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Galahad Returns with The Long Goodbye
The new album complements last year's The Last Great Adveturer and continues the band's run of excellence.
Thank you for spending part of your day with Michael’s Record Collection. It’s always nice to check back in with previous interview guests when a new album is released. There’s not as much background information to cover and you can dive more into the current situation.
That was the case when Stuart Nicholson and Dean Baker of Galahad jumped on a Zoom call with me recently to discuss their new album, The Long Goodbye, the follow-up to 2022’s The Last Great Adventurer, which I wrote about back in January. The new album was written at the same time as last year’s release, and there was some discussion about a double album at the time but the band ultimately decided to split the music into two separate records.
Let’s get to that story.
Galahad is back, just a year after releasing a standout 2022 progressive rock masterpiece in The Last Great Adventurer, with The Long Goodbye, which came out Oct. 20 on the band’s own Avalon Records. It’s no surprise that the new album is not a sea change stylistically for the band, as the songs were written in the same time period as those on last year’s release. The two albums serve as complementary to one another, and fans of one should find plenty to like in the other.
The lineup remains unchanged on the new record. Stuart Nicholson voices the album expertly, with Dean Baker contributing keyboards, orchestration, programming, and backing vocals. Lee Abraham remains on guitars and backing vocals, Spencer Luckman on drums and percussion, and Mark Spencer on bass, backing vocals, and orchestration. Karl Groom is back once again to co-produce the album along with Galahad.
The big difference between the two albums in my view is that the subject matter on Adventurer is a bit lighter than the lyrical content of Goodbye. That’s even represented a bit in the artwork. Where there was color used on the Adventurer cover, the artwork for The Long Goodbye is black and white. Paul Tippett’s artwork is striking and the illustrations for each song are perfect.
“It wasn’t planned that way, it just sort of turned out like that,” Nicholson said of the new album having the darker lyrical content. “It’s kind of a personal album other than ‘The Righteous and the Damned,’ which is kind of a generalized, political kind of thing. A lot of it is about relationships and friendships and how sometimes they break down. The oldest song on the album is ‘The Righteous and the Damned,’ which ironically doesn’t fall into that category.”
The album kicks off with “Behind the Veil of a Smile,” with a pulsing electronic pattern giving way to a melange of keyboards, guitar power chords, and funky bass. It’s a fresh, modern take on the brand of prog rock Galahad has been delivering for years, and it’s got an infectious chorus. It’s a standout track on the album and a great way to kick off the record. Baker’s keyboard solo over some deft bass work from Spencer a bit past the halfway mark of the 6:40 run time is a highlight for me.
“It’s about when you’ve been friends with someone for a long time, and then things basically go wrong,” Nicholson said of the song’s theme. “A lot of people put on fronts and it sometimes takes awhile to realize that’s the case.”
More electronics mixed with keys serve to open “Everything’s Changed.” Baker said he wasn’t inspired by anything particular he was listening when creating soundscapes at the start of these songs, but it’s a refreshing change from mellotron patches. The band again creates a chorus worth singing along with, as Galahad’s music remains accessible, even in a song nearly eight minutes long, such as this one.
”Shadow in the Corner” again employs an electronic introduction along with Nicholson’s whispered vocals that — not for the last time on the album — are reminiscent of Fish with early Marillion. That gives way to a killer riff from Abraham as Spencer and Luckman lay down a nice groove with a Baker keyboard sequence tying it all together. The band goes three-for-three with catchy choruses. Abraham rips off a tasty solo over a bed of supporting keyboard work from Baker and the excellent rhythm section holding it all up.
“I had one sole aim and that was just to get the grooviest groove I could get,” Baker said of writing the song.
Galahad takes a left turn on “The Righteous and the Damned.” It doesn’t follow the same pattern as the first three tracks and eventually becomes something completely unexpected. It starts with Nicholson quietly singing lyrics straight from the title track on the band’s 2007 Empires Never Last album, only not in the familiar melody from that song. After a few lines from “Empires Never Last,” Nicholson starts singing some “naa naa naa” vocals that seemingly come out of left field until the real surprise hits: an accordion and clapping in the style of Jewish folk music.
“We were in Kraków (Poland) a few years ago — this was before lockdown and COVID, so quite a few years ago —and we were actually walking around the Jewish quarter, and there were various musicians with violins playing,” Nicholson said of the song’s genesis. “And I said ‘I’ve got this melody. I don’t want to forget this. I can’t forget it.’ And I’m singing it over and over and over again. And luckily when I got home I remembered it and I recorded it on Pro Tools and then we just worked on it from there.”
Nicholson said that earlier iterations of Galahad might not have tried something so different but now the band will literally try anything and look for influences anywhere.
About two and a half minutes in, the song finally takes on more of a rock direction, but with the same basic melody. Some of Nicholson’s vocal phrasing again strays into Fish territory, but as he has a similar tone, it’s unintentional. A more rocking version of the Jewish folk music section follows — the nearest thing I can approximate to this juxtaposition is hearing Trans-Siberian Orchestra do traditional Christmas music — and it may take some getting used to for some listeners. However, repeat listens do allow the listener to discover more in the song.
