MLWZ Review (Krakow Radio, Poland) – English Translation by Artur Chachlowski, 15/02/08.

The history of progressive band Protos provides evidence of how unimaginable and unpredictable the fortunes of a rock group can be. The biography of this band was elaborated when reviewing their debut album “One Day a New Horizon”. Let me remind you that it was released in 1982 and Protos recorded it as a duet: Rory Ridley-Duff (k), Steve Anscombe (g). It turned out to be the priceless treasure of British prog-rock undiscovered until the arrival of the CD age. Twenty-five years after the premiere of the vinyl, when considerable interest (mostly from the Japanese) had been aroused, Rory and Steve resolved to reissue this album and it turned out to be a great success.

The band appeared doomed to utter oblivion yet rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The band made another well-grounded decision by bringing out a record with completely new material. That is precisely how the new album “The Noble Pauper’s Grave” found its way to our hands. It tells a vivid history about a man of noble birth, who abandons his background, to experience a feeling of joy and love among both poor and common people. The band Protos (which continues to be a duet solely accompanied by a cellist – Nigel Rippon) spins a story using the instrumental compositions interspersed with narration.

Steve, with the help of Ally Rough, interprets the story and engagingly wrote the lyrics. The album consists of 13 parts. Its seven odd numbers are the lyrical pieces, whereas the album’s six even numbers come as the narration. We have encountered this more than once in the history of light music (in “Return To The Centre Of The Earth” by Rick Wakeman). However, all things considered, the album “The Noble Pauper” is most impressive when in the form of a 51-minute narrative-musical. The music interlaced with narration takes on the unique expression and a genuine brilliance. In the process, it makes the individual compositions of Protos something more than simple illustrative music. Together with the words, sounds acquire significance and activate the imagination of the listener.

I want to emphasise that this music is – to my ears - of stunning beauty. The enchanting melodies, the maturity of the sound, as well as the excellent instrumentation and perfect interpretations ring out with clarity on this record. To crown it all, the epic narrative pervades the longest tracks on CD: “The Rally” and “Outcry”. “Travels” also shows itself as an extremely impressive track with a lovely tune played on the bassoon. “Departures” is a splendid and solemn lyric finale. It illustrates the funeral of the main character.

The subtle arrangements (the recording is varied with an unprecedented multitude of sounds played on 12-strings guitars, saxophones, flutes, pianos and stringed instruments) which, together with the charming melodies make “The Noble Pauper’s Grave” one of the most beautiful albums released at the close of last year. It stands out against a background of exceptionally good releases in recent weeks.