A retrospective of the music of Moonshot, 1971-1992. A band who may have been lost in the ghost light, but a collection lovingly compiled and curated by Tim Bowness.
Release Date: 17th January 2020
Label: Plane Groovy/One Small Step
Formats: CD / DL
Back in February 2017, when At The Barrier wasn’t even a distant star on the even more distant horizon, I reviewed Tim Bowness’ Lost In The Ghost Light album here. I’d been a fan of his partnership with Steven Wilson in NoMan and particularly his solo work built around a melancholy and reflective ambience.
His Lost In The Ghost Light album was a particularly exceptional set. It used as its inspiration, the imagined (or were they?) thoughts of a fictional (or was it?) classic rock musician in the twilight of his (or her?) career.
The chance to chat with Tim about this record (and subsequently, more of his broader catalogue) revealed a fascinating side to the shy and unassuming character he inhibits both musically and in performance. One theme that cropped up was the idea of digging into the backstory of the Ghost Light character.
It conjured up thoughts of Thotch – the band that never was but might have been somewhere, sometime – and genius boy poet, Gerald Bostock, responsible for Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick album of 1972.
Time passed and eventually, the mystique slowly unveiled; the clouds parting to reveal clarity and the cover of the Moonshot compilation. Released at the start of 2020, it gave greater clarification to the Moonshot saga.
The album emerged following the death of Moonshot singer Jeff Harrison, in January 2019 and his wish for singer John Wilkinson to continue the legacy. After all, new singers in a band are something we’re accustomed to by now – I’m sure we can all think of one example. It’s a reminder, or maybe for many, an introduction to a band dissolved into the mists of time.
It’s also a labour of love from Tim Bowness who’s carried the Moonshot torch, partly due to the close affinity he feels with Harrison – a fellow Warringtonian and even born on the same date although 16 years apart.
So here’s our snapshot of the Moonshot catalogue – how the songs originally sounded before they appeared covered by Tim Bowness. A chance to understand how they fit into the jigsaw alongside some of the major bands of the era. And there are plenty of musical triggers that send us back to those times.
And so, Stupid Things That Mean The World gets an Abacab style makeover and represents Moonshot’s move/descent into a more mainstream, progressive pop, mass appeal style. Sound familiar? Maybe, but you can’t fail to detach from the cynicism and get hooked.
The Great Electric Teenage Dream might sound like it’s about to set off on a course about bluegirls that come in every size with its soft acoustic guitars. The waves of ethereal strings offer a feathery caress and it’s easy to drift and become entangled in your own dreams. Distant Summers is their Afterglow of the set – imagine onstage a pink backlit band belting out the climax.
The strong and bold rhythm of the heat provides intensity to Lost In The Ghostlight amidst cascades of Wakeman-like piano notes and there are signatures of the groundbreaking musical experiments of the early seventies – the grand mellotron opening on The Sweetest Bitter Pill and the groovy swing and organ jabs on Moonshot Manchild
Naturally, amidst all the groundbreaking stuff, there’s the hit. Before That Before emerging as the surprise package from the 1973 Rosewater album, interestingly a favourite of their champion Tim Bowness.
Whether or not we’ll ever hear the semi-legendary promise of 2017’s The Digital Beyond that promised a return to the Moonshot heyday, we’ll never know. Great fun is to be had though, in flitting up and down the spectrum between fact and fiction and spotting where reality and imagination become blurred.
Find out more from Tim Bowness on the Moonshot story on Tim’s website here
Listen to Stupid Things That Mean The World: