Lee Speaks About Music… #131

Black Riders Part 2 – HeartScore

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Introduction…

The latest album and follow up to last year’s release of HeartScore’s Black Riders Part 1 is upon us, and Black Riders Part 2 hits the shelves so to speak exactly a year to the very day. A lot of things have changed over the past year including the fact that the man behind the project Dirk Radloff decided to bring in a new singer to take on all the vocal duties. It’s perhaps a bit of a strange thing to do especially has this is a particular series of work that follows on and is based around the words of a 19th century American poet known as Stephen Crane. But it also could be more of a step in the right direction regarding attracting more attention to his music.

I’ve known Dirk for a good few years now, you could even say that I am his number one fan since I stumbled across his music on Soundcloud about 5 or 6 years ago. He’s always looking at other avenues to try and get a bit more attention paid to his music. He’s also willing to make a few changes here and there and it was only last year that he decided to change from his normal style of prog rock to something with a bit more of a metal approach. Metal is also more to his own particular taste in music even though it was only his 6th album Black Riders Part 1 he put out last year when he decided to make the change over to that particular style.

He will even make changes regarding the formats he chooses to release his music on and keeps his eye on market research to look for the best possible angles and ways of trying to make it appeal to more people. For example, last year Black Riders Part 1 was released in 4 formats if you count the digital download and Limited Edition that came with a 48-page hardback book.

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The fact that Cassettes were also making a bit of a comeback enticed him to even include the format with that release as well along with the other physical format on CD. The one thing you cannot say he’s not doing is trying and in many ways I admire what he’s doing  and let’s face it, if you made something you were proud of you would want it to look the part and put it out in all formats. But on the other hand, for the unknown musician this can also be costly especially in today’s world were music does not sell as well as it used to many moons ago. But thankfully least Dirk had the sense not to have so many copies made up and I would not like to see any musician be left with a pile of albums cluttering up their own basement or garage so to speak.

Personally I think his decision to go with a new singer is more of a positive step in the right direction especially when you want to make your music ROCK! harder you very much need the right voice to go with the power and I have to say he has chosen one hell of a singer who certainly has all the right qualities to fit to his music. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Things certainly have changed for this new release and gone are the physical formats of the CD and Cassette we seen last year and the new album comes in the form of a Digital Download only. Like I mentioned earlier it probably makes a lot of sense for any unknown artist to go with this format with how music sells in this day and age, especially when you are not gonna exactly sell your album by the bucket load. However, it’s not strictly true that he did not put the album onto a physical format although it is extremely limited and it is the most expensive format of them all these days.

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Extremely Limited Vinyl Edition

There comes a time when I am sure all of us would want our albums put onto a vinyl record but it is a very expensive game these days in relation to what it was years ago. It’s something many mainstream artists still do today since vinyl has been making a come back since around 2017 and the fact that mainstream artists can shift them by the bucket load means that they can order them in much larger quantities to keep the cost of the record down. Basically you need to be ordering at least 1,000 – 2,000 units and even then you are still looking at charging around £25 – £30 per album to make any sort of profit at all. That’s around the price you would pay for most lesser known mainstream prog rock artists vinyl albums.

More well known mainstream artists who sell their albums by several bucket loads due to their bigger popularity can easily afford to have 20,000 – 40,000 and much more pressed at a time. Which is why they can afford sell their vinyl albums from around £14 – £18 each. Simply because the larger quantity you order the cheaper you can get them for. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many others would have no problem shifting that many copies which is why they can afford to sell them at a much lower price. For an unknown artist like Dirk Radloff who is lucky to sell 10 albums it would be suicidal to go down this road and the only alternative would be to have 1 copy pressed onto vinyl as a personal collectors item for himself and that was his original intention.

Many companies who press vinyl will charge you £100 and more to have just one of your albums pressed onto a single 12 inch LP. I dare say for those who are proud of their music they would be willing to shell out that price even if it was just to have a personal copy they could hang on a wall or put on display in a cabinet in their homes. It’s something both myself and he have discussed and looked into over the past couple of years, and it was only more recently that Dirk happened to stumble across a company here in the UK who was doing 1 single unit at a much cheaper price.

He even managed to cut a bit of a better deal with the company by having 5 units pressed instead of 1 cutting the cost down a bit more and has decided to keep 2 of them so he has a back up, and the other 3 have been made available to purchase. So the vinyl release is extremely Limited and even though the price tag of 45 Euro might look extravagant and extortionate. I can assure you that he is hardly making a bean from the sales of them if they do manage to sell. But so far lucky for him one has already sold and only 2 are available to purchase.

The Artwork.

The artwork and albums sleeve design were designed by Dirk Radloff himself using photos he purchased and pieced together to which are licensed by Shutterstock DOT COM. The Norse FONT he used was created by Joel Carrouche who is a graphic and type designer from France. Overall, I think it looks very good and I think it suits the album and is perhaps the right kind of artwork that you would find associated with Metal’s genre.

Black Riders Part 2 Album In Review…

Black Riders Part 2 by HeartScore was released on the 1st November 2019. It’s the 7th album of Dirk Radloff’s to be released under his project name and comes with 10 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 27 seconds. Whereas its predecessor Black Riders Part 1 was the longest HeartScore album and near enough twice the length and contained twice as many tracks, his latest album is officially the shortest album to be released in the HeartScore discography. Although the shorter time slot would have been taken into consideration for him wanting the album to be put onto vinyl and complying with vinyl restrictions. Personally, I myself prefer the old 70’s vinyl time slot of 30 – 40 minutes for an album. It not only means I can squeeze more albums into my daily listening pleasure, but also makes them a damn site easier to review.

There is no doubt that Radloff’s previous album Black Riders Part 1 was a step into a newer direction and in some respects was also more of a experimentation in that he was fusing electronica with metal to some degree and it was something he put out to test the water to see if it would attract more people to his music. I thought overall that album was quite a good effort but I was not entirely sure that fusing metal with electronic elements really worked that well. Having recently listened to the album again I do feel that my original rating in my review a year ago was a bit generous and to be honest my overall ratings of many albums I quite often find may have been on the generous side, especially having returned to the album at a much later date.

The album Black Riders Part 2 is very much a different ball game in that many of the elements that was on it’s predecessor have been stripped down and back to the bare bones. For example, gone are the electronics, the violin and other guest musicians playing saxophone for example and all that is left are guitars, bass and drums and these basic instruments give the album much more raw power. They are certainly the main ingredients in metal and rock music and in many cases that is all you really need apart from a decent singer who has balls to belt out the words.

In many ways a voice is a very powerful instrument, it can in some cases be a more powerful thing than the rest of the band. I am sure I am not the only one who has followed a singer who has left a band and left the band he was in behind to follow him instead. I done that with both Black Sabbath and Marillion and for me personally both Ozzy Osbourne and Fish went on to make better music than what the both bands did without them. Whenever a band changes a musician it’s not necessarily going to be that big or enough of a change for their fans to leave the band behind. But when a band changes a singer it becomes a lot more problematic and is not always easy for many to accept.

HeartScore is very much the brain child of a one man project regarding the musical side of things, the very fact that the man behind it also took on the vocals himself in the beginning and produced 4 albums with him as the main singer, is what I personally liked from the start and I truly felt that Dirk’s own voice suited the music he was making back then. That much so that even though more recently he has remade a few of those older songs with the latest singer he now has onboard with him on this new album. I still prefer the originals. Although in reality there is no doubt the new singer does have one hell of a voice in comparison to Dirk’s own voice and is perhaps on a much higher level.

Having a good singer is very important to any band and it can make all the difference especially when it comes down to the genres of heavy rock and metal, and its this new direction of where HeartScore’s music is now heading is where the new singer does have exactly what is required of a singer to make it work a lot more so than the previous singer Dirk hired or for even himself to sing on that score. There is no doubt that Chris who came by Courtesy of Studiopros is a professional singer and does have a GREAT! voice. But it’s perhaps not the kind of voice you want for this genre of music for it to work properly.

The new singer Giacomo Rossi is like your Ian Gillian’s and Rob Halford’s of this world who has vocal chords that can stretch much further and reach GREAT! heights. He is very much like those GREAT! rock singers who are in complete control of their voice. To put it in a nutshell he can reach parts most vocalists would struggle to reach and has GREAT! vibrato and is able to sustain, hold, bend and shape his vocal chords around the music. Singers like this don’t come ten a penny and are very hard to come across. It’s not the first time that Radloff has collaborated with Rossi either and he did stumble across him on Soundcloud about 5 years ago and done a few Led Zeppelin covers together.

Giacomo Rossi is Italian and currently resides in Reggio Emilia (RE), Italy. He is still very young and approaching the latter end of his 20’s and had singing lessons himself and holds a Masters Degree from the Modern Music Institute which guarantees him professional competence in modern singing. He now runs his own classes and teaches other people to sing.

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Giacomo Rossi

Italy is a renowned country for its many GREAT! opera singers and many of the GREATEST! operatic singers in the world came out of that country. Although opera is not really my cup of tea, I do have a lot of admiration for the skilful trained voice and can be amazed at what the voice alone can do with its range and the powerful dynamics it can reach and produce. Even though opera singers do have lessons you do very much have to be gifted and born with that voice in the first place, it’s not something you could achieve by simply having singing lessons.

I am not saying that Rossi is an opera singer but he does possess some of those qualities and range in his voice which allows him to sing many alternative styles of music. He himself is involved in many other project bands a couple of which do covers of more well-known pop songs and he is also in a Deep Purple tribute band called PurpleMore. Probably one of the more interesting bands he is in do more of their own material, and is an alternative metal band that go by the name of P.O.E. which stands for Philosophy Of Evil and is based around the haunting horror of the author Edgar Allan Poe.

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It was only last month that the band released their debut album entitled Of Evil Humanity And Other Odd Things and 4 years prior to that back in 2015 they put out a 5 track EP entitled The Tell-Tale Heart. I’ve taken the liberty to listen to a couple of tracks from them both and I have to say they sound very good and I might have to give them some further attention and investigate both releases a bit more.

Musicians & Credits…

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All music composed, arranged and produced by Dirk Radloff. All lyrics written by Stephen Crane. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff at his home studio. Artwork and sleeve design by Dirk Radloff. Photos licensed by Shutterstock DOT COM. Norse FONT by Joel Carrouche.

Musicians.

Dirk Radloff: Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Bass/Piano, Synth & Drum Programming.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album consists mostly of short vocal tracks and a couple of instrumental tracks plus a piano ballad of a song has been thrown in to break it up a bit. But even though the tracks are short they still pack in some GREAT! progression and it has the power to deliver the goods. With the music being put to short poems by Stephen Crane that came from his first book of poems entitled The Black Riders and Other Lines. The poems do not really have enough words to make songs without having to repeat the words. It’s perhaps a difficult task for any singer to be able to work with and stretch them out further to make them fit in, and the only real work around is to express them a bit differently so it does not sound like you are repeating yourself all the time. This is something I feel Rossi has coped with extremely well so, let’s now take a look at the albums tracks and see how it all pans out so to speak.

Track 1. A Man Went Before A Strange God.

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The album gets off to quite a flying start after the short little intro and GALLOPS! its way along as if its GALLOPING! its way into a raging battle of war. Although the war in question in this battle is over which god you put your trust in. I think that Stephen Crane would quite often turn the tables around in his poetry and portray the real god as the devil and that is precisely what he has done in this poem of his. Cranes poems were very short and this particular one is perhaps longer than most in that it contains a couple of short paragraphs, and I like how the first three lines of the opening paragraph have been used to make up the chorus leaving the rest of the lines or sentences to make up a couple of verses. Quite often in many songs the chorus will repeat the same words and the fact that the song does open up with the chorus does really help the song by not sounding too repetitive.

Musically it’s driving along on all cylinders and the guitars, bass and drums are hammering there way along and it is a very powerful song. It’s the longest vocal track on the album but only by 3 seconds and weighs in at 4 minutes, 5 seconds so, you can certainly see how short the songs are on the album. But the length of any song has never been of importance to me not even in my own preferred genre of music prog rock. I personally think that it’s a damn site technically harder to throw in bags of transitional changes and progression into a song over 2 – 5 minutes and make it work than it ever is in relation to some 20 – 30 minute epic. I also praise the very few who successfully have managed to do so as well. Fundamental changes are what I like to see and not stitching songs together like many prog rock bands do today like The Beatles did back in 1969 on their Abbey Road album with a track they called the “Medley” or the “Long Piece“.

I am not saying I dislike those type of songs and that this particular song has bags of progression and transitional changes because it does not. But that is where metal has always differed to prog rock but there are also many different styles of metal these days too, such as progressive metal, heavy metal and death metal to name a few. But I quite like how this song takes it’s foot off the pedal around the 1:04 mark to come down for a bit with a nice little short change which allows Rossi to express a short one off sentence and for Radloff to throw in a nice little guitar solo and pick up back to its blistering pace. “A Man Went Before A Strange God” is GREAT! song that DJENTS! like metal with its guitars and has the voice of a powerful ROCK! singer and both deliver the goods here. It’s very much a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. It Was Wrong To Do This.

This one chugs and marches its way along and once again the song starts with the chorus to try and prevent what little words of Crane’s sound too repetitive. It’s perhaps too hard to conceal the repetitiveness on this one but nevertheless the harmonies and the way the words have been expressed do help it as far as the words are concerned. The harmonies have always been a trademark with HeartScore’s music and they are generally done by Radloff himself and can be quite familiar with the harmonies the band Queen do. This is the first album he has left his voice off completely and left all the vocals and harmonies to Rossi and they still sound GREAT! and work extremely well.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to the differences between the spiritual world and the real world were things do work differently. For example, the effects of war would not really have a bearing in the spiritual world of an angel where war does not exist and one has to fight to survive sort of thing. I think Crane liked to try and prove that the bible was blacker than white and he may have been right. Overall the song packs in the power over its 3 minutes and contains GREAT! vocals, harmonies and the short guitar solo works effectively enough to break it up, the bass works really well on this song too.

Track 3. A Man Toiled On A Burning Road.

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The heat is turned up and this one is quite HOT! and is a SCORCHER! Musically its very well constructed with some GREAT! progression and travels along at a BLISTERING! pace. Once again there is very little words for Rossi to sing but you do get more musical interludes in between over the 3 minute and 55 seconds here to help out. The vocal sections Rossi does a really super job of and he even does Ian Gillan like screams in parts, watch out for Radloff’s BLISTERING! guitar solo between the 0:45 – 1:07 mark and this is really running along at high speed.

There is a GREAT! change around the 2:09 mark that GRINDS! it all down and it CHUGS! it’s way along slowly and Radloff has even thrown in some synth strings on this song which work quite well in this come down section. At the 2:40 mark we get another little burst of a solo on the guitar and the song picks back up its BLISTERING! pace to finish it all off. “A Man Toiled On A Burning Road” is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and Stephen Crane’s words here are pertaining to those lazy bums who do nothing and have nothing better to do than ridicule and snigger at those who are working their butt off to make a living.

Track 4. There Was Set Before Me A Mighty Hill.

It’s time to simmer things right down with this next song which is a BEAUTIFUL! ballad composed for the piano and beautifully sung by Rossi. I like how the double track vocals come into play at all the right parts too which work very well. Although the music was written for the piano it is actually programmed by Radloff and his main instruments he plays are violin and guitar. He can play a bit on the piano and most likely played the synth strings on the previous track rather than programmed them. To be honest a ballad like this might be out of place on a metal album like this, but when I look at the words in Cranes poem, I can see why Radloff chose to do a ballad and use the piano for it.

There was set before me a mighty hill,
And long days I climbed
Through regions of snow.
When I had before me the summit-view,
It seemed that my labour
Had been to see gardens
Lying at impossible distances

Glancing at Cranes words they reflect something he may have seen and experienced out in the country on a walk. But they also pertain to the uphill struggles that life can present us at times. They also could pertain to the struggle it takes to save for something materialistic and the time it takes us to get what we want. However, you look at them they are certainly different in relation to many poems he wrote about god, the devil and war for example.

Most of Cranes poems are very short like this so you can see how hard it would be to use them for songs. But I like the way how Radloff has cleverly took certain parts out to use and make them work, and the words he re-uses to make up the chorus on this particular song do work very well as do all the others.

Long days I climbed
Through regions of snow.
When I had before me the summit-view

To be honest this is something I never really picked up on his previous album Black Riders Part 1 and it may be down to how Rossi handles and expresses the words in relation to his previous singer Chris why I have paid closer attention to everything. The other thing I have noticed though is that Rossi can at times struggle a bit with the English language in pronouncing certain words properly. For example, on this song the word “Distances” does sound like he’s singing “Listances”. But these are only minor things and nothing to really write home about especially when you have a voice like he has and I rather think that outweighs everything and I certainly would not shoot him in the foot for it so to speak.

There Was Set Before Me A Mighty Hill” is a GREAT! song and I also love how well it ends off on the piano too and I wish some of my own endings on the piano were more constructed like that too.

Track 5. Many Workmen.

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Shoddy workmanship and cowboy builders’ springs to mind with this poem of Cranes and sometimes things might not be as GRAND! as they appear to be :))))) especially when being crushed to death whilst you step back and gaze at how good you think your work looks. Sometimes it pays to get on with things and the poor chaps met their fate for not doing so in this case. I rather think Cranes short story here is something like you would find in British comedy sketches in comedy shows such as Monty Python, The Odd Job Man and Some Mothers Do Have Them. I like the way that Giacomo Rossi SQUEALS! into action on this song too.

The song involves rocks and does ROCK! and you get the familiar HeartScore harmonies and with Rossi’s voice used for them they do sound a bit like a cross between Yes & 10 CC and work very well. It also has a nice little lead guitar break from Radloff and CHUGS! its way along quite well too. It’s perhaps my least favourite track on the album but is not a bad song and it must be extremely difficult for Rossi to work with Cranes words but he’s done extremely well here and once again they have been very cleverly divided up to make the song work.

Track 6. There Was A Man And A Woman.

Now we go from my least favourite track into my personal favourite track on the album and this has to be the HIT! single of the album and is a SUPERB! very well written song. I think it’s one that Dirk Radloff must be extremely proud of too and why he chose to make an official video for the song. This song purely ROCKS! and I think the video he made is very well done too and you can see Giacomo Rossi do his Ian Gillan like screams. I think the only thing that would have made the video better is if Dirk Radloff put himself playing the guitar in the video. But apart from that he’s done quite a professional job of it all as you can see by the video below.

There Was A Man And A Woman” is a song that packs in a lot over 2 minutes and 50 seconds and very much merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It contains all the right elements to make it the stand out track on the album and its quite a classic rock song like many others done by more well-known artists and just as good.

Track 7. Once There Was A Man.

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Once there was man and now there is nothing, and nothing is what I can make out of Crane’s words for this poem either. Crane often wrote things in a very bizarre way and I think that is why for many he is so interesting and become a subject for the people to study his works and try and decipher and make sense of it all. But despite the meaning of the words they work very well here and I even like how the song ends off with Rossi repeating the words “There is nothing” and the abrupt ending works a treat. The song also has a nice little intro before it settles into more of a Djent on the guitar and it also has more of a longer guitar solo during the break. Overall another TOP JOB is done by them both and it’s a GREAT! song.

Track 8. To My Tiny Throes And Struggles.

It’s time for the first of the two instrumental tracks on the album and this is the shortest track on the album and only 1 minute and 23 seconds long but it is a most BEAUTIFUL! acoustic solo WONDERFULLY! played by Radloff. The title he gave to the piece comes from Crane’s poem “If There Is A Witness To My Little Life” that is also a very short poem and perhaps why he never chose to make it into a song with words and do an instrumental ditty instead. It works really well in having a piece like this to break the album up and is perhaps like how Steve Howe of Yes would also do so on The Yes Album with “Clap” and it shows you his ability on the acoustic guitar which is really GREAT! You can see how short Crane’s original poem was.

If there is a witness to my little life,
To my tiny throes and struggles,
He sees a fool;
And it is not fine for gods to menace fools.

It really is a GORGEOUS! piece and has a folky baroque feel to it and is wonderfully executed. I like it that much that this also has to be one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT! I only wished Dirk would have videoed himself playing the piece so I could include it here. I have seen him play a few classical pieces on his YouTube channel that he played a good few years ago and would like to see him do more acoustic stuff.

Track 9. I Looked Here.

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This next song might be a bit out of place on the album in relation to the more heavier metal songs and verges more along the lines of a pop song but I have to say a really excellent pop rock song that has a bit of Steely Dan feel to it. Radloff’s guitar work and even the bass work on this song is SUPERB! I have to confess that when I first heard it back in June, I honestly thought it would not be fitting for the album but I am so glad it got included and this is my second favourite song on the album and another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

The words to Crane’s poem are entirely different to his normal dark and ruthless side that are contained in the Black Riders and they pertain to love. They were most likely written for his wife who he married whilst he was over in England. Besides all the EXCELLENT! work Radloff has done on the music this has some GREAT! harmonies and it also gives Rossi a chance to express himself a bit differently and bring out a few more qualities with his vocal range. It really is a GREAT! song.

Track 10. Mankind.

The albums closes with the longest track on the album weighing in at 5 minutes, 31 seconds and is another instrumental piece. This one is not named after one of Stephen Crane’s poems and keeps the album in line with Black Riders Part 1 to which he also included one of his own instrumental pieces entitled “Gods“. Radloff has always had the knack of writing GREAT! instrumental pieces and playing fine lead lines on the electric guitar. I suppose it stretches way back to the days when he used to be in a band called The Golden Tornadoes to which he was the lead guitarist and played surf songs mostly written by himself very much in the same sort of style you would get with Hank Marvin of The Shadows. Radloff will often tell you that the violin is his number one instrument and the one he’s most comfortable with, but in all honesty, he is a very good guitarist too.

Mankind” contains some GREAT! lead and melody lines and is a piece that builds itself up and runs along like a juggler in a carnival sort of thing and contains some fine chord progression and changes along the way in some parts the guitar even sounds like it’s singing the words to the nursery rhyme “Daisy, Daisy” and I often find myself singing those words along with it even though it’s not exactly like it at all. It’s a really GREAT! well-structured piece of work and I love how the lead guitar takes off and flies along at greater speed at the 4:28 mark for the final stretch and it ends off the album very well and this has to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Summary…

To sum up the latest HeartScore album Black Riders Part 2. I personally feel that this album represents more of the right change Dirk Radloff should have gone along with in the first place regarding his decision to go down the road towards metal. To be perfectly honest I cannot really fault the written material on Black Riders Part 1 but where his latest album wins over it is really down to stripping out all the ambient electronics and having a vocalist who is more suited to the genre of music. Giacomo Rossi very much has the power you need to deliver these songs and he has got what it takes to make them stand out and ROCK! and I personally think this is a more of a winning formula.  

But as to if the album does attract more attention and win over more listeners and buyers that is still remained to be seen. But I certainly think it should because it’s quite a good album that has good material and a really good stand out track. Although having one stand out track might not be enough these days and you perhaps need a good three or four at least to attract more attention. This is something that Dirk Radloff might need to re-address and take more time in making an album that has the type of material it needs to stand out that much more. 

But for me personally I do see this new album as a step in the right direction and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “There Was A Man And A Woman“. “I Looked Here“. “A Man Toiled On A Burning Road“. “A Man Went Before A Strange God“. “To My Tiny Throes And Struggles” and “Mankind“. 

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Black Riders Part 2 by HeartScore. I personally think this is a lot stronger album than the previous album down to the changes that have been made. I feel the track placement works well and the combination between Dirk Radloff and Giacomo Rossi is something I would like to see continue. I personally get more satisfaction from this album and it is an album I can play more often in relation to its predecessor. But as to if it’s an album that will appeal to the Metal Heads out there is another thing, and there is a bit more diversity here which suits my particular taste but not necessarily for those who are into Hardcore Metal.  

However, it is an album I certainly feel that more people should investigate and give it some attention. You never know it might just ROCK! your boat as it does mine. You can listen or even purchase Black Riders Part 2 by clicking on the following link:  https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/black-riders-part-ii

He Was A Brave Heart

The track listing is as follows:

01. A Man Went Before A Strange God. 4:05.
02. It Was Wrong To Do This. 3:03.
03. A Man Toiled On A Burning Road. 3:55.
04. There Was Set Before Me A Mighty Hill. 4:02.
05. Many Workmen. 3:56.
06. There Was A Man And A Woman. 2:50.
07. Once There Was A Man. 3:46.
08. To My Tiny Throes And Struggles. 1:23.
09. I Looked Here. 3:56.
10. Mankind. 5:31.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #130

Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) – Djabe & Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Coming off the back of the release of their first studio album Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) the collaboration of Djabe & Steve Hackett followed it up in the following year with a live release entitled Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Tapes). This release captures the guys performing live from one of the two concerts they gave in Hungary during the same week of the release of their studio album back in 2017. It not only features tracks from the album played live but also material by Djabe and Steve Hackett and Genesis making it more on an exciting show. But before I delve a bit deeper into it lets’ take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD’s & DVD comes in a well-made cardboard 4 panel DigiPak with plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place. It also has a side pocket to store the booklet to which is a 10-page booklet that contains some information about the concert and comes with all the usual linear production and credit notes plus photos. Overall, it’s a good quality package very well presented and can be obtained from most stores from around £12 – £18. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £11.99 and that is quite a bargain for 2 CD’s and DVD and well worthy of the money.

Artwork.

The album cover is designed from photos that would have been taken at the concert and it’s the usual thing with live album releases. The photographs were taken by Ferenc MernyóZoltán Gerebi, Nazim Isik, Attila Égerházi, Ben Fenner and Christophe Pauly. The booklet is also mainly constructed some very nice individual photos of the band members.

The Live Album Contents In Review…

Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Tapes) was released sometime in September 2018 and although it was released in Hungary, England and Japan in the form of a 2 CD/DVD DigiPak they also released what they call the essence of the concert in Hungary only onto a single LP pressed onto Gold vinyl. To be honest having looked at the track list of the vinyl album I can plainly see that is captures less than the essence and in all honesty I have to say for the life of me I cannot see why anybody would want to collect vinyl when you weigh up just what your missing out on. Personally, I would not waste my money on that thing :))))). But I suppose for those who like to hang it on the wall or show it off in a display cabinet, it may serve up some purpose.

The CD’s.

The first of the 2 CD’s contains 11 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 33 seconds. The second CD comes with 7 tracks and an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 5 seconds and also includes 2 bonus tracks that are not included on the DVD. They also came from 2 different venues to which they played a year later in 2018. The first of which was taken from a concert in Prague in the Czech Republic and is one of Steve Hackett’s own pieces that originally came of his 4th studio album Defector back in 1980 entitled “The Steppes“. The 2nd bonus track comes from a concert they played in Kaposvár in Hungary and is one Djabe’s pieces written by Attila Égerházi entitled “Distant Dance” that came originally from the bands 2002 album Evolúció and is featured at many of their live shows. The both bonus tracks are very good.

The DVD.

Although the DVD does not include the couple of bonus tracks found on the 2nd CD it does come with some other bonus features. I must admit that before I brought this release, I did make sure I could get it at a cheap enough price simply because over the few days I spent researching it on the net I could not find one review or any indication that the concert came with a 5.1 Mix.

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There is also nowhere on the packaging or in the booklet that states it comes with a 5.1 mix either or is there a DTS logo on the packaging. The only logos regarding the DVD on the packaging is the standard DVD the classification certificate and the region. But deep down inside and from my observations of the bands bass player and audio mixing engineer Tamás Barabás. He struck me as being a Surround FREAK! like myself by all the albums the band had made that came with a DVD. I did gather that it would include a 5.1 mix and I was not wrong.

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The DVD’s main menu opens up with a short video clip from the concert that repeats itself every few seconds and presents you with 4 options “PLAY”. “AUDIO OPTIONS”. “TRACK SELECTION” and “EXTRAS”.  The menu is pretty much straight forward and easy to navigate your way around and by default its set to “PLAY” so you can simply hit the play although you may want to choose your preferred choice of audio first.

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The DVD comes with two audio tracks and by default its set to Stereo. It also has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack for surround FREAKS! and that is always my preferred choice and I am so glad to see it does come in DTS too. Both audio formats are in 24/48 resolution. Once you’ve made your choice of audio you simply head back to the main menu and press play. You can also make your audio choice from your remote that comes with your DVD or Blu Ray player simply by pressing the audio button on your remote.

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The “TRACK SELECTION” menu gives you the option to choose any track and comes in handy for those who want to play their family and friends a quick track or two or even if you do not want to play the whole of the album yourself. It also comes in handy if you only have time to play so many tracks and have other things to do, you can simply pick up from where you left off when you are less busy.

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The “EXTRAS” menu presents you with the bonus material and here you 3 bits of bonus material all of which come in stereo 48/16 format quality. The first of which is the Life Is A Journey screen film which is a slightly longer bit of video footage than the same one found on the extras of the Life Is A Journey (Sardinia Tapes) DVD that comes with the studio album and is 6 minutes, 4 seconds long. The second bonus feature is the video that Attila Égerházi made for “Beams Over TheNulvi Mountains” and both of these videos can be found on his own YouTube channel.

The final bonus footage you get is basically a look behind the scenes and this footage is 22 minutes, 33 seconds long. To be honest I was looking forward to this so-called documentary basically because before I purchased it somebody stated in a review that is was really good. I have to say I was left totally disappointed by it simply because this is the sort of behind the scenes you would get from most artists live concerts only, they would speed it up and only make it a few minutes long and put a bit of music behind it.

It’s obvious that here they have not speeded up the video and the fact that it is only music you are getting and the band are not being interviewed or saying anything rather makes it all boring. The footage does show you them playing at some of the other venues but to call it a documentary is quite frankly a joke :)))))). Overall the bonus footage is not the best and most of it I had already seen on YouTube beforehand. It’s not something you are going to watch more than once either and it’s hardly worth rating to be honest.

The 5.1 Mix.

The stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by Tamás Barabás and once again he’s done a very good job of them, especially with the stereo mix which is very well detailed and even sounds GREAT! when ripped down to MP3 320kbps quality to be honest. The 5.1 mix is not an exciting mix but good enough for a live concert and he’s utilised the 6 channels very well by placing the audience in the rear speakers and even the drums work particularly well in the rear too from time to time. I personally do not think the 5.1 mix will give you any more dynamics and clarity over the stereo mix but it does give you slightly more of a concert feel of being there if anything over the stereo mix. But for those who do not have surround you are not really going to be missing out on anything because the stereo mix is excellent. In terms of a rating I would give the stereo mix 10 out of 10 and the 5.1 mix 8 out of 10.

The Picture Quality.

The concert was captured very well with good lighting and the cameras and all the camera operators have caught the band in action very well. These days most DVD and Blu Ray players in particular do a very good job of upscaling the quality making the picture look a lot better than it is and even though this was put onto a DVD rather than a Blu Ray disc it’s perhaps not as pristine or sharp like a Blu Ray will give you. But does look like it was captured with HD cameras and looks very good. The video post-production was done by Attila Égerházi and he’s done a good job of editing with the use of the footage from the cameras that have captured the close ups and angles very well.

