The great Lee Kerslake has died today, aged 73, after a long, exhausting battle with cancer. “My love for music is keeping me fighting against all the odds,” he told me when we spoke for the last time, and indeed, music was the center of Lee’s life so, given a few months of existence, Kerslake didn’t give up and carried on working on his first solo album and the tied-in documentary – and stayed with us for nigh on two years longer than the doctors deemed possible. God, he was a stubborn guy!
DarWin‘s "Origin Of Species" was one of the last year’s highlights: a cinematic album with a stellar cast and with a reach that went far beyond the record’s prog boundaries. Its scope left no doubt there would be another chapter in this saga, yet no one could hope for the second installment to emerge as early as November 6th, 2020. Titled “Darwin 2: A Frozen War” and featuring the same principal line-up of DarWin, Simon Phillips, Greg Howe and Matt Bissonette who are aided by Billy Sheehan, Guthrie Govan and Derek Sherinian, the new offering will see the light of day in various formats, with the vinyl version containing an entire platter of alternative versions.
If there ever was an ensemble in need of closure, it’s EMPIRE. Formed in 1973 by Peter Banks, when the guitarist had left behind both YES and FLASH, and Sidonie Jordan, who performed under nom de guerre Sydney Foxx, this group were in permanent search of perfection, laying down new versions of their previously recorded tracks to develop them and find fresh contexts, yet the three albums this collective recorded before the decade was over, remained on the shelf until the mid-’90s. Still, even after the recent box set "The Complete Recordings" offered a full picture of what could be there, an air of unreleased potential remained strong, so another band arose from that enterprise’s ashes.
Named, rather logically, THE NEW EMPIRE, its ranks include the old combo’s last drummer, Mark Murdock, a Banks über-fan Fernando Perdomo and singer Marisol Koss – all with the blessing of Ms Foxx’s who appears on “Foundation” – one of the pieces on their forthcoming album. “Second Lifetime” – another logical title – is scheduled for release on October 9th and features a few original numbers alongside new takes on tracks from EMPIRE and FLASH and Peter’s first solo LP as well as “Looking Around” from YES’ debut. But it’s not a one-off homage to the late artist; it’s the beginning of a new journey.
There’s nothing that the legendary William Shatner can’t do, and his off-screen career, particularly in the field of music, keeps on proving this point. Yet while most of the actor’s previous albums – such as "Ponder The Mystery" – and guest spots usually deployed him in a space-related capacity, “The Blues” that’s scheduled for an October 2nd release will find the veteran deliver exactly what the title says: blues classics – penned by Robert Johnson, the Kings, Albert and B. B., Muddy Waters and other genre-shapers – plus THE DEAD SOUTH smash “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company” and one original. The first single from the record, already issued, is “Let’s Work Together” which sees Shatner backed by the song’s premier performers, CANNED HEAT and Harvey Mandel, but the are more participants in the project.
Pete Way was one of those rockers who seemed to be indestructible, if not immortal, but the survivor of substance abuse, cancer and heart attack – a regular roll call for any rock veteran – died on August 14th at the age of 69 as a result of a recent accident. A fantastic bass player, he found fame and fortune as part of UFO, co-penning many of the British group’s classics – such as “Only You Can Rock Me” – with singer Phil Mogg and other band members and more often than not being a focal point of their stage action.