(28 July 2013) More music by Rob Reed is reviewed at Musical Discoveries than any other recording artist since our inception in 1996. Kompendium's Beneath The Waves (7 Stones Records/Tigermoth Productions (UK) TMRCD1012, 2012) is his most recent project and a multi-year masterwork. While the music has strong allusions to Rob's other work, the album plays and is packaged in a way most reminscent of the gatefolds we anxiously awaited from bands like Yes in the 1970s.
Beneath The Waves is a CD/DVD set packaged in an extremely well-finished seven-inch cardboard gatefold sleeve with an 18-page full color booklet complete with lyrics and lovely paintings by Geoff Taylor illustrating the story. A stunning album in every respect, it is as superb to hold as it is to hear. Don't buy the mp3s. Buy the physical album. The CD contains the twelve tracks that run over an hour. The DVD is chock full of bonus material including three surround mixes, three music videos and The Kompendium Sessions video.
The Kompendium album was written and produced by Rob Reed with lyrics by long term writing partner, Steve Reed. In addition to Rob Reed (piano, bass guitar), the lead vocalists Steve Balsamo and Angharad Brinn (soprano) are backed by instrumentalists that span a wide range of acclaimed talent including: Steve Hackett (nylon guitar); Gavin Harrison (drums); Francis Dunnery (guitar); Neil Taylor (guitar); Nick Beggs (chapman stick); B. J. Cole (pedal steel guitar); Mel Collins (saxophone); Jakko Jakszy (guitar); Troy Donockley (uillean pipes, whistles); Nick Barrett (guitar); and John Mitchell (guitar).
The album's lineup also includes Synergy Vocals--Micaela Haslam, Emer McParland, Joanna Forbes-L'Estrange--who provide additional female voices as well as Shan Cothi (solo soprano); Rhys Meirion (solo tenor); Barry Kerr (pipes, vocals); Chris Fry (nylon guitar); Hywel Maggs (guitar) and Christina Booth (backing vocals). Further arrangements are provided by The London Session Orchestra and even further vocals are by The English Chamber Choir.
Kompendium blends Celtic themes with progressive stylings. It is richly arranged both vocally and instrumentally. The largest vocal part is delivered by Steve Balsamo. Additional vocals support his lead parts at times. The album features female vocal parts by Angharad Brinn and the female backing singers.
The eight minute long opening track "Exordium" begins with a narration and, combining Celtic sounds with its additional rock arrangements, serves as a fabulous introduction to the album and both Angharad Brinn's and soprano Shan Cothi's first vocal appearances. "Lost" is led by Steve Balsamo who is backed by the Synergy Vocals and choir and vast instrumental arrangements and another appearance by Shan Cothi. Lead female vocalist Angharad Brinn delivers a stunning performance on the ballad "Lilly" telling the character's individual story with her crystalline voice. A music video of the track is can be seen and heard at YouTube.
The choir's first major part is in "The Mercy of the Sea" which continues to develop with vast instrumental excursions coupling Celtic with rock played by the album's many players yet never becoming overcooked. Reed's arrangements for epic-length "The Storm" harken Riverdance and Lord of the Dance themes combined at times with Yes-like guitar excursions and Magenta-style tubular bells. Steve Balsamo's and Angharad's lead vocal parts are superb. The English Chamber Choir and Synergy Voices add depth to the track.
Steve Balsamo delivers a powerful and emotional vocal performance on the rocking Celtic-tinged title track. Saxophone and chant arrangements provide a great addition to the sound. With fantastic Adiemus-style chant, "Sole Survivor," featuring Steve Balsamo is the one track on the album that is most closely arranged to Reed's Magenta work.
Steve Balsamo's evocative lead vocal in the ballad "Alone" is complemented by Celtic-style arrangements and the choir. Shan Gothi's powerful soprano vocal solo precedes the track's instrumental conclusion. "Il Tempo É Giunto" is a passionate orchestral and operatic number featuring Rhys Meirion's tenor lead sung alongside the Synergy Voices female choir and English Chamber choir.
The stunning progressive rock styled track "A Moment Of Clarity" brings many of the themes developed earlier in the album together in a ChimpanA style. It flows seamlessly into "One Small Step." Both tracks are tremendously delivered by Steve Balsamo. Angharad provides a stunning vocal part joining Steve in the concluding duet "Reunion." We especially appreciated the Magenta-styled instrumental crescendo and Adiemus-like choir contributions to this album standout.
Rob Reed and his Kompendium cast have delivered a great album and a tremendous masterwork. Reminiscent of the greatest albums we anxiously awaited in the 1970s,
Beneath The Waves is fabulous to see and even better to hear. This vast collection of musical artists have contributed to a most outstanding product. Bravo!