This Winter Machine – The Clockwork Man (2023)

 

I concluded my review of the last album by the band with the strange name (Kites, 2021) surrounding singer Al Winter, with the conclusion that it was a good album but that I expected more from the next album.

I had particular trouble with the guitar work and the quality of the recording, which meant that Al's voice didn't come out well. The big question for the new album The Clockwork Man is whether these things have changed for the better. Clear answer YES!

The rhythm section consisting of Dave Close on bass and Alen Wilson is still present but sounds tighter than before and that forms a great basis for the spicy neo-prog of the Brits.

We are dealing with a real concept album. The Clockwork Man is one of the clones created by mankind to do work that they are no longer willing and able to do themselves. Of course, they are inferior and are not supposed to mingle with normal people. Well then you already know, this one does and of course a forbidden love arises with a real woman. As a listener, you have to experience whether this ends well because you really have to listen to this album as a whole because it is more than worth it.

My problems with the guitar work have been solved by the addition of a new, and much better, guitarist to the band, John Cook. There is also a regular keyboard player now and this Leigh Perkins completes the picture and provides a real group feeling.

Opener The River has been available on you tube for a while. Admittedly only part I, but that was enough to foresee that we could expect a beautiful album. Part II has been added and so we get a spicy neo-prog song with all the trimmings of more than eleven minutes in which Cook immediately shows that he can play beautiful solos and the band really rocks. In part II, Ade Fisher (StuckFish) plays a very relaxed guitar solo on a bed of floating keys, wonderful.

Solitude, Silence and Steam is a continuation of a very high level and again offers more than eight minutes of delicious neo-prog with a sharp edge in which again the varied and very good guitar playing of Cook stands out. Where I wasn't so enthusiastic about the recording quality of Kites, I can't help but notice that The Clockwork Man sounds much better and Al Winter's voice is one of the better ones in the genre and you can really hear that now.

The short atmospheric interlude Final Goodbye is followed by the pretty solid song Change, sung by Andre Saint, and the melody in the chorus is so catchy that it invites you to sing along, or in my case roar. The instrumental Reflections does exactly what it's supposed to do, it shows how good the new men are. Perkins is allowed to solo and Cook takes it a step further. The track is perfectly situated in the midst of the storyline.

Nothing last forever starts as a somewhat sweet ballad but soon turns out to be a varied song with lovely picking on guitar and a beautiful vocal line to return to the relaxed feeling towards the end. I am very pleased with the guitar solo, again.

The Light is a sensitive song with only piano and keys supporting Winter's fine voice and the swelling keys are recorded to create a wall-to-wall sound. I listen a lot with headphones and then this comes in so wonderfully.

The last song on the previous album was title track Kites and this for me lacked the impact that a final song should have. Hole in the Sky is a smashing closing track with great solos from Cook and a nice bombastic finale. So this album ends on a high.

Obviously, for me, The Clockwork Man is not a step but a leap forward. In this already not too bad year, there is still room for a top album and This Winter Machine has taken care of that. Don't sell yourself short and give this album a chance.

A special mention should be made of the amazing cover by none other than Ed Unitsky, this might just be the most beautiful of the year. A total package that you can't ignore. Well, time to end this review, I'm going to listen again.

 

Music 90

Cover 94