I hear you thinking; progVisions is reviewing an album from the year 2014. The reason, well I made a personal deal with composer Dave Bainbridge. And what's in it for you, the readers of progVisions. Well, you get a review of the Dave Bainbridge album “Celestial Fire” and a review of the new Celestial Fire Live CD/DVD combo “Live in the U.K.”. So it is a win-win situation for all parties involved. After releasing the beautiful “Veil Of Gossamer” album in the year 2004, David released his second solo album “Celestial Fire” in 2014. And in the year 2016 he released an album full of solo piano improvisations entitled “The Remembering”. We all know David Bainbridge as the musical hart of the band Iona. Iona is on a hold now and David started his own band Celestial Fire to play the material of the “Celestial Fire” album together with some Iona stuff in a live setting. He is also doing solo and duo gigs with Celestial Fire member Sally Minnear at the moment. And yes Sally is the daughter of my Gentle Giant hero Kerry Minnear! Still proud that I was able to see two Gentle Giant gigs in the 70's ... but that is another story.
Dave Bainbridge - keyboards, 6 & 12 string electric & acoustic guitars, bouzouki, finger cymbals, backing vocals, mandolin, chimes, piano, beer shaker, Indian leg bells, organ, tambourine, darbukka, autoharp
Sally Minnear - lead vocals, backing vocals, ethereal vocals
Troy Donockley - uilleann pipes, low whistle, E low whistle, D high whistle
Gabriel Alonso - gongs, timpani, percussion, cymbals, crotales, shaker, orchestral percussion
Collin Leijenaar - drums, Mellotron choir
Randy George - bass guitar, Taurus bass pedals
Damian Wilson - lead vocals, backing vocals
Yvonne Lyon - lead vocals, backing vocals
Frank van Essen - string ensemble, violas, violins
Todd Reynolds - solo violin
Corrine Frost - cello
Julia Malyasova - lead & backing vocals
David Fitzgerald - flutes, tin whistle, alto, tenor & baritone saxes, Chinese flute
Debbie & Evie Bainbridge - choir vocals, backing vocals
Joanne Hogg - ethereal vocals
Andrea Alonso - ethereal vocals
David Lyon - backing vocals
Graeme Duffin - backing vocals
Martin Nolan - Uilleann pipes , Tin whistle
On the “Celestial Fire” album you can find contributions of 17 musicians and some family members. A lot of established names of the prog scene. What about a rhythm section consisting of Randy George and Collin Leijenaar or top vocalists Damian Wilson and Joanne Hogg. Some of the other names are David Fitzgerald and Frank van Essen. Bring those names together with musician/composer David Bainbridge and you have a golden combination. On this album you can find the music of the unleashed prog fan David Bainbridge who is inspired by some of his own early musical heroes.
On this album you can find 10 tracks and 4 of them are epics with a duration between 10 and 15 minutes each. The album opens with the short “Heavenfield”, a song about a scene of a decisive battle in AD 635 which let to the fact that the monks of Iona were invited to set up a monastery in the Kindom (at Lindisfarne). From there the word of the gospel was spread. The Uilleann pipes of Troy Donockley gives this one minute piece an Iona atmosphere. The next 15 minutes you will listening to the title track “Celestial Fire”. The track is inspired by a beautiful passage in CS Lewis book “The Magician's Nephew”, in which Aslan sings creation into being. A real epic with not only Iona influences but also amazing instrumental passages with great drumming by Collin and beautiful celestial vocal melodies by singers Damian Wilson and Yvonne Lyon. A kind of Yes meets Iona track with a great diversity.
I find the choice for vocalist Damian a bold one but also a very good one. People who have seen this guy performing live will know what I mean, he is such a great singer. The synth solo in the end will transport you to prog Heaven. Also in the next uptempo song “See What I See” Damian gets the room to show his excellent vocal qualities. The music has a lot of layers and you can find the most beautiful melodies on this album. “The First Autumn” is a short and beautiful song with delicate sung vocals, classical instrumentation and a soaring guitar part. The second epic is called “For Such A Time As This”. You can find breathtaking piano and guitar parts in this composition. The piece has a kind of jazz fusion atmosphere. I had to think of the late Allan Holdsworth. I am not talking about the sound because his sound was unique but more the way of guitar playing and composition. Later on I hear also some references to the work of Pat Metheny. His acoustic playing and the swinging part of his Pat Metheny Group period. All those influences are wonderful integrated in David's own and unique style. Well just after hearing two of the epics I know that only for the epics you will have to buy this amazing album.
Before the next epic you can listen to the song “Innocence Found” which is about the story of Adam and Eve rejecting wisdom and so lost paradise. Fairytale like music with beautiful vocal harmonies and instrumentation. The third epic is entitled “Love Remains”. The track opens with an uptempo jazz fusion influenced part with great drum work and that is followed by soaring electric guitar part before Damian returns on lead vocals assisted by the beautiful voices of Joanne Hogg and Sally Minnear.
The beautiful voice of Sallly Minnear is quite a discovery. It is not a coincidence that she is now in the Celestial Fire band and is doing duo gigs with Dave. Dave Bainbridge is not only a great guitar player but also an amazing keyboardist. He shows this with Keith Emerson like keyboard wizardry in this epic. But you can find also a great guitar solo in this track. The last of the four epics is called “In the Moment” and has an opening with beautiful violin and whistle melodies. This epic is more in an“ Iona vein. At some point I had also to think of the band Clannad. The tension of the music is slowly building up towards a climax. The melodies are so beautiful. In the last section of the song Dave is playing an amazing organ solo before the tension of the music is working towards another climax. The song closes with beautiful violin and whistle melodies. After the short “Heavenfield Reprise” the album closes with the track “On the Edge of Glory”. The breathtaking Uilleann pipe melody is played by Martin Nolan. A worthy ending of a wonderful album.
Well what can I say more. This is a fantastic album with great music played by a bunch of amazing musicians and vocalists. It was one of the best progressive rock albums of the year 2014 but you can also enjoy some jazz fusion influenced tracks on this album. It is the album that Dave always wanted to make ... a kind of ode to his own musical heroes. I am sure all the die hard Iona fans will have already this album in their collection. As you already have read in my introduction the music of this album “Celestial Fire” is now played live by Dave Bainbridge and his Celestial Fire band. Stay tuned on progVisions for a review of the new live CD/DVD combo Live in the U.K. with recordings of Celestial Fire's first concert tour. The “Celestial Fire” album is highly recommended by progVisions.