Lee Speaks About Music… #175

Tubular Bells / From The Manor Born – Tubular World

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Introduction…

This is a bit of an oddball release co-produced by Robert Reed who’s obviously a huge fan of Mike Oldfield and Tubular World I do believe was a forum that was originally started up by Oldfield himself many moons ago though I could be wrong as I have not really delved that deep into it. The forum also closed down a while back to and the name was also one of the tracks on his album The Songs Of Distant Earth. However, in the past through my Soundcloud connections I came across some musicians who share an interest in the forum Tubular Net and some who take part in producing music that is either structured or developed around the sound of Oldfield’s music.

Tubular Bells is perhaps Mike Oldfield’s most iconic album and it is without doubt one of my favourite albums of his. Though I have to confess that in general I am not the type of guy who would spend my money on an album by a tribute band playing it. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against tribute bands and I do not mind paying the smaller ticket price they charge in general to see them play live. But I draw the line when it comes to buying albums of them playing the same album of the artists you idolized in the first place.

Covers are all well and good but in reality, just how many of them were actually better than the original artist. I would say less than 1% and its extremely rare to come across any cover song that is better than the original. Jimi Hendrix cover of Bob Dylan’sAll Along The Watchtower” I personally think is one of the very few exceptions and examples where the cover was done better.

Like I mentioned covers are all well and good but even as nice as Magenta’s cover of the Yes song “Wondrous Stories” might sound it’s not the sort of thing I would personally buy and it’s never gonna cut the mustard with the original version I am afraid not meaning to be disrespectful in anyway because they did do a decent job of it. I personally think trying to do a cover of any song is more of a difficult task to do it any better than the original and its perhaps got more chance of appealing to you if you never heard the original version in the first place. Which is why it was only really the documentary that drew my attention to this release.

The oddball thing about the documentary entitled From The Manor Born that comes with this package, is that unlike the Mike Oldfield Story documentary that was put out some years back on the BBC. This documentary does not feature the man himself or Richard Branson who are both integral to the story. However, it does feature quite a few people who were involved in making the prolific album at the time.

The other odd thing about this release is that it’s not one I could recommend simply because it has completely disappeared and is no longer available for some reason. I even got lucky with my pre-order of it and I had no idea that the standard edition I originally ordered was a Limited Edition like the Deluxe Edition. As to if more physical copies will be made, I have no idea and all traces of it have completely disappeared from Tigermoth Records online store.

However, Tubular Bells by Tubular World is still available to purchase in the form of a Digital Download and I have also noticed that the Double CD has now been reissued and was released again a few days ago on the 14th of January. But as for the documentary its hardly likely to be reissued.

Packaging & Artwork…

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Well as you can see even though I pre-ordered the Standard Edition I was sent the Deluxe Edition instead and the only logical reason I can think why they did such a thing was down to them running out of copies of the cheaper edition and it was not by mistake. There is a £10 difference between the two editions and in my own personal opinion it’s not worth shelling out the extra 10 bucks simply because the way the Deluxe Edition has been presented is not done right in my personal opinion. So, let’s now take a look at the two editions and weigh up what little extra you get for the money here.

The Standard Edition was priced at £25 and is what I pre-ordered on the 16th of November with the postage and packing it cost me £26.90. This might sound steep but considering you are getting 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s in the package I personally think that’s a good deal and well worthy of its price point.

However, because they are individual packages, I cannot really see any reason why they could not have been sold separately and in a way by them doing it like this, it could be seen as a marketing ploy to bleed more money out of your pocket. Especially for those like myself who were more interested in the documentary and had to spend the extra cash just to obtain it.

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As you can see in the picture above the Standard Edition comes with the discs stored in two cardboard gatefold Digisleeves with die-cut pockets to hold the discs firmly in place. It does not come with a booklet and all the linear production notes and credits are printed on the inside of the sleeve. It also comes with an essay written by Paul Harris printed on the back of the sleeve. Overall, a quality job has been done here and it looks neat and tidy.

The Deluxe Edition was priced at £35 and this contains the same contents as above only they come in a steel tin that sort of replicates a Steelbook Edition of a Blu Ray or DVD. It also comes with 6-archive double sided photocards and Tom Newman’s mix notes. This was a Limited Edition and only 500 copies were made and the first 100 copies were signed by Tom Newman. The number is written on the back of the tin and mine is numbered 471. It does appear that the Standard Edition must have also been limited to around 500 copies with how it’s no longer available.

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Although the Deluxe Edition may look nice in that it comes in a steel tin. I personally do not think enough has been done here to merit its extra price point. For example, the 6-archive double sided photocards are hardly high-quality photos and look as if they have been taken from the TV. I’ve seen old Polaroid photos from the 70’s look as bad as this quality and they are nothing to write home about I am afraid. They really are dreadful quality. Tom Newman’s mix notes are not quite how I expected them to be either, and I would have expected a copy of his actual handwritten notes printed on a piece of paper. Not just printed words on the back of a photograph of him 😁😁😁. But to top it all as to where this presentation fails is how everything is just bunged in a tin as you can see in the picture above.

OK! it gives you the option to store everything along with your DVD’s on a shelf or even remove the music media and store the case on a DVD shelf and the discs along with your other CD’s but things could have been done better here. For starters the difference between the price of a Standard Edition and Deluxe Steelbook Edition film on Blu Ray is only £5. Furthermore, the steel tin comes with the picture printed on it not just a printed sticker stuck on it.

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Now I am not for one moment suggesting Rob Reed can compete with a film company who sells a hell of a lot more copies to be able to bring the cost of making the product down as in this example above. But if you are charging an extra £10 the very least, he could have done is made it more presentable by inserting a plastic case on both sides or a plastic hinged tray to hold the 4 discs on the one side and made a booklet to make the difference between the two editions standout from one another.

Bunging everything in a tin like this is hardly what I would call a Deluxe Edition and it certainly does not merit chucking an extra tenner at it which is why I ordered the standard edition in the first place. I should not really complain because I never forked out the extra 10 bucks but in reality, I personally don’t think I got anything of any real extra value for free. Others may have a different viewpoint than my own and like what’s been done here but I am perhaps too much of a realist regarding how I part with what little money I have to spend on such things and that is my honest opinion.

Artwork.

The albums cover art was done by Tenllado Studio who have done previous redesigns of some of Mike Oldfield’s albums in the past and post their work on forums such as Tubular Net. I have no idea if it is the work of one person or more but they do other artwork besides and I dare say the connection was made through the forum. The artwork is very fitting to name I will say and looks the part.

Tubular Bells By Tubular World In Review…

Tubular Bells by Tubular World was released on the 14th of December 2020 along with the documentary To The Manor Born and the only way to obtain a physical copy of the album was to purchase the both. However, the physical album has now been reissued and made available to purchase once again on the 14th of January. The album comes with 2 CD’s though its not a double album and the only difference is that Disc One has been mixed by Tom Newman and Disc Two has been mixed mainly by the other musicians who play on the album. The only other notable difference is the track listing of both discs.

The whole of this project was most likely masterminded by Rob Reed and he has worked in a collaborative way with many other musicians and Paul Harris in producing it and putting it all together. I should also mention that part of the proceeds is going in support for the mental health charity and organisation known as MIND. Although according to my further research the only reason this album came about was down to Reed thinking of what to use as a backing music or a soundtrack for the film footage of the documentary.

Knowing how hard it would be to get the clearance for using Oldfield’s original Tubular Bells as a backing track he set about recording a few sections of it with Les Penning. It was Harris who suggested asking all those musicians who have been influenced by Mike Oldfield and also had played with him, to contribute to a new version. Hence the reason why this album exists.

Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is an album I can never tire of hearing and one I have played more than once every year since its release back in 1973. Though I have to confess that the version I play 9 times out of 10 is Oldfield’s new remix he done and released in 2003 and this is by far the best recording that exists of the album. He very much decided to re-record parts of it again and the reason for this was that like myself he was never happy with the original mix. The original mix was not helped by putting it on vinyl and the length of the two tracks on both sides well exceeded vinyl limitations.

Though as my memory serves me hearing it on vinyl back in the 70’s was perhaps the best way to hear the original version because at least it never showed up the flaws like it did later in the 80’s when it was put on CD. Digital technology was responsible for cleaning things up and you will hear a hell of a lot more that goes into a recording and its mix on a CD in relation to vinyl. Vinyl has always had its limitations and no matter how much you spend on a turntable and a cartridge you will never eliminate the surface noise and its poor limitations I am afraid.

Though these days they can get around the vinyl limitations by splitting the album tracks up and putting them on two or three LP’s but that would never work with this album and by doing such things it also bumps up the cost, and vinyl today is already ridiculously overpriced as it is. As to why I don’t know or really understand because it certainly is not up to the quality of what the CD has to offer though with all recordings it is really down to how well the instruments have been recorded and how well the album has been mixed.

Even today with how things have been cleaned up to hear the vinyl album sound like it did back then you would have to have a vintage hi-fi setup from the 70’s because even amplification has been cleaned up since those days. Though thankfully Oldfield did remix the original version himself and released it in 2009 which I think is a better mix than the original though still not a patch on the 2003 reworked and remixed edition and the 5.1 DTS version of that is a SURROUND FREAKS PARADISE!

Having said all that just what does this new arrangement done by Tubular World have to offer. Well one of the first disappointing things I soon discovered when it arrived is that it does not come with a surround mix which is very unusual for Rob Reed’s standards. Though there is a bit of one on the DVD package which contains the documentary that I will go into in my review of From The Manor Born. Hopefully that is not the only thing that’s disappointing so let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Robert Reed and Paul Harris. All tracks written by Mike Oldfield (Stage Three Publishing) except Sailor’s Hornpipe (Traditional). Tracks 2,5,6,7,8,11,13,15 Mixed by Robert Reed. Tracks 1 & 17 Mixed by Daniel Holdsworth. Track 3 Mixed by Scott Ampleford. Track 4 Mixed by Hubart Razack. Track 9 Mixed by Chris Kimber. Track 10 Mixed by Steve Smith. Track 12 Mixed by Rubén Alvarez. Track 14 Mixed by Ryan Yard. Track 16 Mixed by Manu Herrera & Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso. Cover Art by Tenllado Studio. Documentary: Interview Research & Interviews by Paul Harris. Filming & Sound Recording by Andrew Lawson. Editing by Robert Reed.

Musicians.

Robert Reed: Piano – Keyboards – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Bass – Vibraphone – Organ.
Daniel Holdsworth: Piano – Farfisa Organ – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Bass – Glockenspiel – Tape motor driven organ chord. Percussion.
Hubert Razack: Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Spanish Guitar – Bass – Piano – Organ – Mandolin.
Rubén Alvarez: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Manu Herrera: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Jay Stapley: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Steve Smith: Electric Guitar – Bass.
Silverio Carmona: Acoustic Guitars – Bass.
Nacho Soto: Electric Guitar – Voices.
Steve Hillage: Double Speed Guitar.
Cayetano Ruiz: Electric Guitar.
Rick Fenn: Acoustic Guitars.
James Stirling: Acoustic Guitar.
Miguel Engel Arcengelus: Mandolin.
Phil Toms: Double Bass & Bass Guitars.
Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso: Bass – Keyboards.
Phil Spalding: Bass.
Chris Kimber: Keyboards – Percussion.
Richard García: – Philicorda Organ – Piano.
Luis Suria: Electric Piano – Organ.
Juam García: Acoustic Piano.
Rich Nolan: Drums.
Pablo Egío: Drums.
Alasdair Malloy: Glockenspiel – Tubular Bells.
John Field: Flutes.
Marcial Picó: Flutes.
Stefano Fasce: Flute.
Les Penning: Recorders.
Steve Bingham: Violin.
Brenda Stewart: Viola.
Jim Carter: Master of Ceremonies.
Ariane Valdivié: Vocals.
Tom Newman: The Piltdown Man & Nasal Choir.
Ryan Yard: Keyboard – Programming.

The Album Tracks & Mixes In Review…

One of the biggest concerns Rob Reed had regarding bringing in other musicians to play different sections was how the mix would work out in putting it all together and that was one of the main reasons he chose to bring in Tom Newman to sort it all out and do a completely new mix from the multi tracks supplied by each artist. There is quite a notable difference between the mixes on the both CD’s and I can see why they chose Newman’s mix to be on the first disc because it does feel more complete and in line with the original even though it’s an alternative version with how he’s handled the stems.

For this review I am not going to go through every track on the two discs individually and merely pinpoint a few of the differences between the mixes that are spread over the couple of CDs you get here. There is actually a 28 second difference between the length of the both discs although that is not so noticeable in relation to the mixes and both discs will give you a full representation of Tubular Bells.

Disc One.

The first disc contains 2 tracks like Oldfield’s original version of the album mixed by Tom Newman and comes with an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 53 seconds. I think the significant thing about this particular mix is that Newman has mixed it more or less how he mixed the original album and he has done his own thing with the original stems from the other musicians. He’s even thrown in some additives and subtracted some minute parts along the way and gone for more of an ambient and subtle dynamic approach.

For example, this mix is not upfront or in your face in relation to how the other musicians mixed their parts has you can hear on the second CD. There is also a notable difference with the volume levels of the both discs as well and Newman’s mix uses way less compression and is the quieter of the two. It is perhaps the more discreet of the mixes and has been finely tuned and well balanced with how all the elements have been layered and panned out in the stereo field. I would also say its less choppy with how he has done everything here which is why I personally feel that it does feel more complete.

What Newman has done here is taken all the elements of instrumentation and gave them his own sound and even though his mix does feel more complete not everything is necessarily going to sound as good as some of the original mixes done by the other musicians. For example, the Nasal Choir to which he himself did and to which I personally feel he done a very good job of. Does sound better to me with Rob Reed’s mix on track 6 “Blues” on the second CD. The notable thing about it with Newman’s mix is that he panned it from left to right and by doing that it does take away some of the resonance that can be heard in bis voice.

Other notable differences on side one of the album are the ambient nuisances he’s added in “Basses” to which add well to the effect and he has toned down a bit of how the bass guitar projects on this section. One of his better additions however is that he’s put the chimes of Big Ben in the “Ghost Bells” section and I quite like that. Some of the notable differences on side two can be heard on the opening track and it’s quite evident that Newman’s mix not only sounds superior with the ambient presence but he’s also removed the quite evident bit of distortion that can be heard in Rubén Alvarez’s mix of “Harmonics” on the second disc.

There has always been to me a certain amount of beauty that was put into the second side of Tubular Bells and the section that was later entitled “Peace” certainly displays that. Personally, I think it’s more at home here with the way Newman has mixed it and I have to say he’s done a better job in particular with mixing the vocals and most of the vocal parts on the album he’s done exceptionally well throughout. There are more little nuisances and touches he has given to the mix but rather spending all day making comparisons I best get on with the mixes on the second CD.

Disc Two.

The second disc contains 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 25 seconds and the 17 titles are what Oldfield gave to them when he remixed the album himself and can be found on the Tubular Bells 2003 Reworked Edition. The biggest majority of the tracks were mixed by Rob Reed and the mixes on this album are fuller on and sound more up front and in your face in relation to Tom Newman’s mix. Some may prefer these mixes in relation to Newman’s and I personally feel you can take some good and bad points regarding all the mixes over the couple of CDs and like I said they will both give you a full representation of Oldfield’s iconic album.

The second disc gives you what the musicians themselves have brought to the table in some respect so for this disc I shall go into not only the mix but detail every track regarding who is actually playing on it. The promotional video above will also give you an incite of who’s playing on each section and the musicians who appear on the album.

Track 1. Introduction.

The opening section of Tubular Bells was the bit that was used mostly for the film score of The Exorcist and it was the release of the film that gave the album a boost to gaining its success. The album itself may very well appear to be of some lengthy distance over its two parts in that they are both over 20 minutes. Although when split into individual tracks like this it perhaps looks more like a pop album rather than a prog album and this opening section is the second longest track on it over its 5 minutes, 32 seconds.

This is one of two tracks on the album that was mixed and mostly played by Daniel Holdsworth. The only thing he is not playing is the flute to which is played by John Field who played it on the original album. Holdsworth is an Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer and the co-creator of the music-theatre production, Tubular Bells for Two alongside with Aidan Roberts originally. He has also performed in bands such as Darks Common Underground, The Maple Trail and The Saturns all of which including himself I have never heard of myself. He’s also composed music for film, television, theatre and dance.

His approach to the opening section we have here is more or less close to the original and he’s used more or less the same instrumentation that Oldfield used himself. It only sounds partially arranged with how it flows along with its sequence of notes played on the piano and farfisa organ and the only real difference is the piano section at the very end, to which he perhaps played as a tailspin to allow the next collaborator to continue from. That short piano section was also removed on Newman’s mix. There is no doubt that Holdsworth is a very talented musician and his acoustic and electric guitar playing I particularly like and its very close to Oldfield I will say too and he’s done a GRAND! job here.

Tracks 2 & 3. Fast Guitars / Basses.

This next section was mixed by Rob Reed and features him on electric, acoustic and bass guitar as well as keyboards. It also features Rubén Alvarez on electric guitar who is another unknown to me though and obviously another Oldfield NUT! judging by his Youtube channel plus Les Penning on recorders. This does have more of an arranged feel about it and almost has more of a light hearted approach until the bass and duel on the electric guitars come into play to which they all do a SPLENDID! job of. One of the many shorter tracks on the album “Basses” was mixed by Scott Ampleford and features Phil Toms on double bass and bass guitars with Rich Nolan on drums. Here it’s without the ambient nuisances that Newman added to his mix and is more or less how this section was originally played and they do a fine job of it.

Track 4. Latin.

Like many of the musicians on the album I have never heard of them and Hubert Razack is no exception and this section was mixed and played by him and features Stefano Fasce on flute. Razack is another multi-instrumentalist judging by his Youtube channel. The one thing I have noticed is that he is only one of the two musicians on this album that have used a mandolin yet there are a ton of sections throughout the album that sound like a mandolin was used on them. Like Daniel Holdsworth, he’s very much stuck to the original regarding the arrangement and done a very good job of it.

Track 5. A Minor Tune.

Speaking of the mandolin I have noticed by this promo video that Rob Reed posted on his Tube Channel a while back that he also is playing the instrument though it is not listed in the credit notes. It makes me wonder how many more of the musicians on the album are playing the instrument, although it’s not unusual for its sound to be also replicated and played on a guitar.

Here Reed is paired up once again with Les Penning on the recorder which is not that unusual to see with the many collaborative pieces they have done together over the past couple of years or so. I quite like how they both give their own feel to the piece rather than try and make it sound spot on to the original and it is done with more of an arrangement in mind.

Track 6. Blues.

Like the previous track this was also mixed by Reed and a couple of the tracks that follow it were also mixed by him. Here is on keyboards and guitar alongside Jay Stapley on guitar and Phil Spalding on bass both of which have played with Oldfield in the past and are session players. It also has Tom Newman doing the nasal choir to which I do prefer in this mix and they all do a GRAND! job of it.

Tracks 7, 8, 9, 10. Thrash / Jazz / Ghost Bells / Russian.

The next part is a series of short sections that build up towards the “Finale” and all of them are under a minute long. Both “Thrash” and “Jazz” feature the same musicians as the previous track and they provide the adrenalin to which is brought down by “Ghost Bells” which features Chris Kimber on keyboards another unknown musician to me who specialises in ambient and meditation music from my research of him. Here you can hear the bells without the chimes of Big Ben that Newman threw into his mix and they do sound like real tubular bells.

The final of these short pieces “Russians” was arranged by Phil Toms. It features James Stirling on acoustic guitar and Steve Smith on other guitars including bass and was mixed by him. It also features Steve Bingham on violin and Brenda Stewart on viola and I found this video of them performing it on the Tube.

I have always loved the acoustic guitar in this section and Stirling does a very admirable job of playing it too. The mix on the video I do feel is quite good however, on the CD it’s very muddy and distorted in particular where the orchestration of the violin and viola come into play. None of the mud and distortion are evident in Newman’s mix however, he has bathed it in reverb which does kill the beauty of how Stirling’s acoustic guitar sounds and I do feel that this video gives the best overall representation of the piece and not the CD.

Track 11. Finale.

This is another of Rob Reed’s mixes that features him on grand piano, organ and electric guitar and he’s got quite a guitar army behind him on this one including Steve Hillage on double speed guitar, Jay Stapley on one slightly distorted guitar, Manu Herrera acoustic & Spanish guitars, Rick Fenn acoustic guitars and once again Phil Spalding on bass. It also has the other credited mandolin player Miguel Engel Arcengelus, John Field on flutes and Oldfield’s long time live percussionist Alasdair Malloy on Glockenspiel plus Tubular Bells and Jim Carter as the Master of Ceremonies who gets to introduce all the instruments.

