CD Review: Downes Braide Association – Live in England

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Beyonce, Sia, Marc Almond. Names in a prog album review. You wouldn’t have expected that, would you?

Geoff Downes is a perennial project musician, whether directly through Buggles, Yes, Asia or this one – Downes Braide Association – or supporting others such as Trevor Horn’s 2006 “The Producers” album, which is where this DBA partnership first met (and subsequently met again at a 2010 Buggles reunion). Chris Braide has the aforementioned pop icons listed as his collaborators: Beyonce, Sia, Marc Almond. Like I’ve already said, you probably wouldn’t have expected that. But it seems this particular collaboration with UK born, LA-based Chris Braide has some legs, as evidenced by this, their fourth album.  A previous review of their 2015 album ‘Suburban Ghosts’ called them: “…a breath of fresh air with a heady mix of classy songwriting and musical craftsmanship.”

For those of us with memories of those Drama days, we have always identified Geoff Downes as having intelligent pop sensibilities, but the ability to cleverly orchestrate them with subtle nuances, progressive flourishes and epic touches. This team effort (my first listen to them to be honest) brings back some of the old Buggles/Yes era for me, with Braide’s contemporary vocals an ideal match, and bringing his songwriting skills to an already amply laden table.

Opening with the title track of their latest studio album, ‘Skyscraper Souls’ (a 23 minute title track that careers along at a cracking pace) they throw in some good old crowd pleasers such as  ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, ‘Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘The Smile Has Left Your Eyes’. And anyone get a good dose of that great CRS fave Celtus in the DBA track ‘Tomorrow’? (David Longdon providing stellar support on the latter). Anyway this, their first live album, was recorded at their first ever live concert at East Sussex’s Trading Boundaries in September 2018. You wouldn’t have expected that, from listening to it. 

Big Big Train’s David Longdon provides additional vocals and flute (see above) and Barney Ashton-Bullock narrates, with, on backing track, a female vocal on ‘Skyscraper Souls’. Here’s something else to bear in mind: although supported by Andy Hodge (bass) and Dave Colquhoun (guitar), both of whom feature on that last studio album, the drums are also sequenced. But you wouldn’t have expected that either, if I hadn’t told you.

In many ways I keep coming back to thinking of them as a blend of Buggles and the Alan Parsons Project. A studio project first and foremost, playing tightly and compactly played intelli-pop-rock with earworm melodies and gorgeous harmonies, they find themselves taking to the stage – and presumably enjoying it (otherwise why are they playing the same venue again in 2020?).

It’s a coherent and cohesive set, a safe showcase for two talented individuals who have created a pleasingly retrospective soundscape that offers plentiful melodic song-structural opportunities. Unsurprisingly well mixed and produced, the album cover is a Roger Dean special, adding to the whole special yet retro feel.

Downes has hit on a winning formula here. Like he has before, several times over, in other ventures. But you would have expected that, wouldn’t you?

https://downesbraide.co.uk/

TRACK LISTING

CD1

Prelude

Skyscraper Souls
Machinery Of Fate
Live Twice

Vanity
Suburban Ghosts
Bolero / Video Killed The Radio Star
Glacier Girl
Angel On Your Shoulder

CD2

Tomorrow
Lighthouse
Skin Deep
Darker Times
Finale
Heat Of The Moment
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Dreaming Of England

DVD

Prelude

Skyscraper Souls
Machinery Of Fate
Live Twice

Vanity
Suburban Ghosts
Bolero / Video Killed The Radio Star
Glacier Girl
Angel On Your Shoulder
Tomorrow
Lighthouse
Skin Deep
Darker Times
Finale
Heat Of The Moment
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Dreaming Of England


You can order the album here: https://geni.us/DBAlive

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