Times Up was formed in 2007 and one year later the band recorded their first album Storm Coming In and toured the rock circuit in Wales and England, including a gig at the legendary TJ's club in Newport. Times Up had a surprise Christmas Number 1 because the song Vendetta made it to the number one spot on the official UK unsigned charts. The track entered the chart (which is based on downloads and website plays) at #3 in late November before getting to number one four weeks later. After Storm Coming In Times up released 3 studio-albums: Snow Queen (2012, see review), Sea Of Schemes (2014, see review) and Black Wing And Prayer (2018). This review is about the latter, my first musical experience with Times Up.
Black Wing And Prayer (9.34) : First lush twanging acoustic guitars and piano, then strong female vocals join (reminding me of Flamborough Head), in a slow rhythm. The musical encounter between the acoustic guitar, mandolin and flute with the synthesizer flights sounds like prog (hints from early Genesis and Renaissance) meets folk, very pleasant and melodic. Halfway a surprising wah wah drenched guitar solo, then an acceleration with a swinging clavinet and a saxophone - and synthesizer solo, topped with lush Hammond organ waves. In the final part rock guitar, powerful vocals and saxophone, contrasting with the cheerful folky sound of the flute. Singer Linda Barnes meanders very flowing between folk, melodic rock and prog with her wide range, embellished with a varied keyboard sound.
Window Shopping (8.32) : This track starts with a catchy mid-tempo beat featuring sparkling flute (evoking Jethro Tull), rock guitar riffs, strong vocals, fiery electric guitar runs and again varied keyboard work. Halfway the climate turns into an experimental sonic landscape with soaring flute and electric guitar, later joined by hypnotizing vocals and subtle vibraphone, again lots of surprising musical ideas.
Everybody's Everybody (8.19) : First a swinging rhythm with saxophone, then a tight beat with slightly distorted vocals, and another fiery guitar solo. In the second part a break with a catchy beat that contains orchestral keyboards and a propulsive guitar riff, evoking Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd. Gradually the mood shifts into more bombastic with powerful work on guitar and saxophone.
There is no Smoke Without a Fire (13.08) : This epic composition begins dreamy with twanging acoustic guitars, celestial keyboards, a male voice, and subtle electric guitar and piano. Gradually the sound turns into more dynamic, with military drum beats and guitar runs. The delicate use of the tremolo arm gives a special flavour to the music. Then lots of fluent shifting moods, from dreamy with again the sound of the guitar tremolo arm to swinging rock with Hammond organ and screaming saxophone. The final part is pretty surprising: atmospheric with dreamy vocals, tight drum beats and subtle work on the acoustic guitar and keyboards, a captivating contrast with the rest of this long track.
After the Storm (5.29) : It starts with the sound of thunder and rain, tender piano runs, high pitched female vocals and soaring strings. Then dreamy vocals (again reminding me of Flamborough Head), joined by piano and a celestial keyboard sound, what a wonderful interplay, with strong emotional undertones. Finally, a slow rhythm with howling guitar leads, military drum beats and tender piano runs, another interesting musical idea, a trademark of this band.
21 Grammes of Starlight Glow (I Will Miss You) (11.05) : This final epic composition begins with a slow rhythm featuring a tight beat, powerful saxophone, flute and gospel-like vocal harmonies. Then lots of shifting moods, embellished with a variety of instruments (from Hammond and piano to E-bow banjo, Mini Moog and flute), topped with Linda her excellent voice. This band knows how to keep my attention, and to blend influences from Classic Prog with interesting own musical ideas.
On this fourth studio-album Times Up has shown its potential, it contains six varied and elaborate compositions, between rock, folk and Classic Prog, topped with strong vocals and a lush instrumentation, thumbs up for Times Up!
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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