The Finale is the longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 10 seconds and ends off side one of the album it could also be seen as the pivotal section of the album. I have to admit over the many years of hearing many different people introduce the instruments playing the part of the Master of Ceremonies. It’s the first time I have ever heard the words “reed and pipe organ” pronounced so clearly and even on the original album with Vivian Stanshall playing the part I always thought it was “reedon pipe organ” as if it was referring to a brand name of the organ that was used on the album 😁😁😁.

Track 12. Harmonics.

Another of Rubén Alvarez’s mixes and on this he’s playing electric and Spanish guitars and no mention of a mandolin to which it does very much sound like one was used. It also features Richard García on Philicorda organ and piano and the chanting voice of Ariane Valdivié and it is her voice that I do feel has been slightly better treated with Newman’s mix. However, regarding everything else I think this mix does bring the instruments out better.

Track 13. Peace.

This has to be my favourite section of the second side of the album and it was brought even more to life when Oldfield reworked the piece back in 2003. This is another of Rob Reed’s mixes to which features him on electric and acoustic guitars, bass and keyboards. Though I also think he’s playing mandolin on this too and it is more evident in this mix that this is a real mandolin. It also features Les Penning on recorders, Rubén Alvarez on electric and Spanish guitars and the chanting voice of Ariane Valdivié.

Regarding Reed’s and Newman’s mixes I do feel both mixes are very good though I do feel that it even seats well with the reverb Newman has added to it. But it’s not all he has added either and he’s also threw some tubular bells in the mandolin section which are a nice addition.

Track 14. Bagpipe Guitars.

No guitars were harmed or even used on this piece and it’s all the work of one-man Ryan Yard using soft synths from Garageband, Korg Gadget 2, Kontakt 6 and Ravenscroft 275. On Newman’s mix he has added some brass to beef it up a bit more and threw in some sleigh bells and other additives to effect.

Track 15. Caveman.

Next up we have what I believe is a band from Spain who go by the name of Fadalack who are also totally NUTS! on Oldfield’s music and they can have 20 musicians in their line-up but here we have 7 of them who are as follows: Luis Suria (electric piano & organ). Juam García (acoustic piano). Nacho Soto (electric guitar & voices). Silverio Carmona (acoustic & bass guitars). Cayetano Ruiz (electric guitar). Marcial Picó (flutes). Pablo Egío (drums) and they also have Tom Newman doing the voice of The Piltdown Man.

Fadalack are very much a Mike Oldfield tribute band and I have to say they are very good too and you do need a lot of musicians on stage to pull off Oldfield’s music. I found this amateur shot video of them on the Tube performing this live with Tom Newman from a few years back and even Newman himself is having a ball here 😁😁😁.

Track 16. Ambient Guitars.

This next soothing section is played and mixed by Manu Herrera (Guitars) and Álvaro Rodríguez Barroso (Bass & Keyboards) and is played more or less spot on to the original. I do personally think their mix gives it more of the original sound too whereas Newman has mixed it with even more ambient presence and altered the sound to give more of an arranged feel sort of thing.

Track 17. The Sailor’s Hornpipe.

The final mix is by Daniel Holdsworth and it features him on acoustic & electric guitars and percussion and playing alongside him this time, we have Manu Herrera on electric guitar and Chris Kimber also on percussion. There is not much difference between this mix and Newman’s mix and both sound more of a bland arrangement in comparison to the original though all is well here and it rounds off the album in the same spirit sort of thing.

From The Manor Born In Review…

Like I mentioned earlier it was the documentary that comes in this package that was my personal interest in buying it, especially when I read that it was four hours long. I love documentaries myself and spend a lot of my time on Youtube watching them and even though Mike Oldfield and Richard Branson are very much integral to the story of Tubular Bells this is still quite a good one and I only wish the Mike Oldfield Story that was made earlier and first shown on the BBC back in 2013 was this long, an hour was never long enough in my opinion.

Many of the original cast that was in the Mike Oldfield Story are also here and some parts of the footage does even look like it’s been lifted from that older documentary though these are all new interviews and they have all been captured very well on film. The original producers of the iconic album Tom Newman, Simon Heyworth and Philip Newell are all present and so to is the head of Virgin Records, Simon Draper. You also get interviews with musicians Jon Field and Steve Broughton who played on the original studio album and the first couple of live performances along with Mike’s brother Terry Oldfield and Steve Hillage who also played on the first couple of live performances.

According to my research the idea of putting this documentary together came about from both Rob Reed and Paul Harris being disappointed with the Mike Oldfield Story BBC documentary because it never really asked the questions, they wanted answering. So, the pair of them set about making their own version of the Mike Oldfield story and the album that launched the Virgin empire and roped in Reed’s long-time cameraman Andrew Lawson to capture it all with Harris doing the interviewing and posing the questions and Reed pitching in with a few of his own.

Over 12 hours of film footage was captured to which Reed had the painstaking job of editing it down to 4 hours and by the promotional video (below) that he put out on his Tube Channel its quite evident that the team have done a professional job of it. Four hours may seem like a long time but it was interesting enough for me to sit and watch it in one sitting. I never even made a cup of tea whilst changing the DVD’s and was quite enthralled by it all and a TOP JOB! has been done of it I will say.

The documentary very much portrays the story of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and the birth of Virgin Records by the people who were behind it. One of the good things about the DVD menu’s in particular is that each chapter has been titled in relation to what they are discussing. This makes it easier for you to go back too should you have forgotten something and makes a very good reference point.

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As you can see by the DVD’s main menu’s each chapter contains a reference point to the story which is something I was pleased to see and along with the navigation it’s plain and simple to navigate yourself along and all you really need for a documentary such as this. Personally, I would have used the photograph they chose for the cover of them standing outside the manor for the background.

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Like I mentioned earlier there was a bit of a surround mix and it’s unfortunate that they only decided to mix the “Finale” section. As you can see by the menu on the 2nd DVD you have the choice of Dolby Digital and DTS and the mix was done by Simon Heyworth. Both mixes are 48K and 448kbps & 1.5mbps respectively. The documentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 48K stereo to be expected. Heyworth’s done quite a good job of the surround mix and it’s a shame that rest of the album was not done rather than give you one track from it.

I think overall the documentary raises some good issues and points about the iconic album, many of which I never knew myself and I feel the right questions were posed to all those being interviewed. For example although I knew Oldfield used a vacuum cleaner on another of his iconic albums Amarok. I was not aware one was used on Tubular Bells. Some of the other recording techniques can also be seen in this out-take that Reed also posted on his Tube Channel.

It’s all fascinating stuff and Tom Newman really is a right character to watch and can be quite funny. Looking at Simon Draper these days reminds me a lot of how Ian Gillan looks today and the sound of his voice is also reminiscent of him as well. I think it would of been GREAT! if they could of got hold of Mike Oldfield and Richard Branson but they are not missed with how it’s all been presented and put together and I certainly don’t think any Oldfield fans or those into his music will not be one bit disappointed with what has been done.

Summary & Conclusion…

It was the Documentary that enticed me to purchase this release and not another version of Oldfield’s iconic album. Tubular Bells is an album that can make my eyes well up with tears of joy whilst listening to it especially Mike Oldfield’s 2003 version of it because I do truly believe that album contains the best ever mix of it and is by far more superior to the original and the mixes we have here. I am not saying that the mixes here are inferior by any standards and they are quite good. But a tribute album like this is hardly gonna get the time of day on my turntable so to speak in relation to the original artist and in general it is not the thing I would spend my money on no matter how good it was.

Some people might also see this album as plagiarism and cashing in on another artist’s work. Personally, I don’t see it like that and there is more of a passionate thing that relates to the biggest majority of the musicians we have here. You only have to look at Rob Reed’s solo career to see where his passion lies for Oldfield’s music, but in all due respect that is where is real creative skill lies not in something like this.

In many respects listening to what he has done on all 3 of his Sanctuary albums is like listening to Oldfield but he’s playing his own music that has been sculptured by rearranging some of Oldfield’s original melodies just like Oldfield did himself when he done Tubular Bells II. That is something I do have the time of day for and admire and respect and speaks to me a damn site more than this album I can assure you. Like I also mentioned I don’t mind spending a bit of money going to see a tribute band. But the chances of me buying an album of them playing the other artists music leans mostly towards ZILCH!

There is only one Mike Oldfield and has gifted and talented he is himself I cannot take nothing away from all the musicians who are on this tribute album. What I will say about Tubular Bells by Tubular World is that it’s far from disappointing and can be quite enjoyable to listen to. But in some respects, I don’t think its alternative enough with its arrangement and some of the musicians have more or less played it to form or to the norm so to speak. I do feel that Tom Newman’s mix does at least try and give you that more of an alternative version and it’s easy enough to spot the differential differences from the mixes on the 2 CDs.

Whether there has been enough done here to float your boat is really down to you and your perception of how you view tribute albums such as this. I have nothing against covers like I already mentioned, but would rather have the odd one or two tracks on an album that also contains original material. Or even something like this example I came across on the Tube as a bonus video put on a DVD or Blu Ray.

These two chaps are not even on this tribute album and even though they are playing many different melodies from some of Oldfield’s classic albums. I do feel they are lending a bit more to the arrangement with how they are playing the melodies than what some of the musicians are doing on this tribute album.

The documentary From The Manor Born on the other hand in this package is what my money was on even though I had to fork out the extra expense to obtain it which does reflect in my price point rating. It’s also a shame that it is no longer available to purchase and I do feel it should have been sold separately. But despite the extra expense I am glad I did purchase it and I am sure if there is enough interest more copies may very well become available. Who knows it might also be shown on the BBC or Sky Arts in the future and its certainly worth watching?

The CD Track Listing is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Tubular Bells (Part One) 27:14.
02. Tubular Bells (Part Two) 23:39.

CD 2.
01. Introduction. 5:32.
02. Fast Guitars. 2:22.
03. Basses. 0:44.
04. Latin. 2:35.
05. A Minor Tune. 1:47.
06. Blues. 2:50.
07. Thrash. 0:36.
08. Jazz. 0:49.
09. Ghost Bells. 0:31.
10. Russian. 0:51.
11. Finale. 8:10.
12. Harmonics. 5:18.
13. Peace. 3:28.
14. Bagpipe Guitars. 2:49.
15. Caveman. 4:47.
16. Ambient Guitars. 5:18.
17. The Sailor’s Hornpipe. 1:58.

The Package Rating. 8/10.
The Price Point Rating. 6/10.
The Album Rating. 6/10.
The Documentary Rating. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #174

The Delicate Sound Of Thunder (Blu Ray Edition) – Pink Floyd

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Introduction…

When it comes to making money both The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd have always been amongst the highest earners since the late 80’s. Although the latter of the two never charged extortionate prices for a concert ticket to go and see them play live like the other did. But you can bet your bottom dollar that if Floyd had of continued to play live like the Stones did, they also would be charging £300 or more for a ticket. Apart from the one-off 18-minute reunion with Roger Waters at Live 8 on the 2nd of July 2005. Pink Floyd have not played a full live concert since the 29th of October 1994 yet they still function as if they are still going today with the way their music has been reissued and released in high priced elaborate box sets.

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It was only at the end of last year that Pink Floyd released The Later Years 1987-2019 Box Set that came at a WHOPPING! price tag of around £300. That might not appear to be too expensive if your profession is that of a lawyer, doctor, accountant or even a brain surgeon 😁😁😁. But for the average Joe even here in the UK many would be lucky if they took that money home in their pay packet at the end of a week and you would have to be living in places like London to take that home after tax. If you could put aside £20 per-week it would take you 15 weeks (a quarter of a year) just to save up the money to buy it.

The later years of Pink Floyd’s career is hardly the bands best output and their career does not even stretch as far as 2019. In reality even the final album Endless River that was released back in 2014 was only a compilation album of unused material that came out of the recording sessions back in 1993/4 whilst the band were making The Division Bell and was compiled and put together by only one of its band members and was nothing to write home about. In reality you could say the bands career ended back in 1994 and in my personal opinion The Division Bell was the only real decent album the band had produced after Roger Waters left back in 1983.

As with most box sets, they generally try and include unreleased material remaster and remix older material and even include 5.1 surround mixes and throw in other trinkets such as replica concert tickets, programs, posters, badges and include a book and other sorts. The surround mix in particular is what entices many surround FREAKS! such as myself to lash out the extra money for such a box set and, in most cases, those are the things that don’t get to see an individual release and are very much a marketing ploy (along with the way it’s been presented) to try and entice you to buy it. 

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Looking at the contents in the picture above it does look like you are getting your money’s worth or even a lot for the money. But if you were to look at the actual music media content that is contained on the 18 discs within this box set, in reality you are only getting around 6 discs of actual media content. Simply because they are giving you the same thing 3 times over on CD, DVD and Blu Ray. Even if this box set retailed at half its price at £150, they would still be making over 100% profit of what it actually costs to make.

This is the sort greed I myself generally stay clear of and would rather wait till they see sense and start releasing part of it individually at a reasonable price I can afford and don’t have to sell a kidney to obtain the thing I want out of it. Now near enough a year later it appears they have seen sense and they have at least re-released one of the items they were bragging about a year ago which is the Delicate Sound of Thunder film to which has been restored and remixed.

OK! its perhaps not the thing I was after but least it’s a start and I did have this concert on double CD and on VHS when they were released years ago. I don’t think I’ve played them since then either 😁😁😁. But my interest in buying it again was really to see how well they had restored the film footage and if it was worth actually putting on a Blu Ray with all they were bragging about of how well it’s been restored. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging & artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The Blu Ray is very neatly presented and comes in a cardboard 2-panel DVD-Sized Digipak with a plastic tray to hold the disc firmly in place. It also comes with a 24-page booklet that is stored in the left-hand side of case and it all is stored in a die cut cardboard slipcase. The booklet contains mostly photographs taken from the live concert and comes with all the usual linear production and credits.

Overall, they have done a quality job on its presentation and personally I think this is a better presentation than the discs that were in The Later Years box set. Though to be fair least they did use gatefold Digisleeves which is a lot better than a single sleeve like how the discs came in their Immersion box sets.

Artwork.

The artwork and design were done by Steve Knee of Blade Design who used some inspiration from the original front cover design done by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. The Sleeve Photography was done by Rupert Truman of Storm Studios and the Package Photography by Dimo Safari. Overall, I quite like this newer design and Powell’s original manakin with light bulbs all over him has been put to good use. I often wonder if Peter Gabriel got the idea from Powell’s original design to have a jacket made with light bulbs stuck all over it to use at some of his live shows.

Release Editions…

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The new reissue of Delicate Sound Of Thunder was released on 5 formats counting the Digital Download which is the cheapest option to purchase it at around £12.99. The Double CD is the cheapest of the 4 physical formats and retails around £13.99. Both the DVD & Blu Ray retail around £14.99 & £18.99 respectively and the 3 LP 180-gram Vinyl edition is the most expensive and retails at around £69.99.

They also put out a 4 Disc Deluxe Edition that retails at around £48 which includes the Double CD/DVD & Blu Ray and threw in a 40-page booklet, a double-sided poster and 5 postcards. It’s also worth noting that both the DVD & Blu Ray in the deluxe edition include the 5 bonus tracks “Yet Another Movie”. “Round And Around”. “A New Machine Part 1”. “Terminal Frost” and “A New Machine Part 2”. These bonus tracks were also included in The Later Years Box Set and were omitted from both the single DVD & Blu Ray releases. Once again it can only be seen as another ploy to entice you to spend more money. I pre-ordered the Blu Ray Edition from Amazon UK on the 18th of October and got it slightly cheaper and ended up paying £16.82. 

Delicate Sound Of Thunder In Review…

The latest new reissue of the Delicate Sound Of Thunder by Pink Floyd was released on the 20th of November 2020. The blu ray contains the same 16 songs that were featured on the original 1989 VHS version and they run in the same order. However, what we have here is a 2019 remix where some parts have been added and subtracted from some of their other live shows taken from their Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour back in 1989.  The new edit of the film also includes the full performance of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” whereas the VHS version only had had the introduction to “Part 1” which was played over a montage of footage. The time-lapse of the stage being disassembled with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 2-5)” on the end credits has been removed and replaced with a black screen accompanied by “Terminal Frost” as the credits instead.

Effectively this is perhaps not for purists but then again not all the film footage from the original 1989 release came from the 5 nights they played at Nassau Coliseum and some additional footage was taken from a couple of the nights they played at the Place d’Armes of the Château de Versailles in France in 1988. That particular footage has now been removed so at least all the footage now comes from the shows they played at the Nassau Coliseum and it’s not unusual for many live releases to feature footage from other venues as they like to include the best performances. Though they may have gone to even more extremes with the editing of this new release and it does look better for it. 

The original double live album released back in 1988 has sold over 1.5 million copies in the US alone and reached number 11 in the Billboard chart the same position it reached in the UK albums chart. It’s also worth noting that the Delicate Sound of Thunder was the first album to be played in space and the soviet cosmonauts took it aboard Soyuz TM-7 that was launched in November 1988 to which both Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason attended the launch party.

I remember buying it on CD and I only had it for a few weeks before I lent it to a work mate who never returned it. I never did bother replacing it and brought the VHS Video of the concert in the following year instead. I was never keen on the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason album and it was the songs from that album that put me off watching the live concert and none of the material from that album was never really any highlight of a Pink Floyd show that’s for sure. To be honest I thought the last album The Final Cut they done with Roger Waters was a weak album but for me this was an album that had very little to say.

To be honest even though they have done a completely new remix of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason that supposedly brings it more up to date. From what I have heard of it I am far from impressed and I doubt that I would be even interested if they re-released the 5.1 mix of the album from The Later Years box set next. Like I mentioned in my introduction I did purchase this release to see how well they had restored the film footage and to see if it was up to the higher standards that blu ray has to offer these days. So let’s now take a look at the blu ray.

The Blu Ray.

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The main menu looks very neat and sharp and displays the front cover artwork along with three options to choose from “Play All”. “Tracks” and “Audio Setup”. It’s a simple navigation system to get around and is indicated by a white triangle or cursor for you to make your choice.

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By clicking on the “Tracks” menu it gives you the choice to play all or select any one of the tracks. I quite like how you do not have to wait for another screen to load and everything is all contained on a one-page menu system where things are simply hidden away. You simply click on the “X” at the bottom to close the tracks menu and it reverts back to the main menu.

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The “Audio Setup” offers you the choice 2 audio soundtracks both of which are high-resolution formats of 24 Bit 96K. You have the choice of PCM Stereo 4.6Mbps and a 6.8Mbps 5.1 DTS Master Audio track for the surround FREAKS! such as myself. Overall, a professional job has been done with the blu ray’s interface and menu system and it is pristine quality.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The original film footage of the live concert was directed by Wayne Isham who had a large camera crew onboard and in total 27 cameras were used to capture the live concert. This new release is sourced from more than 100 cans of original 35mm negatives that have been restored and transferred to 4K. I have to say a TOP JOB! has been done regarding the restoration and this concert never looked so good as it does now that’s for sure. It does however look as if it’s been upscaled to 4K which works very well for the actual detail and clarity of the film footage. However, it’s not quite as pristine or polished as 1080p HD simply because it does show up quite a bit of the grain and other blemishes but overall, its very impressive with what has been done here.

It’s also been re-edited by Benny Trickett under the creative direction of Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis and another TOP JOB! has been done of it too. Overall, despite the presence of grain there is no doubt that this was well worth putting on Blu Ray and even the 4K upscaling that has been applied to it brings out the detail larger than life and it’s worth shelling out the extra few pennies for the Blu Ray over the DVD. The Blu Ray is not even advertised as a 4K release but it’s quite evident that it is with how good it looks and I think many people will be impressed with how well it’s been restored.

The Surround & Stereo Mixes.

The sound quality is even more impressive than the picture quality and considering this was an earlier concert than their tour of The Division Bell this does have a better sound production I feel. Pink Floyd’s long-time sound engineer Andy Jackson & David Gilmour remixed the sound from the original multitrack tapes and were assisted by Damon Iddins and they have done a pretty decent job. Both Stereo and 5.1 mixes sound very good and even though I would not say the 5.1 mix was a surround FREAKS! paradise and I have heard better it’s perhaps worthy of 8 out of 10 and its very much another reason to get the Blu Ray over the DVD.

Musicians & Credits…

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Directed by Wayne Isham. Produced by Curt Marvis & Carl Wyant. Audio Produced by David Gilmour. Remixed by Andy Jackson with David Gilmour assisted by Damon Iddins. Filmed & Recorded Recorded between the 19th – 23rd of August 1988 at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, New York, USA. Recording Engineer Dave Hewitt assisted by Robert (Ringo) Hrycyna. Film Edited by Benny Trickett. Artwork & Design by Steve Knee of Blade Design. Creative Director Aubrey Powell / Hipgnosis. Director of Photography Marc Reshovsky. Sleeve Photography by Rupert Truman of Storm Studios. Package Photography by Dimo Safari.