Musicians & Credits…

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FOH – Gábor Kisfaludy.Monitor, Backline – Zsolt Ónodi. Lights – Gábor Farkas. Photos by Ferenc MernyóZoltán Gerebi, Nazim Isik, Attila Égerházi, Ben Fenner and Christophe Pauly. Audio Post Production by Tamás Barabás. Video Post Production by Attila Égerházi.

Musicians:
Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Attila Égerházi: Guitar/Percussion/Keys/Vocal.
Tamás Barabás: Bass/Vocals.
János Nagy: Keyboards.
Áron Koós-Hutás: Trumpet/Flugelhorn.
Péter Kaszás: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Gulli Briem: Drums/Percussion.

The Live Concert In Review…

The concert took place at the MOMkult on the 4th October 2017 and you get 1 hour and 45 minutes of the concert on the DVD. The MOMkult is a small theatre that is situated in the MOM Cultural Center in Budapest, Hungary and is used as a venue for concerts, film screenings, theatrical performances, conferences, gala shows, balls.

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MOM Cultural Center

The domed building was built back in 1951 and since it was renovated in 2011 it has become a major player in the cultural life of the capital, while maintaining its familial, direct character. MOMkult’s name is marked by popular festivals of national interest: The Jazzy Festival, the Get Closer Jazz Festival, and the Cziffra Festival of Classical Music.

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MOMkult Theatre

The MOMkult is a small theatre that only holds a capacity of around 500 seats but is ideal for playing to smaller audiences and many bands and artists have played at the venue and these days it’s also ideal for older artists who have more or less semi-retired and have written autobiographies about themselves and go on tour promoting their latest book. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden is currently on tour talking about his career with and without the band and being an aeroplane pilot. An Evening with Bruce Dickinson will be at the MOMkult in November this year.

On With The Show….

Although there are 7 musicians in total not all are on the stage throughout the whole of the show and both Steve Hackett & Gulli Briem are only guests  Djabe are also with their full line-up which includes both the drummer & percussionist Péter Kaszás and the bands keyboard player János Nagy who was not involved in the making of studio album Life Is A Journey and it’s this 5 piece outfit that kick the show off first. The concert is very much divided into 3 sets and the first half hour of the show features Djabe playing 4 of their own compositions.

Set 1. Djabe.

The band kick off the show with a piece entitled “Lava Lamp” and personally for me steals this part of the opening set. It’s also the longest piece out of the 4 numbers they play together do and weighs in at around 11 minutes. Unlike the material on the album Life Is A Journey which is more smooth jazz and chilled out sort of stuff. “Lava Lamp” does have a lot more excitement about it and is more of the jazz fusion you would get with bands like Brand X and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s also a piece where all 5 members of the band get their own solo spots. The piece was written by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás and he along with the drummer Péter Kaszás and keyboard player János Nagy make it that much more exciting and this really is a GREAT! track. Péter Kaszás really does a TOP JOB! on the drum kit on his solo and the drums throughout the whole of the track too.

The next couple of tracks are individual solo performances from Djabe’s 2 longest members of the band. The first of which is a nice little piece entitled “Life Spirit” that features Attila Égerházi on his Godin nylon string guitar. It’s a nice enough piece although I am not really sure they needed to tone down the show that much from its flying opener. It’s also a damn site better than what Tamás Barabás does with his bass guitar with a looper pedal on a piece he entitled “Buzzy Butterfly” which is up next and takes up twice as long.

The band are all back together for the final part of this opening half hour set and do more of their usual chilled out stuff with a smooth 8-minute piece entitled “4000“. Once again Péter Kaszás does a super job on the drum kit and Áron Koós-Hutás gets to do a bit more of his usual stellar work on the trumpet and both the first and last tracks in this set are my personal highlights from it. I felt that it may have been better for the whole band to have done something rather than have the 2 band members individual tracks here, but overall it’s a good start to the show and Attila Égerházi introduces the two special guests at the end that enter the stage for the next set.

Set 2. Steve Hackett.

With both the Icelandic drummer Gulli Briem and England’s own Steve Hackett entering the stage the second set consists of a combination of songs from Hackett’s solo and early Genesis career. Péter Kaszás moves over from the main drum kit to the smaller percussion kit whilst Gulli Briem sits in the hot seat on the drums. Briem is perhaps more of a power horse drummer which is needed for this particular set and he sits on the hot seat throughout most of the rest of the show. Although the combination between them both works extremely well here.

Over the next 29 minutes the 7-piece line-up make their way very well through the material to which is mostly instrumental pieces and instrumental edited down versions of a couple of Genesis songs. They kick off with “Los Endos” and the only words you get from “Fly On A Windshield” that follows is the opening sentence of the song sung by Péter Kaszás. Then we get one of Hackett’s older tunes which is the self-titled track from his 2nd album “Please Don’t Touch” to which is something he has not played live in quite a while now.

Though in reality this instrumental piece must have been incorporated into about 20 – 30 other Hackett pieces that have appeared on many of his albums under different titles. It was even included on the GTR album under the name of “Hackett To Bits” and still bits of it continue to surface even on the latest albums he still puts out today. This works its way into the famous lead break section of the Genesis classic “Firth Of Fifth” and they finish this set off with one of his later songs from 2009 “Last Train To Istanbul” to which he also sings himself. Overall the band do quite a good job with Hackett and playing with other musicians and you are bound to get more of a different arrangement. It’s not quite the same as what you will get with a Steve Hackett concert and that would be perhaps more exciting, but this is perhaps the most powerful part of the show and exciting enough.

Set 3. Djabe & Steve Hackett.

The final part of the show focuses mainly on the material that came from the album they are very much airing out and promoting, and they do 4 numbers from the new collaboration album that had just been released at the time including the albums self-titled track “Life Is A Journey“. I have to say considering most of the new album at the time consisted of improvisations and they had very little time to rehearse them they have done quite a TOP NOTCH JOB! on them all.

They kick off this set with an extended version of the 2nd track from the album “Golden Sand” and I prefer the live version to the studio version. Both “Buzzy Island” and “After Limoncello” have also been extended by a couple of minutes and sound a bit more exciting and invigorating and “Life Is A Journey” is kept to more less the same length and sounds just as good as the studio version. It’s also very close to the studio version apart from the extra keys and with the extra 2 musicians they have on stage with them and they really have knocked all 4 tracks from the album out of the park.

They finish the show off with an older Djabe piece entitled “Clouds Dance” to which all 7 musicians play this time, and Péter Kaszás gets to sit back in the hot seat on the drums whilst Gulli Briem moves over to the smaller percussion kit. Once again this is much more like it from the band and Hackett does a flying solo on this one and so do most of the other guys too and they finish the show off in style leaving you wanting more.

Summary…

To sum up Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett. What I like about the concert is that it gives you something a bit different in relation to the many concerts that Steve Hackett has put out himself. Even though it does include a set of Hackett’s solo & early Genesis material it does not necessarily steal the show and there is a good variety of Djabe’s own and collaborative material that also keeps the show quite interesting and entertaining enough for you to enjoy. I think the combination of prog rock and jazz fusion also blends very well together and the way the concert has been split into 3 sets also works very well too.

I would also say that Djabe are a bit more exciting to watch live and bring out that bit more than just the chillout stuff you would get from their own studio albums and they make it a bit more interesting. My personal highlights from the show are “Lava Lamp“. “4000“. “Fly On A Windshield“. “Last Train To Istanbul“. “Golden Sand“. “Buzzy Island” and “Clouds Dance“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I would say that Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett gives you that something more different and offers GREAT! value for the buck and you do get quality for the buck. The concert has been captured very well and comes with a very good picture quality and has been edited very well. The sound quality is TOP NOTCH! and even though it does come with a 5.1 mix this is a concert I can also enjoy in audio only in stereo. The fact that you have the best of both worlds with a package like this that comes with 2 CD’s and a DVD you cannot really go wrong. The bonus material I personally think is disappointing but the concert certainly is not and for its price point its exceptionally good value and will give you many hours of GREAT! entertainment.

On The Last Train To Budapest…

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Lava Lamp. 10:58.
02. Life Spirit. 3:40.
03. Buzzy Butterfly. 7:01.
04. 4000. 8:14.
05. Los Endos. 7:33.
06. Fly On A Windshield. 3:11.
07. Please Don’t Touch. 4:52.
08. Firth Of Fifth. 5:50.
09. Last Train To Istanbul. 6:14.

CD 2.
01. Golden Sand. 11:14.
02. Buzzy Island. 6:30.
03. Life Is A Journey. 9:33.
04. After Limoncello. 7:31.
05. Clouds Dance. 10:15.
06. The Steppes # (2018 Prague). 7:59.
07. Distant Dance # (2018 Kaposvár). 11:14.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Bonus Material Rating Score. 1/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #129

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) – Djabe & Steve Hackett

DJABE-STEVE-HACKETT

Introduction…

I quite often get emails from Amazon that relates to much of the music I buy and I mostly glance at them when it comes to new releases that are coming out and are available to pre-order. I also subscribe to the Burning Shed for that purpose as well and find both sites very useful and my GOTO! sites for that purpose. A few weeks back I noticed a new album by Djabe & Steve Hackett entitled Back To Sardinia that is due to be released on the 6th December. I have always liked Steve Hackett and do have most of his solo albums although I had never heard of Djabe before and decided to check them out a bit more and found out that Hackett had done earlier collaborations with the band. So, I popped over to YouTube and gave what I could find of the collaboration a BLAST! and was quite impressed.

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) was released back in 2017 and although Hackett has appeared on a good few other compilation albums and played live with the band much longer, it is the first studio album they have collaborated and put out together. The fact that it also comes accompanied with a DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album also did entice me to stick my neck out and persuade me to buy it.

To be honest it’s quite a strange and perhaps an unusual collaboration in that Steve Hackett is very much out of his comfort zone with a band like Djabe who are more of a jazz fusion outfit. It reminds me of when Phil Collins joined the jazz fusion band Brand X back in the 70’s. Only Collins very much sat and fitted in with that music easily and was more at home with it, whereas Hackett is very much out of place but strangely enough it works in a way of perhaps bringing something a bit different out of him. Although the band in many respects could easily function just as well on their own and would be perhaps more suited to their style of music without him.

If anything, Steve Hackett gives the band a bit more of an electric edge and spices things up with his electric guitar more than anything else and adds a bit more power to it all. Though I am sure it also works well in throwing a bit more attention Djabe’s way by having one of prog rocks more famous guitarists tag along with them, even though they have also played with many other more successful artists in the past. But before we take a deeper look into the album and a brief look at the bands history, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD & DVD comes in a well-made cardboard 3 panel DigiPak with plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place. It also has a side pocket to store the booklet to which is a 14-page booklet that contains some very informative information about the collaboration and comes with all the usual linear production and credit notes plus photos. Overall it’s a good quality package very well presented and well worthy of the money.

I got my copy from Amazon and I must admit I did make a bit of a blunder by popping it in my wishlist a few days earlier before I purchased it. On the day I popped it in my wishlist it was priced at £11.99 and on the day, I purchased it I ended up paying £17.62 for it. Though I cannot grumble at the price and that price is closer to its retail price for a CD & DVD that comes with a 5.1 mix and the only way a package like this is overpriced if they are asking over £20 for it.

I have stopped putting things in my wishlist on Amazon and there is no doubt they are tracking every move you make on it. I have also found that by book marking the item with your web browser instead you will find that 9 times out of 10 it’s still the same price when you go to buy it a few days later. For some reason if Amazon know you have an interest in something and put it in your wishlist, 9 times out of 10 they will put the price of it up.

Artwork.

The albums cover design was done by Attila Égerházi & Zoltán Kiss with the use of photographs that were taken in Sardinia where the band recorded the album at the time. Basically, it’s a photograph of some ancient old church and is the church of Nostra Signora di Tergu. It’s perhaps the sort of thing you would find on a pamphlet in a church or tourist centre rather than on an album cover. I would not say it entices one to buy the album either and even though the albums title is Life Is A Journey I would of thought they could of come up with something a lot better and it does look a bit  boring but that is how I see it and not many others on that score.

Djabe In Brief History…

Djabe originally formed by guitarist & percussionist Attila Égerházi in Budapest, Hungary back in 1996 along with bass player Tamás Barabás who is the bands main composer. Like many other bands the line up as very much changed over the years but it’s main two members have been there from the offset. The bands style of music is very much jazz mixed in with some Hungarian and African music and although Djabe might not be that popular enough to gather up a huge following they have won numerous domestic and international awards and recognitions. They are also notably the number 1 jazz/world fusion band in Hungary. But then again for all I know they could also be the only jazz/world fusion band in Hungary :))))).

The bands name “Djabe” comes from the language Akan which is spoken by most of the people who reside in the southern part of Ghana and is also spoken among 41% of those from the Ivory Coast and it means “Freedom”. It was around the year 2002 and upwards that the band got to play at bigger festivals locally and internationally and the band gave concerts in 42 countries throughout Europe, Asia and North-America. Djabe is one of the most invited Hungarian bands by international festivals. It would have also been back in 2002 and upwards that Steve Hackett played many of his concerts in Budapest which is the capitol city of Hungary were the band originally originated from and that would be how he most likely bumped into Égerházi and since then have been friends.

In following year 2003 Hackett got to appear on one of the bands singles entitled “Táncolnak A Kazlak/Sheafs are Dancing’ and since around 2007 onwards Hackett has appeared as a guest at many of the bands live shows and has appeared on many compilation albums and concert DVD’s with them too. Both Égerházi and Barabás also played the Indonesian instrument called the Angklung on Hackett’s 2009 album Out of The Tunnels Mouth.

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Angklung

Other noted artists who have played with Djabe over the past 24 years are Ben Castle, Sting, Jamie Cullum, and George Michael and they have also toured and been on the same stage with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Carla Bay amongst others.

In 2016 both Égerházi and Barabás decided it was time to refresh the band with a newer line up but still one that would maintain true to the bands style of music and they brought in drummer and percussionist Péter Kaszás who also plays for Al Di Meola’s band. They also brought in the award-winning trumpet player Áron Koós-Hutás plus the keyboard player János Nagy. The drummer Gulli Briem also has featured with the band as a guest many times too. The bands new line up are still pretty much together and still make their own albums as well as doing collaboration work with Steve Hackett every now and then.

Life Is A Journey Album In Review…

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett was released on the 6th October 2017. The album contains 11 tracks to which you could say are all instrumental tracks even though its self-titled track does have vocals repeating the name of the album in small sections. Most of the tracks are also quite lengthy and its 11 tracks span over an overall playing time of 72 minutes, 41 seconds. You are getting a double albums worth of material shoved onto 1 CD. The album was also released on vinyl and comes pressed onto 2 x 180 gram black and also clear vinyl LP’s for you vinyl lovers.

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Double Album Edition

The album Life Is A Journey is the result of a 3-day improvised jamming session between Steve Hackett and 4 members of Djabe who for the first time apart from playing live on stage before had all been in the same room together and enjoyed each other’s company and playing together. Hackett decided to bring along his long-time sound engineer Ben Fenner who recorded the sessions on 24 track analogue tapes and they set up a recording studio in a house near the famous medieval church Nostra Signora di Tergu in north Sardinia. Hence the reason for “The Sardinia Tapes” being added to the albums title.

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Nostra Signora di Tergu

The church and the remains of the annexed abbey are located in a countryside area outside the village and its one of the most outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture in the island. It was the first time the priests house had become a recording studio so to speak. The 5 musicians enjoyed the sessions so much that they thought it would be worth moving on further with so, both Djabe’s long time band members Attila Égerházi and Tamás Barabás got together to work out the concept and Barabás produced and composed the rather unique album we have here from the sessions. The albums title was inspired from this particular journey being out in the country side and soaking up all the atmosphere around them that inspired the music.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu displays the front of the albums photo cover of the church to which funny enough looks like you have just put on a Tourist DVD you might buy from a travel agent rather than a record store :))))). Joking apart though what I will say is that album covers do look way better on your TV than on vinyl albums and are even larger than life depending on the size of your TV. Some of them even come to life by them being animated and I can assure you even though I no longer collect vinyl I am not missing out on the larger size the vinyl album gives you with these type of packages that come with most 5.1 recordings on DVD & Blu Ray.

The main menu presents you with 4 options “PlAY”. “AUDIO OPTIONS”. “TRACK SELECTION” and “EXTRAS” all of which are pretty much straightforward and easy to navigate. Clicking on the “AUDIO OPTIONS” presents you with the following screen.

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The audio comes with 2 choices to choose and both the Stereo and DTS 5.1 mixes come with Hi Resolution formats of 96/24 and this is quite a quality production that’s been done and both the stereo and 5.1 mixes sound GREAT! and a quality job has been done.

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The “TRACK SELECTION” menu gives you the option to choose any track and comes in handy for those who want to play their family and friends a quick track or two or even if you do not want to play the whole of the album yourself. It also comes in handy if you only have time to play so many tracks and have other things to do, you can simply pick up from where you left off when you are less busy.

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The “EXTRAS” menu presents you with the bonus material. Sardo Moments is a 3 minute, 27 second bit of video footage captured by the bands drummer Gulli Briem and bass player Tamás Barabás and edited by the bands guitarist Attila Égerházi. It shows you the band having a good time and a bit of fun recording in the house and around the area outside in Sardinia. It’s also backed up by having the albums self-titled track running in the background rather than hearing the musicians speaking to each other. To be honest I would of much sooner have had a short documentary where you could have heard the band discussing the music with each other. A slightly longer edited version is also included on the Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) DVD and as expected the audio is in stereo only with a format of 48/16.

The final bonus you get is certainly much more interesting and better and here you get 21 minutes, 56 seconds of well shot footage taken from a concert they played at the Jazz Club in Budapest on the 3rd June 2017. This line up also includes János Nagy on keyboards who was not with them when they made the album in Sardinia. It’s not unusual for the band to also play and feature some of the material from Hackett’s solo and Genesis career has you can see by the set list. It also comes with the same Hi Resolution formats of 96/24 in both stereo and DTS 5.1 mixes too which is unusual for bonus material and is very good. The bands bass player Tamás Barabás is also an audio engineer who has won awards for his mixes too and we shall find out a bit more about that in the next section.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás who won the recognition of the experts at Abbey Road with the 5.1 surround mixing of “Sheafs are Dancing” and was nominated to Surround Music Award in Los Angeles back in 2004. I think it’s plain to see that Barabás is well into 5.1 mixes and might be a bit of a surround FREAK! like myself and not many sound engineers would do 5.1 mixes for the bonus material like he has done on this release. I have also noticed that with many of the bands albums do also come with a DVD with the 5.1 mix of the album which is a good thing in my book and something I think all major artists should do especially if they can do a good enough job of the 5.1 mix and that is something many cannot do and would be better off left to those who can do a proper job of it.

Overall, I think he’s done a very good job with 5.1 mix. But I would also say he’s also done a pretty darn excellent job on the stereo mix too and it’s that good that this particular 5.1 mix does not really bring out any more of the dynamics and clarity in relation to the stereo mix. I think he’s utilised all 6 channels very well and put all the instruments in the right places but sonically the stereo mix might sound a bit better. It would not surprise me if you put the CD in your DVD or Blu Ray player and hit Dolby Prologic X II on your AV Receiver that it would produce quite an impressive surround mix and I would rate the 5.1 mix 8 out of 10 and give the stereo mix top marks of 10 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…

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All jam and compositions by Barabás, Hackett, Briem, Koós-Hutás & Égerházi. Produced Arranged & Mixed by Tamás Barabás. Recording Engineer Ben Fenner. Stereo and 5.1 Mixes & Mastering by Tamás Barabás. Album Cover Design by Attila Égerházi & Zoltán Kiss. Sardinia Photographs by Ben Fenner, Jo Hackett, Gulli Briem & Attila Égerházi. Studio Photos by Imre Barta. Video Post-Production by Attila Égerházi.

Musicians:
Steve Hackett: Guitar.
Attila Égerházi: Guitar/Guitar Synth/Percussion.
Tamás Barabás: Bass/Percussion/Synth/Vocal.
Áron Koós-Hutás: Trumpet.
Gulli Briem: Drums/Percussion.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Even though Life Is A Journey is a collaboration between Steve Hackett and Djabe there is no doubt most of the material would of been written by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás and he is without doubt one of the most dominant players you will hear throughout the album. If you are a bass player yourself or love bass guitar this is very much an album that should appeal to you. This is also more of a Djabe album in terms of its musical style and direction to which is mostly smooth chilled out jazz mixed in with a bit of fusion. It’s a bit like combining Miles Davis with a jazz fusion band like Brand X and there is also no doubt that Hackett is playing with some very good skilled musicians and Djabe are a really GREAT! band. So, let’s now take a look at the albums individual tracks and take you through the album.

Track 1. Life Is A Journey.

The album kicks off with its self-titled track to which is the second longest track on the album weighing in at 9 minutes, 40 seconds. It’s the only track on the album that does have vocals on to which Barabás sings the words “Life is a journey” every now and then over the first 3 minutes, 37 seconds of the track. Like the rest of the album its more of an instrumental track than anything else. To be honest even with what little you get in the way of words here they are effective enough to make this track more memorable even to the point of making it the stand out track on the album. Don’t be surprised if you’re out shopping or doing something else that you suddenly burst out singing the words yourself :))))) because they easily catch on.

Although the writing is credited to all the musicians for all the tracks on the album you can plainly hear that most of the music was constructed from the bass line which is why I mentioned that Tamás Barabás would have had more to do with the writing. But as with most of the tracks on the album being quite lengthy there is ample room in them for the others to contribute and take the journey somewhere else with the transnational changes. “Life Is A Journey” does go through some lovely transitional changes and progression over its 9 minutes and 40 seconds and allows the space for all the musicians to slot into it with their parts and some to have a little solo spot.

There are two guitarists playing here so do not expect Steve Hackett to get all the best lead parts. Also note that Hackett is also only playing electric guitar and he gets the first solo on this track which is not as effective the second solo that comes in around the 6:01 mark after the bass line to which Attila Égerházi plays on the electric and he does all the nylon playing too on his Godin guitar. The final solo is played by Áron Koós-Hutás who perhaps plays a better solo than the other two guys on his trumpet. His trumpet also contributes to most of the chilled-out parts with the GORGEOUS! bass and rhythm section and blend of the guitars they are the chilling tones. “Life Is A Journey” is a super chilled out track and my second favourite on the album and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Golden Sand.

This is a nice chillout track and Koós-Hutás’s trumpet sounds like the waves of the sea washing over you on the golden sand. Once again it has LUSH! bass lines from  Barabás and Hackett plays some nice effective guitar on this track that glides along with the smoothness of it all. There is quite a lot of guitar played by him and Égerházi on this track and even Barabás gets a small spot for a bass solo. Gulli Briem’s drums are always keep it all together and hold it all together very well.

The track is just over 7 minutes long and to be honest it only seems like it’s only over half of that distance. It’s perhaps just as well because it does run along in more of a straight line but is quite calm and effective enough to relieve the tension of boredom setting in. It’s not one of the stand out tracks on the album but flows along wonderfully.

Track 3. Castelsardo At Night.

Castelsardo is a picturesque historic town on the northern coast of Sardinia and you might probably of guessed by it’s name there is a castle there and the old town is fortified with a castle. It’s also an interesting and atmospheric place to visit from what have read about it. The track features longer solos on the bass and trumpet and also uses bags of percussion more than anything else. It’s also perhaps not as interesting as the place itself despite the GREAT! playing by Barabás and Koós-Hutás but even though it’s over a minute longer than the previous track, it does seem to be over in 5 minutes. I suppose there must something in here that’s is enjoyable for it to work like that but I do feel it needed to go somewhere else on that score.

Track 4. What’S The News Antonio?

They pick things up much better here and this is more of a composition like the opening self-titled track in relation to the last track which was more of an improvised jam. The title is a bit quirky too and perhaps a bit along some of the lines of the quirky titles Brand X might use for their instrumental pieces. I cannot quite remember the story behind the title but I did read somewhere that Antonio was either a newsreader they used to watch on TV to see what the latest news was, or he was a guy they knew and every time they seen him they always asked him “what was new”.

Musically the piece is constructed around a melody or theme to which most likely was written around the chords played on the keys. Once again, the back line of the bass and drums are well tight and Koós-Hutás trumpet playing sings sweetly along over the top of it. Hackett also gets to fly a good lengthy lead break on this number too. “What’S The News Antonio?” is very much one of the better written pieces on the album and one of the highlights that puts it in contention of being a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Around My Mind.

This next track is the longest track on the album and weighs in at eleven and a half minutes and it does not disappoint either and utilises its long distance very well with the progression and transitional changes it goes through very well keeping one’s mind more attentive to what’s going on. It runs along smoothly through some fine melodic structures over the first 6 minutes and this is perhaps the track on the album where Hackett gets to unleash more power and he comes into play around the 6:03 mark and totally ROCKS! and lifts it up. There is perhaps more going on in this track than any other track on the album and is most likely why I chose it to be my favourite track on the album and merit it with the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains.

This GORGEOUS! ambient piece was inspired by the ancient Nulvi mountain village in Anglona in north-west Sardinia where the band was recording and it features  Áron Koós-Hutás doing a spectacular job on the trumpet. It’s one of those super chillout tracks that washes over you BEAUTIFULLY! According to Égerházi it was wind turbines and sunbeams that inspired the track and he also captured some footage of them and put the music to the background of it and posted it on his YouTube channel.

Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains” is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! that also features Égerházi on lead guitar whilst Hackett adds some atmospheric guitars to it. Barabás also added a bit of acoustic guitar to it as well but it’s all very effective and chills the bones perfectly.

Track 7. Building A Nuraghe.

The tracks on the album get shorter from here on and this piece would of most likely have been written by Égerházi with the use of a Looper Pedal which is something that Barabás uses on one of the tracks on the live album that followed it. Basically, it gives the other members of the band something to jam along to and is simple enough and perhaps not as strong as many of the other tracks on the album. But overall, it’s not a bad track and does rhythmically pick the album up a bit but not by a lot.

Track 8. Buzzy Island. 

The guys get into the funky groove of things here and Barabás does some fine slap bass playing on this track, it also features a fine solo from Hackett and Koós-Hutás whilst Briem sits in well on the drums and keeps it all together. It’s a GREAT! little track and a FUNKY DELICIOUS! one at that.

Track 9. I Will Always Remember.

The mood simmers down nicely to a lovely steady chillout pace and this has plenty of colour with rhythm guitars and a beautiful solo on the nylon guitar which is most likely played by Égerházi. It also features a beautiful bass solo by Barabás and Koós-Hutás does it bit on the trumpet in the first half of the track and produces some lovely tones from it as well. The opening groove of a melody that comes into play at 43 seconds for a short time played on the guitar reminds me of the song “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed for some reason and I quite often find myself singing the words to that song to it as well. But there is a lot more to this GORGEOUS! piece and it’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. Wake Up.

It’s time to wake up and this is another funky little number and the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Once again, the bass and drums are the driving force and Barabás is on speed here with his slap bass playing. It also gives both Hackett and Koós-Hutás to fly in a couple of solos. It’s another GREAT! little track and picks the album up for the final time and works very well.

Track 11. After Limoncello.

Where back in the smooth jazz territory here for the final track on the album and it’s like the guys are drifting on in the sunset to put a BEAUTIFUL! end to the album as well. It really does round the album off in fine style and the musicians doe the BIZZO on it.

Summary…

To sum up Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett. I would say that it’s a GREAT! or rather NICE! album to chillout too. To be quite honest being more of a surround FREAK! myself I play this album a lot on my Desktop computer whilst writing reviews and playing the odd game of Patience to which Windows 10 now calls Klondike for some reason. But I often used to play that solitary card game well before computers were even sold commercially. It’s also an album one could relax to in the late evening with their feet up with cuppa cocoa sort of thing and is perhaps more of a late-night album. But either way it works very well in the chillout department.

Since buying the album it even got me in the mood to buy their live album and bring my my Steve Hackett collection up to date with his last 3 studio albums to which I never had. The only thing I have brought of Hackett’s since he released Genesis Revisited II back in 2012 were very much live concerts on DVD and Blu Ray. So right now, I have gone Hackett mad and shall be reviewing the other albums along with more artists albums over the next month or two.

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My personal highlights from the albums are as follows: “Life Is A Journey“. “What’S The News Antonio?“. “Around My Mind“.and “Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I would say that if like myself you are into the prog rock music of Steve Hackett’s solo career. The album Life Is A Journey is not necessarily going to be to your taste. It is without doubt different and very much more a Djabe album than anything else. But for those into smooth jazz and jazz fusion this album may very well appeal more to your taste. I myself can very much like the both genres of music at times and even though I would not say the album is a solid one by any means, it is without doubt an excellent album to chillout too.

Overall, I would not say that Djabe’s style of jazz fusion has the excitement you would get with other bands such as Brand X and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and in reality, they are much smoother than those couple of bands regarding their own style and approach to their own music. They are however GREAT! musicians but whether that would entice me to buy some of their own studio albums is another thing, but they are GREAT! to watch live and they have one hell of a good bass player. I myself did buy the album myself because I do like Steve Hackett a lot more than any of the other individual members that came out of Genesis back in the 70’s, and the fact that it also came with a DVD and a 5.1 mix did also entice me to purchase it and to be quite honest I am quite glad that I did.

I would also say that the album represents very good value for the buck and can be picked up at a bargain price at some places. I did also rate my overall price point score down to the fact that it can be picked up for around £11 – £14 which is GREAT! value for a CD/DVD package like this. The bonus material on the DVD is excellent especially how the live concert footage you get has also been given the 5.1 treatment. It’s GREAT! to see Steve Hackett playing some of his own and early Genesis songs with the band too and they are GREAT! to watch together live.

Chilled Out In Sunny Sardinia

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Life Is A Journey. 9:40.
02. Golden Sand. 7:06.
03. Castelsardo At Night. 8:22.
04. What’S The News Antonio?. 6:30.
05. Around My Mind. 11:30.
06. Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains. 6:08.
07. Building A Nuraghe. 4:44.
08. Buzzy Island. 4:14.
09. I Will Always Remember. 6:32.
10. Wake Up. 2:20.
11. After Limoncello. 5:48.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #128

Gentle Giant – Free Hand & Interview (Deluxe Editions)

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Introduction…

I recently stumbled across the Deluxe Editions of both of Gentle Giant’s albums Free Hand and Interview to which I only discovered were released a few years back via some of the comments left upon Gentle Giant’s Facebook page when they was about to announce themselves, that they had unearthed some burred treasure of their own. As it happens for me personally, I rather think that the couple of little GEMS! I managed to get hold of here, were more of a TREASURE! than what the band were about to put out. But before I go into further detail about these GEMS! let’s take a closer look at what Gentle Giant had unearthed so to speak.

