The Dave Foster Band – Maybe They’ll Come Back For Us (Album Review)

Review of the new album from The Dave Foster Band – ‘Maybe They’ll Come Back For Us’

by Geoff Bailie

Followers of the British prog rock scene for last quarter of a century will have found it hard to avoid the name of Dave Foster! From early days in Mr So & So, Sleeping Giant and Panic Room, through to current roles in Big Big Train and Steve Rotherey’s band, he’s been a regular presence! Anyone with any exposure to those bands will know that Foster is a fantastic guitar player … but what do great guitar players do in their spare time? Well some go the Satriani / Vai route and produce technically dazzling instrumental albums that show off their skills. But Dave Foster…

Since 2011, Dave has been releasing albums that include collaborations with Dutch vocalist Dinet Poortman, who Foster met via his connections with Marillion, and Maybe They’ll Come Back For Us is the latest of those. I have to admit that this album really took me by surprise – I think I was expecting something that was much more “technique” – soloing focused. Instead, what I found was an album of very strong songs, melded with excellent production and an eclectic range of guitar sonics within the tracks.

“Sleep Spindles” begins the album and some solo guitar gives way to a really strong opening track. And of course every great album should start with a song about Neuropsychology, right? Joking aside, Dinet’s vocal is incredibly powerful as a solo instrument, but is also used to great effect in the backing vocals, both the vocal lines and the atmospherics that pepper the track. On this song and throughout the album, great attention has been paid to ensure that the vocals and guitar are complimentary- each had its moments and they aren’t competing. The guitar solo in this track comes at just the right moment, and is melodic and relatively simple – but just perfect for the dynamic.

Foster draws on a few famous friends at various moments in the album and Level 42’s Mark King’s distinctive bass slap opens the next song, “Talent To Failure.” I mentioned the production earlier and this track is a really great example of that. Stick your best headphones on or crank up your largest speakers and you’ll hear what I mean. King’s bass is busy, Foster is playing a echoing rhythm part but Portman’s vocals sits comfortably on top of all of that – and when the chorus comes, the vocals split into stereo tracks in each channel, shifting the sound stage in a fantastic way. The mid song guitar solo has some delicious sustained notes, and by contrast the outro solo has some speedy shredding that will make you smile!

“Pollyanna” follows with an acoustic intro, accompanied by cellos, giving it an almost Zeppelin feel. Using largely the same players, they manage to conjure a completely different sound, with the added extra of Queen & Adam Lambert’s bass man, Neil Fairclough, adding a rich melodic bass line. Fairclough plus Steve Rothery are present on “These Tendencies,” a heavier more driving track, shifting the mood from the previous more reflective moment. More fantastic bass fills the mid-song breakdown, which lulls you into the excellent guitar work at the songs ending with Steve Rothery featuring. “The Optimist” steps back to an acoustic focus, with some underpinning electronics, until just over a minute in, we’re drawn into the song’s driving rhythm as Dinet’s optimistic message rings out – “if you’re lost and in the dark, and giving up, hold my hand and we’ll go!”.

My attention spiked reading the press release for this album when I noticed that Big Big Train’s former member Carly Bryant makes an appearance on the album – and “Queen of Maybe” is that moment. An acoustic driven track with at times a Beatle-esque feel, Bryant’s vocal is great counterpoint to Dinet Poortman’s and another strand of colour in the rich sonic painting within this album. This is just one of those tracks that when I played it, I thought – I sincerely hope lots of people get to hear and love this album!

“Delicate Things” is a bit lower in Dinet’s register to begin with and highlights what an incredibly versatile vocalist she is, something this album really benefits from. I get a bit of a Marillion vibe off this song, in a way I can’t quite put my finger on until … at the 3 minute mark a sonic bomb explodes and suddenly we are in high gear, thanks to the dynamics and Dave letting loose on the guitar. Wow.

I’ve said in a few recent reviews that one of the clear benefits of the vinyl revival is that many artists are giving attention to making a 45 minute album that fits in a single 12 inch disc. Well, this is one such, but it’s not over until “Whirling of Whales” closes things off. It’s got electronics, some effective sampled vocals, another strong chorus (everything sonic aside, this is a really strong group of songs) and then… another gear shift, briefly moving the song into heavier territory, which shifts the song / and the album to stratospheric levels! The closing 30 seconds of the album has Dave cutting a killer wah wah solo and then – Stop. It’s done.

I said earlier this album was not what I expected. I expected I’d like it, but many times, I don’t necessarily return to things even if I enjoy them on first listen. However, “Maybe They’ll Come Back For Us” surprisd me by sheer quality of the songs, and the sonics! It’s a great album to listen to in one sitting, and while not hogging the limelight at every second, contains some superb guitar playing. I firmly expect to be calling it out when lists for 2024 are being drawn up so take my advice: (1) get a copy and listen to it; (2) this is an album to share – it’s not hard-core prog – it’s great songs, great playing and great production. I’ll bet when you hear it you’ll think of someone who might enjoy it – so spread the word!

Released on May 31st, 2024

1 Sleep Spindles
2 Talent To Failure
3 Pollyanna
4 These Tendencies
5 The Optimist
6 Queen Of Maybe
7 Delicate Things
8 Whirling Of Whales

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