“Interestingly enough, ‘The Righteous and the Damned’ is basically a guitar piece, but myself and Stuart wrote that with keyboard guitar sounds,” Baker said.
Lyrically, the song is about power and the struggles in the Middle East to find peace, Nicholson said. The power aspect of it allowed him to tie it back to “Empires Never Last.”
The title track is the final song on the “proper” album (meaning it closes the vinyl version, although there are two more bonus tracks on the CD that follow it). It’s a masterclass of a song that the band felt was their “Comfortably Numb.” That sounds like an easy sentiment to scoff at until you hear this fantastic, goosebumps-raising track. The lengthy instrumental section of the album’s epic (13:09 in length) is exquisite. Abraham’s guitar work is packed with emotional punch as it plays over Baker’s keys, a layered choir of backing vocals, orchestration, and Spencer’s low end.
The song, which deals with the subject of dementia, incorporates some lyrics that pay tribute to Peter Gabriel, as the band borrows brilliantly from his song “I Don’t Remember.”
I don’t remember
I don’t recall
I have no memory
Of anything at all
It is a stunning track — particularly the meaty instrumental section, which positively soars, pulling at the heart strings all the while — and, with its cohesiveness, it’s no surprise to learn that the band collectively finished writing that song together in a rehearsal studio. All the other songs were written by the considerable writing partnership of Nicholson and Baker before the five members convened.
Nicholson quietly and poignantly closes the “proper” album’s final song with the spoken word, “Goodbye.”
The vocalist is all-too-familiar with the subject of dementia, as his father is sadly battling with that now, although he said the song wasn’t written about him.
“My dad’s basically going through that, which is quite a bizarre thing, because it’s not about my dad. But it’s almost like life imitating art,” he said. “It’s quite strange, especially since the album’s just about to come out and his dementia has just gotten worse and worse. My aunt and my nan had Alzheimer’s quite a few years ago, and that sparked the original idea for the song, which kind of sat around for awhile.”
Nicholson said the 2014 Julianne Moore film Still Alice, which dealt with the same subject matter, helped him finish the song’s idea. Baker said he wanted to try to capture in a musical way some of the unsettling aspects dementia inflicts on its victims.
“We were trying to get that confusion in the music. We were trying to make it just a little bit unhinged,” Baker said. “And when we all got together — the five of us — Mark Spencer said ‘Oh, I don’t know about that song. It’s really confusing, and it’s all a little bit unhinged at the beginning.’ So I said, ‘We’ve done it!’ And funny enough, I think it’s probably Mark’s favorite song as well now. Now he gets the angle we were coming from. So I felt really pleased by that, because I think we actually achieved what we set out to do.”
The song is a remarkable achievement and may be the best individual track the band has ever released. It had to be the closing song, and it is, with the two extra CD tracks placed after it only after a long, silent pause to let the gravitas of “The Long Goodbye” sink in.
“We left about 10 seconds between ‘The Long Goodbye’ and the next track (on the CD), just to give everyone a breather,” Nicholson said.
But wait, there’s more!
“Darker Days” is a CD track that nearly became the album’s opening song, and it’s easy to hear why. It’s another catchy number that mixes the band’s rock with electronic sequences adding texture.
Ultimately, the band felt that it was lyrically a bit darker and more negative than the opener should be, so “Behind the Veil of a Smile” was selected instead.
“We had a lot of talk about ‘Behind the Veil of a Smile’ and ‘Darker Days.’ Which one? Which one goes on that opening track and which one goes as a bonus track,” Baker said. “We never got in anything like a fight, but it was difficult for the band.”
The album (CD and digital versions, anyway) closes with the quieter, more contemplative “Open Water.” It’s easily the most sparsely arranged song — featuring keys and acoustic guitar — and it’s a lovely little gem.
“Stuart actually just sang a lyric,” Baker said of the song’s origin. “And then I’m left with figuring out how to make the music from that, which I love. I absolutely love doing that.”
Galahad fans who liked the last album will most likely enjoy the new one. As mentioned earlier, the two can serve as companion pieces. As much as I enjoyed The Last Great Adventurer, I’m not sure it has a song quite as compelling as “The Long Goodbye,” which is the kind of song that can bring the house down in a live setting. To that end, Nicholson and Baker said they played it at Summer’s End and it went down well. Galahad will be supporting the new album with some live shows in Europe.
The Long Goodbye is quite an achievement. For a band that’s been releasing music for more than three decades to write and record an album of such quality is a rarity. But Galahad may only be getting better with age.
To learn more about the band and to order The Long Goodbye, visit galahadonline.com.
Behind the Veil of a Smile (6:20)
Everything’s Changed (7:40)
Shadow in the Corner (5:28)
The Righteous and the Damned (8:38)
The Long Goodbye (13:09)
Darker Days (7:45) - CD track
Open Water (4:09) - CD track
For my full interview with Stu and Dean, check out the video below or download/stream Episode 123 of the Michael’s Record Collection podcast (which includes some short song clips to whet your appetite). Aside from going off on a few tangents along the way, the discussion surrounded the new album. Enjoy!
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