The Spire (2022) - Long Tall J The third long effort of the London resident Dutch guitarist/producer Long Tall J comes with many improvements from his previous works, along with the strong symbolism that understands the needs of our time. The Spire is a symbol of hope and aspiration, coming together to understand each other and many things left to achieve, while we are not being more than a mere piece of dust in a universe. The aftermath of the pandemic showed us what we need, and as a reflective artist who takes time to just understand the nature around him, J observed and created this. From the lyrics to the musical concepts he explores, he leaves symbols of The Spire to be discovered by the listener. Just like the message of ‘’togetherness’’ he is trying to give, The Spire includes many artists from Kyiv, Ukraine, including vocalist 'Amariia' from Ukraine, a semi-finalist in the National Eurovision Song Contest 2022. The album is rebellious, hopeful, and symbolistic, and spirals into LTJ’s personal reflections to gather objective truths about society and human nature. As an experienced guitarist, LTJ created a very guitar-driven album that can get atmospheric, hard, electronic, and very slow burn at times. The compositional quality never drops for a single moment throughout the album, as he journeys through his many influences from the 70s to the 20s while having a melodic and rhythmic consistency. A real gem for the prog-rock listeners searching for an underrated 52 minutes that is more relevant and soulful than many known contemporaries.
Here is the full track-by-track review!
As an example:
Wakeman's Tale: Being as fulfilling as an album opener can be, Long Tall J’s tribute to one of the most successful and influential keyboardists of all time, a.k.a. Rick Wakeman (YES), is the tone setter of the third album of his catalog. J simply explains the reason behind this salute as ‘’call it appreciation admiration for amazing achievements or simply inspiration’’. The tribute atmosphere is highly reflected in the synths, and the guitar use which could be said to speak of the admiration — backed up with the cadential chord progressions along with Pink Floyd-inspired modulations and slide guitars, a highly melodic and thoughtful tribute. The track even excites more with the epilogue piano solo reminding us of the 70s prog rock piano sections by Eugene Moiseienko. A very hopeful and admirable start for an album that tells the story of hope and the embrace of all of us.
Would you like to read the review of all tracks: Click here!
A combination of guitar orientated rock styles with a sprinkling of gorgeous female vocals
Review by Geoff Penn
Private Press Mastered in the Netherlands in Bergen op Zoom: https://www.headroom-mastering.nl/
My Rating 85/100
Having thoroughly enjoyed reviewing Jan’s 2020 project of the same name I was really looking forward to receiving a hard copy of his follow up album titled ‘The Spire’. However with me living in Cyprus Post Brexit, the mail situation on items sent from the UK is pretty tenuous. Eventually after many weeks in transit the ‘Spire’ arrived just in time for me to take it on holiday transferred in the form of wave files to my IPad.
And so the ‘Spire’ became my traveling companion on this cruise ship around Italy and Croatia etc. So, with plenty of time on deck, the sparkling Mediterranean sea became the backdrop for some exquisite beautifully administered guitar saturated music. The Spire according to the sleeve notes is a symbol of hope and aspirations. For those unfamiliar with Jan’s musical output, he is, in his professional working life, a commercial airline pilot, but away from the cockpit ‘metamorphic transitions occur when the ailerons, elevator and rudder are all swapped for a lead guitar and a stompbox.
‘One gets the impression that, from a musical perspective, Jan is like an all-consuming sponge soaking up before him all manner of harmonious snippets seemingly from an amazing array of styles and different genres. Indeed he has created a preverbal scrapbook of musical resources. Such treasures he has cleverly fused together with his own unique ideas and instrumental skills both at the compositional stage and in the recording studio. The result in this case being an album of warmth and originality and which adequately displays a definitive A-Z of guitar manipulations.
For those not aware of ‘Long Tall J’ as a guitarist and composer, one could be forgiven if the moniker (LTJ) gives the impression of this album being the works of an ‘American Blues Man’ But far from it LTJ is a master craftsman and The Spire’ is a beautifully presented digipak containing ten tracks of well-considered and beautifully developed guitar based music. From Jan’s website there is a link to a comprehensive downloadable booklet that outlines in great detail the inspiration behind each of the tracks, accompanying musicians and other technical details for each of the tracks,
It would of been foolhardy, on my part, to try and replicate such details as found in the above booklet within this short review. All I would say is this album is not first time listening and needs several plays for the essence of the music to be fully realised and appreciated, but of course the best things in life need work and attention. Another aspect that comes to mind, in relation to the booklet, is that the compositions, support musicians and arrangements are all well documented.
