Once And Future King
Part One
Frontiers Records
FRCD 161
Produced By: Gary Hughes

Running Time: 50.42

Release Date: August 25

Released: EU

Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock

Links: Frontiers
Songs: 93%
Sound: 93%
The work and time that has gone into writing and recording this double album set is easily evident.
For fans of Gary Hughes, Ten and his work with other artists, this is an absolute must have release. It also offers plenty for newcomers and general melodic rock fans.
I must say that I am no big fan of concept albums and/or rock operas, but this album is something a little different. There are not too many such releases I can think of that allow the listener to take any given song out of the flow of the album, allowing it to be enjoyed on it's own.
But each and every track here - and indeed on Part 2 also is enjoyable on its own.
The production quality is nothing short of superb, the songwriting is obviously first rate and the backing from the guys in Ten perfect.
While there are parts of the album that naturally sound like Ten or a Hughes solo project, there are other parts that are completely different and offer the listener a new experience.
Best of all, much like the debut solo album from Hugo, Gary Hughes has put together music and performances that bring out the best in the guests involved.
The story is of King Arthur and the myths behind the legend. It is told through a series of songs spanning two separate albums and guest vocalists playing the parts of various figures involved in the story.
I'll leave the rest of the details for those that buy the album and read through the excellent and rather special liner notes and CD packaging.
Damian Wilson (Threshold, Ayreon) opens the album, with a traditional uptempo European rocker titled Excaliber setting the scene.
Gary Hughes is up next on Dragon Island Cathedral, another rocker which sees the album's author performing on a track pretty close to the style we have come to expect from him which mirrors early Ten. New Ten guitarist Chris Francis gets his first chance to shine, doing an admirable job.
Lana Lane duets with Gary on the next track, which is an enjoyable haunting ballad.
The Reason Why sees Danny Vaughn at the mike for the first of two tracks. Following the mood of the ballad before it, this track is all atmosphere and builds during a solid chorus and continues to do so as the song progresses. Great to hear Danny singing such a style, which he handles with ease.
Irene Jansen (Karma) is the second female lead vocalist featured. Shapeshifter is a dramatic and somewhat bombastic pomp rocker, which changes the tone of the album and adds some impressive variety to the line up of songs.
Bob Catley, playing the role of Merlin appears on the first of two tracks on King For A Day. This is a typical Gary Hughes written Bob Catley tune, which is a dark mid-tempo rock track with an epic chorus will appeal to fans of Bob's first few solo records. Another typically flawless performance by Bob.
Stand out track of the album is the second track featuring Danyn Vaughn. This is melodic rock at its very best and is reminiscent of classic Tyketto. Avalon is a classic feel good uptempo pop rocker. One of the tracks of the year to date.
Diamond Head/Notorious vocalist Sean Harris appears on Sinner. Great to hear his voice again on this track, which is another mid-to-uptempo moody rock track.
Bob Catley returns for another dramatic and slightly epic track In Flames.
Lies closes Part 1, with Gary Hughes, or King Arthur himself, on lead vocals. This track is a mid-tempo moody track, with another memorable chorus. Another classic Hughes number, this one offering fans a lot to like.
And that is the body of Part 1. A little of a departure for Gary Hughes, but there's certainly a lot of familiar elements also present.
Part 2 offers a little something different again, but the two albums piece together perfectly. Part 1 is comprised of simpler more direct songs, with some fine catchy melodic hard rock tracks for fans to appreciate.
The Bottom Line
One of the best concept albums I have ever heard - and certainly one of the catchiest. I can say that with confidence as I listen to it back to back with Part 2, which will be reviewed soon.
Together they highlight the brilliance of Gary Hughes the songwriter and producer, while giving the guest talent enlisted, something very positive to put on their resumes.
Selected Discography / Previously Reviewed
Gary Hughes - Precious Ones
Ten - Babylon
Ten - Far Beyond The World
Once And Future King - Part 2

Line Up
Gary Hughes, Bob Catley, Danny Vaughn, Damian Wilson, Irene Jansen, Sean Harris, Lana Lane: Vocals
Gary Hughes, Chris Francis, John Halliwell: Guitar
Greg Norgan: Drums
Steve McKenna: Bass
Paul Hodson: Keyboards

Essential for fans of:
Ten - Name Of The Rose
Gary Hughes - Precious Ones
Bob Catley - The Tower
Danny Vaughn
Track Listing
Dragon Island Cathedral*
At The End Of The Day
The Reason Why*
King For A Day*
In Flames
--*Best Tracks

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