Long Earth Reviews
great review from Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson
Once Around The Sun is the title of the second release by Long Earth, and is the follow-up to the debut, The Source, in 2017. At first glance, a person might think that this is a new young band to the prog scene, but that would only be partially correct. Long Earth is a new band, but these guys have been around the scene for a good number of years. (I’m not sure I should say exactly how long.) The band comprises 5 members, Gordon Mackie (bass), Ken Weir (drums), Mike Baxter (keyboards), Renaldo McKim (guitar) with Martin Haggerty (vocals since 2018) replacing Neil Mackie (vocal and guitar on the debut) and have known each other from different bands over the years. Three were in Abel Ganz, two were in Identity Crisis and Mike, Ken, Gordon, Renaldo and Hew Montgomery (Abel Ganz/Grand Tour, as well as being the motivating factor of Long Earth, and co-producing both releases) all played at the same Glasgow festival in the ’80s, albeit with different bands.
To sum up, Long Earth is a new band, but there is a wealth of musical experience in the band. The debut, The Source, was eagerly awaited by the crowds of prog followers that knew of Long Earth and had seen them live, and it was very well received upon release. The follow-up, Once Around The Sun has consolidated Long Earth as being a leading light in the modern prog community.
Once Around The Sun, is a 6 track album clocking in at just under 67 minutes (66:55), with track 3, “Man In The Mirror,” the shortest track at 4:16 minutes and the final and title track, the longest with a running time of 33:06 minutes. This track is also split into 4 parts, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
The opening track, “We Own Tomorrow” (8:06), starts by generating a little hook and a superb bass riff by Gordon, then into a soaring keyboard passage. New vocalist since 2018, Martin Haggerty, has a powerful voice and the overall effect is of excellent prog music which the listener becomes very quickly comfortable with. Recurring little hooks and Martin’s voice takes the song on with the return of that superb bass riff from Gordon around 5:15 minutes and a chance for Renaldo to show his superb guitar skills from 5:50 minutes and to then escort the track to the end of it’s running time. A wonderful start to a stunning album and the listener is eager to hear more.
The epic finale to the album, the 33:06 minute “Once Around The Sun” is split into four parts, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The four seasons cover a year, hence the album title, as it is the time taken for the Earth to orbit the sun. The storyline mirrors the seasons as it tells the tale of a romance encompassing the hope and joy of the fledgling relationship in spring, the building of the relationship in summer, the start of doubts in autumn, and finally the ending of the relationship in winter. The lyrics convey the journey excellently and the very expressive vocals supplied by Martin, together with the sympathetic music, carry the story line majestically.
Musically, the suite goes through phases with spring being represented by an acoustic start and a very simple melody. Summer has excellent keyboard passages underpinning the vocal as the story unwinds. As summer draws to an end, the music becomes very atmospheric and melancholic as it weaves to an ending. Autumn begins with an orchestral feel before again echoing the melancholic section 2, which fits the lyrical content beautifully. The final section, winter, commences with a superb melodic opening with some excellent strings adding to the atmosphere. There is a repeated series of verses, guitar passages and keyboards plus string sections prior to Martin taking the storyline to its inevitable conclusion. Renaldo has a beautiful repeating guitar passage just before Martin brings the ending with the lyrics, “Once around the sun, but no further on. Once around the sun and our race is run.”
A stunning ending to a superb album where all the musicians have excelled. Mike with majestic keyboards, Gordon with those excellent bass runs, Ken keeping everything firmly anchored on drums, Renaldo with some exquisite guitar work and finally, Martin providing the evocative, emotive vocals.
All in all, this is a stunning follow-up to the debut, showing how the band has evolved into an excellent unit. Don’t delay, just go and get a copy of Once Around The Sun and sample what is a masterpiece of modern prog with huge leanings to the “old style,” played by musicians who have dreamed the dream and have now delivered the dream. The dream has a name, and the name is Once Around The Sun.
Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson – Prog Rock Music Talk Staff
April 28, 2020
Fantastic review from Buzz Elliott of Progwatch
REVIEW TIME – Our good friend Buzz Elliott from Hammerhead has been hitting the keyboard (in a non-violent way) to share his rather extensive thoughts with us on the new Long Earth album – “Once Around The Sun”. Let’s check out what he has to say…….
“In recent years I have seen the band Long Earth live a few times up in Glasgow & I always enjoy their performances, so I was really looking forward to hearing the full album; ‘Once around the Sun’ having already heard some of the songs at their gigs.
