Album Review: Benjamin Croft — We Are Here to Help

When it comes to music, you can often take accurate measure of an artist by finding out who their friends are. And while it’s true that in 2024, all manner of hotshot musicians have their shingles out advertising their availability for flown-in overdubs for hire, if an artist’s credits include a whole bunch of said hotshot, he or she is likely to have something going.

The roster of players on one’s album isn’t the most important thing, of course, but if your press material focus on that, then (whaddyaknow) so shall I. We Are Here to Help is the second and newest long player from UK-based keyboardist Benjamin Croft, and the list of musicians who assist him is impressive indeed. I won’t use up my allotment of zeros and ones listing all of them, but I will name-check a few: Jeff Scott Soto (vocals), Stu Hamm (bass) Greg Howe (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) Simon Phillips (drums), Marco Minnemann (drums), Mike Stern (guitar). You get the idea; heavyweights all.

If those names register in your synapses, you’ll also have guessed (correctly) that We Are Here to Help is a progressive rock album. The tunes are propulsive, energetic and knotty, but with a sold melodic foundation. Croft does not sing, but he did compose all of the music found here (lyrics are by Marsha Swanson). In a nod to those prime-era Electric Light Orchestra LPs, Croft lists all of the instruments he plays. That list reads like a vintage keyboard lover’s dream, full of Mellotrons, Oberheims, Moogs, ARPs and the like. None of that modern digital stuff for Croft, and the (if you will) organic character of those instruments shines through in the music.

Croft’s keyboards are at the center of the arrangements, but he makes intelligent and effective use of the skills of his musical accomplices. The tunes thunder long, twisting and turning but always delivering melody. There’s a classic (yet not especially retro) character to the music here, so fans of accessible prog are likely to find plenty here to intrigue and engage them.