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Martin Orford Special & Competition

After playing the keybaords in IQ for almost 20 years, Martin Orford has finally released his long planned solo CD Classical Moments and Popular Songs. DPRP presents an Interview with the musician from Hampshire, followed by a review of the CD and a competition in which you can win one of three copies of the album.

The Interview
The Review
The Competition

Martin Orford Interview

Why a solo album ?

That's an easy one. Basically when you work with the same band or group of bands for a number of years, you start to realise that some of the material you write doesn't quite fit into a band format. It doesn't mean that the material isn't good enough, it just doesn't gel with a particular line-up. I've got quite a lot of music that falls into that category, and it seemed to me it was about time some of the best of it an airing.

How long have you been working on this album ?

Rob Aubrey and I started recording some piano parts back in February this year, but we only really got going on the project in April, with another concerted effort in June. As for the writing, well some of the material is 25 years old, and some is very recent.

What is the material on the album like ? Should people expect a keyboard extravaganza or is it different ?

I'm not really that sort of keyboard player; I certainly wasn't cut out to be the new Keith Emerson. I like to think that my playing is tasteful and appropriate rather than flash. There are enough good keyboard solos on the album, as well as the two piano pieces to keep most keyboard fans happy, but then there are some great guitar solos too. I would be very sceptical about making an album that was too heavily biased in favour of keyboards, and I think that this album is much better balanced than that.

What kind of instruments have you played on the album ?

Keyboards or course, but also there's quite a bit of flute, some mandolin and odd things like bagpipes. I also played nylon-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument on one track which was quite a challenge for me.

What other musicians can be heard on the album ?

Basically I used Jadis as the core musicians for this project, as I know exactly what they can do, and most of them live close to the studio. Once I had got Gary and Steve to play most of the basic backing tracks, I was able to fit other musicians into the framework. Paul Cook (IQ) also does some great playing on two songs, Mike Holmes (IQ) is there on one track, and John Jowitt (IQ) plays bass throughout. In the later stages of recording, I was able to get Peter Nicholls and John Wetton (ex-Asia, ex-UK, ex-King Crimson) to sing on one track each, and Dave Kilminster (John Weton Band) contributed some of his trademark guitar pyrotechnics too. Tony Wright, the sax player who starred on Subterranea is also there on one song.

Why did you choose them ?

Because they're all great musicians, I know how they work and what they sound like, and they were all willing and able to do it.

Are there any other people you would liked to have worked with ?

I did ask Andy Latimer from Camel to do some guitar, but the timing was all wrong for him, and he was busy putting the Camel world tour together at the time I was recording. Neal Morse from Spock's Beard also very kindly offered to sing on the album, but as time was tight and as I didn't really have anything that seemed particularly suited to his voice, I wasn't able to use him. However I am a big fan of Neal's music, and I would hope to work with him at some point in the future.

What happened to the Russian Male Voice Choir that was supposed to sing on Tatras ? ;-)

They're still in the pub.

Is this all new material or have the compositions been written over a longer period of time ?

As I said earlier, some of the tunes are 25 years old, some are recent, and others come from all points in between. It's a collection of material rather than an album with a common theme.

Can you tell us a bit more about the origins of the various tracks on the CD ?

I can, but it would be easier to read the CD booklet, where I've written a short history of each track.

[Cheeky answer ! DPRP has however incorporated some of the background information in the review of the CD below. - Ed]

Which keyboard players have been your most important examples ?

I don't really take much notice of other keyboard players; I do my thing and they do theirs. I do remember seeing Eddie Jobson with UK in 1978, and thinking "I wouldn't mind doing his job" (not realising that I would be playing the same material with John Wetton 20 years later!), but I wouldn't say I'm particularly influenced by Eddie's music, or that of any other keyboard player.

Why the title 'Classical Music and Popular Songs' ? Most people seem to dislike that title.

Personally I couldn't care less whether people like the title or not, because it's my album, and the title describes accurately where I come from musically. I spent the first ten years of my life listening to pop music like The Beatles, and The Byrds, and the next seven or eight years listening to or playing classical music.
Everything I write is dependent on those influences, and all my material contains varying degrees of classical and pop influence. Most people seem to want to think that I am a product of the 1970's prog rock thing, but nothing could be further from the truth; all that had been swept away by punk rock long before I ever knew it existed. Some people have said that the "Classical Music and Popular Songs title" is pretentious and pompous. Considering that I generally like music that is described in those terms, I don't have a problem with it. My dictionary lists pretentious as "ostentatious - making an excessive claim to great merit or importance". Suits me fine.

