MULTI STORY – CBF10 (2020)
MULTI-STORY formed in 1981 in Southeast Wales, and released their debut album in 1985 with a typical sound from the era: melodic, polished, and with a certain AORish feeling. They toured with the likes of MAGNUM, recorded a second LP and while the band seemed to be headed for greater things, musical differences made them broke up.
After many years, the original MULTI-STORY line up have been working together again after a long hiatus, with a comeback record in 2016.
Now they are releasing a new CD titled ”CBF10”. Originally, the band was musically melodic prog oriented, and that’s the style mostly shown on this fresh effort spiced with hard rocking tunes, all with emphasis on the ‘song’.
”CBF10” is not a concept album but there are subtle threads and connections across the songs that listeners may spot…
The important principles of Neo-prog, such as focus on melody and the song, and an avoidance of excessive noodling, are very much still touchstones here, but the music has been allowed to grow far beyond those initial ‘neo’ confines.
This is classic melodic prog rock unconcerned about age, period or any sort of dating; if it’s good music, it goes in.
This is ably illustrated right from the off by opening track ‘Signs And Traces’; skirting around the ten minute mark without quite dipping its toe in the ‘bloated epic’ end of the pool, like much of the album, it gives itself just the right amount of time to expand its ideas and lay them out in a leisurely and natural fashion. Opening with what could be a trademark jaunty introduction with half a nod to accessibility and the other half to power and energy, the track develops far beyond that as it morphs into a lengthy, almost spacey section
It’s influenced by both the late ’70s and the ’80s, but overall it belongs nowhere so much as right now. Timeless yet nostalgic, proggy yet heavy, it’s a superb opener.
Starting the album off with such a strong statement of intent is a perfect opening gambit, though fraught with danger if the material following it up is not as strong.
Thankfully, there is no hint of that here, as second track ‘Sharp Recall’ is another winner, yet followed up by the even better ‘Celluloid Star’, which is a strong contender for the high point of the album, with its soaring dynamics and, again, deftly impressive songwriting.
By this time you realise that Multi Story play to their considerable strengths, and make them work brilliantly. This is an album which is absolutely, by any criteria you name, a prog rock album, but by the same token if you are looking for ‘prog fest’, you’re not going to find them here. This is based on ‘songs’.
There is a loose sort of linking concept to Paul Ford’s lyrics to the album, and it concerns the idea of personal identity, and being a free-thinking outsider, if you will. Several songs link into this, with the character of ‘The Rebel’ being a biker who goes his own way, riding with the ‘Freeway Army’ and ultimately, in the song ‘Easy Rider’, in the manner of the film which inspired the song, being gunned down by a ‘redneck’ character simply because he is different. This ties in with the ending of that classic movie, of course, and the closing title track here has the killer going to death row to be executed by lethal injection, despite his claims of being guided by voices in his head.
Thus the CBF10 title is explained as ‘Counting backward from ten’, being what anesthetists may ask patients to do when going under, and also the time in which death by injection will occur.
It’s dark stuff for sure, but also balanced by the uplifting nature of the Rebel’s life and creed of living your life the way you want to providing you don’t harm others. And if there ever was a timeless code to live by, there won’t be many better than that.
There is powerful, rocking music here alongside the prog flourishes, most prominently in the multi-faceted ‘Rebel Inside’, where the band go full bore on some crushingly heavy, yet gracefully executed, riffery, the contrast between the light and shade emphasizing this still further, before the track wends its way out of it with anthemic splendor.
One more thing which must be commented on is Paul Ford’s voice, which is somehow perfect for straddling the line between prog and heavier fare, and a part of that is his unlikely yet sometimes undeniable similarity to Saxon vocalist Biff Byford.
Now, I know this is probably the first and only time that Saxon will be mentioned as a comparative example in a Multi Story review, but do bear with me! A big part of this resemblance is the intonation, feeling and emphasis put into the delivery of the words, which are never simply sung so much as inhabited, breathing life into each line.
After almost forty years in the business, Multi Story have almost certainly just recorded their finest album to date, and that’s no mean feat. This one is a winner from front to back. Just ask The Rebel…
01 – Signs and Traces
02 – Sharp Recall
03 – Celluloid Star
04 – Freeway Army
05 – Last Man Standing
06 – Easy Rider
07 – Firing All Six
08 – Rebel Inside
09 – CBF10
Paul Ford – Vocals, Acoustic Guitars
Rob Wilsher – Keyboards, Programming
Aedan Neal – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Jordan Neale – Drums, Percussion
Arnie Edwards – Bass