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Steve Hughes - 'Once We Were (Part Two)' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/19/fb/c2/Steve-Hughes-Once-We-Were-Part-Two-95-1518122746.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 08, 2018    
 
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Hughes may have been the drummer in The Enid and Big Big Train, but he's no slouch on bass, guitar, synths, programming, harmonica and he has a decent voice too.

Back in Issue #76*, I reviewed the first part of multi-instrumentalist Steve Hughes' opus and did so with certain reservations, particularly regarding the epic track 'The Summer Soldier' which had florid and rather challenging sections that left me perplexed.

I am pleased to say that there's nothing quite as difficult to contend with on this, the follow-up release. As one would expect, as both albums were conceived and recorded at the same time, the music generally inhabits the Neo-Prog genre in the vein of Jadis crossed with the more eclectic sensibilities of Frost*.

Hughes may have been the drummer in The Enid and Big Big Train, but he's no slouch on bass, guitar, synths, programming, harmonica and he has a decent voice too. Richie Philips provides some nice, subtle saxophone, while Dec Burke delivers a fine guitar solo on 'They Promise Everything' and Maciej Zolnowski produces some delightful violin on two tracks. Female vocals are provided by Katja Piel and Angie Hughes, who one assumes is Steve's wife.

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'The Game' is a gentle start with a fine piano refrain and Hughes' delicate vocal delivery; unusually I even like the sax work. The vocal arrangement is subtle and very pleasing, as is the guitar solo. The cleverly titled 'Life's A Glitch' is vibrant in a Jadis/Frost* crossover style while short instrumental piece 'Propaganda: Part Two' has an Oriental feel.

'...Everything' is based on another piano motif that's supplemented by programmed synths and a guitar solo before it erupts into a Frost*-like barrage of guitar and a twinkling synth solo. 'There's Still Hope' is a curious track that starts with an incessant Organ refrain and spoken lyrics before it develops into a kind of New Romantic style phase. When the full vocal part arrives it's very pleasant. 'She's' is definitely a game of two halves, mellow and intense, while the album's centrepiece and highlight is the mostly instrumental 'Clouds' where Hughes spreads his considerable wings; it builds with instruments joining gradually. Clocking in at twelve minutes, it allows Hughes to demonstrate his prowess with a range of instruments, staying just the right side of over-indulgent and remaining tuneful throughout.

The Poppy 'Spider On The Ceiling' is set alongside some urgent guitar playing that catches you off guard on first listen. The album closes with the mellow 'One Sweet Word'.

Gary Marshall

(* of Fireworks Magazine)

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