Perhaps best known for his work as longstanding keyboarder for Gary Hughes‘ pomp legends Ten, Darrel Treece-Birch proves himself to be a masterful, erm, master of the prog rock arts via the grooves of his spectacular new solo album, Choices.

Reeling in the years and dumping the listener squarely in the mid seventies, DT-B has fermented a gargantuan set of soundscapes here, harking back to the times when artists were given their head by acquiescent record labels and allowed to freewheel stylistically from place to place on lavishly packaged and gatefolded epic sagas… the result is a gorgeous, swoonsome collection of finely-crafted songs, dreamy in places, spiky in others but always shot through with the sort of class in terms of songwriting that most artists could only dream of.

Despite playing almost everything himself, our hero has enlisted some key guests, each of whom contributes to the full and helps take songs that were already pretty good to the next level. Ten bandmate Dann Rosingana contributes a stunning solo on the Gabrielesque Rise Above, whilst Tony Mitchell‘s vocals on the same track are spinetingling; Birch himself adds chimig, shimmering keys throughout the song, giving it an otherworldly, Reichian effect that adds to the allure. All in all a stupendous song.

David Reed-Watson adds a Bowiesque vocal presence to the fabulous Secret Place, whilst Maaike Siegerist‘s delicate vocal on The Promise might well evoke thoughts of nineties Brit popstrels Saint Etienne; wherever you stop to listen, someone is doing something remarkable on this album, making it the sort of record you simply don’t want to stop listening to.

Fans of the heavier side of the coin will enjoy the clanking instrumental You Decide (Dumdedum) whilst The Watchers, with it’s NWoBHM edge and slight resemblance to venerated pomp rockers Demon will also enable some flexing of neck muscles.

A prog album of hour-plus duration that doesn’t collapse under the weight of it’s own pretensions is a rare thing; a prog album rammed to the gunwales with sharp, easy on the ear songwriting and performance doubly so. Choices is just such an album. Cherish it.


Choices releases today (October 6th).