This is their second album & the band is comprised of a selection of seasoned musicians who have past connections with some of the finest prog’ bands currently on the Scottish music scene; Abel Ganz, Grand Tour Music & Comedy Of Errors. For those of you who are not familiar with these band names, do yourself a favour and check them out as the prog scene over the Scottish border over recent years has been bubbling with excitement and creativity, and continues to do so. I’m aware from going to all the ‘Prog before Christmas’ gigs over the last few years that respect is also due to Hew Montgomery who, although is not an active member of Long Earth, he is a great source of inspiration to them, and the whole prog’ scene up in Scotland from what I have seen.
Long Earth’s new(ish) singer Martin Haggarty has quite a unique & distinctive voice which helps to give the band a sound that is very identifiable, he has a wide vocal capacity (including falsetto on one of the songs), but for quite a few of the songs on this album Martin chooses to stick in the mid range, which actually suits the story telling aspect of the songs, I believe that he is mainly responsible for most of the lyrics which are interesting & often thought provoking throughout the album. Great lyrics aren’t always essential, but they definitely help and give the music more credibility.
Musically, I found this album to be very melodic & accessible, the musicianship is just as exiting on record as it was live. Sometimes I see a band live and love what they do enough to buy their CD, only to find that the album sounds sterile & weak compared to the live performance, but that is definitely not the case here, the musicians shine throughout & the production work also sounds excellent, it is well mixed and mastered so that you can hear everything crystal clear and nicely balanced.
The album ‘Once around the Sun’ kicks off in musically uplifting mood, which is initially at odds with the dystopian lyrics that follow on ‘We own tomorrow’, the song immediately demonstrates the strength of the musicians involved, brilliant keyboard & synth’ riffs from Mike Baxter, & the rhythm section of the band (Gordon Mackie on bass & Ken Weir on drums) are locked together & driving things along solidly, whilst guitarist Renaldo McKim provides some exemplary guitar work. I remember watching Renaldo live (up close & personal), & he didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the whole performance, liberally playing just what each song requires, & then excelling when it comes to any solo parts, his use of phyrigian scales towards the end of this song over a pulsating staccato bass riff helps to give it the required atmosphere, also great vocals & interesting lyrics from Martin Haggarty help to complete the ingredients for this excellent opening song. (Editor: Buzz, us “non-musicians” couldn’t understand a word of that last sentence !! LOL)
Track two ‘My suit of armour’ resonates with me immediately as lyrically it tells of the things we go through in life, some good, some not so good, & some tragic, & how we subsequently have to find a way to cope & carry on with the harshness that life can sometimes throw at us. It is a powerful heartfelt ballad, full of emotion & executed perfectly, just as it was live when I saw the band twice last year, anyone who knows me well enough, will know that through personal tragedy I have had the year from Hell !!! Music can be a very powerful thing & this song really got to me today, I think maybe I need wear two suits of armour next time I listen to this one!
Next up is ‘A guy from down the road’, which I recall was one of the most memorable songs performed live at the ‘Hug & Pint’ & also the ‘Drygate Brewery’ (PBX4) late last year in Glasgow, it’s a very strong song & really stood out in their live set due to singer Martin getting into character by donning a dark hoodie pulled down to disguise his face whilst singing the menacing song, it tells of the thoughts & actions of a serial killer, & it is driven along by a relentless catchy riff on the Hammond which comes & goes throughout the song, the protagonist of the story goes on to describe his actions in explicit detail, isn’t it surprising how inspiration for songs and lyrics can come from the strangest of sources, anything is possible. Musically, the song makes good use of minor & major keys to set the mood of the various sections of the 12 minutes duration, I am left wondering about the sordid secrets of the ‘normal’ people just down the road from where I live, and in turn, they are probably wondering about the weird hippie in a cannabis bandana who lives at the top of the hill!
….just then, my wife Fiona came in and thought that I was listening to Depeche Mode, considering the style of the music on this one, & the dark subject matter coupled with Martin’s deadpan baritone vocal style for this particular song, I can understand what she means.
The next two songs; ‘What about love’ & ‘The man in the mirror’ are possibly the least ‘proggy’ tracks on the album, although both are still worthy of their inclusion, and feature some nice melodies and nimble keyboard work from Mike Baxter whose playing and choice of sounds throughout the whole album is one of the reasons why the band sound so good, Renaldo’s guitar work on ‘The man in the mirror’ sounds magical & the overall arrangement of the song gives it a mystical & mysterious vibe.
And so onwards to the final & title track ‘Once around the Sun’, which ironically for a Scottish band, has the acronym O.A.T.S ! Hehhehee, thankfully it isn’t about porridge !!!
