KITE PARADE – Retro (2023)

KITE PARADE - Retro (2023) - full

KITE PARADE is a band from the South of England is the creative outlet for musician Andy Foster, a multi-instrumentalist / vocalist / songwriter who contributes virtually everything to his new album titled “Retro“, except drums… and well… why not get the awesome Nick D’Virgilio and Wishbone Ash’s Joe Crabtree to cover those. Add to that the mixing/mastering duties handled by Rob Aubrey (Big Big Train, IQ) and you have a winner.
But the winner itself on “Retro” is the songwriting: it makes justice to the album’s title with a terrific ’80s feel in a rock&pop / poppy AOR / melodic rock style plenty of catchiness and clever progressive twists. I would call this ‘intelligent melodic rock / pop’, being the ‘intelligent’ regarding the great arrangements.
Take the best AOR proggy side of IQ and It Bites, add some Saga commercial side, Kevin Gilbert’s geniality and even a little pompy AOR of Virgina Wolf, to get an idea of KITE PARADE’s awesomeness.

There is a song on this album called ‘Wonderful’, and I promise, dear reader, that the following is true and is no play on words: while listening to ‘Retro’ and reached the third song, when I declared out loud: ‘There’s only one word to describe this: wonderful’. Only then did I look at the track names and realize that the word was eponymous of the song I was listening to.

The CD kicks off with rocket-fuel power in the form of the title track. ‘Retro’ starts with a voice-over and a series of NDV stabs that make a firm statement about what is to follow. Solid rock mayhem ensues in 4/4 timing but with the intricacies that you would expect from the likes of Kevin Gilbert or It Bites. Yes – Andy Foster is that good.
The voice-over (this time about a rocket launch) returns to blast off ‘Speed of Light’. The song is more accented and builds around a Proggy arrangement. The bass runs sound like Chris Squire on steroids, and Foster gives us the second in a long line of devastatingly good lead solos. The keyboard parts, which keep up with aplomb, sound as if they could have been played by Asia’s Geoffrey Downes.

As the album progresses, it becomes steadily more apparent how good a musician Foster really is.
The aforementioned ‘Wonderful’ is one of my favorite song of the year so far. Majestic and sweeping, this track will take you to the highest places of musical gratification. Foster’s voice is especially plaintive, soaring above the most endearing chord progressions imaginable. As I said, I would have been speechless if I had not been compelled to make an out-loud declaration of this song’s quality.

Sounds of nature and the pealing of bells usher in ‘Shadows Fall’. All about changing direction and analyzing why we are here, the song will help renew your musical faith. The sax solo is reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa ‘Wish You Were Here’, and is followed by a keyboard-driven instrumental passage with all sorts of stabs and solos that remind us that Foster loves pomp-AOR too.
Foster’s impressive guitar work permeates the next song ‘Under the Same Sun’. With lyrics such as ‘the politicians haven’t got a clue… it’s up to me and you to make a sacrifice…’ the song has a strong message of unity and positivity, accompanied by suitably ascendant musical performances. Possibly the most poppy song on the album (at least in the vocal sections), this is very uplifting.
At this point, it must be mentioned that Foster’s vocals are stupendous, clean, with many colors.

On ‘Merry-Go-Round’ Foster showcases his love for melodic prog too. This is a 15-minute epic of the ilk that modern Prog fans have come to expect. Co-written by lyricist Steve Thorne, it is a progressive romp and must have been quite a feat to record. It has some Asia on it, some GTR, some Magnum, a defintive ’80s feel too.
Initially a sombre ballad painted in pastel shades, the first part of the song is heart-wrenching and sad, built on Foster’s groaning guitar strains and vocals. The song delivers its message of rising up and looking up with ethereal soulfulness, and Foster’s searing guitar is ever-present. After the sadness, there is an up-tempo vocal section in the second part that stands in contra-distinction to the opening section. Whilst the change is a little dramatic on first listen, it all makes sense after a few plays, and the song culminates in a triumphant slow march that ends the album. Stellar.

Rob Aubrey mixed and mastered ‘Retro’ to perfection. There is a duality that results when Foster’s compositions are combined with Aubrey’s production. It us a duality that is eminently pleasing, with the closing track being particularly emblematic of it. The artwork is as ‘retro’ as the album’s name would infer, with a 1960’s mannequin in a red frock next to a pile of vinyl LP’s – classic.
Cleverly-arranged songs packed with intellectual yet compact performances, delicate ear-worm melodies, huge melodic choruses, great instrumentation and production of the highest order are all to be heard consistently throughout this album. It also, quite remarkably, gets better with repeated plays.

An absolute must for Melodic Rock / lite Prog fans, ‘Retro’ is a very fine album indeed. Equally good news is that Foster will be assembling a band to tour this excellent music, and rightly so – the world needs to hear it played live.
Kite Parade have developed and matured from an exciting sideline recording project into a real contender. For me, this is no afterthought passion project – it is the real thing, and it deserves as much recognition and attention as any major act out there.
Call it serendipity, call it great timing, call it astounding musicianship, call it boundless talent. Whatever label you want to place on it, ‘Retro’ is the right album, in the right place at the right time. The only word that I can use to end this review is this: ‘Wonderful.’
HIGHLY Recommended


01. Retro
02. Speed Of Light
03. Wonderful
04. Shadows Fall
05. Under The Same Sun
06. Merry-Go-Round

Andy Foster – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Saxophone, Keyboard Programming
Nick D’Virgilio – Drums (tracks 1,2,3,4 & 6)
Joe Crabtree – Drums (track 5)
Russell Milton – Bass (track 5)
Vladimir Kurganov – Fretless Bass (track 4)
Steve Bradford – Hammond Organ Solo (track 5)
Daz Atkinson – Guitar Solo (track 5)
Jessica Chambers – Backing Vocals (track 6)



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