Downes Braide Association – Skyscraper Souls (2017) review

DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION (DBA)

Skyscraper Souls (2017 – MAGICAL THINKER RECORDS – UK)

http://www.downesbraide.com/

Third full release by the ever talented duo Geoff Downes (Buggles, Asia, Yes) and Chris Braide (singer, songwirter, producer from UK who moved to Los Angeles and has worked with a long list of stars) with a very special guest list. Appearances by Andy Partridge (XTC), David Longdon (Big Big Train), Tim Bowness (No Man, solos), Kate Pierson (B52’s), Marc Almond, and for the first time a real rhythm section (DBS’s first and second releases are beat programmed) including Ash Soan on drums (Trevor Horn, Squeeze, Faithless, Del Amitri…)  and bassist Andy Hodge. This is the biggest change in sound.

While previous output had a mix of techno pop, Alan Parsons presence, and plenty of art rock, ‘Skyscraper Souls’ carries on that same chemistry with the addition of some progressive rock (YES). There is plenty of beautiful ballad and lush pop, but to my ears, this sounds like a more mature version of The Buggles, extending their range with more progressive touches and exploring the Alan Parsons world. A varied set of singers (mostly with Chris Braide, who often sounds like Colin Blunstone), even female backup vocals, forward moving rhythm, distinct keyboards, it’s all there.

I do have two complaints. One being that they waste Tim Bowness, using him on background vocals of all things (‘Lighthouse’). I could barely tell it was even him. The next slight problem is the one so called ‘progressive rock’ piece that is also the only extended piece (at 18:08), the title cut called ‘Skyscraper Souls’. As much as I hate to say it, this piece went on far too long for it’s own good. It developed nicely, and sounds fine, and at times it thrills, but the end section just does not know when to cut off. I listened several times but it still came close to nearly irritating me how they kept pausing, then bringing it back, then again and again. As if the song would never end. So other than those two things, I was extremely happy with the project. And as a bonus for all us collectors, Roger Dean did the art on this multi foldout digipak with booklet inside.

I enjoyed the guitars, mandolin, sleigh bells and backing vocals of Andy Partridge (who appeared on four tracks).  His performance on ‘Darker Times’ (track 8) will never leave your head. Well worth the money alone. ‘Finale’ (last track) has more Partridge guitar work which is a true gem. I found 98% of the entire album addictive, captivating, ear tingling, and memorable. Simply gorgeous compositions, well written, sweetly arranged, pristinely produced, and flawlessly performed. I’ll forgive the overextended cut, and the sad misuse of Tim Bowness, as only a critic would probably gripe about these things. RECOMMENDED.

Reviewed by Lee Henderson 12 – 30 – 2017

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