progVisions readers will remember his name, Jason Hart, the man who was responsible for the orchestral keyboard parts on the Renaissance album “Turn of the Cards & Scheherazade, Live in Concert”. He did a wonderful job on this CD/DVD set. Others will know him for his work with artists like Rufus Wainwright (you can find a cover of his song “Go or Go Ahead” on this album) and Antony and the Johnsons (tip for the open minded music lover; try his album “Cut the World”). Jason Hart formed the band I and Thou and under this name he released an album full of wonderful mellow symphonic rock entitled “Speak”.
Jason Hart - piano, keyboards, lead and background vocals, percussion, glockenspiel, trumpet, additional guitar and sound effects; John Galgano (IZZ) - bass and background vocals; Matt Johnson - drums; Jack Petruzzelli - electric, acoustic and classical guitar, mandolin and banjo; Paul Bremner - guitar solos in “Hide and Seek” and “The Face Behind the Eyes”, additional guitar; Maxim Moston - violin; Laura Meade - background vocals
Keren Ann - vocals; Steve Hogarth (Marillion) - vocals
First thing you notice about “Speak” is the beautiful artwork, all the images including the label print of the CD are taken from an Annie Haslam (Renaissance) painting called “This Glorious Earth”. And when you hear the first notes of the title track “Speak” it seems that all fits together very well. The music is original, symphonic and the orchestrations are often breathtaking. The music is a kind of symphonic rock with a classical and mellow touch. Immediately you know that this is a remarkable album, you feel the positive energy that is put into this wonderful release. And wow ... Jason Heart has a beautiful voice. The title track “Speak” (12:23) is one of the four long suites you can find on this album. The track has a lot of variety and the music (this counts for all the four long tracks of the album) can only be described with the words beautiful, mellow, symphonic and classical. The music is original and I and Thou has an unique style. The only references are Renaissance and in some guitar parts I hear the delicate sound Steve Hackett had on the Genesis album “Wind & Wuthering”.
The album continues with the track “... and I Awaken” (11:35). Like the opener this track starts with delicate classical piano and beautiful keyboard orchestrations. This piece has more up-tempo parts and is “progheaven” for symphonic rock lovers. The keyboard sounds and orchestrations are great and you can find the most beautiful melodies in this divers track. The piano plays an important role in this composition. I also want to mention the beautiful vocal harmonies of this fine composition.
The third and longest track is called “Hide and Seek” (16:34) and is featuring Keren Ann. It has a classical opening with piano and violin. This slow song has beautiful keyboard sounds and those reminds me slightly of the atmosphere of the “Wind & Wuthering” album. Also the name of Kit Watkins band Happy The Man crossed my mind. I speak now of the keyboard sound and character of the keyboards. I'm falling in love with the keyboard parts of Jason Hart! The duet between the voices of Jason Heart and Keren Ann and the guitar solo of Paul Bremner are also very beautiful.
The last of the long tracks is called “The face behind the Eyes” (13:38). It's incredible one song is even more beautiful than the other. The vocal melodies of this track are of an immense beauty. Without forgetting the contributions of all the more than competent musicians, Jason Hart is the big star of this beautiful album. The keyboard orchestrations and keyboard solos on this album are so beautiful. Jason Hart impresses me on this album. The track ends with a soaring guitar solo of Paul Bremner.
The album closes with the cover “Go or Go Ahead” of Rufus Wainwright featuring vocals of Marillion singer Steve Hogarth. In this delicate song the voices of Jason Hart and Steve Hogarth fits nicely together. And Steve Hogarth is in top form. It is a nice end of a remarkable album.
Well what can I say; Jason Hart with it's band I and Thou impresses me with this wonderful album full of pure beauty. You can find the most beautiful piano tunes, keyboard sounds, keyboard orchestrations and vocal harmonies on this remarkable album. For the lovers of (mellow) symphonic rock with a classical atmosphere, this is progheaven! The year 2012 is a remarkable year for the lovers of symphonic and progressive rock. A lot of great albums has been released so far. But Jason Hart's “Speak” of his band I and Thou is the most beautiful one.