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Album Review : Kitt Wakeley: Symphony of Sinners and Saints

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Kitt Wakeley is a new artist to me and I’m not usually one for instrumental rock albums, so I wasn’t sure quite what I’d make of this when it was passed on to me for review.

However, it wasn’t long before I began to realise that I was listening to something very special and quite different from anything else I’ve ever heard in over 40 years of listening to music!

Unlike many instrumental rock albums of the past 30 years, which essentially seem to be an excuse for an impossibly talented guitarist to shred for all that he/she is worth, there is an almost impossibly melodic and very symphonic feel to this album, with lots of very cool orchestration across all of the tracks and with a focus on melody and instrumental arrangements to build each piece.

Keyboards, orchestral instrumentation and guitars have equal billing across the album; no one instrument is allowed to dominate, with the focus of the instrumentation clearly being defined by the needs of each individual track. Overall, it’s really difficult to categorise this album and in fact, attempting to do so is a pointless waste of time; it just needs to be enjoyed for what it is.

It’s very obvious that Wakeley is influenced by a wide range of musical styles and genres and he builds these into the compositions with ease. Nothing feels forced: everything just fits perfectly.

There are some themes that emerge across the album, e.g. the use of chugging heavy symphonic rock rhythm guitars, the use of massed strings and the use of vocal choirs. All of these elements help to provide cohesion and continuity across the diverse range of tracks throughout the album.

Interestingly, this whole album plays out less like a piece of music and rather more like an aural movie, with each track taking the part of a separate scene from the overall ‘film’.

It really does have a very cinematic feel to it. In addition, there are some definite religious connotations in some of the tracks through clever use of massed choral vocals, which sound almost ‘monastic’ in scope.

Sinners and Saints’ is one example; the massed choral vocals in this one suggest it would be perfect for an action scene in a movie like ‘The Davinci Code’, such is the religious imagery that it conjures up as it rocks along at quite a pace.

The use of choral vocals is also quite unusual in instrumental rock music and it adds a lot to the emotional impact on those tracks where it features heavily – sometimes slightly sinister, sometimes more uplifting.

The album contains a large list of guest musicians who provide sterling support to Wakeley’s own instrumental contributions and support him magnificently in the creation of his latest musical vision. Joe Satriani pops up to provide some impossibly cool guitar parts on ‘Forgive Me’, which also includes those massed choral vocals on another track which seems heavily inspired by religious themes and imagery.

He’s there again on ‘Conflicted’ with some mightily melodic guitarwork, which really adds to the track. Guitars on other tracks are supplied by ex-Danger Danger guitarist Andy Timmons, who manages to incorporate a huge amount of melody into all of his guitar solo sections on the album, even when he does go into ‘shred’ mode, such as in the excellent ‘End of My Journey’ (which is unusual in that it features vocal hooks rather than simply relying on instrumental and choral arrangements) and in the stunning finale ‘Echoes of Amadeus’.

The album also features the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who apparently recorded their parts at Abbey Road studios. Clearly no expense has been spared in the making of this opus and it shows in the stunning quality of the final product.

Mention must also be made of the production and mix on this album. It really is quite superb and sounds a million dollars throughout.

Fans of instrumental music and of symphonic rock in general are really urged to seek this one out. The album is great on first listen, but repeated plays reveal more and more layers and the listener will find him/herself drawn further in and finding new things to hear with each listen. A stunning piece of creative artistry!

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