In 2011 the American born musician Jeff Green, who lives in Ireland, recorded his first solo album Jessica (see review). The album contained a sad but true story dealing with the death of his daughter and the awareness of stillbirth. During the interview I had, I asked him about his future plans (see interview). Green told me that he was working on a second album called Elder Creek which should be released in the spring of 2012. Moreover, he said that this would be a prog project dealing with the subject of memory, and how memory or loss of memory makes us who we are. The musicians on this record would be the same as the ones who played on Jessica. Well, apparently the recordings of this album took more time since its release was only early 2014.
Elder Creek isn't released as Green's second solo album, but as the Jeff Green Project. While listening to the album I realized why he had called it a project, because it definitely sounds as a band effort. Apart from Jeff Green (lead and rhythm electric guitars, six and twelve-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, guitar synthesizer, lead and backing vocals, programming) crucial roles are for Mike Stobbie (keyboards, ex-Pallas), Pete Riley (drums, Guthrie Govan, Wetton & Downes, Icon, Keith Emerson), Andy Staples (bass), Garreth Hicklin (lead and backing vocals, Illegal Eagles) and Imogen Hendricks (lead and backing vocals). Several guest musicians have minor parts, but strangely enough these parts are just as important because their contributions are really significant on certain tracks. These musicians are Phil Hilborne (Keith Emerson, Brian May, Glen Hughes, Steve Vai), who plays some guitar solos, Alan Reed (ex-Pallas, lead vocals on A Long Time From No) and Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train, lead vocals on Elder Creek).
As Green already explained in the interview Elder Creek indeed explores the concept of memory, amnesia and the part it plays in our personal lives in particular and in society in general. Using both anecdotal and mythological subjects, the album evokes the question: if memories define who we are, then who are we without them? Many lyrics were based on poems written by Jeff's father. In a way this was very important because his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, was the inspiration for the concept of this record. He was very close to her and she always believed in his musical aspirations and talents.
The music written for this personal concept is a wet dream for all devotees of prog and neo-prog rock. From the beginning until the end I got carried away on a musical roller coaster that blew me out of my chair. Especially Jeff's collaboration with keyboardist Mike Stobbie makes Elder Creek an amazing album. The synergy between both musicians can be heard throughout. Green excels on guitar and mandolin by playing strong riffs and outstanding solos; Stobbie just knows how to play an excellent solo on his MiniMoog and how to create an atmosphere with his keyboards by playing impressive parts on the Mellotron, amongst others. Of course, this doesn't mean that all the other contributors didn't do their job properly. Certainly not; all of them succeeded in putting everything in the right place to create seven superb sounding songs.
These seven songs do not always sound originally. But hey, which band is still original nowadays? I guess none! So I don't see a problem here; what really matters is the music and this grabbed me by the throat. So I don't care at all that the MiniMoog sometimes sounds as if it was played by Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) or Rob Reed (Magenta, Kompendium), and I don't mind that the guitar occasionally sounds like the way Steve Howe (Yes) plays the guitar or Joe Walsh (The Eagles). Well, by the way, sounding like Joe Walsh isn't that strange because Jeff Green was and still is a member of the tribute band Illegal Eagles. I also heard influences from Yes, especially from Close To The Edge (1972) and Drama (1980), and from Keith Emerson on the epic piece A Long Time From Now, which in my opinion belongs to the highlights of this CD.
Not only the music of Elder Creek has been worked out well; this also applies to the booklet. All tracks are visualized with photos and paintings; all lyrics have been included as well as the line-up per track. A detailed explanation of the concept of this great album is given by Tom and Jeff Green. Jeff can be seen on one of the pictures in the booklet surrounded by albums recorded by Pink Floyd, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, although hardly any influences of these artists can be heard on the album.
I kept playing Elder Creek over and over again. I just couldn't get enough of the wonderful music. I love it so much that I can only give the highest possible rating of five stars. In my opinion this is a true masterpiece that deals with a delicate subject, but performed in a pleasant way. It's highly recommended to people who enjoy acts such as Yes, Magenta, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. As far as I'm concerned this is one of the best albums I've heard in 2014!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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