A Melodic Instrumental Fusion of Progressive Rock. Heavy Rock and AOR with a tinge of integrated Jazz
Review by Geoff Penn
Private Press Mastered in Kyiv, Ukraine at the Soncesvit studio with Ivan Luzan.
My Rating 85/100
Working as a cooperate pilot for an international business aviation company Jan Lievaart is probably and currently better known around the world as Captain Jan. Well, certainly this would be the case from an air traffic controller’s perspective as they utilise the communication parlance needed to safely get an aircraft airborne, follow a flight path and then deliver a plane back safely to the ground. However, the moniker ‘Long Tall J’ is almost certainly going to soon be as equally recognisable in rock music circles due to the fact Jan subsequently has renewed his interest, in making and producing his own music. Incidentally the title “Mr Long Tall Jan Lievaarrt” came about during his early musical years when treading the boards, in his native Holland, playing with a variety of different brands.
Jan, now residing in London with his Polish wife, despite his ongoing relationship with all things aviation, has rekindled his love for playing the guitar and working on new musical arrangements and tunes for his recent spate of self-produced albums. The degree of his interest in this direction being amply displayed with the enormous volume of self-penned music he has composed and subsequently delivered on his two albums that were released in 2020. The first entitled Albatross” in February 2020 and his second album in December entitled ‘2020’, the subject of this review:-
This eleven-track, mostly instrumental styled, album entitled ‘2020’ is loosely conceptual with the title order of the tracks, in chronological fashion, roughly following the events of the ‘Covid 19’ pandemic. However, the music itself, with minimal vocal interpretation, could seriously grace a multitude of different subjects and/or their related themes. There is a fascinating compositional style to the entire body of music inasmuch that each track is packed with a myriad of interconnecting layers with different musical passages that continuously sprinkle out to the fore. In fact, there is such an overwhelming preponderance of musical ideas suggesting that the overall number of tracks could easily have been split up and trebled. But such a comprehensive format as employed here certainly results in a high degree of listening interest especially wondering in which direction the music will take us off too next. (No aviation pun intended).
The central core programming of drums and keyboards have been truly well constructed, thought out and planned thus providing a solid and interesting platform for the various and exceedingly numerous guitar passages. Such passages which form the melodic heart of the individual songs. Secondary to the guitar interpolations are swathes of keyboard decorations that add a certain flamboyance to the music without outshining the guitar contributions. Interesting too are a whole host of different musical interpretations that have been integrated such as Celtic, rock ’n roll and folk in fact too many to count. In addition, there are many countermelodies generated by a complexity of guitar or keyboard. There are in parts within the entire score that expel a certain ‘Mike Oldfield ‘vibe with some tricky multi-instrumental layering. The whole enterprise clearly being a complex studio mixing undertaking.
Whether it was out of choice or due to restrictions in social mixing but the vocal input was limited to two tracks only. Ukrainian singer ‘Amariia’ has a beautiful voice and the song selected for her suited her voice well. The desire to showcase a wide variation in style and compositional ability is understandable but the only weak point on the album for me was the track ‘White Lightening’, which sounded quite out of place and not the best use of ‘Stan Verbraak’s strong vocal contribution.
There is no doubt that ’LongTall J’ is an extremely superb guitarist and in addition a master music arranger. Such talents that would be a much wanted and a very desirable commodity in the music business as a whole. However, the current correlation between the rewards achievable in the ‘Aviation industry’ compared to those in the ’Music industry’, in these Covid raked times, renders such a thought simply wishful thinking. In the meantime, we can look forward to more polished and enjoyable projects from Jan.
1 – Lockdown 05:40
2 – Got a Loving Fire (feat. Amariia) 04:17
3 – Jeff are you Beck?
4 – But it Matters 03:41
5 – Wonders of the World 04:30
6 – White Lightning (feat. Stan Verbraak) 03:41
7 – Groovy 06:07
8 – Life as it is 07:26
9 – Beat the Logic (feat. Emily V) 03:14
10 – The Thunberg Effect 05:55
11 – Star 08:59
Total time: 57:27
In his daily life the Dutch musician Long Tall J (Jan Lievaart, LTJ) resides in London as a business aviation pilot. During his spare time he writes, records and produces prog rock in the confines of his home studio, which so far has resulted in an early 2020 release Albatros. With the pandemic freeing up Lievaart's flight-schedule, its follow up, 2020, was subsequently released in December of that same remarkable year.
LTJ's message, mentioned in the digi-pack and self-explanatory song-titles like The Thunberg Effect, is one of unification and positivity which on a few effective occasions shines through beautifully in his compositions. Playing almost every instrument on the album, his main asset is lovely attractive guitar work which brings warmth and great atmosphere to his elegantly foremost instrumental progressive/melodic rock styled compositions that also harbour New Age / Ambient passages. Besides these flourishes there are a few collaborations which brings completely different flavours to his music which would make Monthy Python astonishingly proud! I'll save the biggest surprise for last.
The album opens with the slowly advancing Lockdown where rocking guitar adds fuel to a simple beat, while slight New Age feelings emerge from a piano/splashing waves intermezzo that's greeted by short saxophone and Gregorian sounding chants. A thematic return brings the song full circle in a gracious beating atmosphere. Keeping the mild rocking ambience going smoothly is the alternative rock of Got A Lovely Feeling, one of three collaborations on the album. It's co-written and sung by Amariia who's expressive vocals remind me of Skunk Anansie, much like the rugged melodic approach of the song, which is tight and powerful, although slightly monotonous for my palate.
