"... Narrated by classical guitar ambiences, along with Anne Taft's soaring operatic vocal registers, produces a powerful combination, occasionally of theatrical proportions. From subtle and delicate to electrifying in her purity of tone Taft's select placement within arrangements consolidate the album's concept. . . " Russell Welton, Acoustic Magazine
" Having released the excellent Particle Theory earlier this year with his band, Neil Campbell is back with something entirely different. Whereas that disc had been upbeat space fusion, Ghost Stories has much more subdued approach concentrating mainly on classical guitar...... Also appearing on Particle Theory, Anne Taft lends her beautiful soprano voice to this project as well. The wordless vocals add a powerful expression to the music. Folk out there that are familiar with Karda Estra might also want to look into this album. The approach is very similar in many ways..... This is a very beautiful set of songs .... For those of you out there who like stuff like the lighter side of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips and the previously mentioned Karda Estra, this music is definitely worth investigating." - www.progressiveears.com
"Neil Campbell's intelligent fusion disc Particle Theory was reviewed earlier in FAME, but this is a complete departure from it, straying quite broadly into classical territory while slipping in a bit of neoclassicism via light touches of electro-acoustics.... (t)he effect is that of dreary beauty, somnolent and age-ridden, harking back to antiquity and heightened Edwardian morés, silent and proper... if you're fond of new classical works setting heavily on the moody horizon, this is music to read Poe by…or Wuthering Heights…or The Scarlet Letter…" - Mark Tucker, FAME Acoustic Music Reviews
"Only a few months after the release of the Collective's second album Neil Campbell is back on stage this time accompanied by two different musicians : Michael Beiert (a German electro-acoustic composer) and Anne Taft (soprano). Ghost Stories, born out of the coming together of this trio, is an album which is just as deeply sensitive as it is intensly delicate. Based around the classical guitar the 4 compositions (30, 4, 3 and 2 minutes in length) arouse visions of impressionistic paintings as well as a dreamy atmosphere created by Anne Taft's hazy vocals. Ghost Stories itself (which at times has a hint of the acoustic works of Steve Hackett or Anthony Phillips as well as groups such as Karda Estra) is a first class néo-classical work: a delicious nocturnal ballad in search of harmless yet enchanting ghosts." www.cosmosmusic.fr
(translated from the french by Paul Vaughan)
"Listening to Ghost Stories is like attending a séance with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, it makes one feel a bit uneasy with its rapprochement to the spiritual hereafter, but also relaxed, by allowing one to focus on the approaching infinite eternity......With flamingoesque guitar solos by Neil Campbell, and (dare I say) ghostly vocals by Anne Taft, it’s especially the eerie synthesizer soundscapes by Michael Beiert produce the appropriate effect. Ghost Stories is an impressive, transcendent, work of art. It brings us, the living, in closer contact with the realm of the dead." Gary Levinson, www.indiemusicreview.net
"yet again another fine release from Neil Campbell, who as yet has not failed to impress with his releases... Superb stuff once again... 7.5/10", Bob Mulvey, Dutch Progressive Rock Pages
"Over the streaming sibilance of the wind comes a delicate guitar melody - clear fingering, virtuoso classical style, moody of nature. Wordless vocalisations from singer Anne Taft add to the crepuscular atmosphere - effortless soarings and ethereal meanderings that hang in the air ... Neil's deft instrumentation has Spanish elements in the delivery, elegantly plucked melodies atop secondary patterns that ring with a comfortable clarity that belies the dexterity needed for such beautiful form." Morpheus Music Reviews at www.electronicmusicmall.com
"For a timeless thirty-eight minutes and forty-eight seconds this atmospheric arrangement of unfolding melody suspended me. In a place of repetitive melancholy and ecstatic peace of mind you can venture in perpetual balance. The chord trickling beauty of this harmonious sound will slip discreetly into your alpha, beta and theta states and whence there, hold you transcendentally...This music is part of a journey and those who choose to indulge will indefinitely be pleasured on many planes. Listen and lose the self in delicate repetition and then return to a point of remembrance and acknowledgment." Alicia Rose, Nerve (www.catalystmedia.org.uk
"Neil Campbell impressed a Classic Rock Society audience recently with his acoustic guitar prowess and here is further evidence of a massive talent, especially in the more classical field ..... an impressive album for the more thoughtful musical mind" McCullough Crane, Classic Rock Society
"As I listen to this, I imagine grey clouds whirring by in stop-motion frenzy, or a vampire crying as the October sun rises. This is simply so romantic and resonant. A perfect album for quiet nights alone with the soul. "Ghost Stories" manages to be ambient, instrumental, and goth all rolled in one. Highly recommended." Gary Flanagan, Nightwaves - nightwaveswebsite.tripod.com//id16.html
