This review first appeared on the DPRP website in 2012, and is reproduced ahead of recently announced new music by Jason.
Tracklist: Speak (12:19), …And I Awaken (11:31), Hide And Seek (16:31), The Face Behind The Eyes (13:35), Go Or Go Ahead (6:43)
2012 has been a fantastic year for progressive rock music, and American prog in particular is in especially good health, with recent releases by Discipline, Glass Hammer, Echolyn and Izz. Fans of the latter should definitely take note of this new release by I And Thou – a band project formed by Jason Hart, keyboardist with Renaissance. More of the reasons for that in a moment…
Jason, as you might expect, plays all the keyboards but he also takes on lead vocal duties. He plays a ton of other stuff too: percussion, glockenspiel, trumpet, guitar and sound effects. Suffice to say, then, he’s an extremely talented lad. His vocals are a revelation, perfectly suited to the pastoral, symphonic prog on offer and his keyboard playing, apart from being fantastic, is highly reminiscent of Tony Banks.
As if this wasn’t enough, he’s brought in a few friends from Izz as guest players. John Galgano plays bass, Paul Bremner plays guitar and Laura Meade adds backing vocals. Most of the guitar work is handled by Jack Petruzzelli (Patti Smith) and Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright) plays drums. The third track, face behind the eyes features Keren Ann and a certain Mr Hogarth appears on the bonus track, a cover of Rufus Wainwright’s Go Or Go Ahead.
Musically this is a melodic, symphonic prog fan’s dream, with four epic pieces in addition to the cover tune. Think Genesis circa Wind And Wuthering or A Trick Of The Tail and you won’t go far wrong. There’s a strong Izz influence too, as you might imagine and all in all this is up there with the best of the year for me. In addition to the Izz-inspired elements here we’ve got a tranquil, soaring beauty to the music, very pastoral, very symphonic, very English. It’s beautifully produced too (by Jason Hart) achieving sonic peaks through a gradual build up, and layering, of instrumentation and not just by turning up the volume to 11.
Title track speak kicks things off, and is typical of what is to come, with haunting piano over which Hart’s fragile vocals are laid. Keyboard and guitar become gently intertwined before percussive elements build and typically Banksian keyboard sounds give a distinctive, One For The Vine vibe to the tune before a harder-edged swirling synth pattern takes over. The layering of instrumentation begins from this point, propelling the melodic elements ever forward to the inevitable, perfectly paced climax and denouement. I’d go so far to say that this is better than anything Genesis have done since And Then There Were Three.
Paul Bremner lays down some guitar solos in Hide And Seek and (personal favourite) The Face Behind The Eyes that are, in my humble opinion, as good as anything he’s done with Izz.
All four long pieces dovetail perfectly, hewn from the same cloth but each adding different rhythmic elements, melodies and textures. Overall they give the impression of comprising four sections of one longer suite before the Rufus Wainwright cover go or go ahead featuring Steve Hogarth on vocals. H is on top form, and the song, which I wasn’t familiar with, is quite simply, beautiful.
Now I’ve seen the album described elsewhere as ‘beautiful’ and you know what? They were right. Not only that, but the cover art, by Annie Haslam is perfectly suited to the material and overall it’s a lovely package. No lyrics, however, but that’s a minor irritation when the quality of the disc contained within is so strong.
Fans of Genesis, Izz or Hogarth are going to be in seventh heaven. And for me? Well, yet another American prog CD has made it into my top ten (it’s too good a year to just have a top 5). It truly is a great time to be a fan of progressive rock music, don’t you think?