Kentish Spires are this up-and-coming band from England that takes inspirations from the Canterbury scene. Now for me, I had absolutely no idea on what I was about to expect when I was listening to this album from start to finish. I have a very peculiar ear, mind you. And from the moment I listened to their debut release of The Last Harvest, I was quite intrigued.
The band considers Lucie V on vocals and violin; Danny Chang on Guitar, Keyboards, and Backing Vocals; Paul Hornsby on Reeds and Keyboards; Rik Loveridge on Keyboards and Guitar; and Phil Warren on Bass Guitar. Non-member Tim Robinson plays the drums on here also.
The origins behind the album’s title came from Danny Chang himself. According to an interview he did with Urban “Wally” Wallstrom for the Rock United website last year, Danny grew up in a small village called Cliffe in Kent. He went to St. Helen’s Primary Church School and remembered the Harvest time where he and his classmates took along local produce that filled the big harvest festival services where the whole village turned out.
While it’s not really a concept album, but three of the tracks cover the aspects of Kent’s violent tribal pre-history, the centerpieces on the album almost took me to a different level on their storytelling compositions. Spirit of the Skies is a cross between Ramsey Lewis’ The “In” Crowd and Camel’s Lady Fantasy brings some of the finest flute and guitar playing that gives a chance for Lucie V to ascend her vocals.
Hornsby channels the late great Ray Thomas by keeping his legacy alive in the song. He takes you through those various improvisations by seeing and hear what the magic carpet will take you into. I love how the piano is channeling Ramsey Lewis’ style and going into the Organ by following into the structures of Andy Latimer. It’s really quite a journey.
The riffs on Introception that goes between the guitars, reeds, and the thumping bass lines, gives Kentish Spires their tip of the hat towards Elton John’s Madman Across the Water and obscure prog legends of Jonesy’s Mind of the Century. Lucie can really hit those notes as the lyrics have these Bernie Taupin like structures that shows the reflections and describing all the damages they’ve done.
Clarity goes into a medieval ballad in 3/4 time. Lucie sings through this melodic section with her vocals and her violin before Hornsby lays down some warm-like gentle jazzy arrangements before dancing ‘til the sun rises with an unexpected change throughout the song.
Hergist Ride is the band’s nod to the title of Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. Paul’s smoky sax brings his reminiscing of John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon for a couple of seconds before the mood suddenly changes as Lucie takes the listener into the battlefield on what is happening next. But the mood suddenly changes as Lucie and Paul work well throughout their improvisations to capture the aftermath.
The title-track clocks in at 13 minutes and 09 seconds beginning with two flutes. One from Paul and the other from the Mellotron setting up this scenario of a dystopian landscape that is straight from the minds of Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. It then becomes this spiraling riff between guitars, growling sax’s, organs, and drums that becomes this increased nod to Van Der Graaf Generator's H to He Who Am the Only One.
Everything changes as the guitar soars upwards into this Gilmour-sque heaven structure that beings a sign of hope of bringing peace throughout the city. It's also Kentish Spires nod to Rush’s final section of the suite towards Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres. I have to say that Kentish Spires debut album didn’t grab me that much.
Now am I saying that this is a bad album? No, absolutely not. But I would love to hear more from them in the years to come. I wished that they would not try to strain that much and give Lucie V a chance to relax on her vocals. But The Last Harvest is quite the journey and I might keep my eyes and ears out for them.