What other people, places or occurrences have influenced the material on CMAPS ?

I take a lot of inspiration from the area of Hampshire where I live, and a lot of the music could almost be a soundtrack to the beautiful scenery we have round here.

The CD booklet features a very old picture on which you play with another band. What's the story behind that picture ?

That was my first band Triangular Heel, and it was taken during a performance on local TV. I was about 16 at the time and had all my own hair. We were absolutely dreadful, but we did have in the repertoire a track which became the prototype for "Fusion" which ended up on the new album.

You performed some of the material live at the Whitchurch festival, on the evening prior to the IQ performance. Can you tell us something about that little gig ?

All solo gigs are really scary, but I have to say that the audience that night were brilliant. I think I got away with it.

Will you tour with this album ?

I've got no plans at all to forge a new career as a solo artist, however if the album proves to be a hit and sells 10,000 copies or more, I might have to re-consider.

Besides the title, how has the album been received so far ?

I've had some great e-mails from lots of people saying how much they've enjoyed the album. Best of all though, it's been well receive at home; Chris is always playing it in her car, and some of my oldest friends have really taken to it as well.

Are you planning to release more solo albums in the future ?

You bet I am!

Last but not least: Where does your nickname 'Widge' come from ?

Years ago I used to have an accent which was much broad than it is now. The Hampshire accent is basically similar to that in the West Country, though mine was never as broad as Robert Fripp's. Anyway, I used to take a fair bit of stick for the fact that I have never been able to say words like "cow" without it sounding like "ceeeoow". One day the Jadis boys were on a beach in Dorset, and sat next to them was a family whose accents were deemed to be even more amusing than mine. No sooner had one of the parent called to one of the kids "come over here you old Widger", than the die was cast. I was doomed to be called Widger, or Widge for all eternity. Luckily as nicknames go, it's generally used in quite an affectionate way, and yes, I am called Widge at home too!

Thank you Widge for taking the time to answer these questions !

Martin Orford Review

Martin Orford - Classical Music and Popular Songs
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:GEP
Catalogue #:GEPCD1026
Year of Release:2000

Tracklist: The Field of Fallen Angels (6.26), A Part of Me (5.14), Quilmes (3.02), The Days of Our Lives (6.15), Fusion (5.05), The Final Solution (5.59), The Picnic (1.21), The Overload (5.20), Tatras (5.30), Evensong (5.09)

Everybody I've spoken to so far seems to agree on two things. Firstly, the title of this album is quite horrendous. Personally it reminds me of those cheesy tel-sell commercials where Paul King or some other has-been will sell you some CD set with titles like 'Rock Masters of the 70s' or whatever. Secondly, everybody seems to agree that besides the title it's a damn fine album with many tunes in various styles. So, in a way, the title does cover the content of the album.

Martin Orford is no stranger in the world of progressive rock. His resume includes more than 20 years of keyboard playing with IQ and it's predecessor The Lens, as well as many years with Gary Chandler's Jadis. In the second half of the nineties he could also regularly be seen on the road with the John Wetton Band.
With this impressive background, it's not a big surprise that many of his musical mates turn up on this record as well. All of the members of IQ and Jadis appear in one or more track on the album, while it also features contributions by John Wetton himself on vocals and his guitarist Dave Kilminster on guitar. Finally, Tony Wright, who played saxophone on IQ's 'Subterranea' album and who can be seen on the Subterranea live video as well, turns up playing his instrument on one of the tracks.

I have been in the fortunate position to be able to hear some of the music on this solo album in a very early stage. At the end of last year Martin had decided to finally start recording his own album, something which he had been planning for years. During one of my visits he played me some of the material that was being finalized for the latest Jadis album Understand as well as 8 pieces he was considering for the solo album. Most - if not all - have ended up on the final CD in one form or another.

Some of you might already know the pieces Quilmes and Tatras, which Martin has played many times at John Wetton concerts and can be found on some of Wetton's more recent live albums, including Nomansland. Quilmes is a lighthearted piano piece that Martin wrote in the late 70s and was eventually named by Wetton after a local beer during a tour a tour in Argentina in 1996. Tatras on the other hand is a more heavy classical piece which is kind of special to me because it was first played on DPRP's DPRS festival in 1998. The new version of this album doesn't only feature the piano, but also flute and extensive keyboard orchestration.
Both of these are great tracks if you like lightly classical piano music.
The only other track that has Martin playing on his own is the short acoustic guitar ditty Picnic which would not have been out of place on a 70s Yes album.