It is a concept suite consisting of four segments, each one representing one of the four seasons here on Earth, back to back the suite totals 33 minutes, & each individual segment is musically in harmony with the season that it represents, but lyrically Martin has created a secondary underlying concept that speaks of the emotions felt during the various stages of a human relationship that blossoms, but eventually breaks down over the course of a year – what can I say?? It is a real triumph & the boys should be really proud of this one, this extended musical journey goes through so many musical styles and passages that it never once gets boring, & it is the perfect way to end an excellent album, once again; this all demonstrates that with passion and conviction it is still possible to create some outstanding & majestic progressive rock music in modern times. We all often go back to listen to many classic albums of prog’s glorious past by bands such as; Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, etc. and in a similar way I am left wanting to hear this album again, and again, which is more than I can say for some albums in the modern prog World, sometimes bands can be technically brilliant, but simply don’t contain the melodies & hooks, or that certain something you can’t quite put your finger on, that leave you wanting to hear it again.
‘Once around the Sun’ is rich in melody and full of great songs, therefore it is definitely an album that I will return to regularly, in fact it’s going straight into my car stereo for the next few weeks. I loved it, well done guys, and I really look forward to seeing you live & meeting you again after the apocalypse!
I rate the album 8.5/10 “
Utterly delighted by this superb review from Rob Fisher of The Progressive Aspect.
When trying to talk about a piece of music it can be frustrating knowing how, or even where, to start. Occasionally, having spent time with a particular release, you realise it’s perhaps not as good as the initial cursory listen led you to believe. Unpacking the ‘why’ of that sense of disappointment can be difficult. Other time, however, a recording can be so beautifully put together, the beguiling experience it weaves for you then takes time and patience to slowly pick apart, understand and appreciate all the different elements involved.
Many a time I have sat down to start writing about Once Around the Sun, the second studio album from Scottish band Long Earth, only to find myself still twiddling my thumbs hours later and reaching for the play button for ‘just one more listen’ as I try to figure out where to start. It turns out the start – and also the end – is actually the easy bit: it’s bloody brilliant. After that, frankly, there’s not much more that needs to be said – apart from the inadequacy for all those asking: Why? How? You can’t leave it at that. For god’s sake, tell us more!
Mmmm. So where should I begin? Perhaps, maybe, just one more listen!
In the end, the only thing I can do is tell you the journey of my gradual captivation with this seductively magnificent album. You see, the place to start is with the simplest and most natural of reactions: it feels right – it feels good, with an immediacy and presence that only music can. Everything about it resonates, tingles with an embracing, enfolding and organic elegance that effortlessly sweeps you along on a musical journey where you happily lose yourself among the bubbling melodic currents and harmonic eddies.
Unpacking this further, I would draw your attention, first, to the remarkably uncanny and deeply perceptive way it captures and then gently amplifies the shifting moods of the world in which we presently live. Perhaps this is why it feels so right: it is, without question, an album of and for its time. The poignant and at times almost painful lyrical resonance speaks with an all too world-weary wisdom, spiked with penetrating observations born of hard-won and long-suffering personal experience.
Listen, for example, to the touchingly deft nuances and the carefully well-chosen phrases scattered throughout what is my favourite track of the album, My Suit of Armour. The simplicity of the message is underscored by the use of incredibly shrewd turns of phrase. Life is a journey, but some journeys are longer, or more difficult, or more painful than others. We say “goodbye to those who love without condition”; we “bury fallen comrades and wipe our tears away”; “they say that what doesn’t kill you serves to make you stronger, I should be invincible by now”. So “I shed my skin, put on my suit of armour and battle on somehow”.
The arresting poetic force and lyrical finesse across the whole album is enthralling as well as deeply moving. But lyrics cannot exist in a vacuum, so I would draw attention, second, to the diversity and the depth of musical expression which permeates this recording. A sprightly and delightful creativity is at work in forming a musical cradle which never fails to bewitch and beguile.
The masterpiece of the album is the four tracks which together form what might be called the ‘Four Seasons Suite’, standing at around 33 minutes in duration. The genius at work here lies in the comparison it draws in the transition between seasons and the emergence, growth, decline and fall of a relationship. It all happens in the time it takes for the world to go once around the sun.
Superb musicianship translates each of the four stages into a thoroughly engrossing series of musical vignettes that are stunning in the exercise of instrumental virtuosity as well as the richly textured and riveting emotional experience they present. Summer, in particular, is almost perfect in its blend of lyrical poignancy, intense musical expressiveness and insightful performances.
I’ll finish where I started. Once Around the Sun is bloody brilliant. The lyrical and musical charms it offers are irresistible, enticing and certainly provocative. A fabulous second album which deserves hearty and lavish appreciation.
