Robert Fox Evergreen Review

I remember a day right back in the very early 90’s when I heard the debut CD album from a new UK electronic musicartist, and when I met him I recall how I was initially struck by the ethereal, heavenly quality of his music and also by his obvious enthusiasm for what he was doing – I could see (and hear) that his music meant a lot to him and that it was genuinely inspired by people and places in his personal life.
That musician was Robert Fox, and with ‘Asfafa’ he was the first UK synth player I had heard who made truly inspired melodic synth space music within a CHORAL setting – the only others doing it to that level at that time were USA based musicians like Constance Demby and Kevin Braheny. The new Fox brand of ‘EM’ was an exciting find. It was escapism in music to the extreme and capable of taking you to places in your head that hadn’t existed up to that point – I loved every second of it – and as it happened soon after that meeting – so did a great people!
It was like Vangelis playing in heaven and was promoted as such, and Fox (as did Demby and Braheny) went on to become some of the biggest selling artists of the time.
I remember when I first reviewed ‘Asfafa’ I could not help my mind constantly drifting into a strong urge to write the word Vangelis down almost every two or three lines – I was never very fond of name-dropping to that degree, and desperately tried to avoid repeating myself, but I just couldn’t help it – the link was there by the bucket load, and there was no way of avoiding it, so I relented and just rolled with the comparison.
Now, almost two decades have passed by, with so many dramatic changes in the music industry having come and gone along the way, and here I am with a brand new Robert Fox album at the end of 2008, and finding myself doing exactly the same thing again!
I said back then that Fox was the UK equivalent of the Greek keyboard maestro Vangelis and after listening through ‘Evergreen’ several times, here I am saying it again!
Above all others he has released since ‘Asfafa’, this album really seems to have struck that same chord for me.
There are some unbelievably strong melodies on ‘Evergreen’ – often simple, but very effective – some of which have been shrouded with more of these gorgeous choral textures first heard on ‘Asfafa’, but now, with all the advances that technology has brought to synthesizers and the recording world in general, they sound even more sophisticated.
Yes, ‘Evergreen’ is a beautiful album indeed – the nearest synth music gets to “new age” but so much more that that would imply, so lets briefly sample each of the album’s 10 tracks for you…

‘Sceptred Isle’ takes me straight back to the time when I first experienced ‘Asfafa’ and is one very much for all the Vangelis fans among us with it’s beautiful central melody line surrounded by strikingly gorgeous ethereal voices and sweeping, symphonic strings with some natural background effects.
Another simple but striking piano melody introduces: ‘Brown Bread & Thatched Cottages’ and as new layers of Vangelis-ized synth sounds are added, the piece develops in an easy, relaxed fashion.
‘Rolling Hills’ opens with a host of angelic voices, which is soon joined by gentle rolling rhythms and a chiming piano melody to create another track of great beautifully.
‘Song For A Dark Queen’ is a dreamy track that has a slight hint of things Celtic with a sampled Clannad-like female voice effect and a haunting alto (synth) sax melody line with distant drum beats, and together a beautiful atmosphere is formed, with the overall effect becoming quite intoxicating as it moves on.
‘The River’ is a slowly evolving track with a simple piano theme rolling over a bed of rippling water and bird sounds – very tranquil and relaxed, with a pretty melody line.
‘Dirty Old Train’ opens with more of the synth alto sax sound that featured earlier in the album, then flows into another flowing, tranquil, piano/synth passage with a rhythm designed to give the impression of a train making its way through the countryside, conjuring up images of tranquil landscapes as it passes through.
‘Cloisters’ goes back into choral mode with angelic voices hovering above a dream-like piano melody, then after a couple of minutes the electronic rhythm kicks in and carries the track forward with further (male) choral voices adding depth to what is a tranquil, spiritually influenced piece.
‘Woodland Carpet In Blue’ is beautifully orchestrated synth track with distant sounds of the countryside flowing into the mix from time to time. The production is quite sparse initially but develops with added electronic rhythms and extra subtle synth layers, until the final two minutes where a gorgeous Vangelis-like synth lead carries the melody line on to a wonderful conclusion.
‘Nightlife’ opens to a sound collage of synth textures, distant angelic voices and other effects, then that familiar Fox synth/piano sound comes in with another strong melodic lead, before more synth sounds are added as the orchestral layers build and grow into a fuller picture. This could easily be mistaken for a missing track from Ridley Scott’s ‘Bladerunner’ soundtrack.
‘Land’s End’ finishes the album off in style with a gorgeous slice of that familiar Fox magic, but with an added female vocal that will remind you of past work Vangelis did with Greek singer Irene Papas.

So, there we go, this is as good as anything Robert Fox has produced since ‘Asfafa’ with emphasis placed on mixing those gorgeous Vangelis style melodies with lovely angelic choral arrangements, and if you liked what you heard when this guy started out in the early 90’s, then you’re going to love ‘Evergreen’ as well.

~ by admusic on December 1, 2008.

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