Ed Bernard – Polydactyl (Ed Bernard, 2015)
Canadian multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Ed Bernard has released one of the finest progressive rock albums we’ve heard in recent months. Although Bernard has some guests, he plays the majority of the instruments and also appears as lead singer throughout most of the album.
You can tell that Ed Bernard has absorbed the best of what progressive rock has to offer. You can hear influences here and there, but there is also a distinct sound developed by Bernard, with a vibe that celebrates both British and North American progressive rock.
Throughout Polydactyl Bernard delivers spectacular guitar solos, majestic mellotron and synthesizer work, violin melodies and mandolin. Bernard demonstrates that you can create high energy music, full of drama while at the same time staying in solid progressive rock territory.
The album opens with “Symfoprogru,” a knockout instrumental where Bernard layers numerous instruments, serving fabulous melodies. He performs practically everything except drums.
On track 2, “Derealization”, Bernard brings in the vocals. It’s a beautiful song that starts with acoustic guitars, synths and outstanding vocal work, including lead and overdubbed backing vocals. While most progressive rock vocalists try to emulate Jon Anderson or Peter Gabriel, Ed Bernard sounds totally different, like a cross between Steve Walsh and Jeff Berlin. Bernard also has a great ability at creating epic atmospheres. Derealization reaches a climactic point with a fiery guitar solo.
“Entitled” is still high level symphonic progressive rock, but it also has folk-rock influences with a mix of acoustic and electric instruments and harmony vocals that recall Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Track 4, “Eyes Everywhere” commences with mandolin and an irresistible groove. Bernard demonstrates his prodigious skills as an arranger, mixing flawless transitions between jazz-rock fusion, delicious symphonic mellotron goodness and epic emotions. The final part is a dazzling electric solo where Bernard combines captivating rock shredding with jazz-rock techniques.
“Running” begins with beautiful pastoral acoustic guitars, mellotron and harmony vocals. Bernard builds it into a vibrant electric piece with stunning guitar, synthesizer and drum interactions. Bernard uses different guitar techniques throughout the album, including overdubs. On “Running” he also adds the grand cathedral-style organ that builds up in magnificent fashion.
Track 6, “Withywindle” is an instrumental that initially showcases the acoustic and classical side of Bernard. He starts with an impressive mandolin set, followed by acoustic guitar and fiddle that transitions into a symphonic section with organ and orchestral synths.
The symphonic tone continues with the eerie orchestral intro to “1000 Hates” that leads into a vocal section with more memorable lead and harmony vocal work. Bernard injects succulent instrumental sections throughout this composition. The final section of this track develops into a stirring guitar conclusion.
The vocals on Track 8, “The Quiet Race” are quite different. That’s because Phil Naro, the lead vocalist for Bernard’s band Druckfarben, and Cameron Hawkins provide the vocals. The vocals, along with the mellotron arrangements are a tribute to Yes at its best. Bernard ends the piece with a dizzying guitar solo.
The last track, “Bring it Home” is essentially a folk-rock piece with acoustic guitars and vocals. It feels like Jim Croce meets Anthony Phillips. Bernard later adds violin and vocal overdubs.
As mentioned earlier, Bernard sings and plays practically all instruments on the album: guitars, violins, violas, mandolins, bass, percussion, keyboards and programming. Guests include Cameron Hawkins on vocals; Phil Naro on vocals; Greg Wyard on bass; Joel Lightman on piano; William Hare on drums; Paul DeLong on drums; and Zed Murmer on drums.
Considering the work that Ed Bernard put into this recording: composing, playing, orchestrating, recording and mixing, he has clearly demonstrated that he is one of the giants of progressive rock in the current scene and Polydactyl is one of his masterworks.
Buy Polydactyl in North America
Buy Polydactyl in Europe