted several high-profile guests to appear with them such as Dave Bainbridge (Lifesigns, The Strawbs, Iona), Big Big Train's David Longdon (who has appeared on previous albums) and Almond himself.
The album is dedicated to the memory of Suzanne Ziegler, Braide's late cousin who emigrated from the UK to California around the same time as him. She is also the influence behind the delightfully poppy She'll Be Riding Horses.
The narrator Barney Ashton-Bullock makes his first appearance at the start of Love Among The Ruins, a lovely song which has echoes in Wondrous Stories due to the chord/rhythm patterns of its acoustic guitars. It has a soothing, sensual quality, Bainbridge's guitar providing some great texture.
King Of The Sunset conjures up a slightly more sombre mood, the vocal harmonies of Longdon combining effortlessly with Braide's urgent delivery. Bainbridge appears again, this time on both guitar then bouzouki.
Starting slowly, Your Heart Will Find A Way rocks along with an infectious, pared back groove courtesy of drummer Ash Soan and bassist Andy Hodge, together with a superb chorus hookline.
The cascading acoustic guitar and melody of Holding The Heavens encapsulates something of the spirit of Yes as well as invoking a summery feel.
Downes' lively piano and Ashton-Bullock's narration herald in Beachcombers, another sweet song with a lovely lyrical metaphor about us all being seekers on the shoreline of life.
Bells and birds begin Warm Summer Sun, a glorious piano-led melody line on which the vocals shared by Braide and Almond. It's a truly life-affirming song, the singers duetting on the final lines acapella.
Today has more of a Beatles' feel to it especially even down to the guitar sounding reminiscent of George Harrison. Joe Catcheside then offers a short monologue about the tyranny of time before the guitar returns, sounding to all intents and purposes like the epic solo at the end of The Carpenters' Goodbye to Love!
Bainbridge is back on mandolin for Hymn To Darkness, a more halting, almost religious sounding piece while the ballad, Late Summer, is simply a lovely little piece with just Downes and Braide relishing being in the moment performing together.
The longest track Remembrance is exactly that, the memories of summers past, featuring an understated mandolin, heavenly voices and more superb narration from Ashton-Bullock. It's hard not to get caught up those aural images of the past.
Epilogue brings it to a close with itxs two sung lines and a bouzouki flourish.
Coming with the CD package is a DVD of Dean working on some of his iconic paintings accompanied by three songs from the album.
If you are looking for some lovely wistful summer sounds tinged with nostalgia and a sense of longing, Halcyon Hymns is your go-to album.
**** Alison Reijman
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