Don’t assume that Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost is all tin whistles and dulcimers
Not All Those Who Wander are Lost
14 tracks / 67:23
To paraphrase Zappa, “this movie for your ears was produced and directed by Dave Brons.” I borrow that turn of phrase because the experience of listening to Brons’ epic musical retelling of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books is very much an aural/cinematic venture into the magical realms of Middle Earth and beyond. The first five tracks, in fact, start before the beginning, in the elemental soup of creation (and re-creation) itself. Darkness and light, good and evil, despair, hope and the first hopeful glimpse of the Undying Lands represent the massive scope of the guitarist/composer’s musical interpretation of Tolkien’s multi-layered adventure-parable, realized in a Celtic/prog/rock format.
Starting and ending with the sound of a one-hundred voice choir (real voices – not a synthesized wash, thank you) the album forms a kind of thematic loop, beginning with eternity past (“The Song of Illuvatar”) and ending with eternity forward in view (“White Shores and Swift Sunrise”). The project is not overtly evangelical in nature – there are no real lyrics, only portions of narration – but like Tolkien’s work, is full of allusions and parabolic material that will resonate with anyone of a Christian spirituality or a Biblical frame of reference. The very first words of narration are “In the beginning.” Do the math.
You don’t need to be a Christian or a Tolkien reader to enjoy Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (although it helps) – you just need to appreciate a deep Celtic/prog musical experience. Brons is surrounded on this ‘solo’ project by excellent musicians; John Biglands: Drums and cymbals, acoustic guitar (track 11), Daniel Day: Bass, low whistle, and classical guitar (Track 5), Mark Swift: Piano and organ are the core group, aided by ‘the wizard of Prog’ himself, Dave Bainbridge, who not only provided additional keyboards and guitars, but co-produced the project along with Brons. Sally Minnear contributed ethereal vocals and elven narration, Catherine Ashcroft played the all-important Uilleann pipes, low and Tin Whistles, Jane Bryan added flute and piccolo and Maria Mullen and the Great Yorkshire Chorus provided heavenly vocal textures. Ian Brons played cello, Stephen Bradnum played a variety of brass instruments along with John Dey and John Clay, David Hogan on Clarinet and Soprano Sax, and the mighty Frank van Essen contributed violin and violas. Jaiden Vai Brons and Kai Rohan Brons were on vocals and “Frodo’s narration,” respectively. ‘Red’ Rich Davenport provided Gandalf’s narration with all of the gravitas of Ian McKellen himself.
Don’t assume that Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost is all tin whistles and dulcimers – this is still an album in the rock genre. Dave Brons is a world-class guitar player who can shred with the best of them (check out “Into The Perilous Realm,” “The Shire: a Long Expected Party” or “Minas Morgul”), and there are crunchy, hard-hitting guitar and drum attacks in “EA” and “The Riders of Rohan,” as well as various high-impact moments throughout the saga. The total work – and you should definitely carve out time to listen to it as a whole – is a multi-layered, emotional work that expresses many moods in a variety of musical contexts, from orchestral, to solo piano, to full-gallop prog/rock. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t ever get funky – but neither did Tolkien.
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost is a movie for your ears – but don’t forget to bring your heart and soul. This is a wonderfully produced labor of love that deserves a special place in your music library. Like in those wonderful books, you’ll get more out of Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost each time you listen.
If you’re a fan of Celtic rock, prog, or just of great guitar playing, this is for you. If you’re into Lord of the Rings, you should also look into this project. Now, if you’re into all of those things, why are you just sitting there reading this? Time to google. Go to Bandcamp. Better yet, go to Dave’s webpage – it’s at the top of this review. Order Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost and let the quest begin!
4 ½ tocks
For some epic concert photography by the writer of this review, visit:
Tell ‘em Frodo sent you….