2014 (Music Festival)
If you want to interest people in progressive rock music, you will definitely stand a good chance with the Jeff Green Project’s “Elder Creek”, reviewed here. You may find a splendid mixture on this album of Genesis and Yes inspired prog rock and American country and Westcoast rock in the vein of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Poco, The Outlaws and The Eagles.
It’s certainly no mixed bag but a consistently perfect blend. Credit where credit is due and that’s of course to the creator of the whole, namesake of the project: singer/guitarist Jeff Green.
Born and raised in California, this musician has a passionate life and the music he makes is a reflection of that in all its aspects. In 1986, for example, he left for the United Kingdom with a suitcase full of musical experience, where he played in various cover bands for a long time. The most important of these for the purposes of this review is undoubtedly Illegal Eagles, an Eagles tribute band. In 2009 his first solo album, called “Jessica”, is independently released. The album’s concept deals with his stillborn daughter. Five years later, Green once again releases a concept album on which he tries to deal with personal drama. “Elder Creek”, discussed here, has memories as an overarching theme, especially as a result of the battle his grandma fought against Alzheimer’s. It’s amazing how both albums didn’t go down in self-pity and excessive sadness.
Green expresses his feelings with integrity during seven songs. In addition to his sparkling guitar playing and his brooding Franck Carducci-like vocals, it is mainly the interpretations of keyboardist Mike Stobbie (ex-Pallas) and the driven rhythm section consisting of bassist Andy Staples and drummer Pete Riley that are decisive for the group sound. Stobbie joins in with both wonderful, neo-prog-tinted playing on the synthesizers and standard prog sounds such as piano, organ, mellotron and strings. He brings enormous depth to the already lush music.
It’s captivating, from the spooky intro of Theseus Falls, after which a catchy guitar riff takes the lead only to end up in the actual song via some bombastic chords. The build-up is excellent and while the song becomes more and more passionate, high-pitched vocals and fiery guitar playing alternate nicely. It closes with an organic piece in the vein of Yes. In the subsequent title track Elder Creek, lead vocals are dealt with by Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train) who manages to touch upon all the expressions of the song with his high, nasal voice.
With songs like the subdued mid-tempo Our First Meeting, the instrumental Point Blunt Light and the often changing mood of Gordian Knot, the album has amiddle part that is very pleasing to the ear. There really isn’t a single misplaced note and before you know it the finale has arrived. This feels like it consists of two songs: the atmospheric Loops And Threads (A Lullaby In Reverse) with a beautiful pas de deux by Green and Stobbie and the twenty-minute epic A Long Time From Now. As for the latter: initially there were three separate songs that were eventually put together by Green. The structure is sublime, with an intro, two vocal sections, a vocal break, another vocal section and an overwhelming finale. A lot happens during the song. Alan Reed sings a part and yes, when he starts singing the music gets something of a magical touch. There is also a starring role for Phil Hilborne who adds a devastatingly delightful guitar solo. It’s all so well thought out, without coming across as contrived.
“Elder Creek” is a strong album with which you can make a good impression as a prog rock advocate. Undeniably good. Case closed.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022