Tag Archives: 15 Wild Decembers

The Geoff Smith Band Are Still Here

Twenty years ago, I became fascinated by a new CD that I discovered at Virgin Records at Triangle Square (Costa Mesa, CA), in their HUGE classical room in the back of the store. It was playing in store (in the room), and I was immediately absorbed by the minimalist approach of the pianist, and the operatic vocal prowess of the woman singing. The CD was called 15 Wild Decembers. The musician’s name is Geoff Smith. The operatic voice was that of his wife, Nicola Walker-Smith.

15 Wild Decembers is a collection of eight tracks composed by Geoff Smith, with all of the lyrics culled from literary poets and writers such as Emily Brönte, Elizabeth Siddal, and Percey Shelley. The album consists of five vocal tracks using the literary words, and the remaining three are extraordinary piano pieces. You can read my original review of the album, written in 2007, twelve years after its release. That’s some staying power when an album doesn’t leave your head.

Geoff Smith 15 Wild Decembers

To backtrack, when the album released and I had heard it play in Virgin’s classical department, I bought it. Not long afterward, I designed a website featuring Geoff Smith and whatever information I could glean concerning his history, his music, and his plans for other works. Soon, Geoff Smith caught sight of the webpage, and supplied me with information and music. In essence, a site featuring Geoff Smith’s music was the forerunner of MusicTAP.

Not long afterward, Geoff Smith expanded and formed The Geoff Smith Band. Their next album on Sony Classical, called Black Flowers, was released in 1997. Since that album, we have heard little musically from Geoff Smith as he never released another album. (Geoff Smith has a previous album to 15 Wild Decembers, released back in 1993, called Gas.Food.Lodging. It was released via KitchenWare Records.)

Geoff Smith Band Black Flowers

In 2013, I posted a reprint of the 2007 review. It was that reprint that led to Geoff Smith recontacting me, directing me toward some new music that he and Nicola Walker-Smith had produced in the years after Black Flowers. It is my intention to direct you to those tracks in the hopes that an interest may formulate in Geoff Smith and his brilliant minimalist piano, and his wife’s haunting vocals.

The new release is called Black Is The Colour. it was released digitally on SoundCloud in 2014. Black Is The Colour contains five tracks that include “The Apple”, “Horses”, “Black Is the Colour”, “My Favorite Plum”, and “Song Of The Northern Lights”. All of these songs are much closer in nature to the songs heard on Black Flowers.

Geoff Smith and Nicola Walker Smith

As of this writing, all albums by Geoff Smith, and The Geoff Smith Band, including Black Is The Colour, can be streamed at SoundCloud (see below)! Do yourself a favor, listen to what you will, but do not leave without listening to the whole of 15 Wild Decembers. You should absolutely listen to “Possess Me”.

What I wouldn’t give to have 15 Wild Decembers on vinyl LP!


Review: 15 Wild Decembers – Geoff Smith

GeoffSmith15WildDecembersIn 1995, Sony Classical issued an album from an immense talent in the person of Geoff Smith. His razor-sharp, minimalist-styled, approach to piano is, in every way, dark, hypnotic, and in the ranks of masters like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and other brilliant pianists. On his Sony Classical debut, 15 wild decembers, Geoff Smith joined forces with his wife, noted soprano, Nicola Walker Smith, in a themed ensemble of music that swirls around the written works of tragic 19-century poets such as Emily Bronte, Percy Shelley, and John Keats.

15 wild decembers puts together 8 extraordinary tracks with 5 vocal and 3 piano instrumentals. On the vocal tracks, the lyrics have been mined from literary figures, as stated before. But what makes them take on new life is the trained voice of Nicola Walker Smith. She opens the album with “The Last of England,” a tender song of the incoming winter as a metaphor for the onset of hopelessness. It is an emotional beauty of a song that draws its lyrical strength from the sad words of “A Dirge” by Percey Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). It is followed by “Six Wings of Bliss,” which is crafted around fragments from Emily Bronte (1818-1848) works.

“Possess Me’ is where Geoff Smith displays his stunning piano work in singularity. It is a fast moving, 8-minute tune that runs opposite of the album’s usual setting but will have you in awe of his command of the piano. His notes are delivered with a crisp precision and will have you hitting the back button to hear it yet once again. His other piano-only songs include the soft and heartbreaking “The Rainpools Are Happy,” and the gorgeous “To the Old Place.”

“Fifteen Wild Decembers” is the gem of the album. Its piano and Nicola Walker Smith’s vocals is a song will take up residence in your mind. The album closes with the lyrical fragments from Elizabeth Siddal (1833-1862) wrapped within a soft and descriptive “Summer’s Last Will and Testament.”

While the subject matter of 15 wild decembers is complete with the use of metaphors for the individual absence of hope and happiness found in each of the 5 vocal tracks, it is the craft of the songs and this album, the soaring voice of Nicola Walker Smith, and the exemplary piano works of Geoff Smith that make it a classic work of excellence that is mesmerizing. 15 wild decembers is not easily forgettable; 12 years after its release, it still plays on a regular rotation in my immediate collection. It is classic in every way and not to be missed. If you appreciate the best that Philip Glass can do, you’ll be a devoted fan of Geoff Smith.

If you, expectedly, become a fan of Geoff and Nicola Walker Smith’s hauntingly brilliant album (there is another released after this, Black Flowers), there is a rare Austrian sampler disc that showcases – and enhances- 15 wild decembers with “Fifteen Wild Decembers,” “Possess Me,” “Six Wings of Bliss,” as well as the very rare “Six Wings (Blissout)” a remix of “Six Wings of Bliss” that bears tracking down.

I would love to hear this album resurrected and remastered in any format, especially in DSD and reissued as an SACD, and or LP.

Release Date: June 27, 1995
Label: Sony Classical
Availability: CD

–Matt Rowe