DON AIREY – K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy [remastered reissue] (2016)
Universal Music / Music On CD are reissuing, in remastered form, one of my favorite abums from the ’80s: “K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy” by DON AIREY.
Classically trained and an avid supporter of the Hammond Organ, Airey’s resume reads like a who’s who of rock and roll. Active either as a member or a significant contributor, Don’s past associates have included Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Colosseum II, Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Brian May and Deep Purple just to name a few.
For “K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy”, his first solo album, Don Airey called his past associates (and at the time, current, as he was part of Gary Moore’s band) to return the favor and appear on the record.
With help by Moore on guitars, monster Cozy Powell on drums, exquisite vocalists Chris Thompson, Colin Blunstone (Keats), Genki Hitomi (Vow Wow) and Mel Galley (Whitesnake, Phenomena) among other talented musicians, Airey wrote a concept work around the deadly disaster took place on the mountain in Asia known as K2 (the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest) between the 6th and 10th August of 1986, leading to the death of various mountaineers.
The album consists of themes around the fatal event, divided into short narrations, bombastic keyboard-orchestrated passages and a strong Eighties rock / Melodic Hard Rock flavor overall.
The atmosphere ranges from dynamic grooves and sensational vocal parts, to very dramatic solos and instrumental duels.
My favorite Cozy Powell contribution is the terrific, hard rock / progressive and outright eight-minute rocker ‘Death Zone / Whiteout’. The latter part of the song features Powell & Airey just going at it making for a very aggressive, pensive and moody epic.
Meanwhile, Gary Moore’s seductive guitar work on ‘Song For Al (Instrumental)’ creates some magical moments with Airey’s flighty keyboard performance, which is likely one the album’s pivotal instrumental moments.
Among the best vocal tracks, the underrated Mel Galley (recalling his great work on the Phenomena project) shines on the dynamic uptempo ‘Sea Of Dreams (Part II)’, Chris Thompson is excellent on the pure mid-80s ‘Can’t Make Up Your Mind’, while we have the velvety vocals of Colin Blunstone on the emotional ballad ‘Julie (If You Leave Me)’.
The aforementioned ‘Death Zone / Whiteout’, in its first part ‘Death Zone’ features the amazingly great vocals of Genki Hitomi (from underrated Japanese hard rockers Vow Wow), while by the end of the album, just when the events peak their top emotional moments, Airey placed his more sensitive side on ‘Song For Al (Vocal)’ with a grandiose keyboard work along with Thompson’s classy vocals and Moore’s thrilling trademark solos give birth to the excellent finish of the album and the story.
Apart from its solid concept, what I love most about “K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy” is its sonic approach. It is definitely an ’80s album, from songwriting and arrangements to production. Yes, this is a pure ’80s sounding record.
It’s a true product of its time, where melodic Lite Prog meets Hard Rock meets AOR with a great alternation between different emotions. It’s some kind of Phenomena, blended with ’80s Camel, some Alan Parsons circa Eye In The Sky, plus Gary Moore more melodic (yet rocking) side.
But essentally, “K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy” is a fantastic piece of music brought by a fabulous set of stupendous musicians.
After his busy schedule during the Eighties / Nineties, Don Airey found time for his solo career releasing various albums (all good), but “K2 Tales Of Triumph And Tragedy”, in my opinion, remains as his magnum opus.
An ’80s Masterpiece.
You’ve seen it first here, at 0dayrox
01 – Overture
02 – Sea Of Dreams (Part I)
03 – Sea Of Dreams (Part II)
04 – Voice Of The Mountain
05 – Song For Al (Instrumental)
06 – Balti Lament
07 – Ascent To Camp 4
08 – Can’t Make Up Your Mind
09 – Summit Fever
10 – Close To The Sky
11 – Blues For J.T.
12 – Julie (If You Leave Me)
13 – Death Zone / Whiteout
14 – Song For Al (Reprise / Vocal)
Don Airey – keyboards, synths, piano
Gary Moore – guitar
Keith Airey – guitar, backing vocals
Laurence Cottle – bass
Cozy Powell – drums
Chris Thompson – lead vocals (2, 8, 14)
Colin Blunstone – lead vocals (12)
Genki Hitomi – lead vocals (13)
Mel Galley – lead vocals (3)
Ian Harrison – backing vocals
J. J. Morland – backing vocals
Gordon Honeycombe – narrations
Michael Airey – glockenspiel (10)
BUY IT !