Summary: ‘The Spire’s a superb album that has been assembled with much skill and panache with excellent lead guitar and support keyboards together with beautiful female vocals on selected tracks. If there is any small area of criticism that could be levied it would be that there is a slight overuse the drum machine which takes away a certain stylish percussive element from the proceedings .But this is being extremely picky.
From the Dutch rock and prog magazine "STRUTTER'ZINE" June 2022:
LONG TALL J ‘THE SPIRE’ (INDEPENDENT/UK IMPORT)
LONG TALL J is a Dutch guitarist and music producer living in London, UK, and The Spire his 3rd album so far. We have reviewed his previous albums, which were quite good, and now his new CD offers once again high quality melodic progressive rock, which is a mix of instrumental music and some beautiful vocal melodies on 3 songs that are sung by AMARIIA (semi-finalist in the 2022 National Ukrainian Eurovision Song Festival Contest and part of the Altrockband AMARIIA from Kyiv, Ukraine). There are more Ukranian guest musicians to be heard, because that is what LONG TALL J wanted to show the world that music has no borders.
From start to finish this is a lovely calmer melodic progrock affair with fantastic melodies in both the instrumental and vocal parts. LONG TALL J is an amazing guitarist who comes up with precise subtle melodies on his guitar. A total of 10 songs are included, and some of them are definitely huge winners for the progrock fanatic, with as highlights the lengthy Don’t Let Them Talk To You That Way, Falling, Four Seasons and the sensational World Music influenced Novaya Zemlya that would make MIKE OLDFIELD jealous! The album closes nicely with the lovely uptempo melodic rocking Ten. Check out this talented musician’s new CD at: https://longtallj.bandcamp.com/album/the-spire?from=hp
(Points: 8.2 out of 10)
After his previous but still recent releases Albatross and 2020 (both released in 2020), Dutch guitarist, aviator and musical producer Long Tall J (aka Jan Lievaart) seeks new heights with his latest release The Spire. Staying true to his style of fusing melodic rock and prog, with an emphasis towards melody and atmospheres, he brings a message of hope and aspiration. This is symbolically captured on the artwork by one of the world's highest buildings, London's iconic The Shard.
As on 2020, LTJ has once again achieved his goal of bringing a refreshing, versified collection of songs. Unfortunately for me, this doesn't involve the much anticipated collaboration with Stan Verbraak. Hopefully next time. Instead, LTJ is this time assisted by Martin Mens, Mel Mercer (also the designer of LTJ's artwork) and a group of Ukrainian musicians going by the names Moiseienko, Megabassman, Dmytro Kazantsev, and Amariia.
On The Spire, LTJ shows to be nothing short of an inspiration and successfully blends blues, jazz, rock and prog, although the latter is in the minority.
There are some elements and songs which don't work out so well and affect the album's consistency. One of those is Inge which is nothing more than a few quiet minutes of elementary guitar chords and citation of a Dutch poem written by LTJ's aunt Inge. Spoken with warmth by voice-actor Mens and surrounded by outdoor sound effects, it's hard to stay awake to this composition, especially when the song ends in nursery mobile trifle. Another example is the morning dip of Sunday Blues which, although beautifully sung by Maria Arkhipova (Amariia) and exhibiting excellent atmospheres of feeling down, it ripples past fairly unnoticed.
This can't be stated for the other two compositions featuring Ameriia. In The Spire she adds a soulful performance as well as superb harmonies, while the alternative-rock song itself is nicely covered in rocking guitars, to which a fine bridge gives way to fine guitar melodies. She also elevates the pop-oriented Falling, which becomes one of the better songs of the album. Aided by a bluesy undertone and gradually building in carefully-crafted intensity, its sensitive ending gliding through beautifully created atmospheres is noteworthy. Detectable prog influences are still very much out of the question though.
The same goes for Seven Of Nine which is a solid-rocking composition adding ominous atmospheres and excellent slide guitars over powerful driving bass from Megabassman. It showcases plenty of variety, staying well within the engaging melodic rock confinements of LTJ's spectrum. The far-too-short and most excellent instrumental bouncer Ten shows the same non-prog attraction.
