2006 (Cyclops Records)
This is the CD with the largest number of beautiful vocal lines ever as far as I’m concerned. Mike Morton is responsible and he sounds civilized and honest with his emotional voice. It is his remarkable choice of tone that appeals to me so much where he balances smoothly over the stave.
Together with guitarist Leroy James he founded The Gift in 2003 after which keyboardist Jim Thomas, bassist Rod Haverhill and drummer David Storey completed the band. On “Awake & Dreaming”, their debut album, there are respectively two suites of twelve and seven songs, 70 minutes of swirling prog.
The Gift presents a well-thought-out ensemble of symphonic rock, neo-prog and hard rock-like music, a patchwork that listens nicely and in which passages of Britpop, folk and classical also loom. Let’s be clear about one thing: it’s not a mess.
In the first suite, called Awake & Dreaming, Mike Morton sings about war and peace, a beautiful theme for a multitude of lyrical vocals, sharp guitar chords, acoustic strokes, sultry harmonies, voluptuous keyboard upheavals and thunderous drums. The Gift is the king of contrast, in short: it enervates you to the bone.
Although the suite has no weak moments, the best songs are still towards the end. For example, Word Of Mouth And Heart has a very catchy vocal line and an uber-tasty guitar solo. Escalation sounds like an apotheosis. The thundering rhythm and the heroic keyboard playing depict the battlefield. The piano of No One Came brings peace and with the worn sounds of the title track Awake And Dreaming the suite closes formidably. How beautiful, how beautiful.
The second suite, Fountains Of Ash, is less rich in contrasts, but it is again a beautiful sequence of progressive rock songs. The tone is a bit darker and a notch firmer than in the first suite.
Shortly after the release of this album, The Gift went on hold and picked it up again seven years later. “Awake & Dreaming” was then performed live for the first time. That must have been a great happening.