Al Ross & The Planets – Blue Crystal
Recorded at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios, Blue Crystal is augmented by a stellar array of session players, including guitarist Norman Beaker (Jack Bruce, Chris Farlowe, Van Morrison) and keyboardist Lyndon Connah (Level 42, George Michael, Joe Cocker)
When the band entered the world famous Abbey Road Studios to commence recording in January 2020, they never guessed that a pandemic was about to turn their plans upside down. The virus would soon sideline members, travel around London became forbidden, and – when sessions did finally resume in May – there was a long list of safety measures.
As band members became unable to take part, Ross realised that he would need to hire session players to fill the gaps. He asked his long-time friend Lyndon Connah to play keyboards and assist with production. Connah’s extensive resume includes work with Level 42, George Michael, Squeeze, Joe Cocker, Thomas Dolby, Nik Kershaw and Go West. Next, Wienerworld’s Anthony Broza suggested blues guitarist Norman Beaker. A native of Manchester, Beaker has been involved with the British blues scene since the 1960s and has toured and/or recorded with Jack Bruce, Chris Farlowe, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry and B.B. King among many others.
The wide array of talent involved in the collaboration yielded spectacular results. The warm and lustrous ‘Faith’ is a radio-friendly standout; a love song caressed by piano and light samba rhythms. ‘All The Things We Started’ shares a similar glow, featuring a soaring, emotive vocal by Ross. ‘Crossroads’ and ‘In The Middle Of The Night’ venture into gospel territory, slowly building in intensity in a manner that recalls vintage sides on Apple Records, as well as more current artists like Primal Scream and Spiritualized. ‘Sweet Memories Of You’ has echoes of Pink Floyd. ‘Blue Crystal’ is another slow build with a melody worthy of Noel Gallagher. And finally, ‘Something Changed My Mind’ says farewell to a lover as the Hammond organ adds charms to an up-tempo country stroll.
“Facing huge obstacles in a horrendous year – with two members getting Covid – we managed to produce a truly great album,” said Ross. “It was a great way to pass the hours rather than staying at home feeling depressed! We were able to create something positive out of 2020.”
2. Something Changed My Mind
4. Blue Crystal
5. In The Middle Of The Night
6. All The Things We Started
7. Checkin’ Out The Vibe
8. Sweet Memories Of You