Lee Speaks About Music… #208

Designed For Disaster – Yang

Introduction…

A couple of years ago back in 2019, I was approached by the French guitarist Frédéric L’Épée asking me if I would review his new solo album at the time entitled The Empty Room. Having had a good listen to it I was quite impressed by his guitar skills and the music on the album was not bad either which led me to take on the review which you can find here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/lee-speaks-about-music-119/

The Empty Room is very much an instrumental album and perhaps not an album that will set the world on fire so to speak. But nevertheless had some very good substance and touches on certain moods that were appealing enough for my ears. It also gave me enough to write about though that may very well have been down to the background behind the man himself.

Frédéric L’Épée has a long history in progrock as a matter of fact its that long that it stretches right back to when progrock was still in fruition with the band he put together Shylock. Over the years he has been involved in a number of bands and projects including his own solo career.

I have to confess that the band in question here Yang (which is still one of his ongoing projects) was perhaps the least impressive to my ears. Though back then when I wrote my review I only ever heard a single track by them and it was not from the latest offering they have here.

It was back in March of this year that I was approached once again by Frédéric who offered me a free digital download of the band’s latest album in exchange for a review. To be honest, since losing my wife to cancer at the end of last year my reviews have taken a back seat and I have not been able to spend the time I used to on writing them. I still have quite a few albums and box sets to review from last year so I was not sure I wanted to take on any more reviews right now.

However, I decided to download the album and give it a spin at least that way I would have some inclination as to if the album was worth reviewing or not. I can tell you that I was more than impressed and upon listening to the album I instantly knew that a digital download would not be sufficient and ended up buying the CD.

Yang’s latest album Designed For Disaster is the 4th studio album released by the band since it was put together back in 2002. Although I have only ever heard one track by the band before just by looking at the band’s discography I can tell that this latest album is perhaps a different breed in relation to what came before it. Though I must stress only really in the way that it contains one other element that their previous three albums never had. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see the CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which I do regard these days as the old fashion way of doing things in relation to cardboard Digipaks and Digisleeves that are my prefered choice. Nevertheless, it protects the disc well and they are cheap enough to replace if the case splits or gets damaged which is perhaps an advantage and something that could not be done with a Digipak or Digisleeve.

The booklet is only a gatefold or 4-page one that mainly caters for the lyrics with the production liner notes and credits printed on the back of the case. It does not come with any other useful informative information and in terms of presentation, it is a bit on the box standard side of things.

I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £13.04 which is on the expensive side although it is an import so its heavier price tag is perhaps to be expected. I would also suggest you use other online retailers such as Amazon in relation to Bandcamp where you could wind up paying anywhere from £22 – £30 depending on where you live which is well over the odds for the price of a CD.

Artwork.

The artwork and cover design was done by Jean-Christian Phillippart who incorporated characters from Bruno Mendonça’s “L’alphabet Imaginaire” which translates to “The imaginary alphabet”. I do believe they used some of the weird writing on the cover of their previous album The Failure of Words. Looking at the artwork itself it’s perhaps a bit obvious that this is no golden child especially if you take the title of the album into consideration. However, there are quite a few ways you can look at this and I think it’s quite good how the picture marries up with the album’s title.

The Album In Review…

The album Designed For Disaster by Yang was released on the 25th of February 2022. The album contains 12 tracks spread over and an overall playing time of 61 minutes, 55 seconds which is on the lengthy side but nevertheless, I think the material is strong enough to hold up over this distance. It’s not as if the band are putting out an album every year either and you would have to go back five years since their last album and they have only produced four albums since 2004.

Most of the tracks on the album are instrumental which is perhaps nothing unusual and to be expected from Frédéric L’Épée who is the brainchild behind all the written material and of the band. Practically every project he has been involved in apart from Lobotonics who churned out a one-off EP back in 2013 runs along the same lines, You could say he is a man of very few words.

However, for this album, he has written a few words and brought in a guest female vocalist who goes by the name of Ayşe Cansu Tanrikulu and this is that other element or ingredient that perhaps makes this album a different breed in relation to its predecessors. I have to say it works very well for it particularly in breaking up the monotony that many instrumental albums can often present to you.

To be honest instrumental albums are not really my bag and you have to be doing something very special to make them work. From a guitarist’s point of view, you really have to make the guitar do the talking and singing to make an instrumental track interesting enough to work which Joe Satriani certainly did with all the tracks on his second album Surfing with the Alien back in 1987.

The Snow Goose by Camel is another fine example of a good instrumental album in which they use more or less a classical structure where the music can be more diverse and take you somewhere else to make it interesting enough. The many other elements of instrumentation including an orchestra also add to keeping one attentive to the album. I could say the same thing about Mike Oldfield who also uses many other elements of instrumentation and the way he combines acoustic guitar with electric is also a key factor in making a good instrumental album.

For many years now L’Épée’s style of guitar playing has been likened to Robert Fripp in that he uses the same technique known as FRIPPERTRONICS! Now I am not saying that this technique is not complex but it’s absolutely pointless when it comes to making a guitar do the talking and singing.

I am pretty sure that if the King Crimson albums from In The Court of the Crimson King up to Red were all instrumental albums they would bore my socks off. They would have had more chance of doing such a thing much later when they had Adrian Belew in the band whose lead lines are very much more capable of doing the talking and singing.

Now I am not suggesting for one minute that the instrumental tracks on Designed For Disaster are boring and do not keep one attentive. To be perfectly honest some of them are quite mind-blowing but what makes this album work more than anything is the fact that there are vocal tracks and not just a couple of them. The way they have also been placed on the album is also very well thought-out and it shows that a lot of care and attention has been applied to this fine body of work.

I have no idea when Frédéric started to work and record the new material or what time frame was spent on it, but I would suspect it would have been over the last couple of years judging by a video I saw of the two guitarists playing the intro to one of the songs on the album. The material itself was recorded at various locations in Berlin, Germany with various recording engineers at the helm of it.

Apart from the bands debut album A Complex Nature, the lineup of the band has been pretty much consistent and only the second guitarist and bassist were replaced back in 2005. The current lineup has been together a good 17 years now and only the drummer Volodia Brice has been with L’Épée much longer has he also played on the final Philharmonie album Le Derner MOT back in 1998.

One of the things I did take note of in the musician’s credits on the album is that all four main core members of the band were credited with the word “Chorus” beside their main instruments. I can only presume that these are the backing or harmony vocals (as you can see them doing them in the picture above) it’s strange how the native language of other countries differs from my own. I must admit when I first saw the words I thought they all had chorus pedals 😊😊😊.

Musicians & Credits…

All Music & Fragemented Lyrics Written by Frédéric L’Epée. Produced by Markus Reuter & Frédéric L’Epée. Recorded at various locations in Berlin, Anthéor, La Turbie and La Ciotat. Drums recorded by Sebastien Caviggia at Le Cri de la Tarente Studio, La Ciotat. Vocals recorded by Benjamin Schäfer at Unsung Studio in Berlin Germany. Art & Cover Design by Jean-Christian Phillippart. Strange Characters by Bruno Mendonça.

Musicians.
Frédéric L’Epée: Guitars – Synth – Chorus.
Laurent James: Guitars – Chorus.
Nico Gomez: Bass – Chorus.
Volodia Brice: Drums – Chorus.

Additional Musicians.
Ayşe Cansu Tanrikulu: Voice (Tracks 1, 5, 6, 9, 12)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Designed For Disaster by Yang is not really a concept album although some of the tracks on the album may very well reflect upon the meaning behind the album’s title and how it ties in with the picture of the unborn child on the album cover. A lot of the inspiration behind the title and some of its tracks came from the adventure we have been through with Covid over the past few years.

As I mentioned earlier there are quite a few ways you can look at things with how the title and the picture on the album cover marry up, even the current ongoing war with Russia and Ukraine would tie in with things here. Many of the disasters in this world were brought on by mankind itself and you could say that much of mankind was designed for destruction and love and peace always tend to be put on the back burner or seat so to speak.

There are plenty of influences throughout many of the tracks on the album and no doubt with some of them the likes of Robert Fripp and King Crimson will spring to mind. In many respects, I feel that the vocal tracks bring something else to the table although once again I am hearing influences and I do feel that even the voice of Ayşe Cansu Tanrikulu is also influenced by somebody else to a degree. So let’s now dive in and take a closer look at the album as I take you through the tracks.

Track 1. Descendance.

The album kicks off with the first of five vocal tracks that are spread throughout the album. Its opening melodic lines on the twin guitars do put you in mind of Robert Fripp. However, when the drums kick in the heavier guitars that drive it along are much denser and along with Ayşe Cansu Tanrikulu’s voice it puts me in mind of Bill Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me but perhaps minus the man himself. Though that’s not to take anything away from Volodia Brice who is doing what is expected it’s just that Bruford’s style and sound on the drum kit are really one of a kind excusing the pun.

I would not say that Tanrikulu’s voice is entirely like that of Annette Peacock though there are certain attributes that have me thinking of her and it may be down to the attitude in how she delivers the vocals. Peacock’s voice is perhaps more TRIPPY! and far out and she really does sound like she is out of her head or from another planet at times 😊😊😊. But both have speaking voices and mannerisms in their vocal characteristics which is why I also get a resemblance between the two.

The guitar solo also puts me in mind of Fripp in particular with its sound and I must admit when I first heard this song the sustained synth sound sounded like it was going to go on forever and I found it a bit annoying. Thankfully it never and I did get used to it after a couple of spins. I am pretty sure L’Epée is using a guitar synth and not an actual synthesizer. Speaking of the lead break the bass lines played by Nico Gomez throughout it are quite impressive.

The lyrical content is pertaining to the connection with one’s offspring as the title of the song suggests and this might not be the case of wanting to be tied to their mother’s apron strings in some respects so to speak. I will say that the lyrics L’Epée has written are very well put into context even though they may be a bit hard to grasp but at least that way you can make your own interpretations of them which is the good thing in my book.

Track 2. Collision Course.

Things start to heat up a bit and the first of the seven instrumental tracks is one of the lengthier tracks on the album. It’s also quite CRIMSON-ESC! apart from the opening synth intro to which a sequencer has been used and some other diversions, it goes on as it travels along. Speaking of King Crimson it tends to borrow a few things from the “Larks” period though it also takes in some of the Adrian Belew eras of the band. I mention the Belew side of things with the way that Laurent James is feeding his guitar off L’Epée and mostly they are playing in unison with one another.  

It’s a track that motors its way along at a blistering pace and is quite menacing in the way of a FRENZY! This does tie in very well with the title and the music does fit the bill in that respect. No doubt the two guitarists are doing the BIZZO! but once again the work that Gomez puts into it with his bass guitar is very impressive. Even Brice is doing a STELLAR! job as you can see in this video of him playing the drum parts to the track on the band’s Tube Channell.

I see the video was also put out on the day of the album’s release. As a unit, the band are really on fire here and this is very much my personal favourite instrumental track on the album and a strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 3. Disentropy. 

Another heavy track though not quite the blistering pace as the previous one and this one has perhaps a bit more dramatics playing a part. It’s also verging on the heavier side of the material that Fripp & Co. put into the album Red. According to the form, the word “Disentropy” is a measure of order or certainty whilst “Entropy” is the opposite and is a measure of disorder or uncertainty. The dramatics I am hearing in the music has a sense of danger about it which I personally feel is more associated with the word “Entropy” which is why I chose of picture of discentropic tragedy.

Track 4. Interlude – Golem.

The first of three short interludes on the album and I have to confess that when I saw the word “Golem” I immediately was thinking of the character in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings although the word associated with that chap is spelt differently. The “Golem” we have here is an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish folklore which is entirely created from inanimate matter (usually clay or mud).

The music puts over the god-like monster quite well and even though I am not entirely sure it does sound like this piece might just feature L’Epée on his own. According to legend, the Golem is not all evil though quite often the end result will be destructive. Over the centuries, it has also been used to connote war, community, isolation, hope, and despair.

Track 5. Words.

This next track personally for me is the most disappointing track on the album. Considering it’s called “Words” they are perhaps words of nonsense repeated over and over and even more disappointing is the fact that this is one of the five vocal tracks. The musical side of things is CRIMSON-ESC! but once again very repetitive and it sounds like the whole thing is done on a continuous loop. It’s not unusual for King Crimson to come up with the same kind of garbage at times either.

I am perhaps being a bit harsh and things could have been better if they only went around once and kept it short like one of the interludes on the album. I can understand the meaningless words are also aimed at trying to put across or purvey some sort of monster like the Golem for example. However, I am afraid that the repetitiveness of it all was way too much and I have no further words for this one 😊😊😊.

Track 6. Flower You.

From the worst track on the album to what I would call the best, this is my personal favourite track on the album and once again it’s a vocal track that has very few words but at least the words here have meaning and a purpose. I know in the write up to the album that L’Epée quoted “I don’t want people to really follow the words and try to explain what is being said; it’s mostly to feel things.” and those words might very well have been aimed at the previous track. But if you are going to put words into any song they have to be there for a purpose.

To be perfectly honest most words in progrock don’t say a “Dickie Bird” to me because most of them are based on Greek mythology and other fantasies and myths and when it comes to progrock it is always the music that will come first to me and not the lyrics.

In Songwriter’s songs, it’s the opposite because in most cases it is the lyrical content and voice that will carry the song. Both songs that Don Mclean wrote back in the 70’s “American Pie” and “Vincent” are two prime examples of well-written Songwriter songs. Without words and a voice, you simply have not got a song and no instrumental track should be called a song either like many people so wrongly do.

Speaking of a voice Tanrikulu really shows that she has one in this song and not only does she sing but so does the lead work on the guitar and both the words and music pretty much make a statement which is what makes a GREAT! song. It’s also got a GREAT! melodic structure, even a mellotron as well and you can listen to the song here that the band’s record label Cuneiform Records posted on their Tube Channell.

Although the song does have very few words the contents of the lyrics here could easily apply to the Golem. However, when you look at the strange title it has been given and in particular the words “Unintentional destruction” you soon get to see that they have another meaning as in the picture I have chosen. The words we have here could also tie in with the album’s title and this could very well be the album’s self-titled track. It is for me the track that takes away the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Unisson.

Some of the titles on the album are in French as is the case of the one we have here and it’s not misspelt or an error. I am pretty sure that L’Epée’s solo album The Empty Room also came with English and French titles and one of the reasons for this may very well be down to that sometimes it’s hard to get the right meaning for certain words when translating them from one country to another. Although in the case of the title we have here I am pretty sure it’s fairly obvious that the word is “Unison”. 

In unison, the band certainly are and not only are the two guitarists feeding off one another and making up the melodic structure we have here that drives it along but the bass also joins in and makes up part of it and harmonises very well alongside it all too. Once again everything here is quite CRIMSON-ESC! in particular with the Belew era of the band and this piece meanders its way along at a nice steady pace. I do however feel that some of the lines we have here are too close and they may very well have overstepped their mark with the influence of the band.

Track 8. Interlude – Echo.

The second of the three interludes helps to break things up a bit and take us away from the CRIMSON! vibe of things. It’s quite a short and sweet little number and the shortest track on the album. It perhaps slightly echoes back to The Shadows even if it’s not quite like something they would do sort of thing and I guess the sweetness of it all has me thinking along those lines. Unlike the first interlude, the whole band join in on this one too.

Track 9. Migrations.

From the shortest to the longest track on the album and this is another of the better vocal tracks on the album. Like the opening track, this also puts me in mind of Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me, not just with the vocal side of things but some of the jazzy textures. What I like in particular about this song is how well they utilise the extra time and space to take it somewhere else, especially in the musical sections. 

The other thing I like is that we have some fine lead guitar lines instead of all the rhythmical structure which I often associate with FRIPPERTRONICS! This is another song that has been very well structured musically and once again the lyrical content is well apt to the title. It has bags of diversity and progression and is very much another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 10. La Voie Du Mensonge.

Another track where the title is in French and translates to “The Way of Lies” hence the picture I chose for this one is something along the lines of Pinnochio. Like the 2nd track on the album, this also puts me in mind of the Belew era of King Crimson and although this instrumental piece does not have the blistering pace of “Collision Course” it is, without doubt, another of the better instrumental tracks on the album I feel.

Track 11. Interlude – Décombres.

The final interlude on the album translates to “Rubble” and this is slightly the longer of the interludes with it being over the two-minute mark. Here the guitar is doing some noodling and clanging its way along as if it’s ringing out a sense of danger. There is a feeling of desolation to it all and it’s well apt to its title. I think it works well as an interlude but that’s about all. 

Track 12. Despite Origins.

The final track is mainly instrumental though like the 5th track “Words” it does have a few fragmented words to which they all join in putting them across. It’s not so nonsensical and is fitting to the title that refers to an act showing contempt or defiance. It also has a lot more diversity with its musical structure and once again is quite CRIMSON-ESC! in parts.

This particular track Frédéric dedicates to his friend Mathieu Broquerie, who was a former student and talented musician, who suddenly passed away on September 17, 2018. It puts the album to bed very well and I also see it as another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Designed For Disaster by Yang. It’s very much an album that has a voice and that is why this latest incarnation of the band speaks to me a lot more in relation to anything the band have previously done. Whilst working on my review I did spend some time listening to a lot more of the bands material from their previous albums and even watched a few live videos and I am still not that impressed at all by their previous works.

Yang is very much a band that does tend to be too influenced in particular by the Adrian Belew era of King Crimson. That is even how they come across when you watch them live. No doubt they are very good musicians but they don’t quite have what that era of CRIMSON! has and that is a voice. At least not until now and personally I think they need to make Ayşe Cansu Tanrikulu a permanent member of the band rather than just a guest vocalist.

It is her voice I feel that has brought something new to the table and in some respects led them to discover other avenues within the written material and take it away from being too overinfluenced by King Crimson all the time.

To give you an example of just how this band is heavily influenced by the Belew era of Crimson here they are back in 2018 performing “Massacre” from their second album Machines at Crescendo Festival in France. Now to be honest I quite like this track because at least it does have some lead structure and no doubt the band did a terrific job on it and the applause at the end was well deserved.

They also performed “Le Procès” from the same album at the festival and “Lago” from their previous album The Failure of Words (all of which can be found on their Tube Channel) and there is no doubt the band are doing a GREAT! job on these tracks. But they are too rhymical for my personal taste and are lacking what Belew brought to King Crimson and this is this band does not say a lot or enough for me to go out and buy their previous albums.

In my personal opinion, their latest album Designed For Disaster is by far the strongest output the band have put out so far and even though it’s not what I would call a solid album it does however on most occasions have the excitement to draw you in and has plenty of enough to offer. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Flower You“, “Collision Course“, “Migrations“, “Despite Origins” and “Descendance“.

A Disaster On The Right Collison Course…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Descendance. 5:27.
02. Collision Course. 7:24.
03. Disentropy. 6:07.
04. Interlude – Golem. 1:38.
05. Words. 4:29.
06. Flower You. 4:48.
07. Unisson. 5:18.
08. Interlude – Echo. 1:31.
09. Migrations. 10:39.
10. La Voie Du Mensonge. 6:19.
11. Interlude – Décombres. 2:16.
12. Despite Origins. 5:59.

The Packaging Rating Score. 6/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #207

Tokyo 1971 – Elton John

Introduction…

Having recently reviewed Davey Johnstone’s new album Deeper Than My Roots. I stumbled across this early live recording of Elton John in my email box courtesy of Amazon’s tracking system that likes to keep tabs on you and send out recommendations. Upon first inspection of the live album, it instantly occurred to me that this has to be either an unofficial release or a bootleg.

To be honest bootlegs I have always avoided and they are generally associated with poor quality recordings, not only that they do not support the artist and are aimed at ripping them off. For me to buy any recording it has to be of genuine quality and if the truth be told I cannot even stand listening to genuine mono recordings from many moons ago never mind what some idiot has recorded on a tape whilst standing in the audience at a live concert.

These days and for many years now it’s nothing unusual to see an independent record label getting the rights to put out certain recordings or even albums that were originally released by a major record label years ago. One example from back in 1986 was the British independent record label Castle Music. This was around the time the CD Player had come out and I was replacing my vinyl collection with CD’s and the band Black Sabbath particularly springs to mind.

Although a lot of the band’s earlier albums had been reissued (by the original record company) on CD around that time the album Sabbatage had not. However, it was thanks to Castle Music that it did get a CD release in that year and I actually picked it up brand new around a decade later in Poundland for a quid. The recording was not bad either.

To be perfectly honest I admire what a lot of these independent record labels are doing simply because there are still literally thousands of albums from many moons ago that have not been reissued on CD. When I look at what Michael J. Dutton of the independent label Dutton Vocalion is doing by reissuing Quadrophonic recordings from the early 70’s on SACD. It’s absolutely AMAZING! how in most cases he can give you two albums for the price of one and the quality of the recordings are OUTSTANDING!

One of the things that attracted me to this independent or unofficial release was the year and the setlist of Elton’s songs spread over the 2 CD’s. I’ve always loved this earlier folky period of Elton and before purchasing it I immediately popped over to Youtube to check it out and listened to the whole double CD. I was completely transfixed by the performance and afterwards shot right over to Amazon and popped the CD in the basket and it arrived the next day.

This particular edition I purchased is simply entitled Tokyo 1971 and has been remastered and was released in March this year on Wickerman Records. The concert has also surfaced on a number of various other record labels beforehand under different titles such as the examples below.

As you can see from some of the titles it was Elton’s first visit to Japan and it was only just over a year earlier that he made an impact at the Troubadour club in Los Angeles which really was the launch of his longtime successful career and set him on the road to stardom so to speak.

The title of “Madman Shakes Tokyo” that Moonchild Recordings gave it is also interesting and this is a concert that aired live some of the songs from Madman Across The Water five days before the album was released. The “Final Night” suggests that the concert was broadcast live on the final night of the six dates Elton played in Japan that year.

However, that may have not been the case according to this release that also goes by the same title and was released on the London Calling label in the same year and distributed by Juno Records. But before I go any further into it let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The 2 CD Set comes in a plastic jewel case with a hinged tray to hold both discs. The booklet is only a 4-page or gatefold one to which the liner production notes on the back page replicate what’s been printed on the back of the jewel case. The inside of the booklet contains 1-page of very brief informative information and a picture of Elton on the front cover of the Rolling Stone magazine.

I got my copy from Amazon UK for £11.49 which is a bargain for a 2 CD Set. I would have however prefered it in a Digipak or Digisleeve but at this price, one cannot really complain.

Artwork.

With what little information that comes with the double CD the person who assembled the photographs to make up the album cover has not been credited. To be perfectly honest I doubt very much if the photographs that were used to make up the album cover actually came from the concert in question. It’s also quite possible that the photo of Elton playing the piano on the front cover was taken in 1970 and the other photo much later around 1973/74.

The Live Album In Review…

Tokyo 1971 by Elton John was released on the 14th of March 2022. The double CD comes with a total of 20 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 119 minutes providing near enough 2 hours of entertainment. That’s quite a long concert especially for back then when if my memory serves me right most artists generally performed for around an hour and a half. These days it’s perhaps not that unusual for a live concert to go on longer and in some cases around 3 hours. I remember seeing both Gilbert O’Sullivan and Don Mclean a year later back in 1972 at the Odeon New Street in my own town of Birmingham, and I am pretty sure they only played for around an hour and a half.

One of the shortest concerts I ever went to come much later when I went to see Jean-Michel Jarre at the NEC Arena in Birmingham in 1997. He was touring his Chronologie album back then and doing a series of smaller indoor concerts. The show only lasted an hour and twenty minutes and there was no support act either. He even played one of the tracks from the album twice and I felt totally ripped off. Prior to that, I had seen him in London at the Docklands in 1988 and Wembly Stadium in 1993 where the shows were much longer.

I am sure for those like myself who enjoy the live album “17-11-70″ that captured Elton with Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson at the A&R Recording Studios in New York City this will be right up their street so to speak. What we have on this live recording runs along the same lines in that it is only those three musicians who perform the live concert.

The original vinyl release of that album soon went out of circulation back in the 70’s and was quite hard to get hold of and considered rare. I did manage to get hold of it back then in my favourite record store The Diskery who managed to get hold of a mint condition copy for me for £6 which would have been around twice the price of a brand new album back then.

One of the other record stores I used for rare records back then was Reddington’s Rare Records. Although they were well pricey in comparison and I did come across the album in very poor condition and they wanted £25 for it. It was even scratched. I never did like the people who ran that store much and I remember the very first time I stepped foot in the place asking them if they had anything by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald for my mother’s birthday.

They made a complete laughing stock out of me and told me they do not stock many 78’s. I was only about 17 back then and I had never felt so embarrassed in my life. I stormed out of the shop telling them why on earth do you advertise your shop has rare records. I ended up in HMV buying her a Shirley Bassey album instead.

Speaking of vinyl in 2017 an expanded version of the album was released on 2 LP’s entitled “17-11-70+“. It was released exclusively through independent record shops on Record Store Day when vinyl was making a comeback after it had become practically extinct not long after the birth of the CD.

This particular edition contains an extra seven songs from the concert which are as follows: Indian Sunset, Amoreena, Your Song, Country Comfort, I Need You To Turn To, Border Song, and My Father’s Gun. Still, to this day there has been no CD release of the album and even though I have a Digital Download of this expanded version that I managed to get for free I would still buy it if they did reissue it on CD.

There are times when record companies totally piss me off by doing exclusive things like this and I would not blame anybody for downloading a free copy from the internet. They only have themselves to blame at the end of the day and by doing such things they are encouraging more people to do so.

One of the other things that get my GOAT! up about a release like this is how it took all this time to get the exclusive rights to finally put out the full concert. I genuinely feel really sorry for all those fans who never lived long enough to hear it.

Getting back to this live concert it was Elton’s first visit to Japan and his brief visit served as an introduction and a way of promoting his forthcoming album Madman Across The Water before its release at the time. At this particular time, he was also still using the same touring band he had with him a year earlier and playing as a 3-piece outfit with only Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson behind him. Although Davey Johnstone played on that album he was only a session player at the time and did not join the band till the following year in 1972.

He only played a total of 6 nights in Japan before jetting off to Australia to play a further 7 shows and finishing off his world tour back in the UK. The first two concerts he played at the Kohkaido hall in Shibuya, Tokyo on the 5th and 6th of October 1971. He then left Tokyo to play the following 2 nights at the Ohsaka hall in Osaka before returning to Tokyo to play a further two concerts at the Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan Hall in Shinjuku on the 10th and 11th of October.

Many other artists and bands played at the same venues and it was popular with bands such as King Crimson and one simply cannot forget Deep Purple’s double live album Made In Japan which was also recorded at the same venues.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs were written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin except “Honky Tonk Woman” by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. “My Baby Left Me” by Arthur Crudup and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” by Dave “Curlee” Williams. From a live FM BroadcastRecorded at Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on the 11th of October 1971.

Musicians.
Elton John: Vocals – Piano.
Dee Murray: Bass Guitar.
Nigel Olsson: Drums.

The Concert In Review…

The near enough 2-hour concert more or less captures the whole live performance that Elton performed at the Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan Hall in Tokyo, Japan on the 11th of October 1971. Although according to the  London Calling release I mentioned earlier it was broadcast live on NHK radio on the 10th of October. This is not the case and you only have to listen to the concert itself to find out that it was the last night he played in Japan that year. Though it was most likely NHK radio that broadcasted the show though I doubt that they actually broadcasted the whole two hours.

The Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan Hall was situated in the complex building in the picture above which opened its doors on the 15th of April 1961. The hall was closed on the 31st of March 2010 and many of the public concert halls in Japan went by the same name making it very difficult to do any real accurate research on them. Though through my research of concert setlists I was able to confirm the dates and the venues Elton played at during his mini-tour of Japan.

As far as I can make out the venue he is playing here is the smaller of them all and although I cannot be accurate in my research I did come across a bit of information that suggested the seating capacity of this Kōsei Nenkin Kaikan Hall held around 1,300 people. But please bear in mind that this could be another hall under the same name and in a different place so I have no way of being accurate in my presumption. I do know that the Kohkaido hall in Shibuya, Tokyo he played held 2,300 people and the venue he played in Osaka was most likely a stadium and not a hall.

Even these days it’s nothing unusual for any artist or band to play at smaller venues and I can remember back in 1974 playing truant from school to try and get a ticket to see him at the Odeon New Street in my own town of Birmingham. He was playing 3 nights at the venue and all tickets had sold out within an hour. I never did get to see him until the early 90’s which cost me £60 for the ticket. It’s the most I have ever paid for a concert ticket and even though his voice was not like it was in his earlier days it was still a GREAT! show that he put on and one of the best concerts I had been to.

The recording we have here has most likely come from the soundboard on the mixing desk rather than a recording from the radio. Wherever the recording came from it is of excellent quality however the concert is hampered in parts by some technical issues that should have been sorted out beforehand. Though its nothing whatsoever to do with the actual recording. So let’s now get on with the show and see where they lie.

On With The Show…

If you’ve ever heard the full concert that Elton played at the A&R Recording Studios in New York City that was released on the “17-11-70+” version of the album that was released back in 2017. The way this concert runs along is more or less a carbon copy of that show (apart from the setlist) in that Elton rolls out a good few numbers on his own before the band comes on the stage to back him up. The original single LP of “17-11-70″ released in 1971 only ever contained songs with him performing with the band.

Thinking on it now as to why the show was longer than 90 minutes there is a reason for it. It was not unusual for Elton not to have a support act at his shows back then and he would often come on the stage by himself at many of his shows and play the support act slot himself. So now let’s take a look at the show we have here over the two discs.

CD 1.

The concert is spread over two CD’s and the first CD contains 12 tracks and has a total playing time of 57 minutes, 38 seconds. The first seven songs Elton rolls out are more or less unaccompanied and take up near enough 32 minutes of the show. This is my personal favourite part of the concert and some of these performances are real GEMS!

Elton kicks off the show with “It’s Me That You Need” and although he performed this song with Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson a year earlier at the A&R Recording Studios (which can also be found on “17-11-70”) this performance on his own is pure GOLD! Don’t get me wrong both live versions are really good and are of excellent recording quality. But if I had to pick a winner it would be this version it’s so close up and it’s like Elton is having an intimate relationship with his audience.

This song was actually the first single to be released on the Dick James Music Record Label with “Just Like Strange Rain” as the B-Side back in 1969. Why it was left off his debut album Empty Sky I will never know because it really is a lot better than most of the songs on that album. It was later included with his first-ever single “Lady Samantha” on the B-Side of “Honky Cat” in 1972.

Next up we have the classic “Your Song” and once again I feel this is a much better recording and performance in relation to the unaccompanied version done at the A&R Recording Studios a year earlier that was included much later on the “17-11-70+” release. I would also say that this is the nearest version to hearing Elton actually sing it like he does on the original studio recording a year earlier as well.

The way Elton sings and plays this song he does not need an orchestra as he had on the original studio version. The way he plays and arranges the song for the piano is like an orchestra in itself. I used to have another favourite live version of this song that was done much later in the 80’s or 90’s where Elton plays and sings it by himself. I think it’s very much the intimacy thing that makes this live performance something very special and I personally do not believe there is a better performance of the song than the one we have here.

This next song Elton introduces as a new song and “Rock Me When He’s Gone” was one of the songs he left off the Madman Across The Water album and one he gave to his old friend Long John Baldry to do something with which was released as a single by him in the same year.

It took quite a while for Elton’s original studio version to surface and it did not until 1992 when it was released on a compilation album entitled Rare Masters which was also released on the Dick James Music Record Label. To be honest I had never heard the song until I got this live album simply because I am not one for compilation albums.

It’s quite a good song and reminiscent of some of the more uptempo rock n’ roll songs he was writing around this time a bit like “Honey Roll” which was written for the Friends Soundtrack album in the same year. You can however see why it was left off Madman Across The Water and it would have never sat with the material that was on that album.

One of the things I enjoy a lot about this concert is that Elton is performing songs from all the albums he had put out up to this point including Madman Across The Water which was not quite released. “Come Down In Time” happens to be my favourite song from the Tumbleweed Connection album and was so glad to see that he included it here which he had not done at the A&R Recording Studios.

This is another song where Elton’s fingers on the piano work like an orchestra and once again shows that the orchestra was not needed on the original studio version. I very much think that even Sting recognised that when he chose to record the song for the Two Rooms Tribute album that was put out in 1991 to celebrate the songs of Elton and Bernie.

Elton goes back to his debut album Empty Sky next and “Skyline Pigeon” is perhaps the only real classic song from that album I also think the album’s self-titled track is another truly GREAT! song. To be honest I never felt the harpsichord suited this song that he used on the original studio version from that album and the piano was much more suited to it.

This performance of the song is perhaps no different to how he played and sang it much later at the Royal Festival Hall, London in front of her majesty the Queen back in 1974 which can be found on the Live Here and There album. For some reason, I have always prefered the version that he re-recorded with the band during the sessions for the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album in 1972. I cannot believe that after they did re-do the song that it was stuck on the B-Side of “Daniel“.

Elton then proceeds to roll out a couple of numbers from the new album that is about to come out Madman Across The Water and “Rotten Peaches” is the first of them, and it’s right at the end of this song that both Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray appear to lend some support with their voices. It’s also at this point that you can instantly notice that the backing vocals are in fact too loud and this is the technical issue I was referring to that needed to be sorted out before the concert began.

The good thing about it is that it is only at the end of the song where they come in so it’s not that bad on this song and Elton really does do a GRAND! job of the song with his voice and just the piano for most of it. I am even quite impressed with how he performed it without the drums and his voice is spot on to the studio version.

Thankfully Dee and Nigel leave the stage for the final of the unaccompanied songs in this part of the set to which Elton does quite a STELLAR! job on his own with “Indian Sunset” which is very much one of the highlights of the original album. It amazes me how well Elton can hold a note with his voice and he does so in this live performance of the song. You can tell that Elton got more to grips with the song on this version in relation to how he sang it at the A&R Recording Studios a year earlier.

The second part of the set is with the band and they are introduced individually by John Babcock who also confirms that this was the final night of the short tour of Japan. They then roll out another song from Tumbleweed Connection which is the opening track “Ballad Of A Well Known Gun“. The band are on fire with the song and even though the backing vocals are up in the mix they are not too noticeable in this song apart from a couple of “ooh, ooh’s” during the short piano solo.

Like the previous song “Friends” was also not performed at the A&R Recording Studios, as a matter of fact, he never performed the song much at all and it was not until around 1999 that he did after this concert. It really is GREAT! to have it included here. Although unlike the previous song the backing vocals are way over the top and even overpower Elton’s voice. Thankfully there are no backing vocals on “The King Must Die” and they knock this song out of the ballpark.

It’s back to Madman Across The Water album and “Holiday Inn” is another of my personal faves from the original album, once again Elton sings this spot on to the album. To be honest I am surprised how well this song has come out without Davey Johnstone’s mandolin at the end and to compensate for that an extra verse has been thrown into the song that I have never heard before.

No need to know if its Cleveland or Maine
Well the buildings as big and the rooms just the same
And the TV don’t work and the french fries are cold
Room service closed about an hour ago

Being has the words are having a stab at the motel this extra verse may well have been written by Elton himself knowing his sense of humour. Once again the song is hampered by the loud backing vocals but luckily enough there are only a few of them in the two chorus sections so it does not spoil the song too much.

The final song on the first disc is another GREAT! song from the Friends album and “Can I Put You On” was also played at the A&R Recording Studios both are truly GREAT! performances and quite different in particular with the pace of the song. This version is longer and faster and has more of a piano jamming introduction before the song kicks in sort of thing. Thankfully this version unlike the live version on “17-11-70” does not have Dee and Nigel joining in on backing vocals 😊😊😊.

CD 2.

The second CD comes with a total of 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 61 minutes, 4 seconds. Although it has fewer tracks and is slightly longer by a few minutes this is really down to Elton having a ball with a couple of songs that he did not write to wind off the concert right at the end. It does also include a couple of lengthier songs of his own material too.

Most of the songs on the second disc including the covers he also played at the A&R Recording Studios a year earlier and were on the album “17-11-70”. “Country Comfort” on the other hand (that is up next) was put out much later on the “17-11-70+” album and I have to say both the performance and recording quality are much better on the live version we have here.

To be honest, the version he did a year earlier at the A&R Studios I find very dry and in comparison to this version it’s almost lifeless. This version warms you to the song and oddly enough even the backing vocals are not overpowering and about right which is more than I can say for the cover of The Rolling Stones song “Honky Tonk Women” where the backing vocals are a tad too high and sounds like they are trying to do them like a woman 😊😊😊.

Thankfully it is a lot shorter version in comparison to how they did it a year earlier and I do prefer the version on the “17-11-70” album. However, they do things differently here which does make it interesting in a way. The backing vocals are also a bit on the overpowering side on “Border Song” that Elton rolls out next. However, I still prefer this live version to the one that found its way on the “17-11-70+” album.

One of the songs that were not performed at the A&R Studios is “Madman Across The Water” this was the first song that Davey Johnstone was brought in to sort out and the original version featured Mick Ronson on guitar. To be quite honest I quite like the original version because it is more like a band without the orchestral strings. Though I will say Ronson’s guitar is perhaps as overpowering as the backing vocals on this live album although it does rock it out a bit more. Though I personally think Johnstone brought more cohesion to the record and gave it precisely what it needed.

The original version was included on the Deluxe Edition of Tumbleweed Connection that was put out in 2008. I do believe it was also put out earlier as a bonus track on the 1995 Mercury and 2001 Rocket reissues. I also have a 5.1 mix of it that was included on the 2003 SACD. The live version we have here is a good three to four minutes longer than the extended original version which allows Elton to have a bit of jam on the piano in the middle of it. It’s very good though once again the backing vocals are overpowering and verging on the women’s side of things.

Thankfully “Amoreena” does not have backing vocals and like the version on “17-11-70”, this is another excellent live recording of it. I remember the first time I brought the Tumbleweed album back in the early 70’s this song had been pressed on both sides A and B of the LP and it was missing “Son of my Father” on the side A. It’s not the first time that happened to me either and I had the same thing happen with the album Benefit by Jethro Tull back then too.

It’s at this stage of the show that Elton goes into PARTY! mood and “Take Me To The Pilot” is the final song of his own that he performs and on this version, he even has a bit of fun with the lyrics on the intro by adding the words “you big pussy” to them. Likewise, there are no backing vocals and this is another solid performance of the song. Though I will say he is perhaps a bit more serious on the live version that can be found on “17-11-70”. He even has a bit of a jam on the piano with “Oh Susana” at the end.

By now Elton is in a complete jamming mode and with both “My Baby Left Me” and a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” he ends off the show with lengthy jams. The first is some 16 minutes, 49 seconds long though has both songs are combined they take up the last 25 minutes of the show. Both songs also allow Nigel and Dee to have their own individual spots and play in unison together without Elton.

To be honest I would have prefered him to throw in another of his songs like he did with “Burn Down The Mission” on the “17-11-70” album and at one stage I thought he was going to play that song. It’s also during both songs that Elton talks to the audience that confirming that this was indeed the final show and the 6th night he played in Japan.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Tokyo 1971 by Elton John. I would say that the concert we have here spread over the two discs is like a hidden lost treasure that quite frankly contains quite a few GEMS! Most of the GEMS! are contained in the first half-hour of the show where Elton performs the songs on his own. Though I am sure there are others done with the band as well.

Up until this point, “17-11-70” has always been my favourite live album by Elton and now I can honestly say I have another one with this latest release that Wickerman Records have put out. What you are getting here is a genuine quality recording and in many respects, I would say that the intimate side of things that have been captured on this recording brings out many of these songs better than the recording that was done at the A&R Recording Studios in New York City.

Don’t be put off by some of the reviews of this album that state that the volume is low in places and the backing vocals are out of tune. There is no doubt in my mind that there were some technical issues but those would have been how the mics were set up on stage in the first place to which both Nigel and Dee’s mics were set up louder than they should have been.

Regarding the volume levels, they are pretty much consistent throughout this recording that has been put out by Wickerman Records and the only places they are low is in between songs which are to be expected with a Japanese audience. The Japanese unlike most audiences have never been the ones for ranting and raving at the end of songs and sometimes you can even hear a pin drop in between them 😊😊😊.

It is unfortunate that the show has been slightly hampered on some of the songs with the loud backing vocals and that is the only real downside of this recording. There is nothing that can be done about that either because the source has come from a stereo recording that can only be remastered as they have done with this release. It’s not like a multitrack recording where you can adjust the levels to rectify things.

At the end of the day, one should be thankful that the recording is still intact and exists and the GEMS! on this concert way exceed expectations for anyone to simply ignore. Even though this is an unofficial release I very much regard it as an essential release and a must for Elton fans, especially for those like myself who enjoy this particular early period of his career.

In conclusion, I would say that the only reason why Elton never sought out trying to put out this concert himself was down to those technical issues and much later on he became a stickler for making sure the sound was right. I can even remember him throwing a tantrum over our Birmingham Symphony Hall stating that the venue was not built right for live music. Yet I have seen quite a few bands and artists play at the venue including the likes of Jethro Tull, Bryan May and Paul Rodgers and they certainly never had a problem with the place. It did not stop them from coming back later to play there either.

At its price point for 2 CD’s it really is a steal and is worth its weight in gold. My personal highlights from the show are as follows: “It’s Me That You Need“, “Your Song“, “Come Down In Time“, “Rotten Peaches“, “Indian Sunset“, “Ballad Of A Well Known Gun“, “Country Comfort” and “Amcreena“.

A Real GEM! Of A Concert…

The 2 CD Tracklisting is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. It’s Me That You Need. 4:08.
02. Your Song. 4:13.
03. Rock Me When He’s Gone. 3:51.
04. Come Down In Time. 3:23.
05. Skyline Pigeon. 3:58.
06. Rotten Peaches. 5:46.
07. Indian Sunset. 6:40.
08. Ballad Of A Well Known Gun. 7:24.
09. Friends. 2:32.
10. The King Must Die. 5:07.
11. Holiday Inn. 3:41.
12. Can I Put You On. 7:01.

Disc 2.
01. Country Comfort. 4:43.
02. Honky Tonk Woman. 3:50.
03. Border Song. 3:22.
04. Madman Across The Water. 11:47.
05. Amcreena. 4:53.
06. Take Me To The Pilot. 7:28.
07. My Baby Left Me/Jam. 16:49.
08. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. 8:17.

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #206

Deeper Than My Roots – The Davey Johnstone Band

Introduction…

Something completely different in relation to much of the PROGMATIC! music I tend to purchase the most and what we have here is a brand new album by Elton John’s longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone. I’ve always admired this guy’s guitar skills ever since he was with the band Magna Carta back in 1971 on their Songs From Wasties Orchard album. Although his stint with the band was very short-lived when the producer Gus Dudgeon cottoned on to the young Scottish man’s talent and Elton was struggling to get the self-titled track done from what was to be his 5th studio album (counting the Soundtrack album Friends) Madman Across the Water back in the same year.

It did not take long for Johnstone to sort that particular track out and he’s always been a quick thinker with his arrangement and writing skills he was soon hired and has been with Elton ever since. Although he was only hired as a session player for that album the fact that he brought a lot to the table was why he was made a full-time member by the time the next album Honky Château came which spurned the classic hit “Rocket Man“.

Over the many years he has been with Elton he has co-written many songs and has been his chief musical director with his arrangement skills. Johnstone is very much a string player and is not only a well-accomplished player of the guitar but also the mandolin and banjo. Both the mandolin and banjo were certainly well utilised on both the albums Madman Across the Water and Honky Château and many more.

I’ve always loved Elton’s earlier material and what I like a lot about the album Madman Across the Water is that there was never a single released from it when it came out and it is perhaps one of Elton’s least commercial albums he has ever written along with his 3rd album Tumbleweed Connection. I totally love his mandolin playing on “Holiday Inn” which was also used along with “Goodbye” later for the B-Side of “Rocket Man”.

In a recent interview with Johnstone, he spoke about his favourite times playing for Elton and they were very much when they became known as The Elton John Band. That all really started with the album Honky Château when they were a four-piece with Elton on keys, Davey on guitar and both Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums. It continued right up until the album Rock of the Westies in 1976 and being as he is a family man and all his offspring are all budding musicians it was that period of his longtime career with Elton that inspired him to put his latest album under the name of The Davey Johnstone Band.

You could say that his new album Deeper Than My Roots is a family affair although he has called upon a couple of musicians to guest on the odd track or two, including his old bandmate Nigel Olsson and the American drummer Denny Seiwell who formed the band Wings with Paul McCartney many C-Moons ago. To help out with the lyrical side of things he called upon another old friend actor and poet Rick Otto.

Most of the inspiration for the songs came from the 60s and ’70s and you could say that Johnstone was going back to his hippie days, especially with the psychedelic album cover. I think he’s always considered himself a bit of a hippie with the coloured shirts he often wears on stage but before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a gatefold Digipak and the good thing about the Digipak is that it is sturdier in relation to a Digisleeve or File and holds the CD firmly in place with its plastic tray and hub. I do however find the print on the back of the cover very small and if like myself you are getting on a bit you will need reading glasses to read it.

The 16-page booklet is also in very small print and is paper-thin though it is printed on glossy paper and comes with the usual liner notes and credits plus the lyrics. It does not contain any informative information but it does come with some good pictures that very much relate to the history of his musical career.

I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £11.49 which I see as good value for money and it’s around its right price point. Overall it’s a very neat looking package and the artwork just might be on the bright coloured DAZZLING! side of things but looks quite cool. You certainly would not have any trouble finding it either stored on the shelf with your other CD’s.

Artwork.

The album covers concept and design were done by his daughter Juliet Johnstone and I have to say she has done a smashing job of it and I am sure Davey is very proud of her. You can see by the pictures from the booklet below I pieced together how she’s captured her father’s musical career.

The way, the photos have been placed on each page of the booklet along with the songs and lyrics. It puts me in mind how Ian Beck did the concept design for Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album and I think Juliet may very well of drawn some of her inspiration from that album.

The Album In Review…

Deeper Than My Roots by The Davey Johnstone Band was released on the Spirit Of Unicorn Music label distributed by Cherry Red Records on the 4th of February 2022. The album itself contains 12 tracks (counting the two bonus tracks) and has an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 28 seconds which is a very reasonable time slot for an album making it a lot easier to digest.

The biggest majority of the tracks on the album are songs with lyrics although it does have a couple of instrumental tracks that Johnstone had written a good few years back whilst other songs were written during the lockdown period that prevented live music from being played due to Covid. It was down to Elton John having to suspend his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour which very much gave him the opportunity and time to work on new numbers and complete the album.

It must have took quite a while for the album to get released looking at the album cover and CD because it does have the year 2021 stamped on them both. Even though the album is tagged as The Davey Johnstone Band it could also be seen as his second solo album and it was almost 50 years ago back in 1973 that he released his first solo album entitled Smiling Face that was released on Elton’s own record label Rocket Records.

Judging by the photo on that album cover you can see that Johnstone has always liked to keep things in the family and the cover design for that album was done by his wife. I am pretty sure that the picture is of his oldest son Tam Johnstone though I could be mistaken.

Being on the road with Elton and working on many albums with him for the past 51 years has kept Johnstone very busy, too busy to find the time to work on his own solo albums which is why only a couple of albums from his solo career have surfaced over all those years.

However, during Elton’s Big Picture Tour back in 1997/8 he did find time to do a collaborative album with John Jorgenson who like Johnstone has played for many other artists including the likes of the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr., Barbra Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, Roy Orbison including Elton himself.

Crop Circles was released on Solid Air records back in 1999 and were part of the Groovemasters series. It’s very much an album of instrumental tracks that showcase the acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo taking in musical styles such as Bluegrass and Celtic folk music.

Getting back to the new album most of the material was recorded at Johnstone’s own home in California and at Kenrose studios by Charlie Johnstone and Major Wynne respectively. No commercial studios were used and most of the recording was done with the use of Pro Tools.

Most of the songs on the album are very much played by Johnstone with his family supporting him though as I mentioned earlier there are a good few additional musicians and singers who make an appearance on some of the tracks. The couple of instrumental tracks that were recorded much earlier are believed to be the last recordings bass player Bob Birch had played on before he passed away back in 2012.

Johnstone’s first encounter with Birch was back in 1989 at the end of one of Elton’s tours to which keyboardist Guy Babylon introduced him to him, and along with Babylon, Birch, Billy Trudel and Nigel Olsson they put the band Warpipes together and churned out a one-off album entitled Holes In The Heavens.

The album was released in the US on Artful Balance Records in 1991 and later on Bridge Recordings here in the UK in 1996. It was through Johnstone that Birch got to play with Elton back in 1992 when Elton never had a bass player for The One tour. The couple of instrumental tracks on Deeper Than My Roots are dedicated to the memory of his life.

It’s not the first time Davey has done anything with his siblings and back in 2013, he performed with Tam (Vocals & Drums), Jesse (Bass) and Charlie (Keyboards) at the Elton John Expo in Los Vagas. This amateur video that somebody had filmed captures them performing Elton’s “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own” at the small venue which was in one of the suites of the building.

Actually, the film footage is quite good although the camera that captured it could not really handle the sound and it is badly distorted in various parts throughout. It does however show you how well his siblings have come on as musicians and no doubt he must be very proud of them.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Davey Johnstone. All Music & Lyrics Written by Davey Johnstone & Rick Otto except tracks 4 & 9 Written by Davey Johnstone, Jesse Johnstone & Tam Johnstone. Track 11 Written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Track 12 Written by Davey JohnstoneCharlie Johnstone & Rick Otto. Recorded sometime during 2021 at Kenrose & Chel Johnstone Studios, California, USA. Recording & Mixing Engineers Major Wynne & Charlie Johnstone. Mastered by Howie Weinberg. Album Cover & Concept Design by Juliet Johnstone.

Musicians.

Davey Johnstone: Guitars – Bass – Mandolin – Sitar – Vocals – Synth.
Elliot Johnstone: Lead Vocals.
Charlie Johnstone: Keyboards & Vocals.
Jesse Johnstone: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Denny Seiwell: Drums (Tracks 1, 7 & 11)
Bob Birch: Bass (Tracks 4 & 9)
Tam Johnstone: Synth (Tracks 4 & 9)
Nigel Olsson: Drums (Track 5)
Major Wynne: Drums (Track 8)
Ben Babylon: Strings (Track 6)
Vanessa Bryan: Lead Vocals (Track 12)
Adam Chester: Additional Vocals (Tracks 8 & 12)

The Album Tracks In Review…

When listening to much of the material on Deeper Than My Roots I would say that the biggest influences are from The Beatles. He even chose to cover one of their songs and I would say the album is quite BEATLE-ESC! in places. Johnstone has always been a MASSIVE! fan of the band and I would say that most of the songs we have here hark back to the 60’s more so than the 70’s.

The album runs along the lines of rock/pop but don’t expect anything like “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” or “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting” for example. It’s very much more of a tamer affair where he focuses more on the melodic structure and guitar tones unlike a guitarist album that is more on the flamboyant side of things to showcase the instrument like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai would do sort of thing.

To put it in a nutshell it’s more straightforward and not over the top and focuses on doing what is required for the song to work so without further adieu let’s now dive into the album and the couple of bonus tracks and take a closer look at it.

Track 1. Go Easy On My Heart.

The album gets off to a fine start with its opening track and it’s quite a catchy and easy-going pop song that does have a BEATLE-ESC! feel to it. I would even say the lyrical content harks back to when The Beatles first started out in the early 60’s with songs like “Love Me Do” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in that it’s a love song sort of thing. Although the relationship here seems to be breaking down sort of thing and has Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones might have sung back then “I used to love her but its all over now” 😊😊😊.

I even think Davey’s youngest son Elliot Johnstone sounds like John Lennon on this song and I have to say he does have a GREAT! voice. Even his father’s backing vocal harmonies also work very well and the vocal side of things does fit the musical side of things like a glove as you can see and hear in the video that was put out by the record company to promote the album.

You can see they went to town on the video and really have done a CRACKING! job of it. Like the video, the song is also very colourful and I personally think the song does have all the qualities to make a potential chart hit. Though the fact that many band members hardly get any recognition in relation to most singers who are in the limelight such as Elton for example, I don’t see the song actually making a dent in the charts so to speak which is a shame really.

This is one of three tracks on the album to feature the EX-Wings! drummer Denny Seiwell on drums who does a GREAT! job even in his ripe old age. Seiwell has had quite a successful career and has played the drums for the likes of Billy Joel and Liza Minnelli in the past and played on scores for films such as Waterworld, Grease II, and Vertical Limit. His drumming was also used in TV shows such as Happy Days and Knots Landing.

Besides vocal harmonies, Davey Johnstone plays acoustic, electric and bass guitars on the song and you can see he’s kept things nice and simple and utilised his guitars to give it the right textures, tones and colourful balance to everything. There is nothing over the top here except perhaps his shirts in the video 😊😊😊. Though all jokes aside you can see why the record company would put it out cause it does have that single potential and is one of the stronger songs on the album.

Track 2. One Look In Your Eyes.

This next song is also very BEATLE-ESC! and like most of the songs on the album more of a family affair featuring Elliot (lead vocals), Charlie (keyboards & backing vocals) Jesse (drums) and Davey (guitars, bass & backing vocals). The song itself is perhaps more keyboard-driven leaving Davey with only really the rhythm side of things to do on this one. It’s also the keyboard side of things, the mellotron in particular that gives it that Beatles sound that was found on songs such as “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” from around 1967. Like those songs it also builds up from a slow start into something with more of an upbeat to it.

Track 3. Meh Amour.

The same family quartet feature on this next song to which the title has a Spanish ring to it though given that it’s spelt “Meh” and not “Mi” it perhaps rings out to the Portuguese side of things. However, I am sure the translation of “my love” in English works out the same. The song itself has more of a Latin laid back ballad feel and approach and gives Davey a chance to utilise his acoustic guitars a bit more. He also adds some nice subtle lead on the electric to blend into it all nice too.

It’s quite different to the opening couple of tracks and perhaps something more along the lines of Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour or something a bit more on the jazz side of things. I have to admit I had to check who was actually singing the song because it sounds like a woman is singing it and not Elliot 😊😊😊.

Track 4. Walt Dizney.

The first of two instrumental pieces was written a good while back whilst Bob Birch was still alive and it features him on bass guitar. The title was most likely inspired by it being more like Soundtrack music for TV and films sort of thing and sort of takes me back to Elton’s second double album Blue Moves from 1976. That was an album that also had a couple of instrumental tracks that run along the same lines of Soundtrack music “Your Starter For…” and “Theme From a Non-Existent TV Series” are a couple of prime examples.

This piece is not uptempo like those early Elton pieces and is much more laid back to which Davey is focusing on subtle lead lines and tones from his guitar. However, it does build up very well and gives him a chance to fly a bit at the end. Charlie and Jess are accompanying on the keyboards and drums respectively and his oldest son Tam contributes a bit of synth to the piece.

Track 5. Melting Snow.

This next song was inspired by a friend who knew he was dying of cancer and the lyrics very much reflect upon those circumstances which are once again very well put across sweetly by Elliot. The song also features Davey’s longtime friend Nigel Olsson on drums and regarding the lyrical content, Davey also felt it appropriate to throw in a bit of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns with the words “Ae fond kiss” which was also turned into a song and has been covered by many artists over the years.

It’s very much an emotional sad heartfelt ballad of a song as you can hear and see for yourself with the very first promotional single release that was put out by the record label. Besides some lovely picking on the acoustic guitar Davey’s bass also works wonders along with Hammond from Charlie.

Track 6.  You Lied To Me.

This next song harks back to the 60’s or even 50’s and is what you could call a rock n’ roll ballad of a song. The melody line played on the piano puts me in mind of “I Understand” by Freddie and The Dreamers and it also reminds me of some of the songs John Lennon was doing in the early 70’s. To be honest Davey’s lead guitar work on this does give it more of a 70’s feel and you could even think along the lines of what the likes of Showaddywaddy or even The Bay City Rollers to some extent were also doing in that decade.

The song is perhaps too heavily influenced by tons of artists that came out in the 50’s to the 70’s but nevertheless, they do a GRAND! job all the same and up till now this is perhaps the best lead solo Davey has played on the album. Besides the usual Johnstone CLAN! it also has some strings provided by Ben Babylon which were mostly likely played on the keyboard with the use of softsynth software.

Track 7. Deeper.

It’s back to the BEATLE-ESC! sounding numbers on the album and the album’s self-titled track digs deeper into the harmony side of things in that the vocal side of things is handled by a quintet. Singing along in unison with Elliot and Davey there is Nigel Olsson, John Mahon and Vanessa Bryan, of which the latter and female of the group does tend to get the most prominent part and you could say is perhaps the soul of this lot.

It’s the second song on the album to feature drummer Denny Seiwell and along with Davey, they handle the musical side of things. It’s quite a rocked up tune to which it is the harmonies that do give it that BEATLE-ESC! feel and I quite like how Vanessa’s voice gives it a nice soul gospel vibe with her GREAT! voice.

Track 8. Boxer In The Corner.

Another quite good ROCKY! number to which I dare say you could even associate that word with the title of the song being as it’s about a boxer. This song has more of a 70’s feel to it and apart from guitars, bass and synth it also is the only song on the album that Davey takes on the lead vocals himself and I have to say he does a very good job of it as well. It also features Major Wynne on the drums who engineered and mixed the biggest majority of the tracks on the album.

Helping out on the addtional vocal side of things is Elliot and Davey’s longtime friend and surrogate Adam Chester who he brings in when on tour with Elton rehearsing the songs for the set. One of the things Elton does not like doing when touring is rehearsing with the band so Chester is brought in because his voice sounds like Elton and is easier to work with the band at rehearsals.

Track 9. Black Scotland.

The second of the two instrumental tracks on the album and this one is also the longest track on the album and once again features the late Bob Birch whose bass really drives this one along with Jesse on the drums. It’s a piece that really motors its way along and the sort that would accompany you on the road. The title can be associated with black history and slavery although Davey got the title from a conversation with Little Richard who said to him after asking where he came from “man where you come from must be the black side of Scotland”.

Like the other instrumental piece, it was Tam who engineered it and once again contributed a bit of synth. Besides guitar Davey also throws in the sitar however, it is really Birch’s bass lines that go to town on this track and no doubt he is sadly missed.

Track 10. The Final Quarter.

From the longest to the shortest track on the album and once again this song also has a bit of a Lennon feel to it. It’s quite a subtle ballad of a song that features Davey on acoustic guitar accompanied by Elliot’s vocals only and the lyrical content is perhaps pertaining to not taking life for granted especially as far as breaking the rules are concerned. It winds up the main album very well as its closing track. Although the title may very well suggest, it’s not the end so to speak.

Bonus Tracks.

The album comes with a couple of bonus tracks to which I personally find a bit odd as to why they decided to call them bonus tracks in the first place. For example, it’s not as if this album came out a few years ago and this is a remastered reissue with which bonus tracks are commonly associated. In general bonus tracks are often made around the same time the album was being made and left off the album because they did not feel they sat in with the material that was written for the album at the time. They are also often used as B-Sides of single releases.

The first of the bonus tracks is a cover of The Beatles song “Here, There And Everywhere” and I can understand to a degree with it being a cover is why they used it as a bonus track. However, this was the very first song that Davey worked on with his youngest son Elliot and was the very thing that sparked off the reason for making an album with his siblings in the first place according to many of the interviews I have watched and listened to.

They do a fine job of the song, to be honest, and once again Denny Seiwell is the guy behind the drum kit. Though as with any cover I think the biggest majority are always going to prefer the original and covers are perhaps the hardest things to do any better than the original. I also think that being that most of the songs on the album are quite BEATLE-ESC! it’s not really out of place with the rest of the material on the album.

The second bonus track “All The Time In The World” was penned by Davey Johnstone, Charlie Johnstone and Rick Otto and is a very soulful meaningful song that features the GREAT! voice of Vanessa Bryan who really puts the soul and her soul into it. It is quite different to the other material on the album though I have to say this is a very well written song and not one that you would really use as a bonus track. It’s way better than that and one of the stronger tracks on the album.

This soulful song puts me in mind of somebody like Aretha Franklin and its musical structure was very much written around the piano to which I would credit Charlie with writing more or less the musical side of things we have here. You can hear it for yourself with the video that was made for it which Vanessa posted on her tube channel back in 2020.

It is, without doubt, one of the better-written songs on the album which I personally feel merits a lot more than being placed as a bonus track. It’s also not the type of song you would place on the B-Side of a single either and would easily sit more at home as the A-Side.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of Deeper Than My Roots by The Davey Johnstone Band. It’s an album that is perhaps most influenced by The Beatles, and along with other influences they give the album quite a bit of variety. The material is very well written however the downside might very well be that the album does not really give you anything new, and in relation to today’s chart music and a lot of the younger listeners, I fail to see how it is really going to really appeal to the mass majority.

Like I mentioned earlier it’s not an album that showcases Davey’s true potential on the guitar and is like I said quite tame in that respect. It does, however, showcase the talent of his siblings and that may very well have been his intention with this particular album, he is also obviously a very proud father who is dead proud of his family and who would not be.

It would not surprise me if you hear a lot more from his youngest son Elliot Johnstone in the near future who really does have a GREAT! voice. It’s something Elton immediately spotted haven spoken to him to congratulate him after hearing the album. Elton has always been good at spotting new talent and helping them on the road to success so to speak.

In conclusion of my review, I would say there is no doubt the album is very well produced and most of the material upon it is very bright and easy-going like most pop music. It’s a very pleasant album to listen to and there is not really a bad track on the album. It is however perhaps too overinfluenced in places for its own good which really begs the question of who will it appeal to?

The answer to that is simply people like myself who are into Elton John’s music enough to note the GREAT! musicians he has had playing with him over all the years. When Davey Johnstone joined Elton back in the early 70’s he brought a lot to the table much of which I admire a lot. The biggest majority of Elton’s songs are not about flying lead guitar solos as you will hear on “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” and are more about what is required to make the song work. Those are some of the attributes Davey brings to the table and are why he is very much Elton’s musical director.

In many respects, those are the same attributes Johnstone has applied to this new album and my personal highlights from the album are “Go Easy On My Heart“, “Melting Snow“, “Boxer In The Corner” and “All The Time In The World“.

Deeper In My Roots is not really an album that I would go running along to my friends to tell them about nor is it a GOTO! album amongst the many albums I have in my record collection. It does not really give you anything different to what you have already heard before. However, it contains a fine bunch of songs and is a very pleasant and colourful album to listen to. I certainly do not think I wasted my money on it either.

A Family Affair That Keeps Things In The Family…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Go Easy On My Heart. 2:51.
02. One Look In Your Eyes. 3:53.
03. Meh Amour. 4:08.
04. Walt Dizney. 4:49.
05. Melting Snow. 3:52.
06. You Lied To Me. 3:23.
07. Deeper. 5:00.
08. Boxer In The Corner. 4:01.
09. Black Scotland. 5:46.
10. The Final Quarter. 2:14.
11. Here, There And Everywhere [#]. 2:20.
12. All The Time In The World [#]. 5:11.

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #205

Pulse (Restored & Re-Edited) – Pink Floyd

Introduction…

Released back in February this year, Pulse is yet another individual concert release from The Later Years box set that Pink Floyd originally released back in 2019. I am pretty sure most fans of the band are still eagerly awaiting for the box set release of Animal’s to be announced whenever Roger Waters and David Gilmour can sort out their differences that is so one cannot really say. Although according to many rumours it is expected at some point this year.

One of the good things about individual releases from box sets is that it gives us poorer folk or peasants the chance to get our hands on something we want without having to sell a kidney so to speak. Although I have to confess that this particular individual package was far from cheap and it was originally released with a retail price of £49 which is well over the odds for a 2 disc box set even if they are blu rays. As a matter of a fact, many fans were hailing it as a RIP-OFF!

I have to admit that I myself was in two minds about whether to buy it and I nearly cancelled my pre-order on Amazon a couple of days before it was due to be dispatched. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fact that this is a concert I went to see at Earls Court, London back in 1994. So for me even though I had the concert already on DVD from years ago my particular interest was in how the concert footage had been restored and re-edited more than anything.

That was me back then sporting the T-Shirt after the concert on Saturday the 15th October 1994. The ticket cost me £22.50 as you can see on the ticket and I was even offered £150 for it outside Earls Court before the concert started. Do you think I would sell it? Not on your Nellie 😊😊😊.

That concert was one of the most spectacular shows I have ever been to and all the lasers, projections and backdrops were even more spectacular than seeing Jean-Michel Jarre live at the London Docklands back in 1988. It took years for the DVD to come out of the concert and when it finally arrived in 2006 I was quite disappointed. Basically, because there was no way the film footage could capture everything I saw with my own eyes at the concert.

To be perfectly honest my own memories of that show even still till this day have a lot more vision than the way the film was edited for the DVD and I prefer to live with those than watch that concert on DVD.

My major reason for buying this new release was to see if it was any better than what they had done regarding the editing of the show and if it could rekindle some of those finer aspects of the show I have installed in my own mind and memories. To put it in a nutshell, would this new version give me something I could actually watch and get something from? Well, before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

The two discs are packaged in a Gatefold cardboard Digipak the same size as a DVD and are more or less a replica of how they packaged the 2006 DVD. Only it’s also stored in a cardboard hardshell slipcase and on the spine of the case is the Pulsing LED light that was originally only ever put on the Double CD release back in 1995. Also included inside the slipcase is a 60-page paperback book that is mostly filled with pictures from the concert, it does contain the usual liner notes and credits but unfortunately no real informative information in the way of a written essay.

To be quite honest I was quite surprised how well they packaged this box set in relation to how both Floyd and Gilmour releases have been done in the past where the discs come in single cardboard sleeves and this is a much better presentation in my book. However, I will say that I am very disappointed with the 60-page book in which at least 70% of the photos appear to be out of focus and in my opinion are a complete waste of time putting them in there.

I pre-ordered my package from Amazon UK back in December and it arrived on the day of its release. I did manage to get it for £43 and I believe it has come down slightly to around £40 now most likely due to the lack of interest and its high price point.

Personally, I felt it should have retailed for around £35 and not its original £45 price tag it was on Floyd’s official website. However, overall I am quite pleased with the package and to give you a better glimpse of the package I made this video presentation to give you a closer look and my own thoughts about it all so to speak.

Artwork.

The new design for this latest package was done by Peter Curzon from StormStudios under the direction of Aubrey Powell (Hignosis). Curzon was also involved with original design along with Storm Thorgerson. The photography was also taken care of by Powell along with Rupert Truman. To be honest there is not a lot of difference between the 2006 DVD and this 2022 release when comparing the front covers of the Digipaks.

As you can see in the photo above the only real change is that the new version has the eyeball looking objects on the sea instead of on the beach. There is perhaps more of a change with the background on the cover of the hardshell slipcase where the objects have been put in the desert.

Pulse (Restored & Re-Editied) In Review…

This latest double blu ray edition of Pulse by Pink Floyd was released on the 18th of February 2022. The restoration and re-editing that we have here was done back in 2019 and was originally released back then in The Later Years, box set as I mentioned earlier. The later years does not really cover a lot of Floyd’s career when you look at it and even though it takes in the years between 1987 – 2019 I find it a bit of a farce. Simply because in reality apart from the time the band got back together with Roger Waters in 2005 to perform at the Live 8 Festival they have not really done a thing since 1994.

You could say they only ever produced 2 real studio albums between 1987 to 1994 because The Endless River was made up of leftover material from The Division Bell back in 1994. So even if it looks like you get a lot for your £350 or more in the box set above there is very little to interest me. As a matter of fact The Division Bell was the only album they made that spoke to me after the departure of Waters and it was that very album that made me go out and buy a ticket to see them at Earls Court.

Originally Pink Floyd was only scheduled to play 3 nights at Earls Court but because of popular demand and all 3 nights selling out within a couple of hours, a further 11 shows were added and that’s how I managed to get a ticket. Just 3 days before I went to see them on the 12th of October, less than a minute after the band had started playing “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“. The scaffolding stand on block 9 of the arena holding 1200 fans, collapsed, throwing hundreds of people 20 feet to the ground.

In total 96 people were injured, with 36 needing hospital treatment. Six were detained overnight with back, neck and rib injuries, but all were expected to make a full recovery. The show was immediately cancelled and re-scheduled for October 17th which was originally planned for a rest day for the band. Mr Smith the owner of the performance hall was fined by the courts to the sum of £108,971.

The concert was originally released back in 1995 on Vinyl, CD and Cassette and despite the much higher price of the double CD with its flashing LED light it still shifted many units and the album did extremely well reaching Number 1 on the album charts in 16 different countries.

It was also released on VHS Video and Laserdisc in the same year and the VHS video was the most popular format selling more units than any other format and even going 7 times Platinum in the US in relation to the album that went 2 times Platinum in the same country.

I myself much prefer a concert film in relation to any album when it comes to “Live Music” the only way I would ever buy a live concert on CD is if the concert was only ever released in audio-only. I have to admit that the VHS release escaped me though thinking back then there were a couple of reasons why it may have. The first being that I got fed up with buying concerts on tape and many of the concerts I brought on VHS like the Cassette wore out in no time at all and some of these things were sold at £20 a pop which was quite expensive.

The other reason why I may not have been interested in purchasing the VHS Video is that I knew that the DVD Player was only around the corner and was released here in the UK a year later in 1996. Laserdisc I completely avoided because it was way too expensive. The DVD Player also introduced Surround Sound and one of the things I noticed as I walked up to the entrance of Earl Courts Exhibition Hall on the day of the concert was that it had in huge letters “Pink Floyd in Dolby Prologic Surround”.

The birth of the DVD Player very much made me the surround FREAK! I still am today. It was a format that breathed a new visual and audio life and experience into watching live concerts, and even though it was bettered by the birth of the Blu Ray Player a decade later it is still the most used format for music concert releases today. Speaking of the Blu Ray let’s now take a look at the couple that comes in this package.

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Rays main menu on the first disc is very nicely animated and displays the desert background cover that’s on the hardshell slipcase of the package with the objects flying in and out and around it. It also has the eery sound of the wind of the desert running in the background. In my personal opinion, this is the best way you will ever see an album cover especially displayed on a large HD or Ultra HD Television screen. It’s pristine and brings out way more detail than any album cover could ever do.

The Blu Rays interface is very easy to navigate and comes with three simple options to choose from. “Play All”, “Tracks” and “Audio Set-Up”. Unlike the DVD release where the concert was spread over 2 discs along with the bonus content. This first disc contains the concert only so you do not have to change the disc. The second disc contains the bonus content only.

The main menu is also very fast and responsive and as you can see by clicking on “Tracks” in the two menus above it simply displays the tracks on one menu without having to load to another. The one thing I have noticed is that for some reason they have not included the last three tracks that were the encore. They are however included and not left out and the only way of getting to those is to either watch the whole concert or use the skip button on your remote.

Clicking on “Audio Set-Up” displays the audio options and here they have kept it simple with the choice of an LPCM Stereo mix in 48K/24Bit and a high-quality surround mix with 5.1 DTS-Master in 96k/24Bit. The surround mix is superior to the DVD and it’s good to see them do away with Dolby Digital which is really an inferior sound format.

The Bonus Blu Ray.

The Bonus Disc menu is also very nicely animated and displays the rolling waves of the sea with the objects flying in and out and around it. It also has the eery sound of the wind of the desert running in the background which I felt would have been better if they used the rolling waves of the sea. Though once again the menu is pristine and very impressive.

Here you have the choice of seven options to choose from “Play All”, “Music Videos”, “Pulse Tour Rehearsal 1994”, “Concert Screen Films”, “Documentary & Additional Material”, “Audio Only” and “Subtitles”. Once again the menu is very fast and responsive without having to load to another menu to display the bonus content. There is no audio option because all of the bonus content is in stereo only.

The “Music Videos” section contains three videos over an overall playing time of 18 minutes, 16 seconds and there is a slight difference in relation to the 2006 DVD that only came with a couple which were “Learning To Fly” and “Take It Back“. This new version also includes “Take It Back” but does not include “Learning To Fly” and instead you get “High Hopes” and “Marooned“. The latter of those two is in widescreen and high-res stereo of 96K/24Bit as it’s the 2014 version of the video unlike those done back in 1994.

Clicking on “Pulse Tour Rehearsal 1994” presents you with two different versions of the band rehearsing “A Great Day For Freedom” and you also get to see them rehearsing “Lost For Words“. You get a total playing time of 15 minutes, 49 seconds which is a lot more than the 2006 DVD they also come with a high-res stereo of 96K/24Bit. The rehearsals come from two different venues in the US to which the band rehearsed at the Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California on the 3rd of March 1994 and at the Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida on the 23rd of March 1994.

As far as I can make out “Concert Screen Films” are the same as what you got on the 2006 DVD. The only real difference is that here they come with a high-res stereo quality of 96K/24Bit and that they are all in one place instead of scattered around on the DVD. The other difference is that they also look visually more STUNNING! on Blu Ray. The total playing time of this section is 48 minutes, 21 seconds.

The “Documentary & Additional Material” is perhaps the most interesting section of the bonus material and although many of the same things that were on the 2006 DVD are included in this section such as the Tour Stuff, Pulse TV Advert and Stage Plans what we have goes into way more detail.

It contains interviews with lead technicians for The Division Bell Tour and has an overall playing time of 53 minutes, 37 seconds which is much longer than the 13 or so minutes that were allocated on the 2006 DVD. The audio quality is LPCM Stereo 48K/24Bit.

The “Audio Only” section includes a couple of live tracks from different venues. The first being “One Of These Days” recorded at the Niedersachsenstadion football stadium in Hanover Germany on the 17th of August 1994. The second of them “Astronomy Domine” was taken from their opening show of The Division Bell Tour at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on the 30th of March 1994. Both live recordings are in a high-res stereo quality of 96K/24Bit and sound GREAT!

The final section “Subtitles” gives you the choice of 11 different languages to choose from mostly from European countries but it also includes China and Japan. All in all the bonus material that comes with this package is very good, especially the documentary, concert screen films and couple of live tracks that are in audio-only. Let’s now take a look at the picture and sound quality plus the editing.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The original concert film footage that captured the band at Earls Court back in October 1994 was directed by David Mallet who had a crew of 17 cameramen on board to capture all the angles at the show. One of the unfortunate things is that the show was filmed with videotape and not 35mm film making any restoration extremely difficult and the chances of HD quality go entirely out of the window.

The other unfortunate thing is that it was not captured in 16.9 widescreen resulting in them still having to use the original square box 4:3 aspect ratio making it even more unsuitable to be put onto a Blu Ray that is designed for high-quality HD purpose in the first place. This might also suggest that you have just wasted your money buying the Blu Ray and you may as well have brought the DVD or stuck with the original 2006 DVD?

Well in answer to the latter part of that question regarding wasting your money on the Blu Ray it’s certainly not the case although apart from the sound quality it is possible that the new 2022 DVD release could produce the same picture quality played in a Blu Ray player with good upscaling. But then again considering that the DVD is only a couple of pounds cheaper than the Blu Ray I would personally recommend you get the Blu Ray because it will give you better sound quality with a LOSSLESS! audio format.

The restoration and re-editing were done by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis from the original tape masters and I have to say he has done one SPECTACULAR! job of it. Powell has always had a keen eye for photography and that might be the major difference as to why this concert has come up so much better. Many parts of the concert do look like it was filmed in HD and some quite pristine quality in appearance. The only thing I can put this down to is the light and lighting at the venue itself and that the original master videotapes were still in excellent or immaculate condition to work with in the first place.

You will, however, notice some grain in the darker footage where the lights are not projecting on the stage but that is understandable and overall I am well impressed. I am even more impressed by Powell’s work on the re-editing of the concert which really gives the concert an entirely new look parts in comparison to the 2006 DVD that was edited by Dave Gardener.

What Powell has done here is bring out everything larger than life, especially the musicians themselves and it really does in many places look like it was filmed in HD. He’s also utilised many different angles to achieve the excellent result and he really has gone to town on the video footage and it totally blows away the 2006 DVD to which you might as well throw in the bin 😊😊😊.

A typical example is this snapshot I took above from the blu ray of the chrome cymbal stand on Nick Mason’s drum kit from “On The Run“. I’ve watched the same track a few times over on both the Blu Ray and 2006 DVD and you will not even find that close up shot on the 2006 DVD at all. I will say that most of this track does use more of the same angles that were on the 2006 DVD but there are many others where different angles have been used and the picture quality has been vastly improved.

No doubt Powell must have put in loads of hours re-editing the video footage and he really has done a TOP JOB!. When it comes to HD quality it’s not up to the standards of today’s concerts that have actually been captured with HD Cameras so it’s never going to look as SPECTACULAR! or PRISTINE! as the quality of the US + Them live concert that Roger Waters put out back in 2020 for example. However, I do feel the work he has done is worthy of 8 out of 10 and I can actually enjoy this version of the concert a lot more.

The 5.1 Mix.

The sound quality of the new Blu Ray is a vast improvement over the 2006 DVD and this concert never sounded better. I am not sure if James Guthrie who was the original sound engineer has done new stereo and 5.1 mixes and it’s a bit confusing when reading the credits on this 2022 release and the 2006 release. For example, on both versions, it states that the music production was done by Guthrie and David Gilmour, although on the 2006 release it states that the 5.1 mix was done by Gutrhie & Gilmour. Yet on the 2022 release, it states that both the stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by Guthrie only.

It was most likely that no new mixes were done and it uses the same mix that Guthrie did back in 2005 for the 2006 DVD release. I would have also presumed that Gilmour only ever sat in as an overseer whilst Guthrie did the mixes and the reason why it sounds way more superior on the new release is down to the differences between the audio formats and the disc that were used.

Even though the 5.1 mix on the 2006 DVD offered you two choices of 448kbps and 640kbps sample rate resolutions to choose from. The fact that they only used Dolby Digital meant that the quality had really gone out of the window even with the higher sample rate. These days many of the top surround mixing engineers are refusing to use Dolby Digital and this can only be a good thing in my book because it really is the lowest of the low surround formats when it comes to quality and bringing out any real detail.

As I mentioned earlier the Blu Ray uses a LOSSLESS! audio format which means that the audio is not compressed so you are getting all the data that was in the original recording. The 5.1 DTS-Master 96k/24Bit is way superior and fluctuates between 28mbps to 38mbps bringing out every detail in the recording giving you the full immersive experience. It really displays how well Guthrie’s 5.1 mix was in the first place to which the 2006 DVD could not really bring out all the detail and is another reason why the 2006 DVD might as well be thrown in the bin 😊😊😊.

Musicians & Credits…

Directed by David Mallet. Produced by Lana Topham. Executive Producer Steve O’Rourke. Music Production by James Guthrie & David Gilmour. Concert Production & Lighting Designer Marc Brickman. Concert Screen Footage by Storm Thorgerson, Peter Christopherson, Ian Emes, Peter Medak, Fiz Oliver and Caroline Wright. Restoration & re-Editing by Aubrey Powell. Package Design by Peter Curzon. Package Directed by Aubrey Powell. Stereo & 5.1 Mix by James Guthrie.

Musicians.
David Gilmour: Guitar – Vocals.
Richard Wright: Keyboards – Vocals.
Nick Mason: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Jon Carin: Keyboards – Vocals.
Tim Renwick: Guitars – Vocals.
Guy Pratt: Bass – Vocals.
Dick Parry: Saxophone.
Gary Wallis: Percussion.
Sam Brown, Durga McBroom, Claudia Fontaine: Backing Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

Pink Floyd’s Division Bell World Tour kicked off in North America at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on the 30th of March 1994. It’s estimated that the band played to around 5.5 million people across 66 cities including the European leg of the tour and ended in Europe at Earls Court, London on the 29th of October 1994. In total the band played 110 shows and grossed over £150 million and at the time it was announced as the biggest tour ever. However, the record was short-lived as less than a year later The Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Tour topped it by taking in around £38 Million more.

It all sounds impressive and that the band made a fortune but when you count up what it actually costs to put on and promote a tour like this we are once again running into millions of pounds. Before the tour kicked off in North America the band had two airships made to promote the show. They also had another one made for their European Tour and had it flying over Battersea Power Station.

It also took a crew of 161 people and 53 articulated lorries to carry the 700 tons of steel for the new stage they had built. That alone cost £23,000,000. The European Leg of the tour was sponsored by Volkswagon and at every concert in Europe they gave away one of their top-selling cars the Golf that had Pink Floyd decals on it as in the picture below.

As with the 2006 DVD, the new restored & re-edited 2019 version captures the whole show that was filmed at the Earls Court Exhibition Hall on Thursday the 20th of October 1994. The concert runs for 2 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds including the end credits. I am pretty sure the venue back then had the capacity to hold around 18,000 to 19,000 people or even extra seating may have been put in for the 14 nights that the band played there.

Regarding the extra seating, I also could be getting confused with the National Exhibition Center in my own town of Birmingham and both of these venues were pretty much in competition with one another. Sadly the venue no longer exists and it was demolished between 2014 to 2016 despite many protests to save it and London lost another part of its heritage.

On With The Show…

The band get off to a CRACKING! start by almost playing the whole of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and play parts 1-5 and part 7 of it. Five days earlier on the night, I went to see them they actually kicked off with “Astronomy Domine” and then followed it up with this epic track from the Wish You Were Here album. They also have saxophonist Dick Parry who played on the original album with them and his sax features very well throughout the piece. No doubt this is one of the strong highlights of the show where even David Gilmour’s guitar gets to shine.

The band then roll out a six-song set from the post Waters years starting off with “Learning to Fly” this is perhaps one of the better songs from the A Momentary Lapse of Reason album and works very well with the laser projections and the lighting. It also gives Tim Renwick to play a couple of well TASTY! lead solos and he really is another excellent session player and guitarist who has worked with countless bands and artists over the years.

The video above was premiered on Floyd’s official Tube Channel back in 2020 and it gives you a good idea of how well the video footage has been restored and re-edited. Though you do lose some quality due to it being streamed and compressed on Youtube in relation to the blu ray. It still looks pretty good though all the same.

The band then turn their attention to their latest album The Division Bell at the time and processed to roll out three numbers from it starting with my personal favourite of the album “High Hopes“. They follow it up with “Take It Back” and “Coming Back to Life” then it’s back to their previous album as they roll out “Sorrow” and they finish off this part of the set with another GREAT! track from The Division Bell “Keep Talking“.

It’s all pretty much pre-post Waters material from here on and the band turns their attention to The Wall album and does a very good job of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II“. My second highlight of the show is up next with a classic song from the Meddle album and “One of These Days” rounds off the first half of the set in style and more than pigs fly on this one 😊😊😊.

The band kicks off the second half of the set by playing the whole of The Dark Side of the Moon album and this is the strongest highlight and my personal favourite part of the show. They always tend to find GREAT! female backing singers for “The Great Gig in the Sky” and Sam Brown, Durga McBroom and Claudia Fontaine do a smashing job on it. They also go to town on “Money” by JAZZING! and REGAEFYING! it up.

The band leave the stage and come back on for a final encore starting off with the self-titled track from their 1975 album “Wish You Were Here” which is perhaps the highlight of this final section. This gets followed up by another couple of songs from The Wall to which the first of them “Comfortably Numb” might very well be another highlight only I feel it gets murdered by the way the verses are sung and they really do miss Waters on this one. I cannot take anything away from Gilmour’s vocals on the chorus and  his guitar solos which are superb.

The band go out in explosive style with “Run Like Hell” as you can see from the video above and personally I think this is much better done here live than the actual studio version. This is another song where you really need Gilmour’s and Waters’ voices to pull it off though Guy Pratt has more or less got Waters’s vocal parts down to a tee and his bass work on this live version is much better than what Waters ever did with it.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of blu ray edition of Pulse (Restored & Re-Edited) by Pink Floyd. I have to say I am well impressed with the work that has been put into the restoration and re-editing of the video footage and they really have thrown some life back into this old concert. To be honest, there is not a lot you can really do regarding restoring old videotape footage in relation to 35mm film and if like myself you got the aLCHEMY Live blu ray by Dire Straits that was put out back in 2010 you will be able to see just how hard it is to try and work with old videotape footage.

Many people were well disappointed with that release and even though it had one of the top video and film directors working on the restoration (none other than) Dick Carruthers. The only real way I personally see it was worth putting that on blu ray was for the audio quality only and not the picture which turned out nowhere near as good as this concert we have here.

To be fair to Carruthers his task was a lot more difficult because that Dire Straits concert was filmed at the Hammersmith Odeon 11 years earlier back in 1983. The Hammersmith Odeon is also a very dark and dismal place (I can almost still smell the damp and mould in the place) and it’s not the best venue to film live concerts at all. He did however manage to restore some of the light back into that video footage but the grain is very intense and it is nowhere near the HD quality that is fit for the purpose of a blu ray, unlike the concert we have here which can look as if it was filmed in HD at times even if it’s was not.

I am pretty sure that where Aubrey Powell had the advantage of restoring the video footage for Floyd’s concert was with the lighting on the stage more so than the actual venue and that did help cut out most of the grain. His work on the re-editing is really down to his keen eye for photography as I mentioned earlier and he really has done a top job all around with this old concert.

In conclusion of my review, there is no way any concert on film can capture the atmosphere of being there yourself. Though if like myself you were there this newly restored and re-edited edition is by far the best version that has been put out. It leaves the 2006 DVD in the dust and both the picture and sound quality are superior to it. The 5.1 mix will even please Surround FREAKS! like myself to which it never really said a Dickie Bird to me on that old 2006 DVD. It really goes to show just how inferior Dolby Digital is in relation to DTS and an HD Uncompressed audio format.

I think even James Gutrhie himself will be pleased that his original 5.1 mix has now finally been brought out into the light and it really does give you a quite a GREAT! immersive experience and brings out much of the detail that was lost in it. I would even say that the sound more or less replicates the sound I can remember at the concert itself and for those who were at the concert, I do feel this new edition is a must.

The bonus material on the second disc is very good and well worth having and once again is a lot better quality than it was on the 2006 DVD. Plus you get a lot more of it as well. The concert screen films look GREAT! and I really enjoyed the documentary that goes into a lot more detail about what it took to put on a tour like this.

There are only really two things that are disspointing about this new release and the first would be it’s expensive price point. The second is the 60-page book (or booklet) that comes with it to which most of the photos are out of focus and do not really give any justice to those who took them. It would have been much better if they would have got rid of a lot of the photos and gave you something to read like a well good detailed written essay about the concert itself.

Despite it’s high price point I do feel a lot of work has been put into this edition and don’t really consider it a RIP-OFF! The package is very well made and and like I mentioned earlier should have retailed for around £35 to which I think is about the right price. Consdiering you can pick it up now for around £40 it’s not really that much over the odds to say its a rip-off so to speak.

It Still Breathes And Keeps Talking…

The Tracklisting for both discs is as follows:

DISC 1 – THE CONCERT FILM
1. SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND, PARTS 1-5,7
2. LEARNING TO FLY
3. HIGH HOPES
4. TAKE IT BACK
5. COMING BACK TO LIFE
6. SORROW
7. KEEP TALKING
8. ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL, PART 2
9. ONE OF THESE DAYS
THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
10. SPEAK TO ME
11. BREATHE (IN THE AIR)
12. ON THE RUN
13. TIME
14. THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKY
15. MONEY
16. US AND THEM
17. ANY COLOUR YOU LIKE
18. BRAIN DAMAGE
19. ECLIPSE

ENCORES
20. WISH YOU WERE HERE
21. COMFORTABLY NUMB
22. RUN LIKE HELL

DISC 2 – BONUS FEATURES
MUSIC VIDEOS
1. TAKE IT BACK 1994
2. HIGH HOPES 1994
3. MAROONED 2014

PULSE TOUR REHEARSAL 1994
4. A GREAT DAY FOR FREEDOM VERSION 1
5. A GREAT DAY FOR FREEDOM VERSION 2
6. LOST FOR WORDS

CONCERT SCREEN FILMS 1994
7. SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND PARTS 1-4,7
8. SPEAK TO ME
9. TIME
10. THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKY
11. MONEY
12. US AND THEM (BLACK & WHITE)
13. US AND THEM (COLOUR)
14. BRAIN DAMAGE + ECLIPSE North American Dates
15. BRAIN DAMAGE + ECLIPSE European Dates
16. BRAIN DAMAGE Earls Court, London Dates

DOCUMENTARIES & ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
17. THE DIVISION BELL ALBUM COVER PHOTOGRAPHY (Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK) 1994
18. PULSE TV AD 1995
19. THE DIVISION BELL AIRSHIPS 1994
20. BEHIND THE SCENES Interviews with the Lead Technicians for the Division Bell Tour

ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION 1996
21. WISH YOU WERE HERE with BILLY CORGAN

AUDIO-ONLY LIVE RECORDINGS
22. ONE OF THESE DAYS LIVE IN HANOVER 1994
23. ASTRONOMY DOMINE LIVE IN MIAMI 1994

The Package Rating. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating. 7/10.
The Picture Quality Rating. 8/10.
The 5.1 Surround Mix Rating. 9/10.
The Overall Concert Rating. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#204

A Song Of Spring – Tiger Moth Tales

Introduction…

Pete Jones is back with a new album and A Song Of Spring is either his 6th or 7th album depending on how you look at the Still Alive EP that he put out back in 2020. I would also say that the new album has more of a spring in its step so to speak especially in relation to the last album he put out The Whispering Of The World to which he was only accompanied by the piano. Not that was a bad album and if anything it was perhaps more of a meaningful songwriter’s album though I have to confess it’s perhaps not one of my GOTO! albums of his.

It appears that Jones perhaps has a fetish for the seasons and it’s not the first time he has chosen to write something about them. His 3rd album In The Depths Of Winter very much reflects on that season of winter and even though the album was not stripped back like his previous album and could be seen as a meaningful songwriter’s album. Likewise, I have to confess that is also not one of my GOTO! albums of his.

I think what it is about both of those albums is that they have more of a serious side given to the material that was written for them. They do not really allow none of his humorous side to shine through like it does and can do on his other albums. One of the first things I always look for when he puts out a new album is the titles and in general, you can usually spot the whimsical songs a mile off. For example when Jones released his 4th studio album Story Tellers (Part Two) back in 2018, both “Toad of Toad Hall” and “Three Little Pigs” instantly stuck out like a sore thumb.

Pete Jones is a man who has a big heart and can be a child at heart at times and his music can even instil and bring out the child in your own heart at times. His music even has the power to take you back to your own childhood days with songs like “A Visit To Chigwick” from his debut album and the many nursery rhymes he has done in the past.

The name Tiger Moth Tales he chose for his project can also reflect on why he will occasionally write songs around children’s nursery rhymes and there are times when I think this guy is a GENIUS! at doing such songs. His 4th album Story Tellers (Part Two) I actually saw as a return to form with the format that was well apt for his project name. It was a return to his magical sense of humour in many respects and it’s things like this I will often look out for whenever he puts out a new album.

There is one song in particular that sticks out like a sore thumb to me on this latest album of his to fit his project name like a glove. The question is can this latest offering also be seen as a return to form? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork per usual.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a cardboard gatefold Digisleeve that has die-cut pockets to hold the CD and the Booklet. The 16-page booklet contains all the lyrics and a few words of thanks printed on the back of it. It does not come with any informative information. However, there is a bit of informative information printed on the inside of the sleeve behind the booklet. The linear production and credits notes are also printed on the inside of the sleeve underneath the CD as you can see in the picture above.

Overall it’s quite a neatly presented package. I preordered my copy from White Knight Records and it arrived on the day of its release. It was priced at £12 plus £1.80 for P+P and I consider that to be a very respectable price and I have no complaints here at all.

The one thing I did however notice is that the wrong catalogue number has been printed on the spine of the sleeve. Though with the name of Tiger Moth Tales it is easy perhaps to see why the error occurred. White Knight Records is the sister of Tigermoth Records owned by Robert Reed. TMR is the abbreviation of Tigermoth Records which is generally used for cataloguing albums tied to that label. WK is the abbreviation that is generally used for cataloguing albums tied to White Knight Records and the number printed on the spine of this album is TMRCD0322 instead of WKCD0322.

Release Formats & Other Packages.

A Song Of Spring was released in the format of a Digital Download which is the cheapest way to get your hands on the album and is priced at around £8 on Bandcamp and other outlets such as Amazon e.t.c. The only other format is the physical CD priced at around £13.80 including P+P.

It was also released on CD with a companion disc entitled Spring re-Loaded as you can see above and this package is priced at £20 excluding P+P. One of the main reasons I opted out of this package is that the companion disc contains instrumental and alternative versions of the album tracks which is not really my bag. It also includes a couple of live tracks.

With the way Jones puts out many different bundled packages of his albums I dare say that at some point Spring re-Loaded will be made availble as a Digital Download for around £3 and available to purchase on CD for around a fiver.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by John Holden to which he also contributed a few lyrics to the album along with his wife Elizabeth. I think it’s well apt for the album’s title and just by looking how some of the trees are hoping about no doubt spring is in the air and in its step. It also puts me in mind of Lord of the Rings and it definitely ties in with Jones’s sense of humour.

The Album In Review…

A Song Of Spring by Tiger Moth Tales was released on the 4th March 2022. The album itself contains 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 28 seconds. Most of the written material is on the lengthier side of things so you do have quite a bit more to digest and let sink in here. Although I do find a lot of the material accessible enough to draw you into a few of the tracks immediately, it’s not an album that requires many spins for it to sink in sort of thing.

As far as I can make out from interviews with Jones, most of the material was written and recorded last year sometime between February to July. He had originally planned to get the album done by April to release it in springtime that year however he got a bit of writer’s block with some of the lyrics and it took him much longer than planned. In the end, he called on his old friend John Holden to lend him a hand. Jones contributed to Holden’s first three solo albums so I guess this was his way of paying him back sort of thing. Although the album was completed in July 2021 he decided to hold on till the spring of this year to release it.

Another old friend he called upon for one of the tracks was Camel’s legendary guitarist and composer Andy Latimer. Jones has been keeping himself busy with other projects such as Cyan who are not only doing a few live shows this year but it is also rumoured that they are working on new material for another album and turning it into another ongoing project. He’s also been working on a new album with Red Bizare that will most likely be out sometime in the summer and it’s believed that he will be back on the road with Camel in 2023 as they have planned another world tour.

Getting back to the new album in question in contrast to the winter which is one of the seasons, he decided to write about back in 2017. Spring is a season that reflects light and life and the material we have here very much touches on not just the more cheerful and brighter side of life but also the dark side in a way of bringing a sense of balance to the album. To be perfectly honest one of the tracks on the album touches on my own recent experience of losing my wife and having to come to terms with it all.

I lost my wife to cancer right at the end of last year in the darkness of winter and I can honestly say that I was left with the feeling that life no longer had a purpose for me to be here. That woman gave me the best 42 years of my life and it’s only just in the last couple of days in the middle of March where the air of spring is starting to feel warmer and the lighter nights are coming back that have really given me some sense and feel of hope again.

What we have here with this latest album is very much a collection of songs that are all related to spring so it’s very much a concept album about that season. I would also say it’s quite different with how some of the songs have been structured and it’s like he’s very much combined POP with PROG! to a certain extent to get where he is going and there is quite a bit of diversity thrown in here to boot. I would also say that some of the songs have quite a bit of SAX! appeal and that instrument does get very well utilised on this album more so than others.

Musicians & Credits…

Music & Lyrics Written, Recorded & Produced by Peter Jones except for track 4 Recorded & Produced by John Holden. Tracks 4 & 7 Lyrics by John Holden. Track 5 Lyrics by Elizabeth Holden. Track 8 Lyrics by John & Elizabeth Holden, Peter Jones. Recorded at Peter Jones home studio sometime in between February – July 2021. Artwork by John Holden.

Musicians.
Pete Jones: Vocals – Keyboards – Saxophone – Guitars – Drums – Percussion – Recorders & Whistles.

Additional Musicians.
John Holden: Keyboards & Programming (track 4 & Pad track 3)
Andy Latimer: Electric Guitar (track 8)

The Album Tracks In Review…

As Pete Jones mentions in the bit of informative information that is printed in the Digisleeve. A Song Of Spring is an album that he wanted to evoke the spirit of rebirth, renewal, light and new life. By throwing in the contrast of darkness touches on the darker and sadder aspects lurking in the background that take you by surprise. Which is how life tends to be after all.

Looking at the lyrical content it’s plain to see that just like the lyrical content that he wrote for In The Depths Of Winter they are very meaningful lyrics. Although for me personally it was the musical side of things that I felt was overcooked on that particular album and it was an album that I felt because of the length of some of the tracks there was a danger of SNOOZEFEST! creeping in.

Although A Song Of Spring is a good 14 minutes shorter than his third album, most of its tracks are panned over the lengthier side of things like that album. You do get the feeling that Jones may well have gone back to that album with how some of the longer tracks have been placed close together like that album which created some of the SNOOZEFEST! in the first place.

Though I will say that long tracks are a common factor throughout the Tiger Moth Tales discography and in general they bring out more of the PROGMATIC! elements to it all. So let’s now see how this album turns out as I take you through the album tracks.

Track 1. Spring Fever.

The album gets off to a flying start and races its way along in GREAT! style. It’s very much a song that crosses musical flavours and contrasting styles with how it’s been put together over its near enough 7 minutes. It’s perhaps a “FEVER” that one would not mind catching and it really does have a spring in its step so to speak. The way the song has been structured you could say it was synth-driven although the guitar also makes up the rhythmical side of things so it’s very much a combination of the two. Although personally for me it’s the saxophone that perhaps steals the show here and he really has done a TERRIFIC! job on the instrument.

Musically it has me thinking of PROGMATIC! bands such as Camel and Genesis but has it builds itself along it goes into more of a swinging soul-jazz vibe with a bit of funk thrown in and more popular artists such as George Benson and Stevie Wonder spring to mind. I think some of the saxophone playing on this track will even give Gerry Rafferty’sBaker Street” a run for its money.

An edited down shorter version Rob Reed posted on his Tube Channel to promote the album before its release. However, it’s unfortunate that the video does not capture the main sax section that brings it all to a MAGIC! climax so you really need the album to get the best out of this song.

Staying with the musical structure one of the key elements that give the song such contrasting styles is really down to how the couple of breaks (or come down) sections differ from one another. Basically, they are the same musical backbone structure only more has been taken out of the second section to allow the sax and other soul-jazz vibes to come into play.

For example, the first-come down that comes into play around the 2:40 mark after a nice bit of nylon guitar, has that touch of Genesis to it in particular with the guitar which borrows a few lines from the “Eleventh Earl of Mar” from their Wind and Wuthering album. It’s not that the first time Jones has used these lines either and you will find them on his 3rd album In The Depths Of Winter along with some lines from the album that followed it …And Then There Were Three… Whereas the second section is stripped right back to bass, drums and percussion to which the bass steps up the funk allowing for Jones to give the sax a blast and boy does it give it a GREAT! one.

The lyrical side of things is also all well apt to spring and are very well written detailed words. I can see that Jones never had writers block for this song and one particular verse that stands out to me, especially after all I have been through with the loss of my wife is thus:

“Don’t think about the things
That you can’t change
A Brand new start
Let your heart be reborn
Like the seasons, begin again”

This song for me sees very much a return to form from Jones it not only touches on the meaningful side of things with its lyrical content that we got on albums such as In The Depths Of Winter and The Whispering Of The World. But where the form returns in is in the musical side of things with it having more go to it and being much more to my liking. There is also perhaps a lot more influences here than I mentioned and it is, without doubt, one of the highlights from the album and a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Forester.

This is another song where POP! is combined with PROG! and strangely enough, the lyrical content or story we have here was also inspired by a member of a pop band none other than Stephen Gately the singer of Boyzone. Gately, unfortunately, died of an undiagnosed heart condition back in 2009 before he could finish off a novel he was writing entitled The Tree of Seasons and it was his partner Andrew Cowles who used his notes to finish it off. The story is actually quite different to the picture I chose here which is actually a moth that goes by the same name as the title. The book however, is more along the lines of a fantasy adventure that was perhaps influenced by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings sort of thing.

Although with how the song starts it does sound a bit like an acoustic pop ballad of a song the interesting thing about it is that it’s not verse and chorus structured. As a matter of a fact, the song does not even have a chorus and the words are portrayed or put across in verses that go through quite a few transitional changes along the way. So it is more PROG! than it actually sounds.

What makes the song even more PROG! and interesting is the actual instrumental sections and a nice little fast synth solo comes into play around the 2:38 – 3:31 mark. This is followed by a short acoustic section that puts me in mind of early Genesis and even though the song utilises an Irish whistle instead of a flute the first few notes where it comes into play put me in mind of the sweet part that comes into play in the “Apocalypse In 9/8” section on “Supper’s Ready” from the Foxtrot album.

The song also features a couple of TASTY! electric guitar solos and builds itself up quite well towards the end before falling back into another Genesis like acoustic section and gets rounded off nicely at the end too. It is without doubt another very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Dance ‘Til Death.

This next rather lengthy track weighs in at 10 minutes, 20 seconds and is the longest track on the album although the season of spring reflects life and light, Jones was looking for something darker to balance the album out a bit and for this particular song his inspiration came from Igor Stravinsky’sRite of Spring“. As with much of Stravinsky’s music, it was used for ballet and set to some bizarre story and the scenario behind this one depicts various primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring, after which a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death. Hence the reason for the title here.

Jones was perhaps more inspired by the story than the actual musical side of things though he may have used some variation of the music as an inspiration as well. I have to admit the piece starts off BEAUTIFULLY! with this delightful little ditty on nylon-stringed guitar and is a bit reminiscent of something that Steve Hackett would do on the instrument. You could even think with how this intro has been placed before the main track that it was inspired by “Supper’s Ready” though the outcome is entirley something else.

It is, without doubt, the most powerful track on the album and utilises heavier power chords on the electric guitar although I would say that the main section is more keyboard derived regarding the structure of the piece and the ending bit, in particular, is most likely programmed. The sax even gets utilised in the piece and it also has John Holden lending a hand with the use of a keyboard patch or pad. It also features a nice synth solo towards the end and for me personally, it is the little nylon-stringed guitar ditty at the beginning and the powerful ending that are the most interesting sections.

It really does build up to a powerful crescendo at the end and sounds like an orchestra having a FRENZY! I would even say it would rattle Simon Rattle’s cage with how powerful the ending is 😊😊😊.

Track 4. Holi.

According to an interview with Jones on Progzilla Radio conducted by Jon Dunnington, the only thing Jones does on this track is sing it. The musical and lyrical side of things was all taken care of by John Holden including the production. It’s very much a song that has a touch of the East and takes in Indian culture or the ritual of spring. Jones had always had a fascination with Indian music in particular with the Sitar that he used on “Tigers In The Butter” on his debut album.

Holi is a popular ancient Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Spring, the Festival of Colours or the Festival of Love that takes part in India on the 18th of March. It’s perhaps something that Holden was more clued up on has he had been to the festival in India and seen it with his own eyes. The musical side of things was all done on keyboards and programming most likely with the use of soft synths and samples. The lyrical side of things remind me of the sort of thing that Jon Anderson of Yes would write about and sing and Jones does a pretty good job of delivering the words in the way of a joyous occasion.

Track 5. The Goddess And The Green Man.

This is the shortest track on the album though only by a few seconds than the previous track. Musically it’s a bit like the material that was on his previous album The Whispering Of The World in the way that it mostly features Jones accompanying himself on the piano, though he does throw in some keyboard strings, flute and a bit of acoustic guitar as it progresses along. In some ways, it puts me in mind of “Match Girl” from Story Tellers (Part Two) with the way he delivers it sensitively with his voice.

John’s wife Elizabeth Holden penned the lyrics and they take in the mythology or Pagan belief of the Green Man who is believed to symbolise the cycle of life, death and re-birth. The symbol in the picture I used here is a Pagan symbol that heralds Spring after a long winter and the renewal of lush vegetation. It all ties in very well with the album’s concept and is a pleasant way to simmer things down.

Track 6. Mad March Hare.

The quirkiness returns with this next track and this is what I look for on every Tiger Moth Tales album ever since he did “The Merry Vicar” on his debut album. One of the other things that also returns is the saxophone to which although he uses the instrument quite frequently for the other bands he plays for this is the first time he used it on his own albums since his debut album. I love the colour the sax lends to the song and in some ways, the way the sax is utilised on this album does add to making it that bit different.

There are some who do not like this side of Jones and prefer the more serious side in relation to the humour he puts to children’s stories on many of his albums. I myself in particular feel that some of these types of songs are what really bring out the magical GENIUS! side of his writing and songs like “The Piper” from his second album I certainly think you would have to be some sort of genius to pull that off and come up with something like that.

Many of the quirky and humorous songs do have a PROGMATIC! side to them including “The Merry Vicar” and although this particular song does not have the humour, it very much has those PROG! elements and more besides and this is the type of song that I have always said fits in with the title of his own project and fits it like a glove.

It was his own wife who suggested that he should write a song about the Mad March Hare and having the character from Alice in Wonderland tie in with the season of spring you would have to be HOPPING! mad not to do so 😊😊😊. Hats off to Kimberly for suggesting it is all can say.

It’s very much a playful song with JAZZY PROGMATIC! undertones and more influences from early Genesis with the wonderful acoustic guitar transition that pops in around the 1:46 mark. It really is another super arrangement has you can see for yourself with the second promotional video release that once again Rob Reed posted on his Tube Channel. It has to be another strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Rapa Nui.

Jones really ROCKS! things out on this next track and DRAMATICS! also are featured heavily along the way and you could say we are going on a VOYAGE! with this one. Once again John Holden penned the lyrics and I dare say the title and the subject matter of the song also came from him. The song itself tells the story of how the captain of a Dutch ship captained by Jacob Roggeveen came across the island of Rapa whilst searching for Davis Land and has he arrived at Rapa island on an Easter Sunday back on the 5th of April 1772 he gave the island the name of Easter Island. It’s been known by that name ever since.

Easter Island is the home of the mysterious Moai statues which there are over a thousand of them dotted around the island. It’s one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands and has suffered its fair share of doom over the centuries and many fascinating stories have been told about it over the years.

This is another quite long track over its seven and half minutes, it does also tend to rock its way along over the first four of them and is driven along mostly by the bass, drums and guitar to support Jones’s voice. A couple of dramatic transitional changes comes into play and the first of them pop up around the 3:56 mark and is where the sax comes into play. This short haunting section reminds me of Rob Townsend’s style of playing on the instrument that can be found on many Steve Hackett albums.

The second dramatic transitional change is more CINEMATIC! and is perhaps inspired by Vangelis, especially with how he BIGS! things up with his orchestral approach to music. It’s also got his keyboard sound thrown into boot and fits in very well with the historical voyage across the sea here.

Track 8. Light.

What appears to be the final track on the album is also the longest given that it’s been allocated some 15 minutes, 25 seconds or so it appears. There are in fact two songs here and the latter is a hidden bonus track entitled “May Time” and “Light” takes up 8 minutes, 20 seconds of the allotted time here. This is the track (that I mentioned earlier) where the words reflect upon the light of spring giving us new life and hope again especially after losing your other half in the darkness of winter as in my own personal experience.

Musically it’s quite a pleasant song and the piano and acoustic guitar in particular give you shades of Genesis putting me in mind of “Your Own Special Way” from the Wind and Wuthering album sort of thing. However, the way the vocals are delivered gives the song more of a popular angle to it but all is well good here. It also features quite a nice guitar solo by Andy Latimer, though unlike many of his solos I would not say it was one that I would associate the guitarist with if I were to hear it on the radio and did not know who was playing it so to speak.

However, the “Light” is very much another contender for the album’s TOP SPOT! and that is really down to the well meaningful lyrics that have been written for the song. It’s very much a song that I simply cannot hold back the tears and one I would not play whilst other people are around me.

A minute of silence follows “Light” before the hidden bonus track kicks in and “May Time” is very much a Jazz-Funk instrumental track that Jones has so skillfully knocked up that utilises even more Sax, Recorders and Whistles. It perhaps adds a bit more than a spring in the step to springtime but nevertheless this sort of puts the icing on the cake and once again I am thinking of Stevie Wonder regarding the production. The sounds of nature with the birds singing away bring the album to a wonderful close.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of A Song Of Spring by Tiger Moth Tales. Considering the album is near enough an hour-long I did find that it seems to fly by in no time at all which can only mean that Pete Jones has once again come up with a very good album. It’s quite near enough a solid album with how well the material has been written and presented and I would also say that this album is very much a welcoming return to form after his last album and is what was needed to balance things up a bit.

As concept albums go it most certainly works as one and everything ties into the season of spring throughout. I would also say that this album is much more to my liking and right up my street and certainly a GOTO! album.

As an album, it flows very well and is very easy to digest even over the distance with having some of the lengthier tracks following one another. I cannot really fault the track placement and my personal highlights from the album are “Spring Fever“. “Forester“. “Mad March Hare” and “Light“. All of which I personally feel share an equal right of taking the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and I simply could not pick a fave out of all four of them.

A Song Of Spring is an album that should appeal to most MOTHSTERS! and PROGSTERS! alike and the production speaks for itself. I cannot recommend the album enough and I highly reccommend you check it out. You can do so right here on Bandcamp https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/a-song-of-spring

Or alternativly here on White Night Records https://www.whiteknightshop2.co.uk/home/Tiger-Moth-Tales-c36255878

Brings A New Twist & Step Into Spring…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Spring Fever. 6:53.
02. Forester. 7:51.
03. Dance ‘Til Death. 10:20.
04. Holi. 2:46.
05. The Goddess And The Green Man. 2:39.
06. Mad March Hare. 4:00.
07. Rapa Nui. 7:34.
08. Light (Hidden Bonus Track May Time). 15:25.

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#203

The Ringmaster (Part Two) – Robert Reed

Introduction…

The Ringmaster (Part Two) by Robert Reed is finally here and having already reviewed and listened many, many times to The Ringmaster (Part One) since last November I was eagerly awaiting to get my hands and ears on the second instalment. The first chapter or part of this MAGNIFICENT! album I was well impressed with and sonically Reed’s new “Reedaphonic Sound” with the 5.1 mix blew me away. The album left me with no other alternative but to make it my personal progrock album of the year and you can check out my review of this well and truly GREAT! album here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2021/11/20/lee-speaks-about-music-197/

The Ringmaster continues the Sanctuary series which has very much been the strongest output from Reed’s solo career in which he visualises and puts his own stamp on the music of Mike Oldfield from many moons ago. Reed’s love of Oldfield’s music has been instilled into him as a child growing up with it and it very much reflects in the way he has crafted out the music for all 4 Sanctuary albums.

To be honest, even though part two of the Ringmaster could be seen as the 5th album in the Sanctuary series I see it more as a double album and have always counted them as a single album in my record collection. I see The Ringmaster as Sanctuary 4 even though it comes in two parts and that’s how I will always see it and refer to it for the purpose of my review.

Packaging & Artwork…

Just like The Ringmaster (Part One) the second part also comes with 3 Discs and are packaged very much the same way in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve with die-cut pockets to house the discs. Even if you opted to buy one of the more expensive packages where parts one and two had been bundled together they would still have been packaged the same way and came in a steel tin like Reed did with the Deluxe Edition of Tubular World’s Tubular Bells/From The Manor Born.

It does not come with any informative information and all the linear production notes and credits are printed on the inside of the Digisleeve alongside the completion of Les Penning’s original story that was the inspiration for the album. I pre-ordered my copy from Tigemoth Records and it arrived a couple of days before its release. With the postage, it cost £16.99 which is a very respectable price for a package that comes with 2 CD’s and a DVD with a 5.1 mix.

Artwork.

With the second part of The Ringmaster, you can very much see from the example below that Anna Repp has continued along with the same theme with her artwork adding some slight variations for it all to match up with the first part.

It very much reflects upon Les Penning’s story of the travelling minstrel and all that bestows him on his enchanting journey and is well apt to it all and she really has done a FABULOUS! job of it all.

The Album In Review…

The Ringmaster (Part Two) by Robert Reed was officially released on the 4th of February 2022. The album contains 12 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 41 seconds and just like part one, it’s mainly built up with short tracks and also contains a couple of lengthier tracks. Once again he has the same musicians alongside him and was recorded at Reed’s home BIG Studios in South Wales apart from Simon Phillips drums which he recorded in his home Phantom Recording Studio in the USA.

One of the more recent things Reed has been doing lately is promoting a couple of albums that are due to be released on his sister record label White Knight Records that he set up way back with Will Mackie. It’s very much a record label that allows other PROGMATIC! bands and artists to tie their music with a label and they have quite a few on the label now along with growing new bands and artists.

The Way Back Home by Kite Parade is one of the newcomers to the label and is the brainchild of Andy Foster who like many multi-instrumentalists are one-man projects who like to associate a band name to them. The album also features guest appearances from the former Spock’s Beard drummer Nick D’Virgilio who now plays for Big Train and Joe Crabtree who is the present drummer to be playing with Wishbone Ash.

Likewise, the other album is also a one-man project by another talented multi-instrumentalist and one that I very much follow and it’s the latest album by Pete Jones of Tigermoth Tales entitled A Song Of Spring. This will most likely be the next album I shall review.

Due to catching the coronavirus at the end of last year, it prevented Reed from putting on a live show to promote his other project Cyan. However, it appears that the band will now be able to finally get out there as you can see by the event that is scheduled to go ahead towards the end of April this year.

As you can see they have an all-day event featuring many bands and even though the Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton is one of my regular jaunts to go and see live music. It’s unfortunate that it’s taking place on a Sunday otherwise I would have most likely have gone.

My only means of getting to the venue is via public transport by bus and a tram service that runs from the Birmingham city centre to Bilston. The good thing is that the bus runs an all-night service from my home which is some 23 miles away but unfortunately, the trams from Bilston to Birmingham do not operate that late on Sundays which would mean I would have to leave the venue before the concert finished to get home.

As with most of Reed’s albums, they are quite often bundled with either a bonus CD or DVD or as in this case both and they do offer excellent value for the buck. Being a surround FREAK! one of my main reasons for still buying music today is for multichannel recordings and when they come as good as this that means more to me than whatever extra bonus material you will find on the extra CD and DVD. So let’s now take a look at the extras that come bundled in the package starting with the Bonus CD.

The Bonus CD.

The bonus disc comes with 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 58 seconds. As with The Ringmaster (Part One), the bonus disc is also available to purchase in the format of a Digital Download from Reed’s Bandcamp site for £3. One of the major reasons as to why the bonus disc is so long is that it also contains Tom Newman’s mix of the complete album that is contained on the first CD.

When it comes to extra bonus content my only real interest in the biggest majority of it is in new material that perhaps never made it onto the album and that is one of the things I particularly liked about the couple of bonus tracks that came on the bonus disc of The Ringmaster (Part One). Remixes have never really been my bag or cup of tea and I used to hate it when many artists would put out a CD single and it contained the original song plus three or four different mixes of the thing.

Honestly, those things were a complete waste of money and it was like spending more money just for one song. You got far more value with a vinyl single before the birth of a CD and at least you got a B’ Side with a different song on and quite often the B’ Side was just as good as the A’ Side.

The first couple of tracks on the bonus disc are remixes done by Reed and the first of those “Swan Feathered Girl” I could perhaps take with a pinch of salt. I still prefer the original in relation to it though it does offer you perhaps an alternative or modern twist way of listening to it like most remixes do though it does not light my fire or give me something to really talk about so to speak.

The second track “The Ringmaster (Orchestral)” is quite different and gives me plenty to talk about and is my favourite of all 5 tracks you get here. To be perfectly honest it’s quite unusual for me to like orchestral music but listening to this gives me more insight into how Reed is influenced and developed his music around themes from certain Oldfield albums.

For example apart from The Killing Fields which was more or less a complete orchestral work from Oldfield. There are two other albums of his that do sound more orchestrated in the way they are presented in relation to many of his other albums. Those are Hergest Ridge and Incantations.

In my review of The Ringmaster (Part One) I even noted that there were several parts dotted around the album that was quite reminiscent of Incantations, although there are several of Oldfield’s albums that can fly out of the woodwork in both parts of The Ringmaster. However, there is also quite a strong presence from Hergest Ridge I am hearing in The Ringmaster (Part Two) and listening to this 7-minute orchestral piece that combines the two parts together those two albums do jump out at me the most with the enchanting vocals and horn section.

I must admit the piece sounds quite GRANDEUR! and no doubt Reed has done the biggest majority of it on his keyboards with the use of soft synth orchestral sounds and they really have come on a long way in the development of orchestral sounds.

The third track “Nairn’s Jig” is the sort of thing I look for on a bonus disc because it is new material and it’s not a bad piece at all. Though I would not exactly say it was a jig or a reel for that matter that is perhaps more associated with traditional folk music. It does however have a jiggy feel about it as in “let’s get jiggy with it” sort of thing and uses the same sort of upbeat you would find on Oldfield’s Platinum album. I would even go as far as to say that it’s almost verging on the reggae side of things with its rhythmic approach as well.

The last couple of lengthy tracks are Newman’s mixes of The Ringmaster (Part Two) and unless I am mistaken I also think he used some of the stems from The Ringmaster (Part One) to make up what appears to be some sort of mishmash of the album. This is completely different to what he did with (Part One) where he did place a couple of the tracks in different places, only here it’s as if he’s taken stems from various parts of one and two and had his own field day with them sort of thing.

The one thing that was more notable about this mix for my ears is that he has used less reverb and I am wondering if he actually read my review of The Ringmaster (Part One) to prompt him to do that because reverb is one of the more common factors I have noted in his mixes.

I am going to be perfectly honest becuase I have not gave this mix the same attention that I gave to the mix he did on the previous album and only played it once. So I could be very much mistaken in my presumtion of him doing a mishmash sort of thing. But the one thing that does stick out to me like a sore thumb is that this mix does not give a true representation of the The Ringmaster (Part Two) and sounds completely different in many repects and it’s not really to my liking.

Although I can see that old Tom had quite a bit of fun doing it and fair play to him. I will have to give it another spin or two later on and see if it starts to speak to me a bit more and that could be the case because you can never really judge any mix on a single spin alone. Now let’s take a look at the blu ray that comes with the package.

The Blu Ray. 

Apart from the tracklisting the DVD’s main menu is identical to The Ringmaster (Part One) and is pretty much basic, simple and has everything on one screen making it easy to navigate your way through everything. Here you can get at not only the album’s 12 tracks but the bonus content and the audio options. The highlighted blue cursor is your way of getting around the menu.

The DVD comes with 2 Audio Soundtracks both of which are 5.1 Surround mixes and here you have the choice of DTS 24/48k at 1.5Mbps and a standard Dolby Digital at 448Kbps. My prefered choice is DTS as you can see highlighted in the picture above.

Tracks 13 – 15 is the bonus content and the first couple of tracks “Swan Feathered Girl” and “Sendlinger’s Song” are the promotional videos that Reed has also uploaded to his own Tube channel. You do get a total of 26 minutes with the bonus content and the biggest majority of it is taken up by the Simon Phillips drum session which has been allocated 16 minutes, 31 seconds of the extra content you get here.

This drum session features Phillips playing parts from both parts of The Ringmaster and I am pretty sure the biggest majority of this session was not uploaded on Reed’s Youtube channel. As always all of the bonus content is in stereo only and overall it’s quite good extra content to have.

5.1 Mix.

As I mentioned in my review of The Ringmaster (Part One) I was well impressed with that 5.1 mix. Rob Reed had certainly upped his game working in the surround field and he must have known as he was now calling it “Reedaphonic Sound”. The same outstanding job continues on this release and the surround mix easily merits a 10 out of 10 and sounds AMAZING!

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Tom Newman & Robert Reed. Written, Performed & Mixed by Robert Reed. Concept Story by Les Penning. Recorded between July 2020 – January 2022 @ Big Studio in South Wales. Drums recorded @ Phantom Recording Studio in the USA. Additional Mix on Bonus Disc by Tom Newman. All Artwork by Anna Repp.

Musicians.
Robert Reed: All Instruments (Except those played by other musicians).
Les Penning: Recorders – Whistles – Narration.
Simon Phillips: Drums.
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes – Whistles.
Angharad Brinn: Lead Vocals.
Micaela Haslam & Heather Cairncross – Synergy Vocals.
Steve Bingham: Violin.
Karla Powell: Oboe.
Tom Newman: Sleigh Bells.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although The Ringmaster was recorded in two parts and not put out like a double album, there is no doubt the material that was written for both parts was intended as a double album. For example, part two of The Ringmaster contains reoccurring themes from the first part. One of the other things you will also notice is that a couple of the titles of a couple of the tracks from part one also get revisited here.

Oddly enough even though part two has one extra track. I’m not really sure it does (or should have had) and that track almost never made it on the 5.1 mix at all. So let’s now delve into the album’s tracks and take a closer look at them.

Track 1. Song Of Healing Light.

The album opens up with its longest track which is a good 4-minutes shorter than “The First Guardian Of Everywhere” which was the longest track on The Ringmaster (Part One). I do find the longer tracks on both parts of The Ringmaster have a lot more scope and time to go off in other directions which is what I personally love about PROGMATIC! music. They are also my favourite tracks on the album for that very reason although that’s not to say that all lengthy tracks are more PROG! and some artists such as Neal Morse for example does have the ability to cram just as much diversity and information into a 4-minute song than what you will find in some epic 20-minute pieces.

There is most certainly plenty of diversity and progression here over the 9 minutes, 29 seconds you get though I will say in relation to how well “The First Guardian Of Everywhere” was perfectly stitched together it is my favourite track over the two parts. The “Song Of Healing Light” is perhaps constructed out of 4 or 5 pieces that have been nicely stitched or woven together and although the first couple of parts is structured around the acoustic piano I would say that both this and “The First Guardian Of Everywhere” have been given the same amount of acoustic and electric presence to a degree with how everything has been constructed.

The opening section features a short narration by Les Penning and reoccurring chants from Synergy from part one to perhaps refresh your mind that this is a double album and one that continues to flow in the same way. I have to admit it does it very well too. The second and final sections have me thinking of Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge and I do feel that most of this piece as a whole has more of that influence perhaps.

The third section also features the reoccurring theme with its vocoder “cookie Jar” sort of vocals and it has an interesting little short section that puts me in mind of the second part of Amarok with the percussion, and although Margret Thatcher’s voice is not here the percussive fireworks sound does a fine job along with the running percussion that plays the same beat.

The same musicians are all present again and Steve Bingham’s violin plays a lovely role whilst the drums of Simon Phillips provides the right energy to raise the game towards the end. There is not a dull moment here and everything keeps you alert and attentive throughout its entirety. It is, without doubt, one of my favourite tracks on part two but jointly merits my personal fave spot with the second longest track on part two.

Track 2. Swan Feathered Girl.

This next piece is one of the two singles that Reed put out to promote part two and I have to say that this particular piece is more uplifting and uptempo in relation to the couple of singles that were put out for part one. There is a bit more go in this and it’s perhaps more reminiscent of the later material that Oldfield himself put out from albums such as Discovery and Islands in the 80’s. Though I could even add the 1979 album Platinum to that list in some respects, especially with the synth sound from the keyboard and with the upbeat of the music we have wonderfully presented here.

What I like a lot about this track is Reed’s bass work and he really does have the touch and feel of a propper bass player with the lines he is playing. I am also quite fond of the mandolin and once again his work on that instrument also lends very well to the rest of the instrumentation and it was nice that he even threw in a bit of banjo.

Track 3. The Hat.

The second-longest track on the album is up next and this jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! along with the opening track. The seven and half minutes you get here allows for the piece to develop into something else and I must admit it’s a bit like crossing the styles of Oldfield with the GREAT! western theme composer Ennio Morricone. The arrangement is quite STUNNING! even if the idea of crossing these two styles might very well appear to be quite odd. There is even a Gothic presence with the pipe organ that also might be quite odd. However, it all fits into place in quite a dynamic and harmonic way.

Once again the way the piece is built up and progresses along it really is to die for with how everything comes out of the woodwork so to speak. There is some delightful flute work and once again the bass and mandolin are utilised SUPERBLY! There is even a nice bit of nylon guitar that comes into play around the 4:55 – 5:15 mark. Listening to this in 5.1 is even more of a pleasure and is music to my ears.

Track 4. The Talking Ducks.

Reed really has gone to town on the arrangement of these tracks and even though this is a relatively short track over its three and half minutes there is bags of progression here along with the wonderful array of instrumentation. This could have easily been put out as another single from the album and it even has a bit of a reggae vibe thrown in to boot and features once again some excellent bass work for Phillps to play around with on the Drums.

Tracks 5 & 6. Sendlinger’s Song / Arthur.

The “Sendlinger’s Song” is an extended version of “A Sign Of Sendlinger” from The Ringmaster (Part One) and features the golden voice of Angharad Brinn accompanied by Reed’s piano this time instead of the acoustic guitar. It is perhaps more of a song here over its 3 minutes, 14 seconds in relation to the rather shorter version that was only 1 minute, 43 seconds on part one as you can see from the first video single that Reed put out to promote the album.

This video unlike the album also includes track 6 “Arthur” and to be honest I have no idea why he chose to give the ending a different title or even make it an extra track. To be perfectly honest I think Reed was confused himself with what “Arthur” actually was when he did the 5.1 mix because on the DVD the track is only 4 seconds long instead of the 1 minute, 37 seconds that has been allocated for it on the CD. The actual 4 seconds of it on the 5.1 mix is the bit that tailspins into the next track.

Track 7. Forever.

This is another piece that allows Penning to do a bit more narration and apart from the narration being different the music is almost the same, and what you have here musically is a snippet of the opening track on part one entitled “The Farewell” only with another title. It’s obviously been done like this to keep in line with part one and its reoccurring theme and was also used for the reoccurring theme of the opening track on part two with the vocal chants from Synergy. There is a slight variation in the arrangement at the end though.

Track 8. Dancing Master.

Once again Synergy is called into action for this next delightful piece that is something like an enchanting medieval piece of dance music. I am not really sure if the Dance Master was written as early as medieval times which was a dance manual containing the music and instructions for English country dances published by John Playford back in 1651. Although this delightful piece also gets REGGAEFIED! perhaps to bring it more up to modern times and once again all the musicians are firing on all cylinders here and it really is a beauty. Unlike some of the other little ditties scattered around the album you also get a good 4 plus minutes here too.

Track 9. Landmarks.

Like the previous track, “Landmarks” is another piece that has been allocated a good 4 minutes, 38 seconds and this is another GREAT! track that has bags of progression and diversity. It also has plenty of transitions throughout its build and towards the end touches on snippets of reoccurring ditties from part one. One of the other things I noted was that this is the only new track on part two to feature Troy Donockley’s Uilleann Pipes and they really do sound GORGEOUS! on the opening of this fine piece.

This is a piece where you can sort of get the feeling that everything is building up to the climax for the final few tracks with the power that’s been injected into it and there is plenty thrown into its pot so to speak. Despite all it’s MAJESTIC! power it also contains a lovely acoustic section between the 2:17 – 3:05 mark and at the very end to lead you into the next track.

Track 10. In Sight Of Home.

This next piece is quite racy and is driving its way home so to speak. The sound of the keyboard used on the intro puts me in mind of The Who and the vamping of the piano later on in the piece has me thinking of “Delilah” by Tom Jones for some reason. The whole piece is driven along by the vamping and the bass line whilst the drums are sort of a step behind it all. Both Karla Powell’s oboe and Steve Bingham’s violin also help to orchestrate its way along and are very well utilised.

Track 11. The Last Guardians Of Everywhere.

The final four tracks have all been very well woven together and tailspin into one another and this is perhaps the most reoccurring theme throughout the entire double album. Here you can see there is a slight change to its title and this is the last and not first as in my favourite track of the double album. This is a good 10 minutes shorter as well and this snippet works very well for the climax of the album.

Track 12. Song Of Waiting Dreams.

The final piece is very much the calm after the storm and sort of reminds me of how Mike Oldfield put an end to the first side of Tubular Bells with a lovely acoustic melodic piece played on a nylon-stringed guitar. Only here the acoustic guitar strings are made of steel and we have a few more bells and whistles so to speak. It really does end off the album quite BEAUTIFULLY! and it ends off what can only be described as a MASTERFUL! piece of work by Robert Reed.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Ringmaster (Part Two) by Robert Reed. I would say that the second part of this MASTERPIECE! of work is on equal terms with the first part and will give you the same amount of enjoyment, pleasure and beauty. What you have here is 95 minutes, 16 seconds of sheer joy spread over its two parts and it certainly will not give you a problem listening to both parts in one sitting with how enjoyable it really is.

As double albums go this is up there with the very best in my book. Although it would obviously present some difficulty trying to squeeze this amount of time onto a double vinyl album and you certainly would have some deterioration by doing so due to its limitations with its restrictions.

I did mention in my review of part one how I saw that has the PROG! album of last year and that the second part just might be this year’s PROG! album of the year. Though I think it would be unfair to say that the second part is this year’s progrock album of the year simply because it belongs to one body of work and The Ringmaster is really Sanctuary 4, not Sanctuary 4 & 5 and that is how I see it.

I would say that both parts are Reed’s strongest output of his solo works although when it comes to all 4 Sanctuary albums I can take tremendous pleasure from them all. The beauty is that they all come with a 5.1 mix though I will say the new “Reedaphonic Sound” mixes on parts one and two of The Ringmaster are to die for and superior to the predecessors. They literally are Surround Heaven and a paradise for all surround FREAKS!

Overall The Ringmaster (Part Two) is the perfect partner for (Part One) and not only does the story fit but the music also works as a double concept album with its reoccurring themes. There is nothing remotely bad over the two parts and it scores exactly the same points across the board as part one even down to the extra bonus content that comes with the extra CD and DVD.

What Rob Reed has created here is a MAGNIFICENT! double album of sheer BEAUTY! and it gets my 100% recommendation and I highly recommend it for all lovers of Mike Oldfield and PROG! alike. The Ringmaster (Parts One & Two) is available from the following link https://www.tigermothshop.co.uk/store/The-Ringmaster-c119027017  and all good record stores including Bandcamp.

BEAUTIFICATION! Continues To Behold The Listener…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1 (Main Album).
01. Song Of Healing Light. 9:29.
02. Swan Feathered Girl. 3:59.
03. The Hat. 7:30.
04. The Talking Ducks. 3:32.
05. Sendlinger’s Song. 3:14.
06. Arthur. 1:37.
07. Forever. 1:41.
08. Dancing Master. 4:26.
09. Landmarks. 4:38.
10. In Sight Of Home. 3:19.
11. The Last Guardians Of Everywhere. 1:32.
12. Song Of Waiting Dreams. 2:44.

CD 2 (Bonus Disc).
01. Swan Feathered Girl (Remix). 5:26.
02. The Ringmaster (Orchestral). 7:18.
03. Nairn’s Jig. 3:13.
04. The Ringmaster Part Two A (Tom Newman Mix). 24:27.
05. The Ringmaster Part Two B (Tom Newman Mix). 22:34.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.
The Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music #202

The Zealot Gene (Limited 2CD/BluRay Artbook Edition) – Jethro Tull

Introduction…

Well, it’s been some 19 years since we last saw a Jethro Tull studio album which happened to be The Jethro Tull Christmas Album released back in 2003. It was around then or just a tad later in the following year that Ian Anderson more or less decided to knock the band name on the head and do projects under his own name such as Thick As A Brick 2 (2012) and Homo Erraticus (2014) respectively. Albums of which even I thought were perhaps worthy of having the Jethro Tull name tied to them even if it was not the same band lineup.

Band line-ups have been forever changing since this band released their debut album back in 1968 and no doubt many will have their personal favourites over all those years. Though in all honesty it’s always been Anderson’s group and he has always contributed to the biggest majority of the output of music that was written for the band throughout its entirety. So you could really say that Jethro Tull is Ian Anderson.

The bands 22nd album The Zealot Gene no doubt has Anderson’s writing all over it which is why it sounds as many are already stating like a Tull album. The big question is, is it a good Tull album and does the band lineup really make that much of a difference to make it sound that way?

Well, I am sure many of us will have different perceptions regarding just what is a good Tull album and a lot of it will also bear relation to Anderson’s voice which has been shot for well over a couple of decades now. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…

As you can see I opted to go for the 2 CD/Blu Ray Limited Artbook and this is very much a different form of packaging Anderson has chosen for this release in relation to the Jethro Tull back catalogue of albums that were released in the form of a Mediabook. To be perfectly honest I still prefer the Mediabook in relation to the Artbook simply because it’s the size of a DVD and is much easier to store.

Whereas Artbooks are more convenient for vinyl collectors and take up much more storage space. My main purpose regarding the biggest majority of music these days is for the 5.1 mix so vinyl does not even come into the equation and I certainly would not waste my money on it either.

The good thing that both the Artbook and Mediabook have in common is that they are made of the same quality thick cardboard found with the construction of a hardback book. Once again Anderson has managed to keep the price down and I preordered my copy last year on the 6th of November from Amazon and it arrived on the day of its release. I also managed to get it for the price of £31.99 which I think is not over the odds and still at a very good price point.

The other thing I will also say regarding the Tull releases is that they do come with some very useful informative information and not just pictures like many other artists who release their media in Artbooks. This one actually comes with something I did not expect either and the best way to show you exactly what you get for the buck, was to make the following video to show you it.

Artwork.

The album cover artwork is based on a concept by Ian Anderson with both him and his son James Anderson at the helm of the photography. Taking care of the actul design is Thomas Ewerhard noted for his work with Neal Morse, Spock’s Beard and various other PROG! acts tied to the Inside Out Record label.

To be perfectly honest looking at the artwork would suggest this is an Ian Anderson album and not a Jethro Tull album simply because he is the only person on the front cover unlike some of the earlier albums for example. But when you look at albums such as Warchild, Too Old To Rock N’ Roll and Songs From The Wood for example they may have suggested the same thing in some respects especially regarding the front cover.

With the look of angst on Anderson’s face, it does perhaps suggest the title of the album. Though the quality of the picture on the Artbook is nowhere near the quality of the same picture on the Blu Ray itself which is actually in 4K. This is another reason why I prefer the multichannel format over a vinyl release because it not only gives you superior quality over the actual recording but also the artwork.

Release Formats.

The Zealot Gene was released in 4 formats and various packages to suit your pocket and as always the 12-File Digital Download would be the cheapest option of obtaining the album and can be had from places like Amazon for as little as £7.99.

The cheapest way to obtain the album in a physical format is with the single CD Edition and this comes in a 3-panel cardboard Digipak which includes a booklet. This can be had on Amazon for around £13 and a few other sites are charging a couple of quid more and throwing in the digital download with it.

For Vinyl lovers, you have a good few options especially with the coloured vinyl and some colours like blue, red and green I do believe we’re limited to around 1,000 copies each and were sold for around the £30 – £35 mark. Whereas the black and clear vinyl could easily be obtained from Amazon for around £27.99. All vinyl editions were pressed onto 2 X 180-Gram LP’s inside a Gatefold Sleeve. They also included a free CD.

My personal choice of the Limited 2CD+Blu-Ray Artbook is where the discs come neatly stored in a 36-page 12 inch Artbook and gives you extra bonus content on the 2nd CD plus the 5.1 mix of the album on the Blu Ray. This can still be had for around £37 on Amazon.

Finally, if you want to go the whole HOG! The Limited Deluxe Edition gives you the Artbook Edition along with 3 LP’s on 180-gram white vinyl plus a Slipmat for your Turntable to boot. I do believe this package is still available on Amazon for around £86 and is a lot cheaper than most outlets that charge a lot more for it.

The Album In Review…

Jethro Tull’s 22nd studio album The Zealot Gene was released on the 28th of January 2022. Given that the album contains newly written material it is in fact over 22 years since an album of all-new material of the band has materialised and their 20th studio album DOT COM from 1999 was the last album to do that. The new album itself contains 12 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 45 seconds and surprisingly all are vocal tracks and it does not contain a single instrumental track at all.

I say “Surprisingly” simply because as I mentioned earlier Anderson’s voice has been shot for years and one of the reasons The Jethro Tull Christmas Album back in 2003 worked so well was down to it mainly being an instrumental album. I would even say that the only reasons why Thick As A Brick 2 and Homo Erraticus worked well were down to the additional vocals that were supplied by Ryan O’Donnell.

Although to be fair Anderson’s voice is not so bad on those two studio albums and even after another 8 years further on it still works in the same way because he is more or less talking his way through the words. Were Anderson’s voice really struggles is live on the stage and that is the reason why I could never go and see the band live again no matter what lineup he had on stage with him. Honestly watching him sing live on the tube these days makes me cringe.

Anderson originally started to write the new material for The Zealot Gene back in January 2017. Although he had written quite a good few of the songs back then the album got side railed due to other commitments such as finishing various live tours during 2018 and 2019, interviews, various other anniversary shows and working on many of the Mediabooks of the back catalogue of the Tull discography. Then the pandemic got very much in the way for the next couple of years and it was not until 2021 that he was able to write the rest of the material for the band and get them finished off.

Modern World Studio

The album was recorded at Modern World Studios which is in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England. The studio was set up back in 1999 and these days it boasts that it has all the modern recording equipment and technology you would find in many of the studios in London. The fact that it has all the recording facilities and accommodation to stay in means that it gives people the chance to get away from the bustling city and be more relaxed in more of a peaceful environment.

Upon its release, the album has done quite well in sales and it’s the first time in 50 years that a Jethro Tull album has managed to break into the UK Top 10 Album charts. It went straight in at number 9 and you would have to go back to 1972 when both albums Thick As A Brick and Living In The Past peaked at number 3 in the UK Album charts.

One of the reasons why Anderson decided to go back with the band name was down to the fact that he had been working with the same musicians more or less for the past 18 years so he felt it only fair to give them a bit more recognition. The album was also produced and mixed by Anderson and because of Covid restrictions getting in the way of things he had to put down his parts to the remaining five songs alone at his home studio. The last five songs are acoustic-based and without drums, partly because Scott Hammond was unable to record at home.

The Artbook Package Contents.

When looking at the contents in the Artbook it does not really give you as much informative information or as many discs in relation to many of the Jethro Tull Mediabooks that have been released. Although this is perhaps to be expected with it being a new album as it perhaps does not quite have the history those earlier albums have. The informative content you do get over its 36-pages is very good though and along with the 3-Discs I certainly have no complaints. So let’s now take a look at the disc content.

CD’s 1 & 2.

The first CD contains the main featured album and its 12-tracks which I will review and go into more detail in the “Album Tracks” section of my review. In this section, we are going to be looking at the second disc which strangely enough is the only bonus content you do get regarding the actual music side of things that comes in the package.

The second CD comes with 13-tracks though it’s quite shorter than the main album and only has an overall playing time of 31 minutes, 9 seconds. Basically what you are getting on the bonus disc are all acoustic demos played by Anderson himself. The first 7 tracks in particular are shorter versions of the actual songs which are mostly played on the acoustic although you will get the odd bit of flute and mandolin that he’s also overdubbed on a few of these tracks.

The final 6 tracks are initial rough ideas of some of the songs and on these, you will hear Anderson talking and playing through the initial parts of a song such as the verse, chorus, intro and outro sections of the song. He will even tell you some of the chords and you will even hear the odd cockup now and then. Basically, this is the same thing I do myself when writing songs and I like to get it on tape (or these days video myself with my mobile phone) before I lose the idea.

Overall the bonus disc is nice to have especially hearing the acoustic versions of the songs that are on the first 8 tracks more so than the initial ideas with the final 5 tracks. So let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray and see what that has to offer.

Blu Ray.

The main menu of the Blu Ray is nicely animated and everything is on a single page and is well easy and comfortable to navigate your way along. You can simply play the album click on any of the tracks to play individually and at the bottom of the screen is where you have your audio choices.

By default, the audio is set to LPCM Stereo as you can see by the white speaker icon. You also have the choices of two surround mixes a DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix and a 5.1 LPCM 5.1 mix and all three mixes come with a 24 bit 48K sample rate. I like the fact that they have replaced the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with a 5.1 LPCM mix which is a much better format.

Whilst playing the album you are presented with the name of the song and an even better picture of the album cover (as seen above). The text is also nicely animated and scrolls along. No doubt this picture of Anderson on the album cover has been shot in 4K and is way more detailed than the album cover and my own snapshot of it which I took in HD 1080p on my Smartphone.

Overall, an excellent job has been done on the interface of the Blu Ray and its single menu is pristine sharp and very fast to navigate your way through everything without having no other pages to load. The only real drawback is down to the fact that they have only included the album and no other bonus material. You would have thought with the many interviews Anderson has been involved in during the promotion of the album release that one of them would have been included here.

The 5.1 Mix.

With Steven Wilson now out of the frame having announced that he will no longer be working on any more multichannel mixes for Jethro Tull, the 5.1 mix was left to Anderson’s other choice Jakko Jakszyk. It’s not the first time Jakszyk has worked on mixes for the Tull back catalogue though he only ever mixed some of the live material and not the main studio albums that were left for Wilson which for my ears is understandable simply because when it comes to stereo and multichannel mixing Wilson really does have magic ears and the right head on his shoulders to work in the 5.1 field.

Being a surround FREAK! myself since the late 90’s and having some of the albums by other artists that Jakszyk has done in the past I can honestly say that I am not that impressed by his work on multichannel mixes, and for my ears, he does not have the right head on his shoulders to work in this field. To be honest not many engineers have the know-how when it comes to working in the 5.1 field and some can go overboard.

Talking about going overboard I very much feel that is the case with this 5.1 mix Jakszyk has done and it’s very much a case of taking too much out of the stereo field to place in the rear where the problem lies. To be honest he has not gone completely overboard by leaving a gaping hole sort of thing and I have to admit that some of the placement of the instruments really brings them out in GREAT! detail.

But what you are actually getting here is a different representation of how the album should actually sound in relation to Anderson’s original stereo mix and I have to say that for some reason Jakszyk’s surround mix makes the album sound boring simply because it’s not giving you the true representation of what it should sound like.

I think it’s interesting and the one thing I give in his praise is that he has done away with the Dolby Digital and gave us a 5.1 LPCM mix. But for my ears, Anderson’s stereo mix is the clear winner here and Jakszyk really should have paid more attention to the stereo mix and how it sounds and not taken too much away from the stereo field and perhaps used a few reflections in relation to taking chunks out of it.

Musicians & Credits…

All Songs Written & Produced by Ian Anderson. Recorded sometime between March 2017 – July 2021 at Modern World Studios in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England. Recording Engineer Michael Nyandoro. Mixing Engineer Ian Anderson. Mastering at Fluid Mastering by Nick Watson. 5.1 surround sound mix by Jakko Jakszyk. Artwork Concept by Ian Anderson. Artwork Design by Thomas Ewerhard with Liner Notes by Tim Bowness.

Musicians.
Ian Anderson: Flute – Vocals – Acoustic Guitars – Mandolin – Irish Whistle – Percussion – Harmonica.
Florian Opahle: Electric Guitar.
David Goodier: Bass Guitar.
John O’Hara: Keyboards – Hammond Organ – Piano – Accordion.
Scott Hammond: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Joe Parrish-James: Guitar (Track 11).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Zealot Gene is something according to the Artbook that Ian Anderson had been planning to do since 2016 and that is when he first set out the original outline for the album by collecting a load of biblical text and quotes from the bible. Having read the bible myself many moons ago it’s easy to see why many different interpretations and meanings have come out of it and that is really why there is not just one religion and literally loads of them.

Zealots go back as far as 6 CE and were a group of religious nutters set up by Judas of Galilee to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms, most notably during the First Jewish–Roman War. War is perhaps something that has been instilled into religion over the years and even today it perhaps caused more wars than anything else.

It’s not the first time that Anderson has had a stab or a pop at religion and the 1971 album Aqualung will certainly testify to that. Speaking of that old classic album Anderson likens this latest collection of songs to that album in that they are a mixture of electric and acoustic songs. He also expressed that just like that album The Zealot Gene is not a concept album. The question is does the material on the new album really measure up or even compete with that old classic from the dark days of the distant 70’s. Well, let’s take a closer look as I take you through the album tracks.

Track 1. Mrs. Tibbets.

The opening track is actually my personal favourite track on the album and that’s perhaps mainly to how its musical structure can veer off in other directions to make it that more interesting. To be honest, although the guitar is more power-chord riff-based it would not surprise me if this song was actually structured around the flute. The song itself puts me in mind of some of the material that was written for the 1995 Tull album Roots to Branches and that may be down to how some of the songs on that album sound like they were structured around the flute.

With some of the songs on the album you will fund that the lyrical content is based around social media events that took place at one time or another and this particular event, you could say went off with a big bang towards the end of the second world war. Enola Gay Tibbets was the mother of Paul Tibbets who was the pilot who dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima during World War 2. The B-29 Bomber that Tibbets was piloting was named after her.

As with most of the lyrics throughout the album, you would hard;y think they had anything in relation or any reference to the bible. To be perfectly honest when it comes to wars such as this I would perhaps be looking at Matthew chapter 24 and not Genesis chapter 19 like Anderson has done here in which he likens the event to Sodom and Gomorrah with how Lot told his wife not to look back or she would turn into a pillow of salt. In Tibbets case, he would have been blinded by the light so to speak.

It’s not only the first song that Anderson worked on but also the longest track on the album weighing in at just under 6 minutes and all the musicians do a fine job on it.

Track 2. Jacob’s Tales.

From the longest track on the album to the shortest and a tale of two brothers was perhaps the inspiration for this next song and once again Anderson turned to the book of Genesis as a reference. Though I am pretty sure his own words will put you in the picture here so to speak. “It’s really a song about envy and jealousy in the sense of sibling rivalry, and the idea that brothers and sisters don’t always get on. And when it comes to the inevitable passing on of family assets and treasures, things can get a little difficult”.

It’s very much one of the good few acoustic songs on the album that Anderson completed on his own and besides his acoustic guitar that structured the musical side of things, both the mandolin and harmonica get very well utilised. To be honest it’s quite good to see Anderson once again playing the old GOB IRON! and he really plays the instrument very well to which no doubt he did so on “My Sunday Feeling” back in 1968 on the bands debut album. Even though the instrument lends the element of the blues to the folky side of things, for some reason I also get the feeling of the band Supertramp with this song as well.

Track 3. Mine Is The Mountain.

The second of the longer tracks on the album and another nearer towards the 6-minute mark. To be honest most of the songs on the album are around the 3-minute mark and relatively short though I will say that they might have a lot more to say than this one. The main verses are structured around the piano which remind me of the slow approach that was given to the opening of “Loccomotive Breath” on the piano.

According to Anderson’s track notes, he refers to it as a late-life partner to “My God” from the Aqualung album. I can certainly see where he is coming from regarding the lyrical content although the musical side of things and how the song is delivered is a million miles from the same ballpark so to speak. To be perfectly honest this song does not even resemble a Tull song at all and in parts is more like singing a hymn in church on a Sunday and not “Hymn 43” that’s for sure 😊😊😊.

The biblical reference comes from the book of Exodus and is based around the time that Moses climbed up Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments and one of those refers to how god is a jealous God and did not like people making up their own gods to worship sort of thing which is what the song “My God” pertains to even down to its plastic crucifix and how basically they have created a God of nothing.

“Mine Is The Mountain” is a song that is not in a hurry and tends to drag on a bit especially with how the verses have been constructed and delivered. It does have a good instrumental section that breaks it up a bit but there are times I can either like this song or loath it if I’m honest.

Track 4. The Zealot Gene.

The albums self-titled track ups the tempo from the boring pace of the previous song and puts you more into the swing of things. The lyrical content very much reflects upon social media in today’s society living in a democratic world and the right to express your opinion with the freedom of speech. Though quite often with how certain rulers are ruling things that could be seen to go out of the window sort of thing. It literally takes in all forms of social media and the hurt it can do even on places like Facebook and Twitter.

It was the last of three official video single releases that were put out to promote the album prior to its release and was posted on the official Jethro Tull Youtube channel on the 12th of January this year.

I quite like the job the animators have done on all three official videos and I have to admit Anderson went to town on the lyrics here too. Even the biblical references he pointed out in Numbers and Ezekiel go to show that the world has not really changed at all with all the hatred that is instilled in it.

Track 5. Shoshana Sleeping.

Released back in November on Bonfire Night “Shoshana Sleeping” was the first of the video singles to put out and this gave us all a taste of what to expect from the new Tull album and there is no doubt the song sounds like Tull. The saucy erotic subject matter of the lyrics was inspired by the “Song Of Solomon” and in many ways puts me in mind of the saucy mannerisms that was put into “Kissing Willie” from the 1989 album Rock Island.

The musicianship is superb and Anderson’s flute playing is quite exceptional on this song. Many of the songs on this album take me back to the late 80’s to the mid 90’s from the Tull catalogue and even some of the material from Rock Island, Catfish Rising and Roots to Branches contained some really GREAT! songs even if they were not really solid albums.

Track 6. Sad City Sisters.

This is the second of the video singles that were put out and once again well before the album release in early December last year. The song was inspired by the memories of a Saturday night in Cardiff, Wales when Anderson was walking back late at night to his accommodation having played a concert at St David’s Hall. Like many towns and cities, the weekend can be seen as a time to go out and party and quite often the female of the species can go over the top and end up losing their dignity so to speak.

Ladies of ill repute or of leisure is perhaps the subject behind the matter of this song to which I am pretty sure was more or less the same subject matter that Anderson wrote for “Ladies” back in 1974 that appeared on the Warchild album. Although that song is perhaps more like the harlots and whores described in the biblical references that can be found in Ezekiel chapter 23 that Anderson chose and was perhaps more aimed at prostitution rather than having a bit too much of a drink as in this case.

Musically the song is very acoustic and folky. I am pretty sure most of the instrumentation is played by Anderson himself with David Goodier and John O’Hara accompanying him on bass and accordion respectively. The song is very much structured around the acoustic guitar and it also utilises both the mandolin and Irish whistle very well.

Track 7. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John.

It’s time to rock things up a bit and the band get fully utilised and the song itself was most likely structured around the guitar riff on the electric guitar. I must admit that the title oddly enough has me thinking of something from the Wild West for some reason. The person or people in question is Barren Elizabeth who gave birth to John The Baptist despite being too old and past childbearing years. She was also a relative of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. I must admit that Anderson’s lyrics make it more interesting than any Nativity Play 😊😊😊.

Track 8. The Betrayal Of Joshua Kynde.

Things continue in a rocky manner and the title of this one had me somewhat bewildered as to how it bore any relation to the bible. All I can say is that Anderson made up another name for the person in question because according to the biblical reference in the 24th chapter of Matthew, the person in question he is referring to is none other than the man who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver and is none other than Judas Iscariot. Once again the band are on fire here.

Track 9. Where Did Saturday Go?

The remaining four songs are all acoustic songs that Anderson did at home and I am pretty sure all the instrumentation on this song is played by Anderson including the bass unless he got Goodier to throw some bass on for him which may have been the case. The song’s title might suggest that the lyrical content is based around that Saturday night in Cardiff where people went out on the razzle and had too much of the heady brew as Anderson mentioned in the track notes. Although I did find another of his explanations online where he refers it to the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Saturday following Good Friday before Easter Sunday, the resurrection day.

The biblical reference in Luke 23:52-56 does also point to that factor but also to the sabbath day. I suppose another way you could look at as “Where Did Saturday Go?” is by the Jewish Sabbath Day which is observed throughout the year on the seventh day of the week which is their Saturday and not Sunday like most of us. For me personally, Sunday as always felt like a day of rest and is more of a quiet day.

As songs go it’s got quite a nice relaxed feel about it and the good thing about how Anderson has put the words into context with most of these songs is that you make what you like of them and they are not religious words like Christian believers such as Neal Morse would put to his songs so to speak.

Tracks 10 & 11. Three Loves, Three / In Brief Visitation.

More pleasantry acoustic folky songs from Anderson and these two are intertwined into one another in that they use exactly the same tune to put them over. The first of which is a song about love and three different kinds such as the love of friendship “Philia”, spiritual love as in “Agape” and “Eros” in erotic and romantic love. The second song is how Anderson puts it in the track notes in that it’s about taking the rap for the rest of us as in noble sacrifice.

Track 12. The Fisherman Of Ephesus.

The album closes off in fine style and more like the opening track on the album regarding the progression and its diversity to go off in another direction. I would even say that it’s Anderson’s flute that makes up the most of how the song does progress and can go somewhere else. His flute playing on this album is exceptional and there are bags of it throughout the album. This song also utilises the whole of the band including new guitarist Joe Parrish-James who replaced Florian Opahle after he decided to quit the band in 2019.

Anderson does stick closely to the biblical stories on this song and it’s about guilt survival in the way that there is only one survivor of the family after some misfortunate event that has taken the rest of the family away. In biblical terms, he is referring to how the 11 of the twelve Apostles died of a gory death which left John as the sole survivor so to speak.

It is the only track on the album that Parrish-James plays on although he’s out there with the rest of the band right now playing the material from this album and much more on the stage. I suppose in a way he is the new member of the band unlike a session player with how I put him in the musicians and credits.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of The Zealot Gene by Jethro Tull. I personally think it’s not a bad album at all and it’s not that far off a solid album with plenty of good songs to choose from. Though it’s not an album that ranks amongst the best of Tull albums from the past and I personally would not put it up with my GOTO! albums of the band in relation to the past either. However, if you like the albums Rock Island, Catfish Rising and Roots to Branches those are the albums I would more or less associate this album with and not albums from the 70’s such as Aqualung for example.

This is only the second Tull album that Martin Barre has not appeared on and although many of the songs on the album do sound like Tull I rather think that is down to Ian Anderson and not so much the band. The acoustic guitar and the flute are the real driving force behind most of the songs and not the electric guitar. As a matter of fact apart from the opening track, the electric guitar says very little in relation to the many songs that Barre played on years ago but then again that also might be down to the material the guitarist was presented to play in the first place.

If anything I rather think this new album goes to show more so that Anderson is Jethro Tull because we have no arrangements by Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and orchestral arrangements by Dee Palmer and I am pretty sure that Anderson would have handled most of the arrangements himself.

To draw my review to a conclusion I am mainly going to focus on is it worth buying this more expensive package over the CD or Vinyl album. The package itself is very well presented and contains excellent content regarding the informative information and that is what I prefer myself in relation to having a load of pictures. I would also say that the bonus content on the extra CD is also good and worthy of having and is a good inclusion.

The Surround Mix on the Blu Ray is the disappointing thing and being a surround FREAK! that is why I brought this package in the first place. What worries me, even more, is that Jakko Jakszyk will most likely be Anderson’s number one choice to complete the surround mixes on the rest of the Tull back catalogue now that Steve Wilson is out of the frame and in my opinion, he does not have the right ears to work in this field.

Don’t get me wrong the 5.1 mix he did will give you an immersive experience and as I mentioned it brings out the instrumentation in GREAT! detail. But he’s gone overboard and it makes the album sound boring and does not give a true representation of what it should sound like. Anderson’s stereo mix is the real winner here and you will get more enjoyment out of that but that is not the point or purpose of doing a 5.1 mix in the first place. A good surround mix will leave a stereo mix in the dust but unfortunately, this is not one although I will be generous and give it a 6 out of 10 because it does present the album in a different light sort of thing.

Anderson really needs to look for 5.1 engineers who have the right ears and know-how like Wilson and my suggestion would be the likes of Elliot Scheiner, Bob Clearmountain and Chuck Ainsley, or even Robert Reed who just recently done an outstanding 5.1 mix on both parts of The Ringmaster he put out last year and this year with what he’s calling himself “Reedaphonic Sound”.

Overall, I am still quite pleased with the package and still think it’s worth its price point despite the 5.1 mix. I would even go as far as to say that the stereo mix is the purist mix and if you are a purist I would opt for the CD or vinyl album.

Even with Anderson’s voice as shot as it is, I do think it is quite a good album and my personal highlights are “Mrs Tibbets“, “Shoshana Sleeping“, “Sad City Sisters“, “Where Did Saturday Go?“, and “The Fisherman Of Ephesus“.

Still Tullish In A Ripe Old Way…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1 (Main Album).
01. Mrs Tibbets. 5:53.
02. Jacob’s Tales. 2:12.
03. Mine Is The Mountain. 5:40.
04. The Zealot Gene. 3:54.
05. Shoshana Sleeping. 3:40.
06. Sad City Sisters. 3:41.
07. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John. 3:38.
08. The Betrayal Of Joshua Kynde. 4:05.
09. Where Did Saturday Go?. 3:52.
10. Three Loves, Three. 3:29.
11. In Brief Visitation. 3:01.
12. The Fisherman Of Ephesus. 3:40.

CD 2 (Bonus Disc).
01. Mrs Tibbets (Rough Demo). 2:37
02. Mine Is the Mountain (Rough Demo). 2:26.
03. The Zealot Gene (Rough Demo). 2:07.
04. Shoshana Sleeping (Rough Demo). 2:43.
05. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John (Rough Demo). 3:01.
06. The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde (Rough Demo). 3:17.
07. The Fisherman of Ephesus (Rough Demo). 3:04.
08. Jacob’s Tales (Initial Idea Demo). 1:24.
09. Sad City Sisters (Initial Idea Demo). 2:32.
10. Where Did Saturday Go? (Initial Idea Demo). 3:33.
11. Three Loves, Three (Initial Idea Demo). 2:04.
12. In Brief Visitation (Initial Idea Demo). 1:14.
13. She Smells So Sweet (Initial Idea Demo). 1:07.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music #201

Screams & Whispers – How Far To Hitchin

Introduction…

Paul Dews, his music and artwork are back so too is his project of How Far To Hitchin despite having moved even further away from the actual place. Screams & Whispers is the third album to be produced under this project of his and surprisingly it comes only a couple of years after the release of his second album Black Bead Eye. To be honest I was expecting it only to be a couple of years before another album surfaced but since moving to the Orkney Isles and setting up a new studio I was not expecting it to be released until later on this year.

For those who are not familiar with Dews work, he is very much like many multi-instrumentalists and musicians that sit at home and like to be creative and make their own music. The music of HFTH is hardly the thing you will come across in a pub or at a festival being played live like a band it’s very much the work of a one-man studio project.

Getting your music out there in the form of a studio-only project does have its downfalls especially when trying to attract attention to it. Though thankfully over the years and with the release of his last two albums he has managed to pick up a bit of a following and it’s no wonder with the strength of the material on his last two albums.

The other side of Dews creativeness is down to the artwork to which is all drawn and painted by himself. You will normally also find that the artwork he does for his album covers bears some reference to the tracks on the album.

What Dews likes to give you regarding any album he writes and works on is much more than just a solo music project but a whole visual and musical experience. I would certainly go along with that and I guess a lot of his music is inspired by his artwork and he presents it to you in one complete package.

Although his inspiration can also come from where he is actually living and perhaps one of the finest examples of that can be found on his debut album Easy Targets with a song entitled “The Peacocks of Birkby“. I would also suggest that album as a starting point because it is more accessible than his previous album to which I did find more subdued and restrained at first and it took a good few more spins to really sink in.

The music that Dews presents to you is verging on the PROGMATIC! side of things and in his case it might even be best described as ARTROCK! with how he presents both forms of art to you in one package. Screams & Whispers continues in much of the same vein as his second album and although the man behind it has moved on so to speak, the question is has the music itself? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a standard plastic jewel case and has been put together by Dews himself and for any unknown artist who is not going to be selling their albums by the bucket load, this is perhaps the most cost-effective way of putting your music out there in a physical format rather than spending £300 to have them done by a duplication firm. Besides this way, you can make as many as you want and not be left with hundreds of them cluttering up your garage so to speak.

It also comes with an 8-page booklet that contains all the lyrics and artwork related to them. It does not come with any real informative information and all the linear production notes and credits are printed on the back of the CD. Overall he’s done a very reasonable semi-pro job of making it and it’s understandable why any unknown artist would choose this method of at least getting their music out there in a physical format and not just go with a Digital Download release only.

Artwork.

As I mentioned earlier the artwork was done by Dews himself and I have to say it’s very impressive and gives me the impression that he’s echoing certain things from the past looking at certain things that are contained in there. Besides the actual CD, he is also selling Limited Edition prints of his artwork that give you the bigger picture so to speak and these are the size of a vinyl album cover at 12 inches X 12 inches. It also comes in high definition and on Canson Aquarelle Rag watercolour paper.

The picture above gives you an idea of what it will look like framed and put up on the wall in your living room and I have to say it does look a pretty picture indeed and a quality one at that. They say every picture tells a story and overall I think Dews has certainly come up with the goods once again regarding the artwork so let’s now take a look at the album itself.

The Album In Review…

Screams & Whispers by How Far To Hitchin was released on the 17th of December 2021. The album itself comes with 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 45 seconds. It does like most albums from years ago have a very reasonable and what should be a comfortable time slot. It was also Dews own idea to make the album shorter than his previous albums, and something more like a vinyl album length. However, most of the tracks are quite lengthy and that does make the album a bit less digestible at first and I found that further spins were needed to let a few of the tracks really sink in so to speak.

Having set up a house in the Orkney Isles back in 2019 Dews spent most of his time settling in and working on building a new studio. Rather than use the name of his old studio Studio One-Seven-Two he went along with a new name and decided to call it The Rookery. Gazing at the artwork he has done for both his previous and this latest album I guess you could say he does have a fetish for birds. That of the feathered kind that is 😊😊😊.

As you can see in the picture above the new studio he set up in his garden and you could say that The Rookery has a porthole into the future of the music of HFTH. Although Dews is a multi-instrumentalist he is perhaps more predominantly a guitarist or stringed instrument player though he does also dabble with keyboards, and keyboard and drum programming and he even plays the flute.

He started work on the new material for Screams & Whispers at his new home back in the autumn of 2020 and finished it around the winter of 2021. As with his previous album he sent it to Russell Sinfield to do the final polishing and mastering of the album tracks. Sinfield has quite a reputation on Soundcloud for his production and mastering techniques and many have used his services in the past.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs written by Paul Dews. Produced by Paul Dews. Recorded & Mixed by Paul Dews at The Rookery, Orkney somewhere betwen Autumn 2020 – Winter 2021. Mastered by Russ Sinfield. All Artwork & Design by Paul Dews.

Musicians:
Paul Dews: All Vocals & Instruments.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although Dews spent over a year writing new material for Screams & Whispers. The biggest majority of the material is actually reworked older material that he originally wrote back in the 90’s and out of the 7 album tracks only 2 of them are new. Though he did ensure me that the reworked material of 3 of the tracks no longer resembles the original material.

A couple of the tracks were originally written for a theatre piece directed by his partner Emma Gee. These have also been re-written and recorded and he chose both of these pieces because they fitted in with the general theme. Speaking of the theme the lyrical content is based around the concept of life and all it throws at us sort of thing and perhaps in this case DEATH!. So let’s now take a look at it all turns out as I take you through the albums individual tracks.

Track 1. Preparing For Life.

The opening track is more of an introduction and a short one at that. At 1 minute, 24 seconds it is fact the shortest track on the album and one of the two tracks that were originally for a theatre piece directed by his partner Emma Gee, to which has been re-worked. Besides the short keyboard intro, it is mostly a two to three-part harmonising vocal acapella to which has been very well worked out and skillfully done by Dews.

Turning towards the lyrical content the words are very well woven and very poetic and perhaps on the tongue-twisting side of things, a bit like the picture, I chose regarding which direction they are turning to or going. Preparing for life, in this case, may very well be the afterlife sort of thing and once again Dews has done an excellent job on them.

Track 2. Screams & Whispers.

The albums self-titled track is quite a synth and percussive built-up track and its opening reminds me of the sort of thing Genesis were doing in the 80’s especially the percussive side of things. The intro is sort of like a cross between “Mama” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” with a bit of the zoo and telecommunications thrown in sort of thing. It does have me thinking of those songs in particular with how it’s all been layered and structured with the use of synths and percussion.

The song itself came from one of his earlier demos he did back in the 90’s and once again it’s been reworked for this album. I quite like how a bit more meat and gravy is given to the keyboards to strengthen it up which allows the vocals to come into play and like most songs in the 80’s it’s very much a synth-driven song. I also get a Tony Banks feel with the sequencing and some of the material you will find on his 1987 album Strictly Inc. very much comes to mind.

There are quite a few influences here and oddly enough in parts, Dews’s voice reminds me of Steve Hillage in particular with how he is expressing some of the words. Once again the lyrical content is really good and the lyrics do come across like sentences that have been strung together with how Dews delivers them, they are also so well apt and in context with the song’s title.

The biggest majority of the song is verse and chorus structured and it is quite a lengthy track weighing in at 8 minutes, 13 seconds. However, he has thrown in a bridge around the 5-minute mark which takes you into quite an interesting instrumental section to round it all off and this is perhaps the most PROGMATIC! section of the song. Many other influences are also flying out of the woods here including Brian Eno and strangely the first guitar riff, in particular, has me instantly thinking of Tony T.S. McPhee of the Groundhogs.

Track 3. This Day.

Another reworked demo from the 90’s and this is another song that I feel once again has quite a Tony Banks influence and part of its melodic structure reminds me of “It’s Probably Me” by Sting. No doubt there is probably a good few influences that have been thrown into the pot here besides. This is much more keyboard-driven than the opening track on the album and it does contain some fine synth work in little pockets in the couple of the instrumental breaks throughout. I quite like how the bass sits in so well with it all as well and Dews delivers his fine words very well and is in fine voice.

It’s very much a fine ballad of a song to which he has structured quite well. Although personally for me it is perhaps a bit too long over its 7-minute duration and over this distance I tend to think it’s saying too much of the same thing musically and is not really going in any other direction for my personal taste. I’m not saying I don’t like the song and really feel it would have worked better over half of this distance like most ballads do.

Track 4. Rubber People.

No doubt the influence of Banks has played quite a big part in putting this album together and like his debut album, it is more keyboard orientated. This is another song that uses the same percussion that can be found in the Genesis song “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” though there are a couple of other influences I hear in here too such as the sequence that is used in the intro puts me in mind of “Tribal Statistics” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band from there 1982 album Somewhere in Afrika. You also get a slight bit of guitar towards the end that is influenced by Steve Hackett.

The Olmecs are generally known as rubber people or people of a rubber country because they extracted latex from Panama rubber trees (Castilla elastica) growing in the region and mixed it with the juice of a local vine. Although the rubber people in this instance has more political issues and is really a stab at those idiots who keep on voting for the same idiots that get into power. Once again Dews has done a GREAT! job on the lyrics with his cynical approach to them.

Track 5. Common Rise.

This is one of the two new songs on the album that were written for the album and although Roger Waters has a little black box with his poems in, you could say that Paul Dews stores his photographs and memories inside a metal box so to speak. The common rise in question here is a place in Hitchin which is in the Eastern region of England and where he grew up and the words are very much pertaining to times of the past.

The way the song opens up does put in mind of Waters and very much of his debut album Easy Targets which is my personal favourite album of the three he has now written. To be perfectly honest when I first played this album this song was very much for me where the album started and I would have used this song as the opening track and wrote the rest of the album around it. I am pretty sure his second album Black Bead Eye had that effect on me at first and it was like listening to an album that had two halves.

Dews posted a video he made for the new song back in August last year and I took the liberty of nicking it for this review. This is very much my personal favourite track on the album and an awful lot has really been put into it regarding the musical structure.

The music itself is structured around a very fine melody line played on the piano. The interesting part is really how it builds up you to which will hear many other countermelodies popping out of the woodwork from the synths and guitars. It does have that haunting presence about it too which is well-fitting the lyrical content and Dews voice on this song is GOLDEN!

Track 6. Entropy.

This is the second of the pieces that were originally written for Emma Gee’s theatre piece that she directed and has been re-worked for this album. This is quite a lovely instrumental piece that was structured on the guitar and it utilises 12 string and nylon guitar very well throughout the piece. Keyboards also play a part in it and it also has quite an interesting reverse guitar effect intro and perhaps some demonic voice put into the outro that also makes it interesting.

Entropy is a scientific concept as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The piece and its effects in particular are well apt to the process of it all and it moves along quite dramatically as if it is describing the process of it all and is another GREAT! track.

Track 7. Cherish.

The final track happens to be the longest on the album weighing in at just over 10 minutes. It’s a song where more instrumentation comes out of the woodwork and both the banjo and mandolin are very well utilised and even to the point of them ticking over like a clock and working in the percussion department as well. So too is the bass guitar and this song has very much been constructed around the stringed instrumentation rather than the keyboards which is what I personally like about it.

The keyboards do get very well utilised towards the end of the song though I will say it is mainly the stringed instruments that provided the backbone to the progression you get here as well. It is the second of the new songs that Dews wrote from scratch for the album and the words are pertaining to cherishing everything including the memories of a loved one after death. It’s another really GREAT! song and it winds up the album very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of Screams & Whispers by How Far To Hitchin. I think it’s very much an album that has Paul Dews stamp all over it with his many influences and his own formidable style that sits in well with the previous two albums. However, I personally do not feel all of the written material has enough to hold or glue itself together as well in relation to those previous couple of albums and it’s as if there is something amiss or not quite right.

It is like I mentioned an album that needs a good few spins for the material to sit with you and I would say that the way the first half of the album has been put together is not the best way. For example, the first half of the album does sound way too subdued and restrained and this would be down to the track placement of tracks 2 & 3 being very much subdued songs and rather lengthy material.

To be perfectly honest the way the first half of the album is put together put me in mind of Peter Jones 3rd album of his Tiger Moth Tales project The Depths Of Winter. I often do find that when the music is more restrained and held back and two tracks like that are placed together you are heading into SLEEPFEST! territory and you need something a bit more exciting to keep you awake especially over those longer distances.

In many respects the way I see how Dews has put this album together especially down to it being more on the keyboard orientated side of things. It does have me thinking that he was trying to recapture some of that old magic that made his debut album stand out so well. Shorter tracks such as “Rubber People” is a prime example though I personally don’t feel it quite makes the grade of the material that was written for Easy Targets even though its title has a familiar ring about it.

For me, it’s the fresh material on the second half of the album that stands out the most for my liking and has I mentioned “Common Rise” is the song I would have personally used as a starting point and built the rest of the album around. I also think that the way the second half of the album has been constructed with more stringed instrumentation and is not keyboard orientated is what makes it more interesting and enjoyable.

In answer to my question in the introduction. It’s perhaps not really an album that has moved on even though the man himself has. I think what you are getting here is a combination of his first two albums and they may very well reflect why it sounds like it comes in two halves so to speak.

In conclusion of my review of Screams & Whispers. So far I have mostly pointed out some of the negative points about the album and how I personally see it as an album or how it does not work that particularly well for me with how it flows. Though I can assure you there are perhaps more positive things about it than negative especially when it comes down to how much of the material has been very well constructed and written and with how well it’s been produced and mastered.

Screams & Whispers if anything still has enough to offer and is still very much worthy of adding to your record collection. My personal highlights from the album are “Common Rise“, “Screams & Whispers“, “Entropy” and “Cherish“.

You can listen to the album for free or purchase it in Digital & Physical formats from the following link: https://www.howfartohitchin.com/store

Hitchin Rises Again…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Preparing For Life. 1:24.
02. Screams & Whispers. 8:13.
03. This Day. 7:12.
04. Rubber People. 5:51.
05. Common Rise. 6:54.
06. Entropy. 4:05.
07. Cherish. 10:06.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6.5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #200

Benefit (The 50th Anniversary Enhanced Edition) – Jethro Tull

Introduction…

Near enough a decade in the waiting and now it’s finally arrived at last and boy am I glad to see this one get the book treatment at long last. Jethro Tull’s third album Benefit from 1970 has always been one of the bands TOP ALBUMS! in my book so to speak and I cannot believe it’s taken this long to come in a book or Mediabook as with the other 12 albums that have been released in these splendid packages so far. I was aware it was due to be released this year having seen an interview with Steve Wilson last year saying that it had been repackaged.

I say repackaged because Wilson did do the 5.1 mix of the album back in 2013 and it was released in that year with the title of A Collectors Edition as you can see in the picture above. You can also see how bad it looked stacked up against some of the other editions in the picture below and no doubt it’s been crying out to get done.

A couple of things stand out straight away with this latest edition. The first is that it’s been re-titled the Enhanced Edition and secondly that it comes with twice as many discs as how it was packaged before in the Collectors Edition. Many of the other Mediabook editions were also released on their 40th Anniversary were as this is the second reissue along with This Was to be rereleased on its 50th Anniversary even though it’s a year late.

Benefit is pretty much a solid album and most certainly one of my GOTO! albums of the band and I am sure for many Tull fans it would be likewise for them too. It’s a very well-produced album and in terms of its production is much better than Aqualung and for many years it also sounded to me like it was released after that iconic album of the band. It was not until Wilson got his hands on the master tapes in 2015 and remixed Aqualung that it started to speak to me a lot more.

But even so over the many years, I have certainly played Benefit more times than Stand Up and Aqualung. I’ve most likely played it more times than Thick As A Brick which is my personal favourite album of the band. Now the album comes with a few more extras in relation to the way it was packaged back in 2013 and it gives you something more to sink your teeth into. But before we take a look at what extra goodies are here let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

As with all these Mediabooks they come in the form of a quality cardboard hardback book with plenty of informative reading content for you to get your teeth into and this one comes with a 100-page book. Besides the informative information you also get some GREAT! quality photographs of the band other music-related items such as pictures of flyers, posters and the actual master tape boxes. Unlike the way it was packaged back in 2013, this one comes with 6 discs instead of 3 and you certainly get your money’s worth with these rather splendid packages.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 2nd of October for £32.32 and got a refund of £5.21 and only paid £27.11 in the end. Although I did even do better than that because for some reason it got delayed, well at least that is what I thought because it never arrived on Friday the day of its release. By the following Wednesday it still never arrived so I phoned them up and they had to send me out a replacement as it got lost in transit.

They did tell me should the other copy turn up I could keep it and exactly a week after its release both copies arrived as you can see in the picture above. So I got more than my money’s worth and the other one I shall leave in its cellophane and sell it at a later date after it is gone out of circulation. If it becomes as sort after as some of the others I have I shall more than BENEFIT! from it 😊😊😊.

Benefit (50th Anniversary Enhanced Edition) In Review…

Jethro Tull’s third album Benefit was originally scheduled to be released on the 24th of April 1970. The UK release that is. Though it was most likely released on the 1st of May of the same year. The album contained 10 tracks and had an overall playing time of 42 minutes. The album was released in the US slightly earlier on the 20th of April and there was a reason for it which I shall divulge in a bit. Although the US release contained the same amount of tracks it did come with a slightly different playlist though that still happens even today and is nothing unusual.

Although the album did not do quite as well as its predecessor Stand Up by reaching the number 1 spot in the UK album charts it did manage to reach number 3. It also managed to peak at number 11 in the US and there was a significant reason why the album was released in America first. Apparently, the album was also the very first Jethro Tull million-selling record.

Although the band had already dipped their toe to test the water in the American market a year earlier they had not quite broken into it and they wanted to make sure they did. On their first tour, they were more of a support act touring in support of Led Zeppelin and other acts. It was now time to see how much of an impact they would make as the main act so to speak.

Benefit was the album that John Evan became an official member of the band and even though he was a session player on Stand Up and had known Ian Anderson for quite a while and had played with him in the John Evan Band. It still took a lot of persuading for Anderson to get him to join the group. Like Jeffrey Hammond (who later joined the group) he too had his mindset on doing something else and wanted to go off to further educate himself at college on Science. I suppose he could have been March the mad scientist and instead he chose to be the Hare who lost his spectacles so to speak 😊😊😊.

According to Anderson, it was having a keyboard player that added another dimension and gave the band more freedom and scope to change the direction in their music which no doubt it certainly did not long after especially by 1972 with their Thick As A Brick album.

Just as one new member joins the band an old one departs and this was the last album that Glen Cornick appeared on. It’s not exactly clear why he left or was fired from the band some say it was down to his lifestyle outside the band with his partying that Anderson disliked and it was left to the bands manager Terry Ellis to give him his marching orders. My personal belief is that Anderson got rid of Cornick to make way for his best friend Jeffrey Hammond.

However, there were no hard feelings on Cornick’s part and the next band he went on to form Wild Turkey with the likes of drummer John Weathers & Gary Pickford-Hopkins also went on to support Jethro Tull. Weathers as many will know went on to join Gentle Giant and Hopkins went on to sing alongside Ashley Holt in Rick Wakeman’s first-ever English Rock Ensemble and featured on his albums Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. To be honest I prefered his voice to Holt’s who was more of an operatic singer.

Benefit was the first of many Jethro Tull albums to be engineered by Robin Black. Like the bands previous album Stand Up it too was recorded at Morgan Studios in London. Other Tull albums that Black engineered at the same studios during the 70’s were A Passion Play, Warchild and Songs From The Wood.

The Enhanced 50th Anniversary Mediabook or Box Set of Benefit was officially released on the 5th of November 2021. As I mentioned in my introduction this edition does come with 3 extra discs in relation to the Collectors Edition that was released back in 2013. So let’s now take a look at the contents.

The Package Contents.

One of the first things you always get with a package like this is a well-detailed book that always makes an interesting read. Having all the Mediabook Editions I find the books that come with these packages a valued source of information especially for a reviewer like myself. The very fact that Ian Anderson and other band members along with much of the crew involved in the band have contributed to them are what make these packages so special and so far I have yet to come across anything that gives you this much detail about an album and the time it was made.

The Book.

In the book, you will find an extensive article written by Martin Webb on the recording and touring of the album. Another couple of interesting articles by sound Engineer Robin Black and the bands manager Terry Ellis who share their experiences working with the band. All the lyrics to the songs as well as annotations of them by Ian Anderson, Martin Barre & Clive Bunker. Joshua White talks about the lighting and video shooting at one of the concerts plus working with Billy Graham. Steven Wilson discusses the mixing of both the album and one of the live concerts and you get a recording and touring chronology along with rare photos and other memorabilia.

The Discs.

If like myself you have the Collectors Edition of Benefit regarding the 2 CD’s and 1 DVD that came in that package they are more or less the same as we have here apart from a few extra bonus tracks. With this new Enhanced Edition, you get an extra 2 CD’s and 1 DVD and these discs include a couple of live concerts which is perhaps the reason why they are calling this the Enhanced Edition. So let’s now take a look at the 6 discs.

CD 1.

The first CD contains the 2013 stereo remix of the album done by Steven Wilson. It also contains a further 7 tracks and these are also stereo remixes by Wilson and are some of the associated recordings that were written and recorded around the same time frame as the original album. The extra tracks you get are as follows: “Singing All Day“, “Sweet Dream“, “17“, “Teacher (UK Single Version)“, “Teacher (US Album Version)“, “My God (Early Version)” and “Just Trying To Be (Early Version)“.

The final two tracks here were not included on the Collectors Edition and these are early outtakes and earlier versions of a couple of the songs that found their way onto the 1971 Aqualung album that they were working on around the time.

CD 2.

The second CD continues with the associated recordings only these are all original recordings and not remixed by Wilson. A few other bonus tracks have been added in relation to the Collectors Edition which only had 16 tracks. The Enhanced Edition has 21 tracks although most of what you get is the same they have sort of reshuffled them around and placed them in better order by placing them into 3 sections. Although the fact that they have included both mono and stereo mixes makes this disc pretty much repetitive.

First up we have the original 1969 – 1970 Single Mono mixes and the tracklist is as follows: “Singing All Day“, “Sweet Dream“, “17“, “The Witch’s Promise“, “Teacher (UK Single Version)“, “Teacher (US Album Version)“, “Inside“, “Alive and Well and Living In“, “A Time for Everything?“.

Next up we have the original 1969 – 1970 Single Stereo mixes and the tracklist is as follows: “Sweet Dream“, “17“, “The Witch’s Promise“, “Teacher (UK Single Version)“.

Finally, we have the 1971 Stereo Compilation Album remixes and original Mono US Radio Spots. Apart from a couple of Radio Spots, these are the tracks that were not included on the Collectors Edition. The tracklist is as follows: “Singing All Day“, “Sweet Dream“, “17“, “The Witch’s Promise“, “Teacher (US Album Version)“, “Benefit AM Radio Spot #1” and “Benefit AM Radio Spot #2“.

In reality, the first couple of discs offer you way less bonus material than the extra amount of tracks suggest and that is basically down to everything being repeated over and over. Much of the bonus material you do get did end up on the 1972 compilation album Living In The Past and the only unreleased material over the first two discs that were previously unreleased would have been the early versions of “My God” and “Just Trying To Be” on the first disc.

CD 3.

The following couple of CD’s are what make this package Enhanced in relation to the Collectors Edition and the 3rd disc contains the first of two concerts and here we have the band on their American Tour and it captures the band playing live at the Tanglewood on the 7th of July 1970. This particular performance was part of Bill Graham’s Filmore at the Tanglewood and was headlined by The Who.

The concert was recorded on 8-track by Fedco Audio Labs engineered by Eddie Kramer and a recording truck was set up to make the recordings to which Graham wanted to be recorded despite not having any rights. Over the years many bootlegs of this concert have appeared although this recording is way more superior and has Steven Wilson at the helm of remixing it.

It’s very much a quality recording that captures the band where they were still very much learning their craft of putting on a good live show and like many bands back in those days, they would often be there fiddling about tuning up their instruments. Though I will say Anderson has always had the gift of the gab to put the audience at ease by talking to them whilst doing so. Although Anderson would admit himself he was still learning how to do that back in these early days.

As far as I can make out you do get the whole show here and this particular disc comes with 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 69 minutes 14 seconds. Oddly enough the band get the tuning out of the way right at the beginning and along with Anderson babbling away to the audience that is all you get on the first track.

The band soon get into the swing of things as they burst into one of the more popular songs from their previous album “Nothing Is Easy” and although they do a cracking job of it you can hear that they were perhaps a bit looser in relation to later on or even some of their other shows around the same time. You then get an extended version of “My God” which eventually found its way onto the album that was to follow Aqualung and it’s perhaps not that unusual to the many performances of this one where Anderson extends it with a long flute solo.

For me personally, there are a couple of things that let this performance down a bit and the first of those is the lack of material they play from their latest album Benefit at the time they play at the show. The only song they do play from it is up next “With You There to Help Me / By Kind Permission Of” and it’s followed as you can see by an improvised piece written and played by John Evan to which Anderson contributes a bit of flute too.

Although the first of them is not a bad performance I do also find it quite loose down to Evan playing it on the piano instead of having the twin guitars as it does on the studio version. Quite a few of the songs on Benefit were played with both Barre and Anderson on electric guitars which gave it a sort of Wishbone Ash twin guitar sound and that element is really missing by trying to use the piano to emulate it.

Dharma for One” as always gives Clive Bunker a chance to have a good bash on the drums with its extended drum solo and as much as I love Bunker’s skills on the drums this is perhaps not one of the best performances of this song that’s for sure. To be honest I would have prefered if they did a couple of other songs from their debut album instead like “A Song For Jeffrey” and Beggars Farm” for example and they would have filled the twelve and half minutes you get here much better I feel.

Speaking about ways to fill the space better is really my other gripe with this concert’s set-list and even the classic song “We Used To Know” get’s cut short to make way for Martin Barre’s almost 16-minute guitar solo which is not the best. They finally round it all off with another song from their previous album “For a Thousand Mothers“.

Overall, despite some of the negative points, I pointed out here this is still by far a very good concert and moment in time that has been very well captured. The audio quality is excellent and like I mentioned much more superior in relation to the many bootlegs that are out there that come with very poor sound and even the sounds breaks up in some places. My advice is to chuck those things in the bin and get this.

CD 4.

The fourth and final CD in the package gives you another live concert and here the band are captured at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinois on the 16th of August 1970. The recording was engineered by John Burns and what we have here is a Mono source that has been taken directly from the Soundboard at the Aragon Ballroom.

In total, you get 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 75 minutes, 12 seconds and as it came from the same tour the set-list runs along with much of the same material. Although there are a few changes and at least there are 3 tracks from what was their new album at the time and despite it only being in Mono, I do prefer this concert in relation to the one done at the Tanglewood.

Most of the changes have been put in from the start and after a tune-up, the band burst into one of the older songs from their debut album “My Sunday Feeling” and knock it out of the ballpark. The two minute shorter version of “My God” sounds better for it in my opinion and then they roll out one after the other 3 songs from the Benefit album and it’s obvious that at this show the album is getting better treatment. The first of them is “To Cry You A Song” and is followed by “With You There To Help Me” which once again they roll into Evan’s improv “By Kind Permission Of“.

Although I love both of the electric songs from the album the one I personally loved to see is “Sossity: You’re A Woman“. Though unfortunately it’s not the whole of the song and they have sandwiched another fine song “Reasons For Waiting” in the middle of it. It is a very good performance though and features just Anderson on vocals and acoustic guitar and Evan on the organ. I also think that “To Cry You A Song” worked much better than “With You There To Help Me” by Evan’s using an organ instead of a piano.

The rest of the show they roll out “Nothing Is Easy“, “Dharma For One“, “We Used To Know“, “Guitar Instrumental” and end it off once again with “For A Thousand Mothers” all of which were included in the Tanglewood set-list. Only here I do think they are better performed especially Bunker’s drum solo on “Dharma For One” and Barre’s guitar solo is a lot shorter.

Overall, although being only in Mono this concert does not have the sound quality of the Tanglewood show but nevertheless, the quality is still good. I think one of the major reasons I prefer this concert over the one at Tanglewood is not just down to the better performance but it feels more like a proper set-list of songs rather than extensive guitar and drum solo’s to pass the time so to speak.

DVD 1.

The first of the DVD’s is dedicated to the album Benefit and its associated tracks. It not only contains the 2013 Stereo and Surround mixes done by Steven Wilson but also the flat transfer of the original album and all are mostly in high-resolution audio formats. The main menu (as seen above) gives you the choice of which mix to choose and is your pathway to a fuller menu with more options.

The menu above caters for the Steve Wilson mixes and from here you can simply play the album, select a specific track or change the audio options. It also contains a bonus section with extra tracks. Unlike the main menu, it does not have to load to another screen for each of the options.

As you can see by the screen above by selecting the track menu a box simply pops up to display the album tracks. This is so much better than having to wait for another screen to load and is faster and more efficient.

The Audio options above basically will give you the best there is for both Stereo and Surround offering you 96/24 LPCM Stereo and DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround sound. The weakest link is the Dolby Digital Surround mix and these days even Steve Wilson has done away with this weak format.

The extra tracks give you a total of 5 bonus tracks from the associated recordings although the last couple of tracks is of the same song. The good thing about these is that you also get the option to listen to them in 5.1 as with the rest of the main album and that’s always a winner for surround FREAKS! such as myself.

The good thing about all these new Jethro Tull Editions is that they also come with the original mix of the album so for those die-hard purist freaks you cannot really complain here and these packages offer you a lot more besides. So let’s now take a look at that side of the DVD.

As you can see from the menu of the original album that it not only gives you the UK version but also the US version and like the other menu a box pops up to display the tracklist without having to load to another screen. There are no audio options here but you do get the full quality high resolution of the album in 96/24 LPCM Stereo.

The two select track options display the tracklist of both the UK and US versions and here you can plainly see that “A Time For Everything? was not included with the US version and likewise “Teacher” was not included with the UK version.

The extra track menu only gives you 3 bonus tracks unlike the Wilson mixes and I think it’s a shame that they never included “The Witch’s Promise” like they have done here with the Wilson mixes as I would have loved a 5.1 version of that. It may have been that the multitrack tapes for it were not available.

Unlike the way some of the other DVD’s have been done in the Tull series this one does not come with a Slideshow whilst playing the album. Instead, it just displays the album cover and the only thing that changes as it goes along is the track name as you can see in the picture above.

DVD 2.

The second DVD’s menu is a bit more straightforward and only has 3 options to choose from “Play Concert”, “Track Select” and “Audio Select”. As you can see from the menu above it contains the same live concert that is on the 3rd CD. Only here we have the actual film footage of the concert and it comes with a running time of 83 minutes instead of 69 minutes 14 seconds that’s on the CD. However, the setlist is exactly the same as you can see in the “Track Select” menu below.

The extra 13 minutes or so is not really noticeable and is most likely taken up by the credits sort of thing. The last 8 minutes or so of the film footage is also missing and those last few minutes are in audio-only with still pictures put to it.

The audio menu (above) gives you the choice of 3 audio formats to choose from all mixed by Steven Wilson and by default it’s set to LPCM Stereo with a rate of 48/16 and it runs along at 1.5Mbps. The couple of 5.1 surround mixes offers you the choice of DTS 48/24 748Kbps and the standard Dolby Digital 48/24 448Kbps.

As far as I make out I am not sure anything has been done regarding restoring the picture but I will say that the picture quality is a lot better than any of the uploads of this concert I have seen on Youtube and those things with how the picture and audio break up I personally could not watch. they are inferior to what you get on this DVD.

The Stereo & Surround Mixes.

Anybody who has been buying these new Jethro Tull Mediabook Editions should, without doubt, recognise the top quality job Steven Wilson has done on them in the audio department whether it be in stereo or surround. Being the surround FREAK! I am, having Benefit in 5.1 is a must for me and no way does the surround mix disappoint and it will bring out a lot more than the stereo mix and is the clear winner in my book. I would also give it a 10 out of 10.

The live concert on the second DVD was always going to present Wilson with a problem and all he could really do with it was the best he can. Personally as expected it’s not going to bring out the dynamics and an awful lot in relation to the studio recordings on the first DVD. So don’t get expecting something spectacular. It is of good sound quality though but the stereo mix of this old concert in my opinion is just as good and perhaps better and worthy of 8 out of 10. Whereas the surround mix I would give a 6 out of 10 and that is, in reality, the most you could really expect to get out of an old live recording like this.

Musicians & Credits…

All Songs Written by Ian Anderson. Produced by Ian Anderson. Exceutive Producer Terry Ellis. Recording Engineer Robin Black. Recorded at Morgan Studios (Studio 2) London, from the 1st September 1969 – 15th March 1970. Cover Design by Terry Ellis & Ruan O’Lochlainn. Graphic Presentation by Ken Reilly. Artwork by Phil Smee at Waldo’s Design & Dream Emporium. Photography by Herb Green, Claude Delorme, Charles Everest, Marshall Bohlin, George-Albert Kracht, Rosanna Oliver-Black, Lasse Hoile, Martin Webb & Amalie Rothschild. Surround & New Stereo Mixes by Steven Wilson. CD Mastering & DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at Isonic.

Musicians.
Ian Anderson: Vocals – Acoustic & Electric Guitar – Flute – Balalaika – Keyboards.
Martin Barre: Electric Guitar.
John Evan: Piano – Organ.
Glen Cornick: Bass Guitar – Hammond Organ (Uncredited).
Clive Blunker: Drums – Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
David Palmer: Orchestral Arrangements.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Benefit is more of a powerful electric album in relation to the first two albums and even Aqualung that followed it. There is also some really GREAT! progression here too and it’s an album that the band had more difficulty trying to present its material live on the stage. I would even say it’s quite a heavy rock album that’s almost verging on the lines of Black Sabbath with how some of the material is driven along. I would go as far as to say (having read the book that comes with this package) that it’s an album that Ian Anderson has ignored and to be quite frank some of the things he came out with tell me that he does not know this album at all even though he wrote it 😊😊😊.

Anderson himself places this album in the bottom third of the Jethro Tull catalogue, unlike Martin Barre who like myself would place it in the top third. Some of the things in this book simply do not add up and the hardest thing I find hard to get to grips with is that they more or less went in the studio and played the album live, yet on the stage what little they did play from this album was about as loose as you could get and never really spoke to me like the studio versions.

Benefit is a very well and even over-produced album much more so than Aqualung ever was and it’s perhaps down to the many overdubs and being more experimental in the studio was why Anderson ignored the biggest majority of it simply because it was too hard to pull off in a live performance. One of the other reasons for his dislike of the album was that it was more heavy guitar riffed along with the likes of many other rock bands at the time.

To show you just how ignorant Anderson is to this album and how he does not know an awful great deal about it. One of the things he mentioned in the book is that many of the tracks never had flute on which was another reason why he disliked a lot of it. So let’s now go through the album tracks and see if he was right or wrong.

Track 1. With You There To Help Me.

The opening song is a song about absence and looking back at things you probably could have done back then with someone’s help that you could not really do today. Well at least that’s the gist I get from it but there are several other ways you could look at it. It’s a very well put together song that has a lot thrown into it in particular on the musical side of things and contains very well constructed chords that string it all together. Martin Barre described it as quite complex and complicated to play back in those days. Glen Cornick thought it was one of the best songs Anderson had ever written and the band did enjoy playing it live.

I personally don’t think it’s the best song Anderson ever wrote and I certainly do not think the song really worked live like it did on the studio album. Basically, because you need two guitarists to pull it off and there is a lot more going on in the studio version than any live version of it. There is even more flute in the studio version including a backward flute that was done for fun with the use of effects.

With You There to Help Me” is one of three songs on the album that were constructed in more or less the same manner. They are all more complex than anything you will find on Aqualung and contain far more progression. It’s most likely down to that reason why I always felt that this album came after Aqualung simply because it’s an album where you can see how well the band have come along and progressed. The most complex thing on Aqualung is most likely the piano intro that John Evan wrote and played for the introduction of “Locomotive Breath“.

Track 2. Nothing To Say.

This is the second song on the album that runs along the same ground as the opening track regarding its progression and is Barre’s personal favourite track on the album. The song was originally structured on the acoustic guitar by Anderson and once again it features both Anderson and Barre on electric guitars. It’s also a song that Barre wanted to be included in the set to play live but Anderson never liked it (most likely because he never played the flute on it) so it got pushed to one side like many of the songs on the album.

Although the song is entitled “Nothing To Say” every time I hear Anderson sing this song it sounds like he’s singing “Nothing To See” and I am pretty sure he is singing the word “See” by mistake. I quite like the lyrics to this song and I feel they are a lot better than the opening track. Though there is nothing on this album I dislike and every track in my opinion is as good as each other.

Track 3. Alive and Well and Living In.

Lots of lovely flute on this one yet for some reason Anderson describes it in the book as CRAP! with annoying jazzy flute phrases. In all honesty, if that is what he thinks of this song he must think the same for some of the songs on Stand Up. The way this song is structured does remind me quite a lot of the material that was on that previous album as well especially with how it’s all ended off with a rather nice instrumental acoustic bit of melancholy.

The lyrical content is based on a broken-down relationship hence how both are alone and living somewhere else at the end of it all. They are obviously alive and well and did not end up living in squaller so to speak 😊😊😊. I quite like the way that the song has been given both a verse and a chorus for him and her.

There is no doubt that besides getting to grips with how to speak to an audience that Anderson was also finding his voice around this period and it stands out very well on this song along with his flute. Evan’s piano features strongly on this track and it’s very much led by it. I also feel the piano works well doing so on this particular song whereas on the live version of “With You There to Help Me” it does not cut the mustard or work at all for my ears.

This song was also left off the US version and replaced with “Teacher” and even though I am very much alive and living in the UK I actually had to buy this album twice on vinyl back in the 70’s to get this song. The first pressing I brought had “Teacher” on both sides of the album and it not only replaced this song but also “Inside” on the second side of the album. The same thing happened back then when I brought Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection. That had “Amoreena” on both sides and was missing “Son Of My Father” on side one.

Track 4. Son.

Like the previous song, this is also both electric and acoustic-only this one bursts straight into the action and is a bit more power-driven. The acoustic section is very much a bridge that has been sandwiched between the power-driven sections and rather than work its way into it, it very much fades out to introduce it sort of thing. It’s perhaps not the smoothest of transitions though the transition works very well.

Martin Barre describes this song as very Un-Tull with an almost BEATLE ESC! midsection. you could say the rest of the song has more of a rough, raw and ready approach to it all. The lyrical content is pertaining to the relationship between a father and son and the advice the father often gives to his son. It’s also another song that contains no flute.

Track 5. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me.

One of the two full acoustic songs on the album and both of them are classics in my opinion and as good as anything on the album Stand Up. Once again there is no flute here but it does not need one and Anderson and Barre’s work on the acoustic guitars works a treat. It’s a very well constructed song and the third of a trilogy of songs written for Jeffery although the lyrical content is more based around the astronaut Michael Collins who with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first to land on the moon back in 1969.

Track 6. “To Cry You a Song”.

Just as side one opens up with an electrifying song so did side two of the album and this is another song that went down well at their live shows. It’s very much on the same par with the opening two tracks on the album for its intensity and the way it rocks hard. According to Anderson, the lyrics are based around the time he spent away on tour and his longing to get back home to London, England to cry you a song so to speak. Barre recalls how the band Mountain who were supporting them at the time loved the song and how it’s got a similar riff and feel to a song from the Blind Faith one-off album they made back in 1969.

I certainly think it’s a strong song and amongst the many GREAT! songs that can be found on this album. It is yet another song that does not have a flute in it. But some songs just rock better without one and this is one of Glen Cornick’s best rock songs that could only be beaten by “A New Day Yesterday” as he described it in the book. Clive bunker described it as a great song he could thrash out on his drum kit and one the audience enjoyed too.

Track 7. A Time for Everything?

This next song has plenty of flute and happens to be the shortest track on the album. It’s very much a song that is constructed around the guitar and flute and the fact that Anderson and Barre are more or less playing the same lead lines throughout the entire song on the guitar and flute would mean they would need another rhythm guitarist to perform it live.

Barre does describe the song as complex and not for live consumption. Whereas I personally think that it’s really more overproduced than actually complex. I suppose lyrically the song is pertaining to how there is no time for everything, well not in our short lifespan anyway.

Track 8. Inside.

This next song was in fact the only single release from the UK album and it was released about a week before the release of the album here in the UK on the 24th April 1970. It was also later released in the US on Reprise Records and both had “Alive and Well and Living In” as the B-Side. Although the single failed to chart in both countries.

Anderson expresses the song as being cheerful, warm and optimistic and I would certainly go along with that. He also recalls the quality recording of his vocals to which he used a very old Neumann valve condenser mic to record his voice. It is without a doubt what I would call a Tull classic song that features not only flute but a balalaika and a very dominant bass line to which Cornick played from the top of his head and was proud of.

Track 9. Play in Time.

This is a song where the flute sounds just as heavy as the guitar and it’s my personal favourite track on the album and totally ROCKS! For Anderson to even say there was not enough flute on this album he is so wrong and on this particular song his flute not only plays the guitar riff with the guitar but also plays the lead lines note for note with the guitar which is most likely why the song is called “Play in Time”. There is in fact 6 tracks out of the 10 on this album that have flute on.

One of the fondest memories about this track, in particular, is that I actually got one of my best mates to buy this album back in the 70’s when I brought it. It was down to the reverse effects and how well they were panned in stereo that made him buy it. Both me and my mate were always fascinated about stereo and how certain things can be panned to have a certain effect and he never even liked Jethro Tull because he never liked Anderson’s voice and was not into folky kind of singers.

Oddly enough although the album was recorded in studio 2 at Morgan Studios. The reverse guitar effects were actually done at Olympic Studios and the good thing about this new mix is that you can now hear them panned across 5 channels instead of 2 with the surround mix and it still blows my brains out 😊😊😊.

Track 10. Sossity; You’re a Woman.

The other acoustic classic song on the album and is also amongst my personal favourite tracks on the album. The acoustic arrangement was done by Barre and both he and Anderson are working wonders on their acoustic guitars. It’s a very well structured song musically though the lyrical content might be rather odd with the made-up woman’s name Anderson chose. However, it does blend in well with society and is the perfect way to round off what I would describe as a very solid album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of Benefit by Jethro Tull. I think the best way I could describe the album and how well it stands out as an album, is that it’s a bit like the differences between Led Zeppelin II and III and is quite a belting all-out rock album with some GREAT! progression and a couple of really GREAT! acoustic songs are included along the way. However, in terms of classic songs Benefit does not really stand out like that Zeppelin album which has quite a few classic songs on it. Though that’s not to say it does not have the same amount of good songs and for the life of me I could not name one single bad track on the whole album and it is a very solid album.

What makes Jethro Tull stand out from many other bands is their diversity especially with how they never really stuck to one genre and many of their albums from 1968 – 1978 can cover a wide range of styles. For example, if you want something with a bit more blues and jazz in it you would turn to the bands first two albums This Was and Stand Up.

If you wanted something on the PROG! side of things you would turn to Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play. For Folk-Rock you only have to go to Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses and the albums Aqualung, Minstrel In The Gallery and Too Old To Rock N’ Roll, Too Young To Die were a combination of both rock and folk.

Warchild was perhaps the mixed bag out of that lot and apart from its self-titled track and “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day” you could say it was made up with some of the scrag ends or scraps of Anderson’s writing. Whereas Benefit was really the standout rock album of the bunch of albums that were written across those couple of decades.

One of the albums that certainly was not made up of scrag ends or scraps was the compilation album Living In The Past. It was a double album worth of material that Anderson had written around 1968 – 1971, most of which never wound up on any album. According to Glen Cornick, all the time the band were on tour and he bumped into Anderson he always had an acoustic guitar on him.

Even though Living in The Past was put together out of all the surplus material Anderson had written over those years it’s very much to me is one of the only compilation albums that feels and flows like a normal album. In my book, it’s the best compilation album that has ever been put together because it offers the listener mostly something they would not have had unless they brought all the singles. It’s very much an album that displays some of the best folk songs Anderson has written including a superb extended version of “Wondering Aloud“.

To conclude my review of Benefit and this new Enhanced Edition of it. Unlike Mr Anderson. It’s an album that would definitely be in my top third of Tull albums one that is certainly a must for any Tull fan and an album they should have in their collection. This particular new edition gives you an extra couple of live concerts over the Collectors Edition from 2013. Though the real winner is the book it comes with and the way it’s packaged.

When it comes to how many artists have repackaged their albums into box sets over the last few years. The biggest majority of them have been done with GREED! charging you well over the odds of what the package is worth. Many of which are more than twice the price of these Jethro Tull Mediabook Editions. I can honestly say there is no greed involved here and these are by far the best box sets that have ever been put together and are BANG! on for the BUCK!

When it comes to rock albums Benefit is certainly the one that shines and stands out as a rock album over every album in the Tull discography and my personal highlights from it are as follows: “With You There To Help Me“, “Nothing To Say“, “To Cry You A Song“, “Play In Time” and “Sossity; You’re A Woman“.

It Rocks For Your Benefit

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1. (2013 New Mixes & Associated Recordings)
01. With You There To Help Me. 6:20.
02. Nothing To Say. 5:20.
03. Alive And Well And Living In. 2:47.
04. Son. 2:53.
05. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me. 3:55.
06. To Cry You A Song. 6:15.
07. A Time For Everything?. 2:44.
08. Inside. 3:50.
09. Play In Time. 3:55.
10. Sossity; You’re A Woman. 4:38.
11. Singing All Day #. 3:09.
12. 17 #. 6:22.
13. Teacher (UK Single Version) #. 4:59.
14. Teacher (US Album Version) #. 4:08.
15. My God (Early Version) #. 9:07.
16. Just Trying To Be #. 1:39.

CD 2. (Original Mixes Associated Recordings)
01. Singing All Day #. 3:03.
02. Sweet Dream #. 4:02.
03. 17 #. 6:11.
04. The Witch’s Promise #. 3:56.
05. Teacher (UK Single Version) #. 4:52.
06. Teacher (US Album Version). 3:57.
07. Inside #. 2:39.
08. Alive And Well And Living In #. 2:46.
09. A Time For Vereything? #. 2:43.
10. Sweet Dream (Original Stereo Version) #. 4:03.
11. 17 (Original Stereo Version) #. 5:31.
12. The Witch’s Promise (Original Stereo Version) #. 3:50.
13. Teacher (UK Single Version) (Original Stereo Version) #. 4:39.
14. The Witch’s Promise #. 3:50.
15. Teacher (US Album Version) (Original Stereo Version) #. 3:56.
16. Singing All Day (1971 Stereo Remix) #. 3:07.
17. Sweet Dream (1971 Stereo Remix) #. 4:04.
18. The Witch’s Promise (1971 Stereo Remix) #. 3:51.
19. Teacher (US Album Version) #. 4:17.
20. Benefit AM Radio Spot 1 #. 1:03.
21. Benefit FM Radio Spot 2 #. 1:02.

Disc 3. (Live At Tanglewood 1970)
01. Introduction and Tuning. 1:42.
02. Nothing Is Easy. 6:05.
03. My God (Including Flute Solo). 11:50.
04. With You There to Help Me / By Kind Permission Of. 12:59.
05. Dharma for One (Including Drum Solo). 12:36.
06. We Used to Know. 3:21.
07. Guitar Instrumental. 15:47.
08. For a Thousand Mothers. 4:54.

Disc 4. (Live In Chicago 1970)
01. Introduction and Tuning. 1:23.
02. My Sunday Feeling. 4:49.
03. My God (Including Flute Solo). 10:45.
04. To Cry You A Song. 5:49.
05. With You There To Help Me / By Kind Permission Of. 13:04.
06. Sossity: You’re A Woman / Reasons For Waiting. 6:00.
07. Nothing Is Easy. 6:24.
08. Dharma For One (Incl. Drum Solo). 14:06.
09. We Used To Know. 3:16.
10. Guitar Instrumental. 5:39.
11. For A Thousand Mothers. 3:57.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10
The CD Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10
The DVD Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10
The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10
The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #199

Arteries –  Omnerod

Introduction…

After a couple of years, the band from Belgium Omnerod are back with a new EP entitled Construction. It’s the first I’ve really heard from them since the release of their 2nd album Arteries that was released back in 2019. Back then the band were more or less a two-piece outfit that used other session players to make that album and was trying to expand the band so that they could take their music out on the road and try and attract more attention to their music so to speak.

Judging by the video that the band posted on their Facebook wall a few days ago you can see that it appears that the band have now expanded to a four-piece outfit and I have to say they even look and sound like a GREAT! live act.

The two original band members Romain Jeuniaux (Vocals/Guitar) and Pablo Schwilden Diaz (Drums) have added the Growl Vocalist Anthony Deneyer who appeared as a session player on their previous album to the lineup. He also plays the guitar here too. Taking care of the bass duties is André Six who produced and recorded their previous album and it appears that they did not have to look that far to get the band ready to take it on the road.

For those who are not familiar with Omnerod, they are very much a Prog/Metal outfit that not only DJENT! but have added melodic structure to their music so it also sits in with the PROG! side of things which is more suited to my own personal taste. This is a band that will also incorporate death metal into the melting pot which is suited to Deneyer’s “Growl Voice” and as a rule, I am not into that at all. However, his grunts and growls work extremely well with Jeuniaux’s normal voice and that is one of the things that drew my attention to their second album Arteries. The same combination continues to work its way very much into the new material we have here too.

You might like to check out my review of Arteries and it is an album I certainly would recommend and has given me some GREAT! pleasure over the past couple of years. You can find it here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/lee-speaks-about-music-118/

I’ve also noticed it’s now been made available on CD as well. For now, let’s get back to the EP in question but before we do let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The bands latest offering has been made available in the form of a Digital Download only which is the sensible thing to do especially has it comes with a “Name Your Price” price tag. So technically you can get it for nothing though I certainly think it’s worth chucking something there way to show some support for all the hard work that has been put into it.

Artwork.
The cover design was done by Intuitive Designs and judging by the album cover it does tend to bear more relation to the world of PROG! rather than Metal. Its sort of like Led Zeppelin meets Pink Floyd on the brighter side of the moon so to speak. I think that artwork is OK though I would not say that it’s that apt to title of the EP.

The EP In Review…

Omnerod’s latest offering Construction is a 4 track EP of new and revamped old material and has a playing time of 23 minutes, 22 seconds. However the band decided on an “Extended Edition” for the release and it includes 3 live (or supposedly live) tracks making the total playing time 48 minutes, 44 seconds. It’s now more like a lengthy album rather than an EP.

All of the new material the band have worked on was done over the last couple of years and each track was composed, produced and recorded working with various processes, gear and people. It was in 2020 that the band announced their new four-man lineup though due to Covid restrictions the band have had very little to do regarding playing live.

However, the band did get to play at the Festival above last month and that was one of two times they actually have played live. They also have a few more session players onboard with them for the newer material and have been making the odd work in progress video to which they have posted from time to time on Youtube as in this example below.

Company Accepted” is one of the newer songs and here you can see how they have programmed the keyboard parts and also how Jeuniaux also uses a guitar synth to play some of the parts besides all the other guitar parts that have been put into the track. It looks pretty impressive watching both Romain and André work together. So let’s now take a look and the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

All music Written & Arranged by Omnerod except track 3 Arranged by Omnerod written by Courage Umaigba, Daniel Griffiths & Darius Keeler. Produced by André Six. Co-Producers Romain Jeuniaux (tracks 2, 3 and 4), Pablo Schwilden Diaz (tracks 5, 6 and 7), Julien Huyssens (track 3) and Anthony Deneyer (track 4). Mixing Engineers Julien Huyssens (tracks 3-7), André Six (track 1) and Chris Coulter (track 2). Mastered by Tony Lindgren (track 1), Chris Coulter (track 2), Lucas de la Rosa (track 3), Rémi Salvador (track 4). Visuals: Intuitive Designs.

Musicians:
Romain Jeuniaux: Normal Vocals/Guitars/Samples, Synths & Effects.
Pablo Schwilden Diaz: Drums/Percussion/Samples, Synths & Effects.
Anthony Deneyer: Growl Vocals (tracks 1,3,4,5,6). Guitar (tracks 4,5,6,7).
André Six: Bass (tracks 2 – 7).

Additional Musicians:
Eerik Maurage: Classical Guitar (track 3).
Jørgen Munkeby: Saxophone (track 3).
Nicolas Draps: Electric Violin (track 3).
Thomas Clément: Bass (track 1).
Sara Handerveyden & Elisa Malki Vocals (track 2).

The EP Tracks In Review…

If you have been following the band the Construction EP does not really give you anything new because the band have already released each track individually over the last couple of years. However, as they mentioned by sticking all the tracks together this way is more of a cohesive package and was constructed to bridge the gap whilst working on their third album. That’s also most likely how they arrived at the title for the EP. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the 4 studio tracks first and I shall go further into the live material at the end.

Track 1. Lines (Vocal Version).

The first of the songs is actually now a song and originally it was an instrumental track that appeared on the bands second album Arteries. It also has the original bass player Thomas Clément so regarding the musical side of things nothing has been touched. Jeuniaux penned the new lyrics for the song and both he and Deneyer have done a GRAND! job of putting them across and I have to say they fit in with the music like a glove.

As an instrumental piece “Lines” had quite a bit of power but with lyrics and the vocals it hits you with a lot more than a ton of bricks and its power now is perhaps more equivalent to the weight of the Empire State building. I really like what they have done here and prefer this version to the original instrumental version.

Track 2. Company Accepted.

This next song is one of the new ones and like most of the songs on this EP they were released as singles earlier on in the year. The song itself is quite ambient and keyboard-driven and is structured around the keyboard. There is no GROWL! vocals here and Jeuniaux gets to sing this one solely on his own apart from the background vocals to which Sara Handerveyden & Elisa Malki do a GRAND! job in the haunting choral sections of the song.

As you will hear in the video above it shows you how the song worked out and I would also say that this is perhaps different to the norm or the material you will find on Arteries but nevertheless, there is some quite impressive guitar work put into it all and they all do a GRAND! job on it.

Track 3. You Make Me Feel.

This next song is a cover of a song that was written by Courage Umaigba, Daniel Griffiths & Darius Keeler of the band Archive. To be honest I have never heard of them or the song before and I did take the liberty of giving the original version a blast and to be honest it’s not really my cup of tea. I thought I would post both versions here so you can hear for yourself.

The original version has more of a modern-day pop/rock approach to it and the female vocals do not really have the edge to make the song rock in the first place. It perhaps gives it a sweeter vibe against all the dirt so to speak. I would even go as far as to say that the lyrical content is child’s play and nothing to write home about. But then again that’s really typical of most pop songs.

Omnerod on the other hand has given the song a totally different approach and added real balls to the song which is more suited to my taste. Their version is in a different ballpark completely and it’s far from a carbon copy of the original. They have obviously adapted it to their own style and it works pretty well for them doing so. It is without doubt along with “Lines” a very heavy and powerful track.

The song also features Jørgen Munkeby on saxophone and Nicolas Draps on electric violin and the murderous job they do on them blends in very well with the mayhem that the band have instilled into the song. I am pretty sure Archive would be well happy that they covered their song as well.

Track 4. Sandglass.

This is the only song on the EP that you did not really get the chance to hear beforehand and they only put it out the day before the release of the EP. It’s very much a ballad of a song that tries to build up with the progression it contains throughout, although personally, I feel it does not get there. To be honest I do feel they could have done more to it and built it up a lot better for it to explode into action.

I would also say that even though the song does tend to drag its way along surprisingly it does seem to be all over in no time at all even though it’s the longest track out of the four studio tracks. It does however round off and put the studio side of the EP to bed quite well and to be honest the 23 minutes and 22 seconds of studio material is perhaps more suited to the time slot of a CD EP.

Extended Live Content.

Tracks 5 – 7. Ascaris (Live). Company Accepted (Live). Nothing Was Vain (Live).

The extra live content you get is actually longer than the studio content and at 25 minutes, 22 seconds it is perhaps more like a mini-album. You may have noticed earlier that I stated that it was supposedly live and I did have my reasons for that because the live performance of these three tracks was not from a live concert and was made in a studio with lighting and cameras. It was also made for The Progspace Online Festival in a way of promoting the EP and was put out on that Tube Channel last month on the 20th of November.

The good thing about it all though is that you do get to see all 4 band members working as a unit and they are also to a degree playing live though it’s more of a studio process that has been given to the end product. Omnerod’s music in general can be quite overproduced and more of a studio product and even has a 4-piece band there is no way they could play everything that is contained in the original recording like you are hearing on these live tracks. What would help is for them to bring in a keyboard player to play for them at their live shows.

I will say that the band have made all three numbers you get here sound live to a degree especially “Company Accepted” where André Six’s bass has more of a spring to its step in the way it’s punctuated and the snappy springy sound coming from it. Around the 2:49 mark you will also notice a different fill by Pablo Schwilden Diaz’s drums and the burst on the guitar that leads it in. No doubt it’s being played live even if there is no audience here.

The same can be said for both “Ascaris” and “Nothing Was Vain” and these couple of GREAT! songs are most welcome here. Both tracks from the album Arteries are a couple of strong contenders for the albums TOP SPOT! that I pointed out in my review of the album. As I mentioned earlier as a live act Omnerod certainly look the part and you can catch the live session right here: 00:36:18

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the EP Construction by Omnerod. The material we have here was really put out for the band to try and still keep in contention and the biggest majority of it does not really give you a real account of what this band is capable of doing I feel. The way the 4 studio tracks have been put together does not really show you them working as a band either and Anthony Deneyer got perhaps the wrong end of the straw with how little he was involved.

To be perfectly honest it’s a shame really because what really hindered the bands progress was Covid 19 and with that popping up on the eve of their last album Arteries did not really give the band a chance to showcase the material live and pick up more attention. It’s a very strong album as well and the opening track “Lines” is my personal highlight on this EP along with the three live tracks and they really show exactly what they are capable of doing as a band.

Having watched an interview recently with Romain Jeuniaux on Progtalks! that was put out last month on the Tube. It appears the band are working on new material for a new album that should be hitting the shelves sometime in the summer of next year. What I personally would like to see is a bit more fire and the band working more as a unit as I know they are well capable of doing.

Construction may offer the listener something that bit extra to whet your appetite to fill the gap between what is to come. Whether it’s enough is really down to your own preferential taste. I would say the EP is pretty much a solid piece of work and it’s perhaps only really “Sandglass” that is the weak link in the chain for my liking. But one cannot really complain after all it’s not as if the band are really asking for any money for it. You can see that quite a strong body of work has been put into it which is why I recommend bunging in a few bucks.

You can listen or even download the Construction EP for Free from the following link: https://omnerod.bandcamp.com/album/construction-extended-edition

Offers Much More Than Extended Play…

The EP tracklisting is as follows:
01. Lines (Vocal Version). 5:57.
02. Company Accepted. 5:15.
03. You Make Me Feel. 5:38.
04. Sandglass. 6:32.
05. Ascaris (Live). 8:35.
06. Company Accepted (Live). 5:14.
07. Nothing Was Vain (Live). 11:33.

Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
EP Rating Score. 8/10.