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.
Gary Wallis: Percussion.
Scott Page: Saxophone – Guitar.
Margret Taylor, Rachel Fury & Durga McBroom: Backing Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

Pink Floyd embarked on a world tour after the release of their 13th studio album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. It was to be the bands first tour since they toured The Wall back in 1981 and notably their first tour without their bassist Roger Waters. The band done two consecutive tours in support of the album and they kicked off the tour at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa in Canada on the 9th of September 1987 and ended off the first leg of the tour on the 23rd of August 1988 at the Nassau Coliseum, New York in America. The venue where this concert was filmed. The band played a total of 158 shows over its first leg of the tour most of which were played in the US & Canada though they also toured New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Europe during the 3 legs of their North American tour.

The second part of their tour was titled “Another Lapse” and this was a much shorter European tour that ran from May–July 1989 starting at the Rock Werchter annual music festival in Belgium on the 13th May 1989. The band played a total of 40 shows on this leg of the tour playing in many European countries such as Belgium. Italy, Greece, Russia, France, Sweden, Finland, Germany, England, Austria, Switzerland and The Netherlands. It ended off at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille in France on the 18th July 1989. It’s also worth noting that that the show they played before that on the 15th of July in Venice, at the Grand Canal in Italy was broadcast live worldwide.

The band grossed around 135 million dollars US from their tour making A Momentary Lapse of Reason the highest-grossing tour of the 1980s. They also used part of the set to play at the Knebworth Festival in the following year on the 30th of June 1990 and was the last act to play, to an audience of 120,000. They also financed the £60,000 firework display out of their own pockets to end the show off in style.

The Delicate Sound Of Thunder is a film that captures the band playing live between the 19th-23rd of August 1988 at the Nassau Coliseum indoor arena in Uniondale, New York in the US. The venue itself is a multi-purpose arena that is widely used for concerts and other sports such as Hockey, Basket Ball, Tennis and many more. It was the home of the New York Islanders hockey team between 1972 to 2015 and the venue itself first opened in 1972. The arena had a seating capacity of around 16,300 when Pink Floyd played there in 1988 which was around 1,500 more than what the seating capacity was when they first played the venue back in 1975 on their Wish You Were Here Tour.

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Since the venue opened many other bands and artists have played at the arena including the likes of Elvis Presley, David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Queen, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Elton John, Genesis, Frank Zappa and so on. It was announced earlier this year in June that the arena would be closed indefinitely but a couple of months later it was saved by Florida-based businessman Nick Mastroianni II whose company was responsible for the loan to help with the renovation of the arena. The Coliseum offers a different capacity for different events for example, 14,500 seats for basketball, MMA and boxing, 13,900 for hockey, up to 15,000 for concerts, and 4,500 seats for its theater configuration.

On With The Show…

Like I mentioned earlier this is not a concert for purists and things have been jiggered with to make it look good more than anything and on that score it certainly does. The other notable thing is that this new version of the concert is now some 15 minutes longer than the original UK VHS release. One of the major reasons for that is that this release now includes “Money” which was only ever included in the US VHS release and some intro’s and guitar solos on some of the other songs have been extended. The total running time including the end credits is now 1 hour 55 minutes 26 seconds precisely.

The show gets off to a cracking start and it’s good to see that they feature all five parts of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” together rather than apart like on the studio version and this has to be one of the highlights of the show. Though I do think that the sax player Scott Page is a bit too flamboyant at times throughout the show and he does tend to go over the top at times.

The band then knock out five of the songs from what would of been their latest album at the time A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and they roll out the first couple of tracks in order as they were on the album “Signs of Life” and “Learning To Fly” to which I quite like the film footage you also get to see that was done for both of these tracks and it does look even more impressive in 4K. The first of them is really just an instrumental piece and does not really speak that much to me and neither does the latter of them to which Tim Renwick gets to play the lead guitar on. I have nothing against Renwick personally and am quite in ore of some of his playing I have heard him do as a session player on many other artists albums. Some of the echo has also been removed from Gary Wallis’s electronic drums on this newer remix of the song.

Sorrow” is up next and this is one of the better songs from the album and Dave Gilmour gets fly on the lead guitar and his guitar solo is also extended on this remix. It also does sound more like the material we seen on his solo album About Face rather than classic Floyd Material. They do a good job of rocking things up a bit with “The Dogs of War” and this new mix has a longer intro. Once again Page on his sax tries to hog the limelight here and I quite like how Gilmour has a little chuckle watching him do so 😁😁😁.  “On the Turning Away” is up next and its the last song from this album for a bit and its quite a mediocre one that does not really set things on fire not even with its extended solo on this mix either certainly not for myself anyway.

The next part of the show features some of the bands iconic material and “One of These Days” is another of my personal highlights and the surround sound kicks in well on both “Time” and “On the Run” and once again I like the film footage that accompanies these tracks and the way the bed flies across the arena is put to good visual effect. Both Richard Wright’s vocals and Nick Mason’s drums are also dominant good features on the first of those tracks. “The Great Gig in the Sky” is up next which features the voices of the backing singers and once again they do a very good job of it here too. This is also all in colour unlike the original which has black and white footage from the Place d’Armes of the Château de Versailles in France.

They take a slight break from the “TDSOTM” album and both Gilmour and Renwick jump on the acoustic to play “Wish You Were Here” and another GRAND! job is done here and on the next song “Us and Them” which apparently has a piano added to the intro on this remix. It’s also said that even though “Money” that follows it that has now been included is not the full performance and has been condensed omitting Pratt’s bass solo and a female acapella section. Though this is another of my personal highlights of the show.

Comfortably Numb” is up next and here we have Wright, Pratt and Jon Carin singing the verse sections of the song in unison and I am sorry to say that Roger Waters voice is tremendously missed here and even though Gilmour’s solos (which have also been extended on this mix) and his voice do in some way rescue the song, this is by far the best performance I have personally seen and the way the verses are actually sung I think is diabolical. No doubt others will disagree but they honestly do my head in 😁😁😁. To be honest all 3 of them can very much sing individually but this for me simply does not work at all.

The band then return to their latest album at the time and roll out “One Slip” and this is actually my favourite track from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason only here they more or less use the song to feature Pratt’s slap bass solo and some heavy percussion. I don’t think it measures up to the studio version but it’s not bad. They then wind up the show with “Run Like Hell” and this has never been one of my favourites however, at least the vocals do sound right with Gilmour and Pratt and I am not even missing Waters voice here at all. This new remix has an extended intro and also includes Gilmour thanking the audience at the end of the show and the audio of “Terminal Frost” is used for the rolling credits at the end.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up this new 2019 remix of Delicate Sound Of Thunder by Pink Floyd. I am quite impressed with how well they have restored the film footage and because it has been upscaled to 4K that is really where you will benefit more from the Blu Ray more so than the DVD. Though I am pretty sure even the DVD will be quite an improvement over the original VHS which was very poor. It’s not as pristine or as polished like an up-to-date live concert that was captured with the latest technology and if it was not for the 4K upscaling I personally do not think this concert would look as impressive as the DVD that was put out in 2003 of Led Zeppelin that captured 4 earlier concerts and was restored by Dick Carruthers. I would even say that the 5.1 mix was more impressive on that DVD than what we have here as well.

However, with all that has been done here it is without doubt quite a major improvement and well worthy of putting on a Blu Ray. Both the picture and sound quality are very good and I would even say that the sound quality and the 5.1 mix is better than the Pulse DVD. Although I myself prefer that concert in relation to this one and that is really down to my disliking of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. Which is why my personal highlights from this show are “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“. “One Of These Days“. “Time“. “On The Run” and “Money“.

I think the one thing that was quite evident is that Pink Floyd proved that they could still function as a band without Roger Waters and the name was still the much bigger attraction. Though I do think both David Gilmour and Roger Waters have also put out better live shows than this one. But even though this particular concert is not the best the band have put out, it’s still got it’s fine moments though I don’t think it will ever be one of my GOTO! concerts of the band even with how much more impressive the picture and sound are now with this new release.

I do however feel this is worthy of getting and for others they will get a lot more out of this concert than myself that’s for sure. Especially those who are more into A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. The price point might be a tad too high but at least it’s not going to break the bank and it comes in a quality package that’s worth paying the extra few pennies for which is why I would still recommend it.

Now Shines On Much More After All These Years…

On a final note, I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year and let’s hope its a Covid Free one so things can start to get back to normal. 2020 has not been the best of years that’s for sure and even I am well behind on my reviews of the music I have purchased this year and still have to review 2 box sets and 3 albums I purchased between October – December.

The Blu Ray track listing is as follows:

  1. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5) (Live, remix 2019) 12.02
  2. Signs Of Life (Live, remix 2019) 3.24
  3. Learning To Fly (Live, remix 2019) 5.20
  4. Sorrow (Live, remix 2019) 10.33
  5. The Dogs Of War (Live, remix 2019) 7.58
  6. On The Turning Away (Live, remix 2019) 9.04
  7. One Of These Days (Live, remix 2019) 6.28
  8. Time (Live, remix 2019) 5.19
  9. On The Run (Live, remix 2019) 2.47
  10. The Great Gig In The Sky (Live, remix 2019) 4.51
  11. Wish You Were Here (Live, remix 2019) 4.38
  12. Us And Them (Live, remix 2019) 7.34
  13. Money (Live, remix 2019) 8.18
  14. Comfortably Numb (Live, remix 2019) 9.54
  15. One Slip(Live, remix 2019) 6.08
  16. Run Like Hell (Live, remix 2019) 8.05

The Price Point Rating. 9/10.

The Picture Quality Rating. 8/10.

The Surround Mix Rating. 8/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.

The Overall Concert Rating. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #173

The Whispering Of The World – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

Peter Jones is back with another album from his Tiger Moth Tales project and depending how you look at it this is either the 5th or 6th studio album to be released in this protect of his. I myself am sticking with the record company which clearly has tagged his previous release Still Alive from earlier this year as a EP “White Knight Records ‎– WKEP0720”. Although in retrospect that EP could also be seen has a mini album and in all honesty, it is perhaps more fitting with his project than what we have here with the material on this latest offering.

The Whispering Of The World is quite a different album and I suppose in a way it does sort of emulate what he was doing with some of the material that found its way on his previous EP. Certainly regarding its self-titled track “Still Alive” and “Golden” along with the other odd track here and there that have appeared on other Tiger Moth Tales albums over the years. These are very much songwriters’ songs to which I personally have nothing against and even I myself will find a hell of a lot more meaning behind those types of songs than what I ever will with much of the mythical fantasy lyrics that are quite often associated with prog-rock.

However, what we do have here is much more of a stripped back affair and more of an acoustic and meaningful light-hearted approach has been given to the new material in that it only features voice, piano and orchestration. It’s not an album that will be competing for the PROG! album of the year for example, and in some respects, it could be said that this is more of a Peter Jones album than a Tiger Moth Tales album even though they are both the same person.

But I am sure you will know where I am coming from with the differences between his own solo material and that of his project which was set up more for the purpose of PROGSTERS! or even MOTHSTERS! depending on which way you look at it. However, you look at it there is no denying that the man himself is quite a remarkable talented and gifted musician who knows how to write a good song or two. But before I delve any deeper into what lies beneath the surface of his latest album, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The discs come in a very good quality well-made 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve which gives it a nice touch regarding it presentation. Die cut pockets holds the discs and the booklet firmly in place and overall, it’s a very neat and tidy package. The 12-page booklet contains all the usual linear credits and production notes, including lyrics and photographs plus it also comes with some informative information which is nice to see.

I pre-ordered my copy on the 9th of November from White Knight Records and I was well surprised that it arrived a couple of weeks before its release date. They really were well on the ball this time and it was most unexpected I will say. I do find both this record company and its older brother Tiger Moth Records cheaper than the other outlets and use them all the time and they do offer GREAT! value for the buck. As you can see from the picture above the CD comes with a bonus DVD and at its price point of £12 plus £1.75 postage & packing you cannot go wrong with and are onto a real winner.

Artwork.

The albums cover artwork is a picture of Mary’s Shell which can be found on Cleveley’s beach in Lancashire, England. It was sculptured by the British sculptor Stephen Broadbent who specialises in public art and the shell is only fully visible when the tide goes out. The metal sculpture is part of the Mythic Coast art which brings the story of the Sea Shallow to life! You can see the shell more clearly in this video clip.

Unfortunately, I have no idea who took the photograph of the Shell for the album cover or any of the other photographs in the booklet because they have been left out of the credits as well as the artwork itself. But through my research there are many photographers who photograph the object and sell the prints in frames. My guess is whoever snapped the photo used a long exposure for the effect. I quite like the artwork and it’s well apt to fit in with the albums title.

The Album In Review…

The Whispering Of The World by Tiger Moth Tales was officially released on the 4th of December 2020. The album contains 10 tracks to which all bar one are very much vocal tracks, and it comes with an overall playing time of 46 minutes 55 seconds which is a very respectable time slot that allows one to take things in and digest a lot more comfortably. It’s very much more of a songwriter’s album in that most of the tracks are over a shorter distance and only a couple of them are over more of a lengthier distance that is perhaps commonly associated with PROGMATIC! side of things.

Pete Jones was working on this album before the pandemic arrived and once it did arrive, he got side-tracked, hence the reason why he worked on the newer material that made up the EP Still Alive at home and why that got put out before this release. What was to become Tiger Moth Tales 5th studio album was recorded at Rockfield Studios and it was Robert Reed who gave Jones the idea to make a different album and also produced it along with Andrew Lawson.

It is without doubt quite a different album and it’s not so much on the PROGMATIC! side of things like the previous EP and some of his other albums. In some respects, I would liken the material leaning more towards his 3rd album In The Depths Of Winter. Only here the songs I personally feel are more meaningful and the fact that they are shorter and not so overcooked like I felt they was on that album; it does make them tie in with more of a good songwriter’s song. It is more so the lyrical content that makes good songwriters songs stand out so well to which “Still Alive” certainly did and was the standout track on that EP.

This new album also has a standout track and speaking of things that standout, just like the previous EP, this latest release also comes accompanied with a live DVD. So, lets now take a look at the contents and see what extra bonus material you get here.

DVD.

The bonus DVD main feature contains what’s known as The Quiet Room Session which was recorded at Fieldgate Studios whilst Pete Jones was working on the material for the new album. Pretty much all of the songs from these live sessions were screened and streamed on the Quiet Room TV website back in April of this year to which you could watch for free. The only song that was missing from that streamed session was “Blackbird” which is included on this DVD.

Five of the older songs from the sessions was also released in audio only back in August and put out as an EP in the form of a digital download only and sold on Bandcamp. The DVD also includes three Promo Videos which feature a short interview with Pete Jones and a couple of promotional videos from the new album. The total running time of the DVD is 58 minutes 29 seconds.

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The DVD’s menu contains everything on one-page making it very easy to navigate your way around and you simply point the white triangular cursor at any one of the tracks to play, or simply play the video from the beginning as you can see in the picture above. It’s also worth noting that the promotional videos will automatically play after the main feature.

Picture / Editing & Sound Quality.

Both the picture and the editing were done by Andrew Lawson and he’s done an excellent job on the both and it’s been filmed in HD. The picture quality is quite pristine and looks as sharp as a blu ray when played back on a blu ray player that has good upscaling. To be honest even though it’s a DVD you would think you were watching a blu ray. It comes with a single Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo 48K 448kbps soundtrack and the sound quality is very good. It would have been better if they included a lossless format such as LPCM but I have no complaints here and a TOP JOB has been done overall.

The Bonus DVD In Review…

Unlike the live DVD that came with the Still Alive EP. These are individual live acoustic takes featuring Pete Jones on the piano and vocals only that have been captured on film at various times unlike a live concert where everything is rolled out at once. So, there is margin for error and some of them may of took more than one take and more of a studio process has been given to each live recording sort of thing. Both the introduction interview is short but do give some useful informative information.

Both the promotional videos like the album tracks are accompanied by a string arrangement and have images superimposed over them. I am pretty sure that “Blackbird” is a different take to the solo performance that is on the main feature of the DVD or they may have used a different camera angle. Overall, the bonus DVD is very good and a nice feature to have. It also comes for free making it a real bonus to have.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Pete Jones. Produced by Robert Reed & Andrew Lawson. String Arrangements by Ian Lawson & Pete Jones. Recorded & Mixed by Andrew Lawson at Fieldgate Studios in Wales sometime between 2019/20. Filmed & Edited by Andrew Lawson. Artwork Sculpture by Stephen Broadbent.

Musicians.
Pete Jones
: Grand Piano & Vocals.

Additional Musicians.
David Adams
& Lowri Porter: Violin.
Nancy Johnson: Viola.
Sandy Bartai & Sarah Berger: Cello.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Much of the material that Pete Jones wrote for this new album is based on memories and significant moments of time he’s either spent alone or with family and friends. Like his third album In The Depths Of Winter there is more of a serious side to the material and it tends to lack the humorous side of things that featured so well on other albums in the discography of his Tiger Moth Tales project.

Though like I mentioned earlier I do feel that lyrical content we have here does have more of a purposeful meaning in that it reflects on the things that are around us like nature and life itself, rather than mythical tales such as Robin Hood for example. That’s not to say that “The Ballad of Longshanks John” is not a good song and to be perfectly honest even the lyrical content that is in some of his humorous songs he’s done in the past are very cleverly written. But what often makes GREAT! songwriters’ songs are by writing about the things around us and all that relates to life itself.

Even though I am no big fan of The Beatles or Bob Dylan I could never deny that they wrote GREAT! songs and quite often that is exactly how they went about the lyrical content to their songs and that is what made them so successful. The definition of any good song is one that will be more memorable and stick inside your head and they wrote a good few of them. That perhaps is more of the approach and direction that Jones is going with this new set of songs with its acoustic approach and besides his voice and piano he is also accompanied by real strings played by real musicians which is nice to see. So, lets now delve a bit deeper into the album tracks and see how it all pans out.

Track 1. Taking The Dawn.

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The album opens up in quite a joyful and pleasant way with it’s opening song to which the piano is nicely embellished by a string quintet or a “Cello Quintet” which is basically scored for a standard string quartet plus an extra cello instead of the extra viola which is more usual in conventional string quintets. It’s very much the same sort of quintet that Franz Schubert used for his final chamber work, the String Quintet in C major (D. 956, Op. posth. 163) to which he completed two months before his death back in 1828. All five string players are doing a wonderful job and the arrangement fits in and follows the piano like a glove.

Musically its quite a nice structured piece that Jones has written here on the piano and it’s almost like it does not have a chorus with how it follows the verse which is more like a two-part verse, he’s also incorporated a nice bridge into it to take it somewhere else and break it up and it can be quite uplifting. Lyrically the words pertain to the title literally and they are pertaining to one of the first things you will hear at the crack of dawn which are the birds singing gleefully away.

One of the interesting things about the lyrics is that the song opens up with the same verse (as seen below) that was used on “Still Alive (Reprise)” from his previous EP. That particular song ended off the EP and it’s a bit like they are in some way tied together in a way of a continuation sort of thing. Though I am fairly sure that “Taking The Dawn” was written beforehand but it’s worked out quite well with how both the EP and album were released.

“Way before the light
I’m waiting by the window
Who will be the first?
The first to break the silence”

Overall, the opening song gets the album off to quite a promising start and although Jones does a convincing enough job of delivering the words with his fine voice and there are parts where he does have to excruciate his voice to get the words out which will make it that bit harder to perform live. It may even present him with a problem further on in the future if his voice drops like many singer’s voices have has, they have got older. Hopefully he will not have that problem like many others and I quite like the bright and airy feel of this song and would put it as one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 2. The Whispering Of The World.

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The albums self-titled track is up next and this is a song that was inspired from the echoes of his past from a time he was on holiday in Majorca standing on a rock cliff by the sea hearing a strange sound. The sound he was hearing was the whispering of the wind which was being channelled through a hole in a rock and I quite like how he’s put the words into context and how they fit with the title. It’s quite a haunting song and it’s very well portrayed in the video that was made for it as you can see here.

Musically Its quite dramatic and down-tempo with its undertones, it also captures fear, darkness and even a sense of depression with its mood but also reflects a certain amount of elegance and grace in some of its brighter parts. Considering all of this came out of a bit wind blowing through a rock is quite an achievement and shows you how creative one can be when they put their mind to it.

It is one of the better songs on the album and a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! However, it’s not exactly what one would call Top Of The Pops material and with its depressing mood it would stand more chance of being more popular at a wake 😁😁😁.  JOKING! apart it’s a very well-constructed song that reflects the more serious side that was given to some of the material on his third album In The Depths Of Winter, and this is the type of song that is perhaps more fitting to that album.

Track 3. Sweeter Than Wine.

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This is quite the opposite in contrast to the previous track and effectively this song might very well have been purposely placed here to lift you out of the doldrums sort of thing. This is quite a colourful song that reflects an elegant touch of beauty and romance and it flows like a river of wine with how it’s put over so sweetly with Peter’s voice. The piano is dancing along with the orchestration and everything is in perfect unison and fits in like a glove. Lyrically there is a touch of romance too, and the words are pertaining to memories of love and friendship. It’s the shortest track on the album and a BEAUTY!

