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MP3 Thieves' Kitchen - The Water Road

An extraordinary genre-busting creative rock band from the UK, quite unlike anything you''ve ever heard before. They are intense, melodic and complex, occasionally quirky jazz, at other times rock-solid-rock, and at others, avant garde.

8 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Progressive Rock, JAZZ: Avant-Garde Jazz

Often compared to such groups as Yes, ELP, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, National Health, UK, Echolyn, Finneus Gauge, Hatfield and the North, Spock''s Beard, and Bruford, TK are widely respected for having woven their own unique sound.

Paul Beecham, bassist, first emailed guitarist Phil Mercy in the middle of 1998: Paul had heard of Phil from his ''Fear of Fantastic Flight'' solo album, released on Mellow Records that year. At the time, Phil was working on a project with singer Simon Boys, and they had written a couple of tracks together that would later surface on debut album ''Head'' as ''Time'' and ''Integrity''. Phil had also been writing some more extended material but hadn''t got a clue what to do with it - inspiration came when Paul and he met up for the first time at the Whitchurch Festival in Hampshire, UK.

In the months following, they found that Mark Robotham, the drummer of Grey Lady Down, had become available, and, once he was on board, set about finding a keyboard player. This took a lot longer than initially expected, as several candidates pronounced the material ''too difficult to play''. Eventually, though, in the late summer of 1999, Wolfgang Kindl answered an advertisement TK had posted in his local music shop, and proved to be just the man for the job. With the band lineup complete, rehearsals started in earnest for the first album - ''Head''.

''Head'' was released soon after in February 2000, to worldwide critical acclaim, and Thieves'' Kitchen were lauded as innovators, with a sound that was fresh, original, genre-confounding and eclectic. In the autumn of 2000, with the success of the first album under their belts, the band decided to make a start on a follow-up album, rather than begin touring. This was also the time that Paul Beecham made the decision to leave Thieves'' Kitchen, finding the pressures of work and family constraints conflicted with the time needed to devote to the band. Paul stayed - and stays - a close member of the TK family, and continued to have input with the second album, contributing compositional elements, and playing the oboe.

The second album, ''Argot'', featuring talented newcomer Andy Bonham on bass, found following a particularly profitable internet search, was released in spring 2001, and was hailed as "a masterpiece", with the band being described as "one of the leading British Prog-acts of the new millennium". This second album was darker, more intense and complex than its predecessor, and many reviewers, whilst lauding it, declared that it was an album with depth, that not only benefited from, but positively required, repeated listenings. In the next two years, TK played live in both the UK, the US, and at the BajaProg festival in Mexico in March 2002. They were invited to perform at Progday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina USA in August 2002, but as it turned out, it would be a different lineup yet again for this event.

Vocalist Simon Boys had come to the decision that finding time for both music and his young family was proving too difficult, and so it was that the band''s gig at the Classic Rock Society bash in Rotherham in May 2003 proved to be Simon''s swansong with TK. The hunt for a replacement for Simon''s powerful vocals and emotive lyrics was not going well, until Andy mentioned a young singer he had previously worked with for a while, Amy Darby. The band were intrigued about the changes of direction that this may herald, and invited her to audition. And so it was that Amy took the mike at Progday, following a couple of warm-up gigs in the UK, and whilst on the ''tour'' of America, Phil bought her a sizeable sedative herbal tea at a coffee shop in NY and talked her into staying on with TK and writing the lyrics for the band''s next album, ''Shibboleth''.

''Shibboleth'' developed a new side of Thieves'' Kitchen, with Phil being inspired by Wolfgang''s jazzy influences and Amy''s lyrics. The material was a year in the writing, but it was worth the wait when it was finally released in September 2003. The critics were once more appreciative; "..enough twists and turns to dizzy a marmot" & "...definitely original, and truly modern sound" are representative of the press response to the album.

Disaffected with life in the UK, Wolfgang relocated back to his native Germany in 2004 where he has since married and started a family. He and the band formally and amicably parted company early in 2005. Looking back, each member of the band had to contend with some kind of significant personal upheaval in 2004/5 and TK, out of necessity, took a back seat in everyone''s lives for well over a year. A search for a replacement for Wolfgang went poorly until Paul Beecham discovered that Thomas Johnson (previously with Anglagard) was working in England and contacted him on behalf of the band. An initial meeting at the Perch pub in Oxford went well and Thomas joined to begin writing material with Phil and Amy for the fourth album, "The Water Road".

