Released: 10 September 2021
Al Ross & the Planets return with a second album from London’s Abbey Road Studios.
Beginning life in early 2020, the LP took a turn when the Covid-19 pandemic escalated and the group was forced to rethink their approach as musicians bowed out of the project.
Fronted by Al Ross (lead vocals, bass), the record includes contributions from David Brammer (saxophone), Terry Mascall (drums), Julian Mungo (acoustic guitar), and Marc Rapson (piano, Hammond organ, keyboards, percussion).
Former Then Jerico star Alex Mungo also lends vocals to the set, while the departures of George E Well and Paul Miller paved the way for former Level 42 star Lyndon Connah (keyboards) and blues guitarist Normon Beaker to join the ensemble.
The result is a musical masterclass, harkening back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, with vocals pushed front and centre, and melody and harmony the driving force behind the songs.
Opener Crossroads – clocking in at almost seven minutes – begins with stripped-back piano before storming into a full-band number complete with gospel-style harmonies and Hammond organ breakdown.
It serves as an introduction to the diverse range of musicians on the record, along with the varying influences that seep into the LP.
Faith offers piano, acoustic guitar and samba influences, while Checkin’ Out The Vibe could be a pre-Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac track and Sweet Memories of You is an extended rock ballad crying to be performed live.
Single Something Changed My Mind is the most radio-friendly cut and proves the commercial viability of the group.
At just eight tracks, it’s hard not to want for more, but what ‘Blue Crystal’ does offer is a testament to Al Ross & the Planets’ commitment to creating new music in the face of adversity – which is, in itself, an accomplishment worth celebrating.
‘Blue Crystal’ is available on CD.