The latest excellent review from Velvet Thunder's Steve Pilkington
Well, here’s one which has justifiably elbowed its way to the top of my inbox after a little while! Appearing in March of this year, just as some other events were winding up to take hold (which is the most unfortunate of timing, one must say), it is well past time to address this situation, as an album of this quality cannot go uncelebrated. Long Earth are a band from Scotland, who have a convoluted ‘family tree’ with many branches connecting to the corresponding conifer of Scots proggers Abel Ganz. I won’t go into all of the links, as we could start playing ‘Six degrees of Scottish neo-prog’, but suffice it to say that there is class and pedigree throughout this outfit. Once Around The Sun is the band’s second album (following on from 2017’s The Source), but the first to feature vocalist Martin Haggerty, whose arrival in 2018 cemented the band’s identity in their own minds.
If you take the somewhat lazy and ‘catch-all’ tag of ‘neo-prog’ as your mental starting point, it won’t give you anything like a sense of the breadth of material here, but it will give you an idea in the right sonic ballpark. Opener We Own Tomorrow, across its eight minute duration, definitely lets you jump into the album from the neo diving board, as it shows off its ’80s-influenced tail feathers beautifully, driven along by Mike Baxter’s bed of keyboards and climaxing with a cracking instrumental section featuring Renaldo McKim’s guitar work. It’s a fine opener, managing not to sound dated despite wearing its ’80s influences proudly on its sleeve. It’s straight into more mellow territory, however, with the lovely ballad My Suit Of Armour, and its message about coping with the slings and arrows that life throws at all of us along the way. The line ‘They say what doesn’t kill you only serves to make you stronger / I should be invincible by now’ raises a wry smile, and the full band come in toward the end to lift things and provide a bit of a lighter-waving coda. The twelve-minute A Guy From Down The Road is something of an epic, with a propulsive momentum about it for much of its length before another great instrumental passage, with what sounds like a Hammond organ calling to mind a hint of classic Deep Purple throughout, while two short songs in the shape of the bright, summery What About Love and the more melodic and lush The Man In The Mirror (no, neither are those songs!) take us up to what one might call the conceptual main course of the album.
From this point on, the final half-hour is taken up by a four-part ‘suite’ of sorts, with each part being named after each of the four seasons of the year. The piece as a whole is Once Around The Sun, being the title track, and lyrically tells the tale of an ultimately doomed romance through its different stages, mirroring the seasons. Musically, the four movements also manage to evoke the seasons themselves in some very clever compositional work. Spring is carried along on a sprightly bed of acoustic guitar, with a little of a Barclay James Harvest feel, while Summer is far more electric, with almost langorous passages broken up by big neo-sounding interjections giving perfect contrast – it’s almost like the musical equivalent of a long, sunny day, with periods of lazy contemplation alternating with joyous activity. Toward the end of this part, the last days of summer are clearly heard creeping in with a melancholy feel, carrying directly over to the wistfully reflective Autumn, in which we sense the end approaching day by day. Winter, in all of its twelve-minute glory, had to provide a conclusion fitting to not only the piece, but the album as a whole, and it does this in spades – or should that be snow-shovels. Avoiding the temptation to continue down the autumnal path to a gloomy denouement, the piece is actually quite upbeat, musically evoking the joy of the season forcing its way in despite the cold and dark. You can almost see sledges going down hills and snowballs hitting their targets, while the lyric acknowledges the end of the relationship – we are left with a sense of the possibilities of new beginnings with another spring around the corner, and the album goes out on a definite high.
This is an extremely good modern prog album. It doesn’t shy away from its ’80s touchstones – and nor should it – but while acknowledging its roots it also manages the neat trick of sounding contemporary all at the same time. Keep an eye out for Long Earth – Don’t be surprised to see them in it for the Long Haul! Caledonian Prog is alive and well…
Here are a few excerpts from other reviews…..
“Once Around the Sun’ comprises nine tracks of lushly composed and executed progressive rock where every note has a place. The whole album is joyously created and contains a part of every member. It speaks of the wonder of fresh spring days, a hazy and never ending summer, the first leaves that fall on a beautiful autumn day and the joy and warmth to be had sat in front of a log fire with those you love.”
“All in all, this is a stunning follow-up to the debut, showing how the band has evolved into an excellent unit. Don’t delay, just go and get a copy of Once Around The Sun and sample what is a masterpiece of modern prog with huge leanings to the “old style,” played by musicians who have dreamed the dream and have now delivered the dream. The dream has a name, and the name is Once Around The Sun.”
“With the provenance flowing through the band, Long Earth were never going to produce anything but a great follow up to ‘The Source’ but in ‘Once Around The World’ everything seems to have clicked and we see a band nearing their creative zenith. Take my advice, go and listen to what may well be one of 2020’s subliminal releases.”
“A musically engaging and utterly enthralling album with gentle but insightful lyrics which make you sit up and take notice.”
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed the album.
The full reviews can be found on the Long Earth Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/longearth1/