(27 November 2003) When Troy Donockley originally contacted Musical Discoveries to ask if we would like to review his latest album The Pursuit Of Illusion (Lanternmusic Ltd (UK) LNTNCD1, 2003), we jumped at the chance. Troy is, of course, one of the world's premier multi-instrumentalists, having won the award from The Classic Rock Society in this category previously. Although still fully engaged with Iona, this is his second solo project. We met Troy in 1997 (review), again in 2002 (review) and continue to follow his work. He has contributed to the recordings by other artists including Maddy Prior, Joanne Hogg (review) and Mostly Autumn (review) to name a few of those reviewed previously at Musical Discoveries.
Troy suggested that we listen to the album initially in a quiet room with a glass (or bottle) of burgundy (or maybe merlot). After a few listens, it's clear why. This is not an album to be listened to in the car. Regardless of where or how the album is enjoyed, it is certain to delight enthusiasts of Celtic- or progressively-styled instrumental projects. That two (three really) of the songs include the vocal work by the stunning Joanne Hogg will serve as a special bonus for many as well.
The album was a massive project for Troy and required him to travel to points far and wide for recording and mixdown. The story as told to CRS Rock Society editor Martin Hudson in a recent interview involved transporting his studio gear to the various locations around Englandto record the material. Troy ventured to the USA to work with longtime fans that offerred state of the art mixing facilities that would do this material justice. Others allegedly hope to apply future lottery proceeds to stage the project live!
Pursuit Of Illusion is indeed primarily an instrumental album with several of the tracks having enormous soundtrack quality in their sound. In addition to Joanne Hogg's vocal contributions, Troy was also ably assisted by Iona members past and present including Terl Bryant (drums, percussion) and Nigg Beggs (chapman stick).
A variety of other guests contributed strings and woodwinds while the York Cantores provide choir parts to several of the tracks.
We especially appreciated the Celtic touches across the album in strings, percussion and woodwinds and made note of the tremendous whistle melodies that Troy is long known for. The choir parts are equally lovely and work perfectly in Troy's compositions. Troy's own vocal work is equally delightful; it in fact joins oboe, choir and organ in the thematic opening number "Conscious."
Joanne Hogg's lead vocal in the standout title track is positively and completely awe-inspiring and is indeed a tremendous contribution. Yes, we did play it over and over. Jo's joint vocalise with Troy in "Floating World" perfectly blends with the rich and broad spectrum of instrumentals within the number. And her soaring lead in the short song "Fragment" atop the textures of the York Cantores is just tremendous. Her voice drifts in and out of the arrangement as this rich vocal number develops.
The album concludes with the epic second part of "The Colour of the Door," a multi-dimensional number that combines rich and involved tempo shifting instrumental arrangements with various vocal elements. Troy plays Uillean pipes, low whistles, tin whistles, guitars, bouzouki and keyboards as well. Neil Drinkwater's dramatic piano part, joined to Troy's Celtic winds and Terl's percussion in one of the expansive bridges are all most notable. The Emperor String Quartet and York Cantores Choir--especially the soprano during the concluding segment--contribute additional textures to this tremendous piece.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Troy's Pursuit Of Illusion from amazon.co.uk here. While significantly more instrumental than his work with Iona and Joanne Hogg, his second solo project is a tremendous album.