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Album Review: Celestial Fire
Dave Bainbridge
Cover image of the album Celestial Fire by Dave Bainbridge
Celestial Fire
Dave Bainbridge
2014 / Open Sky Records
75 minutes
Review by Michael Debbage
For many of you the name Dave Bainbridge may not be a household name or for that matter the genre bending progressive, Celtic, jazz, faith driven rock band Iona that he is an integral part of. However in recent years Dave Bainbridge has returned to focusing on his solo career which has essentially been on hold for over a decade. With his most recent recording being the daring ambient and improvised The Remembering featuring his piano work, many missed the more crunch and punch progressive driven Celestial Fire released two years ago.

Bainbridge’s first solo album Veil Of Gossamer though extending upon the Iona soundscape, still clearly had the bands DNA all over it. This is partially true of Celestial Fire which is unavoidable when former and current Iona band members drop on in to contribute to the recording. This includes the guest appearances of Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes, Frank Van Essen on strings, David Fitzgerald on various woodwinds, Joanne Hogg on ethereal vocals and Martin Nolan also on pipes and whistle. However, the more obvious signs of transitioning are the recruitment of the Neal Morse Band rhythm section of drummer Collin Leijenaar and bassist Randy George and the unique and powerful vocals of Threshold vocalist Damian Wilson.

The album opens with more familiar territory with the brief “Heavenfield” that is drenched in the mystical yet emotive uilleann pipes of Troy Donockley. However, gears change quickly as you slip into overdrive courtesy of the aggressive, concise previously mentioned rhythm section that soars with Bainbridge’s impressive guitar work on the opening movement of the title track. Clocking in at over 15 minutes this tour de force features the dual vocal of Yvonne Lyon and Damian Wilson, where there are multiple movements and time changes that will keep you fully engaged for the entire length of this impressive composition. But don’t think you get to rest as Bainbridge follows this spectacular song with the more direct but equally impressive “See What I See”. With the previous mentioned Damian Wilson pressing the upper range of his vocals and the band hitting all cylinders there is a very strong nod to Yes. Equally progressive elements can also be found on “For Such A Time As This” where Bainbridge’s guitar work is impeccable. More of these themes can be found on the lengthy “Love Remains”.

Between the above extensive progressive titles you will find a more reflective relief in the musical lap of “The First Autumn”. If this is more your liking then check out the mystical pleasures of “Innocence Found” only to be outdone by the closer “On The Edge Of Glory” that will slowly uplift you. Featuring Bainbridge’s guitars along with Martin Nolan’s Uilleann pipes merging, they are then enveloped in the striking vocals of Sally Minnear and Bainbridge that will musically move you closer to the edge of glory.

While it has been 6 years since the band Iona that Dave Bainbridge helped form has recorded in the studio, it is very evident that Bainbridge has no intent on resting on his laurels. With two very different solo recordings in the last two years, Bainbridge from the recent ambient piano driven The Remembering to the more powerful yet beautiful Celestial Fire, it is very clearly that he is in a high state of excellent creativity.
November 21, 2016
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