In Jeff Are You Beck? (hint, hint) LTJ displays his immaculate main instrument chops through some delicious solos and fluently melodic approaches, showing signs towards the obvious reference, while the seventies inspired heavy rock segments with superb shreds show light similarities to KONG. Dainty bass, a symphonic touch and Jazz fusion deliciousness ends the song in fine fashion.
Every composition has ample of variety and nice flowing ideas where occasional New Age/ metal touches in But It Matters! bring sensitive emotional elements of Xavier Boscher, while the jazzy surroundings and elegant keyboard twinkles in Wonders Of The World's gives variational depth in a Sunrise Auranaut way. The versatile grooving expectancy of Groovy in its turn shows beating resemblance to Lockdown and adds nice percussive elements to the mix, while the Irish Folk atmosphere created in Beat The Logic, featuring Emily V. on violin, brings delightful visions of a Riverdance exhibition caged within an effective framework of guitars.
The restrained ambient morning dew feelings of the preceding Life As It Is flies off halfway into lovely fusion filled instrumental rock, with some delightful organ ripples which nourish the flow of the composition effectively. Something similarly accomplished in the refined nature created by dreamy piano and synth in The Thunberg Effect, which travels through several moody atmospheres ranging from ominous doom to jazzy landscapes onto bright sunny seashores.
Star's epic Wishbone Ash-appeal works infectiously at first, with lovely melody-lines and restrained frivolities slowly gaining intensity and a soothing rocking intermezzo, yet its extensively prolonged minor mood demonstrates one of my reservations towards the album. There's lots of attention to adventurous variety in both play and compositions, where multi-layered complexness, arrangements and programmed rhythms brings ample of enjoyment, yet some of the compositions pass by in too slow a pace for my taste. I can't help but feel that sometimes they would have benefited from energetic up-tempo injections.
The startling odd one out White Lightning, written in collaboration with Stan Verbraak (Highway Chile, Helloise), certainly makes up for this in the most exciting combustible way imaginable, flaming my youthful admiration for vigorous rock instantly. In a straight forward early heavy metal styled rock composition LTJ reverses musical compass completely and soars mightily into hard rock where the vocal delivery by Verbraak induces seventies Judas Priest vengeance alongside Ronnie James Dio/Rainbow feelings. Slightly rough Angel AOR-touches brings additional catchy power, while LTJ's great drum efforts pay off brilliantly in combination with his axe-slaying.
According to his own statements, LTJ finds it refreshing for his listeners to have a bit of variation now and again. Whether this applies for the enticingly-different White Lightning is a matter of taste, but I for one couldn't agree more. His intention is well kept, and the overall diverseness, lovely melodic approaches and charmingly-arranged compositions emphasise this.
For me the album's strength lies in the first half of the songs, when the up-tempo efflorescences keep the flow of the album going beautifully, to descend in pace after Groovy. Overall a very good effort and I sincerely hope the LTJ-Verbraak cooperation will see a follow-up, as it holds many promises.
LONG TALL J '2020' (INDEPENDENT/UK IMPORT)
Multi-instrumentalist JAN LIEVAART is based in Surrey, which is close to London, UK. He has his own project/band called LONG TALL J, in which he plays everything by himself, with a few guest singers on a couple of songs. We recently reviewed his previous album, and now it's time for 2020. This album is a journey through the awkward year we all had in 2020, which is done through 8 instrumental songs and 3 vocals featured tracks. Jan is a great musician, who surely can play the guitar very well and so we can once again enjoy his fabulous work on especially his tribute to JEFF BECK, which is the song Jeff are you Beck? that has an amazing instrumental guitar melody coming our way. Also quite interesting is the song Beat the logic, which combines Irish Folk and Progrock, and also features Californian violinplayer EMILY V. From the vocal featured material, I really have to mention White lightning, which is a song that has the legendary STAN VERBRAAK (HELLOISE, HIGHWAY CHILE) on lead vocals and it is a great uptempo classic melodic hardrock/heavy rocker. It would be really great to see LONG TALL J teaming up with Stan for a full-length album, because this song sounds very promising! The music in general on this album is a mix of Progrock, Classic Hardrock and a bit of Blues, with also some modern influences here and there, so enough to enjoy and explore. Go check out more at: www.longtallj.com
(Points: 8.1 out of 10)
Long Tall J - White Lightning
- Life As It Is
Van “2020” (self-published, 2020)
From England we received a promo CD from a certain Long Tall J. From his accompanying letter we can conclude that we are dealing with Jan Lievaart. Indeed, he introduces himself as a Dutch-born musician who has lived close to London for years. “2020” is, after his debut album “Albatross”, released in February 2020, his second solo album that was released on December 10 of last year. It should be clear that this is a theme album from the past year, which is reinforced with titles like “Lockdown” and “The Thunberg Effect”. Long Tall J, who in daily life is a pilot in business aviation, recorded the CD almost alone in his own studio. With the help of guitars, heavy drumming and keyboards he mainly creates instrumental, mostly progressive rock pieces. In it he shows that he is an experienced musician who has shown his skills in various bands since the last century. It is also easy to see where his influences come from. These are guitarists such as David Gilmour, Andy Latimer, Jeff Beck (judging by the song title “Jeff Are You Beck?”) And Steve Hackett, but he also acknowledges getting inspiration from more modern acts like Linkin Park and Steven Wilson. There is room for a guest musician on three tracks, with the vocals of former Helloise and Highway Chile singer Stan Verbraak in the AOR rocker “White Lightning” being particularly striking. Long Tall J. also wants to show his introverted side is shown by the subtly arranged “Life As It Is”. We programmed these two songs for tonight. T