John Holden – Kintsugi (2022)
I've listened to all of John Holden's previous albums but to be honest they couldn't completely convince me. This was partly due to the fact that in my experience there was too much diversity of styles. It drifted from one genre to another. An advantage for some, but not for me. Again and again it strikes me that many fellow prog fans rate his music highly. So I bought the Kintsugi album anyway and I don't regret it.
The term Kintsugi is Japanese and it is the name for the repair of broken porcelain or earthenware by means of a technique that, somewhat irreverently, makes a whole again from the broken one by means of gold coloured cement. After this it looks beautiful again and the artwork is also beautiful with an image of a face repaired in Kintsugi way. It can also be a wonderful metaphor for restoring, for example, damaged souls, relationships and make them beautiful again.
A selection of renowned guest musicians provide a considerable quality of musical and vocal power. I won't state exactly who sings or plays in every song, but names like Peter Jones (again), Michel St.Pere, Dave Bainbridge, Joe Payne, Sally Minnear, Ian Hornal, Jean Pageau, Frank van Essen and others guarantee a lot of variety. That has a positive as well as negative effect on the whole. I will get back to that later.
The album opens with the long Achilles and that is a whirlwind start. What a beautiful song with everything my prog heart desires, great vocals, beautiful melodies, nice solos on keys and guitar. Keep it up I'd say. But then, Ringing the Changes, a no-brainer with a Celtic slant. Beautifully sung by Minnear but nothing for me, too little happens for me. The following Kintsugi is different again, Jones sings and it's a pretty friendly song with a beautiful solo by St.Pere at the end. Here and there a Japanese melody can be heard and that is again beautiful. Flying Train starts funny with the voice of fellow prog lover Boris Stalf who opens the song in German because it's about the Wuppertal Suspension Railway. A somewhat rippling song in which not too much happens but it sounds good.
By the way, if you want to know where Holden got his inspiration for the songs, you can read exactly how or where he got it in the booklet. A great idea, but perhaps too much information. No idea, I liked it
Then there are three songs that are nice to listen to, but for me they don't match the highlights of the album by far. Against the Tide in particular is a bit jazzy with some horns as well. A bit Steely Dan indeed, but that's not my favourite band . But then, the closing song Building Heaven. Enjoying pure prog for more than eleven minutes. Starting with an orchestral passage and slowly moving on to beautiful guitar work, both electric and acoustic. An alarm signals the transition to heavier artillery. The peace returns and the following melody is so beautiful again. Also the guitar solo is not missing and that is pure class. The clearly religious lyrics are forgiven and that is not something I easily do. Together with Achilles this would already be a wonderful basis for a top album. Throw in the title track and it would be fine by me.
So I am left with mixed feelings, and I recognize that from his previous albums. So that's probably my flaw. I can't stand too many styles within one album. Boring maybe, I know but it is like it is, a review is simply a personal opinion. The whole thing reminds me a bit of To the Far Away by Dave Bainbridge. (See albumreviews 2021) All in all, it's clear that Holden makes beautiful music and that part of it really appeals to me. For people who are less narrowminded I definitely recommend the album. I will certainly listen to Kintsugi more often, but the skip button will be used a few times. Sorry about that John.