Sometimes categorising an
album is wrong, sometimes it is impossible and that's
certainly the case with Judge Smith's The Climber. So
let's get the basics sorted. Smith was a founder member
of Van Der Graaf Generator (something that immediately
goes in his favour). So where does a former prog rocker
go when he heads off in a new direction? In Judge's case
up a mountain.
The Climber is described
as a songstory and that seems to be an apt description
for a gem of an album. Don't expect it to hit home
immediately, however. It takes a considerable amount of
concentration and the tracks cannot be taken in
isolation - you just have to sit and listen to the whole
Basically it's the story
of a British mountaineer who finds solitude in the Alps.
As the story unfolds our hero in his arrogance begins
his ascent of a peak viewed by locals to be highly
dangerous. Gradually the climber comes to find himself
through the intervention of others. The loner realises
that he genuinely is alone and in many ways it becomes a
The essence of the piece
for me is a celebration of life and freedom. As to the
music itself. Well it's sparse but hugely memorable.
Judge sings and is accompanied by a male voice choir and
that all adds to the sparseness of the feel. There are
some memorable lines and melodies as well and it's one
of those pieces that enters your head - somewhere
between prog, rock and classical. In lesser hands the
amalgam would not have worked but in the hands of this
composer it is little short of a triumph and one I will
return to time after time. And that's exactly what you
need to give it - time.