Track 4.  Quiet Night.

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From the shortest to the longest track on the album and this song has more of PROGMATIC! feel to it and weighs in at a tad under 9 minutes. The lyrical content evokes and pertains to fear and was inspired by another of his childhood memories on another of his holiday’s. There is some nice chord progression along the transitional changes and I am hearing influences from Neal Morse, Frost* and Genesis along its path and this is once again masterfully very well-orchestrated and the strings add to the colour and enhancement.

It’s very much a song that is cooked on a slow burner regarding its pace and is beautifully lifted up towards the end. The contrast of light and shade reflect very well throughout and with how Jones delivers the story and its melodic structure provide a glowing and comforting warmth to the fear and the darkness. It is without doubt another of the better songs on the album and a really GREAT! job as been done on it. Enough to make it one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. A Town By The Sea.

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Another very well-orchestrated piece and this is the only instrumental piece on the album and it borders on the lines of contemporary classical and folk music. It’s quite unusual especially in comparison to something like “Hundred Acre Wood” from Story Tellers (Part Two) which is more along the lines of classic jazz. I don’t think there is as style of music Jones cannot play and I love him doing some of those old songs like “The Gas Man Cometh” by Flanders & Swann and he and the orchestra of strings have done another GREAT! job here for sure.

Track 6. Blackbird.

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I said this was an album with another standout song and this is it. No doubt Paul McCartney wrote a GREAT! song about a blackbird on his guitar when he was in the Beatles back in the 60’s and now Jones has done one equally as good with this one on the piano. These are really GREAT! lyrics that pertain to nature and the things around us, they are the very thing that make GREAT! songwriter songs as you can hear in the second promotional video that was made for the album.

This is very much the song that makes this album and made me go out and buy it. It’s quite a memorable song and a little GEM! It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and I expect it will be for many others too. It easily merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Waving, Drowning.

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This next song musically has a sort of a striking Burt Bacharach feel and presence about it with its melody on the keys and the way it’s been orchestrated. Though I would not say it was a Bacharach classic and even though this is more up-tempo it’s not exactly going to light any fires. But nevertheless, it’s still very well executed. Lyrically the words are pertaining to the title and it could also be seen as a case of “sink or swim” so to speak. 

Track 8. Lost To The Years.

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The album ends off with my second favourite track on the album and the melody to this one reminds me of a cross between “Mad Man Moon” and “Visions Of Angels” by Genesis in parts and towards the end we also get a few notes from one of his own two-part songs “Feels Alright“. It’s very much an emotional song that reflects a lot of BEAUTY! and is BEAUTIFULLY! played and sung. It’s also the second longest track on the album and just like the longest track it once again cooks on a low heat with its slow pace and is almost delivered like a sweet lullaby.   

It’s a song that comes with caring and meaningful lyrics that pertain to what little time we have on this planet and what we leave behind for those who have yet to come. It also fits in very well with present state the world is in right now and is a wonderful sentiment to end off the album with and another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Summary…

To sum up The Whispering Of The World by Tiger Moth Tales. I would say that it is very much a different album in that its stripped back and it’s more of a songwriter’s album and less of a PROGMATIC! affair. It’s more of a personal album which is perhaps why it contains material that is suited to both sides of his musical output for his solo career and his project of Tiger Moth Tales. It’s also more of a serious body of work that is more along the lines of the material that was written for In The Depths Of Winter and will appeal to those who like that album in particular.

I have to confess that when I first heard this album was about to finally get finished and released, I was excited and eager to get my hands on it. But when I first heard all the material on it was stripped back and it was less PROGMATIC! I did not have much hope for it and was a bit disappointed at first. Like the album In The Depths Of Winter this is not one of my GOTO! albums from his project though I do think more thought has been put into it and prefer this album over that album of his.

I think the best way I can describe an album like this is like doing the washing up where you are not really keen on doing it until you get your hands in the water and only then you will get some pleasure out of it so to speak. There is a lot of pleasure you can get from this album once you put it on, and you really do have to stick your hands or dip your toe in the water to reap the benefit it has to offer. Once you do it becomes quite a satisfying album and a pleasure to listen to and there is some strong enough material on here that holds it up very well. My personal highlights are as follows: “Taking The Dawn“. “The Whispering Of The World“. “Quiet Night“. “Blackbird” and “Lost To The Years“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of The Whispering Of The World. I personally don’t think it’s a solid album but there is nothing remotely bad and certainly enough here to make this album worthy of getting your hands on even if it never came with a free DVD of extras as well. Speaking of the DVD there is not really a lot on it that has not been previously put out before but nevertheless it’s comes for free and is a well worthy addition to the package and you are certainly onto a winner regarding its price point.

In many respects even though I myself prefer his previous EP Still Alive over this new album. I cannot deny that some of the written material upon The Whispering Of The World is a lot stronger and in reality it does contain more strength in relation to some of the whimsical humorous side of things. But for me personally it is also the humorous side of things that Pete Jones is also very clever at doing and that is what I miss on this album and on In The Depths Of Winter.

At the end of the day The Whispering Of The World is an album that should appeal to all fans of Pete Jones and his Tiger Moth Tales project alike and it does continue to show his strength as a songwriter which will hopefully bring in more listeners on that strength. It’s an album I can still get a GREAT! deal of pleasure listening to and would still highly recommend. It’s also very well produced and I have nothing but praise for this man’s GREAT! talent and am looking forward to seeing him live once all this pandemic is beyond us.

The Sound Of New Days Yet To Come…

The CD Track Listing is as follows:

01. Taking The Dawn. 5:23.
02. The Whispering Of The World. 5:50.
03. Sweeter Than Wine. 3:32.
04. Quiet Night. 6:56.
05. A Town By The Sea. 4:50.
06. Blackbird. 3:39.
07. Waving, Drowning. 5:59.
08. Lost To The Years. 8:44.

The DVD Track Listing is as follows:

01. Introduction.
02. Feels Alright.
03. Match Girl.
04. The Ballad of Longshanks John.
05.  Hygge.
06. Blacbird.
07. Taking The Dawn.
08. A Visit to Chigwick.

Lee’s overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Bonus Live DVD Rating Score. 6/10.

The Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #172

Get Out Of My father’s Car! – Gryphon

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Introduction…

Since Gryphon reinvented themselves a couple of years by putting out their first album in some 41 years they are now back with another new album and a slightly different line-up. But not to worry folks! because the same three core members of the band who have been there from day one and who appeared on their last album ReInvention along with Andy Findon are still with us. I am just grateful that I never had to wait another 41 years for another album to arrive 😁😁😁.

I have to admit that I was a bit concerned and sad to hear that the multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett had let the band in order to further pursue his own personal projects. Simply because like the bands former member Richard Harvey, he was very much a tremendous talent and gifted musician who gave such a lot to the band and slotted in and filled Harvey’s role quite comfortably. 

For their latest album Get Out Of My Father’s Car! It now appears that the band have found themselves a new star and a female one at that. Bringing a female into the band was perhaps the most unexpected thing I could possibly think of and I personally never thought it would have worked in a million years. How wrong was I to even think that?

Well, I can tell you now that I was very wrong simply because this band have just come up with one of the most unusual folk albums I have ever encountered before in my life. This is that fresh it’s never been done before and you could say that they have reinvented folk and gave it a new lease of life. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak with a plastic tray to hold the disc in place and a die cut pocket to store the booklet. The 8-page booklet contains all the usual linear credit and production notes along with all the lyrics. It also includes some additional informative information on a track-by-track basis and overall, it’s a very neat and tidy well-made package.

I pre-ordered my copy from The Burning Shed on the 9th of November and it arrived 3 days after its release. It’s the first time I have used the online store for quite a while due to them overcharging on the postage and packaging and its nice to see now that they have made a few changes. I ended up paying £12 plus £2.20 p&p making a total of £14.20 which was a very reasonable and respective price point.

Artwork.

Like the bands previous album, the artwork and design was done by the English psychedelic artist John Hurford and I quite like the way he’s made it look colourful. It’s also well apt to the albums title and reflects on some of the humour that is injected into the bands music. Additional photography was by Andy Holdsworth.

The Album In Review…

Gryphon’s 7th studio album Get Out Of My Father’s Car! was released on the 25th of November 2020. It contains 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 37 seconds which is a very comfortable time slot making it easy to digest. It’s very much a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks with all of the new line-up of the band contributing to all the written material on the album.

Like the bands previous album, the new album was recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by Graeme Taylor at his own studios Morden Shoals Studio. The studio over the last year has been relocated from his attic to where it had been for the past 22 years and he’s now purposely built a 42 sq. mt. totally soundproofed and treated outhouse at the end of his garden.

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Morden Shoals Studio

The new building is fully air-conditioned and features a completely isolated 3.6 sq. mt. recording area at the far end, with an open control area at the other, also housing the ISO booth, which is now often used for vocals or guitars whilst a drummer might use the far end booth.

I can tell you now that the new album sounds GREAT! and Graeme’s new studio is not the only thing of his that contributed to it. The new female star I mentioned earlier happens to be his daughter Clare Taylor and what a talented musician she really is and it must run in the family. Clare is very much a classically trained violinist who can turn to anything including the fiddle and many other instruments. She also comes with a voice and a fine one at that.

Due to an incurable neurological illness, which renders it impossible for him to play. Rory McFarlane had to step down from playing the bass and has been replaced by another old friend Rob Levy. Over the many years Levy has played in jazz, rock and even folk-blues bands and has worked with many artists including the likes of Helen Shapiro, Sacha Distel, Jerry Lewis, Petula Clark, Max Bygraves, Russ Conway, Tony Hadley, Jimmy Tarbuck and Des O’Connor.

The material that makes up and found its way onto the new album was put together over the last couple of years and all band members with the exception of drummer Dave Oberlé contributed to it. Some of it even stretches way back to the late 60’s and it’s all been skilfully arranged to fit in with the bands formidable style.

Gryphon have always tried to come up with something a bit musically different for each of their albums and they may of even excelled themselves with this new fresh approach. The other thing that is always present is their sense of humour, and even though they are quite remarkable musicians they never like to take themselves seriously. This new line-up of the band I feel have come with something quite special so let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Graeme Taylor. Recorded, Mixed & Mastered at Morden Shoals Studio between 2018 – 2020. Recording Engineer  Graeme Taylor. Art & Design by John Hurford. Photography by Andy Holdsworth.

Musicians.

Brian Gulland: Bassoon – Recorder – Soprano Saxophone – Whistle – Melodicater – Piano – Organ – Harpsichord – Harmonium – Vocals – Bell Holder – 16-panel quick fold rainbow coloured Golf Umbrella.
Graeme Taylor: Santa Cruz OM Acoustic Guitar – Reproductions of 1952 Telecaster Blackguard & 1957 Sunburst Stratocaster by Alan Kennedy – Vocals – Keyboard & Drum Programming.
Dave Oberlé: Drums – Percussion – Vocals – Bell Shaker.
Andy Findon: Flute & Piccolo(With and without Abell Whistle Headjoints for Boehm-System Flute) – Soprano Krumhorn – Soprano Tenor & Baritone Saxes – Clarinet.
Clare Taylor: Colin Mezin 1871 Violin – Francois Nicolas Violin Bow – Joseph Alfred Lamy Bow – Vocals – 8-panel quick fold 25 inch multicoloured Golf Umbrella -Percy Prius Carhorn & Door Slams.
Rob Levy: Sadowsky & Musicman Bass Guitars.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Gryphon are a band who like to do things different and each album they have made over the many years of their career can reflect that as they have gone along. Sometimes it can be quite hard to pigeon hole their music although I would say that there has always been an element of folk or traditional folk that has followed them along since they kicked off their career back in 1973 with their self-titled debut album. Their unusual choice of instruments date back to the renaissance period or medieval times and their debut album was a combination of renaissance dance music and traditional folk songs.

As the band progressed along many more genres of music started to come out of the woodwork and appear in their music, such as the classical influences that were injected into the self-titled track on the bands 2nd album. The combination of influences from other bands that made the bands 3rd album more of a PROGMATIC! affair. There was even a little touch of funk injected into their 4th album and forms of popular music was introduced into their 5th album. After a 41-year hiatus we got some more jazz and even a bit of blues thrown in for good measure on their 6th album.

The band have always been tagged with the genre of Medieval Prog-Rock and that is perhaps the best way to describe the biggest output of the music they have put out over the years. Although if you were to go back to the 70’s when we had far less genres to categorize music, it would not be unusual to find their albums in a record store filed under the genre of “Folk” and even today its quite evident that folk is still present and exists within their music.

Folk is very much the essence that is contained within their latest album Get Out Of My Father’s Car! Though there are many other ingredients that have gone into how the music is constructed, and it’s the way they have combined and incorporated many of the other genres that we have seen from them in the past so differently that make this album quite unique and sound fresh. To be honest I have never come across anything quite like this before and it really is like they have created a new direction for folk music to exist and breathed new life into it. It really is a breath of fresh air and the way forward for folk music in many respects.

To be perfectly honest I am still racking my brains out of how they have managed to come up with this new approach and the only thing I can put it down to is the sheer class musicianship that was involved in making it. I thought the musicianship was very much the strength behind their last album more so than the actual composition side of things, but here the strength is very much measured in equal terms I feel, making it a much better album to sit with. So, let’s now go through the album tracks and see how it all pans out.

Track 1. Get Out Of My Father’s Car!

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The album kicks off with its self-titled track and this is more of an instrumental piece with a few words of humour (along the lines of the sentence of its title) thrown in for good measure. This particular piece was penned by Graeme Taylor & Brian Gulland and the bit of fun they are having with the words goes back to an incident that happened when the band had more or less formed way back in 1972.

The four original band members were returning home from a meeting in London with Brian at the wheel who was putting up with more than his fair share of barracking in particular from Graeme in the back seat which caused him to blow his top and tell him to “get out of my car!”. To which Graeme cheekily replied “it’s not your car it’s your father’s car”. Amity was quickly restored and the memory of the incident popped back up last year in a kebab shop in Liverpool before they were about to play a gig and Graeme suggested it as the title for their net album.

Musically although its mostly a funky piece it crosses quite a few styles of jazz, rock, classical, folk, you name it, it’s got it, and it’s got as many transitional changes as a leopard changing its spots😁😁😁. The interesting thing about the funky side of this particular piece is that it’s not constructed from the bass line and it’s more or less centred around the harpsichord, bassoon and electric guitar. The other styles including the bands formidable style are flying out of the woodwork and different time signatures are all over the shop.

It’s very cleverly been put together even to how well Clare Taylor’s violin intermingles and weaves its way into the piece and it’s almost like they have injected big band music into it and it even has a sort of Broadway musical showcase feel to it.  Apart from the funky side of things it’s very difficult to describe just what we have here because there is so much going on. The musicianship is TOP NOTCH! and effectively this piece is more PROG! than PROG! and how they got all of this into 4 minutes is quite mind boggling and it’s a very fascinating and intriguing piece of work that has a touch of BRILLIANCE! and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 2. A Bit Of Music By Me.

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The elegance of BEAUTY! springs to mind with this next instrumental piece of music and although its title suggests that it was written by one person it is in fact credited to two. It is credited to both Gary & Andy Findon and part of it goes back to around 1969 and was composed originally by Andy’s long lost brother Gary to which Andy has now revived by reworking part of the original piece into it so to speak. The original short piece is based upon material that came from some of Gary’s final works before his tragic death and was a short trio written for 2 flutes and clarinet.

This is very much a classical structured piece and it’s been quite skilfully and masterfully arranged to incorporate and include all 6 musicians of the band. The way it opens up with the flute very much put me in mind of Elton John’s 1971 soundtrack album Friends to which utilises the woodwind section of an orchestra very well especially on “Michelle’s Song“. I’ve always loved the woodwind section of an orchestra and it is that section that quite often articulates the real beauty that can be found in most classical music. The tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss is a perfect example and there is a lot more beauty in that piece of work than its opening Fanfare that became more widely known after its use in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

On this particular piece the flute is very much paired up with the bassoon and the interplay between Findon and Gulland is a real playful treasure to behold. It’s also beautifully embellished by Taylor’s acoustic guitar and his daughter’s violin in sections to which both instruments have more of classical presence and feel to the notation. This is a piece that should have no problem being aired on classical radio stations such as BBC Radio 3 and Classical FM and its quite a GEM! It’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Percy The Defective Perspective Detective.

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The shortest track on the album and this is another fine instrumental piece that was penned by Brian Gulland and came about from him noodling out some fine riffs on the harpsichord. I have to say that Brian’s keyboard skills have come on in leaps and bounds since the early days of Gryphon to which were mostly left to Richard Harvey to play. I certainly have not missed Harvey on this album or the previous album and the band are doing just as well without him and have brought in the right musicians to step into his shoes so to speak. Though I mean no disrespect to him because he is without doubt another outstanding multi-instrumentalist and musician.

This is another playful piece and is perhaps verging more towards the medieval folk or familiar side of Gryphon’s music and is a combination of folk and classical styles and I quite like how well Rob Levy’s bass lends support by playing around the same notes of the harpsichord on the intro. The sound of Findon’s flute around the 1:30 mark also has a familiarity with the theme tune to the TV comedy series Some Mothers Do Have Them and this is another wonderful piece that has been skilfully arranged for all the members of the band to fit in somewhere along the line and is very skilfully done. It’s easily another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 4. Christina’s Song.

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You could say that this is the first song on the album and it is more along the lines of English traditional folk music with how its delivered. The song is credited to Clare Taylor & Christina Rossetti and the latter of the two is credited for the words which come from one of her poems entitled “When I am Dead, My Dearest“. Rossetti was a 19th Century English poet who also wrote poems to be put to song such as this “Song”, that appears in Goblin Market and other Poems, first published 1862.

Clare wrote the music on a Casio keyboard many years ago whilst she was at school studying Christina’s poem and now, she gets to be the first female singer of the group and her voice is well suited to the song and its familiar folkie style. I also think the characteristics in her voice and violin gives it a slightly different edge to the bands usual approach to English traditional folk music. Both Graeme Taylor’s acoustic guitar and Andy Findon’s flute also feature very well throughout this fine song.

Track 5. Suite For ’68.

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This is another piece that Andy has rejuvenated with the band and is based on a three-movement suite written by his late brother Gary back in 1968. I have to confess I did not do a lot of research on Findon when I reviewed Gryphon’s previous album ReInvention and the informative information in the booklet, I found very useful. Apparently, Andy’s brother was a classmate of the British journalist and former politician Michael Portillo. Back in 2008 he made a documentary entitled “Death of a School Friend” to which unearthed some of Gary’s music that had laid dormant and unnoticed for 40 years.

The program was originally broadcast on BBC 2 on the 7th of November 2008 and it’s unfortunate like many old series that they have not been screened again or have found their way on Youtube. I cannot locate anything from it as I would of loved to have seen it. However, I did find this write up of it that goes into more detail about the program if you want to read more about it. https://www.jeffreymaynard.com/Harrow_County/Death_of_a_Schoolfriend_Gary_Findon.htm

This is another playful instrumental piece and the first section merrily waltzes and dances its way along and features some lovely interplay between the two wind players Andy & Brian and also Clare’s violin. There is even a bit of humour that reflects from the strings possibly played by Graeme on the guitar that replicate the sound of a car horn and some of the notation from Brian’s bassoon adds to the comical side of things in this merry waltz. As it transcends its way along Andy switches from flute and clarinet to the krumhorn for the second and sweeter section of the suite and back for the final section. The harpsichord also features heavily throughout the piece and both Rob and Dave are also playing their part in holding up the fort here. It really is a wonderful piece done in GREAT! Gryphon style.

Track 6. The Brief History Of A Bassoon.

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A fun comical song penned by Graeme Taylor to which the words were inspired from his visit to India last year having come across some banyan trees in a dream that sparked up some of his memories from decades ago when Brian used to think he was a tree. The comical story he jotted down whilst in a car on his travels through India and the tune he wrote a few months later on his guitar.

The story is very well written and Brian himself takes on the vocal duties to put it across and is extremely funny how he projects part of it with the lower regions of his voice to reflect how he changed from a krumhorn to a bassoon. I also noticed that Brian does not play the krumhorn on this album and he’s left that too Andy to play, and once again the band have done another GREAT! job.

Track 7. Forth Sahara.

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This next instrumental piece was written by Rob Levy and it’s a tune of his that has been through quite a few incarcerations over the years and originally started out as a Spanish Sahara with an improvised bit in the middle and has now been given the Gryphon treatment. It’s a lovely piece that contrasts between styles of classical, folk and rock and features some GREAT! interplay between violin flute and bassoon. I like how Graeme also weaves his electric guitar into the interplay along with Rob’s bass and Dave’s drums and they help to rock it up a bit and this is another super job they have all done.

