CD Review – Downes Braide Association – Halcyon Hymns

Downes Braide Association was formed as a studio-based project by Geoff Downes and Chris Braide and has now produced three studio albums: Pictures Of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015), Skyscraper Souls (2017) and a live album Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018. We probably all know the rise to fame of Geoff Downes since Video Killed The Radio Star back in 1979. But what of British singer-songwriter-pianist Chris Braide? Well, he has recently returned to the UK after many years based in California. A film score writer and publisher, he’s worked closely with artists including Sia, Lana Del Rey, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears and Marc Almond.

We’ve Marc Almond to thank for this album. Well I never. His encouragement of Braide unblocked that writer’s block it seems. In Braide’s words: “Somehow it was hard to muster any enthusiasm for it. We had all been so upbeat at the recent shows and now here we were in a collective, creative void. It’s odd the way inspiration strikes though and it never ceases to delight and surprise me when the muse comes to play and it can happen at any time and without warning.…. I opened up a folder of new DBA ideas Geoff (Downes) had sent to me a while back and which I’d listened to briefly and had made a note to do something with them at a later date. I can’t say why it happened, but one day in the studio as I listened to the bits and pieces of ideas suddenly the songs started tumbling out as if by magic. I’m not exaggerating or being melodramatic. These new songs sounded like personal reflections; they just wrote themselves. It was so easy, so enjoyable and so meant to be. Like a gift.”

Downes adds: “It was so great to witness Chris’s creativity making my fundamental ideas come alive. He took the bare bones of melodies, harmonies and textures I sent him, and somehow crafted these into something way beyond my expectations or imagination. ‘Love Among The Ruins’ is one of the many examples on the album of his rare genius at work.” Speaking of which, for a taste of what is to come after February 2021, Love Among The Ruins, is out now – watch the video here: https://youtu.be/vNrrQo5-L0Q

Halcyon Hymns also features contributions by the aforementioned Marc Almond (ex-Soft Cell) and David Longdon (Big Big Train). But it is the efforts of the two named individuals that make up the band which are most impressive. In short the album is gorgeous. Lush, somehow reminiscent of early pastoral Genesis with the occasional essence of acoustic David Gilmour, tiniest bit of Open Your Eyes era Yes, essence of Kate Bush (the lengthy storytelling of “Rememberance”), and some might even get a bit of Lindisfarne/Alan Hull in “She’ll be riding horses”/”Today” – oh and yes even a bit of BBT. I was recently reading an article about an old fave of mine in years gone past that I lost track of after the ’80’s – Barclay James Harvest. I always enjoyed their presentation, melodic content, and ability to be epic whether in lengthy or concise mode. Fans of BJH could do worse than consider DBS worthy successors with this release.

Anyway, I looked back to my December 2019 review of their live work, and what I wrote then is equally applicable now: the melodies and harmonies are delicious, the arrangements clever and inspiring….intelligent pop sensibilities orchestrated with subtle nuances, progressive flourishes and epic touches. And yes, it’s a coherent and cohesive album, a fulsome, 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 for the CD/DVD package also includes video footage of legendary artist Roger Dean’s painting sessions as he creates the album cover artwork for Halcyon Days together with lyric videos for three tracks from the album.

Gorgeously wholesome, retro yet timeless.

DBA, Downes Braide Association, photographed in Sussex, UK (pre-social distancing, presumably….)


Halcyon Hymns track listing:

Disc 1

01. Love Among The Ruins

02. King Of the Sunset

03. Your Heart Will Find The Way

04. Holding The Heavens

05. Beachcombers

06. Warm Summer Sun

07. Today

08. Hymn To Darkness

09. She’ll Be Riding Horses

10. Late Summer

11. Remembrance

12. Epilogue

Disc 2: DVD

01. Roger Dean Painting Sessions

02. Love Among The Ruins

03. Your Heart Will Find A Way

04. Today

To order Halcyon Hymns:

CD/DVD https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-cd-dvd-edition/

2LP White Vinyl:  https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-limited-edition-2lp-white-vinyl/ 

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