It Can Change, It Can Stay The Same…

It was back on the 19th September last month Gentle Giant put out a post on their Facebook page that they will be making a BIG! announcement the next day. To be honest I had already seen rumours floating around a week prior to this and it was obvious they was going to be putting out another release, and on the following day on the 20th September sure enough they made their BIG! announcement and it was that they were going to be releasing a new 30 Disc Box Set to which they had titled Unburied Treasure.

Box set

It’s very much a Limited Box Set to which only 2,000 copies are being put out and is available to pre-order and will be released on the 6th December 2019. It also comes at a WHOPPING! price tag of £250 and to be perfectly honest it is not exactly the thing I was hoping for and would of much sooner it would have been that they had done 5.1 mixes of albums such as In A Glass House. Free Hand or Interview for example. Even better if they were mixed by Steven Wilson who had already done the 5.1 mixes for the albums Octopus, The Power and The Glory and Three Piece Suite that I already have and have reviewed shown in the picture below.

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The one thing that was obvious was that no way had the band suddenly got back together to make a new album. Especially as some of the bands members had given up playing their instruments many moons ago and moved onto other things. They even stated themselves over a decade ago that they most likely would not even be able to play like they did all those years ago so it would be pointless.

But personally, for myself, no matter how I look at this box set, it does not really offer me anything I do not already have which is why I have no real interest in it even though it does look like a very nice collector’s item. OK that statement is not strictly true and there are a few things I do not have here so let’s take a closer look at the contents.

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Unburied Treasure Contents

The only unburied musical treasure you are getting in this box set comes in the form of 15 live concerts put onto 15 CD’s and the biggest majority of those some people may already have in one form or another. The chances are that the official double live album Playing The Fool that was released many moons ago (also included in this box set) is the best recording there is. For all we know some of the other live recordings might not of even came from the soundboard and are bootlegs just like most of the live material that came with the King Crimson box sets.

Looking at the live recordings you do get there is only 7 of them that have never been released before. You also get 7 that were not officially released by the band that most people might already have including the 1 concert that was never put on CD before that also comes with it. Live recordings are all well and good but a load of them can also present you with too much of the same thing at times and unless these recordings are up to the quality of the recording you get on Playing The Fool they are only really for nostalgic purposes and you would only ever really play them once, and if the recordings are really bad you might not even make it through a concert.

Now I am not for one-minute stating or suggesting that there is bootleg recordings and inferior quality recordings amongst the live material you get here and it’s not unusual to unearth good soundboard recordings from many of the radio stations and other engineers that recorded the band live. But it’s certainly an underhanded thing other bands have done in the past regarding the material they use to make up a box set like this to entice you to buy it. As far as I can see there is only a couple of things in this box set that are new, and one of those may not even be new either, but first let’s take a look at the 12 studio albums many would already have.

The box set also includes the bands original 12 studio albums to which it states that they have been remastered. As to if they have been remastered this year and for this box set alone is another thing, but regardless of any remaster it’s not going to give you anything new unlike a new remix of the album will, and the only thing remastering does is enhance the sound a bit more and nothing else. The only reason for remastering any album is really down to the new technology that becomes available over the years such as new plugins that might work better and they might want to experiment with. Basically, all they are doing is applying EQ to a 2-track stereo audio file and some of them may even use a bit of compression to try and enhance the recording a bit more. Some recordings sound better for it and others don’t.

They basically remaster albums when they have gone out of circulation and reissue them with a new remaster. Although some artists and record companies take the piss and do them more often than they should just to try and squeeze more money out of you. But in general, I would expect a new remaster to come out once in every 5 to 10 years or so or even longer.

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Now it was only last year that I pre-ordered and purchased the brand-new reissue of Clamshell Box Set I Lost My Head to which was originally put out back in 2012. This new 2018 Edition comes with new remasters (or were they?) of the bands last 5 studio albums plus the double live album. The chances are that the new remasters of the albums in this box set are what you will be getting in the brand-new box set Unburied Treasure. It’s also most likely (when looking at the pictures of both box sets) that they have even used the same cardboard sleeves for Free Hand and Playing The Fool and just made cardboard sleeves for the rest of the CD’s to slot into.

Personally, for the price of £250 I would of expected the CD’s to be put into proper 2 panel Gatefold Cardboard Digipaks or DigiSleeves at least, not cardboard sleeves like they have done here. For those who think because the box set contains 30 discs you are getting value for the buck personally, I do not see how, especially when it’s presented to you like this and how you can get 6 albums in this Clamshell Box for £20. OK granted 4 of the albums have been shoved onto 2 discs instead of 4 but I have just pre-ordered The Police new box set which comes with 6 CD’s in 6 cardboard sleeves for less than £18.

The Unburied Treasure Box Set I personally think is well overpriced and it should retail from somewhere around £130 – £150 and that is more of a genuine honest price tag and it’s real value. But even at that lower price this box set is not for me and I certainly would not pay that price to get hold of the one thing in it that may interest me, and that is the Blu Ray that is also included in it. The reason I say it “may interest me” is down to the fact that I may already have it.

The Blu Ray supposedly contains the 5.1 mix of the bands self-titled debut album done by Steve Wilson yet only 3 of the 7 original multitrack tapes were ever found and was the reason why Wilson decided to do a 5.1 mix and only a compilation of the bands first 3 albums in the first place due to most of the multitrack tapes for those albums being missing.

When you look at all the multitrack tapes, he found to do that compilation that was put out and titled Three Piece Suite back in 2017. The only one of the three albums it would make more sense to do a 5.1 mix with would be the 3rd album Three Friends. Simply because only 2 out of the 6 multitrack tapes were missing from that album to which he could have done simulated Psudio mixes with those 2 tracks. Doing 3 x 5.1 mixes and 4 x Psudio mixes for their debut album is pointless. You might as well play the CD in your Blu Ray or DVD Player and turn on Dolby Prologic II on your AV Receiver it will produce more or less the same result.

There is of course a slight possibility that the remaining 4 multitrack tapes have now been found to do a proper 5.1 mix of the bands debut album. But I certainly would not be shelling out 250 bucks to find out. If it is the case then that would be one of the only two new things in this box set, I mentioned earlier that is the best thing about it. Hopefully if they have found them, they will see the sense to release the 5.1 mix of the album at a later date like they have done with the previous 5.1 mixes of Octopus and The Power and The Glory.

The only other new thing that you are getting with the box set is where most of the value and quality lies, and that is the 136-page coffee table hardback book. You do also get a 96-page tour history book and some other posters etc. but the hardback book is the real value you are getting here and worth around £30 on its own. No doubt it is crammed with useful informative information about the band and comes with quality glossary photos too. I love the way Jethro Tull have been re-releasing their older albums to celebrate the Anniversary of them every year and how they come in the form of a hardback book along with an array of discs that fit nicely into it.

Speaking of which I am looking forward to receiving the latest Force 10 Book Edition of the 1979 album Stormwatch that now gets released on the 15th November. It comes with a 96-page hardback book. 4 CD’s & 2 DVD’s with 5.1 and new stereo mixes done by Steven Wilson. At a very respectable price too of £30. So, do you really think that Gentle Giant’s box set Unburied Treasure is worth £250. Don’t be silly, but of course many of their loyal fans will buy it regardless and I hope they sell all 2,000 copies. But I am afraid it’s like I originally stated in that it’s not what I was hoping to see in the first place.

So now let’s get back on track and take a look at the couple of GEMS! I did manage to get hold of and it was thanks to some of the comments left upon Gentle Giant’s Facebook page that made me go DIGGING! for them in the first place.

Free Hand & Interview (Deluxe Editions) In Review…

This is going to be a different review and is not a review about the albums material because I have reviewed them both in the past. So, for this review I am going to focus on the difference between these Deluxe Editions in relation to the general releases of the albums. Both the Deluxe Editions were released back in 2012 in both Europe and Japan. The only difference between the both releases is the way they are packaged and nothing more. For example, the Japanese release comes in a CD-sized paper sleeve album replica, with obi-strip, extra paper sleeve for the bonus disc and insert of notes etc. Whereas the European release comes in what they call a hard-shell digipak which is basically a plastic jewel case that slips into a cardboard sleeve.

In general, you will pay more for the Japanese release and the fact that both of the Deluxe Editions are going out of circulation you will end up paying silly money for them. But regarding the actual discs that come in them, they have been remastered and mixed by the same engineers and the only genuine difference is the way they have been packaged. To avoid paying silly money for them I opted to go for the European releases. My main reason for wanting these particular releases in the first place is the extra disc you do get with them which is a DVD that contains a 4.1 mix of an adaption of the original Quadrophonic Mix that was done of both albums back in the 70’s.

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As you can see from the picture above both the CD’s & DVD’s contain the original album tracks and there are no bonus tracks included. The CD’s were remastered by Fred Kevorkian at Avatar Studios in New York in the US, the very same guy who remastered the Clamshell Box Set of I Lost My Head back in 2012. When I purchased the re-issue of that box set last year it was advertised that the albums inside it come with new remasters done in 2018, yet there is no indication inside the booklet to verify they were new remasters and from listening to the CD’s in the Deluxe Edition it’s plain to hear that they sound exactly the same and the same CD’s were used for both the Deluxe Editions and the I Lost My Head Clamshell box set.

Now it’s been a good 7 years since these albums were remastered and the new box set Unburied Treasure might very well contain new remasters, but even if they are the same ones from 2012, I personally would not complain because they do sound very good. But they are not gonna give you the immersive experience and sound quality that the DTS 4.1 mix of the album will give you, and that is where a product like this means a hell of a lot more to me than any box set that contains nothing but a load of remastered CD’s or Vinyl albums. You are getting a damn site more for the buck with these Deluxe Editions than what that £250 box set is going to give you at an extortionate price. Which is why I would not personally waste my money on it and stick to box sets that give you good value for the buck when it comes to such CD packages. So, let’s now take a look at the DVD’s you get with these Deluxe Editions.

Free Hand DVD.

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The DVD opens up with a short animation of the album cover and a short bit of music from the album to accompany it and then presents you with its main menu as seen in the picture above. On the main menu if presents you with 3 choices of audio to choose from and by default its set to the original analogue stereo master. You also have 2 options to choose from for the 4.1 surround mixes the first of which a DTS mix and the 2nd is a standard Dolby Digital mix. Both the Stereo and DTS mixes come with Hi Res formats of 96/24 whilst the Dolby Digital mix in 48/24. Once you have made your choice it presents you with the following screen below.

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This menu gives you 3 options the first of which is to simply click on “Play Album” and it will begin to play the album from the start to the finish. The 2nd is “Songs” to which you can pick any particular track to play from the album and “Audio Choice” is there should you wish to go back to the main menu and change your desired choice for the audio. Though this can also be easily done simply by clicking on the Audio Button on your remote that comes with your DVD or Blu Ray Player.

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The screen above is the “Songs” menu and this is where you can simply select any of the albums 6 tracks to play. Clicking on “back” takes you back to the previous menu. It comes in handy if you want to play a quick track for a friend or you only want to listen to a few tracks on the album.

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When playing a track, it will display the album cover along with the title of the track you’re playing as seen in the picture above. The only thing that changes for each track is the title of the track only and it does not display any other pictures or a slideshow.

Interview DVD.

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As you can see by all the screenshots above the menus are pretty much laid out the same and the choices of audio is also the same. The only thing that is different is that the sky has been animated so it’s continuously moving and you do get a different picture displayed for each track as it plays on the Interview DVD.

The 4.1 Mixes.

The multitrack mixes for both of the albums was done by Peter Mew and I have to say he’s done a very good job of them. I am so glad he chose to do 4.1 mixes rather than 4.0 mixes too, simply because the subwoofer will make a lot more difference and gives you that extra channel rather than the 4 channels you would have had with a Quad mix. Quadrophonic for me personally never sounded right and never had the right balance and even by having that 1 extra channel it can make quite a difference in getting things to pan out right across all channels. Personally, I would have preferred a 5.1 mix but this 4.1 mix is pretty impressive although not quite as impressive of the job Steve Wilson done with the 4.1 mix of the 50th Anniversary Edition of Jethro Tull’s 1968 debut album This Was. But it’s well worthy of a good 8 out of 10.

The band originally done the Quadrophonic mixes of the both albums back in the 70’s but they never put them out. I know the original albums were recorded at Advision Studios and would of thought they was recorded on either 8 or 16 track reels and down to the fact that they are calling this an adaptation of the Quad mix it could be that the original multitrack master tapes were lost and not available for Peter Mew to work with, and he’s done the mix from using the original recordings of the Quad mixes that was done for both albums. But I have to say they do sound impressive all the same.

I would certainly love to see a 5.1 mix of them done by Steven Wilson in the future and would certainly buy them again. Although the only way that could be done is if they were able to locate the original multitrack master tapes and it’s hardly likely to happen. But for now, I am well happy with these.

Summary…

To sum up my review of both the Deluxe Editions of Free Hand & Interview I would say for surround FREAKS! like myself they are well worth sorting after, but I would not pay silly money for them. They are becoming harder to obtain these days because they are going out of circulation and the chances are is that they will not get re-issued like the Clamshell box set of I Lost My Head did back in 2018. Interview is still easy to get hold of and I got mine brand new from Amazon UK for £14. Free Hand on the other hand is a lot harder to find and they very rarely can be found at a reasonable price and I was lucky enough to get it off a chap on the German eBay site in mint condition for 30 Euro (£27.84) including the 5 Euro he charged for p+p. So, I did end up paying double the price for it. But that is still cheaper than many are charging for the European release and I do not consider 30 euro to be silly money in relation some of the extortionate prices people are asking for them.

The best places to look for the availability of them is on Discogs and by Googling around and searching the net. For example, when I first looked on Discogs for Free Hand it came up with nothing, and on eBay UK the only copy it came up with was a Japanese release for over £100. It was via deep searching through google that I came across it on eBay in Germany. During this week whilst writing this review I did notice that on Discogs that a European release had popped up for £39.00 excluding p+p. Free Hand is quite hard to get hold of and I was lucky to get it for the price I paid and to be honest I do not think I myself would personally pay over £40 for it and I do have my limits. Please also note my final price point rating score is based on the original price of the Deluxe Editions which would be between £14 – £18 each.

Conclusion…

Overall, I am well chuffed with my purchases of the Deluxe Editions of Free Hand & Interview and the 4.1 mixes have been done very well and bring out more of the dynamics, clarity and detail much better than any stereo release of the album. For me personally they are real GEMS! that so far are very much the definitive releases of these albums and are more of a TREASURE! to me than what you will find in Gentle Giant’s latest box set Unburied Treasure.

Don’t get me wrong I think box sets are all well and good and make GREAT! collectors’ items for those who like that sort of thing. I also think it’s GREAT! that Gentle Giant finally have the rights to their own music and this is the first time they could ever release all their albums together in one box set. But for myself it does not hardly give me anything that I do not have already apart from the rather nice hardback book that comes with it.

To be honest if they were to re-issue all their 12 studio albums and double live album on CD again in proper cardboard DigiPaks or DigiSleeves individually. I would most likely replace my existing CD’s with them. But as for the cardboard sleeves they have used for them in this box set. Those things are associated with much cheaper Clamshell box sets that cost around £20 – £40 and not box sets that come with a WHOPPING! price tag like this of £250. Any box set is supposed to offer you more value for the buck and I am afraid I do not see how the Unburied Treasure box set does and it is well overpriced I personally think. The best TREASURE! they could ever find is the multitrack master tapes so they can do 5.1 mixes with the rest of their albums like they have done with Octopus and The Power and The Glory.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 4.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #127

Islands (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson

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Introduction…

King Crimson’s 4th studio album Islands is another album that I could never get to grips with just like their 3rd album Lizard and everything about the album including the album cover confused the life out of me. I always found the music quite dark and very dreary almost dull and lifeless, the combination of trying to fuse classical and jazz with traditional folk music was out of character and never really worked for some reason. Even Allmusic called it “the weakest Crimson studio album from their first era that “is only a real disappointment in relation to the extraordinarily high quality of the group’s earlier efforts.”. I have to admit having more recently rediscovered the album again, much of what I have just stated even confuses me why I would make those observations of the album in the first place. Simply because they are completely wrong and finally, I see the album for what it is, and oddly enough I would even say that the album Islands is certainly one of King Crimson’s more accessible albums.

To be perfectly honest Islands is so much more of an easier album to get into that for the life of me I cannot see why I had that much of a problem getting into it in the first place. The only thing I can possibly think of is that it’s not got enough in the excitement department and is more of a slow driven album. That’s why I thought it needed a stick of dynamite to wake things up a bit and was most likely what never appealed to me about this album in the first place. It’s perhaps more of a mature album if that makes any sense and I think the best way I can describe Islands in relation to Lizard is that’s its less busy and has a lot more space for the music to breath more openly and freely. I would also say that like the album Lizard it took Steven Wilson’s mix to get me to appreciate it more, and once again he has done a BRILLIANT! job on the 5.1 mix.

Since the departure of yet again more musicians during the making of their 3rd album Lizard and not being able to even go out to play and tour the new material live. Robert Fripp was now getting tired of it all and left it to one of the bands remaining members Mel Collins to audition the new potential candidates to make up the numbers. Bass guitarist Rick Kemp spent a couple weeks playing with the band though he refused to join them and left to join Steeleye Span. It was Keith Emerson who suggested to Fripp that he should get in touch with the drummer Ian Wallace who was lodging with Emerson at the time. Boz Burrell had been recruited as the new singer but has Kemp had left his bass behind when he left and the band still needed a bass player, Fripp taught him to play the bass. Much of the same session players also played on the album apart from Nick Evans who had left and they also brought in Harry Miller to play double bass on a couple of the tracks, plus a couple of uncredited string players and a female soprano singer by the name of Paulina Lucas.

With the new line-up in place by July 1971 they started to play a few gigs and book into the studios to record the new material for the album. During the months of July to October they very much spent that time playing live and was in an out of the studios getting the album together. The bulk of the recording of the album was done in September of that same year, most of the overdubbing and the final mixing was completed in early October and the album got released in the UK in December. For the first time since the release of their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King back in 1969 King Crimson finally had assembled a band that could take their music out on the road, yet in the the following year of 1972 once again it all had fell apart.

Islands was the last of the albums in an era were King Crimson had struggled to exist and hold a permanent line-up of musicians. It was also the last album to feature its long-time lyricist Peter Sinfield who was the only member besides Robert Fripp who had been there from the offset. It’s an album that I personally struggled to come to terms with, and in my final review of the bands discography of 13 studio albums you will find out just how much it speaks to me now. But first of all, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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No difference regarding the packaging and all of King Crimson’s 40th Anniversary Editions come in a 2-panel cardboard DigiPak slipped inside a cardboard slipcase. Both discs are held firmly in place via the plastic trays with hubs that have been fitted inside and they are well good quality packages. It also comes with a 14-page booklet with all the linear production notes, photographs, lyrics and overall, it’s a very well-presented package for its price point which is around the £18 mark but can be obtained for less if you shop around a bit more. I did have to in this case because Amazon were charging £14 for Lizard and £18.50 for Islands so I ordered the both from Burning Shed and managed to get the both for £29 including the P+P.

Artwork.

The artwork for the album cover was provided by courtesy of The Institute of Technology and Carnage Institution of Washington and what you are seeing here is the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius. The albums title and name were left off the cover and it was most likely a marketing ploy to get people to pick the album up and inspect it to see what it was all about and who it was by like many other artists were doing around the time. The inside of the gatefold sleeve was a painting done by Peter Sinfield of which he simply painted a few islands on a white background. It was also used for the American release of the album in the following year of 1972. But when the King Crimson catalogue was re-issued by EG, they standardised on the “Trifid Nebula” cover worldwide.

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Personally, I think Sinfield’s version of the album cover looks dreadful and I do not get the point and am confused to why they used a picture of the star formation of the Trifid Nebula on the UK release, other than the fact that the album was released in December to which Sagittarius is the star sign of that month. The album Islands is about islands and the sea and not things that are associated with space. Unless they are guiding their ships by the stars that is and that’s the only logical explanation I can think of. I thought Sindield’s lyrics were ludicrous and hard enough to decipher at times and now it seems that even the album covers are getting ludicrous. I cannot say I am impressed by the artwork they chose for the album at all.

Islands The Album In Review…

King Crimson’s 4th studio album Islands was released in the UK on the 3rd December 1971 it contained 6 tracks (including a secret hidden track at the end of the album) and had an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 49 seconds. The album reached number 30 in the UK Album Charts and did not do quite as well as the bands first 3 albums. It also reached number 76 in the American Billboard Charts and surprisingly was the only King Crimson album to break into the top 40 of the German album charts reaching number 35. According to Sid Smith’s words in the booklet the album was recorded in a series of guerrilla-style raids at Command Studios between their gigs in the UK. They used the studios because they were cheap enough and could be had at short notice, it was not the best of studios due to the fact that you could hear the tube trains in London’s underground rumbling beneath it.

Command Studios was situated at 201 Piccadilly London it was known as the first of the giants and was opened up in the autumn of 1970. It was formerly the BBC Studios and In the thirties 201 Piccadilly had been a Lyons restaurant where the trendy set of those times used to collect at tea dances. Then the BBC took the place over as the Stagedoor Canteen, during the war years. It was used to broadcast troop shows such as Itma and the Ben Lyon series. Glenn Miller is said to have made his last broadcast from there too and in the fifties it became known as Piccadilly One and the BBC used it for shows from the Dales to Saturday Club.

Command Studios was setup by Jacques Levy and Denis Comper back then who had BIG! ideas for it and brought in John Mosely to help out and raise the money they needed. They spent a fortune on studio gear and converting the place into 3 studios. In addition to the studios are cutting rooms, editing rooms etc. and the studios boasted the most advanced technical specification in the world. Each studio was fully equipped for quadrophonic recording and the initial plans were for each studio to be 24-track though it was mostly 16-track.

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Many bands and artists used the studios to make their albums and smash hit singles including the likes of Pete Townsend, Vangelis, Roxy Music and so on. The group Slade even recorded their Slade Alive album in the place and artists such as B.B King and many others also played live concerts there too. Oddly enough Peter Sinfield also produced Roxy Music’s debut album and their smash hit single “Virginia Plain” in the place and King Crimson’s 5th album Lark’s Tongues In Aspic was also recorded there. Though the studio run into financial difficulties and it was all over for Command Studios by 1974 and much of its elaborate equipment had been sold to various other studios by the autumn of that year. But quite a lot came out of the place during its 4 years in operation including Fripp & Eno’s debut album No Pussyfooting.

The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Islands was released on the 4th October 2010. The CD contains the new stereo mixes done by Steven Wilson and comes with 6 bonus tracks making of a total of 12 tracks over an overall playing time of 64 minutes, 15 seconds. The biggest majority of the bonus material is mostly alternative takes, mixes and studio run-through’s which have been previously released in various box sets over the years which are as follows: “Islands” (studio run through with oboe prominent). “Formentera Lady” (Take 2). “Sailor’s Tale” (Alternate mix/edit by Fripp). “The Letters” (Rehearsal/outtake) and “Ladies of the Road” (Robert Fripp & David Singleton remix).

The only bonus track that was previously unreleased is “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” to which is quite interesting in that it sees this band line up playing and utilising motifs that later appear as elements of “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Part 1” and “Lament“. The DVD does pack in quite a lot of extras unlike the one that came with the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Lizard. So, let’s take a look at that next.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu displays the albums artwork rather nicely and presents you with 4 basic options to choose from. The first of which is “Play” and by clicking on that it simply plays the new Steven Wilson 2010 mix of the album. The “Playlist” will present you with the albums tracks should you just wish to play a certain track. The “Audio Setup” presents you with the choice of audio you wish to hear the album played back in and the last of the 4 option is the “Extras” which contains all the bonus material on the DVD.

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The “Audio Setup” menu presents you with the choice of stereo and surround mixes and by default it’s set to DTS 5.1 Digital Surround and they come with a hi-res format of 24/96. The PCM Stereo.mix is in 24/48. Please note it also comes with 5.1 and Stereo MLP Lossless audio formats both of which have a hi-res format of 24/96 when you insert the disc into a DVD Player that is hooked up to your AV Receiver via RCA (Phono) Cables.

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When playing the album or a track from the album it displays the title of the track and Peter Sinfield’s artwork he done for the American release of the album. Personally, I think it’s boring and they would have been better off displaying a slideshow of band pics or even the UK album cover.

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The “Extras” menu contains all the bonus material and there is quite a lot of it contained in the 4 options you can choose from in the menu. The final option “Credits” displays all the linear production notes you get in the booklet. The first of bonus material is the original stereo mix of the album to which is the 2004 remaster they put out of the 30th Anniversary.  I can only presume that they felt that was the best remaster of the original album and is why it was included here. Although its good that it is included so you can make comparisons with the new Steve Wilson stereo mix.

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Next up we have “Routes To Islands” and this section there is some interesting nostalgic material that consists of the Islands line-up of the band in the rehearsal studios rehearsing certain songs to play live at the gigs they played back then. It also contains a couple of rough mixes and live material too. Quite a bit of the material in this section is previously unreleased and in total there are 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 49 minutes, 57 seconds.

The only downside to the material in this section is that is very much low-fi in that it sounds like it’s been recorded on a Cassette Deck rather than from any mixing console or soundboard which is why it is also presented to you with a format of 16/48 rather than 24/48. So, it really is for more of a nostalgic purpose and not the sort of thing you would play more than one time sort of thing. It is interesting though hearing this line-up play “Pictures Of The City” in the rehearsal studios and if you are wondering what the track “Drop In” is, it’s “The Letter” and it also includes them playing it live at Plymouth too.

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The next section of bonus material is the “Alternate Album” and here you get 6 tracks that have an overall playing time of 20 minutes, 28 seconds which is less than half the time of the original album. Here they have included the previously unreleased bonus track on the CD “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” along with other various takes and rough mixes. It’s quite a good bonus feature though it’s mostly made up of snippets rather than the full tracks, but still very good and is presented with a stereo audio format of 24/48.

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The final section of the bonus material is titled “Assorted Ladies” and it contains alternate takes and remixes of the 2 tracks on the album “Formentera Lady” and “Ladies of The Road” once again presented in stereo 24/48. In total there are 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 18 minutes, 56 seconds. Once again, it’s perhaps something you would only play once and is a bit too much of the same thing.

Overall there is quite a wealth of bonus material included on the DVD almost 90 minutes’ worth plus the original mix of the album and you are certainly getting a lot for the buck here. Even though much of it is nostalgic and more of the same thing rather than an array of material one has not heard before it has to be worth a good 8 out of 10 with the amount of it you get. I also think considering the price point it’s not as if you are paying any extra for the bonus material either. You get amazing value for the buck with this 40th Anniversary Edition of Islands and for me personally you are getting way more with the 5.1 mix of the album too, so let’s now take a look the 5.1 mix.

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again Steve Wilson has done an amazing job on the 5.1 mix and even though Islands is an album that does have a lot more space and is not cluttered like their previous album Lizard, it still works exceptionally a lot better for it with a 5.1 mix. The way he’s placed the instruments over the 6 channels brings out the true dynamics and resonance of how they should sound giving you the presence of being right up close to the musicians as if they were actually in the room with you. It really is another mix to die for and no doubt worthy of the 10 out of 10 rating I have given it.

Musicians & Credits…

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All song written by Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield. Produced & Mixed by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Recorded at Command Studios London. Engineer Andy Hendrikson. Stereo and 5.1 Mastering by Simon Hayworth. DVD Authoring & Assembly by Neil Wilkes. Cover Design & Painting by Peter Sinfield. Album Cover Artwork by The Institute of Technology and Carnage Institution of Washington. Photographs by Robert Ellis. Equipment by Vik & Mike. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell.

Musicians:
Robert Fripp: Guitar/Mellotron/Peters Pedal/Harmonium & Sundry Implements.
Mel Collins: Flute/Bass Flute/Saxes & Vocals.
Boz Burrell: Bass/Lead Vocals & Choreography.
Ian Wallace: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Peter Sinfield: Words/Sounds & Visions.

Additional Musicians:
Keith Tippet: Piano.
Robin Miller: Oboe.
Mark Charig: Cornet.
Harry Miller: String Bass.
Paulina Lucas: Soprano.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Islands is an album that sort of starts off like a concept album in the way that the first couple of tracks run into one another and many of the songs titles do relate to islands and the sea. Peter Sinfield’s inspiration for many of the lyrics did come from a holiday he had in the Balearic islands at the time. Although a lot of his lyrics do tend to be uncharacteristic at times and can often ponder on more of a sexual nature with groupies too and if there was a concept here it’s very much lost along the way. Though what I will say is that the lyrics he has written for this album, certainly make a lot more sense than the previous album Lizard and they are very good.

I have noticed in the musician credits in this 40th Anniversary Edition is that it leaves out the couple of uncredited string players who played on tracks 5 and 6 and also credits Harry Miller on string bass rather than double bass. Although Miller is without doubt using a bow on the double bass mostly and that is distinctly noticeable on the opening track of the album.

Even though around this time Robert Fripp had managed to gather up the musicians and King Crimson were a strong enough line-up to go out and play live at this point. He still struggled to come up with new material and some of it was sourced from older material to which he reworked for this album. So, let’s now take a look at the individual tracks and see how it all works out.

Track 1. Formentera Lady.

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The album opens up with its dark dramatic introduction with Harry Miller using a bow on his double bass and soon it gets backed up with some fine flute from Mel Collins and Keith Tippet describing the waves upon the sea with the flourish of runs he plays on the piano. Apart from this opening track and the final track Tippett does not have a lot to do with the album and the piano is only utilised on the intro and again where the song comes back down of this lengthy 10 minute, 18 second track to which is the longest track on the album. Boz Burrell’s vocals comes into play at the 1:45 mark to which he subtly delivers Sinfield’s lyrics quite well which pertain to everything he seen on the island including his sweet and dark lover dancing away the night so to speak.

Around the 3:04 mark Ian Wallace comes in on the drums and percussion and Burrell’s simplistic one note on the electric bass sets the groove for him to sing along to and Fripp also follows along on the acoustic guitar in parts. The song then winds itself down to the intro again and the same groove is set for the rest of the musicians to meander their way along and fit into the piece and it very much runs along in a straight line and goes nowhere apart from the way it’s all built up which is quite well and quite haunting. They even work in some exotic eastern vibe to tie in with the lyrics and Collins let’s it rip on the sax a bit whilst Paulina Lucas does a bit of cat wailing by adding her Soprano voice towards the end and it then runs into the next track on the album.

It’s plain to see from this opening track that King Crimson are going down more of a folky road and trying to combine and fuse elements of jazz and classical music into it which might sound all well but it lacks progression and is quite simplistic. Whereas their previous album was perhaps their most PROGMATIC album there is hardly any elements of prog rock here at all. Overall, I think it’s a fine enough song but it’s not gonna exactly set the world on fire.

Track 2. Sailor’s Tale.

The album picks up the pace a bit on this instrumental piece and the sound we have here is perhaps more familiar how they funked things up on “21st Century Schizoid Man” from their debut album. This is much more like King Crimson we know and are perhaps more accustomed to in relation to the opening track on the album. Both the guitar and the mellotron are more evident on this track and it sounds like Fripp is doing something for a change rather than let everyone else do it all for him. Both him and Collins are going into a frenzy on this track and I quite like the change that comes in with Burrell’s bass line around the 2:33 mark and Wallace does well on the drums too.