Track 8. Krum Dancing.

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This next instrumental piece does hark back to the bands earlier renaissance-style and this is a series of four dance tunes they have stitched together and the individual tunes are “Krum Dancing“. “Rum Bust“. “Escalade” and “Village Thrump“. It was penned by Graeme Taylor & Andy Findon and it kicks off in GREAT! Gryphonish! style and I like how well Clare’s violin easily fits into place throughout and Dave’s drums and percussion also hold everything up so well. Graeme gets to rock things up on his electric in particular on the second part whilst Rob’s bass lines also play more of a dominant role in particular on the third part and both Brian and Andy battle it out in duel on the final part with them both playing soprano saxes. It’s very much another GREAT! track and one I would put in contention for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 9. A Stranger Kiss.

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It’s time for another song and this is another of Clare Taylor‘s contributions she wrote that was inspired by a piano piece written by Gary Yershon for a Royal Shakespeare production of Hamlet that she got to see in her teenage years. The is another folky song with her fine voice and violin at the helm and the words are pertaining to a failed relationship. It’s quite a lovely ballad of a song to which the flute, bassoon and even the violin in parts give it a touch of a classical feel and her father’s acoustic guitar also adds very well to the melodic feel of it all. There is also a dramatic feel to it which was most likely inspired by Yershon’s original piano piece.

Track 10. Normal Wisdom From The Swamp…(A Sonic Tonic) 

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The is another piece that crosses many contrasting styles and can be quite PROGMATIC! in parts and was written by Brian Gulland. It also features him playing the piano and he’s doing a GRAND! job on it I will say and this was very much constructed around the instrument. It is mostly an instrumental piece but does have some spoken words delivered by Brian, Dave and Clare who take turns with each sentence in the dreamy comedown organ section. They are also very strange words of wisdom coming out of this swamp too and I have to admit when I first seen the title I thought it said “Norman” not “Normal” and that would have been even stranger 😁😁😁.

 It’s a piece that goes through many transitional changes and time signatures and was stitched together by umpteen different tunes which happily seem to have found sympathetic neighbours according to Brian’s notes in the booklet. It does seem like a mishmash of tunes put together but it works extremely well and the instrumentation is flying out of the woodwork and weaving and meandering its way along in quite a mesmerising magical way and skilfully played. It’s very much another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 11. Parting Shot.

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The album ends off with a beautiful song written by Graeme Taylor and this is a tune he knocked up some 35 years ago and later wrote some tender lyrics to it for his wife. The tune itself was quite often used as an encore to introduce the members of the band Home Service at the end of their gigs to which Graeme also plays in. It’s the longest track on the album weighing at just under 6 minutes and is now getting the Gryphon treatment by appearing on this album and is beautifully sung by Dave.

In some ways this song could be a bit out of place with the rest of the material on the album and it perhaps harks back to some of the popular material that found its way on Gryphon’s 5th album Treason back in 1977 which was an album that Graeme was not on. However, it does round up the album very well being placed here and I have always loved Dave’s sweet voice since I heard him sing “The Astrologer” and “The Unquiet Grave” on their debut album. He still is my favourite singer of the band and I was glad that he was not completely pushed aside by the bands new rising female star 😁😁😁.

Graeme plays some lovely lead lines on his electric guitar on this song and I like how he has brought that back into the fold and not gone completely acoustic on the album. I have always loved both his acoustic and electric playing. Quite often on the few occasions I have seen him play live with the band over the recent years he does bring his electric along but sometimes its only there for display on a stand and he never picks it up 😁😁😁. When they eventually get back out there and play live, I feel he will have to for quite a bit of the material that is on this album and that is something I will look forward too.

Summary…

To sum up Gryphon’s 7th studio album Get Out Of My Car! I personally think that the band is as strong as ever and have come up with a very strong body of work of material to make up this new album. Although it’s very much a different album in some ways I would put this almost on par with the bands first three albums for its strength. I would even go as far as to place this album as my 4th favourite album out of the bands discography. It’s very much a folk album that has a strong classical influence thrown into the pot and that is what makes it work so well.

In musical terms of the way some of the music has been structured it is without doubt more PROG! than PROG! Although I would not vote it for the PROG! album of the year like I did with Wobbler’s latest album for example, and that is down to how it sort of gives folk music a fresher approach with the progressive side of things that have been thrown into it. It’s hard to explain what it is and perhaps the best way I could describe it is by saying that it’s taken the progressive aspect that bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span put into their music many years ago onto another level or plain so to speak.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Get Out Of My Father’s Car!“. “A Bit Of Music By Me“. “Percy The Defective Perspective Detective“. “Krum Dancing” and “Normal Wisdom From The Swamp… (A Sonic Tonic)“. Though in reality I could easily add all 11 tracks because it really is such a GREAT! album and one that is easy to sit with and simply enjoy.

Conclusion…

In conclusion Get Out Of My Car! is an album that has a lot more under the hood than one might think and is far from just another folk album. It could even be seen in some respects as a fresher approach to folk music. Though be warned, because to pull off an album like this it does require a great deal of technical skill and timing and this is a band that are as tight as a bear’s arse. This is also a band that will have no problem performing the material from this album live on stage and I am eagerly looking forward for this pandemic to blow over so I can get to see them again.

It might not make the PROG! album of the year but it’s certainly one of the best albums I have brought this year and is pretty much a solid album and has been very well produced. It should easily satisfy all the GRYPHONIONS! out there and appeal to all FOLKIES! and other sorts who have a eclectic taste. I have nothing but high praise for the album and they really have come up with something quite special and unique in that it sounds fresh yet still maintains the bands formidable style.

The band did put out a 3-mintute sampler of the album as you can see above. Personally, I do not think this does the album any real justice and it’s a shame they never put out a full song from the album that really shows what the band have injected into all the album tracks. It is without doubt one of the bands better albums and for all you vinyl lovers there is a vinyl edition scheduled to be released sometime in January. Though what I would love to see is a 5.1 release because this bands music would be most fitting to that format and I would love Steve Wilson to get his hands on their albums and do them.

A Car To Get Out Of And An Album To Get Into And Enjoy The Ride…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Get Out Of My Father’s Car!. 4:06.
02. A Bit Of Music By Me. 4:47.
03. Percy The Defective Perspective Detective. 2:30.
04. Christina’s Song. 3:41.
05. Suite For ’68. 5:04.
06. The Brief History Of A Bassoon. 2:58.
07. Forth Sahara. 3:45.
08. Krum Dancing. 5:25.
09. A Stranger Kiss. 4:19.
10. Normal Wisdom From The Swamp… (A Sonic Tonic). 5:11.
11. Get Out Of My Father’s Car!. 5:51.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #171

Cursus 123 430 – Robert Reed

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Introduction…

The latest album by Robert Reed is quite a margin away from his usual output we’ve seen from him in the past regarding his own solo career. Instead of emulating the music of Mike Oldfield like he has done with his last 3 solo albums he’s now gone all electronica on us and is now emulating the music of the likes of Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and those sorts. Though not to worry folks because Sanctuary IV is in the pipeline and I am sure normal service will resume soon 😁😁😁.

I have to admit that this latest album of his came as quite a shock, simply because the core behind Reed’s keyboard skills is his piano playing which is far more complex and complicated to play than the biggest majority of electronic music which involves more knob twiddling than playing skills. To be perfectly honest I would most likely die of shock if I saw Jean-Michel Jarre playing the piano 😁😁😁. Simply because his playing skills are far from as complicated as one might think.

I think most electronic music is fairly easy to play and more time is spent twiddling and tweaking things to bring out all the colours and textures more than anything else. There is an art to all forms of music and I am quite a fan of Jarre’s music and have the biggest part of his discography in my record collection. I also have many other electronic albums by the likes of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk and Isao Tomita. However, that is as far as it goes for me and electronic music.

I can at times go through phases regarding electronic music and there can be long periods where I simply can no longer listen to it. When I first spotted this new release by Robert Reed, it’s title of Cursus 123 430 very much had Vangelis spring to my mind and I was in two minds of whether to jump onboard and pre-order it. In the end I decided to come along for the ride. But was it worth it? Before I answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging & artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The both discs come in a cardboard gatefold Digisleeve that has die cut pockets on each side (as seen above) that firmly hold the discs in place. The material is on the thinner quality side of things to cut down on cost, but nevertheless is well adequate to do the job. It does not come with a booklet or contain any additional informative information and the usual linear credits are printed on the inside and back of the Digisleeve.

Overall, it’s a neat and tidy presentation and very much the same packaging Rob Reed uses for all his albums including Magenta. I pre-ordered my copy from Tigermoth Productions on the 9th of November and it arrived a week after its release. I’ve always used the record companies’ website to order his solo and Magenta albums because even with the postage and packaging it does work out slightly cheaper than Amazon.

Artwork.

The album cover artwork was done by Matt Rooke and it’s well fitting with the concept of earth and space that is perhaps associated with the biggest majority of electronic music. It also fits in with conceptional story that’s been tied to the album. Rook is a freelance illustrator and motion graphics designer, with 20 years design industry experience. I quite like it and he’s done a very good job of it.

Release Editions…

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The album was released in the form of 3 various physical packages to suit your pocket. It was also released as a Digital Download which is the cheapest option to get the album and is priced at £7 on Bandcamp. As far as I am aware of there is no vinyl release, although there might be a possibility of one in the future depending on how well the album sells you never know.

The cheapest of the physical packages is the one I purchased to which the CD comes accompanied with a DVD with the 5.1 mix of the album and is priced at £12 plus £1.90 postage & packing. This is excellent value for the money and I love the how Rob Reed thinks of us SURROUND FREAKS! with every album he makes.

Next up for £20 you can get the Limited Edition which comes with the same as the CD/DVD release above plus a bonus CD that contains a 19-minute Symphonic Poem version of the album along with 5 other bonus tracks. All these tracks are basically orchestral and solo piano pieces that offer you alternative versions.

To be honest I am not really sure how this is a limited edition at all, because you can purchase the bonus material on Bandcamp in the form of a digital download for £5 and the physical CD which comes in a cardboard wallet for £8 from the website.

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The most expensive package was the Special Limited Edition which I believe was priced at around £22. This edition was limited and has sold out. It contained the CD/DVD & Orchestral Suite Bonus CD. Plus, it was accompanied by a 20-page companion book featuring colourful graphic illustrations by Matt Rooke and Pete Rogers that pertain to the concept story.

The Album In Review…

Robert Reed’s 4th solo album Cursus 123 430 was released on the 14th of November 2020. The album contains 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 58 seconds. The albums title very much reminds me of the 1976 Vangelis album entitled Albedo 0.39 and its concept follows a similar vein in that its themed around space physics.

It also has a narrator and the voice behind the narration is Les Penning who he has been doing quite a lot of collaborated work with him on much of the Mike Oldfield material for quite some time now. He also wrote the story for the concept to which I will touch on later in the album tracks section of my review.

Like I mentioned earlier this is perhaps an unusual direction for Reed to go down though it was only earlier this year that he released The Empathy Machine from his Chimpan A project he did with Steve Balsamo. That album had quite an electro vibe about it and may have ignited a spark to take on an electronic project like this.

It was during a break from working on Sanctuary VI earlier this year that he decided to work on the album and like much of the music Reed writes it is inspired by earlier influences. Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells had a massive influence on him which is plain to see if you have been following his Sanctuary series like I have.

The inspiration for electronic music came from his older brother and he was thinking back to the time when Jean-Michel Jarre released Oxygene and he used to lend the album off him to listen to. That is pretty much the same way I got into that album and some of the other artists who work in that genre of music.

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Reed spent 6 weeks at his own studio in Wales back in July and August working on the album and went out and brought some analogue synths to make it more organic. Not knowing much about synths that do not come with presets a couple of those weeks was spent studying and learning about how to use them and get a sound out of them. Besides using a drum machine, he also threw in some orchestral percussion to beef it up and give it that Vangelis touch and feel.

One of the other things that enticed me to get this album was that it came with a DVD with a 5.1 mix. I have always had a lot of admiration for how Robert Reed takes the time to do one for almost everything he puts out and he certainly has the right head on his shoulders to do them unlike many mixing engineers who have worked in this field.

However, this is the first time I have ever experienced something quite like this from him were the stereo and 5.1 mixes have a major difference and are like chalk and cheese. I shall go into more detail at the end of my review but first let’s take a look at the DVD that comes in the package.

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DVD Menu

The DVD’s menu is pretty basic, straightforward and easy to navigate your way around. You simply point the white triangular marker to play any track or at the beginning (as seen above) to play the whole album. By default, the white triangular marker is set to “DTS Surround Mix” for you to make your choice of audio first.

There are only 2 audio soundtracks to choose from and no stereo soundtrack is available. Both are in 48K and the DTS 5.1 is the better format of the two giving you a higher quality at 1.5 Mbps. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is only 448Kbps though both sound very good.

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Whilst listening to the album it displays the artist; album title and cover (as seen above) and it does look very nice on a big screen. Although it’s unfortunate that is all it does display throughout the whole album and not even the title changes to display the name of the tracks on the album.

The very fact that it is a still picture might be a concern leaving it on display all the time and could quite possibly burn out some of your pixels. If you have an OLED display screen it could even permanently burn the image on your screen. More thought should have been put into the making of the DVD and even having a moving picture would have helped. I would advise turning off the TV whilst listening to the album to be on the safe side.

Bonus Features.

The bonus features are short but very good and the first of them is an interview with Rob Reed talking about why he decided to make the album and the new synths he had to purchase to make it. It runs for around 7.5 minutes. Both “Man of Sight and Feathers” and “Witness” are solo piano performances of a couple of tracks from the album. These are also included on the Symphonic Poem bonus CD only here you can see him in the studio play them.

The 5.1 Mix.

I find with a lot of electronic music that a 5.1 mix can add plenty of excitement to it and it’s a genre of music that is suited and will benefit from having one in some cases. I have some excellent examples in my collection by the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk. Although I do also have some really disappointing ones by Tangerine Dream as well were the mixing engineer simply does not have a clue how to do a 5.1 mix.

However, some of the atmospheres and ambience in electronic music can also sound like a surround mix even in stereo and Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 album Oxygene is certainly one of them. I could also say the same for some of his other albums and for the biggest majority of albums done by Tomita. It’s perhaps even hard to say that those albums with how well they were recorded in the first place would really have any benefit from a 5.1 mix.

The stereo mix of Cursus 123 430 is not one of those albums that will breath in and out and project the music out of your speakers like those albums do. I think it’s down to that factor why this album benefits way more for a 5.1 mix and in all honesty the only way you will ever get to hear this album properly is with the 5.1 mix. Effectively the 5.1 mix brings out every detail of all the layers and tracks that were used to record the album and this mix is TOP DRAW! and easily merits a 10 out of 10 rating.

Musicians & Credits…

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Written, Produced and Performed by Robert Reed. Narration Written and Performed by Les Penning. Recorded at Big Studios Wales between July & August 2020. Recording & Mixing Engineer Robert Reed. Album Cover Artwork by Matt Rooke.

Musicians.
Robert Reed: Keyboards & Percussion.
Les Penning: Narration.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The concept story that’s behind Cursus 123 430 does perhaps have a bit more to it than just being based around space physics and is more like a futuristic look or portentous sci-fi tale of how mankind through its years of war and industrialisation have ruined the World. It’s about interstellar ‘Watchers’ arriving on Earth through a portal to repair the planet.

The colourful companion book that came with the Special Edition outlines Les Penning’s story in more detail and his part as the narrator only briefly touches on the story. Rather than having a bigger part in the narration like Richard Burton had with War Of The Worlds this is perhaps more like the smaller role Patrick Allen had on The Planets which was also associated with Jeff Wayne and featured Rick Wakeman on keyboards. It is more of an instrumental album and musically it is mostly like a cross between Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre. So, let’s now take a look at the album in more depth as I take your through its tracks.

Track 1. Erthynge.

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I have no idea what the title means and through my research the only thing that I could find that refereed to it was written in Latin and was in some book titled Narcissus Englished: a study of the Book of Thel, Alastor, and Endymion and it can be found under the “Argument Of The Fable”. According to the fable from what I can make of it “Erthynge” is a form of returning to the state one was before, a bit like man turning to dust and to the ground he came from and it most likely translates to “Earth”.

This opening piece is the longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 18 seconds. It opens up with the sound of the wind being swept across the waves of the sea and some glistening Vangelis like vibes set the background for Les Penning to narrate his opening words of the story. To which I should add he does very well.

Musically it has both Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre written all over it and he has fused the two together mostly by using the vibes, synths and punctuating stabbing percussion from Vangelis and the sequencing, layered textures and drum machine from Jean-Michel Jarre.

I think it’s quite good how he’s blended the sounds of them both together to make what you have here. Though I do feel in relation to how he reworked Mike Oldfield’s material for his Sanctuary albums he might be overstepping the mark when it comes to how close he is to the original melody lines. For example, the sequencing pattern he used from Jarre’s “Oxygene (Part 2)” is as plain as the nose on your face so to speak.

Track 2. The Hawk And The Harbinger of Dawn.

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From the longest track on the album to one of the two shortest tracks on the album. This short piece is played on the pipe organ and reflects upon the words spoken at the end of the previous track about the saddest darkest days. It’s very much a non-stop album and this is a bit like a fugue played at a funeral sort of thing and is perhaps used to bridge the gap in-between the tracks so to speak and does it quite well too.

Track 3. Stoneborn Watchers.

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This next piece has other influences in it and in the interview on the DVD Reed did mention some of his other influences were from 80’s retro electro bands like Erasure, Ultravox and Depeche Mode for example.

To be honest I know very little about these bands because their music did not appeal to my taste and I never really paid much attention to them. About the only thing I can recall from any of them was “Vienna” by Ultravox which I thought was very good, though it was the only thing they did that stood out for my ears and take notice of.

This is quite a spritely up-tempo piece that springs into action and the only real influence I can hear in it comes from Jarre’s Rendezvous album more than anything else. It also has some sort of Bach touch and feel about it in parts too and gets rounded off by falling back into that funeral fugue played on the pipe organ from the previous track.

Track 4. The Man Of Sight And Feathers.

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This is another of the lengthy tracks on the album and it’s one that goes through some nice transitional changes and is built up with power and subtlety to guide it along its path so to speak. It also allows Penning to speak a few more words and contains some more Jarre like sequencing at the beginning, though its perhaps more influenced by Vangelis with its vibes and punctuating stab like percussion. There is also a very nice synth lead break that’s verging along the lines of Pink Floyd and its quite a strong album track.

Track 5. Witness.

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This next track is one of the standout tracks on the album and once again there is a Floyd feel with one of the lead synths which sounds like Richard Wright’s Kurzweil used on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond“. Though the biggest influence here is from Jean-Michel Jarre in that it draws on the swirling swooshing melody lines of “Oxygene (Part 5)” and is fused with the bossa nova beat of the drum machine on “Oxygene (Part 6)“.

Track 6. Stoneglow Warnings.

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This is another of the stand out tracks on the album and my personal favourite and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It goes through some GREAT! transitional changes and once again has Jarre like sequencing and Vangelis textures and vibes. The way the sequence is built up is almost like its verging on Donna Summer’sI Feel Love” and Les Penning gets to be a bit more effective with his voice on the track too.

I also love how effective the lead synth with the pitch bend projects from the front to rear speakers on the surround mix. It’s like it’s going right through your body and is way more effective than the stereo mix where it moves from right to left. You can feel it as well 😁😁😁.

Track 7. Stalemate.

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This is quite a vibrant and pleasing piece and the Vangelis like stabbing percussion is perhaps better punctuated on this track and stands out more. Once again both his and Jarre’s influences are quite evident and you also get a few more words from Penning. It’s another really GREAT! track.

Track 8. Dust And Flowers In A Lost Eden.

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The shortest track on the album weighs in at 53 seconds and is very much heavily influenced by Vangelis with both its vibes and synths. Once again it does a very good job of bridging the gap in-between the tracks just like the man himself would have done with the score for Blade Runner and it fits in with the title here and is a nice little ditty.

Track 9. Gatherings At Farewell Places.

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There is perhaps a bit more of Reed’s own input into this piece however the other influences are still present especially those of Vangelis. Albedo 0.39 certainly springs to mind with not only the music but also the narration with its trajectory physics sort of thing. This is another piece that works very well effective in the surround mix and even Penning’s voice is utilised very well in the front and rear channels. It’s another of the albums highlights and has some GREAT! progression along its path.

Track 10. Erthsheelde.

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The album ends off with another one of the longer tracks on the album. Once again, I have no idea what the title is supposed to be and can only presume that its “Earths Shield” spelt very badly 😁😁😁. This one has more of a Jarre influence and even though the “Watchers” mentioned in the narration could be linked to the cover of his 1978 album Equinox, there is more of an influence from his 1986 album Rendezvous here.

It’s a piece that has 3 parts to it “I. Exodus II. The Odessy of Souls III. Erthynge” although the way it transcends along its more like one piece that ends off where the album started sort of thing by returning back to it’s opening theme. It puts an end to the album very well.

Summary…

To sum up Cursus 123 430 by Robert Reed. I suppose in many ways one could say that no matter what genre of music Reed decides to do in his solo career he seems to invite “plagiarism” at his door, and no doubt this album will also get plagued for it by some I dare say. It is an album where the influences of Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre are quite evident and stick out like a sore thumb.

However, where this man’s genius lies is with how he can re-shape and re-structure existing melody lines and make his own music out of them, and it is only really the sound that is more like a carbon footprint or copy and not the music itself. I personally could never accuse him of plagiarism and I particularly like how he’s sort of resurrected Mike Oldfield’s music with his Sanctuary albums.

I have to confess that this electronic adventure and path he’s chosen to go down on this new album took me a few spins to appreciate it and like I mentioned earlier there is a major difference between the stereo and 5.1 mixes and they are like chalk and cheese in comparison. To be honest I have never encountered anything like this before on any of his recordings and Rob Reed is not only capable of doing very good stereo mixes, but he’s also has the ability to do very good 5.1 mixes which is a field that only a few minute engineers are able to do very well.

On the day the album arrived it was a busy day so I could not get to hear the 5.1 mix that day and I ripped the CD onto my computer and gave it a couple of spins in the headphones. I can honestly say I was ready to kick this album in the teeth and slag it right down.

The following day I played the 5.1 mix and I had nothing but praise for the album and I was hearing tons of things that do not project very well at all in the stereo mix. Most of which is the layering of the sounds he used. I also played the CD on my hi-fi through the loudspeakers just to check that nothing went wrong with the ripping process on my computer and once again the album said nothing to me.

Let me just stress that there does not appear to be anything wrong with the stereo mix as far as I can tell. However, it does sound very empty in comparison to the 5.1 mix and is missing loads of detail. Listening to this album in stereo it would be lucky to get 4 out of 10. It’s got to be the most extraordinary thing I have ever come across and in general I can listen all his solo and Magenta albums in stereo and 5.1 and enjoy them.

The difference is that MASSIVE! that it’s going to be very difficult for me to give this album the right rating at the end of my review. I generally do rate albums on how well the material is written and comes across to me as a whole. In general, the 5.1 mix is really only an added bonus but it’s like there are two different languages here and they are not speaking the same to me at all.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Cursus 123 430 by Robert Reed. I do feel that the concept and the written material holds up very well. However, I do feel the only way you will ever truly appreciate this album is by playing the 5.1 mix simply because so much detail is lost in the stereo mix and it simply cannot project or be heard properly with how it comes across. I have played the stereo mix a good few time now and have sort of come accustomed to hearing the album this way and for those who only play the stereo mix and have not heard the surround mix I do not see it presenting you with a problem after a good few spins.

Though I will stress that both mixes really are like chalk and cheese and if you are a surround FREAK! like myself, this 5.1 mix is to die for and is very much a SURROUND FREAKS PARADISE! It’s that exciting it will keep you coming back for more. So, in answer to my question of was it worth it? The answer has to be YES!

To be honest I would not say this body of work is very strong and it’s far from a solid album regarding the written material. However, it does hold up very well like I said, it also flows very well throughout and my personal highlights from the album are “Stoneglow Warnings“. “Witness” and “The Man Of Sight And Feathers“.

Where I praise this album more than anything is for its surround mix and this is an album that I would highly recommend for SURROUND FREAKS! He’s done the bees knees with it and it’s highly addictive and up there with some of the very best surround mixes out there. Considering I myself no longer listen to electronic music that much these days this 5.1 mix is that good that it’s made this one of my GOTO! albums. It’s certainly not going to win the progrock album of the year but if there is an award for the best surround mix of the year this would most likely walk away with it.

A Surround Freaks Heaven…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Erthynge. 8:18.
02. The Hawk And The Harbinger of Dawn. 1:19.
03. Stoneborn Watchers. 5:24.
04. The Man Of Sight And Feathers. 8:07.
05. Witness. 4:39.
06. Stoneglow Warnings. 6:31.
07. Stalemate. 5:05.
08. Dust And Flowers In A Lost Eden. 0:53.
09. Gatherings At Farewell Places. 7:34.
10. Erthsheelde. 8:08.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #170

Fish Out Of Water (Blu Ray Edition) – Chris Squire

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Introduction…

This is going to be a short review simply because I’ve already reviewed the album in question back in May 2018 when I brought the Deluxe Edition to which you can find here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/lee-speaks-about-music-77/

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I also voiced my opinion of the way Esoteric Recordings put out the release of the Deluxe Edition Box Set in that review. They done it in a way like many other record companies put out expensive packages without offering an alternative smaller package to entice you to shell out the extra cost to get your hands on what you want. Especially in the case of SURROUND FREAKS! like myself who are only really interested in the 5.1 mix.

As nice as a box set like this looks, I personally do not see the point of why anybody would want the same album on Vinyl, CD & DVD. The vinyl album that comes in this box set has only been remastered so it’s not really giving you anything new. The only thing new is the new stereo and multichannel remixes that are on the CD & DVD and those in reality should be the only real incentive of why you would want to buy the album all over again.

Had Esoteric Recordings released the new mixes in a smaller and more affordable package in the first place by breaking them up they would of sold a hell of a lot more than what they ever did of the box set. The Deluxe Box Set was released as a Limited Edition well over 2 years ago now and it’s still easy to obtain and widely available. It’s currently priced at £85.95 on Amazon UK which is slightly more than the £77 I paid for it when I pre-ordered it on the 22nd of February 2018.

Now after some two and half years Esoteric Recordings have finally done the right thing and re-released it on Blu Ray. You may very well be wondering as to why after shelling out £77 on the box set in the first place I went out and brought it again. Well there are some advantages has to why I did so, but before I go into them let’s take a look at the new package.

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The Blu Ray has you can see comes in a standard blue plastic Amaray case. Personally, I would have preferred a cardboard Digipak the same size and that would of gave it a better presentation. Though at its price point I am certainly not complaining.

I was well surprised to see it came with a 20-page booklet. Regarding all the information that was in the much larger 45-page booklet that came with the Deluxe Box Set you are not missing out on much of the content at all and it’s almost like the only thing you are missing is the couple of blank pages that are in the front and back and not a lot more.

The Blu Ray Edition In Review…

The Blu Ray Edition of Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire was released on the 30th of October 2020. I pre-ordered my copy from Cherry Red Records (who are associated with Esoteric Recordings) on the 7th of September and it arrived a day after its release. Unlike the Deluxe Edition box set which I personally think is well overpriced the Blu Ray was only £11.99 plus £1.35 postage & packing which is excellent value for the buck and quite a bargain.

There are advantages this Blu Ray release has over the deluxe box set though I will say they are more in the way of convenience more than anything else. There are also a couple of disadvantages in that not everything that was on the 2 DVD’s in the box set are included on the Blu Ray. Though in reality they could of easily have been included but I guess Esoteric Recordings chose not to include them to either keep the price down, or leave that bit of extra content out because the box set is still widely available.

However, you look at it certainly one of the biggest advantages the blu ray does have over the Deluxe Edition box set is its price point and that is where I do give some praise back to Esoteric Recordings. So, let’s now take a look at the content and some of the differences between the DVD’s that came in the box set and the Blu Ray.

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The blu ray’s menus and navigation interface have been given a completely new overhaul that gives it a fresh look and is much better for it in relation to the DVD. Not only do the images look more clearer and sharper but they are also animated and it runs through a slide-show of the pictures from the album cover that zoom in and out like a kaleidoscope tunnel effect.

The other major difference is its navigation system is a lot better in that you can simply click on an option and the other options simply pop up (as seen on the second picture above) without having to wait for another screen to load making it much faster to get around.

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As you can see on the DVD’s navigational interface (above) getting about things is much slower and, in all honesty, they could have done away with the main menu and made the second menu (as seen in the second picture above) the main menu. It’s quite evident that a lot more thought has been put into the Blu Rays interface.

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Blu Ray (Track Display)

The other notable difference is that when you play a track it displays a different picture taken from the album cover to which also zooms in and out like a kaleidoscope tunnel effect. Whereas the DVD displayed the same picture for all the tracks (as seen below) and the only thing that changed was the title of the track.

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DVD (Track Display)

Overall, I personally feel that the Blu Ray is clearly the winner out of the two and its navigational interface not only looks a lot better but functions a lot better. They have really gone to town on it and done a top job of it. So let’s now take a look at one of its other advantages and what content is actually missing.

Advantages & Disadvantages.

As far as I can make out the only major difference between the Blu Ray and DVD is in the audio department. I am fairly confident that the stereo mixes on both the Blu Ray & DVD are uncompressed in other words Lossless and not Lossy. So, there is no difference there.

However, both the DTS & Dolby Digital multichannel 5.1 mixes on the DVD are lossy and compressed whereas on the Blu Ray the DTS HD Master 5.1 mix is lossless and uncompressed. Although I would not say this was a major difference to my ears when making a comparison between them both. Though I can sit better with the lossless mix on the blu ray and do think it sounds slightly better. 

In general, I can hear a lot more of a difference between a compressed and uncompressed mix though it’s really down to how good the mix was in the first place. This is the same 5.1 mix that Jakko Jakszyk done for the DVD and although I feel he’s done quite a good job of it, it’s not up there with some of the better surround mixing engineers such as Elliot Scheiner and Steve Wilson for example. I originally gave this 5.1 mix a rating of 7 out of 10 and it scores no more points here.

Apart from how much better the blu ray’s navigational interface looks and functions, plus it’s price point. I would say one of the biggest advantages is more in the way of convenience like I mentioned earlier. Simply because it’s a damn site easier to store the blu ray and get the disc out to play it 😁😁😁. 

The bonus content is where there are a couple of things missing in relation to the DVD and although they have included both the promotional footage of “Hold Out Your Hand” and “You by My Side” plus the Vinyl Drop documentary with Chris Squire. They have not included the single of “Run with the Fox” and its B-Side “Return of the Fox” and the 42-minute interview with Chris Squire to which was conducted by Jon Kirkman back in 2006.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my short review of this new Blu Ray Edition of Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire. This has to be GREAT! news for SURROUND FREAKS! and I certainly do not think you are missing out on enough to make you want to pay the extra price for the Deluxe Edition Box Set. Had Esoteric Recordings released this edition in the first place I would never had brought the box set. This is a classic example of how record companies try and squeeze more money out of your pocket. 

As for it being worth shelling out for it again if you already have the Deluxe Box Set. I personally think it was worth it for the convenience more than anything and at £13.34 including postage & packaging its hardly going to break the bank. For those who never brought the box set I think you are onto a winner with the Blu Ray especially if like myself you are a surround FREAK! The surround mix is far from disappointing and quite good.

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10.
The Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #169

Dwellers Of The Deep – Wobbler

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Introduction…

The Norwegian band Wobbler are back with a new album and one I was eagerly awaiting to arrive. Dwellers Of The Deep is their 5th studio album to date since Hinterland was released back in 2005 and they are a band who like to take their time and choose the right moment to write new material. I will say that the wait is well worth it as well with how their albums turn out and I can honestly say that I have never been disappointed.

This is a band that fascinated me from the moment I bumped into them a few years back and the fascinating thing about them is the members of it use vintage instruments to try and achieve the sound of the 70’s which is very much the decade and golden era of progressive rock. It’s very much the decade I can still easily live in when it comes to prog-rock and the music I still mostly play today on my turntable so to speak.

Sound very much plays a vital role in the development of their music and even though most of those old sounds from back then can be digitally replicated these days with softsynths, pedals, digital processing and emulated amplification. These guys will stop at nothing to get their hands on the real gear that produced the sound all those years ago and they are the tools that makes their creative juices flow.

No doubt influences also play a part in the process of how their music is developed and it’s not unusual to hear familiarities with the likes of Yes, ELP, Genesis and many other classic PROG! acts that graced our ears back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

However, they are perhaps more heavily influenced by the instruments that produced that sound, even down to the Krummhorns that was utilised and put to good use very well by the bands founding member Martin Nordrum Kneppen on their second album Afterglow. To which no doubt was influenced by the medieval prog-rock band Gryphon.

Whatever and however the band go about their writing process certainly appears to be working because despite the many influences that can be heard in their music, their own originality shines and cuts through. I would also say in most cases that it is only really the sounds you are hearing and not so much the melodic and rhythmic lines where the familiarities and similarities lie.

Their music very much sounds like it came out of that golden era of progressive rock from all those years ago and can easily sit in with the many records I still play more than anything that came out of it. This is what makes this band quite unique and so different to the many other bands and artists who are still keeping the world of PROG! alive today. But before I delve or DWELL! any deeper into the bands latest offering. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard gatefold Digipak with a clear plastic tray to hold the disc in place. It also comes with a 12-page booklet that is stored in the side of the sleeve like a vinyl record. The booklet contains all the usual linear production notes, a couple of pictures and lyrics. It does not come with any additional informative information.

Artwork.

The albums cover illustration comes from Athanasius Kircher who was German Jesuit scholar and polymath back in the 17th century who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. He was sometimes called the last Renaissance man, important for his prodigious activity in disseminating knowledge.

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The illustration is based on Kircher’s model of the Earth’s internal fires, from Mundus Subterraneus (as seen in the illustration above). The map reproduction was done courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Centre at the Boston Public Library.

Overall, I quite like how the reproduction coloured it up though they did not include the heads that are on the four corners of the original which is a shame. It sort of ties in with the covers that were on their previous two albums and they tend to have a fetish for circular objects. I still think the artwork that was chosen for their debut album Hinterland is the best they have come up with.

Release Editions…

The album was released in 3 media formats the cheapest option being the Digital Download priced at €10. The other two physical formats of both CD and Vinyl came with more of a variety of choice to choose from many of which were Limited Editions.

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For example, the CD Editions came with the choice of either a Digipak or a Jewel Case both costing the same price of €14.99. Neither are Limited Editions unlike their previous release were the Digipak was limited to so many copies. So, you should not have any difficulty obtaining them.

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The Vinyl Editions were all pressed onto 180-gram vinyl and came in a variety of colours to choose from. All the coloured vinyl were Limited Editions and the green vinyl with purple & black marble was the most expensive at €25.99 and was limited to 750 copies. Both the colour in colour and transparent were priced at €24.99 the first of which was limited to 300 copies and the latter 750 copies. All of the coloured vinyl has sold out. The standard black vinyl is not unlimited and is priced at €22.99.

The Album In Review…

Dwellers Of The Deep by Wobbler was released on the 23rd of October 2020. The album contains 4 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 45 seconds which is a very comfortable time slot making the album much easier to digest and take in. Although it might be pushing the boundaries of vinyl limitations squeezing it onto one LP though many did that years ago too to cut down on cost.

As with their previous album the band video documented the working process and progress of the new album and the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie posted a 9-Part series of short video footage on his Tube channel during the months they spent working on it starting from day one.

The band spent sometime in the summer and winter of 2019 working away on it and finished off the recording in the spring of 2020 working between 3 different studios. The video above shows you them recording and getting the drums down at LFF Studios. I quite like how the band give you a bit of incite in how the development of the album is coming along by filming these videos of its progress and it’s always fascinating watching them.

There is no doubt that since Andreas Prestmo joined the band, his input of injecting both lyrical and musical content into the band is starting to come to the forefront and play more of a role into how the bands music is now further developing. It’s even more evident on this new album I feel too especially in relation to the bands first couple of albums which were more instrumental with what little words and vocals were put into them.

He is without doubt one of the key elements to how the bands music is now shaping up. Although there is still quite a cohesion from all its members with the writing and arrangements, as a unit they are a driving unified force that certainly seem to be steering things in the right direction.

It’s not unusual for the band to call upon a couple of session players to play some of the other instruments, though some of its members are multi-instrumentalists in their own rights. For this album they acquired the services of Åsa Ree who contributes violin and backing vocals on the first track of the album. So, let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs arranged by Wobbler. Tracks 1 & 4 Written by Wobbler. Track 2 Written by Andreas Prestmo & Lars Frøislie. Track 3 Written by Andreas Prestmo. Recorded at LFF Studios, Vilthagen Studios and Studio Paradiso between 2019/20. Tracks 1, 2 & 4 Engineered, Mixed & Produced by Lars Frøislie. Co-Mixed & Co-Produced by Wobbler. Track 3 Engineered & Produced by Andreas Prestmo.

Paradiso Studio Engineer Jorgen Smaland Larson. Mastered at Tinfoil Audio by Jens Petter Nilson. Front cover illustration courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Centre at the Boston Public Library. Photographs by Dvir Barkay & Anne-Marie Forker.

Musicians:
Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo: Lead Vocals/Guitars/Glockenspiel/Recorder/Percussion.
Marius Halleland: Guitars/Backing Vocals.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitar.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums.

Additional Musicians:
Åsa Ree:
Violin/Backing Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Dwellers Of The Deep is an album that offers an exciting blend of carefully planned and jammed material that encompasses everything the band has done up to now according to the description on Bandcamp. I would certainly go along with that and everything else it states about their latest album on the Bandcamp page.

It’s very much an album that contains three epic lengthy tracks and a short ballad of a song and follows a similar suit to their previous album From Silence To Somewhere.

However, musically this is quite different in the way the album flows and feels although its lyrical content follows a familiar pattern with its Greek Mythology, and is also intertwined with Christianity and Religion to tie in with Kircher’s model of the Earth’s internal fires, from Mundus Subterraneus that’s on the album cover.

There is also quite a strong Yes influence like we seen on the bands third album Rites At Dawn. However, once again this is different and perhaps takes and draws on ideas from all four of their previous albums to arrive at what we have here.

What we do have here is something I personally feel resembles much of the qualities I seen on the bands first two albums Hinterland and Afterglow. Only this time around the right amount of space has been given to the vocal side of things to balance things up. So, let’s now take a closer look at the individual tracks and see if the band have come up with another master-stroke piece of an album.

Track 1. By The Banks.

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The album gets off to a flying start and propels immediately into the action. I have to admit upon the first couple of spins it felt like something was missing in the way of an introduction the way it kicked itself in with its speedy pace, but after further spins it soon becomes apparent that there isn’t nothing missing here at all.

I also noticed in some reviews that a few people have mentioned that this opening track is a bit hampered by the production. Though I personally do not hear that at all and everything sounds tight, clear and kosher to my ears. You can also hear every instrument and how they are all interacting with each other.

Musically this is like a cross between Yes and ELP certainly from the keyboard aspect side of things and its a bit like having Keith Emerson on hammond and Rick Wakeman on piano. The interplay between all the musicians is excellent and even Prestmo’s voice is verging towards Jon Anderson’s with its height though far from a sound alike.

It’s the second longest track on the album and was penned by Frøislie & Prestmo. It also comes in two parts in that it also has the subheadings “Part I – Visions From Within” and “Part II – Argentum Ormr” associated with its title. Although they may pertain to lyrical content more than the music side of things because it does feel like one long song that has reoccurring themes throughout its journey.

I am not even going to try and decipher the lyrics and they do run deep down some mythical fantasy. Like most prog-rock lyrical content they tend to be associated with Greek Mythology, Medieval Wizardry and things associated with Religion and the Occult. I have no idea what Prestmo (who wrote all the lyrics for the album) was reading but it’s obliviously come from some source of a book or poetry.

My own observation and interpretation of them is that they are pertaining to a yearning of wanting to cross over to another life, and the first part is about the yearning. The second part is perhaps the thing he has now crossed over to, which happens to be a snake 😁😁😁.

I am perhaps too much of a realist to live in the world of fantasy and when it comes to most prog-rock songs I am more for how the words are phrased and expressed and how they fit in with the music more than anything. I do however think the words have been put into context very well and the story is quite fascinating and adventurous. Though I hardly think that these are the type of lyrics that are going to seep into your brain and stick like many memorable songs will.

Both the vocal lines and music work and flow very well throughout this opening epic song and there is even some fine melancholy along these banks where the recorder has been put to good use. It also contains a lovely reoccurring piano section that first comes into play around the 4:50 mark and reoccurs around the 9:28 mark. Everyone is doing a TOP JOB! including the honoured guest musician Åsa Ree who contributes violin and some supporting backing vocals to it.

Overall, “By The Banks” is a very well-crafted song that has some excellent progression and transitional changes along its path, its also a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Five Rooms.

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There is no doubt the band are well oiled up and are firing on all cylinders and this is another SUPERB! piece of work and song. This track musically has Yes written all over it and it’s a bit like combining something from their much earlier period with Peter Banks and “I Am A Camera” from their later Drama album. I am sure there are a lot of other goodies that have been thrown into the melting pot as well.

