Tag Archives: Anne-Marie Helder

The Prog Factor!

The latest issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog came out today, containing the results of 2010 readers poll, in which I remembered to vote this time!

It’s great so see so many of the bands I’ve travelled around the country to see feature a lot in the results. Both Mostly Autumn and The Reasoning did well, with MA’s “Go Well Diamond Heart” and The Reasoning’s “Adverse Camber at #3 and #5 in Best Album. The Reasoning also made #4 in Best Band, and Mostly Autumn’s “The Night In Leamington” at #5 in Best DVD, the latter very creditable when you consider the other four were Rush, Transatlantic, Porcupine Tree and Opeth, all bands of far higher profile

Not only that, Anne-Marie Helder, Kim Servior and Olivia Sparnenn took the top three positions in Best Female Vocalist. Not only lovely people, but three are great singers who have paid their dues slogging around what’s euphemistically knows as “the toilet circuit” for several years, and it’s certainly time to see them start to get the recognition they deserve. They’re all real singers who don’t need auto-tune and can very definitely cut it live, which is more than can be said for far too many of today’s chart-toppers. Forget X-Factor, it’s the Prog Factor that really counts.

And we shouldn’t underestimate the significance either. Classic Rock Presents Prog is not a subscription-only niche publication with a limited audience, it’s a widely-available newsstand publication with a readership of more than half that of the NME.

The other big prog news this week is the announcement of the several of the bands who will the playing the Classic Rock Presents Prog stage at High Voltage in July. Jethro Tull will be one of the headliners, with Mostly Autumn, Spock’s Beard, The Enid, Caravan and Pallas also on the bill. This is looking like a fantastic weekend already.

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New Dance Orchestra – Electronica

The New Dance Orchestra is a project by Geoff Downes of Asia and Buggles fame, which for this album features Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder on lead vocals. It was an unexpected surprise when I heard about it online, and I ordered it unheard based solely on the reputations of the people involved.

Billed as “Dance-Pop”, to my ears it’s more pop than dance, made up of well-crafted songs rather than Ibiza-style club anthems, Musically, comparisons with The Buggles are I suppose inevitable, but I can also see slight elements of late-period ELO when a disco flavour crept into their sound. The overall feel is certainly very 1980s, down to some synth sounds that are either delightfully retro or cheesily dated depending on your point of view. The arrangements are entirely keys and programmed rhythms, but one or two of the actual songs wouldn’t sound out of place on an Asia, or for that matter, a Panic Room album. Certainly the choruses of songs like opener “Shine On”, “Dance To The Music Of Time” or the gorgeous closing ballad “Golden Days” get lodged in the brain as earworms after just a few listens.

With Geoff Downes credited with all the songwriting, Anne-Marie Helder’s only contribution is as lead singer, and she gives a stellar performance on vocals; demonstrating once again what a versatile singer she can be. It’s quite a way from my usual tastes in listening, and an album I probably wouldn’t have given any attention had it not been for the people involved. But it’s still an enjoyable listen nevertheless.

Like many non-major label releases, it’s available as a pre-order now directly from The New Dance Orchestra website, and will have an official retail release in the new year. It gives no information about international shipping, or even which country it’s shipped from; Paypal billed me in US Dollars but the album turned up within 48 hours posted from a UK address. Don’t know what will happen if you order from the US.

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