2007 has been spent rehearsing and fine tuning the material ready for recording. The new writing partnership has produced more diverse material, dynamic and symphonic in structure. From the start, the band decided to approach the recording of this album differently. Contrary to the current style of ProTools-dominated track laying it was agreed that we should record as much as possible live in the studio. Although modern technology will play a part, real and classic instruments such as the mellotron will be preferred to samples. Amy brings a host of new instruments to the mix and guests will provide yet more aural flavours. The emphasis is on feel, melody, intricacy and atmosphere. The story is still unfolding...

Here''s a review from Bill G. (as appearing on https://www.tradebit.com):

The fourth Thieves'' Kitchen CD comes with one change in the five piece lineup, and that is the addition of former Anglagard keyboardist Thomas Johnson (!!) to replace Wolfgang Kindl who departed to start a family in Germany, his home country. While his excellent skills are to be missed, there is, in my opinion of course, not a better fit than Thomas. Anglagard alumnus Anna Holmgren also contributes flute, in a number of lovely passages, while former TK bassist Paul Beecham plays oboe and sax, and Stina Pattersson adds cello. The TK website announces that with this album emphasis is on feel, melody, intricacy and atmosphere (four of my favorite musical qualities) and the use of more natural instruments contribute greatly to this emphasis.

The album begins with the 21-minute epic, “The Long Fianchetto”, starting with introspective piano, a la Anthony Phillips, for maybe a minute before the band kicks in, building a dreamy atmospheric stretch into the type of instrumental grandeur peculiar to TK. (the CD flourishes in grand instrumental sections by the way) Several minutes into the CD Amy Darby''s voice comes in, like an old friend, with a lilting melody, perhaps an Irish feel at this moment. Amy''s voice by the way is richer than on Shibboleth (the previous TK CD) and this is especially apparent later on in the CD, due in part I think to the fact that the melodies have so much feeling. Nevertheless, I think she has one of the most wonderful voices out there, and not like anyone I can think of. More on that later. One of my favorite parts of this piece is when the recorder comes in, carrying an absolutely lovely melody, the kind that stick with you and sound great in your head for days after. It is evident that the writing style of Thomas Johnson and Phil Mercy compliment each other quite well, and they are given fairly even composition time on the album.

Track 2, “Returglas”, is a Johnson composition and not completely without its Anglagard feel, from the gorgeous first section, to the frenzied middle, and again to the conclusion somewhere between the two.

“Chameleon”, is the third track, with Amy''s pristine voice setting off with another fine melody. I am struck here with how insightful and poignant her lyrics are throughout. “I thought I was an island. I didn''t realize you were the sea”, she sings, and there is not a line that isn''t meaningful in some way. As to the music, it is hard to make comparisons as more than ever they have a sound all their own, but Hatfield & The North comes the most readily to mind. This is one of the tracks where the Theremin makes an appearance, a haunting addition to the beauty of the whole.

Track 4, “Om Tare”, is the most in-your-face dynamic piece, a bit reminiscent of some of their earlier works. Very, very tight. Phil''s voice harmonizes on these Sanskrit lyrics with Amy''s, producing an interesting effect, and by interesting, I mean great.

“Tacenda for You” is another great long track (9 1/2 minutes), melodic and warm with a feel not too far from the Canterbury sound many of us know and love. More great vocals, more great music augmented nicely by flute, recorder and cello.

The sixth piece, “When the Moon is in the River of Heaven” is possibly the most beautiful track on the album, and one of my personal favorites. It is this song where Amy''s voice did actually give me chills, and where I came to the full realization that this was to be a very special and personal album for me, and that it would be with me for a long, long time. Sorry to gush here, but it really is that good. Why bother looking at it any other way? My emotions have become involved.

Track 7, is a short, fairly introspective piece with a Chinese flavor, and the album concludes with the 11 minute title track, another personal favorite for me. Paul Beecham''s oboe carries the majestic melody in grand fashion, and the album concludes with a fantastic finale.

It is becoming a great year for music, and this one tops my list absolutely.

People who are interested in King Crimson Gentle Giant Änglagård should consider this download.
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