Lee Abraham is a progressive rock musician from Southampton in England. After playing in numerous cover bands in bars he realized that he wanted to pursue song-writing in the progressive rock vein.
After several home-recording type releases to family and friends, Lee started to circulate his work much more widely thanks to the Spock's Beard message board. Board members became willing sounding boards for Lee's music when he released his third CD Pictures in the Hall. Many kind and encouraging comments were given and gave Lee the confidence to record a fourth, his most ambitious and complex work to date - the concept album View from the Bridge.
Lee was also fortunate enough to have some top class musicians appear on his new album, including Martin Orford from IQ (also featured in the Tsunami Projekt CD), Karl Groom from Threshold, Sarah Bolter from Galahad and the Tsunami Projekt CD Director and Split Personality member Barry Thompson. The music was also mastered and packaged in the industry accepted way in an attempt to fit in with the market of professional albums.
The album, which is receiving high praise from many critics including Nick Shilton from the mighty Classic Rock magazine (UK publication), is available from www.destinyrecords.uk.com
Lee Abraham - View From The Bridge
Country of Origin: UK
Record Label: Destiny Records
Year of Release: 2004
Overture No. I (5:03)
Coming Home (9:05)
She’s Leaving Home (3:38)
Too Long In Your Spotlight (7:24)
Recurring Dream (22:12)
My Other Life (2:06)
Overture No. II (5:15)
The Last Sacrifice (5:19)
Go Right Now (5:47)
Goodbye/Recurring Dream (Revisited) (5:10)
I usually hate this kind of comparison, but I’m going to make it for reasons I’ll go on to explain: if you’re a fan of Spock’s Beard, especially their later work, you’ll like Lee Abraham’s View from the Bridge. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to be a fan of Spock’s Beard – or even of progressive-rock! – to appreciate this fine, ambitious, melodic album. I make the comparison only because, fortuitously, this album appeared just a few months before Spock’s Beard’s latest release, Octane, and setting the half-hour suite that begins that album (A Flash Before My Eyes) alongside Abraham’s whole album will allow me to begin to illustrate his welcome similarities to that band and also his originality. Let me preface that comparison by saying, though, that his originality will be my focus; though Abraham thanks Neal Morse “and the entire membership of spocksbeard.com message board,” it’s clear that the inspiration is mostly intellectual and that it’s Morse’s and Spock’s Beard’s example and ambition rather than their music in specific that has motivated him.
A Flash Before My Eyes details exactly what the title suggests: the vision of one’s life that allegedly flashes before one’s eyes in the moment before death, in this case the narrator’s death in a car crash. As some reviewers of the album on DPRP suggested a few weeks ago, Spock’s Beard’s suite (which I think very fine) is unified more by the lyrics than by the music. Abraham’s whole album, though, which deals with death as well, is (and in this way it’s superior to A Flash...) unified more thoroughly by music than is Spock’s Beard’s work, although the lyrics are obviously crucial too. So far as I understand the story – and, even if I have some details wrong, the main outlines are clear – Abraham’s album tells the story of twins separated as infants. One has something like a charmed life; the other, as is suggested in the song The Final Sacrifice, suffers all the wrongs and harms that the fortunate twin has avoided. The latter sings “Life has been so easy for me but not for you / It all came so simple to me that I never knew / That you were having the worst of my life / Everyday you made a sacrifice.” Lost love is involved, too, I think on the part of both twins, though it’s not clear; in a song called She’s Leaving Home, someone’s beloved packs her bags and leaves. Wait, you’re saying – doesn’t Abraham know that The Beatles used that title? He sure does. Guest vocalist Kirsty Voce is given these lines to make the allusion plain: “I close the door before he gets home / I’ll leave a note I hope will say more.”
The continuing story involves a chance encounter between the now-grown twins, as the fortunate one takes “a different route home / Just for a change” and sees the unfortunate one about to jump, and perhaps jumping (“He starts to fall or is it in my mind”), from a bridge. The scene is revisited in the two Recurring Dream songs, in which “The missing pieces fit together now.” The album ends with a revisiting of Goodbye and Recurring Dream, the lyrics, expressing the state of mind of the suicide just before he jumps, repeating those of Goodbye but ending “And it’s all revealed to me / This recurring dream,” leaving us in doubt about the characters’ actual fates. But the song not only brings the lyrical theme full circle but also intelligently revisits the music of the album’s first song and of its most ambitious, the lengthy and powerful Recurring Dream. The album’s clearly a labour of love – and of thought.
Now, what of the kind – or rather kinds – of music Abraham uses to support and underline the lyrics? I can probably indicate the disc’s general sound with shorthand: this is excellent, melodic second-wave progressive rock. Again, only as a general guide, if you think of what Spock’s Beard has been doing for its last few albums, you’ll be in the ballpark. But View from the Bridge is in no way derivative of that or any other band. With the help of a few other talented musicians, notably keyboardist Martin Orford, drummer Gerald Mulligan, and lead guitarist Gerry Hearn, Abraham (who himself plays guitar, bass, and keyboards on most songs) has created a wholly coherent concept album whose individual songs can very much stand alone. I can’t think of much higher praise for an album that’s meant to be heard as a whole than that many of the songs are separately memorable, mostly because of their strong melodies. Too Long in Your Spotlight, Recurring Dream, and The Last Sacrifice have been stuck in my head for weeks, so catchy are they. The album, that is, is in no way self-consciously progressive, as are some records that proudly parade instrumental chops for their own sake; the excellent musicianship here is always in the service of the songs, and the songs themselves are made to suit and are suited by the lyrics. That’s not to say that Abrahams doesn’t know his progressive-rock history: nobody who lived through the seventies and had good taste in music at the time can avoid thinking of early Genesis during the first few syncopated minutes of Recurring Dream – and probably of later Genesis in The Last Sacrifice. And the propulsive first half of Overture No. I, with its long, incendiary guitar solo courtesy of Gerry Hearn, might well put you in mind of Symphony X or another similar progressive-metal band. For the most part, though, this album’s music is rather gentle than heavy, any instrumental virtuosity supplementing rather than grappling for precedence each song’s melody and lyrics.
I shouldn’t end without saying a word or two about Abraham’s singing. This being a concept album, it’s probably only right that he has a few guest vocalists (most notably Kirsty Voce, as I mentioned earlier, who sings an entire song herself) help him tell the story; but he handles most of the lead vocals himself. And, fortunately, he has a voice that’s both strong and subtle, capable of dealing tactfully but not histrionically with the shifts of mood required by the songs’ lyrics. I eventually realized that his voice reminds me in some ways of Pete Townsend’s, but the resemblance is in no way exact – it didn’t strike me until my eighth or ninth playing of the album, I don’t think. It’s a good voice, though, and Abraham uses it intelligently, trusting his lyrics to convey the meaning and not emoting unnecessarily.
I want to go on but won’t. This is an excellent album; but you can’t know how good it is by reading about it, so you should get it. By doing so, you’ll help ensure that Abraham can make another album, and, when you hear this one, you’ll agree that we all should want him to make another – and another, and another.