I would not go over the top on the guitar work like many reviewers have and it’s nothing special at all in reality. But it’s not a bad track at all and considering its some 7 minutes, 36 seconds it does all seem to be over after a few minutes so it must be quite good. I quite like the fog horn sound too and the mellotron works a treat on the track.

Track 3. The Letters.

This next song is a reworking of a song entitled “Why Don’t You Just Drop In” from the 1968 album The Brondby Tapes by Giles, Giles & Fripp. It’s been reworked from the verse section of that original song only they have changed the lyrics and jazzed it up. I have to be honest I quite like the more subtle approach on the opening in comparison to the original and Fripp’s clean guitar works very well and in some ways, gives it more of a slower acoustic approach even if he is using an electric guitar. I also think both Sinfield’s lyrics and Burrell’s voice suit the song well, and I like how he can add some power to his voice here too.

They also beef it up more in the instrumental section to which I felt was good when it comes into play in typical Crimson style, however it does tend to sound like that Sooty & Sweep broke into the party and let all havoc loose on it in the way it’s been jazzed up. Although this is not so out of character with this bands style at all and does quite work well. In some respects, this is not that far off some of the songs they did later with John Wetton on the Lark’s and Starless albums though it’s perhaps not quite on par with those better written songs. The original song was certainly more rocked up and does have that 60’s sound about it as you can hear in this video I found on the Tube.

Personally I think both versions are pretty good although I do think this song could of been done a lot better with how it first started with its more acoustic approach and an acoustically arranged version of the original song may have been a better way to go about it, rather than jazz it up like this. But no doubt they did it the King Crimson way and it would be in many respects what you would expect to get from an album like this in the first place.

Track 4. Ladies Of The Road.

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This is probably the most worked out song on the album in terms of composition and structure and here the band are very much playing the blues and even the sax that Collins plays here is much more controlled to sit in very well with the groove of it all. It also does not really fly off the handle or go over the top. They have even somehow managed to throw in a very BEATLES ESC! psychedelic section into the piece with very impressive vocals and harmonies. Lyrically the song pertains to groupies and they have all done quite a GRAND! job here. It’s certainly different in relation to the first 3 tracks on the album that proceeded it and so far, it’s the only song I would consider to be a contender for the TOP SPOT! on the album.

Track 5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls.

The second of the only two instrumental tracks on the album, and this is the prelude or introduction to the albums self-titled track and is a lovely orchestral piece that features Robin Miller on oboe with a couple of uncredited musicians on strings that’s sounds more like a quartet. This is also not a new composition and the only thing that is different here is the arrangement and nothing more. The original piece is the second segment in a 4-part piece that made up “Suite No.1” once again originally done by Giles, Giles & Fripp back in 1968 to which can quite clearly be heard in this clip from the Tube.

Personally, I think this arrangement is much better and sounds a lot better for it too, though I have to confess that original “Suite No.1” as an whole does sound rather unique and is very well done. To be quite honest I had never heard or paid any attention to Giles, Giles & Fripp before and found this very intriguing even to the point of it being much more complex than the biggest majority of material on this whole album. It’s even tempting me to buy it and review it. “Song Of The Gulls” is very much a very strong contender for the best track on the album and is a GORGEOUS! piece.

Track 6. Islands.

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The album closes off with its self-titled track “Islands” and this is quite a peaceful and tranquil song beautifully sung by Boz Burrell and his voice is really suited here. The song itself is written and structured around the piano and the vocal melody and this is Tippett’s finest moment on the album and he does a GRAND! job. The piano is also accompanied by Mel Collins on bass flute and Harry Miller using his bow on the double bass to give it more of a cello string sound on the introduction. I love the breaks in between the vocal sections that allows the session players to play their part on their instruments and you can easily identify them all. It’s the only track on the album that features Mark Charig on cornet, Robin Miller’s oboe is also here again and Robert Fripp contributes harmonium, mellotron and guitar on the track and Ian Wallace eventually gets to bring in the drums around the 5:43 mark.

Although “Islands” may appear to be the longest track on the album it is in fact a minute shorter than the opening track and is 9 minutes, 20 seconds long. You then get a 1-minute silence and the secret hidden track makes up the rest of the 11 minutes and 52 seconds that is given for the tracks timing. In the secret track you hear Fripp giving instructions to the musicians and them tuning up like a classical orchestra. This section also features the couple of uncredited musicians and they do not feature on the self-titled track. “Islands” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits my TOP SPOT AWARD! and it rounds of the album quite magically.

Summary…

To sum up the album Islands by King Crimson. I would say that it’s an album that is not gonna exactly set the world on fire and was most unusual in relation to the bands previous output on their first 3 albums. To be perfectly honest I could even imagine those King Crimson fans who brought it when it was originally released back in 1971 would of very much thought WTF’s this lol and if you was buying albums by bands such as Yes and Genesis in the same year, an album like Islands would not stand a cats chance in hell of competing with them and would of been hugely disappointing.

I personally feel that Islands is an album you would have to mature and warm yourself towards to get accustomed to it, rather than an album that is going to hit you in the face and say something to you straight away. I guess that is why I never thought much of the album in the first place with how the music presented itself to you at first to which did not exactly entice you to stick the album back on again. if anything it was more than likely that it would be a good while before you even put the album back on and could even appear to be quite boring.

I myself got into King Crimson very late and it was not until I seen the DVD Deja Vroom at a friend’s house in the late 90’s that I got into them. To be honest none of us were ever into King Crimson and the only reason he brought the DVD in the first place was because he was like myself and would often buy artists we never knew a lot about or heard a lot of their material before simply because we are both surround FREAKS! and there was not a lot out there in 5.1 for us to test out our systems on at the time. Having watched the DVD, I was impressed and immediately went out and brought it. I then proceeded to buy all their albums a few at a time starting with Discipline and THRAK at first and then from the beginning and upwards.

So, what do I think of Islands today? Well the one thing I will say is that it certainly sounds a lot better than it ever did thanks to Steve Wilson and my personal highlights from it are as follows: “Islands“. “Prelude: Song Of The Gulls” and “Ladies Of The Road“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of King Crimson’s 4th album Islands I am glad that I gave the album another opportunity by revisiting it, and it is an album that I originally never gave much attention to and stayed clear of rather than give it the many spins it does require to sink in and for it to actually speak to me. But even though the album speaks more to me now it’s not a solid album but a half decent one and does have some good moments and can be more enjoyed more so now. The 5.1 mix entices me to play it a lot more often these days even though I still would not put it up there with the best of the bands output.

In terms of a rating I would not put it quite on par with Lizard though it only scores a point less. Both albums struggled to say anything to me in the first place and I very much found them difficult to come to terms with. Although Islands is certainly more of a straight forward album and one of their most accessible albums. It was all a bit lack lustre to me in the way it presented itself and lacked the excitement I got from many of their other albums. Though the one thing that does not lack excitement is the 5.1 mixes that Steve Wilson has done with them and that is where the 40th Anniversary Editions are by far the Definitive releases of the albums.

For those who think that the 40th Anniversary Series is nothing more than a way of making them more money, there is far more than meets the eye in relation to the many reissues that came before them. For example, the only way this could ever be achieved was down to Robert Fripp’s long and expensive battle to regain the rights to Crimson’s music. Even though the 30th Anniversary editions were made with the best technology at the time when they got released in early 2,000’s. They they were only remastered. Remastering any album is never going to bring out what lies beneath the surface and you also have to take into account that many of these albums were only recorded on 8 and 16 track reels which meant they had to bounce down a lot of the other instrumentation which results in signal loss. This also meant that many of the previous reissues suffered from significant signal loss by working with the original master, culled from an eight-track tape, plus the result of significant bounce downs from other tape reels.

Having access to all the original, pre-bounce down tracks means that by doing a completely new mix its now possible to get greater attention to separation, depth and clarity and this is what makes them sound way better than any previous versions. In my opinion the new mixes are way better than the previous recordings I had regardless of them being in stereo or 5.1. But the best albums are by far the ones that Steve Wilson has remixed and he has not remixed all 13 of their studio albums. The only way I would ever buy these albums again myself is if by chance Wilson does get to remix the albums he never done sometime in the future. But the biggest majority of them are remixed very well also especially the ones done by David Singleton. The good thing about the 40th Anniversary Series is that it also includes the original mixes so there is no way even purists can really moan at all.

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The 40th Anniversary Series.

When it comes down to my own personal taste in prog rock music. King Crimson would not make it into my top 5 of prog rock bands but I enjoy their music and their albums sit proudly on my shelf. I cannot deny that their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King is a ground-breaking album in terms of prog rock and that album is certainly amongst my favourite albums of the band along with Lark’s Tongues in Aspic. Starless and Bible Black. Discipline. Thrak and I would even include In The Wake Of Poseidon. The album I dislike the most is Beat and not even the 5.1 mix can rescue that album like it did for me with both Lizard and Islands. No doubt each album will speak to us all differently and when it boils down to our own individual tastes, I am sure we all have our own islands.

Clutch Sailor’s Words, Pearls And Gourds Are Strewn On My Shore…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Formentera Lady. 10:18.
02. Sailor’s Tale. 2:36.
03. The Letters. 4:28.
04. Ladies Of The Road. 5:31.
05. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls. 4:18.
06. Islands. 11:52.
07. Islands (Studio Run Through With Oboe Prominent). 2:00.
02. Formentera Lady (Take 2). 2:23.
03. Sailor’s Tale (Alternate Mix, Edit). 3:35.
04. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (Previously Unreleased). 3:52.
05. The Letters (Rehearsal, Outtake). 2:40.
06. Ladies Of The Road (R.Fripp & D.Singleton Remix). 5:42.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #126

Lizard (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson

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Introduction…

Having already purchased 11 of King Crimson’s albums all over again in the 40th Anniversary series I very much held back from buying the albums Lizard and Islands basically because I never liked them and could never get into them at all for some reason. But seeing how well the 5.1 recordings very much brought out a lot more dynamics and clarity to all of their albums and that Steve Wilson had done the new 5.1 mixes for both Lizard and Islands it very much enticed me to buy them and give the albums another chance to see if they could speak a bit more to me sort of thing.

To be perfectly honest I think the reason why I never gave both of these albums the time of day and never went deeply into them before was down to the orchestral brass side of things. They both literally BRASSED! me off for that reason too, and the other reason was that the original recordings also sounded like DIRT! and was never that well mixed in the first place. Both of these albums I could of literally of threw in the bin for all the use they gave me when I first brought them back in the late 90’s.

Not even Robert Fripp himself liked the album Lizard and he was quite critical about it calling it “unlistenable” and lovers of it as “very strange”. Although that might have been mostly to do with the circumstances that surrounded him in both making the album and afterwards. But he did also state that after hearing Steve Wilson’s surround mix of the album that it was the first time, he had ever heard the Music in the music. I would say exactly the same thing myself simply because you could not hear a great deal of it through all the dirt that was in the original mix.

So, in these next couple of reviews some 20 years later you will find out if I have changed my mind about both Lizard and Islands and see if they speak to me more today. I shall also dig deeper into my research to try and find out more about the background and how they come to produce both of these very bizarre albums. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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No difference regarding the packaging and all of King Crimson’s 40th Anniversary Editions come in a 2-panel cardboard DigiPak slipped inside a cardboard slipcase. Both discs are held firmly in place via the plastic trays with hubs that have been fitted inside and they are well good quality packages. It also comes with a 14-page booklet with all the linear production notes, photographs, lyrics and overall, it’s a very well-presented package for its price point which is around the £18 mark but can be obtained for less if you shop around a bit more. I did have to in this case because Amazon were charging £14 for Lizard and £18.50 for Islands so I ordered the both from Burning Shed and managed to get the both for £29 including the P+P.

Artwork.

The albums cover artwork was done by Gini Barris who was commissioned by Peter Sinfield to come up with something. It was her first job since studying graphics at the Central School of Art and Design in London. She was the housekeeper for the American born, British-based folk recording artist Julie Felix at the time and that’s how she heard that Sinfield was looking for an artist to do the album cover, so she got in touch with him and presented him with the idea of creating medieval miniatures, which was a passion of hers, Sinfield “went for it” and commissioned her to do the job. The images she drew around the ornate medieval lettering were inspired by Sinfield’s lyrics and you will even find the Beatles and Rupert Bear and much more in there. Overall I think the artwork is quite good but the album Lizard has totally nothing to do with medieval music, but then again everything about the album is very bizarre.

Lizard The Album In Review…

The original album Lizard was released on the 10th December 1970. It contained 5 tracks and had an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 30 seconds and the albums self-titled track took up the whole of side 2 of the original vinyl album. The album itself was made with just as many session players as actual band members and ever since the bands debut album they had really struggled to keep a consistent band line-up. Both Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield were the only original members that contributed to the bands first 3 albums at this point and Sinfield was only the lyric writer. Though at this point Fripp had the time to teach him how to play a few parts on the synthesizer to which he does play a few bits on this particular album.

Both Gordon Haskell and Mel Collins who contributed small parts on the bands 2nd album In The Wake Of Poseidon were now made pledged band members along with the newcomer Andrew McCulloch who replaced Michael Giles on drums. Although both Haskell and McCulloch quit before the album was even released. The noted jazz pianist Keith Tippett had even contributed more to the band and also featured on the bands 2nd album, but he refused to join even though Fripp had asked him to, so he remained very much as a session player even on their next album Islands.

The album was recorded at Wessex Sound Studios located in Highbury New Park London to which was the same studio they used to record the bands first 4 albums. Many artists recorded their albums including the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Theatre of Hate, XTC, The Sinceros, Queen, Talk Talk, The Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend and The Damned. At the time King Crimson used the studios it was owned by The Beatles who brought the studio in 1965 and eventually sold it onto Chrysalis in 1975 who also brought George Martin’s AIR Studios. In 2003 the Neptune Group bought the building and later converted it into a residential development known as “The Recording Studio”, comprising eight apartments and a townhouse.

Studio Collage

Wessex Sound Studios

The building has quite a fascinating piece of history and was originally built in the Victorian times back in 1881 as a church hall of St. Augustine’s Church. From 1946 to 1949, the hall was the home of the Rank Organisation’s ‘Company of Youth’ which was more popularly known as the ‘Rank Charm School’ where future stars of British films, such as Diana Dors, Chirstopher Lee, Barbara Murray and Pete Murray were tutored and paid about £10 per week. It was the Thompson family that converted the church hall into a recording studio in the 1960’s and they named it Wessex because their previous recording studio had been located in what was historically the kingdom of Wessex.

The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Lizard was released on the 26th October 2009. The CD contains 8 tracks and includes 3 bonus tracks, all of which are new mixes done by Steven Wilson and has an overall playing time of 58 minutes, 44 seconds. The first of the bonus tracks is previously unreleased and is an alternative take of “Lady Of The Dancing Water“. The second bonus track “Bolero” was released on the 4 CD Box Set Frame By Frame back in 1991 and the only difference is that Tony Levin replaced Gordon Haskell’s original bass guitar. The final bonus track is a studio run-through with guide vocal from original sessions of the albums opening track “Cirkus“.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very basic in that none of the albums artwork or pictures have been included and presents you with 5 options. The first of which is the “PLAY” option and via clicking on it will start to play the 5 album tracks and no bonus tracks are included. The “PLAYLIST” will present you with another screen displaying the albums 5 tracks to which you can choose and individual track or play the whole album.

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Via clicking on the “AUDIO SETUP” it presents you with 3 audio options and by default it’s set to Steve Wilson’s DTS 5.1 mix. It also gives the choice of playing the original stereo mix which is the 30th Anniversary remaster of the album done back in 2004 and the new 2009 stereo mix also done by Steve Wilson. None of the bonus tracks have been included and by clicking on any one of these options it will automatically start playing the album. All 3 mixes come with high end audio formats of 24/48.

It’s also worth noting that both the stereo and 5.1 mixes do also come with an MLP Lossless track too and you do not just have the choice of DTS for the 5.1 surround and PCM for the stereo mix. But you will need a DVD player that plays DVD A (Audio) discs to get the MLP format and the audio format of the MLP 5.1 mix is 24/48. Whilst the stereo MLP audio format is 24/96.

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The “EXTRAS” present you with the same 3 bonus tracks that are on the CD and there is very little in the way of extras you do get here too and they only come with the same stereo audio formats of above and have not been given the 5.1 treatment. It’s also worth noting that by clicking to play any of the 3 tracks no other screen is loaded up unlike the tracks on the main album. The final option “CREDITS” on the main menu displays all the linear production notes and credits that are in the booklet.

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The only pictures you do get on the entire disc are of the albums artwork whilst playing the tracks from the main album. Overall the DVD menus are not that exciting but at least you do get some pictures unlike the last couple of albums they released this year. It’s a shame more thought had not been put into them like some of the others in 40th Anniversary series but least the music makes up for it.

The 5.1 Mix.

Doing the 5.1 and stereo mixes for Lizard presented Steve Wilson with one hell of a challenge and it took months to sort out all the master tapes and he had no idea of what generation the recordings came from either. The way the album had been put onto the master tapes was as if they had no intention of ever using them again to do another remix, simply because there was bits and pieces recorded all over the shop on various tapes. For example, one recording channel could have a lead guitar one minute then it would move to a sax then to timpani a lead vocal and so on. It was like they were trying to squeeze 48 tracks onto a 16 track tape.

He had to spend many intense moments listening to all the various parts of the albums tracks and try and find all the fragmented pieces and piece them all together because none of the tapes had been categorized. It was also very difficult listening to 6 or 7 instruments all blowing away at the same time and when it’s free-jazz it’s very difficult to hear. It was always in the back of Wilson’s mind that Lizard was an album that would benefit a lot more for a 5.1 mix and he was not wrong either. I thought the 5.1 mix David Singleton had done for The Power To Believe was an excellent 5.1 mix but what Wilson has done here is totally mind blowing and this along with Close To The Edge by Yes that he done the 5.1 mix for are the best mixes of his I have ever heard him do and they are pure GOLD!.

Out of all the 13 King Crimson albums that have had the 5.1 treatment, Lizard is miles ahead of the rest and by far the best 5.1 mix of them all. Even listening to the new stereo mix done by Wilson you are never in a million years gonna hear everything that is on the album Lizard and even though his stereo mix is better than the original mix it’s sounds like you are missing out on well over 50% of what is actually inside the album in relation to the 5.1 mix. If you have not got a 5.1 set up then I can honestly say you have never heard the album Lizard.

I can fully understand why Robert Fripp stated “For the first time I have heard the Music in the music” and this was no gimmick to try and sell you the album either. I myself hated this album and not even Wilson’s stereo remix is gonna make me like it that much better either. But listening to it in 5.1 is more like listening to Frank Zappa and The Mothers 1972 album The Grand Wazoo and is a thousand times more exciting. What I would give for Wilson to do a 5.1 mix of that Zappa album too and that would most likely blow my socks and shoes off along with my head :)))))))).

The job that Steve Wilson has done with the 5.1 mix of Lizard puts it up there with the very best ever 5.1 recordings on this planet, and if you ever wanted to showcase just how much better 5.1 is over stereo it’s the perfect album to demonstrate it. I doubt very much people could ever go back to listening to the album in stereo simply because it sounds as if the album is incomplete and is not all there and that is the best way, I can describe it. Spinal Tap may have gone up a notch by going from 10 to 11 but here somehow Wilson has gone up several notches and this 5.1 mix is even well worthy of a 20 out of 10. The 5.1 mix has literally got me to love an album I could of thrown in the bin when I brought it years ago and that is literally down to the fact that there was just no way that stereo could project all that was put into the album in the first place.

Musicians & Credits…

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All song written by Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield. Produced & Mixed by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Recorded at Wessex Sound Studios London. Engineer Robin Thompson. Tapes by Geoff Workman. Stereo Mastering by Simon Hayworth. Assisted by Joe Gilder. 5.1 Mastering & DVD Authoring by Neil Wilkes. Sleeve Conception Peter Sinfield. Outside Painting Gini Barris. Inside Marbling Koraz Wallpapers. Typography C. C. S. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell.

Musicians:
Robert Fripp: Guitar/Mellotron/Electric Keyboards & Devices.
Gordon Haskell: Vocals/Bass Guitar.
Mel Collins: Flutes & Saxes.
Andy McCulloch: Drums.
Peter Sinfield: Words & Pictures.

Additional Musicians:
Keith Tippet: Acoustic & Electric Pianos.
Robin Miller: Oboe & Cor Anglais.
Mark Charig: Cornet.
Nick Evans: Trombone.
Jon Anderson: Vocals (On ‘Prince Rupert Awakes’).

The Album Tracks In Review…

By the time of getting down to writing the album Lizard. Robert Fripp had taken much more of a commanding role of the band since they first started out with Ian McDonald and the Giles brothers and was further developing his writing skills. Both Haskell and McCulloch were not happy in the way that Fripp never allowed them any freedom to play and develop their own parts and were being more or less told how to play their instruments from the ideas that Fripp had floating around in his head at the time he was writing it himself. It meant the process of making it all took much longer and them having no idea and no sense of what the final shape of the material would be.

Haskell being more a devotee of soul and Motown music found it very hard to connect with the music and Sinfield’s lyrics and even criticised his lyrics. Coupled with technical problems encountered at Wessex Studios it was very much a fraught affair at times, it was no wonder both Haskell and McCulloch had left once the recording was finished and I am surprised they never left beforehand. Even two of the session players from Keith Tippett’s sextet Mark Charig and Nick Evans found working with Fripp a little unnerving and were not happy with how everything had to be re-recorded and why the first take was not acceptable as most jazz musicians work. I think the only chap who had an easy task was Jon Anderson of Yes who popped into the studios for all of about 20 minutes to record his vocal parts.

This line-up of King Crimson never did get to go on tour to play any of the material from the album live and even their tour of France that was scheduled for the band to play had to be cancelled due to both Haskell and McCulloch leaving. It was also around this time that the partnership between Fripp and Sinfield was starting to fall apart and because the both of them were only two members left from the original line up Sinfield wanted an equal 50/50 share of the profits and not the 60/40 he was getting. He may of got it in the end too.

During the making of the album both Fripp and Haskell had many heated arguments and sometimes it does not pay to bring in your old school friends and since leaving the band Haskell sought legal redress, because he believed that he had been cheated out of the money he was paid and was only paid as a session player rather than a band member. Oddly enough Fripp is now in dispute and fighting for performance royalties with the David Bowie estate for his work on both the albums Heroes and Scary Monsters. Personally, I do not think he has a leg to stand on.

Lizard is an album that is meant to have some form of a concept although unless you can understand Sinfield’s lyrics (to which I cannot) if there is a concept here you sure as hell are going to have to have a warped mind to try and find one. I am sure that even when he presented the lyrics to Fripp that the comedy team Monty Python sprang to mind and they are without doubt extremely silly. That silly that not even Gini Barris who done the albums artwork could match up the letters with the appropriate songs on the album and I am pretty sure she must of thought that Sinfield had lost his marbles.

The album could also be seen as more of a Robert Fripp solo album to a degree, especially in the way he controlled most of the musicians and how their parts were recorded on a start and stop basis making it much longer to complete the album than needed to be. No doubt quite a lot had been put into it so let’s take a look at the individual tracks on the album and try and make at least some bit of sense of it all.

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Track 1. Cirkus.

The opening track is perhaps the only track on the album that ever really spoke to me before I had this 5.1 mix of the album, and I did find most of the other tracks either inaccessible or simply not good enough compositions to really speak up and say anything that good in the first place. It’s just as well that I myself have always put the music before the lyrics otherwise this album would of been thrown in the bin when I brought it years ago judging by the lyrics we have on this particular track.

I can fully understand why Gordon Haskell criticised Sinfield’s lyrics and how hard they would of been for him to deliver them to the music we have here too. Though however bizarre and silly the words are I very much think that Haskell’s way of delivering them does make the song more intriguing and saves the day if anything. Though I would not say that he was that much of a singer either.

The fact that Sinfield also including another subheading to go along with the title which is the “Entry of the Chameleons” gives me the idea that the album does have a concept especially how a chameleon is a type of lizard that can change the colour of its skin to look like the colours that are around it and is seen as a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behaviour in order to please others or to succeed.

Regarding the lyrics I can only think that Sinfield put himself in the circus and was juggling around with words and not skittles. Though it would not surprise me if some of them are pertaining to political affairs in particular with the ringmaster in this song. They are without doubt a far cry from the lyrics he wrote for the first couple of King Crimson albums and I for one am not gonna give myself brain damage trying to decipher them. But despite the bizarre lyrics “Cirkus” is still very much my favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! Musically like many of the songs on the album it can be very busy and at times can feel like all the performers in the circus are performing at the same time, though this track in particular does not have all that jazz sort of thing like most of the albums tracks and is all the fun of the circus.

Track 2. Indoor Games.

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This track does have more of a jazz flavour about it and a hell of lot more going on than the previous track with all the session players joining in and most of the parts were recorded on a stop and start basis. Both Mel Collins on the sax and Andy McCulloch on the drums feature quite heavily on this song and they both do quite a remarkable job here too. Considering McCulloch never had a clue of what to play during the recording sessions his drums are that tight on this track that even some of the musicians are finding it hard to keep to the timing in parts. Although I am pretty sure he did not like having less freedom and Fripp trying to get more of a Michael Giles feel out of him on the drum kit.

The Mellotron also plays a heavy role throughout the album Lizard and I would even say that it is utilised a lot more on this album than any other King Crimson album. But interestingly enough the EMS VC3 Synthesizer was also utilised on this album and besides Fripp himself using it gave Peter Sinfield a chance to broaden his musical horizons and he does play some small parts on this song and the one that follows it.

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EMS VC3 Synthesizer

Sinfield also occasionally added touches on the synthesizer on the bands live tour in 1971 and ’72 and the other notable thing I did notice, is that on this 40th Anniversary Edition Sinfield’s contributions of the EMS VC3 Synthesizer on this song and the following have been left out of the credits. It was unusual for King Crimson to use synths and Lizard I am pretty sure is the only album they did do back in the 70’s. This short excerpt of an early studio session of the song I found on the bands official Youtube channel demonstrates the lines Fripp played on the synth.

Thankfully the song and the mix were further developed but it is interesting to see how the song was structured. Once again Sinfield’s lyrics are totally bizarre however you can make something out of them and they appear to be pertaining to putting down some of the antics and the sexual games of hanky panky that rich kids get up to living on daddy’s money. Overall “Indoor Games” is not a bad song and an is a bit like “Cat Food” from the bands previous album with its funky vibe, though it’s not on par with that song or with any of the songs from the first two albums.

I quite like the 2nd lead break and Haskell’s laugh at the end they left in because they thought it was wonderfully freaky. They also thought he was laughing because he understood the lyrics, but he stated himself in later interviews that he was laughing because he thought lyrics were ludicrous and it was just a lousy song that even made him sound dreadful. Personally I do not think the song was lousy but they could of done better.

Track 3. Happy Family.

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This is most likely the worst song in King Crimson’s entire history and it’s all one big mess around and the only musician who sounds like he can play in this song is Mel Collins on the flute, the rest of them are playing like SHITE! It’s all one psychedelic mashup that tries to captivate the sort of mayhem you will find in “21st Century Schizoid Man” from their debut album only they are doing a piss poor job of it all. Musically it’s just as messed up as the lyrics and unless you come from another planet you are never really going to understand those either :))))).

Sinfield’s lyrics do have references to The Beatles but once again he has gone about it all in a ludicrous way. The references are mostly about the Beatles breaking up and could even be seen as if he was happy that they did. They even show that if there was any form of a concept going on with what he wrote for the album that he very much lost the plot. I think the less said about this one the better.

Track 4. Lady Of The Dancing Water.

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The shortest track on the album and unlike the previous track this fine ballad of a song shows you that not only Mel Collins can play but so can the others when they want to, although his flute on this fine ballad is totally GORGEOUS! It also shows that Sinfield can write lyrics as well and this is the only song on the album that makes any logical sense at all. It is without doubt one of the finer moments on the album and they do a BEAUTIFUL! job of it.

Track 5. Lizard.

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From the shortest track to the longest track on the album and this took up the whole of side 2 of the original vinyl album and weighs in at 23 minutes, 34 seconds making the albums self-titled track the longest in the history of King Crimson. The piece is divided into 4 sections and part 1 “Prince Rupert Awakes” features Jon Anderson on vocals who does a stellar job as ever. It’s a story about Prince Rupert of the Rhine who apparently was a German army officer, admiral, scientist and colonial governor. He first came to prominence as a Cavalier cavalry commander during the English Civil War. To be perfectly honest when I originally heard it years ago, I never took much notice of it and thought the whole thing sounded like some sort of children’s pantomime. I never was one for history :))))). I also noticed that they depicted him as Rupert The Bear piloting a yellow aeroplane on the album cover.

Since revisiting the album again and with Steve Wilson’s mix you can clearly hear that there is a lot more to it than a children’s pantomime. Keith Tippet‘s piano work on this track is by far the best he’s played on the whole of the album, and once again Andy McCulloch’s job on the drums is superb on this first part. The 2nd part “Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale” sees the musicians fusing jazz with classical music and most of the rest of the 4-part suite is instrumental and they are all doing quite a stellar job of it all. McCulloch is doing a military role in the style of Ravel’sBolero” and the rest of the guys are jazzing it all up very well indeed. My favourite section is the beautiful melody lines that Robin Miller plays on the oboe, the melody line he’s also playing is a bit reminiscent to the melody he played at the end of Steve Hackett’sThe Hermit” on his 1975 debut album Voyage of The Acolyte.

The 3rd part “The Battle of Glass Tears” which is an artistic reference to the battle of Naseby and comes with 3 subheadings. The first of them entitled “Dawn Song” is sung by Haskell. Both “Last Skirmish” and “Prince Rupert’s Lament” are instrumental pieces. All 3 parts are much darker to portray the battle we have here. The glass tears were known as Prince Rupert’s Drops also known as Dutch or Batavian tears.

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The drops are toughened glass beads created by dripping molten glass into cold water, which causes it to solidify into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin tail. He brought them to England in 1660, although they were reportedly being produced in the Netherlands earlier in the 17th century and had probably been known to glassmakers for much longer. It’s all quite fascinating stuff and I also found out that Prince Rupert pillaged my own town of Birmingham and tried to burn it to the ground. How dare the thieving varmit although it was most likely untrue.

The music is very dramatically portraying the battle over these final two instrumental sections of the 3rd part and we some quite chaotic jazz spasms raising the power when needed and the mellotron also gets put to good use besides all the brass and drums. It’s also been constructed with the musicians having a jam in parts. The lament brings it all down and with the kettle drums, bass and Fripp’s guitar sounding like bagpipes to put an end to the final battle. Part 4 “Big Top” is a very short piece that ties the album back to the beginning with all the fun of the circus from where the album started and rounds it all off very well.