I suppose lyrically you could also say its bit like “The Chamber of 32 Doors” by Genesis with the five rooms of sorrow, wondering which way to follow and its land of confusion. What you do get here is PROGROCK HEAVEN! that’s for sure and it’s no wonder the band showcased it first as a single from the album and put out a promotional video for it.

This is literally eight and a half minutes of PURE BLISS! and one of the most exciting examples of prog-rock I have heard in ages. Kristian Hultgren’s bass work is totally cooking on gas and is to die for yet alone all the other goodies that have been thrown into the equation from the other musicians.

It really is an outstanding piece of work that was penned by the band and should by rights win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It was very difficult for me not to give it the award and all 4 tracks on this album are easily very strong contenders. Though I simply cannot leave it out and it jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Naiad Dreams.

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Next up we have the baby track of the album and this is quite a beautiful ballad of a song that glistens with its vibes and utilises the space for both the vocals and instrumentation. It’s quite a dreamy folk song and its beauty reminds me a bit like “Riding My Nightmare” by Budgie perhaps for its sweetness.

The song was written by Prestmo and his acoustic guitar crafted this one out very finely with its melodic lines. According to Greek mythology, the Naiads are a type of female spirit, or nymph, presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water and that is what the lyrical content is pertaining to.

The band also put out a live version of the song and unlike the promo video they made of “Five Rooms” this is a live recording. They done a fine job of it as well, though I prefer the sound quality of the studio version myself and this is another really GREAT! song.

Track 4. Merry Macabre.

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The final song on the album weighs in at 19 minutes and like the opening track its split into parts. This one has three parts “Part I – The Quarry & the Feast”, “Part II – Beneath the Velvet Shroud” and “Part III – The Bird of Hermes”. Only this time the parts play a bit more of a relevant role in how the music runs along with its transitional changes.

Once again, the lyrical content is way too deep for my comprehension and although some creepy Christmas story about the Merry Macabre was also derived from ancient European folklore back in the 16th century that featured some satanic beast of a Santa Clause. This story has all the Greek mythological Gods under the sun, including some stupid bird that ate its own wings so he was not faster than his master 😁😁😁.

This is another song that is a band composition and it contains a ton of progression and transitional changes throughout. Once again, its members are on fire and the Yes and many other influences are popping out of the woodwork. Perhaps the most notable influence comes from the second piano solo that comes in around the 15:50 mark which sounds like a cross between “South Side of the Sky” and the piano intro on “Awakening“.

However, if you listen it closely it is only really the sound of the piano more than anything that resembles both of those Yes songs because Frøislie is not playing exactly the same melody lines. Though he has very cleverly re-constructed his piano piece from both of the songs and this is a masterful piece of work that puts an end to a truly GREAT! album. It also jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! along with “Five Rooms“.

Summary…

To sum up Wobbler’s 5th studio album Dwellers Of The Deep. The band really have come up TRUMPS! which is a lot more I can say for the president of the united states 😁😁😁. They have without doubt crafted yet another masterful piece of work that I personally feel is more in line with how well the bands first two albums Hinterland and Afterglow turned out.

Those first two albums in particular have always been my personal favourite output from the band up until this point, and in many respects Dwellers Of The Deep does give you some indication of how much better they could of turned out if they had the hindsight of Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo back then.

Like I mentioned earlier Prestmo’s contribution of where the vocal lines fit in with musical side of things has played an integral part in the development of Wobbler’s music since he joined the band and they are now getting stronger all the time.

Even guitarist Marius Halleland has found his feet since he joined and both Lars Fredrik Frøislie and Kristian Hultgren have always been at the core of the bands strength. Effectively it’s like having Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire onboard whilst their founder member Martin Nordrum Kneppen is improving all the time and is becoming a solid keeper.

My personal highlights from the album are perhaps the couple of standout tracks on the album “Five Rooms” and “Merry Macabre“. Though I could easily include the other two tracks.

Conclusion…

In conclusion of my review of this latest offering by Wobbler. Dwellers Of The Deep is how an album should be made and it’s one that will leave you wanting more at the end of it. It’s very much a strong body of work with its written material and a very comfortable album to sit with and enjoy. I could easily liken this album to The Yes Album with how comfortable it is to sit with and how well it flows and get just as much satisfaction from it.

This is a band that have mastered the art of producing prog-rock like it sounded back in its heyday of the late 60’s and early 70’s and that is why this band will float my boat more so than many of the other contemporaries who are still keeping PROG! alive today. These guys are literally that good that I did go out and buy the T-Shirt and at my age that is something I have not done for a long, long time now.

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From what I have heard so far this year in the world of PROG! Dwellers Of The Deep is an album that should easily walk away with the award for the best prog-rock album of the year. It’s already received many favourable reviews that point in that direction and certainly gets my vote. Their music will always sit proudly in my record collection that’s for sure. This is an album I feel should appeal to all PROGSTERS! and 2020 just got better.

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You can purchase or even listen to the album for free @ Bandcamp here: https://wobbler.bandcamp.com/album/dwellers-of-the-deep It’s also widely available to purchase from many other outlets.

PROG! Like It Used To Be All Those Years Ago…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. By The Banks. 13:50.
02. Five Rooms. 8:29.
03. Naiad Dreams. 4:26.
04. Merry Macabre. 19:00.

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #168

Us + Them (Blu Ray) – Roger Waters

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Introduction…

Another live concert from Roger Waters and I have to say when it comes to doing something in style no expense is spared at putting on a SPECTACULAR! show like this and many of his shows. Waters likes to do things BIG! and many critics might even say that the stunning visuals seen at his shows are there to hide away the overrated or underhanded performance that is put into his shows as many have already done so with this new live release.

There are of course others who will pull him down a peg or two simply because they do not like his political views which in my opinion should not even enter the equation when it comes to judging any live performance.

Whenever I review a live concert, I also tend to look at more reviews from people who actually went to the concert itself, rather than the end product that’s stuck on a DVD or Blu Ray. Simply because the way most concerts have been edited, they can in some cases make them look even more SPECTACULAR! so to speak.

Though from my own experience it’s impossible to capture everything on film that your own eyes will see at the concert itself and there was nothing short of SPECTACULAR! when I saw Pink Floyd at Earls Court back in 1994. The Blu Ray & DVD entitled Pulse could not ever compare to it and boy do I wish I would have had the money to have been able see this concert live.

Technology has moved on since those days and not only can they make pigs fly, but they can make the entire building of the Battersea Power Station magically appear above your head. Though of course the ticket price to get to see a show like this as skyrocketed to near enough 10 times the ticket price it cost back then.

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Thankfully much of the magic has been captured on film and you can still get to see it for less than the £22.50 it cost for a ticket to see Pink Floyd back in 1994. But at the end of the day is this concert all its cranked up to be, or are the critics, right? Before I answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork per usual.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The Blu Ray Edition comes in a cardboard gatefold sleeve to which I do feel gives it more of a better presentation in relation to a standard blue plastic case. Both the disc and the booklet are contained in die cut pockets on the both sides on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The 8-page booklet contains a few pictures and a detailed essay of the concert written by Kory Grow. It also contains all the linear credit notes.

Overall, it’s a neat and tidy package and I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon and got it for £19.99. However, I do find it very hard to retrieve the disc without getting your finger marks over the surface of the disc because the pocket its held in is very tight.

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The other thing I noticed (as you can see in the picture above) is that there is an indentation mark around the disc which looks like it gives you the option to remove that section of the cardboard to make it easier to get at the disc. However, if you do remove this there will be nothing left to hold the disc in its place. It’s not as if it has a hub on the inside to hold the disc either and doing so would damage the case.

Artwork.

The artwork design was done by Award winning creative director Dan Ichimoto with the use of pictures taken from the live shows by Kate Izor. He also designed the album cover for Roger’s last album Is This The Life We Really Want? and many other artists including Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Santana and so on.

He does a lot more than albums covers and I would say that his work in the music media is mostly for live albums rather than some of the GREAT! album cover designs you will find on a lot of studio albums. He’s no Storm Thorgerson for example, but you do not need that method of thinking for a live album and what he has done here is well apt and all good.

Release Editions…

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The live concert was released on five media formats counting the Digital Download which you would expect to be the cheapest. However, on Amazon UK it’s currently priced at £12.99 whilst the Double CD is a pound cheaper at £11.99 which is excellent value. The DVD is also £12.99 whilst the Blu Ray is currently at £18.48. The Vinyl release is currently priced at £40.56 and is pressed on to 3 x 180-gram LP’s.

Us + Them In Review…

This latest live concert entitled Us + Them by Roger Waters was released on the 2nd of October 2020. Although a truncated version of the actual concert was shown in the Cinema Houses a year ago back in October 2019 and is also available to watch on places such as Amazon Prime just like he did with his previous concert of The Wall back in 2015.

To be honest I have not seen that newer concert of The Wall that was released back in 2015 and I have had it in my watch list on Amazon Prime for at least 6 months now. But it’s very rare I will pay more than £1.99 to watch any film on Prime. I don’t see the point in paying the £3.49 to watch it only to find out that if I liked it, I would most likely end up buying it adding even more expense.

I may very well end up buying it at some point though I am not a huge fan of that album and get sick of him doing the material from that album live all the time. I remember seeing the much earlier concert of The Wall he did in Berlin on TV back in the late 80’s or early 90’s where he had many different famous singers performing the songs from it. It totally bored my pants off 😁😁😁.

To be perfectly honest I can get sick of Waters doing more Pink Floyd songs at his concerts and wish he would devote more of the time to his own solo career. One of the main reasons why I did pre-order this concert was because it did contain material from his last rock album Is This The Life We Really Want? and only a couple of songs from The Wall.

Like I mentioned earlier no expense was spared to put on a show with its 3-D visual FX and lighting and around 4 million dollars was pumped into the production of it. By the end of the tour it had grossed over 260 million dollars back in revenue despite losing out on some of the sponsors in the US such as American Express due to his anti-Trump images.

Not everything was running smooth and Waters also was met with some backlash, boycotts by some lawmakers in various cities attempting to cancel some of his shows due to his anti-Israel boycott which some felt was anti-semitic. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington even produced a video criticizing Waters’ support of BDS prior to his performances in Washington, D.C.

As with his last 2010 – 2013 tour of The Wall, Waters once again collaborated with film director Sean Evans to come up with the visual ideas for the show. It’s always good to have two heads on your shoulder rather than one especially when injecting fresher ideas and newer meanings into some of the older songs to fit them into today’s current affairs.

He’s pretty much used the same production team from his previous tour and assembled a nine-piece band together for this tour including some of the musicians who played on his last studio album Is This The Life We Really Want? The most notable musician who is still with him is Jon Carin who has not only played at Waters live shows in the past but also for Dave Gilmour and Pink Floyd. He’s also been a long-time collaborator of Pete Townsend and The Who and he’s a very talented multi-instrumentist.

The only other band member to make this new line-up that featured on the last tour is the guitarist Dave Kilminster. To be honest I had never even heard of him until now though I could say the same for the musicians who appeared on his last album Is This The Life We Really Want? at the time. Before I go into the full musician line-up and the concert itself. Let’s take a look at the Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Rays main menu looks quite pristine and sharp and plays some music from the concert in the background upon loading. It’s simple enough to navigate your way around giving you 5 options to choose from “Play”. “Audio Setup”. “Subtitles”. “Scene Selection” and “Special Features”. The good thing about the menus navigation is that a box pops up without you having to load to another screen to set things up.

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The “Audio Setup” gives you the choice of 3 audio formats to choose from all of which are 24-bit 48K. They are also uncompressed or lossless to give you the best in High Fidelity. It comes with an LPCM stereo soundtrack and two surround soundtracks of Dolby Atmos and Dolby True HD 5.1. It’s also worth mentioning that if your AV Receiver does not have Dolby Atmos you are not missing out on a thing because the Atmos soundtrack will give you a Dolby True HD 7.1 soundtrack instead.

This in my own opinion is more superior in that it gives you a couple of extra genuine channels of separation and not some synthetic metadata that is used to pinpoint a certain sound in a particular area which is generally above you. Even with a 5.1 setup you do not need extra speakers to hear things above you at all. Having extra speakers for the purpose of Atmos is what I consider to be defeating the object of what your AV Receiver is capable of doing in the first place.

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The “Subtitles” option gives you the choice of 7 different languages to choose from English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. By default it’s set to “Off”.

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The “Scene Selection” option is where you can pick any song to play at random and this also includes the couple of bonus tracks. All the scenes or tracks have been split into 5 groups along the bottom of the screen (as you can see in the picture above) in total you have 25 scenes to choose from.

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The final option is the “Special Features” section and this includes the bonus material. The first of them is a short 15-minute documentary entitled “A Fleeting Glimpse” this was also included in the film that was shown at the Cinema Houses. The other two songs both “Smell The Roses” and “Comfortably Numb” are taken from the live tour and were not included in the film shown at the Cinema Houses and are inclusive to both the DVD & Blu Ray only.

Overall, the bonus material is very good especially, the extra two songs. The documentary shows some backstage footage of Waters and the band rehearsing some of the songs for the show. Personally, I would have liked to have seen him talk more about the setup of the show giving something more in the way of useful informative information.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The picture quality is pristine and was shot on RED digital cameras. It’s very much a 4K multichannel feast that takes live music to a new level and the concert footage was very well captured on several cameras by a very good well professional camera crew. The editing was done by Katie Mcquerrey and I dare say with all the film footage capturing all the different angles she had her work cut out. However, she has done a GREAT! job of it.

The Surround & Stereo Mixes.

Both the multi-channel and stereo mixes were done by Nigel Godrich & Sam Petts-Davis and I can honestly say that SURROUND FREAKS! will not be one bit disappointed by this mix and it’s a bit of a real TREAT! It does very much have more of a Cinematic approach to the mix due to all the effects such as flying aeroplanes, bullets and explosions that are shown throughout the show. Though they have also paid good attention to the musical side of things as well.

Regardless of whether you play the surround mix in 5.1, 7.1 or with Dolby Atmos this is very much a well good immersive experience and you will feel its effects and even the point 1 sub-channel is very well utilised. The stereo mix is also excellent and this is well worthy of 10 out of 10 across the board.

Musicians & Credits…

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Directed by Sean Evans & Roger Waters. Produced by Clare Spencer & Roger Waters. Filmed & Recorded at The Ziggodome, Amsterdam, Netherlands between 18th – 23rd June 2018.  Jon Lemon Live Recording Engineer. Stereo & Mulsti-Channel Mixing Engineers Nigel Godrich & Sam Petts-Davis. Mixed in Dolby Atmos at The Michael Powell Theatre, Pinewood Studios, England. Stereo Mastering by Bob Ludwig. Cover Design by Dan Ichimoto. Photography by Kate Izor.

Musicians.

Roger Waters: Vocals – Guitar – Bass.
Dave Kilminster: Guitars – Vocals.
Jonathan Wilson: Guitars – Vocals.
Jon Carin: Keyboards – Guitars.
Gus Seyffert: Guitars – Bass.
Bo Koster: Keyboards.
Joey Waronker: Drums.
Ian Ritchie: Saxophone.
Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig: – Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

The concert film footage that makes up this particular live concert was captured over the 4 nights he played at the Ziggo Dome arena on the European leg of the tour that run between 2017/18. All together Waters played a total of 156 shows over those couple of years and toured throughout North America, Europe, Latin America and beyond and performed to around 2.3 million people.

I am not sure how much footage was taken from each night and whether all 4 nights were used from the 18th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd of June 2018 that he played at the venue. But it’s been very well stitched together to make it look like it came from one show sort of thing.

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The Ziggo Dome’s location is right next to the Ajax Football Stadium in the Netherlands most populous capital city Amsterdam. The building is designed for amplified music, but is multi-usable and is also used for sports such as tennis and korfball and with minimal adjustments can even be turned into an Olympic-size swimming pool or an ice rink.

However, since 2017 the Ziggo Dome has been heavily used for concerts and its main hall has a capacity of holding up to 17,000 people. Many bands and artists have played at the venue since it opened back in 2012 including the likes of Pearl Jam, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Muse, Pink, Iron Maiden, Rod Stewart and on and on.

On With The Show…

This is a two-hour show that features Pink Floyd’s most iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon played in its entirety but with other songs played in between in a way of stretching out the album and the show. The interesting thing is that although it features the bands most iconic album, it’s really the couple of epic tracks from Animals that are the highlights and steal the show so to speak.

Well that’s perhaps the best way I can describe it. Apart from it also comes with STUNNING! visuals and sound to make your eyes pop out of your head and keep you glued to your seat. It very much has a WOW! factor about it and I don’t think even the critics could argue with the way I have just described it, and if they can all I can say is that they have BRAIN DAMAGE! 😁😁😁.

Though of course there is a lot more one could easily be critical about once you’ve stripped away all the visual FX and focus on the actual live performance itself, and even I can see things to be critical about myself. Although they are only really niggly gripes and I personally would not say the performance by the musicians on the stage was in anyway lacklustre like the majority of critics have stated.

So, let’s now run through the set-list and try and point out some of the things the critics are having a go at and try and iron things out in perspective of how and why certain things may of been done this way in the first place.

The concert starts off with an intro that consists of a mixture of voices from both the intros from Dark Side of the Moon and Is This The Life We Really Want? with some film footage on the screen. I should point out that this is a concert that does display not only the band on stage but the images and film footage that’s displayed on the screens at the concert and flashes between the both throughout its entirety.

The band then proceed to play “Breathe” from the iconic album and this I have to say is a very good smooth relaxing performance of the song that features Jonathan Wilson on vocals and I personally think he sings it quite well. Although Roger Waters does play bass on this song, he does mostly play guitar and switches between the both from time to time.

They then take a short break from the iconic album and immediately go into “One Of The Days” which is a classic from the Meddle album and always goes down a treat and this features Jon Carin on slide guitar. They really do a GREAT! job of it too.

Right from the very start surround FREAKS! are gonna love this concert and it thunders its way into “Time” and this gives the drummer Joey Waronker a chance to display some of his skills to which he does an excellent job and is also accompanied by both the backing singers Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig banging away on the percussion.

The band then proceed to continue to roll out the first side of the iconic album with both Waters and Wilson sharing the vocal duties with Dave Kilminster taking on most of the lead guitar duties. “The Great Gig in the Sky” features both Wolfe & Laessig playing more of a major role as to be expected. This is also the stage were some of the critics are coming out of the woodwork.

There is no doubt that Clare Torry done a truly AMAZING! and outstanding vocal performance on the original song and much of her qualities have been very well replicated by other female singers who have appeared on both Pink Floyd and David Gilmore’s live shows in the past. What both of these women have might very well not measure up to the higher standards and qualities of those particular performances.

However, what we have here is a fresher approach that is not replicating Torry’s voice in anyway which gives the song something different which I feel Waters may have wanted to do with it. You simply cannot do the same thing all the time and have to do something a bit different to keep songs like this fresh and that is precisely what these fine pair have done and I honestly cannot fault this performance one bit.

Yet some of the critics are not only having a problem with their voices but are having a pop at them for how they look, and I have to say this is absolutely both ludicrous and ridiculous in my book.

Next up is “Welcome to the Machine” which sees Waters return to both bass and vocal duties and so far, I have yet to see a damn thing that makes any of these live performances lacklustre and I am even enjoying this output of classic Floyd songs for a change. The other good thing I like about this particular concert is that he does take on most of the vocal duties himself, unlike his earlier concerts where he brought in other singers to sing the biggest majority of them.

It’s now time for some more Cinematics and it’s this part of the show that Waters rolls out three of the opening songs from his last rock album Is This The Life We Really Want? He jumps on the acoustic guitar for “Deja Vu” and uses his voice only on both “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That” though he does also jump on the electric guitar and plays a bit of lead with Wilson on the latter of those songs.

This is perhaps another highlight for myself and something I would like to see more of at his live shows. He even takes on the vocals for “Wish You Were Here” and it features Waters, Wilson and Kilminster on the acoustics the latter playing the lead and they do a fine job of it. It’s back on the bass for “Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 & 3)” and he’s got the kids on the stage for this one. Kilminster also does a GREAT! job on the solo.

Next up we have the real highlights of the show with not just one but two epic classic songs from Animals. The good thing about Waters shows in comparison to both Gilmour’s and Pink Floyd’s shows since he left the band is that you can still get to hear songs from this album. First up we have “Dogs” and even though it features Carin on acoustic guitar I was surprised not to see him sing this one with Waters.

Jon Carin’s voice is about the nearest you will ever get to Gilmour’s voice and you could quite evidentially hear that when he sang this song on the In The Flesh Live DVD back in 2000. No doubt some of the critics have voiced their concern about Jonathan Wilson being put in charge of the vocal duties to sing it this time over Carin.

Personally, I have no issues with his voice on this song and he does a good enough job of it has you will hear right at the end of this short snippet of the opening of song that Waters posted on his Tube channel from the show. You will also see that pigs are quite capable of flying over the Battersea power station 😁😁😁 and this really is quite SPECTACULAR!

