Fed up with Covid restrictions? Longing to get back to the old normal? Well, here’s an album that will put a spring in your step and banish those isolation blues to the musty pages of the history books.

The Backstage is a band born in adversity. When Steve Hackett’s U.S. tour was cancelled last year because of Covid-19 three members of his band hatched a new project. Taking ideas from jamming in dressing rooms and soundchecks, Jonas Reingold, Craig Blundell and Rob Townsend put their heads together, invited contributions from friends and created something bright, bold and immensely uplifting. Isolation is a prophet of much happier times to come.

If you’re disinclined to believe my lone voice crying in the lockdown wilderness, check out the list of guest musicians:

Steve Hackett, Roger King, Mike Thorne, Andy Tillison, Theo Travis, Tom Brislin, Pat Mastelotto, Carl Orr, Marco Minnemann, Luke Machin, Nick Beggs, Lalle Larsson, Roine Stolt, Adam Holzmann, James Taylor, Krister Jonsson, Randy McStine, Lelo Nika.

That’s some funky angel orchestra if you ask me.

The album storms in with Some Skunk Blues. The title must refer to the weed, not the foul-smelling mammal, unless you get high on weasels and their kin, because it has an irresistible mood-lifting groove. The prophet’s good news message boasts a rousing fanfare.

Moving on, Swag has an exaggerated swagger. Stones and Pebbles sees us still stoned and stomping. And then there’s some time to chill as we are quietly reminded that we should be Distancing. Next, on the festival’s techno stage, the booming synth sounds of Mr. Okmulgee (who?) adds that there are 31 Ways (to leave your lover?) and we wouldn’t dare disagree.

But let’s get back to the spaced out party in the main arena. Soon you’re dancing with a gorgeous chick and asking, Can I have your number?. But she declines, leaving you reflecting on All the things you were when you were young and the world was Covid-free. Oh well, plenty more fish in the sea and plenty more invigorating music on the back stage even in Isolation. Tomorrow we’ll take a stroll through the bustling Yuff Market and browse through the second-hand bins for some bargains. But now another one of these Covid nights is ebbing away and soon it will be time for bed.

Overall the album has a good-time, jazz/funk feel and we need that in these dark (but brightening) days. There are a couple of slower, more melodic pieces, too – refreshing breathers for us to recharge and regroup that demonstrate the versatility of the band. There’s no fluff here, it’s all good solid stuff. And it’s something to savour long after lockdown ends.

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