Overall the “Lizard” is quite a piece of work and no doubt some would even say it’s a King Crimson classic but I personally do not see this doing what “Suppers Ready” did for Genesis fans or what “Close To The Edge” did for the fans of Yes. To be perfectly honest I do not see this doing what The Snow Goose would of done for Camel’s fans either and the “Lizard” is quite loose in parts and lacks musical composition in some of its parts. It’s far from a masterpiece of work even though there are some pretty good musicians playing along its lengthy journey. I would say it’s a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! though and I can appreciate it more today than I ever could thanks to Steve Wilson.

Summary…

To sum up the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD edition of Lizard by King Crimson. I certainly think that Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix has dug beneath the albums surface and shed a lot more light on it by bringing out everything that was buried deep down inside it that could never be heard before. It’s very much an album that had that many things going on at the same time that a 2-channel stereo mix was never enough to cope with everything that was being chucked at it. The album was way too busy for a stereo mix to cope with everything, even though Wilson’s new stereo mix does help the album a bit more it’s still never gonna give you what the 5.1 mix will and I still say to hear this album properly you need the 5.1 mix simply because stereo is never gonna give the album its real justice.

For surround FREAKS! like myself I very much see the 5.1 mix as a must and this is very much one of the best 5.1 mixes Steve Wilson has done. He’s not only just breathed new life into it but has completely resurrected the album from the dead and presented us with an album that is now far more superior than it ever was before. You do not get much in the way of bonus material but the price point is worth it for the 5.1 mix of the 5 tracks alone. Even if like myself you never did like this album, I would highly recommend getting it even if it’s just for demo purposes to show how good 5.1 surround sound can be and impress your friends with. Even the new stereo mix Wilson has done does shed more light on the album and is better than the original recording, but this is very much an album I would recommend for surround FREAKS!

Having listened to all 3 mixes that come with 40th Anniversary CD/DVD edition of the album they do reflect on how I would rate the album. My final rating score of 6 out of 10 is based on Steve’s Wilson’s new stereo mix and how I now can see that there is much more to this album than how I seen it years ago. No matter how I look at the album Lizard it’s far from a solid album with all the material that was wrote for it. If I was rating this album by its original mix it would still score the same as it did years ago and get a 3 out of 10. The 5.1 mix opens up a completely new way of hearing the album and it makes it much more exciting and even sound more like Zappa’s Grand Wazoo album which to me personally is a far better album than Lizard and a pure solid one at that. There is no way I could score the album any less than 10 out of 10 for the 5.1 mix it is really mind blowing and I cannot praise it enough.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Cirkus“. “Lizard” and “Lady Of The Dancing Water“.

Conclusion…

Lizard is very much one of King Crimson’s more controversial albums and was an album you either loved or hated. Despite it being more of a blown-out jazz album it could also be seen as their most PROGMATIC! album especially with how it fuses jazz and classical musical together and I think for those who seen that side of it is why they most likely liked it or even seen it as a masterpiece. For me personally I always seen the material to be quite weak and the band overdoing things trying to be more sophisticated even though they were not at all well Fripp in particular certainly was not on this album and most of the other musicians shined above him on that score.

But then again King Crimson have always been a band where the musicians he chooses do tend to shine above himself and Fripp is a bit like Frank Zappa regarding that side of things and generally sits back to allow the others to play. Only on this album Fripp did tend to have more control over them and most of them would of had an hard and uncomfortable time in the making of this album and it’s no wonder there was not enough of them left to go on to tour at the end of making the album.

In conclusion I was so glad in the end that I did decide to finally revisit both the albums Lizard and Islands again and there is no doubt in my mind that it is thanks to Steve Wilson that I can now at last enjoy the album Lizard and overall I think it’s very bizarre but quite a good album. I personally do not think it’s the best or strongest output of the bands material and there are a good few King Crimson albums I would place above it. But it’s certainly the most exciting 5.1 mix out of all 13 studio albums the band has ever produced. Coming up next will be my review of Islands and we shall see if Steve Wilson’s mix has managed to rescue and restore something on that album for me to finally appreciate after all these years.

All The Fun Of The Cirkus!…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Cirkus. 6:42.
02. Indoor Games. 5:35.
03. Happy Family. 4:14.
04. Lady Of The Dancing Water. 2:46.
05. Lizard. 23:24.
06. Lady Of The Dancing Water (alternate take). 2:47.
07. Bolero (from Frame by Frame). 6:45.
08. Cirkus (studio run through with guide vocal from original sessions). 6:31.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 3/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #125

The Power To Believe (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson

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Introduction…

King Crimson’s 13th and final studio album The Power To Believe finally gets the 5.1 treatment with the release of the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition and this is something I was well pleased to get hold of and for me personally it’s an album that has always been up there with my favourite albums by the band. I think the very thing that made this album come out that much better than its predecessor The ConstruKction Of Light is down to the same line up of the band going out on tour with the the progressive metal band Tool in 2001 at first. Much of the material that winded up on the album had been played live beforehand and even appeared on a few other releases before the album was eventually launched. Although that was not unusual and they had done things like that before they released the album THRAK back in 1995.

The other thing that helped the album come out so well is that they decided to record the album in a studio rather than at Adrian Belew’s home studio and that was most likely down to Robert Fripp not being happy with how The ConstruKction Of Light came out. Though some parts were recorded at Belew’s studio and Mastelotto’s garage and even a church of all places. They also brought in the producer Gene Freeman known more professionally as the Machine. He was also known for his work in remixing and utilising the vocabulary of Hip Hop, Metal and Industrial dance rock. Though it was Pat Mastelotto’s idea to bring him in even though he may not have seemed the obvious choice for Belew and Fripp to go along with. It was also only the fourth time that King Crimson had embarked on working with an external producer.

Unlike the trouble they had in locating the master tapes to be able to do a 5.1 mix of The ConstruKction Of Light they had no problem with this album. But the other thing they never did with this particular album is do new stereo mixes like they did with many of the albums. However, it has been enhanced and they are now calling this the new master. It’s all crazy really and it’s just had a new production master by Fripp & Singleton and the only new mix it has had is the 5.1 mix which was once again done by David Singleton. They are also calling this new release an Expanded Edition because they have added 3 extra bonus tracks to the album which were remastered by Singleton too. It also comes with a really good couple of other bonus features on the DVD. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the albums packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Like all the 40th Anniversary King Crimson Editions they come in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak housed in a cardboard slipcase. The both discs are supported by plastic trays that hold the disc firmly in place and it also comes with a booklet. They are quality packages and my only real gripe is that it would have been better if the booklet was fixed inside rather than it being loose, or they could of used a 3 panel DigiPak so it had a pocket to store the booklet. Still at this price you cannot really complain.

The 14-page booklet contains all the linear production notes, glossary pictures and a few pages of an essay written by Sid Smith telling you about the time the album was made and a few other things. It does not go into great detail but is suffice enough and it does not come with the lyrics either for some reason. Overall it is a very good quality package.

Artwork.

Once again, the artwork comes from a painting by the English painter and sculpture Pamela June Crook known professionally as P J Crook and once again the artwork is STUNNING! Her paintings have featured on many of King Crimson’s albums and they have been using her artwork consistently since 1997. The Packaging Art & Design was done by Hugh O’ Donnell and the photography was done by Michael Wilson, Bill Munyon, Trey Gunn & Paul Brown.

The Power To Believe Release Editions.

The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Power To Believe was included in the Heaven And Earth Box Set that comprises of 24 Discs. 18 CD’s. 4 Blu Rays and 2 DVD’s and includes The ReconstruKction Of Light to which they have also used the artwork to that album for the box sets front cover and the other 2 individual packages you can purchase for less. The Box Set is the same size of a vinyl album and it also comes with posters and other memorabilia and can be purchased for around £130 or less.

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From what I can gather by looking at some of the unboxing videos on YouTube all the discs in the box set come in 3 panel cardboard DigiPaks without the plastic trays to hold the discs in place and they are merely slotted into the side pockets of the Digipak. The artwork on all the discs features the individual band members instead of the original artwork that was on the original albums and the other 2 individual packages in the 40th Anniversary series. Strangely enough the Heaven And Earth Box Set does have the 50th Anniversary stamped on it and I guess they are going by the fact that this year is the bands 50th Anniversary.

It’s a neat package and I am sure it’s a GREAT! collector’s item for their fans but way out of my personal budget of what I would spend myself. But I am glad that King Crimson do not force you to buy the box set to get your hands on the 5.1 mixes like other artists do and for me that’s a Godsend so I can at least get my hands on what I personally want.

Thanks to a comment left by MK on my review of The ReconstruKction Of Light who informed me that there is a slight fault with some of the discs that are in the Heaven And Earth Box Set and it effects some of the bonus material by playing them at a slightly faster speed. It’s very hard to detect the fault and to be honest I cannot hear any difference at all on the CD/DVD package I brought. It does mainly affect the bonus material on the Blu Rays in the box set and not so much the DVD. You can read all about it here: https://www.dgmlive.com/news/Heaven_and_earth

The Power To Believe 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition was released on the 31st May 2019 alongside with the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of The ReconstruKction Of Light on the same day. These are the cheapest of the packages and can be purchased for around £14 or less. Both the Double LP Vinyl Editions of these albums will be released at the end of this month on the 27th September and have been pressed onto 200 gram vinyl and will be priced around £26 or less.

The Power To Believe In Review…

King Crimson’s 13th album The Power To Believe was originally released on the 4th March 2003. The album contained 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 51 minutes, 11 seconds. The new expanded edition comes with 3 extra instrumental bonus tracks making a total of 14 tracks and has an overall playing time of 64 minutes, 29 seconds. The album was destined to be called Nuovo Metal which is a term Robert Fripp used to describe the sound of the music they were playing; he had heard the term Nu Metal used to describe the music of metal bands like Korn and Incubus and so on which gave him the idea. Although the albums title The Power To Believe came from an haiku that Adrian Belew had lifted from his own work and he even used the words from one of his own songs “All Her Love Is Mine” from his Op Zop Too Wah album he released back in 1996.

Most of the recording and mixing for the album was done at the Tracking Room studios in Nashville in America. The studio was built in 1995 by the famed architect Tom Hidley. It’s also the largest studio in Nashville and the 6,500 sq. ft. space was designed for impeccable sound quality. Each room features unique characteristics, plus doors designed by NASA to eliminate sound leakage. One of the rooms has a reverb chamber called the “Stone Room” that is frequently used for percussion.

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The Tracking Room

Many top artists have recorded their albums at The Tracking Room including Taylor Swift, The Beach Boys, U2, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roy Orbison, Mark Knopfler, Megadeath and many more. It’s even recorded the highest selling country music album of all time. Fripp and Belew asked Gunn and Mastelotto to come up with a shortlist of studios whilst they were in Nashville. The Tracking Room in Nashville was Gunn and Mastelotto’s favourite from the four or five they presented. They never thought for one minute that Fripp would go for it especially has it cost $3,000 a day to record there.

Practically all of the material for The Power To Believe the band had played live at various venues during the years 2001 & 2002. The soundscape that was used for the final track on the album “The Power to Believe IV: Coda” was even recorded by The Vicar in a church in Cornwall, England way back in 1997. The Vicar is the persona name used by David Singleton and the name often cropped up on many King Crimson albums and ProjeKcts since 2001. The original idea came out of a conversation between him and Robert Fripp back in 1999 and from 2001 – 2013 his identity remained pretty much a secret to keep people guessing who it was.

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Both Fripp and Singleton have been close friends for years and they are both joint owners of Global Discipline Mobile which is an independent label and record company they both set up in 1982 to stop them being ripped off for the copyrights of their own music. The name was derived from King Crimson’s 1981 album Discipline and from the name of Singleton’s previous recording business (The Mobile). It was also set up to help other artists record their albums on the label though today it’s mainly used for artists who are associated with King Crimson and many other musicians from that band have used it in the past too. David Singleton even records his own music on the label under the name of The Vicar.

As with all these CD/DVD Editions you get a lot more bonus material on the DVD. The CD contains the Expanded version of the album to which the 3 bonus tracks “Sus-tayn-Z I” “Superslow” and “Sus-tayn-Z II” that came from the sessions have been included. I think they are pretty decent enough bonus tracks though they do not really match up with the rest of the material on the album to really make this an Expanded version of the album.   So, let’s now take a look at what’s one the DVD.

The DVD.

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Just like we seen on the DVD that came with The ReconstruKction Of Light there is none of P J Crook’s superb artwork to be seen and all we get on all the menu screens is basically the text. Claire Bidwell was responsible for the Design & Layout of the DVD and in all honesty, she is a complete amateur and should not be let loose on such a job. This really is a poor presentation and it’s only the final 2 King Crimson albums in the 40th Anniversary series that have been presented this poor way. Thankfully the music does make things up for her incompetence.

The main menu (as seen above) gives you 5 options the first 2 give you the choice of listening to the main feature in either stereo or 5.1 surround sound both have been recorded with a high-end resolution of 24 bits 48khz. It’s also worth noting that both the stereo and 5.1 mixes do also come with an MLP Lossless track too and you do not just have the choice of DTS for the 5.1 surround and PCM for the stereo mix. But you will need a DVD player that plays DVD A (Audio) discs to get the MLP format. By clicking on your choice, it presents you with the following screen.

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The main feature also includes the 3 extra bonus tracks and it’s nice they have also been given a 5.1 mix. From this screen you can simply make your choice to ether select a track or play the whole album by clicking on the tracks. When this screen opens up it does not automatically play the album and you have to click on the 1st track to do that. The DVD also contains the original stereo mix of the album without the bonus tracks and comes with the choice of 24/48 PCM & MLP Lossless audio formats.

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A couple of EP’s are also included here on the DVD and the first one is Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With which was originally released in the year before the album was released and this was released on the 8th October 2002. As you can see from the track listing above it contains a couple of the tracks that made their way onto The Power To Believe album. Though they are different and the first of them “Happy With What You Have To Be Happy” is only slightly different in that its longer by one chorus. “Eyes Wide Open” on the other hand is an acoustic version.

Happy With What You Have To Be Happy is an excellent EP or more of a mini album with how it contains 10 tracks over an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 34 seconds. The EP contained unreleased studio and live material at the time of its release. The 11th track “Einstein’s Relatives” was a hidden bonus track on the original EP. It comes with the original stereo mix and an audio format of 24/48 PCM.

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The final piece of the bonus material is the EP Level Five well it’s more like an album rather than an EP and contains 6 tracks over some 45 minutes to which the 6th track “Improv: ProjeKct 12th and X” was secret hidden bonus track. The EP was originally released back in 2001 and contains various live performances during the Summer 2001 tour in the USA and Mexico and was released to give an insight or a glimpse into what the material would be like on their next album The Power To Believe in particular with the opening couple of tracks that did wind up on the album only in a studio form.

It also featured a live version of the selftitled track from their previous album and other material from the ProjeKcts series. This is another superb bonus feature to have and comes with the original stereo mix and an audio format of 24/48 PCM. The bonus material really is an extra bonus you are getting and well worthy of having. Now let’s have a look at the 5.1 mix.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix is pretty much AWESOME! and this is an album that does benefit and is more suited for a 5.1 mix and David Singleton as done a TOP DRAW! job of it I will say. To be honest I have always admired Singleton’s work as much as Steve Wilson’s when it comes to 5.1 mixes and both are capable of doing some pretty amazing work on them. There is a lot more width over the stereo mix and he has very well placed the instrumentation over the 6 channels very well making it quite an exciting and more pleasurable mix.

The percussion and effects that both Mastelotto and Belew play in particular have been very well placed and you can hear things behind you, over the top of your head and they have been utilised very well with their placement along with the guitars and bass and a mix like this puts you right in the frame and the picture of things. It really is DELICIOUS! and brings out all the dynamics and the clarity from all the instrumentation and he gets 10 out of 10 for this mix.

Musicians & Credits…

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Music by King Crimson. Words by Adrian Belew. Produced & Mixed by King Crimson & Machine. Recorded & Engineered by Machine at The Tracking Room. Studio Belew and Pat’s Garage. Mixed & remixed by Machine at The Tracking Room, Nashville Tennessee and The Shop, Hoboken New Jersey. Additional Engineering by Jeff Juliano. Additional Programming by Machine. Haiku voice recorded at Studio Belew. Voice Source on Elekrik: Tim Faulkner. Track 11 produced by The Vicar & Robert Fripp, Soundscape recorded live in performance at Newlyn Church, Cornwall England on December 7th 1997. Cover Artwork from a painting by P J Crook. Photography by Michael Wilson, Bill Munyon, Trey Gunn & Paul Brown. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. DVD Authoring & Assembling by Neil Wilkes.

Musicians:
Robert Fripp: Guitar.
Adrian Belew: Guitar & Vocals.
Trey Gunn: Warr Guitar.
Pat Mastelotto: Traps and Buttons.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Power To Believe is very much an album that has a reoccurring theme with its 4 parts in much of the same way with how “Peace” worked on their 2nd album In The Wake Of Poseidon. In some respects, with how it has a softer subtle approach with how Belew’s voice is presenting the title tracks words via a vocoder and how it can at times use soundscapes in a subtle way. It’s like a more modern approach to that melancholic tranquil side of things that “Peace” presented us with on that much earlier album. But it’s also is an album that has the power and force we seen on albums like Lark’s Tongues In Aspic and Red and even reflects back to those albums too and still has the industrial side of things of their previous album The ConstruKction Of Light.

The major difference between this album and their previous album is down to the fact that it uses more soundscapes and much of the albums material is worked around them too. For me personally The Power To Believe is much more of a solid album and where it wins over their previous album is down to the fact that the band spent more time playing live improvisations beforehand to develop the material more for the album. The material here is much stronger both musically and lyrically. So, let’s now take a look at the albums tracks.

Track 1. The Power To Believe I: A Cappella.

The first of the 4-part suite that features throughout the album is merely a short introduction by an unaccompanied Adrian Belew presenting the words from one of his own solo songs “All Her Love Is Mine” and delivering them differently via the use of a vocoder. The same words feature in all four parts and all four parts may give the impression that The Power To Believe is some form of a concept album. Musically with how some of the tracks link to one another and how the album flows along it can also feel like there is a concept thingy going on, though there is not and and some of the other vocal tracks on the album go down other avenues.

Track 2. Level Five.

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The first of the instrumental pieces on the album follows Belew’s brief introduction and this is where the albums kicks off and unleashes its power and force upon you. This piece reflects much of the power we seen on the 1981 album Discipline and contains some excellent interplay between Fripp and Belew and even Gunn gets into the action too whilst Mastelotto’s electric drum kit injects an industrial like groove to it all. It’s a very well worked out structured piece and is in fact the final part of the Lark’s Tongue In Aspic series and even though it’s titled as “Level Five” it is in fact “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt.5” and you can certainly hear how it’s been developed around that same structure of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Pt.2” which was done back in 1973.

Fripp originally intended for “FraKctured” to be the final part that was on the previous album The ConstruKction Of Light, but seeing how it bore closer resemblance to “Fracture” from 1974’s Starless and Bible Black, he changed the name. Though nothing in the original album’s packaging confirmed that it was part of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” series the official confirmation appeared in the Elements 2017 box set, where it was included in sequence with the rest of the suite and called “Truly LTIA Pt V in all but name”. Fripp also confirmed that “Level Five” was indeed the fifth entry in the suite and had been renamed as such on 2018 setlists.

Personally, I think this is better than parts 3 & 4 and is better developed and worked out and has more going on for it. It really is a GREAT! track and one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 3. Eyes Wide Open.

The first of the vocal tracks on the album and what a truly GREAT! song this one is too. “Eyes Wide Open” if anything sees Belew back on form and at the top of his game. Personally, I think regarding the vocal tracks and the quality of them, that is what was missing more so on The ConstruKction Of Light album and this is more up there with “Matte Kudasai” from the Discipline album. It’s a very well written ballad of a song and easy to see why they used the title for their concert tour to promote and support the album, and why they also chose it for the title of DVD they released in the same year of the album.

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The Eyes Wide Open DVD is an excellent purchase and contains 2 DVD’s. The first of which captures the band live in Tokyo, Kouseinenkin Kaikan, on the April 16, 2003. The 2nd disc captures them live at the Shepherds Bush Empire, London, on July 3, 2000 whilst they were on tour of The ConstruKction Of Light album. The DVD is also included in the Heaven And Earth box set although the original DVD release is still widely available and can be had for around £10 – £14 at most stores. It’s a DVD that has given me tremendous pleasure since I purchased it back in 2003 and David Singleton done an excellent job with both the 5.1 and Dolby Prologic mixes.

Lyrically the song pertains to not missing a thing and being aware of certain situations and opportunities that may arise, it could even be seen as a case of don’t let your chance go by sort of thing. The bright tonality and melodic rhythm lines from the guitars are really BEAUTIFUL! But even more interesting is how Mastelotto’s drums work in the piece and the bass sound of them is very much like a djembe knocking out a sort of African Jungle vibe pattern at first and I love how the drum kit really opens up more in the lead break. “Eyes Wide Open” is my personal favourite song on the album and I could easily pick two or three favourites on this album that would merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and this is very much one of the three.

Track 4. Elektrik.

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Another of the instrumental pieces on the album and a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! “Elektrik” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 8 minutes. It’s a bit like “Elephant Talk” from the 1981 Discipline album in the way that is has an intro and outro and its main part meanders and weaves its way along a bit like Larks’ only at a more slower pace to which allows much more of the melodic lines to shine through. Trey Gunn uses more distortion on his Warr Guitar and it gives it a rattling effect and adds more power to more melodic lines coming from the guitars. It really is a GREAT! track and the voices you can hear in the background were lifted from samples of the American poet T. S. Eliot reciting his famous poem “The Waste Land” he wrote back in 1922 whilst he was living over here in England.

Track 5 & 6. Facts Of Life (Including Intro).

The band rev and rock things up a bit more with this next song and I am pretty sure Belew even gets the Black & Decker Drill out on his guitar for this one too :))))). The intro is a soundscape that very much sounds like they are portraying a desolate wasteland and Eliot’s poem may have inspired them to do this intro. The drums then come into play along with 6 billion Ants and it all kicks off very well indeed. The lyrics are fairly straight forward and are perhaps pertaining to right and wrong in how we choose to go about things. For example, “doesn’t mean you should just because you can” could be seen as a choice in how we go about things such as war and they are all facts of life.

The Facts Of Life” is a very powerful song were even Mastelotto’s drum kit adds to the distortion and mayhem here and it’s as if the guys are crunching on metal and they really are GRINDING! it out in a very good way.

Track 7. The Power To Believe II: Power Circle.

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The 2nd part of the 4-piece suite features Belew on guitar synth playing a touch of the east and this is one of those pieces that he also helps out in the percussion department alongside Mastelotto and it features some fine Gamelan vibes. Although it’s classed as a vocal track there is very little words in it and it apart from the words Belew recited in the 1st part and it is mostly instrumental. The piece is also structured around Fripp’s soundscape on the guitar. Much of the Gamelan parts give the piece more of an oriental flavour and even though the 2nd part is titled “Power Circle” there is less energy utilised and it brings the album down a few notches from its previous more powerful track.

Part 2 of the suite I personally think is much better to see played live the will even say more to you than how it presents itself to you on this studio version. It is more of a meandering chillout track and works very well in simmering the album down a bit more from its boiling point here though. I would even say that the second part of the suite is the best of all the 4 parts that make it up.

Track 8. Dangerous Curves.

The instrumental track “Dangerous Curves” is a very well built up and powerful piece and is very cinematic and built up initially from a Fripp soundscape that gradually builds itself up and up. It’s quite intense and would suit a good haunting thriller and I quite like the live version on the Level Five EP too. The piece also harks back to the first part “Merday Morn” from “The Devil’s Triangle” from their 2nd album In the Wake of Poseidon though I personally think this track is better and is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 9. Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With.

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It’s time to ROCK! things back up again and this is quite a powerful bit of distorted blues rock and is a song about writing a song. Belew as the knack of using repetitive words and repeating them and these can be quite tongue twisting lyrics, considering the lyrics are minimalistic it’s quite clever and the song has a refrain as well as a chorus. It’s another really GREAT! song and has quite an effective little lead break with Belew doing his normal thing and attacking the strings on his guitar :))))).

Track 10. The Power to Believe III: Deception Of The Thrush.

The 3rd part of the suite incorporates a small part of “Deception Of The Thrush” a piece that should of really made the album and was left off due to the fact that they could not get the permission to include T. S. Eliot’s voice reciting the words or so it states in the booklet. It does seem a bit strange how it was allowed on “Elektrik“. At most of the live shows it quite often followed the 3rd part of the suite too and they did record a version of it to do the same on this album, though without the permission they had to end the album off with another of Fripp’s soundscapes instead.

Belew utters a few words through the vocoder on the intro and the first part slowly builds up with heavy percussion and Fripp’s guitar and as it goes along the bass and drums play more of a part and it all winds down at the end to allow the final part of the suite to come in and end the album off.

Track 11. The Power to Believe IV: Coda.

The final part of the suite brings a very smooth ending to the album and features Fripp playing one of his soundscapes with Belew once again repeating the words from the intro through a vocoder. The soundscape Fripp is playing he recorded at St. Peters Church Newlyn Cornwall back in December 1997 and it fitted on here very well to ut an end to quite a very good album.

Summary…

To sum up The Power To Believe by King Crimson. I would say it’s a very good album and one were some tracks stick out more than others although the rest of the material very well fits and sits in with them all. I personally could not fault any of the tracks that make up the album and as an album it works extremely well. It’s not the best King Crimson album but I do feel it’s up there with some of the best output the band have put out throughout their musical career. Just like some of the tracks on The ConstruKction Of Light they were better performed live although on this album most of the material is much stronger and holds up very well even in a studio form.

You get quite a good deal for the money with this 40th Anniversary edition and the addition of the both EP’s Level Five and Happy With What You Have To Be Happy are really worth having if you never already had them. Although it’s the 5.1 mix that is what my money is on and it does not disappoint one bit and it really is an exciting mix that David Singleton has done here and very worthy of the 10 out of 10 I gave it. The 3 bonus tracks on the CD I can take with a pinch of salt and they are OK but not on par with the rest of the material on the album and they do not really do a lot to extend the album.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Level Five“. “Eyes Wide Open“. “Elektrik“. “Dangerous Curves” and “The Power To Believe II: Power Circle“. Though I will say the latter of that lot I do prefer live.

Conclusion…

King Crimson’s final studio album The Power To Believe is quite a solid body of work with the material that eventually made the album, in many ways it has the some of the finer ingredients that we see on the 1981 album Discipline and the vocal tracks in particular are quite strong and very well written. It was not long after that Tony Levin did return back to the fold in 2004. However, it was a short-lived interim line-up and the band stayed on hiatus till 2008.

Since then the band have been going out with other various musicians joining the line-up every now and then and have been playing live shows all over the world and shown no real interest in making another studio album. They still continue to churn out box sets and live recordings of every venue they play at practically and are still continuing to do so. For some the number 13 might be an unlucky number. But in this case, I rather think their 13th album turned out very well and it was not as if they went out at a low point of their career and it’s a damn site better than some of their earlier albums too.

The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition offers tremendous value for the buck and is well worthy of buying all over again especially for surround freaks like myself.

Because You Never Know What You Might See…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Power To Believe I: A Cappella. 0:44.
02. Level Five. 7:15.
03. Eyes Wide Open. 4:10.
04. Elektrik. 8:00.
05. Facts Of Life: Intro. 1:38.
06. Facts Of Life. 5:05.
07. The Power To Believe II: Power Circle. 7:43.
08. Dangerous Curves. 6:42.
09. Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With. 3:17.
10. The Power To Believe III: Deception Of The Thrush. 4:10.
11. The Power To Believe IV: Coda. 2:51.
12. Sus-tayn-Z I. 5:00.
13. Superslow. 3:38.
14. Sus-tayn-Z II. 4:16.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #124

The ReconstruKction of Light (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson

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Introduction…

During much of the earlier months I spent absent from my blogsite due to decorating and my computer breaking down I got to miss out on quite a few new releases. To be honest there is not a lot new out there in the mainstream world of music that entices me to buy it, especially when it comes down to a conventional stereo album put on a CD. I have nothing against that format and prefer it in relation to vinyl and both of those formats are going to give you the same quality at the end of the day, apart from the CD having way less surface noise and does not have the limitations of a vinyl record when it comes down to what you can comfortably fit on it without it deteriorating in quality. And that is really where the CD wins all the time for myself.

But regarding those formats these days (and ever since I got into the world of 5.1 recordings back in the mid 90’s) I very much consider both of those formats old hat. When it comes down to spending my money on music the real genuine value can be found in multichannel recordings and in most cases, they give you a hell of a lot more for the buck. Honestly it sometimes greaves me to spend £10 – £12 on a CD especially when you can buy something like this for a couple of bucks more and it comes with a CD plus a DVD with a 5.1 recording that is simply gonna leave stereo in the dust.

Quality wise 5.1 recordings for my ears are way more superior and when it comes down to buying music I would genuinely prefer to spend my money on an older album I already have, and buy it again with a 5.1 mix than spend my money on any artists latest album they have put out in stereo. For me the 5.1 mix would certainly be more of a priority to buy first no matter who is coming out with a new album and that is what gives me the most satisfaction in hearing your loud speakers give you something that not even no headphones on this planet could ever give you.

I only recently noticed that back in May of this year King Crimson had released the 40th Anniversary Editions of their 12th and 13th albums The ConstruKction Of Light and The Power To Believe. Both of these albums I had been hoping they would get released with a 5.1 mix so I could buy them again along with the other albums in the same series I purchased back in 2017. Though neither of these albums are anywhere near 40 years old and both are in fact less than 20 years old. There is also quite a significant difference with this particular new release of The ConstruKction Of Light and both the title and the albums artwork cover have been changed as you can see by the original artwork below.

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But they are not the only things that are different here, and there is a reason for it being titled The ReconstruKction Of Light to which I will go into further on in my review. But first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Like all the 40th Anniversary King Crimson Editions they come in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak housed in a cardboard slipcase. The both discs are supported by plastic trays that hold the disc firmly in place and it also comes with a booklet. They are quality packages and my only real gripe is that it would of been better if the booklet was fixed inside rather than it being loose, or they could of used a 3 panel DigiPak so it had a pocket to store the booklet. Still at this price you cannot really complain.

The 14-page booklet contains all the linear production notes, glossary pictures, lyrics and a couple of the pages of an essay written by Sid Smith telling you about the time the album was made and a few other things. It does not go into great detail but is suffice enough and overall it is a very good quality package.

Artwork.

I have to say the new artwork done for this album is certainly a damn site better than that artwork that was on the original album back in 2000. The artwork comes from a painting by the English painter and sculpture Pamela June Crook known professionally as P J Crook. Her paintings have featured on many of King Crimson’s albums and they have been using her artwork consistently since 1997. To be honest it was only ever the bands debut album that came with impressive artwork until she came along and the biggest majority of their albums were pretty much basic and drab to look at.

The ReconstruKction Of Light Release Editions.

There is no doubt that trying to keep up with a band like King Crimson is going to cost you an arm and a leg with how they consistently more or less churn things out every month of the year. I have also noticed that the 50th Anniversary of their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King will be released next month and instead of the CD & DVD we had with the 40th Anniversary Edition. It now comes with 2 CD’s & a Blu Ray and will cost around £30.

I have also noticed that Steve Wilson who did the new stereo and 5.1 mixes for the 40th Anniversary Edition that was released back in 2009, has been roped in again and done new stereo and 5.1 mixes for this new release. It would not surprise me if not long after the rest of the albums in King Crimson’s discography get the same 50th Anniversary treatment and one will be wondering when is it time to stop buying them, and is it worth buying them all over again.

I am sure there are many other albums out there that Steve Wilson’s mixing techniques would have been put to better use rather than do a different mix for an album he done a perfectly good job of mixing in the first place. Does In The Court Of The Crimson King need another mix? Personally, I certainly do not think so. However if Wilson was to do new mixes for the albums he never mixed in KC’s  back catalogue that would be of more interest to me and may entice me to buy them again.

As for the 50th Anniversary of In The Court Of The Crimson King I certainly will not be pre-ordering it or rushing out to buy it. I may buy it later on though just to see how good Wilson’s new mix is and make comparisons, but will hang on longer for its price to come down a bit. Though it’s price point of around £30 is still very reasonable but no doubt you are mostly getting what you already have with the 40th Anniversary and there will be very little here new at all.

The one thing I do admire a lot about King Crimson is the fact that they are not greedy like the BIG GUNS! such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Eagles and they give you a lot more choice for your money with their packages. For example, to get your hands on the 5.1 mixes of those other artists you are gonna have to sell a kidney and all they will give you for 20 bucks is the basic double CD which is still well overpriced. This is where I do have a lot of respect for bands like King Crimson and they do have a lot more respect for their fans in the way they do release their packages and give you the very thing you are after at the right price and do not rip you off like those I mentioned. So, let’s now take a look at what you get for your buck with this new release.

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CD/DVD Set

As with all these 40th Anniversary Editions they generally get released with around 3 different packages at different price tiers to suit your pocket. The CD/DVD Set I brought was the first to be released on the 31st May 2019. It comes with quite a few extras and is very reasonably priced at around £14 or less in some stores and is the cheapest option out of the 3 packages you can buy.

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Super Deluxe Box Set

The Super Deluxe Box Set Edition Heaven & Earth was released on the 7th June 2019 and is the most expensive package. This box set comprises of 24 Discs. 18 CD’s. 4 Blu Rays and 2 DVD’s. Much of the material you get in these type of box sets consists of a lot of live material played at different venues. It also includes the bands 13th studio album The Power To Believe along with much of the ProjeKct series which was a side project by the musicians that made up King Crimson playing a lot of live improvisations to which some of the material from that project winded up on the bands 12th and 13th albums The ConstruKction of Light and The Power To Believe.

For me personally a box set like this can be a bit like having too much of the same thing. It’s really aimed at those diehard fans and collectors to which no doubt comes neatly packaged and makes great presentation and an attractive thing to own. It can be obtained from around £130 or less and with everything you get here you cannot really quibble about its price point.

Vinyl

2 LP Vinyl Set

The vinyl edition has not been released yet but is set to be released here in the UK on the 27th September 2019 at the end of this month. The double album has been pressed onto 200-gram quality vinyl however you do not get any extras here like you do with the other 2 packages apart from 1 bonus track and the fact that you are getting the new reconstructed version of The ConstruKction Of Light. The vinyl album can be pre-ordered and is priced at around £26 or less.

The ReconstruKction Of Light In Review…

The original album The ConstruKction Of Light was released on the 23rd May 2000 and contained 11 tracks over an overall playing time of 58 minutes, 18 seconds. The new reconstructed version The ReconstruKction Of Light comes with 12 tracks over an overall playing time of 59 minutes, 53 seconds. The extra minute or so is down to the intro that has been added to “Into The Frying Pan” and that is not the only thing that’s new here either. Pat Mastelotto had to record most of the drums and percussion all over again from scratch. Hence the reason for this particular release having a slightly different title pertaining to the word “Reconstruction”.

By the time the last incarnation of the double trio had finished touring the bands previous album Thrak in 1997. Bill Bruford suggested to Robert Fripp that it would be a good idea to play some live improvisation shows. Though getting everyone together to play them was never gonna be that easy so the period between 1997 – 1999 is what Fripp called the FraKctalisation period which involved splitting the members down to smaller groups to work in various other projects or ProjeKcts as he called it. Fripp was the only member of the band to appear on all of the ProjeKcts and ProjeKct One was the only one of them that Bill Bruford played on before leaving to once again do something more with his Earthworks project.

Much of the material done for ProjeKcts 1 – 4 was experimental and recorded live at various venues and the band was split down to a trio or a quartet to perform them. ProjeKct Two featured Adrian Belew on drums Robert Fripp guitar and Trey Gunn on touch guitar and synth and this line up produced the only studio album Space Grooves. It was also during this period that Tony Levin had left to play bass on tour with Seal who was making a comeback. Though the tour got cancelled and even though Levin wanted to return back to the fold Fripp had more or less told him you’ve made your bed now lie in it and decided on a quartet for the next King Crimson album.

The ConstruKction Of Light is very much an album that still sounds and reflects the 80’s line up of the band and I guess that is down to Adrian Belew in particular with the vocal side of things on the album. But just like some of those albums from the 80’s some of the instrumental material even harks back to the 70’s in the way that they have written a continuation of “Larks Tongues In Aspic” and even reworked “Fracture“. Robert Fripp was not happy with how the album turned out and felt it was hampered by the conditions on which it was made and with his attention being more focused on writing and playing over recording and production.

The album itself was recorded at Belew’s own studios and parts were recorded in his and Mastelotto’s apartments and garages with Ron Latchney at the helm of the recording using Pro Tools on parts but the original master tapes were recorded on an Alesis ADAT machines so was many of their albums back then and as they changed to newer ADAT machines over the years quite often it was hard to get them in sync. When it came to see if they could remix The ConstruKction Of Light they could not find none of the original master tapes.

Latchney passed away in 2006 and died of a heart attack and he would of most likely of had them so they gathered together whatever generation copies of the ADAT Tapes they could find and the only ones they could not locate were the ones for most of the drums and percussion. Hence the reason why Mastelotto had to record them all again so the story goes. But regarding of the drums being missing that could all very well be an excuse for all we know simply because Fripp was never happy with Mastelotto not using his preferred hybrid acoustic/electronic kit in the first place. He was also not happy with the fact that none of the material for the album had been performed live beforehand either.

The ReconstruKction Of Light does present the album in a new light with the new drums and it gives you something different. In some respects, it’s more of a new album even if it’s playing the same original material though other things have also been tweaked. I personally think it’s a bit busier with the new drums in parts and it’s perhaps on the thin side of things in a lot of respects. But before I go any further let’s now take a look at the extras you get with the DVD that comes in this package.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu came as a bit of a shock to me to see that they could not even be arsed to include the album cover. In all honesty this has to be the most boring presentation I have ever come across on a King Crimson DVD and it’s so unlike them not to include any pictures at all. All the other 40th Anniversary Editions have them so why they never put P J Crook’s superb artwork on the thing defies all belief. The main menu is the only menu that does include a bit of graphic art as well with the owl on the bottom of the screen. It’s most likely down to the fact they are churning that much material out these days that they are making cutbacks to save on time in getting it out there.

The main menu gives you 4 options the first 2 give you the choice of listening to the main feature in either stereo or 5.1 surround sound both have been recorded with a high-end resolution of 24 bits 48khz. It’s also worth noting that both the stereo and 5.1 mixes do also come with an MLP Lossless track too and you do not just have the choice of DTS for the 5.1 surround and PCM for the stereo mix. But you will need a DVD player that plays DVD A (Audio) discs to get the MLP format. By clicking on your choice, it presents you with the following screen.

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As you can see from the screen above on the DVD there are only 8 tracks instead of 12. But there is nothing from the album missing here and all they have done is titled tracks 2, 3 & 6 without the additional parts. From this screen you can simply make your choice to ether select a track or play the whole album by clicking on the tracks. When this screen opens up it does not automatically play the album and you have to click on the 1st track to do that.

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As you can see by the screen above as each track plays it displays the title of that track only and there are no pictures or a slide-show you can focus on whilst the musics playing. You will have to use your remote to go back to the previous screen or wait for the album to finish for it to return the main menu.

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The final couple of options in the main menu present us with the bonus material. The first of which is that it also includes the original 2000 stereo mix of The ConstruKction Of Light and as you can see by the screen above you also get The ProjeKct X album Heaven And Earth. Both albums are in PCM stereo and come with high quality formats of 24-bit 48Khz bit it’s only The ConstruKction Of Light that also comes with an MLP Lossless format out of the two here.

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Heaven And Earth is an experimental instrumental rock album that was made and recorded during the rehearsals and recording of The ConstruKction Of Light. It was also released in the same year 2000 and contains 15 tracks over an overall playing time of 72 minutes, 28 seconds. Both albums sound excellent even in stereo and are genuine quality recordings, and for the price point you are practically getting them for next to nothing. Though they are only really going to be seen as more of an extra bonus if you never had these albums in the first place.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 surround mix was done by David Singleton and he’s done a pretty decent job of it. I don’t think it’s an exciting mix but where this mix works better for me personally is how well the multitrack tapes have been balanced across the 6 channels. The stereo mix does sound more lighter in comparison to the original mix done by Bill Munyon back in the year 2000. However, it does feel a bit cluttered and busy with the new drums in parts and the extra separation with the 5.1 mix does help the mix a lot and projects everything more clearly and brings out far more detail with the other instrumentation. Though the stereo mix can bring out a great deal of details too with its thinner sound.

There a few points where the vocals may have been a bit over the top by panning them in the rear speakers at times, but they do help bring them out especially some of the lower spoken words by Belew that do feature a lot throughout the album and they do work to very good effect on some of the tracks. Personally, I cannot really fault the 5.1 mix and I will give it 8 out of 10 for a very good effort.

Musicians & Credits…

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Music by King Crimson. Words by Adrian Belew. Original sessions recorded by Ken Latchney at Studiobelew 1999. New drums for tracks 1, 4 & 7 recorded by Mike McCarthy at Antonio Cincinnati Studio 28th & 29th October 2015. New drums for tracks 2, 3, 6, 8.9.10 recorded by Pat Mastelotto at various times between 2016/17. Stereo Mix by Don Gunn. Stereo Mix for the bonus track 12 by Pat Mastelotto & Bill Munyon. 5.1 Mix Plus Stereo & Production Mastering by David Singleton. Executive Producer Robert Fripp. Additional Engineering, Sound Design by Bill Munyon. Adrian Benavides & Machine. Cover Artwork from a painting by P J Crook. Photography by Michael Wilson & Pat Mastelotto. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. DVD Authoring & Assembling by Neil Wilkes.

Musicians:
Robert Fripp: Guitar.
Adrian Belew: Guitar & Vocals.
Trey Gunn: Touch & Baritone Guitars.
Pat Mastelotto: Drumming.

The Album Tracks In Review…

In many ways what’s been done with the new mix we have here on The ReconstruKction Of Light is nothing like the engineer shuffling the original stems around in the mix to try and improve the sound like we get with most new mixes. The very fact that we do have a new element here with the new drums in the mix, does make this a lot different in comparison to the original album The ConstruKction Of Light. The very fact that those new elements have been added to it all certainly does not improve or make this version better than the original, and they are not by any means going to replace the original either.

To be perfectly honest what has been done here does not give The ConstruKction Of Light a new lease of life like many new mixes would do either and effectively it’s a bit like having a different ball game with how things have been reconstructed here. So, let’s now take a deeper look to see how it all turned out as I take you through all the tracks on the album.

Track 1. ProzaKc Blues.

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A heavy stomping song about how or how not to treat manic depression depending how low and obsessive and how much of the blues you have. Speaking of the blues lyrically the words Belew wrote here without doubt do pertain to the blues and he’s even thrown in a little bit of that “Chit Chat” from “Elephant Talk” and this is one of those songs that does hark back to what the band were doing in the 80’s. Musically they do rock it out more and like many of the songs they did back in the 80’s they are verging and leaning more towards the industrial side of things with weight and the percussion.

Speaking of the weight and the density in particular. That is something that the original mix had a lot more of and it pounded at you like a ton of bricks in relation to the new mix we have here. Even if you were to play both mixes on a tin box you would easily distinguish the difference between the two, and it’s pretty much like that throughout the whole album with how lighter and thinner the new mix is with the new drums. I think regarding this new mix in particular it’s really a case of horses for courses regarding your preferable way of listening to music.

For example, if you are one of those who likes a lot of bass and closed back headphones. This new mix is certainly not gonna be for you. But regarding any new mix there can also be a lot of give and take to make it stand out that much more and you cannot always have the best of both worlds to be able to achieve it either. You will certainly hear a lot more in the new mix in relation to the original and it even sounds as if Trey Gunn has re-recorded the bass, and it most certainly never stood out and presented itself to you like it does now. But to achieve that it’s like a ton of bricks have been removed from it and the new mix does have more of a spring in its step.

ProzaKc Blues” is far from the best thing on the album and even though Belew does his best to put a bit of GROG! in his voice and you can hear the vocals have been tweaked even more so on this new mix. Though no matter how far you tweak his voice he would never make a blues singer either :)))). It’s perhaps a bit of mediocre start to kick off the album with but is fairly OK! and most of the material on this particular album has seen better days done at their live shows in Japan back then too.

Track 2 & 3. The ConstruKction Of Light (Parts 1 & 2).

I decided to cover the both parts at once like they have been placed on the DVD and effectively the 2 parts do work as one piece and the 2nd part is only where the vocals come into play. The albums self-titled track is very much my personal favourite track on the album and merits my TOP SPOT AWARD!

In many ways the only difference between this song and the material that ended up on the album that was to follow The Power To Believe is very much that it does not need any keyboard scape to make it work. Much of the way the song is structured out of interlocking counterpart rhythmical melodies lines that are interchanged and exchanged between Belew and Fripp work superbly. Both Gunn and Mastelotto also work their socks off and the lighter mix with the new drums works very well and you are perhaps not gonna be getting that great deal of a difference between the new and old mix most likely down to its more melodic structure.

Not only does this form of structure go back to the 80’s but also very much reflects some of the structures we seen on the album Red from back in 1974 and how well constructed some of the worked-out pieces in Robert Fripp’s Quartet.

I think Belew has also done a really GREAT! job with the lyrics too and it even has a counterpart verse section that is verging along the same lines of how Jon Anderson done the same thing with the counterpart lyrics he wrote for “Siberian Khatru“. The vocal lines are of course completely different and it’s really down to how they both chose words to more or less rhyme or fit one another rather than making any real logical sense. However the lyrical content we have here does make a great deal of sense on the grand scheme of it all and they do pertain to how the creator constructed the earth with light and how mankind has took control and supervised it not in a bright way by adding a darker side of hate to it all.

Track 4 & 5. Into The Frying Pan (Parts 1 & 2).

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This is where things do get more different and this newer version not only includes an intro but also has a few other changes and tweaks. These were all done by Pat  Mastelotto and with the help of Bill Munyon who happened to  be with him whilst recording the new drums for the track. Mastelotto never did like how the original song started and took some liberties and decided to not only change that part of it, but to make a new intro for it. To make the new intro he took a part of the soundscape at the end of the song and Munyon helped him retune it. They also did a few things with Belew’s voice and guitars in the middle and added various little fragments from various other samples and parts from “Level Five” and “Dangerous Curves“.

Overall, I quite like the new additions and they work pretty well. I think the intro also helps soften the blow with how heavy this song originally was on the original album. Like the opening track on the album it was never a strong song in the first place and was better performed at their live shows, lyrically it never had a lot to say either but at the end of the day it is what it is and was not too bad either.

Track 6. FraKctured.

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Next up we have the longest track on the album “Frakctured” weighing it at 9 minutes, 20 seconds. This instrumental piece is very much worked around the original 1974 piece “Fracture” originally from the album Starless and Bible Black and is played at a much faster accelerated pace putting the band through its paces. The new mix gives it more of a glossy coating and is less dense and much lighter almost to the point of even slightly transposing the key up half a semitone. It’s also one of the better tracks on the album and has to be a contender for the TOP SPOT!

Track 7. The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum.

A weird title and even more stranger lyrics that Belew wrote for it and I am not for the life of me going try and make anything from them either, they are very much like the title and complete GIBBERISH! and I guess Belew was playing with word association like Jon Anderson did back in the early 70’s. This is one of those songs that many dislikes and it’s most likely down to the nonsense lyrics but then again Belew was always one for mincing words even with Talking Heads and could speak Elephant Talk at times. Personally, I quite like it and it can be quite funny when they perform it live too, and I am sure at the end of the day it was all done in fun too.

It was originally an instrumental track entitled “Demolition” which is from the Project X album Heaven And Earth they was working on at the same time and is included on the DVD. To be honest this was perhaps the only track on the whole of that album you could put a vocal line too with how the music was structured. As an instrumental track I would even say that it was the odd track on that album in relation to how much of the material lack any real structure or composition at all. It really is more of an experiential album and I personally think by adding words to it as bizarre as they are here, it works a damn site better on this album.

Tracks 8, 9, & 10. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part IV (Parts 1, 2 & 3).

Another flash back to the past and Larks’ continues to solder on once again with its 4th part and here it’s split over 3 sections though effectively its all one piece. Just like “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 3” from the Three Of A Perfect Pair album this is once again structured around “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2” from the 1973 album of the same title and there is not an awful lot of difference between them. It’s only really the much lengthier first part of that 1973 album that is really different. It’s still a very powerful piece of work though even on with this new mix and is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 11. Coda: I Have A Dream.

The (coda) “I have A Dream” is really the final track on the album and musically it’s like a cross between the previous track “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic: Part IV” and “Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With” even though that song was not out until a couple of years later. The other interesting thing to note is that it also has a soundscape running behind it which was more familiar with the material that was written for The Power To Believe to which none of the other tracks on this album really have at all.

Belew recites all the terrible things that have happened in the world in a way to tie it in with the albums self-titled track “The ConstruKction Of Light“. Even though the track is 4 minutes, 55 seconds long the final minute is of silence to make way for the secret bonus track which is no longer a secret because they included it’s title on the CD along with the rest of the tracks. To be honest I would of thought that they would have done away with the minute silence rather than include it for this new release, after all with how the album has been remixed its not as if its an album for purists.

Track 12. Heaven And Earth (ProjeKct X).

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The self-titled track from the side project album Heaven And Earth was included as a bonus track. It is without doubt one of the better tracks from that album and to be honest it’s a very strange album to say the least and is more on the jam and experimental side of things. As a bonus track it works pretty well because of the soundscape they put in the final track of the album. It makes me wonder if that was done intentionally to include this track in the first place. I was glad they included it and done a 5.1 mix of the track too and it rounds off the album very well.

Summary…

Overall The ReconstruKction Of Light by King Crimson is far from anything disappointing with how the new mix presents itself to you, it will never replace the original but it will give you something in the way of a reimagined version of it. I am pretty sure most devoted KC fans will buy it regardless and most may already have the bonus material you get on the DVD. For myself the 5.1 mix is where the real value of a package like this lies and that is what I originally brought it for. But even though I already had the original album on CD I still see the 24-bit master as a good bonus to have and it does sound better than my CD.

The other album Heaven And Hell by Project X that you also get here I never had. Though I had heard much of the material from it before. I have given the album a couple of spins but the biggest majority of the material is very experiential and more of a jam and there is not a lot of structure to the music at all on the album unlike the material that made up The ConstruKction Of Light which to me is way more superior. It’s really a matter of preferable taste and I see some of the music on it would be more suited to a film and much of it is really only playing an instrument for the sake of it and not really do anything that constructive with it.

Oddly enough some of the tracks even sound like trance even though they was not using keyboards or computers, and others have a bit of a dub step feel about them. It’s certainly most unusual for a band like this to even venture down that road. It is quite good how they have managed to achieve those tracks to sound like that, but they are not my cup of tea at all I am afraid. Overall, I think there is a good 25 to 30 minutes out of the 72.5 minutes you do get and they would of been better off making an EP out of the best material on it, which would of made it way more exciting and interesting.

My personal highlights from The ReconstruKction of Light are as follows: “The ConstruKction Of Light“. “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part IV“. and “FraKctured“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of King Crimson’s 40th Anniversary Edition of The ReconstruKction Of Light, I personally think they have done a very good job reconstructing the album with the new drum parts and obviously a lot of time as been spent putting the album back together for the new mix with how they had to relocate all the ADAT Tapes and get everything to sync up and piece back together. Although it’s never really going to be an album for purists. But in saying that with this particular package you are still getting the original album and a lot more besides for a couple of bucks more. So, you cannot really go wrong with this package and it’s only really the vinyl album when it gets released that will really not be for the purist.

In many ways I would say the new mix sheds more light over the original album, the fact that it is less dense and heavy weight does bring out things a lot more clearly and you will get to hear a lot more of how well the original instrumentation really works so well. It’s not all about the new drums that have been added to it that make it work that way either. Some people may prefer the new mix over the original recording and for those who never liked the album in the first place this new reimagined version may very well help you to appreciate it a lot more.

Personally, I have always liked the original album though it’s not up there with my favourite albums of the band. But it does have some really GREAT! tracks on it and is a damn site better than a lot of the garbage they churned out on that experimental album Heaven And Earth that they made whilst making The ConstruKction Of Light. The material as always stood out good performed live as well. Overall the package offers AMAZING! value for the money with all you get and you simply cannot go wrong at its price point.

 If Warhol’s A Genius, What Am I…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. ProzaKc Blues. 5:26.
02. The ConstruKction Of Light. 5:47.
03. The ConstruKction Of Light. 2:57.
04. Into The Frying Pan Intro. 1:10.
05. Into The Frying Pan. 7:01.
06. FraKctured. 9:20.
07. The World’s My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum. 6:23.
08. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part IV. 3:41.
09. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part IV. 2:50.
10. Larks’ Tongues In Aspic: Part IV. 2:36.
11. Coda: I Have A Dream. 4:55.
12. Heaven And Earth (ProjeKct X). 7:47.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

 

Lee Speaks About Music… #123

Black Bead Eye – How Far To Hitchin

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Introduction…

The latest “How Far To Hitchin” album has arrived and it appears that the man behind it all Paul Dews is going on more of an adventurous journey judging by the FANTASTIC! artwork he has done once again himself and the albums front cover does look quite AMAZING! I stated in my recent review I wrote for his debut album Easy Targets that everything about Paul Dews is a work of ART! whether it be his music or his artistic drawings. There can be no doubt this guy does have one hell of a creative mind and is an extremely well talented musician, songwriter and artist. The form of ART! you are getting here is something that is hardly likely to fall out of the sky and land on your lap, it takes a lot of hard work and time, but no doubt the end result I am pretty sure makes it all worthwhile and satisfying.

I think what would make it even more satisfying is if people went out and brought his music, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is one artist who is very well deservingly worthy of a lot more recognition for his GREAT! music, especially with all he has put into making it. Paul Dews has mastered the art of song writing no matter what genre he decides to create and work in with some respect. To many people a pop song can be seen as more of a basic thing to do, but if you can skilfully craft a song like this here, I am pretty sure there is damn site more to it than being simple.

To skilfully craft out a song like “What Everyone Wants” is like having the heads of both Lennon & McCartney on your shoulders along with the arranging skills of George Martin and it’s far from an easy thing to do at all. This is also a song that never even made it onto the debut album Easy Targets. I can also see in some respects how it would not of fitted along with the material he wrote for that particular album as well. But I do feel that in the future at some point it might be worth him remastering his debut album and including both this song and the acoustic version of “Helpless” as bonus tracks on it.

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To be honest as a rule I never buy singles and am very much an album man, but I just had to buy this one and as you can see, I tagged up the both tracks and stuck them on the end of the digital download of the Easy Targets album. Every time I play the album on my computer and smartphone, I always play the bonus tracks too and I personally think they work very well as bonus tracks for this particular album.

Dews released “What Everyone Wants” back in 2017 the following year after the album Easy Targets was released in 2016. I am not entirely sure but I am guessing that he wrote this song before he even started to work on the material for the Easy Targets album back in 2011 and it was most likely written much earlier. The song sounds very familiar to me and it’s as if I heard it many moons ago on the radio. It really is a SMASH HIT! and superb song.

The other thing I also stated in my review of Easy Targets was that I personally felt it was an album that was that special that it would be very hard for Dews to beat or even come up with another album like it even if he was to try for the rest of his life.

Well his latest album Black Bead Eye is very much now here and, in this review, we shall find out if he managed to make me eat my words. No doubt if you have the song writing skills, he has anything is possible I would of thought. But for now, the only thing I shall tell you about the latest album to hit the shelves is that it is different, and it’s a bit like an album that has two halves. I shall go further into it later on in my review here, but as always let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork first.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like his debut album the latest CD also comes in a standard plastic jewel case and it was made by himself to save on the expense of having them mass produced in large quantities by a media manufacturing company. It makes a lot of sense especially when it comes to shifting them out, and it saves on having a box of CD’s cluttering up your own space doing nothing at all.

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Music is very hard to sell these days especially for unknown artists which is really a shame, because in reality the artwork and the music is without a doubt worthy of being presented in a more professional way and done by a professional media manufacturing company. It would look superb if it was put on a 3-panel cardboard DigiPak with a plastic tray inside to hold the CD and a pocket inside to hold the booklet. But as you can see from the photo above, he’s doing a pretty darn good job of making the CD’s himself and it can be a costly mistake having them done by a professional media manufacturing company unless you are sure you can sell them all.

Speaking of the booklet depending on which CD package you buy will have a bearing on how many pages it comes with. Dews has done things a bit differently with this release and it comes in 4 different packages if you count the digital download of the album to which I will go into more detail in the album release editions section. I myself have the limited Deluxe version (pictured above) which comes with a 12-page booklet with a lot more artwork plus other goodies. The booklet also comes with the usual lyrics and linear production notes like the other CD packages will have too. I was also lucky enough to have this package GIFTED to me by the man himself for doing the album review to which I am extremely grateful for.

Though in all honesty I still would of brought and reviewed the album regardless, and the fact that I had the album given to me will not make the album score any extra points. Every album I review is based on how the music and the package speaks to me and I have always spoke back to it in honesty.

Artwork.

All the artwork was done by Dews himself and there is quite some exceptional pieces of art in the 12 page booklet, a lot more than what was in the previous album Easy Targets too. I also noticed that the artwork he has done for the individual tracks are not just close up shots taken from the main picture he had drew for the albums artwork cover either. This video shows you him hard at work making the limited prints for the Deluxe package. You can hear some of the 5th track on the album “Compression” playing along as he’s making them too.

You can see how much passion Dews puts into his work and no doubt it takes a lot of time and passion to make too. I’ve said it many times already and everything about Paul Dews is a work of ART! and there is more of it in the way he has released the album too. So, let’s now take a look at the many different ways you can purchase the latest album.

Black Bead Eye (Album Release Editions)

As I mentioned earlier, he has released the latest album in the form of 4 individual editions all of which come with different price tiers to suit your pocket. The digital download is no doubt the cheapest way to purchase the album and its only really the physical CD side of things where he has done things a bit different and given each of these editions a different name and presented them on his website with different artwork covers. Though I am pretty sure the different album covers are only for display purposes to go along with the names of each package, and they all come with the original artwork on the albums front cover. So, let’s now take a look at all 4 ways you can purchase the album Black Bead Eye starting from the cheapest to the most expensive option.

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The digital download can be obtained for £7 and it comes in the form of a high-quality MP3 format of 320kbps and comes with the front cover of the album. Unlike Bandcamp there are no other choices of formats you can choose from but 320kbps is the highest quality you can get in this particular format and to be honest I myself only ever use this format on my computer myself to save on hard drive space. Both Flac and Wave formats are higher quality but they will take up a lot more of your hard drive space.

I generally find that MP3’s at 320kbps are very good and do a decent enough job of presenting the album to you. Though I am more for the physical format and prefer that side of things myself though I do listen to albums on my computer and my smartphone in this format and it’s more of a convenient format for those devices. I dare say if you were to get in touch with Paul, he would be willing to send you the album in Flac or Wave format if you prefer that higher quality.

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The Jackdaw version is the cheapest way to obtain the album in a physical format and the CD is very well priced with its price tag of £10. This version comes with an 8-page lyric booklet and the price is for the CD only, it does not come with a free digital download of the album. But if you’re willing to wait a few days for the CD to arrive this is quite a good option and you can always listen to the album on website whilst you are waiting for it to arrive.

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Next up we have the Rook version which is priced up at £15. With this version you get a signed copy of the 12-page booklet plus it also comes with the digital download. To be honest it does seem to be a bit steep charging an extra £5 for it to come with a digital download and that is something that you would find free on most sites. But where the added value of this package lies is really with the extra 4 pages of artwork you get in the booklet rather than the fact that it is also signed by the man himself.

No doubt if Paul Dews was to suddenly become a lot more popular in the way of being more of a celebrity status. His signature would add value to it. But I myself would not personally pay an extra 5 bucks just for somebody to put pen to paper and scribble their name on it. I am also pretty sure that when I met my God of the keyboards Rick Wakeman and asked him to sign my copy of his album The Six Wives Of henry VIII. If he would have asked me for money to sign it. I would not have paid and refused :)))))). The 4 pages may not seem like a lot, but the artwork is superb and is worth spending that little bit extra even if that little bit happens to be 50% more in this case.

raven-version

Finally, we have the Raven version and this could be seen as the Deluxe version and costs the most with its price tag of a WHOPPING! £20. This particular package is limited to 50 copies only and they have now all been sold. With this package you get the same 12-page signed booklet and the digital download like you get with the Rook version plus you get an extra 3 things for the extra 5 bucks here. 2 of the extra things you can see in my display of the package above in the packaging and artwork section. They are the extra two limited hand prints and a badge with the HFTH logo on it. The other thing you get is your name included on the back of the booklet in the supporters list as you can see in this picture below where I have highlighted my name.

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I think it’s quite a nice touch having your name on the supporters list printed in the booklet, the badge is a nice little trinket and the extra artwork hand made prints can be put to good use too, just like these couple of examples by James Griffiths and Cliff Proctor with how they have displayed them in the pictures below.

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James Griffiths Display

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Cliff Proctor Display

I am sure I will find a place for my prints too eventually. The other thing I have just noticed about the prints is that they are also numbered and mine is numbered 36/50.

Was the Raven package worth the extra money? I think it boils down to how passionate you are about the artists you support and some folks are more passionate than others and it shows with the couple of examples by James and Cliff here which is GREAT! to see. I myself have always believed in supporting the artist by buying what speaks to me the most about them and that is the music. I am not the type of person who would generally as a rule spend more money on a CD because it was signed and came with some other goodies.

I suppose it depends on what extras you are getting in the package that will entice me more to buy it, and those things in general are extra discs and those type of packages that come with the 5.1 recordings on a DVD or Blu Ray included in them, rather than anything else. But all those things I just mentioned come from many of the more well-known mainstream artists I buy and not the lesser unknown artists like we have here. And sometimes I will spend that bit extra on those more unknown artists simply because they are hardly likely to generate that much money from their music like those many more well-known artists can.

I do appreciate art as well though and as much as I would like to frame it and hang it on the wall in my house, I do not think my wife would be that pleased. For example, if it was not for her, I dare say I would have many prints by Roger Dean hanging on my walls by now :)))). But she’s not into music like I am and even thinks I waste my money on buying music. I am forever telling her that least I have something to show for my money which is a damn site more than what she would spend her money on :))))).

In many ways I feel guilty in receiving the Raven package for free. Not because I cannot put the artwork in a frame and hang it on the wall, and like I said I will find a spot somewhere for those prints most likely where I store my CD’s. But because even though I paid for the album Easy Targets he still never got any money from it because he lost his old email which was tied to his PayPal account. That is also the reason why his music is no longer available on Bandcamp and the only way you can buy it now is directly from his website.

I am without doubt a fan and his music certainly ROCKS! my boat and sometime in the near future I dare say I will even buy both albums again even if they are only in the form of a digital download to give away to others, I know that will appreciate them. But right now, let’s press on and get on with the review of the album.

The Album In Review…

Black Bead Eye by How Far To Hitchin was officially released on 5th August 2019. However, the release date did not get off to a flying start because Dews had to sort out his website and even though the album was released nobody could actually purchase it. I did get to hear the whole of the album on that day as Dews was uploading the tracks one by one up to his website and I also purchased his debut album Easy Targets on that very day from Bandcamp. It was not until a couple of days later on the 7th August that things got sorted out and you could purchase the new album.

The album was recorded and mixed once again at Studio One-Seven-Two which is in the basement of the house he lives in Huddersfield. Although this will be the final album to be made there due to the fact that he has now sold his house and is moving to the Orkney Isles. So, he will soon be waving goodbye to the Peacocks of Birkby.

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Things have been done a bit differently with the new album and it’s been mastered by Russ Sinfield. He is also credited with the production with Dews too and the album does sound GREAT! for it. I’ve come across many artists on Soundcloud that Sinfield has produced and mastered albums for and he does a GRAND! job of it. I also think it helps to sell records when you have someone else onboard and right now, and I am glad he managed to sell all 50 copies of the Limited Raven Edition so quickly. It shows people have good taste too.

The latest album comes with 8 tracks all of which are vocal tracks and there are no instrumental tracks. The 8 tracks are spanned over an overall playing time of 53 minutes, 50 seconds which is quite lengthy but more of the common time slot that has been associated with the CD format since it was born and brought in to replace vinyl back in the mid 80’s. To be honest I still prefer the old vinyl album time slot of around 30 to 40 minutes basically because you can squeeze in more albums in a day to listen to and they make it much easier to give the album more spins and get into a lot faster. When you have a large record collection like myself that old time slot really does make a massive difference and, in some aspects, can reflect on how often an album will get played as well.

I think since the birth of the CD it’s so easy for artists to cram as much information on them as they can squeeze onto them, and sometimes it can be too much food for thought. Some albums work well for it whilst others don’t depending on how good the material they wrote for the album in the first place. Solid albums are very much a minority and to make a double albums worth of material you very much have to have the right amount of good material to make it work in the first place.

Sometimes good material can take that much longer to manifest itself upon you, and until it does it’s not really going to say a lot to you at all over the first couple of spins. It can take many more spins for things to become more clearer and much of the material upon the album Black Bead Eye started to speak to me a lot more after further spins than the first 2 or 3 spins I gave the album.

In many ways the album Black Bead Eye is a different breed in relation to his debut album Easy Targets and that was an album that was even a good 13 minutes longer than what have here. Nothing about that debut album presented me with a problem and even with its overall time slot of 67 minutes, 34 seconds I even stated myself that “I have no complaints simply because this is one very well skilfully crafted and woven piece of fine ART! that has been so skilfully put together”. It is without doubt a solid album and one that is easy to get into and grab you straight away.

Paul Dews has gone about things a bit differently on his latest album Black Bead Eye and he has stepped a bit deeper into the realms of prog rock to which the album Easy Targets only had a few elements of prog rock about the material that was wrote for it. There are the odd glimpses on a couple of the tracks of his debut album but mostly this is an album that presents him in a different light, and I shall reveal more later in the album tracks section of my review here. But first let’s take a look at the album credits.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Paul Dews. Recorded & Mixed by Paul Dews at Studio One-Seven-Two.  Produced by Paul Dews & Russ Sinfield. Mastered by Russ Sinfield. All Artwork & Design by Paul Dews.

Musicians:
Paul Dews: Vocals/12 & 6 String Acoustic Guitars/12 & 6 String Electric Guitars/Nylon Guitar/Mandolin/Ukulele/Chapman Stick/Electric Bass Guitar/Flute/Keyboard & Synth Programming/Drums/Percussion & Bass Programming.
Emma Gee: Female Voice (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

So far, I have mentioned that the album Black Bead Eye is a different breed in relation to the debut album Easy Targets. I also mentioned that it’s a bit like an album that has two halves and that Paul Dews is stepping a bit deeper into the realms of prog rock. There is no doubt that Dews has done things more differently on his latest album even with how he has approached it with the material he has written for it. For example, even his own voice sounds different on some tracks in relation to how it sounded on that debut album of his. I most likely expect that the new material gave him a new challenge in which he had to express his voice in another way to make it work in some parts.

Regarding the album having two halves I first seen as two things. The first being that he has made it to look like a vinyl album with how it has a side one and side two printed on the back of the CD. Plus, he has also made it sound like a vinyl album by adding the sound of the needle being placed onto the record at the beginning and end, even where it comes to the point of turning the album over to play the other side. The second part of how I see it as an album of two halves is a bit more confusing, and basically it really boils down to if Dews was working with the tracks having some form of a concept of stories going on or not with the album.

It does have me thinking that his original intention was to make side one of the album into a concept of fantasy stories and the second side more of a bunch of collective songs. However the way the album tracks have been placed do not seem to work like that and have been shuffled about a bit which would suggest that he gave up on that idea. For example, looking at the tracks “Queen Of Malice“. “Woman Screaming At Trees” and “The Crow” these 3 tracks are certainly more of your fantasy story sort of thing.

I suppose you could of also have thrown in “Compression” although that is perhaps not a fantasy sort of story like those other 3 tracks are. But in reality if you were to put this album onto 1 Vinyl LP you would have to juggle the tracks around to make them fit and you would need one of the shorter tracks on each side of the album and not both of them on the same side like they are placed here. No doubt 53 minutes, 50 seconds is way over the limit of vinyl restrictions though that amount of time has been squeezed onto them in the past.

The way I seen the album Easy Targets is very much like how I mentioned it in my review of the album. I did see it has a 12-piece jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit perfectly together to make it up. The 8 pieces we have here on Black Bead Eye are never gonna fit perfectly together like that previous album. Regarding the track placement I do feel there are some pieces that have not been cut right to make them fit perfectly enough, and they have been placed in the wrong place. I very much feel if you play a game of mix and match here and juggle the pieces around to make them fit. You will have an album of two halves, the first half being in the way of a concept of fantasy stories, and the second half in the way of a collection of songs.

But of course this is all speculation on my part and for all I know Paul Dews may have not have had any intention of making a concept with the material he wrote here and they were just a collection of songs he wrote for this particular album. He may very well have done exactly the same thing with Easy Targets and to be perfectly honest many people would not see that album having any form of a concept. I only related a concept to them based on the subject matter of the lyrics and what all the songs were pertaining and relating too with them.

The other major difference between the both albums is that Black Bead Eye certainly has a lot more in the guitar department whereas in many ways the album Easy Targets was more deprived of guitar solos and could be a lot more keyboard oriented. I would also say that this new album is also very much more influenced by Steve Hackett whereas the last album had more of a cross between Roger Waters and many other artists about it. The one thing both albums do have in common is a nice cup of tea and Paul Dews certainly likes a nice cup of the stuff :)))). So, let’s now take a deeper look into the albums 8 tracks.

Track 1. Queen Of Malice.

The needle is placed on the record and the album kicks off at first with a mini orchestral overture to set the scene for the opening story about the selfish and mean sister of King Merry who was chosen to be the Secret Kingdom’s ruler. His ugly sister was evil and the greedy one who plotted out a plan for revenge at least that’s what I am presuming this story is pertaining too. There have been many Queens of Malice including Malice in Wonderland and they are all pretty damn evil. Some of them will have your head on the chopping block in no time at all :))))) and others are even connected with Halloween and speaking of Halloween there may well be a connection with some of the other stories here on the album.

Track 1

The mini overture makes quite a majestic entrance with the kettle drums rolling and is as bold as brass with the brass too, I like how it winds itself down with the strings at around the 45 second mark and allows a sequence on the keyboard to fade its way into the action and allows Dews to count in 1,2,3,4 which is panned to the left and how he expresses the number 5 with his voice more boldly and is panned to the right. It’s precisely at the 1-minute mark that the band instrumentation kicks in with the drums, bass, guitars and keyboards and it starts to ROCK! out more in a meandering and menacing style and runs along for 55 seconds. Then at the 1:55 mark that Dews bring in the vocals to take the story along its way.

Much of the material on the album is quite lengthy and range between 6 – 9 minutes apart from the last couple of tracks on the album. This particular track is the shortest of the three 6-minute tracks on the album and weighs in at 6 minutes, 17 seconds, it also goes through some lovely transitional changes.

I have to confess when I first heard this opening track it was not really grabbing me at all and it took me at least 4 or 5 spins to get to see everything ring out in a different light for me to really appreciate it. I think what threw me off more than anything was how Dews voice was projecting the vocals differently and it took me that much longer to get used to his voice.

As I mentioned earlier there is something different about his voice on this album and this particular track over its first few spins had me thinking of some of the light weight songs that both Steve Hackett and Steve Howe played with the band GTR. Although Paul Dews voice is not as high as Max Bacon’s for some reason it was giving me the impression of that light weighted song “When The Heart Rules The Mind“. Musically it’s nothing like that song and neither is the vocal line, but somehow that is how this song was speaking to me until a few further spins. The only part of his voice that had any connection with his debut album was when he counted in the numbers 1,2,3,4 – FIVE!

Although the GTR side of things had disappeared after 6 or more spins it was still plain to see that the Steve Hackett side of things had not. Instead of it reminding me of material by GTR it was speaking to me more along the lines of the material Hackett wrote for his 1984 album Till We Have Faces or around that time in particular. There is a difference between Hackett’s own material in that it can be a bit denser and darker in relation to what he did with GTR. For example, by me calling “When The Heart Rules The Mind” lightweight. What I really meant is that the song was written with a more commercial approach to it, very much like the material that the band Asia presented to us when they first started. It’s lighter and airier and is aimed to attract a wider audience by verging on the boundaries of pop music.

Even though the song “Jekyll and Hyde” from that same album may have a darker aspect to its lyrical content. The way Max Bacon sings and delivers it with his high vocal range does tend to throw more light on the song than it should have in reality, and that is what I was getting  from the “Queen Of Malice” at first with how Dews voice projected the lyrics and that was throwing me off. To be honest I was quite surprised how well he is stretching out some of his vocal chords on this song and reaching the highs more or less perfectly on some of the more stretched out sentences.

Though somehow what I am not getting here is that special fresh new presence I got with the way the vocals and harmonies were expressed on his debut album Easy Targets. Instead the vocals and harmonies on this song in many ways is like listening to Steve Hackett with the many other vocalists he has backing him up in his band. Don’t get me wrong I think the song is GREAT! but I cannot even after a zillion spins get this Steve Hackett vibe out of my head, and this album is certainly going down the road of Hackett’s music in parts where as I felt the album Easy Targets was more special, unique and more original even with its many other influences.

Musically things are different and it’s not so much like Hackett at all apart from the chords played on the keyboards that support the vocals. Around the half way point there is nice little synth solo and after the final chorus the song runs along once again in its meandering and menacing style we got earlier. Dews does work the electric guitar very well into the piece and then around the 4:35 mark we get this lovely translational change with a lovely acoustic guitar section that brings the song down a TREAT! He then winds up the last few verses repeatedly to bring the song down to its ending.

Overall the “Queen Of Malice” is one of the more powerful up tempo paced out songs on the album, to be honest there are very few songs on the album (including this one) that really run along at this faster pace. There is without doubt some Steve Hackett influences here just as there are on other parts of the album and I personally do not have a problem with that and we all are influenced by many of our idols to some extent. It’s a really GREAT! track to open up the album and does without doubt get the album off to a flying start. I think for many this would also be one of the tracks in contention for the albums TOP SPOT! too with its pace and feel.

Track 2. Desensitised.

Track 2

This fine ballad of a song is very much more like Dews getting back on track of being who he is with his own originality and I have to admit once again this took me several spins for it to really sink in and get to appreciate just how good this song really is. Actually, when I listen to many of the songs on this album Dews is being more sensitive with how he delivers them with his voice. In many ways I would even say that he is going around things in the opposite way of how he would have approached many of the songs on Easy Targets especially with how all the anger and explicit lyrics are no longer present. For a ballad this is quite a long song over 7 and half minutes, it could also be seen as too long. But the way Dews can skilfully carve out a song like this and how he can so masterfully build it up with his arranging skills does make it that more interesting even to the point of lifting the pace up and gradually lifting it out of its ballad mode to raise the game up a bit more.

To be honest the way the song opens up with its sequenced intro it gives you the impression that you were gonna get something different in relation to how it settles into its ballad mode on the piano. It’s perhaps a bit of an unusual intro and my guess is that it was used for the purpose of a news reel to reflect the lyrical content we have here. Speaking of the lyrical content it relates to those who are less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering by overexposure to such images. I think when you look at all that does go on in the world on the TV nothing does really shock or surprise you anymore. I suppose in some way even I can desensitize myself from it all by not watching the news, although when I do catch glimpses of it can get my goat up and no news is hardly ever good news.

The lyrical content is without doubt speaking about the reality of it all and this is a song that starts off sensitively with the keys and vibes supporting the vocals over the first couple of minutes. Around the 2:26 mark the bass, acoustic guitar and drums kick in to lift it up more and there are some LUSH! bass lines throughout that takes us into the little change just over 4-minute mark. A nice little lead guitar solo further on around the 5:18 mark comes into play and the song falls back in and gets wonderfully rounded off with the keys and a fine oboe sound. It’s a really GREAT! meaningful song that speaks a lot of truth and is very much another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!.

Track 3. Instant Gratification.

A more modern approach to things and a modern look at how society these days go about wanting instant gratification on media sites such as the likes of Facebook, Instagram and so on by wanting you to click on the LIKE! button. Dews takes in the cynical side of things with the lyrical content we have here and it’s funny in a sort of way. This is perhaps a song that could hark back to his debut album in some respects with how he’s structured the music around the bass line and the synths.

Track 3

However, I do not think it would have worked that well on the album Easy Targets and its perhaps not quite up there with the material that was written for it. That’s not to say there nothing remotely bad about this song either and it even has some really GREAT! little lead guitar spasm bursts in it too. I also think it’s quite clever how he’s worked on the lyrics. It is perhaps my least favourite track on the album though considering it’s 6.5 minutes long it only seems like half of that time when playing it. So, he must be doing something right and I do like how he’s gone about it all and it can make me give a chuckle. I also can still certainly give it a LIKE! LIKE! LIKE! :)))))).

Track 4. Woman Screaming At Trees.

Track 4

It’s story time and this is quite a haunting story as the title may suggest. It’s also the longest track on the album and weighs in at precisely 1 second over the 9-minute mark. Some of the songs on the album were worked out over a good few years back. This two and half minute rough sketch video preview of the track was put out on his YouTube channel back in 2016. The drums that come into play towards the end are not even on the finished track. Though there is a lot more been put into the track than just the drums and piano with how well it’s been built up and how further developed it is today.

You can also see that the title was slightly different back then too and was still at it’s early stage of a working title with it having the word “Shouting” instead of “Screaming”. Either way you can see something is not right with this woman, and she is either off her head or barking up the wrong tree, or just barking mad :)))))).

The video only really gives you an idea of how the story gets put over and it does develop into more of a song as it progresses along. Paul Dews makes a fine story teller and apart from the noise effects he recites the first part of the story unaccompanied over the first 1 minute 55 seconds. From here on he is accompanied by the piano and other elements of instrumentation such as orchestration, percussion and the odd touch of slide guitar in parts gradually come into play with how it all builds up. It also features his other half Emma Gee whose voice works very effectively panned across the speakers at around the 4:26 mark for a few seconds.

Most of the words are presented with Dews spoken voice right up to the 6:42 mark where the drums kick in to drive it all home in the way of more of a song. It’s very clever how it’s all so well built up for the transitions to take place and once again it’s does have a Steve Hackett feel about it and also features a very TASTY! Hackett like guitar solo from 7:34 – 8:04. The drums pound in harder for the final stretch to drive it home and it ends off very well with the final words unaccompanied quite abruptly to end off side one of the album. I also like how you hear the crackling of the vinyl and his other half asking him if he’s going to put the other side on and do want a cuppa tea? To which Dews replies YES! and no doubt he loves his cup of tea :))))).

Woman Screaming At Trees” is an excellent piece of work and a GREAT! track with a masterful build to it all. I also noticed that on the back of the CD it does say it has 2 parts though it does effectually work well as one long story portrayed with voice and singing vocals. Once again I also get an Halloween connection as I do with the 1st track and track 6. “The Crow” and that is also what gave me the impression that all of these 3 story tracks do have a concept connection. I would also consider it to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 5. Compression.

The needle is placed back on the record for side two of the album to commence and just like the first half of the album got off to a flying start so does the second side with “Compression“. This is my personal favourite track on the album. To be honest it was a very hard decision to make especially with the track coming up that’s about to follow it “The Crow“. If anything, this is one of the couple songs on the album that are the closest to the songs that was written for his debut album Easy Targets.

Track 5

Paul Dews made a video for the song in the way of a single release to showcase how the new album was coming along and posted it on his Facebook wall only back in April of this year. For the purpose of my review I did ask Paul if I could nick it from his Facebook wall and upload it to my own YouTube channel unlisted so you could get to hear the song for yourselves.

I like how the lyrics put you behind the eyes and the state of mind Dews is portraying with the character in this song. Here we are looking at a consummate liar who has the skill to lie both consistently and artistically in his profession which in this case he may very well of been an architect or the chap responsible in getting the work done that the architect has designed. In many professions they can present you with many ways of cutting corners and getting things done a lot cheaper. Though there can be many pitfalls in going about things this way especially when it comes down to durability with how long things will last.

Compression is the action or state of being squished down or made smaller or more pressed together. In medical terms it can also be a force on a bodily part such as compression of an artery by forceps or compression of the brain by the bones of a depressed fracture. Dispassion is an undisturbed state of mind that prevents one from being able to think clearly or make good decisions because of not being influenced by emotions and all of these things are tied to the character we have in this song.

In many ways the lyrics to this song reminds me a bit like how I see how the lyrics could possibly relate to in today’s world that Peter Gabriel wrote for the Genesis song “Get Em Out By Friday“. Now obviously Gabriel did write those lyrics pertaining to how they could make humans smaller genetically in the future and fit twice as many people in the properties they built. Another money making scheme and to many conniving greedy bastards in this world money is all they can think about, and where they can cut corners, they will to make it. In some way the words that Gabriel did write all those years ago have come true if you look at the way things have become smaller in another light.

I first noticed this a few years back when the council in my own town decided to knock down many of the houses around the area  I live in to make way for new regeneration plan they had put into operation. No doubt the Winkler called upon all those who owned and had brought their houses from the council and offered them a measly sum on top of what their houses was worth to move out. The counsel tenants were offered 5 grand to move into smaller properties such as tower block flats and maisonettes. Once every one had moved out in the designated areas, they intended to build new houses and after they had bulldozed them all to the ground. They did in fact nearly build twice as many houses on the same building site. Honestly, they were like dolls houses and you could not sling a cat in the things :))))).

Both musically and vocally “Compression” is as good as any song on the Easy Targets album I think the only way it would stick out on that album is down to how it does have more guitars than any track on that album. Both the acoustic and electric guitar work on this song is GOLD and worked in with the keyboards and everything else it works a TREAT! It’s a song that has GREAT! progression throughout it all and both the lead guitar and keyboard solos are quite AWESOME! with how they work with each other and run along in unison with one another. It very much merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. The Crow.

Track 6

The albums self-titled track to which “Black Bead Eye” is contained in the lyrics and was used for the album title. This song relates to the Corvid and if you never spotted the Steve Hackett influence earlier on you will soon spot it here, especially if you are familiar with the Genesis song “Blood On The Rooftops” that Hackett & Collins wrote for the bands 1976 album Wind and Wuthering. Although this song does not contain the same melody on the nylon guitar to that particular song, the sound and GORGEOUS! job Dews has done and his playing certainly gives you the impression of Hackett playing the piece.

It’s quite a lengthy 2-minute intro that has bags of chord progression and movement and goes through a few changes before the vocals come into play. Supporting the nylon guitar we have some orchestral flute, harp, and mini moog over the first 90 seconds which brings in another change with the electric guitar and keyboards for 15 seconds and then the 12 string acoustic comes into play and and introduces the main melody to support the vocals that enter in at the 2 minute mark.

This video shows you just one of the main melodies on the nylon guitar that enters at around the 44 second mark of the intro. It really is a beautiful piece and so skilfully played and he posted this rough take of it on his Facebook wall in July 2018. He titled this small part of the larger piece ‘Corvidance‘ and Paul told me it’s a piece that has been kicking around since 1984 and he has been playing it ever since. It makes me wonder how many other pieces he’s been playing over all these years that are still to be put out and see the light of day.

The Crow” is the second longest track on the album and over its 7 minutes, 36 seconds and it tells a short haunting and harrowing story about some chap coming face to face with a crow that to his surprise speaks and tells him his time is almost up which instils fear into the poor chap. It’s enough to make you want to stone the crows :)))))) but is interesting how the chap replies to the crow questioning its small insignificant tiny brain has to how it could possibly know that fate was upon him. So too is the crows reply.

The nylon, 12 and 6 string guitars feature very well throughout the story and it builds up very well and takes another path to present the final part of story adding more power with other elements of instrumentation that comes into play from 4 minutes onwards. The Egyptian/Moroccan orchestration that comes into play with the drums and bass remind me of Led Zeppelin’sKashmir” a bit.

To be honest the way this song did transcend into the second part did take me awhile to get used to all the other things that Dews had put into it. In many ways they did seem a bit more minimalistic in relation to the GORGEOUS! acoustic melodic melodies we got over the first 4 minutes. Though they do work in building the piece up and taking the it somewhere else for the final part of the story.

Overall “The Crow” may not be quite the classic song “Blood On The Rooftops” that Hackett & Collins wrote for Genesis but that was something quite special. There is something that still niggles me a bit of the how the second part of the song was constructed, and I do feel that it needed that bit more to match up to the quality that the first 4 minutes presented us with. That is most likely why it never got my TOP SPOT AWARD! but it is without doubt a very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Bumsurfing.

It’s time for a complete change of mood and “Bumsurfing” is another song that reminds of some of the material that was wrote for Easy Targets. This is another one of those jolly bouncy songs much like how “Flowers From Burma“ from that debut album. Though regarding the instrumentation that was used for both songs there is quite a margin between the world of 80’s keyboard-oriented electronica to what we have here with this song. This song packs in a host of goodies in the instrument department and utilises the mandolin and ukulele superbly along with the bass, guitars and other goodies.

Musically the “Flowers From Burma“ was much more minimalistic and a lot more easy to construct in relation this song, though they both have some quirky percussion elements thrown into the pot to make them bounce along. For me personally it was the strong lyrical content I liked about the “Flowers From Burma“ that made it such a good song, whereas the instrumentation we have on “Bumsurfing” is much more to my taste. I also like the holiday carefree lyrics we have here too and they are quite comical. I noticed Dews had to get the kettle in there too :)))))).

Track 7

In some way a song like “Bumsurfing” may feel a bit out of place on album like this, but I was quite happy for its inclusion and it is so skilfully done and all well put over with the vocals. lyrics and bounty of instrumentation. It’s really GREAT! fun song.

Track 8. Giraffe.

Track 8

The final song is the shortest track on the album though only by 5 seconds did it merit that spot. I have to confess I have no idea whatsoever how the lyrics relate to the title we have here and even spent a good hour doing some research on giraffes and came up with ZILCH! The only logical explanation for the loving meaningful and caring lyrics must of come from some place he had visited and are what he visualized. They could of also could have come from a dream judging by the artwork he done above for this final track, or the work they are making here is a bit of a tall order :)))))).

There is quite a serene feel of sensitivity with how Dews delivers the fine words and it’s a lovely song that was structured and built up around the piano. It has some wonderful orchestration, bass and ambient Hackett like lead guitar supporting it all and a nice sequenced synth works well in the piece too. I also like how it washes it’s way in on the intro with the sound of the sea and seagulls, you can also hear Dews scribbling out something on a sketchpad, he might be carving out his next masterpiece or sketching out the picture above whilst he is sitting in a field by the sea. This subtle and serene song ends off the album in GREAT! style and closes the chapter of another GREAT! album he has very well crafted out here.

Summary…

To sum up Black Bead Eye by How Far To Hitchin I would certainly say that this album is more along the lines of prog rock in relation to his debut album Easy Targets. I think much of the material he wrote for this new album is very strong and I like the fact that there is more of a finer balance with the guitars and keyboards and that is where I personally feel it is better than his debut album in some respects. I think there is much more guitar work on this album too and it’s not so much keyboard orientated in relation to that debut album of his either.

To be honest when I weigh up all of those advantages that the album Black Bead Eye has presented to me, you would think that it has made me eat my words in stating that I do not think Dews could beat or even come up with another album like Easy Targets. Personally, I still stand by those words and for a guy who is more into prog rock and not a fan of keyboard orientated albums. It’s very unusual but that album still has something very special about it. It has too if it can do that to me.

When comparing the both albums I would say that much of the material on Black Bead Eye is more subdued in that it can be soft and restrained throughout many of its parts. The album Easy Targets does also have those qualities about some of its material, but it also contains more excitement I personally feel. I did say that it was a bit like a Greatest Hits album too, and it is an album where the material will hit you more or less instantly in relation to a lot of the material on his latest album that do meed more time to sink in.

But if you were to ask me what album should I buy of How Far To Hitchin? My answer would be simple just get them both. Simply because they are both really excellent albums that will give you plenty of pleasure and my personal highlights from the album Black Bead Eye are as follows: “Compression“. “The Crow“. “Queen Of Malice“. “Woman Screaming At Trees” and “Desensitised“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the Black Bead Eye. I would say its an album that contains a strong body of work and I cannot fault any of the material that was written for the album either. It’s also highly original material even if It does have quite a strong Steve Hackett influence in parts. I personally feel that it is a album that will sit well with many who are into prog rock and those who have a good taste for good music. It’s also an album that comes with a GREAT! production and you are without doubt getting quality for the buck. It’s very much something that will give you GREAT! listening pleasure for many years to come and an album I would highly recommend adding to your collection.

It will be interesting to see what Paul Dews comes up with for his next album. But whatever it is I am sure it will be without doubt another fine work of ART! He is working on a new album already but my guess it will be another couple of years at least before it materializes. To carve and craft out the music he makes it does take time and a lot of skill. Everything about this man is a work of ART! and no doubt I will be on the look out for his next creative adventure and I am pretty sure whatever he comes up with it will ROCK! my boat so to speak.

You can listen to the album for free or even purchase the album in the form of a digital or physical format from his website store page here: http://www.howfartohitchin.com/store

Warning: Compression can take your breath away and If you should happen to come across a talking Crow. Make sure your Life Insurance Policy is up to date.

Compression Takes My Breath Away, And Once Again I lose Control…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Queen Of Malice. 6:17.
02. Desensitised. 7:30.
03. Instant Gratification. 6:31.
04. Woman Screaming At Trees. 9:01.
05. Compression. 6:58.
06. The Crow. 7:36.
07. Bumsurfing. 4:58.
08. Giraffe. 4:53.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #122

Vanquisher – The Bob Lazar Story

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Introduction…

Matt Deacon is back with his project of The Bob Lazar Story and a brand-new album has finally surfaced after a couple of years entitled Vanquisher. The project is also back in full force and I was pleased to see the bass guitarist Mike Fudakowski has once again returned to the fold after 5 years. I particularly missed him on the last album Baritonia more so than on the EP Self-Loathing Joe but along with their power house drummer Chris Jago this is very much one very strong 3-piece outfit.

Vanquisher is the 7th musical release since Deacon and his project arrived on the planet earth and kicked off back in 2006 with the release of the debut album (Sic). That album and the other albums and EP’s that followed have been frying my brains out ever since I caught my first glimpse of a mysterious object flying over here in Birmingham England back in 2017. Upon further inspection I soon discovered that the object in question was a wooden stool, but not just any wooden stool and upon closer inspection I could see it had the remnants of food spattered all over it and had been on many adventures.

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The Famous Foodstool

Matt Deacon’s Foodstool took off from his garage in Liverpool, England many moons ago now but its adventures consistently live on and will forever continue to do so. The one thing you are sure to get with the The Bob Lazar Story is consistency all the way and the latest album Vanquisher presents us with the Foodstool’s biggest adventure to date. It’s always good to see a new release and it’s very rare you will get to see one every year apart from a couple of EP’s that got released back in 2014/15. I always get a BUZZ! and certain amount of excitement to hear of a new release from this project and because of the consistency you get with the music it never disappoints. So, let’s take a closer look into the latest album but as ever before we do, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very good quality well-made cardboard 3 panel gloss coated DigiPak that comes with a plastic tray with a hub fixed inside to hold and protect the disc. It comes with all the usual linear credit notes printed on the inside of the gatefold sleeve, a couple of photos and the album track listing titles are printed on the back of DigiPak.  Interestingly enough it also contains the reverse side of the coffee mug stain that was used for the front cover of the Baritonia album when you remove the CD from its hub. It’s also meant to be a striking portrait of Matt Deacon according to a recent interview he had with Kev Rowland, on the 12th of this month.

No expense has been spared on this release and due to the fact that I no longer collect vinyl this type of packaging very much appeals to me the most, simply because it replicates a mini version of the vinyl album. The other good thing about DigiPaks like this is that you are always guaranteed to get a gatefold sleeve which is something not all vinyl albums presented you with. DigiPaks like this will even sometimes entice me to buy an album all over again simply because they do look much better than standard plastic jewel cases and give a far better-quality presentation for your albums.