"If [Ghost Stories] had been released during the heyday of Progressive or even in the ‘80s, I would have rated it as a merely good output. Nowadays, however, such honest, well-labored, efforts as this one are like preciously rare black lambs in a gigantic flock of cloned white Dollies (please take this as a metaphor) and are more than welcome. Imagine the main storyline of ['Shadow of the Heirophant'] from “Voyage of the Acolyte” and mix it up with everything-on-“Momentum” by the same Mr. Hackett, and if you like what you get as a result of these, your mental operations, I earnestly recommend you to have this disc among others in your collection. 5/6 stars" Vitaly Menshikov, Progressor.net
"... a shimmering, atmospheric cluster of works with a ghostly theme ... Anne's soaring voice floats over the shards of arpeggios and layered electronics, on occasion warm and appealing, yet sometimes more ominous and foreboding in keeping with the spirit of the album. Eerie shapes and shadows are evoked until the presence of a spirit seems nigh. Superbly constructed." Musician, the Journal of the Musician's Union
"Neil is an accomplished classical guitarist who has a tender touch on the instrument and successfully evokes the various moods of evening and night-time reflections and experiences through dreamy sequences and tasteful melodies. Anne Taft's voice is soothing and emotive and comfortably enhances the lyrical guitar as the 30 minute suite opens up from Beiert's gentle atmosphere to a floating sensation created by voice and guitar. . . ", Richard Barnes, Sea of Tranquility
Ghost Stories - A Night Opera
Since its release in October 2008 on CD simply titled ‘Ghost Stories’, this composition has received unanimous acclaim from both the UK and International music critics. ‘A Night Opera’ was added to the title following collaboration with co- producer Bill Elms who will work with Neil to stage performances of the piece across the region in unusual spaces.
‘Ghost Stories - A Night Opera’ was written and recorded by Neil Campbell over 2007/08. It started life as a number of short sketches for classical guitar which Neil was interested in enhancing through the use of electronics (in collaboration with electronic musician Michael Beiert). After working with wordless vocals on The Neil Campbell Collective's 'Particle Theory' album (produced concurrently with 'Ghost Stories' and involving soprano Anne Taft as a guest vocalist), Anne was invited to sing on some of the 'Ghost Stories' pieces. The various short movements were then developed into a coherent suite of music segued together by an electronic soundscape built by Michael Beiert using samples of Anne Taft's voice.
Writer and Composer Neil Campbell said “The piece is about memories of people, spaces, emotions and objects. Every time it is performed in an exciting new space it takes on a whole new atmospheric character. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to share the piece with new spaces and with new audiences.”
Compositionally 'Ghost Stories' draws on French impressionistic music such as Debussy and Satie, ambient music such as that of Harold Budd or Brian Eno, as well as some jazz (especially Pat Metheny) and progressive rock (particularly Steve Hackett). The music is delicate, shadowy, slow, atmospheric and elegiac.
Co-Producer Bill Elms said “I instantly fell in love with this piece of music and approached Neil to work on this project. It’s a world-class composition and Neil is an incredibly talented composer. I want the live performances to be an overall experience for the ticket holder, the venues are as important as the piece itself”.
Since the recording has been released, the performance aspect of the piece has taken on a life of its own and has been regularly performed in interesting architectural locations with the music surrounding the audience. The music is presented with visuals designed by Shaun Taft to enhance and build upon the experience. The aim of 'Ghost Stories' - as a recording and a live piece - is to completely immerse the audience in the experience.
Ghost Stories - A Night Opera was successfully premiered at a largely anticipated event at Liverpool’s St Luke’s (bombed-out) Church at sunset on 16th July in 2008 and also performed at the Wirral International Guitar Festival at Birkenhead Prior in 2009 and at St George’s Hall in 2010. Later in Autumn 2012 performances took place at Chethams School of Music in Manchester and at St Mary’s on the Hill, Chester.
Neil Campbell -
The music of Liverpool classical guitarist and composer Neil Campbell draws on elements of contemporary classical, progressive rock, jazz and other musical styles. His output includes pieces for solo guitar, guitar and cello, songs, instrumental pieces and choral music.
He has performed and recorded critically acclaimed albums with The Neil Campbell Collective, Bulbs, The Perri and Neil Quartet (with vocalist Perri Alleyne-Hughes) and others. He has also collaborated on live projects and recordings with Jon Anderson (Yes), Sense of Sound Singers, DJ Yousef, Anne Taft (Ghost Stories), Carlo Bowry (Wizards of Twiddly) and composer Gordon Ross. Over the last fifteen years he has performed support slots for artists as diverse as Thea Gilmore, Jan Ackerman (Focus), Vini Reilly (Durutti Column), bassist Victor Wooten, folk guitar legend Davey Graham and saxophonist Courtney Pine.