During this highly energetic moment I do need the accompanying video to visualise the song's subject-matter, which also applies to the instrumental narration of Novaya Zemlya whose story is shared in the corresponding booklet that's only available online. Telling the story of explorer Willem Barents, this successfully sails away on carefully-crafted melodies in which icy coldness is met by lovely jazzy guitars. Transitioning through a wealth of variation that sheds a warmth of guitars, brings frostiness of synths, and that splashes waves of melodies, it is however the disaster, darkness and chaos that befalls on the adventurers that doesn't come across as powerfully and gloomily as probably LTJ envisioned.
In that respect, the mellow and slow-paced Four Seasons has more success, as it passes through the melancholic sorrow of autumn from LTJ's bluesy guitar play, and then slowly shifts into winter as spatial, atmospheric synths add shivering chills. When spring approaches through acoustic refinement and a cited Polish poem by Melcer announces summer, the subsequent subdued melodies, surrounded by calming natural sound effects of joyous lively chatter, create peaceful images of this serene moment in time. On a basic, energetic riff and barely audible floaty synth melodies, this mild prog-ish song ends with a nice cone of swirling synth excitement.
With a clue lying in the title, one would expect to find relatively more prog influences in Wakeman's Tale and indeed this is the case. Yet to me the appealing melodic guitar, combined with Mellotron-like synth work deceivingly manages to ignite feelings of Pink Floyd as opposed to the obvious Yes obligation. Rest-assured the outstanding classical piano play of Moiseienko ending the composition, does reflect the delicate ambient side of Yes' caped crusader.
Except for Wakeman's Tale, these last few compositions pass by with a restrained pace of musical mellowness, which in itself isn't distracting, yet I prefer LTJ's energetic side. Both sides of this coin can be found in Don't Let Them Talk To You That Way, which sounds smooth and elegantly hopeful at first with fine electronics, and gains rhythmic diversity as guitars add a rockier edge. The sudden change into trip-hop/chill-hop environments however doesn't speak to me at all and takes the embracing flow of the music away completely. Crawling onwards in a slightly psychedelic, ambient movement the song finally regains some of its finer momentum when LTJ's guitar enters a passage reminiscent to The Shadows.
This last song probably best illustrates my overall mixed feelings towards the The Spire. Overall, LTJ's ideas and executions are fresh and fruitful and there are several inspired moments to be found. Yet, these highlights are outweighed by songs that show a lack of pace and energy or fail to grab my attention or spike my imagination.
In light of recent disastrous world events involving some musicians collaborating on this album, LTJ has since released an online non-album track Ukraine which is a short instrumental song that voices the suffering cries and resistance of a nation under siege. Simultaneously, he acts as an intermediary for Ameriia, who personally sources aid in a variety of ways in her native country. For support see this page and for more information please visit LTJ's own website.
Radio Xymphonia, Prog on-line radio station
in The Netherlands, Show Nr. 1505, May 15, 2022:
NEW Long Tall J - Wakeman's Tale - Sunday Blues From “The Spire” (self-released, 2022) Last year we received the CD "2020" from England from Long Tall J alias Jan Lievaart, a musician born in the Netherlands who has lived close to London for many years. Inspired by the global lockdown, “2020” was his second solo album, after his debut “Albatross” released in February 2020. The successor "The Spire" was recently delivered. The progressive rock parts give way to guitars, heavy drum programming and keyboards. In contrast to predecessor "2020", on this record he was able to seek more collaboration with other musicians. As many as three Ukrainians contribute. Some of the material was sung by Amariia, who this year participated in the semifinals of the national song contest in her torn country. Eugene Moiseienko plays the piano on "Wakeman's Tale" dedicated to Rick Wakeman. Megabassman, finally, adds his bass skills in two pieces. Lievaart makes it even more international, because Martin Mens recites a Dutch poem in “Inge” and Mel Mercer recites a Polish verse in “Four Seasons”. Long Tall J's instruments, however, are still the centerpiece, showing where his influences come from. These are in particular guitarists such as David Gilmour, Snowy White, Andy Latimer, Jeff Beck and Steve Hackett. Yet despite the war in Eastern Europe, the hopeful "The Spire" is above all another proof of his very own view on rock music. From the ten tracks we have selected "Wakeman's Tale" and "Sunday Blues" for tonight.