This is an excellent package and for the price of £11.50 inclusive of postage & packaging it really is excellent value for the money. I was also quite surprised to get it for this price being as it’s from New Zealand and was well surprised how fast it arrived too. I guess being that they are now signed up to Bad Elephant Records it’s most likely distributed internationally which is why it arrived so quick. Here in the UK I generally pay between £10 – £12 for a CD that comes in a Digipak so this price fits very well with my pocket.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by Roger Heal @WWGAMINGNZ. Heal is an artist who mainly does artwork for games and a few other things besides and is part of a two-man operation of Whistling Wizard Gaming in Christchurch New Zealand who create game apps for both the Android and OS platforms. Their game Hyper Crimson can be found in the Google Play Store. Art Covers

To be honest with its simplistic design that is very much the trend that is associated with The Bob Lazar Story discography (has you can see in the picture above) I thought that Matt Deacon had done the artwork himself. Though there is a lot more detail in the odd shaped red chilli pepper and it does pop out a bit more at you. All the other album covers are more 2D and flat in comparison apart from the EP The Silence of Perez de Cuellar which does project at you a bit more. Apparently, the chilli pepper on the front of Vanquisher is that shape for a reason and that will only be revealed on the next release.

The Album In Review…

Vanquisher by The Bob Lazer Story was released on the 9th August 2019. The album contains 16 tracks to which 15 of them are all instrumental and the only other track that is not, is a bit of ZANY! fun. The ZANY! and the instrumental side of things have always been a feature of this particular project and musically it can be a bit ZAPPA ESC! and that’s what really ROCKS! my boat about this project too. Deacon describes his music being ProgMathsyFusion and basically that’s down to the fact that the keyboards are programmed with a mouse on a computer and predominately he is a guitarist.

Like many of the albums and EP’s in The Bob Lazar Story discography they do tend to come with a lot of shorter tracks in relation to those over a longer length. The previous 10 track album Baritonia was the first release to feature the most lengthiest tracks, though the longest track in the entire discography can be found on the Self-Loathing Joe EP released back in 2015 and is entitled “Ezekiel II” to which is 8 minutes, 59 seconds. In general, most tracks can be anywhere from a few seconds up to around 3 minutes but what I like is how Deacon can manage to cram in a lot over a much shorter distance and that is very hard to do. Though I would like to see an “Ezekiel III” or even an “Ezekiel I” one day and that was such a GREAT! track.

The album Vanquisher comes with an overall playing time of 39 minutes, 41 seconds making it the longest album in the entire discography and it knocked the 2nd album Space Roots off its perch by just over a minute. I myself am all for the 30 to 40-minute album time slot simply because you can get to play more albums over that time slot in a day. I also always tend to play the older albums of artists in particular when they have just released a new album, and I had no problem playing all 7 releases of the The Bob Lazar Story twice over the other day. That’s something you could never do with many artists albums these days because they do tend to make them too long, especially bands like The Flower Kings who more or less give you a double album worth of material with every release.

The music is credited to both Deacon and Jago and it’s a combination that works really well and has been part of the process for some time now. They both originally met at a Music College in Liverpool, England in 1993 and played a few gigs together back then too. Over the years they both went their separate ways and left England Deacon moving to New Zealand and Jago to America and via Faceback in 2009 they caught up with one another again. Jago can be very busy with the much of the session work, musicals and live gigs he plays in with many different artists. He was even on tour with the singer songwriter Neil Diamond though due to Diamond’s illness that has come to an end more recently.

Basically, Deacon writes the music out and uses Logic to program the drums, he then sends the music over to Jago with and without the drums so he can get to work on it at his studios. Jago throws much of his thing into it and when it comes back to Deacon he will work on some further changes from Jago’s ideas with the drums which is why Jago is also credited to the writing. This short video shows you him working on one of the tracks in his own studios in Los Angeles.

This video and a few others were put out as teasers over the few months before the albums release on The Bob Lazar Story Facebook page. Chris Jago not only is an excellent drummer but he also teaches students and helps produce other bands in his own studios and has gone from playing gigs in pubs all the way to the to making it on the Broadway in New York and has played for many well-known artists and created a very successful career in music for himself.

This video of Chris Jago being interviewed by Dom Famularo in the Sessions Series last year gives you more of an insight into this man’s incredible journey throughout his successful career and is well worth watching. I enjoy this video series a lot on YouTube and have seen many really GREAT! musicians on it and Jago is very much one of them too. He really is the driving force behind The Bob Lazar Story and I guess the music that Matt Deacon presents to him does present him with a challenge and is why he likes being part of it. No doubt you have to be quite a skilful musician and would have had to put in all the hours learning your instrument to play the music that Deacon is presenting here, so now let’s take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Matt Deacon & Chris Jago. Mixed by Matt Deacon in A-Town. Drums recorded and mixed at Shabby Road Studios, Los Angeles by Chris Jago. Mastering by David Elliott. Cover Art by Roger Heal @WWGAMINGNZ. Design & layout by Brian Mitchell. Distributed by Bad Elephant Records.

Musicians:
Matt Deacon: Guitars/Mouse/Vocals.
Chris Jago: Drums/Screaming.
Mike Fudakowski (DM): Bass (Tracks 1,2,7,13,14).
Jacob Petrossian: Lead Guitar (Track 7)
Zeke Deacon: Vocals (Track 10).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The latest album Vanquisher in many ways tones itself down a bit more in particular in the electric guitar department and allows the space for for more keyboard work and even the acoustic guitar to put in more of an appearance sort of thing. I am not saying the electric guitar is completely missing and it still is utilised with its driving force. If anything, it’s been toned down in the lead department so it’s not going to bite your head off as much. The other thing I have noticed especially in relation to the previous album Baritonia, is that even though there are 16 tracks on the album it does not seem like a couple of minutes before your up to track 7 already on the album.

But everything of how the album Vanquisher flows and runs along still very much presents itself to you with all the exciting experience and enjoyment you can get out of an album like this. You still get all the odd complex time signature changes, plus all the diversity with the transitional changes that can go in other directions with the music, even over the shorter distance with how many of the tracks are so short. It’s this kind of sophistication that I have always loved about the music The Bob Lazar Story presents to you. In some ways it’s perhaps like being in a taxi going along many routes to get you to your destination, only the driver has got you there a lot quicker than most.

As I mentioned earlier in the introduction it is GREAT! to see Mike Fudakowski a.k.a Fud back and he is without doubt another very talented musician and such a GREAT! bass guitarist. With Deacon being busier over the past few years with his postman job and Fud doing other things was why he was absent on the last two releases. But he’s back now and he plays on 5 of the new tracks on the album.

This video shows you his skills on the instrument and here he is playing along to “Cogs in Cogs“. which is one of my favourite tracks from Gentle Giant’s 1974 album The Power and the Glory. I have to say he’s done a top job playing along to it as well.

The album also features a guest appearance for guitarist Jacob Petrossian who contributes a bit of lead guitar to one of the tracks. Petrossian was born in New Zealand though I think he resides in Melbourne Australia these days, to be honest I have never heard of him before but he was the founder of Christchurch metal band Awakened Inferno, co-founder of Australasian metal project Auraic. I snatched this short tasty video he did a couple of years ago from his YouTube channel of him doing a very tasty job of a solo to Dream Theater’sAnother Day“.

Matt Deacon’s son Zeke also once again contributes some vocals and apart from making all the music for this lot and himself to play along too, the only thing video wise that he’s been doing is eating chillies and it was too HOT! to post here in my review :)))))). So, without further ado let’s get back to the album Vanquisher to see how it has turned out as I take you through its tracks.

Track 1. Pongville.

The thing I like a lot about the music The Bob Lazar Story presents to you is that it can be very adventurous and even a 50 second piece of music like this can say such a lot with how it rolls and motors its way along dramatically. In my reviews in the past of this project I’ve often mentioned how the keyboards in particular that Matt Deacon programs do sound midi-fide especially on the older albums they can very much sound like the 8-bit sort of sounds you would find in old games.

Much of the music presented by The Bob Lazar Story as quite often had me visualising the music being suited to cartoon animation and games such as Grand Theft Auto for example. Some of the music has even had me thinking back to the days of the Tufty the squirrel road safety adds you got on the TV donkeys years ago. Even though the keyboards do sound more like the real thing and more realistic over the past few years, they still today can give me that same association with those sorts of things. To show you precisely what I mean I made a quick video out of 3 free stock video clips to run along to the 50 second piece of music we have here.

Deacon chose the name “Pongville” for the piece which is a reference to a rule in a game of cards he plays every week with some of his mates, he also chose to use the Stinky title in hope that some of his mates would buy the album when it got released. I myself chose the title of “Pongville Somewhere In Pleasantville” for the title of my video simply because the music does have a pleasing and pleasant aspect about it.

The way the music kicks in at the start with Jago’s drums and how quickly the pace is moving along gives you the impression of rushing and driving along to get to work, you can see how busy this opening is with the keys Deacon has programmed and how they are running along and how Fudakowski is working the bass into the piece. All of this takes a mere 14 seconds and when the end of the rush hour is over it makes way for the more free caring relaxed side of things in the day were other people are going about their lives with more of a lazy step or even half step with how the timing moves along at its slower pace, it also almost grinding down to an halt.

All of this gets very well portrayed with how the music presents itself to you, and this more care free relaxed style once again features all 3 musicians doing the business weaving in and out some magic with the drums, bass & guitar lines plus the keys. Then at the 43 second mark it brings in the last piece for the final 7 seconds where it changes its mood and quickens up a bit more to bring to you the conclusion of how so well it’s built up to this final climax. It’s as if it’s unfolding the mysterious object, I put at the end of the video with dramatics here and ends off in style quite an adventurous story. It’s also like it’s telling you a story.

A piece like “Pongville” may only be 50 seconds long but it’s certainly got plenty to say over that short distance. You might be impressed by how well Jacob Petrossian flew across his guitar on Dream Theater’sAnother Day” on that short video clip I posted of him. But I am just as well impressed by Matt Deacon’s guitar lines that are so well executed and blended in with this particular piece. The guitar work is DELICIOUS! and so too is the work by Chris Jago and Mike Fudakowski and they have all done a super job here. This is very much the same fusion you will hear with the likes of Brand X, Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant and many others and is all so skilfully and smoothly done.

With all that’s been put into the the 50 seconds here it’s a damn site more than most songs would have going in them over 5 minutes. You really have to give a piece like this more spins to appreciate and get to hear everything that has been thrown into it. It’s that bloody good that is has to be one of the contenders for the TOP SPOT! on the album.

Track 2. Eleven.

Well by the looks of the title we have here it could look like it jumped the queue so to speak but it was actually inspired from two things. The first being that Deacon cannot stand the series entitled Stranger Things. I have to confess I had to look it up simply because these are the type of series that are found on places like Netflix I never watch myself. I see this particular series in question has a character in it who happens to be called Eleven. The fact the piece is also played in 11/4 was the other reason he arrived at the title here.

You get an extra 1 minute, 5 seconds in relation to the first track on the album and the opening 33 seconds consist of Jago’s drums and Fudakowski’s bass building up the intro and the bass does provide the basis of the main theme whilst the drums keep it in the groove sort of thing. Then the keyboards come in and more of a melodic structure around the existing bass line helps give the piece more of a theme.

To be honest there is far less going on in this piece than the opening track on the album and it does more or less run along in a straight line, it is nicely built up though with the keys and the short stop break in the middle helps, so does the acoustic guitar which nicely ends it all off on the end. Overall, it’s a very cool thematic piece and works well on the album even placed at number 2 on the album and not 11.

Track 3. Eyes Only/Vanquisher.

Next up we have a 2-part piece done over 2 minutes precisely though I pretty sure the first part “Eyes Only” is only a short 13 second melodic intro that leads us into the albums title track “Vanquisher” which is meant to be seen as the battle. To be perfectly honest I had no idea what a “Vanquisher” was or what the word related too and very much had to look it up. The word pertains to a conqueror or a victor who is a person who goes into battle, the sort of person Alexander the Great was when he conquered Greece, Egypt and Persia way back in historical times.

Capture V_Fotor

A Bony Chap

Over the years the vanquisher has been portrayed in many mythical stories in comic books and films and seen as some kind of hero. It’s even been portrayed like this bony looking chap I have pictured above who is known as a Frostbrood Vanquisher. Come to think of it, the name is also associated with a brand of goggles you would use for swimming. I am sure there are many pictures I could of chose to portray the “Vanquisher” that fits to the title we have here including battling heroics brandishing swords and all sorts, and this particular picture I chose does not fit to how I see how the music presents itself to me either.

To be honest I have no idea what sort of vanquisher Deacon was trying to portray here with the music, but for my ears what we have here is another superb piece of work that has plenty going on it. I think the closest I could describe the music here is that it sounds like we have all the fun of the fair going on some magic circus ride with a juggler battling it out on a chessboard. If I could have got hold of a picture like that, I would use it instead of the bony chap we have here :))))).

The whole piece easily works as one piece and goes through a plethora of transitional changes and time signature changes along its path. There is probably more going on with all the twists and turns you get over its 2 minutes here than what you would get in the full 95-minute Vanquisher movie starring Sophita Sriban, Nui Ketsarin. This is without doubt a MAGICAL RIDE! and both Deacon & Jago have worked their BUTT! off on it and it has to be a very strong contender for the TOP SPOT! on the album.

Track 4. Section 8.

Another short piece under the 2 minute mark and just like the opening track on the album this track is more of what you would expect from The Bob Lazar Story and this one is constructed with more of a familiar territory than the opening track with how it’s built up with longer melodic themes that it runs into. Unlike the opening track that is perhaps has more of a pattern play worked into its structure. Though I can easily visualize the same association of how it would fit to cartoon animation and games just as I can with most of the material in the discography of The Bob Lazar Story. It also has that mystical or mysterious way of portraying a space adventure story to you as well with the use of the keyboards and other melodic themes.

The piece kicks off with the drums rustling up the feathers so to speak and drives its force along with both the drums and heavy distorted guitar for all of 10 seconds. The keyboards work their way in the piece like solo spasms where everything else drops out at times allowing them to carve out fine melodic vibes that can reoccur in certain sections throughout the piece. The drums kick back in in several sections with the bass, guitars and keys all working their way in with them. In some parts the electric guitar is even replicating and working a saxophone into it all and there are some lovely acoustic guitar little sections that add melodically all too it.

It’s like building themes upon themes and that has always been a consistent part of this project and this particular piece is more familiar with the material you will find on all 3 EP’s The Silence of Perez de Cuellar. Ghost Of Foodstool and Self-Loathing Joe. I think because the last album Baritonia did try and go down other roads in some respects is why that album took me much longer to get into it. There is a certain magic that weaves its ways along so beautifully in pieces like this, it has the power to be raunchy, powerful, soft and very aesthetically pleasing at the same time. That is what has always appealed to me about this music and why it speaks a lot to me. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye sort of thing and it’s fused JAZZICAL! combination is purely a sophisticated TREAT! and this is another high contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 5. Project Top Secret.

The title of this next track could very well of inspired me to play practical joke and leave this space blank for it :))))). But of course I could never do that when music has something to say to me, and speaking of how much the music does have to say you would think that with this particular track being twice as long (even more so in some cases) would have a lot more for me to speak about. Well that’s never gonna be the case and every piece of music can present you with something that is either interesting or less interesting in parts and this 4 minute piece may be longer but that’s not to say it has any more put into to it to make it was it is.

Quite often longer pieces can have things in them to stretch it out a bit more, and in relation to many of the shorter tracks that came before this one they certainly did give me more to talk about. Just the opening 50 second track “Pongville” alone gave me plenty to talk about simply because there was more going on in it.

The interesting parts about this particular track can be found within the first 1 minute and 55 seconds of it. For example, the melody line Deacon is playing on the intro with his acoustic guitar does sound like that he has reworked the melody line around the same melody he used his electric guitar to replicate the saxophone on the previous track. I like how it also builds itself up slowly at first and meanders its way along with the drums. Even Deacon’s job on the bass works well along this opening section too with the keys.

Then at the 1:09 mark we get the most interesting part and this does remind me a bit of music that the medieval prog rock band Gryphon did for their magical instrumental album Red Queen To Gryphon Three back in 1974. Then at the 1:55 mark we get this drone that stretches out the track a bit to make way for the more rocked out section. This is perhaps where music does not really go anywhere else and is why it’s less interesting in relation to how it all so well started off. I am not saying it’s a bad track by any means, but for me personally I felt all the magic was contained in that first 1 minute, 55 seconds.

Track 6. Arps.

Too short to be a Gap Filler and at 6 seconds it’s perhaps too short to even be considered as an album track :))). It could be seen as running along into a little break through and at the end of the day it was just a fun little experiment that was effective enough to be included.

Track 7. Ambient Pedals.

Matt Fudakowski makes his 3rd appearance on the album and this is more of a rocked-out track where both the guitar and bass are more or less just pounding out the heavy power chords. Effectively this is more like a track to give to the drummer to beat the shit out of and Chris Jago does that very well on it too. I think the thing that puzzles me the most is the title that was given to the piece. If there were any ambient pedals used on this track, they were either flat or totally dead :)))))). maybe they forgot to put the batteries in the damn things :)))))).

I think the only bit of ambience you do get in the piece was at the beginning with the mellotron and it was that and the drums that I personally found were more of the focal point of interest on this track. It does also feature Jacob Petrossian on lead guitar though the poor chap is hardly getting a look in on a track like this and it’s a shame really because he is a very good guitarist. It’s far from an annoying track and I can easily go along with the flow here, though once again it’s not really saying a lot in relation to many of the other tracks on the album.

Track 8. Randoloftentimes.

Another little ditty that features Deacon alone having a blast on his electric guitar for all of 19 seconds. It’s perhaps more of a common associated thing you always get with this project of his and another little break before the album continues to run along with more of the proper album tracks.

Track 9. Is This Foodstool?.

FoodStool Pic

Well the title begs the question and the answer no doubt is YES! it is. Like I mentioned earlier Deacon’s Foodstool has featured on every release in The Bob Lazar Story discography and on this album, it’s getting a much bigger outing and is the longest track on the album weighing in at 6 minutes, 36 seconds. Over the 7 adventures (including this one) only once did the Foodstool get abused and that was when it landed in Germany back in 2012 on the album Space Roots where it appeared as nothing more than a little ditty just like the previous track. Only it got the organ treatment and was severely upset by the 24 second torture it had bestowed upon it. It was also the one and only time that the acoustic guitar never played a role in giving it the right vitamins to sustain it on its many journeys.

But of course, the acoustic guitar was not the only ingredient that made many of its adventures so adventurous and even though that may have been the only ingredient it got on its last outing on the album Baritonia it certainly got to go down more roads and avenues on other outings. It does on this outing for its first couple of minutes too and in many ways, this could be seen like some of the other lengthy tracks such as the 5th track on this album “Project Top Secret” for example which could be seen as a game of two halves. It’s not too unusual to see the second half being brought in or introduced with a drone either, and some work well for it whilst others could have been done a bit better by applying a bit more thought into the process of it all.

I have to confess that upon the first few listens of this particular track just like “Project Top Secret” it was only really the first half that was speaking to me the most. Though after more spins you can see how this track works quite well for its second half on the acoustic guitar. I think many who are not prepared to give this track more spins will write it off and miss out on the lovely flow and feel you get here with how it all ends off.

I think I should also point out that many of the lengthy tracks in The Bob Lazar Story project could be anything over 2 minutes because it’s those shorter tracks that certainly have a lot going on in them that make them work so well and stand out. It’s like I stated earlier on it’s a very hard thing to do and quite often there is more progression and changes in these smaller tracks than what you will find even in 20 to 30-minute prog rock epics.

I’m not saying that Matt Deacon is not able to sustain the excitement of his music over more time and make them just as interesting over a longer distance, because he certainly has done in the past and there is a track later on I will get to eventually where he does manage to do it superbly. But quite often he will go down the game of two halves with his approach that are over a longer distance and even tracks like “Ghost Of Foodstool” and “Ezekiel II” were very much constructed with that same approach. Only on both of those tracks it was his other half Tanya Didham who added another element to them and kept them interesting in the second half by adding words and a voice. Also not forgetting the voice of David Biedny on the first of those tracks as well.

Effectively that is why those older tracks worked so well and were easier to grab hold of you than this track will at first and will take further listens. I would also say that both of those older tracks are pretty much firm favourites of mine as well and they did merit the TOP SPOT AWARD! on the EP’s they came from too. But I would very much say that “Is This Foodstool?” is a contender for this albums TOP SPOT! and it’s another GREAT! album track.

Track 10. Tony.

A good bit of fun and a very convincing little comedy sketch put across by Matt and his son Zeke. Tony is more than likely still in the woods somewhere in Baritonia;))))). To be honest as daft as a comedy sketch like this might sound being stuck on an album like this, I think the acting skills here are entirely convincing and it’s been very well recorded and captured very well with the recording. I would even go as far as to say the acting performance was worthy of an AWARD. Though not the album TOP SPOT! award and I will leave that to those at the Academy Awards at the Oscars to judge :))))). 

Track 11. Restroom.

Another little ditty and I suppose after all the laughter you got from the previous sketch you might need to relieve yourself by paying a visit to the rest room. Though you might have to juggle your way to get the toilet to take a leak judging by the fanfare the two of them are rolling out here.

Track 12. Goodbye Victor Tripaldi.

There is no doubt many of the titles for the tracks in The Bob Lazar Story project can have some weird yet interesting titles and it often amazes me how Matt Deacon arrived at them in the first place. Though I have seen him at times on his Facebook page touting around for strange titles and many of them do come from suggestions of those who participate. However, the way he arrived at this title is quite a fascinating story and it came about when he happened to notice that one of the admins of the Progressive Rock Fanatics group on Facebook was being abused by one its members who happened to have the name of Victor Tripaldi. Because of all the abuse the admin banned him from the group and Matt just happened to leave a comment saying “Goodbye Victor Tripaldi” and suggested it would be a good name for a band. His comment got over 20 likes hence the reason why the title wound up here.

Goodbye Victor Tripaldi” very much has all the right twists and turns you would expect from The Bob Lazar Story and there is some GREAT! acoustic and electric guitar work from Deacon particularly in the first section and the keyboards he’s programmed also do the BIZZO! Fudakowski is back on bass once again doing a GRAND! job along with Jago on the drums and all 3 are working their magic into the piece. Even though this piece is only 2 and half minutes long it still is a bit like a game of two halves and also has that familiar drone to bring in the second part. Much of the last part is also where they bring down the excitement of the magical ride on the fairground, though the fairground organ does make a comeback as they build it all back up for the climax ending and you can hear Chris Jago’s appreciation right at the end with his one of his screaming YELPS!. It’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT! for me and this is a ride you would not want to jump off in a hurry.

Track 13. Hooves & Broken Biscuits.

As I mentioned earlier in my review of “Is This Foodstool?” regarding how Deacon can sustain the excitement of his music over more time and can make them just as interesting over a longer distance, and this is a track where he does so MAJESTICALLY! This 4.5-minute piece of work is very much my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Snapshot000006_Fotor

The title was chosen by Deacon’s pal KD (stan) Baxter who also came up with the title of “In The Woods With Tony Iommi” for the last album. Though I do think it’s a really good title, I personally do not see it bearing any resemblance to the music we have here, and if anything, the music certainly has more of a seafaring feel about it and is more like travelling on a voyage across the sea. This is the final track on the album Fudakowski plays on and all 3 of them are really progging it out over some very fine cross-styles, it really is a masterful piece of work.

The piece starts off with a choral mellotron which is quite majestic and runs into much of what you would expect with how it meanders itself along for the first 1.5 minutes. it does also remind me a bit of “Ezekiel II” from the Self-Loathing Joe EP here too and in many ways, I wish this piece went on as long as that 9-minute epic too, and it could of also of been an “Ezekiel I” or “Ezekiel III” as well.

Then we get this section between the 1:25 – 2:02 mark that puts me in mind of the sea and does have a Gryphon feel about it. Even Chris Jago’s screams remind me of Brian Gulland from that band. The next section that runs between 2:02 – 3:34 very much puts me in mind of the band Focus and this is really GORGEOUS! stuff the guys are playing so well here. To top it all off they go and raise the notch and deliver a KICK-ASS! ending and boy can these guys play or WHAT! I should COCO! and this track is PURE BLISS!

Track 14. Two For The Rest.

A lovely melodic piece to bring the tempo down from its boiling point to simmer along and cook on a slow heat. This track features some lovely slide guitar and subtle guitar lines from Deacon and it’s a bit like being away on a holiday island soaking up the sun and relaxing a bit over the first 2 minutes and 20 seconds. As it fades down nicely with the vibes of the electric piano it introduces itself again by fading in with an acoustic piano and changes its mood to more of military pace with Jago’s drums switching from a smoother more subtle pace to more of a roll. The guitar introduces another fine melody to drive it home and they both do another excellent job of it.

The title comes from an oft repeated phrase at the at the shipping port where he works as a cargo handler and if the ship has finished loading, they sometimes opt to keep two guys on the wharf and send the others home. It’s another fine piece and one I really cannot leave out as being a contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 15. Operation Full Klinger.

The title refers to an operation plan that Deacon had dubbed the name with; he also told his old work mates of his plan at the time which was a plan he devised so he could get his redundancy from his old job to which the extra-long hours were driving him mad. So, he pretended to go crazy and it paid off for him in the end. It’s the second longest track on the album weighing it at 5 minutes, 31 seconds though 2 minutes and 3 seconds of it are given to what sounds like a whirling flying sorcerer out of control. It also disappears so that you do not get to hear where it crash landed :))))).

The opening 35 seconds of the piece present you with the familiar music you would expect from The Bob Lazar Story and its sort of like you are hustling and bustling along your way through your daily routine. It’s a bit like going along the street feeling happy as Larry sort of thing. Then the following 15 seconds you get this mad rush as if you’ve just spotted something out of the ordinary that makes you want to run for your life away from it, and it’s at the 50 second mark that the out of control flying sorcerer makes it entrance and that sequence runs along up to the 2:53 mark.

In many ways the whirling twirling drone could be seen as overkill considering it goes on for 2 minutes and 3 seconds of the track. But what comes after it really makes up for it all and is enough to not let it annoy you enough and get on your TITS! so to speak. It’s precisely at the 2:54 mark that the music comes back into play and the section that runs from that mark up to the 4:37 mark does have a soft jazz like Focus feel about it, but it also reminds me of “Outside Now” from Act II of Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage especially with the way the guitar chords blend in subtly with the vibes from the keys and the way Jago’s drums have that slight echoing ambient sound of his sticks hitting the drums. The final 54 seconds feature a flying 2 counterpart synth solo and as it comes down it all fizzles away the ending off with a solo clavinet. it’s another really GREAT! track.

Track 16. Elvensnip.

Deacon winds up the last track on the album on the acoustic guitar and plays a nice little ditty over 2 counterparts. By the sounds of things, I think by now he’s put batteries in his ambient pedal and got it to work :))))). It echoes its way out very well indeed and puts the album to bed in fine style.

Summary…

To sum up the latest album Vanquisher by The Bob Lazar Story I would certainly say that I got everything I expected to get and more besides. Sometimes quality comes in smaller sizes and even though many of the tracks on many of the albums and EP’s of this project can be very short, they can still present with you more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose, an handlebar moustache, twisted candy, a classic thriller and aunty mabels knickers rung out with her bare hands rather than a mangle. The music speaks for itself and so do the skilled musicians behind it all.

I think with any album you have to take the rough with the smooth and not every track can be like a bed of roses, it’s also very rare many artists will make a solid album and those are more of the minority in most cases. I also think that no album can be thoroughly analysed and judged by giving them one or two spins either. Many of the rough edges will take much longer to iron themselves out, and if you can give them more of your time you will eventually grow into it and get to appreciate it much more clearly for what it is. The other good thing about all the music in discography of The Bob Lazar Story is that it’s relatively short. So, it should not present anybody from giving an album like this more spins.

Throughout my review here I have thoroughly analysed every track on the album by giving it my uttermost attention and giving the album many spins. I have pinpointed out all the good and the bad points on every track with how they honestly spoke to me. I can see room for improvement on some of the tracks for sure just as well as I can see improvement on the tracks of many other artists albums. I have always used objective criticism in my reviews in a way to try and get the best from the artists next release.

I would even like to think that it was my review of the last album Baritonia with how I felt that it was missing Mike Fudakowski that persuaded Deacon to get back in touch with him and bring him back for this release. But at the end of the day it is up the the artist themselves regarding if they take it into account objective or even subjective criticism in or not. After all any artist should really have the belief in their own music at the end of the day and that is what should matter the most, and my own views are that of one person alone and not how the music will speak to everyone else on that score.

The music behind The Bob Lazar Story is very sophisticated and complex and in many ways Matt Deacon is very lucky to have the likes of both Chris Jago and Mike Fudakowski at hand to call upon. You need musicians of this calibre to even make studio albums like this and they are both highly skilled musicians just as much as he is himself. The album Vanquisher packs in plenty for the buck and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Hooves & Broken Biscuits“. “Section 8“. “Eyes Only / Vanquisher“. “Is This Foodstool?“. “Goodbye Victor Tripaldi“. “Two For The Rest” and “Pongville“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Vanquisher by The Bob Lazar Story. I personally think the album is not a solid album but one that has plenty of strength with the biggest majority of the material that was written for it. It’s not an album that will suit everyone’s taste in particular with genre the music sits in, and for none musicians who are into more widely commercial popular music they will never see the sophistication of what it takes to make music at this level. But for those who are into prog rock and jazz fusion and are into the likes of Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Brand X, Gryphon and many more. I personally cannot see why the music of The Bob Lazar Story will not appeal to your taste.

The music does speak for itself and can say a hell of a lot even over a 50 second piece of music. The music may fit in with all those I mentioned above but it’s also highly original material done in very much the way they present it to you with their own style. This what makes The Bob Lazar Story unique and stand out. It’s why I am very much a fan of this music and I can honestly say that I get a lot of pleasure out of it and why I am always coming back for more.

The Bob Lazar Story has pretty much been consistent with every album and EP in their discography and it does have something I can take and get a lot out of. Albums do not need to be solid and are still capable of giving you plenty in the way of a return of what they cost to buy. and there is plenty of value and satisfaction for the buck I can take from the album Vanquisher. It is without doubt another truly GREAT! album and one I highly recommend you get your hands on.

You can listen to the album for free or even purchase the album in both Digital & Physical formats on Bandcamp here: https://theboblazarstory.bandcamp.com/album/vanquisher

Tony’s Come In Many Human & Alien Lifeforms And Can Easily Be Mistaken…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Pongville. 0:50.
02. Eleven. 1:55.
03. Eyes Only​/​Vanquisher. 2:00.
04. Section 8. 1:52.
05. Project Top Secret. 4:00.
06. Arps. 0:06.
07. Ambient Pedals. 3:05.
08. Randoloftentimes. 0:19.
09. Is This Foodstool?. 6:36.
10. Tony!. 0:19.
11. Restroom. 0:44.
12. Goodbye Victor Tripaldi. 2:30.
13. Hooves & Broken Biscuits. 4:32.
14. Two For The Rest. 3:49.
15. Operation Full Klinger. 5:31.
16. Elvensnip. 1:33.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.