Album Review: Tim Bowness – Lost in the Ghost Light

Picture by David Owens November 2016
Picture by David Owens November 2016

Artist: Tim Bowness
Album: Lost in the Ghost Light
Release Date: February 17, 2017
Record Label: InsideOut Records

If somewhere there is a prog rock album checklist, the new Tim Bowness album Lost in the Ghost Light has nearly every box checked off. Tim Bowness is best known as one half of No-Man with that sad little darling of the prog world, Steven Wilson. Over the last number of years Bowness has released a couple of very highly regarded solo albums in Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and Stupid Things That Mean the World. However, Lost in the Ghost Light stands out as not only his most distinctive release but arguably his strongest. Let’s address the first box on our prog checklist, this is a conceptual album. The album deals with an ageing musician whose best years are long behind him as he struggles to deal with the current musical landscape where digital streams have replaced the lost art of a cohesive album experience and ultimately left him and his fragile artistic ego to fend for itself. The next box we need to check off is the “does the following album have an absurd level of musicianship on it?” box. Bowness gets this box checked by completely loading this album with a who’s who of prog musicians, including the core band of Stephen Bennett (Henry Fool), Bruce Soord (Pineapple Thief), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Hux Nettermalm (Paatos), Andrew Booker (Sanguine Hum) as well as guests Kit Watkins (Camel, Happy the Man), David Rhodes (Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel), Steve Bingham (No-Man), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and Andrew Keeling (Robert Fripp). Each one of these musicians was clearly chosen for a reason and they manage to stand out independently while creating a cohesive feel throughout the entire album.

Checklist aside, the album musically is a step in a different direction from his previous solo efforts. Due to the concept the album spends a lot of time weaving its way through a variety of classic prog soundscapes. Be ready for your prog nerd friends to point out the Genesis they hear in “Moonshot Manchild”, how the driving bass and synths in “You Wanted to Be Seen” remind them of Yes or how many of the guitar solos are essentially love letters to David Gilmore. The stunning and memorable fretless basslines, beautifully lush string arrangements, remarkable guitar work and the undeniably classic prog synths all led by the regretful yet soothing vocals of Bowness really make each moment on the album feel purposeful. The song that really brings the album together in terms of concept and musicality is the final track, “Distant Summers”. The album comes to an emotional head thematically as our main character recalls his entry into the passion that would be his life’s defining characteristic. The song slowly builds towards an incredible Ian Anderson solo that leads us into Bowness delivering these painfully poignant lines, “no weight of expectation, just joy in what you’d found. No fear or hesitation, you lost yourself in sound. The songs of distant summers, the strength that lit the spark. The songs of distant summers, kept out the growing dark”. It would be hard to find someone who cannot relate to the feeling of fondness of a time in their life when they freely gave into their passions without expectations and without hesitancy. As either creative people or passionate fans it seems over time we tend to expect more from the thing that was once simply magical and accepted by us and this idea culminates in “Distant Summers”.

Lost in the Ghost Light is a fantastic prog album that stands tall amongst the hordes of cute boys with 9 string guitars that seem to be trying to sneak away with the prog moniker. Tim Bowness manages to release another album that will be highly regarded in the prog community and further cement him as a solo artist. Lost in the Ghost Light is due out February 17th via InsideOut Records and can be ordered through burningshed.com.

Rating: 8.5/10

RIYL: No-Man, Steven Wilson, Gazpacho, Nosound  

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