Gavin O'Loghlen The Poet and the Priest

The Poet and the Priest ~ Gavin O'Loghlen

The Dutch Progressive Rock Page

- Review by GEOFF FEAKES

In my relatively short time with the DPRP I've reviewed albums from numerous countries including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK and the USA. Proof if need be that prog has a global appeal for sure. I have yet however to review a release from down under, which may or may not be an indication of Australia's contribution to the global prog network. That's until now that is when out of the blue two albums arrive together. Although musically quite unalike they do have a binding connection by way of musician, actor, stage director and all-round talented individual Gavin O'Loghlen.
Starting out in music playing the bagpipes at the tender age of 11, he received a degree in Drama at University and moved into music composition and performance for the theatre. This harnessed his multiple keyboard skills and progressive influences that included Genesis, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel. His current band Cotters Bequest is described as a progressive Celtic ensemble and Land Of The Vast Horizon is their third release to date. His solo album The Poet And The Priest on the other hand was written exactly twenty years ago and recorded two years later although never publicly released until now. That would account for the slightly retro sound, which despite the symphonic prog tag is a combination of 80's synth pop and early neo-prog with a hint of Fish style vocals from the same era.
I hope my comments so far haven't put you off because The Poet And The Priest is an excellent release by anyone's standards. In fact I've developed quite a soft spot for O'Loghlen's impassioned work possibly because it sounds quite unique from anything else around at the moment. I would suggest that the melodramatic vocal delivery is more as a result of his theatrical background rather than a direct influence by the former Marillion frontman. In that respect there are also similarities with French proggers Ange and early Genesis with Peter Gabriel upfront. Like Fish his lyrics have a nostalgic feel with references to childhood and the pains of growing up. And there are lots of words; the album is virtually wall to wall vocals. An autobiographical concept, it traces the lives of two boys with O'Loghlen appearing as 'the poet' of the title.
The CD inlay lists an extensive array of instruments all played by O'Loghlen essentially providing background colouring with keyboards generally and synths especially providing the focal point. The introductory Autumn '86 - The Descent is a good case in point. Opening with strident Hammond chords it continues at a stately pace with a gorgeous melody picked out by razor-sharp synth notes, piano, bass and acoustic guitar. Some wonderful choral effects with backing vocalist Margaret Smith standout against a string keys backdrop. The following Railway Nomads is also worthy of special mention. It opens with the same crashing organ chords but this is an altogether more up-tempo affair that feels like two songs in one. A Latin rhythm and passionate vocals grace the first part before a blaze of Wakeman style Minimoog announces one of the most infectious tunes I've heard in a while against a simple waltz like synth rhythm. O'Loghlen's theatrical vocal delivery is at its most expressive here.
Following the highs of the two opening tracks, the bittersweet Lovers is probably my favourite song on the album. The vocals are far more restrained this time round and reminiscent of The Moody Blues and Steve Hackett in his mellower moments. In addition to lyrical electric guitar it features beautiful backing vocals by Margaret Smith and Anne Dormer. From here on the mood of the album intensifies ranging from the slow burning Jesters which builds in power in Mostly Autumn fashion, to the drama of the The Open Road with its driving urgency. The Treadmill Part I and Part Ii are the albums darkest tracks sharing the same edgy melody whilst on The Open Road Revisited O'Loghlen sounds uncannily like a completely different singer. The shorter pieces The Pit, The Poet And The Priest all make good use of rich synth orchestrations.
As 'the poet' reflects upon life's disappointments the aptly titled The Key provides the albums turning point. Starting in melancholic mood with church organ, the song gains in confidence with synth providing a rousing military march. The upbeat tone continues with the stirring Mellotron of the almost psychedelic Like Daedalus Ascending and the optimistic The New Dawn which includes the albums lengthiest instrumental section featuring soaring synth and string effects. The sparkling Walking Shadows and the even better Bird Of Life contain two of the brightest and catchiest melodies you'll likely to hear all year leaving the anthemic Spring '87 - The Dance to provide a triumphant and uplifting conclusion.
On the Cotters Bequest release, as with his solo album, Gavin O'Loghlen is responsible for all compositions, arrangements, production and engineering. Again he is credited with a ridiculously long list of instruments including guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, pipes and whistles but this time he is joined by six gifted musicians with a distinct change in musical style. Land Of The Vast Horizon is described as "A Celtic history of South Australia" with the band combining traditional and contemporary instrumentation to provide a rootsy folk sound with a progressive edge. It tells of the early Australian settlers interwoven with the arrival of O'Loghlen's family from Ireland in 1854 and their settlement in the new continent.
Opening appropriately with waves breaking on a shore Port Adelaide sets the scene with a memorable bodhran and pipes led reel that morphs into a strident song with superb instrumental interplay and dramatic vocals. A bombastic, proggy section with heavy percussion, uilleann pipes and soaring female vocals relaxes for a heavenly ending with angelic voices. An excellent start to an album where it has to be said the quality level never falters. Songs like The Peramangk, Kapunda, The Burra and Sevenhill all feature memorable melodies with stunning choral harmonies from O'Loghlen, Anne Dormer (who also featured on The Poet And The Priest) and female lead Angelee Theodoros. In contrast Baker's Flat is a variation on the opening reel whilst the instrumentals Stephenston and Pichi Richi are graced with infectious tunes and staggering highland pipes and whistles playing from O'Loghlen and the uilleann pipes of Jack Brennan.
Following the rich instrumental interplay of Port Augusta, with accordion by Harry Theodoros and lead guitar from Jim Petkoff, the story reaches a sad moment with the delicate keys led Gulnare. This is beautifully conveyed by a poignant vocal duet supported by the lyrical violin of Stephanie Graebar. A bright synth break adds a contemporary edge to Knockatuna Quorn whilst the symphonic keys of Nantabra Hut are joined by indigenes percussion and the authentic sound of the dijeridu by Robert Shaw. The tranquil Udenyaka concludes the story with chiming acoustic guitar, a hypnotic piano motif and sumptuous Clannad style vocalising by Angelee Theodoros and O'Loghlen.
These releases display two very distinct sides to Gavin O'Loghlen. Even allowing for the seventeen year gap that separates the recordings the range and diversity is impressive. Whilst The Poet And The Priest is undoubtedly a product of its time the marriage of OMD and Ultravox with early Marillion, Twelfth Night and Pendragon works on every level. Musically it abounds with strong hooks whilst the soul searching lyrics have a personal touch that brought to mind the style of Roger Waters. O'Loghlen has also done an excellent remastering job giving it a bright and attention grabbing sound.
Land Of The Vast Horizon sits comfortably between the prog-folk of Iona, Troy Donockley, Gryphon and Mike Oldfield's Ommadawn, and the rootsier style of Capercaillie, Planxty and Fairport Convention. The evocative story telling in an historical context is also reminiscent of Camel's Harbour Of Tears album and Manning's most recent Anser's Tree. If I had to stick my neck out and decide which of these releases I prefer it would be a tough call but in the final analysis it would be Land Of The Vast Horizon by a whisker. Either way these are two excellent albums deserving of anyone's attention. As Gavin O'Loghlen put it himself in his letter to the DPRP, a "celebration of progressive music from down under".
The Poet And The Priest : 8 out of 10
Land Of The Vast Horizon: 8+ out of 10

