Tag Archives: Steve Hughes

Multi-Faceted Musician Steve Hughes Delivers Finely-Crafted Prog Rock Album

Steve Hughes – Once We Were – Part Two (Progressive Promotion Records, 2016)

British composer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Hughes delivers Part Two of his progressive rock epic titled Once We Were. Steve Hughes was the drummer of two well-known British progressive rock bands, Big Big Train and The Enid.

As in Volume One, Steve Hughes plays a wide-range of musical instruments. Although he’s known as a drummer, he also plays various keyboards, bass, guitars, and provides most of the lead vocals.

Stylistically, Steve Hughes composes pieces where some of the vocals parts lean towards pop, while the instrumental sections are state of the art symphonic progressive rock with new elements that make the music sound more modern, especially with his use of electronics.

Steve Hughes’ lyrics on Once We Were – Part Two shows his concern about misguided politicians, propaganda and other socio-economic issues.

The opening track is essentially a well-crafted pop ballad. Progressive rock arrives with the powerful ‘Life’s a Glitch’, where the vocals are more spirited, drums are muscular and there’s a rich mix of keyboards and guitars, including notable keyboard and guitar solos.

‘Propaganda: Part Two’ is a short instrumental passage, with some East Asian influence in the form of melodies and gongs.

‘They Promise Everything’ builds up very nicely, incorporating an impressive array of keyboards, guitars and percussion in grand symphonic fashion. The unrelenting waves of keyboards and guitars is spectacular. Hughes is a masterful arranger and easily moves through various tempos and atmospheres.

One of standout pieces on the album is track 5, ‘There’s Still Hope’. Here, the vocals are truly fascinating, a nicely-shaped spoken word call and response exercise between male and female vocals. In another section, Hughes uses vocoders brilliantly. There are also exquisite electronic ambiances, vibrant percussive segments, and some of the best guest female vocals.

Track 6, ‘She’s’, begins as a melancholic poppy song with a Beatles flavor and nostalgic harmonica. It quickly progresses into full blown epic progressive rock with outstanding guitar and keyboard work that furiously mixes symphonic rock and jazz-rock.

‘Spider on the Ceiling’ is a short transitional ballad. It leads into the other magnificent epic titled ‘Clouds’. This profoundly satisfying (mostly instrumental) composition mixes classic 1970s-style progressive rock with Alan Holdsworth-style fusion guitar, soaring violin, and cutting edge electronics. Here, Steve Hughes demonstrates he’s one of the most talented acts in the British progressive rock scene.

The album concludes with ‘One Sweet Word’, a laid back folk-rock song with great overdubbed vocal work and ambient sounds.

Steve Hughes plays most of the instruments, including drums, percussion, keyboards, bass, guitars, and vocals. Guests featured: Angie Hughes and Katja Piel on vocals; Maciej Zolnowski on violin; Keith Winter and Dec Burke on guitars; and Richie Phillips on saxophone.

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Multidimensional Musician Releases Epic Prog rock Album

Steve Hughes – Once We Were – Part One (Progressive Promotion Records, 2016)

Once We Were – Part One is the second solo album by British multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer Steve Hughes. He’s the former drummer of two essential second generation British progressive rock bands, Big Big Train and The Enid.

This is a very ambitious album that opens with a mammoth 33-minute suite about love, misguided politicians and war titled “The Summer Soldier.” Although Steve Hughes is best known in the progressive rock scene as a drummer, he shows his talent as a composer and performer of a wide-range of instruments. He uses keyboards to deliver synth-based high intensity classic prog rock as well as wonderful electronic atmospheres. Hughes guitar work is also impressive. On this composition he duels it out with two other guitarists on this track: J. C. Strand and Keith Winter.

“The Summer Soldier” progresses along with a series of sections where we encounter epic symphonic progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, hard rock and even electronic trip hop. Steve Hughes is like a 21st-century English version of Todd Rundgren.

After the fierce strength of “The Summer Soldier,” Hughes switches to a more relaxed mode. “A New Light” has some vocals, but most of the track sounds like melodic electronic music.

The beginning of “For Jay” has the feel of Big Big Train’s pop side. The piece later morphs into an epic progressive piece with memorable guitar.

On “Kettering Road” Hughes returns to powerful rock drums, bass and guitars. The second part features great harmony vocals that lead into a mesmerizing dreamlike section with spellbinding vocoder work and more outstanding guitar work. Along with “The Summer Soldier”, this song is one of the highlights of the album. Many current progressive rock bands totally ignore electronic music. Hughes, however, embraces it in a creative way.

“Propaganda, Part One” is a short and laid back keyboard symphonic piece.

Next is “Was I Wrong,” a vibrant song with a fabulous electric guitar solo by Dec Burke (Frost and Darwin’s Radio) and notable keyboard work as well.
“That could’ve Been Us” is a bittersweet love song with nicely-crafted vocal harmonies and a violin solo.

On “Second Chances” Hughes sings along with Angie Hughes. For some reason the dreamy vocals accompanied by guitars remind me of some of Michael Oldfield’s work.

The album ends with “Saigo Ni Moichido.” The best part is the instrumental second half of the song featuring epic guitar and violin.

The musicians featured in Once We Were – Part One include Steve Hughes on drums, percussion, keyboards, bass, electric, rhythm and acoustic guitars, and vocals; Angie Hughes and Katja Piel on vocals; Alex Tsentides on bass; Maciej Zolnowski on violin; Keith Winter, J.C Strand, and Dec Burke on guitars; and Richie Phillips on saxophone.

Additionally, Hughes produced, engineered and mixed Once We Were – Part One. The second part of this album will be released in December 2016.

The CD physical version includes a booklet with song lyrics, credits and paintings by Jim Trainer.

Once We Were – Part One is a truly impressive forward-thinking progressive rock album by the multidimensional British artist Steve Hughes.

Buy Once We Were – Part One