There had been bands that were short-lived and due to bad business in the music industry, lack of promotion and support, or not getting any recognition and it is very hard for them to make into the music scene, but advices are necessary to let them know what is out for them. And one of the bands is a quintet named Kestrel. Kestrel was formed in Newcastle and they released their only sole self-titled debut album forty years ago.
It’s been considered a collector’s item as an overlooked gem in the history of Progressive Rock along with bands like; Cressida, Czar, Fruupp, and Second Hand. The album is hard to find in a vinyl format and not to mention a huge sum for an expensive price including one in Japan. Well this year, it is reissued in a 2-CD set from the good people of Esoteric Recordings that features liner notes done by Metal Hammer/Classic Rock magazine writer, Malcolm Dome that discusses the history of the band and where it went wrong.
The band considers Tom Knowles on Lead Vocals, Dave Black on Guitar and Vocals, John Cook on Keyboards, Fewnick Moir on Bass Guitar, and Dave Whitaker on Drums who was in a previous band from Newcastle trio called Ginhouse. Originally released on the Cube label in 1975, it is a melodic adventure and with a touch of Progressive Pop thrown in that gives it a warm and at times, a symphonic flavor.
Songs like the opening track, The Acrobat, has this wonderful improvisation that has a circus-like midsection that Cook does in the styles of Kerry Minnear through the clavinet and Rhodes through a different time signature as it becomes a Jazz rhythm section between Black’s guitar and Moir’s walking bass line. Then, it becomes a moody and ballad-like structure on an ascending groove that almost resembles The Doors Riders on the Storm and Steely Dan that has a beat per minute of 110 on Wind Cloud.
But with a waltz structure for a moody and emotional touch, is evidential on Last Request. It shows Tom Knowles can really sing through his heart and to pay homage to Kevin Godley as the band goes into the style of 10cc not to mention Cook’s organ and the Mellotron by giving it a powerful and ascending sound. John does shine through his keyboards.
In which he does some amazing improvisation on In The War that he goes into some beautiful passages that are Fusion and Orchestral with a funk and soul groove before he sends into the sky again with some angelic touches into the mix. On the closing track, August Carol, this is where the band comes into a full circle. It reminded me of Cressida with an increasing beat and Black’s guitar solo just nails each part as through rhythm and lead on his guitar and Cook gives him a perfect workout.
And then Whitaker’s percussion drum roll comes in before it heads off into the heavens with a Mellotron solo to close the album off for the final curtain to rise with background vocalizations and Black’s solo coming in as it fades into the sunset. The second disc features alternate versions and single versions including outtakes featuring a ballad turned adventurous narrative on The Searcher and Part of the Machine which deals with even though we are being used as a tool, but understanding to be tied up through the work and finding another way to find your heart, but living in a dream.
I have listened to Kestrel’s only sole self-titled debut album about five times now and even though the band broke up after the release to pursue other projects, it would have been interesting to see where the band would go into next. And this is a must have album to listen to. So if you admire Cressida, Moody Blues, Spring, and Fruupp, then Kestrel is the band to check out.