The evolution of Don Hughes’ music has been a joy to observe. There’s a clear progression in craft, becoming more sophisticated, polished, and also commercially all-embracing, as Hughes’ fan-base is without a doubt getting ready to grow around the world. He released his debut solo album in 2008. In 2012 he got married to his longtime girlfriend, after which followed a substantial period of inactivity. In 2016 he released “It’s Christmas”, which featured original interpretations of holiday classics. August 2020 saw the artist release his most ambitious project to date – “A Hero’s Journey”.
The new album features a 9-song instrumental story on the theme of heroism, and includes 4 bonus tracks selected from other unfinished projects. It’s an amazing body of work for any artist to have under their belt and one which has informed and been informed by the shifting template of contemporary symphonic rock over the last 10 years.
“A Hero’s Journey” is another rich body of work with plenty to get excited about. Signature Don Hughes soundscapes comprised of rich, luscious instrumentals and carefully considered rock guitars, and string orchestrations are well-counted for. And though it’s easy to lose yourself in the ebbs and flows of Hughes’s beautiful textures, the album is not without its sweeping, hard-hitting dynamics.
Right from track one, “Ordinary World”, Don Hughes’ ability to immerse the listener in gorgeous cinematic-styled, symphonic rock escapism, is better than ever. With its orchestrated sections being so perfectly executed, and not a vocal throughout, the track is pure, heavenly bliss. The piano driven “Adventure Calling”, adds a euphoric element to proceedings.
The third track off the album, “Accepting The Challenge?”, is one that had me captivated beyond belief. The piano and acoustic guitar melodic motifs play off each other eloquently, before the track soars into sonic overdrive. “Finding An Old Friend” maintains a similar captivating melodic articulation, with the acoustic guitar, once again, beautifully leading the procession of sounds.
“The First Confrontation”, ups the adrenaline count significantly, with a blustering, bombastic arrangement. Here Don Hughes feeds the listeners a high-energy composition of epic proportions.
Hughes has certainly come a long way since his first release, as track after track, this album proves to be a fantastic collection of music. “Tragedy” finds new orchestral pathways to build to an ethereal, and moody intensity, before “Reflections” sets in with the flute and acoustic guitar establishing deeply thoughtful tones.
“Approaching Destiny” is powered by heavy beating drums and dynamic sonic changes. Oscillating and chameleonic modular strings and overdriven guitars, create a universe that is angst-filled and unpredictable.
The rich and propellant, “The Final Battle”, closes the 9 track story-line. How you interpret this narrative, is clearly left to your own mindset. Don Hughes lays out the framework of his story, and allows you to fill in the heroic imagery you have personally envisioned.
Moving forward, we find the tracks, “Point of Past Return”, “Halloween”, “Lost In My Mind” and “Little Drummer Boy”. They offer more angle of Hughes’ toolkit. Crisp, precise and sophisticated, these songs present the sound of someone who has mastered his craft. An all-around adept composer, Hughes’ maturation and experimentation has led to the creation of what will likely be hailed as his master work for now.
The album was everything I expected and more, delivering a highly impactful collection of arrangements. “A Hero’s Journey” is an exceptional release by Don Hughes, the most coherent of his records to date.