Part of Me is a straightforward rock track sung by John Wetton. Martin gave it that Asia approach of harmony chorusses and a big guitar solo where technical perfection (Dave Kilminster) and great melody (Gary Chandler) alternate. Other people appearing on this one are John Jowitt (bass), Steve Christey (drums) and Paul Cook (tambourine). The track starts with just keyboards and vocals; drums and bass come in after more than a minute. There's also a nice combined keyboard/guitar solo. Great track !
Another straightforward track is the nice poppy ballad Days of Our Lives which features the full Jadis band plus Tony Wright on saxophone. A lovely love song kind of thing which Martin dedicated to his girlfriend Chris. The song ends with Gary Chandler doing one of his best David Gilmour impressions.
Evensong is another track with the Jadis line-up; a peaceful instrumental track with flute, piano and wonderful orchestration plus a great guitar solo by Gary Chandler.

On to the more proggy stuff. Fusion is an instrumental that was written in the 70s and was also played live by The Lens. Therefore it was only natural for IQ's Mike Holmes to play lead guitars on it (Mike was in The Lens as well). This wonderful energetic track with a Baroque feel where uptempo full-band sections alternate with harpsichord solos would not have been out of place among the first tracks on the Seven Stories Into Ninety Eight album. Martin also included it on the album to prove that he was already writing this kind of music before he had ever heard of 'progressive rock' and bands like Genesis. Besides Mike Holmes, the track also features the other guys from Jadis.

Take the whole IQ band and replace Mike Holmes with Gary Chandler and you've got the line-up for The Overload. A spooky track which Peter Nicholls and Martin wrote during the Subterranea sessions but was never used. The atmosphere of the song is in the vein of Sense in Sanity from the 'Subterranea' album, but more powerful, with lots of sequencers and uptempo rhythms in the second half. Another highlight !

The Final Solution features Paul and John from IQ plus again the magical combination of Dave Kilminster and Gary Chandler on guitar. It evolved from a bit of music IQ used to play live in a 'glam rock' medley. It's a pumping and stomping little mid-tempo track with a very cheerful atmosphere nevertheless. Nice usage of backing vocals in parts of the chorus.

And finally there's the opening track of the album, and one of the highlights of the disc: Field of Fallen Angels. This was one of the songs Martin played me last year on just keyboard and mandolin. Since then it has turned into this massive prog rock track with clear folk influences. Unfortunately the mandolin has become a bit less present in this version, but the sheer energy of the track more than makes up for this. Gentle flute playing opens the song, after which it goes into an uptempo energetic & bombastic rock section with a nice cathcy melody. Halfway through the song, after a nice synth solo, the melody changes and the tempo goes down. While Jowitt pumps away on the bass a nice bagpipe chanter solo plays. The song closes with a reprise of the bombastic opening. One of the highlights of the album. Line-up is the Jadis band plus David Kilminster on acoustic guitar.

All in all a very nice album full of wonderful tunes covering lots of musical styles. Don't expect an IQ album from Martin's solo CD, it's much more versatile than that. Don't expect a Wakeman-like keyboard extravaganza either. There's lots of nice keyboard solos on the album, but (with the exception of Quilmes and Tatras) they are not meant as the focus of the track but to support the track.
Expect a wonderful mixture of some light classical piano pieces, a couple of lost IQ tracks, some nice pop songs and a few prog rock pieces with folky influences. If this mixture appeals to you, you should certainly get a copy of Classical Music and Popular Songs.

The 8-page booklet is another fine piece of work by Geoff Chandler who also did the Jadis artwork, and it features interesting liner notes for all tracks and several pictures, among which one of Martin's school band Triangular Heel.

Conclusion: 9- out of 10.

Ed Sander

Martin Orford Competition

On behalf of Martin, DPRP is raffling 3 copies of his solo album Classical Music and Popular Songs. Simply find the answers to the questions below and e-mail them to DPRP. The competition closes on the 1st of September. Three random prize winners with correct answers will be drawn on that date and notified by e-mail.

Question 1: Which songs from Classical Songs and Popular Music did Martin perform at this years Whitchurch Festival ?
Hint: check out the News section on DPRP's Lush Attic IQ Pages.

Question 2: Which of Martin's teenage school bands is pictured in the booklet of the CD ?
Hint: read The Interview.

Question 3: Take the catalogue number of Martin's solo CD minus 1. You've now got the catalogue number of another GEP release on which Martin can be heard and which features an earlier version of one of the tracks on Classical Music and Popular Songs. Name the title of that CD.
Hints: check the
The Review and visit the GEP Homepage.

Good Luck !

2000 - Dutch Progressive Rock Page