In 2009 he premiered his composition Frankenstein at St George’s Hall Concert Room. This was a 60 minute long piece for rock band, choir (Sense of Sound Singers) and multimedia visual projections based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel. This performance was later reprised at BBC Radio Merseyside in a live recorded broadcast featuring actor Gary Mavers as narrator in May 2010.
He has produced three CDs of solo guitar music Through the Looking Glass (2003), Night Sketches (2004) and Tabula Rasa Suite (2014) along with a book of his compositions for solo classical guitar. Neil’s solo performances are the stuff of legend and often involve him using loops and other technology to expand the sound and scope of what one performer can do with the classical guitar. As a soloist he has performed in the UK and Europe, has been a regular performer at the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain and in October 2013 took part in the legendary Irish Sea Sessions at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
Recent projects have included the recording of two new solo CDs of original music Tabula Rasa Suite (2014) and eMErgence (2015), recording and performance of music by contemporary classical composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and (with The Perri and Neil Quartet) development of a new live interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s seminal 1971 Blue album, The Blue Project.
Neil's album 'Ghost Stories' (a collaboration with Michael Beiert and Anne Taft) is the spiritual follow up to his 2004 album 'Night Sketches'. Like 'Night Sketches' it is evocative of the night with its dreamy atmospheres and haunting melodies. On 'Ghost Stories', added to Neil's moody and introspective classical guitar playing, are soundscapes by German electro-acoustic composer Michael Beiert and soaring wordless vocals by soprano Anne Taft.
The impressionistic 'Ghost Stories' is presented in a number of short 2-4 minute movements which are segued together by an ongoing soundscape to form a seamless musical experience which takes the listener on a journey through the course of the night into the following dawn.
Anne Taft –
Anne Taft is a Liverpool born singer/songwriter. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music before embarking on a professional career in musical theatre. Following the birth of her daughter (who is now 18!) Anne returned to her roots, where she took up her position as head of singing at Liverpool Community College. She has continued to work as a freelance singer and enjoys working across many genres from the acclaimed Carole King tribute band 'Tapestry' to the fabulous 1980's disco phenomena 'Fantasy' and her own family band, 'The Tafts' who are no strangers to the Liverpool folk music scene. Her work as a vocalist demonstrates a phenomenal range. She contributed a powerful wordless soprano section on the 'Particle Theory' album and continues to work with Neil on his recent 'Ghost Stories' collaboration (also with Michael Beiert).
Michael Beiert -
Hailing from Cologne, Germany, Michael Beiert is now a Liverpool based composer specializing in Electro-acoustic Music. Recent projects include a collaborative piece for amplified oboe, amplified tap dancer and live electronics featuring American dancer Sally Crawford which had its premiere at the Liverpool Cornerstone Festival in 2007. Michael won the 2005 Rector's Prize for Composition at Liverpool Hope University for an acousmatic composition, which has served as motivation to embark on a PhD programme at Liverpool University from September 2008. Michael has been working as a lecturer in Music Technology at Liverpool Hope University since 2005. He is collaborating with Neil and Anne Taft on their 'Ghost Stories' recording and live performance project.
For Ghost Stories - A Night Opera:
Bill Elms (producer) -
Bill Elms has worked in the theatre industry both locally and nationally for 25 years and left a 10 year position as Head of Sales and Marketing at the Liverpool Empire Theatre in August 2008, to set up his own Marketing and PR Company based in Liverpool city centre.
Bill Elms Associates Ltd (BEA) has grown from strength to strength into the region’s premier communications company specialising in the arts, live entertainment and ticketed events, having won many contracts and successfully managed the marketing, PR and brand creation for many high-profile events, festivals and venues. All members of the team have arts and theatre-based careers and are committed to the arts and entertainment industry on a day-to-day basis.
His team work with a range of clients in all art forms including Theatre, Festivals, Visual Arts, Exhibitions, Special Events and UK Tours. Clients include ATG Theatres, Ash Productions Live, LHK Productions, The Lowry, Epstein Theatre, Capstone Theatre, St Helens Theatre Royal, Liverpool Sound City, Semmel Concerts, Liverpool Carnival Company, CMP Live, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Pride, DaDaFest, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival, Physical Fest, Merseyside Dance Initiative, St George’s Hall, Tmesis Theatre, Qdos Entertainments, Pulse Records and Productions, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Shiverpool and Clapperboard UK to name but a few.
Bill has also successfully entered into the world of theatre production with a growing portfolio of productions, collaborating with local artists and theatre companies.
He has worked with Neil as producer on Ghost Stories - A Night Opera, Neil Campbell and Friends concerts and Frankenstein.