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Review by Erik Neuteboom

GAVIN O'LOGHLEN ­ The Poet And The Priest (5 out of 5)

This Australian is a very versatile and creative mind: actor, author, composer, musician and responsible for many album releases, theater productions, plays for movies, he has a grade in 'drama' and lots of experience in music, theater music, drama and as a session-musician he joined on many records. Quite an impressive curriculum vitae that started to shape when Gavin began learning bagpipe at the age of eleven. He took part in Highland competitions in several groups and then he focussed on learning guitar, keyboards and flute. Influenced by the progrock by early Genesis, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel started to integrate the keyboard sound in his theater productions that became more and more bombastic and complex. If you visit his website, you will discover how prolific Gavin is!
On the CD The Poet And The Priest the concept story is about two young friends and the development of their friendship and life. The music sounds like melodic symphonic prog featuring lush vintage keyboards, sensitive electric guitar work and pleasant vocals that reminds me of fellow Australian Les Dougan (from legendary Australian neo-progrock band Aragon) and Fish because of the tonation. Although the sound is often laidback, this is not an album to get asleep because of some varied and dynamic tracks like the alternating Lovers (heavy church-organ sound, a delicate strings-sound and fluent synthesizer runs), The Open Road (great build-up with howling guitar and sumptuous keyboards), The Pit (wonderful keyboard sound delivering The Mighty Tron, church-organ and spectacular synthesizer flights), the Marillion-like The Open Road Revisited (mid-tempo with inspired vocals and moving guitar), the very symphonic Bird Of Life (beautiful work on the Mellotron and a lush Hammond organ sound) and the strong final song The Dance (very compelling with fine vocals and keyboards).
Don't expect groundbreaking or complex prog, just enjoy this honest tribute to symphonic prog featuring tasteful arranged tracks and wonderful vintage keyboards!

( by credit card)

( by Paypal)

Download the CD
(from Bandcamp)


** Special CD Packages **

See the artistsHear the music

Hear the music read the lyrics Links

Locrian Records Home Page

Place me on the mailing list email