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Cathedral of Dreams
Artist:  Nick Fletcher
Label:  Open Sky / Voiceprint
Time:  15 Tracks / 60 mins
There are instrumental classical guitar albums that sound like wallpaper and there are instrumental classical guitar albums like this one: a varied and involving collection of tracks with an invigorating scent of uniqueness.
That’s not to say that Fletcher has no influences showing. He was originally inspired to play guitar through listening to players like Steve Hackett, Steve Howe and Jan Akkerman, and he developed his more classical side after hearing the work of Andres Segovia and Ralph Towner. If this disc reflects any particular influence, to these ears it must be Steve Hackett. Fletcher’s guitar tone and style here several times (including “Dark Waters: Tributaries” and particularly “Veil of Tears”) take me to Hackett’s live duo album, There Are Many Sides to the Night – only Fletcher’s sound is far crisper.
But this disc manages to hold a feel together while looking beyond rock guitarists and generic classical works. “Evensong” captures flights of more pastoral Gordon Giltrap; “Brazilia” is one that tips its hat to South America, “A Higher Path” has a cascading baroque structure, and there are several touches of jazz guitar in the mix.
Just when a normal disc might think of winding down, we get the four-part, 24-minute “Iberian Fantasy” suite. Over and around this improvised section, Dave Bainbridge has carefully orchestrated some restrained and complementary keyboard lines that suggest strings and organ. Andrea and Gabriel Alonso add flutes and a dash of percussion. This extra layer of sound takes the disc to another level, without diminishing the earlier tracks. “Appasionata,” its final part, has a simple, stirring theme, and is a true climax to the album.
Bainbridge and Fletcher met around 1980, where they played together in both an Iona prototype and a jazz fusion band until Fletcher realised that he should focus on solo Classical guitar. Their music appeared separately on the excellent charity disc Songs for Luca 2; but they re-united a couple of years ago on a collection of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty hymns, where they re-arranged the music with a Celtic twist.
Much of Fletcher’s music here is improvised, or polished from improvisation, but there is no aimless meandering. My guitar music collection includes a Julian Bream / John Williams collaboration that I have not played for years. This disc, by contrast, will surely get a regular workout.
Derek Walker


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