Just like on the original album Waters takes on the vocals for “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and even as old as he is now, he can still belt this song out has you will see in this other short clip taken from the show that he posted on his Tube channel.

There are some GREAT! theatrics and Cinematics during both of these lengthy songs and Waters even gets his machine gun out and surround FREAKS! will be totally surrounded by bullets flying 😁😁😁. It also features some GREAT! guitar work from both Kilminster and Wilson.

It’s back to the iconic album next for the second side of it and I quite like how they have blended in President Trump’s voice with the cash registers on the intro to “Money“. This is a song that also features a GREAT! Cinematic break in the middle of it and if I had any criticism about this show this is very much the song where I do have a couple of niggly gripes myself.

I can to a degree see where the critics are coming from regarding Jonathan Wilson’s voice on this song and he does lack the right expression and anger to deliver the song. I definitely feel that Jon Carin or somebody else should have been chosen to sing this one.

My other niggly little gripe would be with the sax player Ian Ritchie. Although he appears to be playing all the right notes for me, he also lacks the expression in the delivery of the instrument and he’s no match for Don Perry I am afraid. But now I am perhaps being a bit too critical and you cannot expect any musician to sound like the guy who played it originally.

However, I have heard this song played by other sax players who I felt gave it the right expression it really needs to pull it off and this song in particular is the only song throughout this entire concert that I feel lets the show down a bit. However, my faith is soon restored with the both musicians on this next song and throughout the rest of the show.

Us & Them” is the only full song from the show that Waters posted on his official Tube channel and this gives you a good incite has to how well the musicians are performing and how well the concert has been edited. Especially with how it flows in getting across the live performance of the band and the Cinematics that are being protected across the screen.

This song quite suits Wilson’s voice and if there is anything lacklustre about this performance then I’ll be blown. All the musicians are very much on the ball and the money in my book and they also do a GREAT! job on the final couple of songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse“.

Waters then addresses his audience and delivers a short speech about the matters of the world and empathy and you get a reprise of both “The Last Refugee” and “Déjà Vu” as the credits roll.

Summary…

To sum up my review of Us + Them by Roger Waters. There is no doubt that watching this concert visually is STUNNINGLY SPECTACULAR! I personally do not think I have ever seen a concert quite like it. The most SPECTACULAR! visual live concert I ever got to see live was Pink Floyd at Earls Court and I was disappointed with the Blu Ray release of that show simply because it could not capture what I seen and heard not even with the 5.1 recording that was associated with it.

What you have here literally makes Pink Floyd’s Pulse look and sound mediocre. But like I said technology has moved on so in a way its perhaps understandable and as for my two-part question in my introduction regarding of if the concert is all its cranked up to be, or are the critics, right? My answer would be YES! and NO!

What I fail to recognise is what some of the critics are saying about the lack lustre performance of the musicians. Some have even gone to the point of having a go at Waters for having another bass player on the stage in case he makes a mistake and they are playing to a click track. I find this absolutely ludicrous, come on the guys he’s 77 years old for Christ’s sake and this is far from the case. If anything, Waters has perhaps put more into this show than what he has done in the past.

Speaking of the past certainly my favourite concert of Waters is on the In The Flesh Live DVD and the musicians on that are quite remarkable. I still very much love that concert and can still play it quite often. But no matter how remarkable those musicians are I certainly could not take anything away from the musicians on this live concert and I now have two excellent concerts of his I can thoroughly enjoy.

My personal highlights from the show are as follows: “Dogs“. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)“. “Déjà Vu“. “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion Us + Them could very well be one of the most visually SPECTACULAR! concerts that’s ever been put on and I personally do not think the STUNNING! visuals take anything away from the live performance. I also find this a very comfortable concert to sit with and it’s got the potential to grip you in a way that you do not want to leave your seat. The 2-hour concert will even fly by and it will seem like it’s all over in 5 minutes and that’s what I call satisfaction guaranteed.

The Blu Ray is most definitely the format to go with to get the full potential out of it. This is a concert that you do need to see with your own eyes and the Blu Ray offers you the best picture and sound quality over all formats. The extra couple of songs you get with the bonus material are also superbly done and its price point of around £20 is well worth the buck for a 4K Blu Ray with Dolby Atmos.

During the course of writing this review I did get to see his last concert of The Wall for free. I also think that’s quite a good show. Though I personally think this latest release is even more SPECTACULAR! What I would love to see Waters do next is forget the Pink Floyd material and do a concert featuring the material from his own solo career.

A Stunning 4K Multichannel Feast…

The Blu Ray track listing is as follows:

Intro 1:42
Speak To Me 0:29
Breathe 2:48
One Of These Days 5:27
Time 5:53
Breathe (Reprise) 1:09
The Great Gig In The Sky 4:57
Welcome To The Machine 8:02
Déjà Vu 4:44
The Last Refugee 4:22
Picture That 6:47
Wish You Were Here 5:01
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives 1:36
Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 3:36
Another Brick In The Wall Part 3 1:36
Dogs 15:59
Pigs (Three Different Ones) 11:37
Money 7:23
Us & Them 7:53
Brain Damage 4:32
Eclipse 4:30
The Last Refugee (Reprise) 1:28
Déjà Vu (Reprise) 2:30

The Price Point Rating. 10/10.

The Picture Quality Rating. 10/10.

The Surround Mix Rating. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.

The Bonus Material Rating. 7/10.

The Overall Concert Rating. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #167

Transitus (Earbook Edition) – Ayreon

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Introduction…

It’s been a good three years since we have seen a new album release from Arjen Lucassen’s project of Ayreon. Though that’s not to say he has not been keeping his music and the project busy over the couple of years with the live releases and even the remake of his third iconic album Into The Electric Castle. Now he’s back with brand new Ayreon album that is perhaps something a bit different, even the plot behind its story line does not appear to have any connection or link with any other Ayreon album like we have seen in the past.

To be honest whether it does or don’t bears no significance to myself simply because it’s very rare that the storyline on most Ayreon albums will gather up my interest simply because I am not a Sci-fi NUT! like the man behind the project happens to be. I would not have a clue how the stories are linked either because the biggest majority of them I don’t find in the slightest that bit interesting at all.

For example, even though still to this day Into The Electric Castle is still my favourite Ayreon album its storyline comes across to me like some boring game show they used to show at Children’s TV time many moons ago here in the UK called the Crystal Maze. The plot is more or less the same were each person has a specific task to perform to stay alive in the game otherwise they will fall into the abyss and meet their fate 😁😁😁.

Yet for some reason when I listen to that album it’s a bit like listening to Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of The Worlds. I even remember when Into The Electric Castle was released that I once described it like that album. Though it was really down to the way the story was put across by the singers playing their character roles in the story more than anything else, and it was nowhere near the well written story that HG Wells wrote for that epic novel of his.

I am not saying I dislike Sci-fi but when it comes to stories, I prefer them to be more on the ground and down to earth so to speak. Something more along the lines of The Philadelphia Experiment and The Terminator appeals more to me than things in space like Star Wars and so on. Or even The Time Machine come to think of it. With some of the stories Arjen comes up with you would think he was living on another planet 😁😁😁.

To be honest when it comes down to most prog-rock albums it is the music and the way the words are expressed that catches my attention more so than the lyrics. The only two albums in the Ayreon catalogue that ever grabbed me enough to pay attention to the story side of things are The Human Equation and The Theory Of Everything and both of those albums were down to earth. I also quite like the storylines that were written for both of those albums as well.

According to Arjen his latest album Transitus is different because he was not sure if the material, he wrote for it would be fitting with his Ayreon project at first. Hence the reason why his long-time drummer ED Warby (who he always says himself that there can only one) does not appear on it.

His intention was to write something that would be more fitting for a film like a musical not so much a rock opera like he’s done in the past with his live shows. He was in the process of seeking out a director and the right people to enable it to come into fruition before all this Covid got in the way. According to his recent interviews he still has every intention of trying take it to the Cinema houses sort of thing if he can get the backing to support it. Does he really think his storylines are that good 😁😁😁.

Well to be honest I’ve seen some right crap in the past brought to the silver screen by other rock and pop artists such as the likes of The Beatles, The Who and all sorts so it cannot really get any worse. In all honesty the storyline behind The Human Equation would have made a good film unlike the stupidity that the likes of those brought to the screen in films such as Help and Tommy for example.

The one good thing I like about the storyline behind Transitus is that it is down to earth, well sort of 😁😁😁. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The Earbook is made of quality thick cardboard like a hardback book only the size of a vinyl album. The 5 discs are seated firmly in die cut pockets in front and back of the book. The 48-page book contains the usual linear credit notes, lyrics, well detailed pictures of the singers and musicians and a colourful comic book. It also contains some of Arjen’s original black & white sketched drawings detailing the story with both words and drawings.

Overall, it’s a really good well-made high-quality package. However, what I would of liked to have seen was more additional information like there was in the Earbook of Into The Electric Castle for example. That particular Earbook was way more interesting than what we have here. Plus, all the information you do get here is very much repeated with the comic book and Arjen’s sketches.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK back on the 25th of June and it arrived the day after its release. It also came with the free digital download which came in handy so I could at least listen to the album on the day of its release whilst waiting for it to arrive. The other good thing is that I got it at the price I personally believe it should have been sold at in the first place and I ended up paying £40.17 for it saving me over £20.

Artwork.

The albums artwork cover was done by David Letelier who is a motion graphics artist and is quite new to doing this type of work since he only got involved into working with bands back in 2016. He also done the artwork for the live Ayreon release of Electric Castle Live And Other Tales.

Overall, its perhaps nothing special in relation to Jef Bertels who done the artwork for the biggest majority of Ayreon albums. The comic book illustrations were done by Felix Vega. Additional Artwork Layout by Roy Koch. Transitus Logo by Stefan Heilemann. Ayreon Logo by Thomas Ewerhard.

Release Editions…

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The album was released in the form of 4 formats counting the Digital Download which is the cheapest option and can be had for around £10.99 on Amazon UK. Things have been done a bit differently regarding 1 of the 3 physical formats with this release. For example, unlike previous releases where Arjen had the sense to release a 2 CD + DVD or single Blu Ray package for surround FREAKS! like myself to get their hands on the 5.1 mix. Your only option here was to buy the most expensive package.

One of the other notable things about this release is that it also came accompanied with a 28-page Comic Book that came free with all the physical formats providing that you ordered it from the Ayreon Webstore as the poster above suggests. You can also purchase the Comic Book individually from the store for €7.50.

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However, I do find most artists webstores can be more expensive in relation to other stores and I would hardly say you was getting the Comic Book entirely for free. For example, the 2 CD package is priced at €17.99 plus an additional €3 in postage and packing here to where I live in the UK. This works out to around £20 UK which is £5 more than it will cost on Amazon UK where it retails at around £14.99.

Vinyl lovers will get even more of a better deal on Amazon especially has the webstore is charging €29.99 plus €13 p+p for the 2 LP Transparent Red Edition. That works out to near enough £40 here in the UK were as on Amazon UK it also comes with the Comic Book for £22.99 which is quite a massive saving.

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It was also released on Gold and Yellow Marble coloured vinyl though they were Limited Editions and only 500 of each were pressed and most likely all would have been snapped up in no time at all despite the expense. To be honest I could not tell you if they cost any more than the Red vinyl but what was is strange is that the album was not pressed onto Black vinyl which I dare say would of been even cheaper.

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The most expensive package is the Earbook Edition which was priced at €49 on the webstore and is no longer available. Because there was no cheaper DVD package released with the 5.1 mix this time, this is what I eventually opted to go for myself. Although if it was not for other stores like Amazon I would of ended up buying the 2 CD package instead because with additional cost of the p+p this would of cost over £60 on the webstore which would of been well overpriced in my own opinion.

The Album In Review…

Transitus is the 10th studio album to be released in Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon project and was released on the 25th September 2020. It’s a double album worth of material that contains 27 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 80 minutes, 43 seconds. This is how double albums should be made just like they were many moons ago.

It’s what I would also consider to be a sensible timeslot especially in relation to fitting it more comfortably onto vinyl. These days many have lost the plot of what a double album is and think we are made of money to be paying the extra expense it costs to put it on more than 2 LP’s.

Though I have to confess that not everything was sensible with how Arjen rushed to get out this new release and he soon had a plethora of complaints plastered over his Facebook page ranging from how he forgot to include the lyrics with both the CD & Vinyl releases, forgot to mention who the vocalists were on the 4th CD that comes in the Earbook Edition.

Though the biggest cock-up was made by his record company who sent out a good few of the pre-ordered Earbook Editions to the wrong address which meant that whilst people where eagerly waiting for them to arrive, they had been sent to other customers who had only ordered the CD. No doubt for the some of the customers Christmas came early 😁😁😁.

Despite all the hiccups and managing to sort most of them out the sales of the album done very well and it even made the Number 1 spot in the Dutch album charts and also sold very well in other European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Belgium.

As with most of the material Arjen writes he gets to work on it well in advance and he had been working on the music and the story behind Transitus over the past three years. Like I mentioned its storyline is more down to earth although it also takes in another time or realm that crosses between the boundaries of life and death and is perhaps more of a GHOSTLY! tale of a love story that’s gone wrong so to speak.

As ever Arjen has brought in new vocalists to portray the roles of the characters in the story as well as keeping some of those who appeared on previous Ayreon albums. The same goes for the musicians. Paul Manzi of Arena is perhaps the most notable of singers to me and it was announced back in July of this year that he had left the band. One of the more notable musicians here is the guitarist Joe Satriani who plays a guest spot on one of the tracks.

The other notable person Arjen brought in was the Actor Tom Baker most memorable for his role as the central character role of Doctor Who to narrate the story. I shall go into more detail about the story behind Transitus later on in the “Album Track” section of my review. But first of all, let’s take a look at the packaging contents.

The Package Contents…

No doubt with any package like this they come very well presented, LOOK! the part and are nice to have in your collection. Though quite often not all the extra content serves any real purpose and at times is only put in to make it look like you are getting something of value for your money. It really depends on you as an individual as to what the extra content will give you and I myself can find some of it pointless at times.

For example, regarding the book that comes with these types of packages I myself would rather see more informative information than a load of glossy pictures. Although the book here does lack informative information it is nevertheless still very well done and acceptable in my opinion. Unlike the Picture Books that Steve Hackett does which is only filled with glossy pictures and contains no information at all apart from the usual linear credit notes.

My incentive for buying most of this type of package is for the 5.1 content more than anything though it is a bonus when they come with something to read as well. The reissues of the Jethro Tull back catalogue that comes in a book edition are a perfect example of what a good box set is all about. They even cost less than this and they offer more better content than any other box set I have ever seen and that includes box sets that costs well over £100. Let’s now take a look at the content that comes on the 5 discs.

CD’s 1 & 2.

CD’s 1 & 2 contain the main featured double album. The first disc contains 14 tracks and has an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 50 seconds. The second disc has 13 tracks with a total playing time of 41 minutes, 46 seconds. Please note that the number of tracks on the first CD is only listed like this on the Earbook Edition whereas on the Vinyl and CD packages the first disc only contains 9 tracks due to them making the first track into one longer track.

CD 3 is the first of the bonus discs and contains 22 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 75 minutes, 41 seconds. This is basically the instrumental version of the double album and the reason it’s shorter is mostly likely down to the narration being omitted.

CD 4 is the second bonus disc and this comes with 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 9 seconds. This disc contains the Guided Vocals to which most of them was sung by Micheal Mills & Marcela Bovio. It also features Marjan Welman & Jan Willem Ketelaers who sang Cammie Gilbert & Johanne James parts respectively.

Overall, the extra bonus content does depend on what the individual really gets out of it and to myself it’s perhaps more of a filler more than anything else and I can often see a lot of it as pointless. You are not getting anything different or new here at all and both discs I could see the biggest majority of people only ever bothering to give them one spin.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very neatly animated and the artwork from the comic book as been put to good use. This would of perhaps made a better picture for the album cover. The menu gives you four options to choose from “Play”. “Song Selection”. “Audio Selection” and “Extras” to which are navigated to by a white square box.

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The “Song Selection” is split over 3 screens which can be navigated to by clicking on “Next Menu” and “Previous Menu” respectively. The one thing they did miss out on was to include the “Main Menu” and the only way of getting back to the main menu is via the top menu on your remote control.

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Whilst the music is playing it displays a picture from the comic book for each track as seen above. It adds a nice touch and is better than looking at a blank screen like or the same picture all the time like on the DVD of Into The Electric Castle and a much better job has been done here.

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The “Audio Selection” offers you the choice of two audio soundtracks and by default it’s set to High Definition Stereo which LPCM 24-bit 48k. The 5.1 mix is in standard Dolby Digital 448kbps 48k and its unfortunate no DTS soundtrack was also made available.

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The “Extras” contains the bonus material and I am fairly sure that Arjen has uploaded most (if not) all of this content on his Youtube channel. The video clip gives you the choice of stereo and surround sound and is in the same audio formats as in the “”Audio Selection”. The video itself is 7 minutes, 22 seconds long and is a mix of the music that makes up the “Fatum Horrificum” suite and is very well animated with some GREAT! graphics.

The behind the scenes is a 50 minute, 16 second documentary featuring Arjen and many of the singers and musicians talking about the album and recording their parts for it. You also get 1 minute, 56 seconds of footage showing you Noa Gruman conducting and directing the Hellscore Choir and the official promotional trailer.

Overall, the extra bonus material is quite good to have and contains some useful informative information with the documentary. I would not say it was best bonus content I have seen in relation to what I have seen on previous Ayreon releases but it’s worthy of 6 out of 10.

The 5.1 Mix.

Transitus is very much an album that is suited for a 5.1 mix with all its effects and I quite like this mix that Arjen Lucassen has done and he has done a very good job of it I will say. He’s certainly utilised the surround field very well placing effects, backing vocals and other instrumentation in the rears and panned some of them across all the channels for good effect in the right places.

Considering the mix was only done in Dolby Digital and there is no DTS. It does sound very good and gives you a very good immersive experience and I am not even missing a DTS Soundtrack as much as I thought I would. Nice of him to include a 24-bit lossless stereo mix as well and I don’t see many audiophiles and surround FREAKS! kicking up a fuss with these mixes and I take my hat off to him and give him a very good well deserved 👍👍👍.

Musicians & Credits…

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All music & lyrics by Arjen Lucassen. Narration by Arjen LucassenLori Linstruth & Tom Baker. Script & Story by Arjen Lucassen. Recorded at The Electric Castle and various other locations. Stereo & 5.1 mix by Arjen Lucassen. Stereo & 5.1 Audio Mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studio. Artwork by David Letelier. Additional Artwork Layout by Roy Koch. Comic Book Illustration by Felix Vega. Transitus Logo by Stefan Heilemann. Ayreon Logo by Thomas Ewerhard.

Vocalists & Characters

Tom Baker (The Storyteller)
Tommy Karevik (Daniel)
Cammie Gilbert (Abby)
Marcela Bovio (Fury/Servant/Villager)
Paul Manzi (Henry)
Amanda Sommerville (Lavinia)
Johanne James (Abraham)
Caroline Westendorp (Fury/Servant/Villager)
Simone Simons (The Angel of Death)
Michael Mills (The Statue)
Dee Snider (The Father)
Dianne van Giersbergen (Soprano)
Dan J. Pierson, Jan Willem Ketelaers, Lisette van den Berg, Marjan Welman, Will Shaw. (Villagers)
Hellscore Choir (Directed by Noa Gruman)

Instrumentalists

Arjen Lucassen
Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Glockenspiel, Dulcimer, Toy Piano.
Joost van den Broek
Hammond, Piano, Fender Rhodes.
Juan van Emmerloot
Drums.
Ben Mathot
Violin.
Jeroen Goossens
Flutes, Woodwinds.
Jurriaan Westerveld
Cello.
Alex Thyssen
French Horn.
Thomas Cochrane
Trumpet, Trombone.
Patty Gurdy
Hurdy Gurdy.
Joe Satriani
Guitar Solo on “Get Out! Now!”.
Marty Friedman
Guitar Solo on “Message From Beyond”.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The word “Transitus” comes from the Latin, meaning passage or crossing and in Western Christianity Transitus refers to the time of passage through death to life. This is a story that crosses between earth and the spiritual realm and what we have here is basically a story about a well to do Toffee nosed family set in the late 19th century in like a gothic setting. Although it’s perhaps more like the Victorian times back here in England.

The storyline is a bit basic and nothing really that new especially when it comes to the down to earth side of it. Which is about some well to do rich kid falling in love with one of the maids and the rest of his family being dead set against it sort of thing. The only real difference is how the stories plot unfolds and interacts between the spiritual realm of heaven and earth and it is more like a fantasy rather than something that will give you the willies so to speak 😁😁😁.

There is even a comical side to it and it is perhaps better suited to a comic than being made into a film. But then again, the story is very short and too short for comic in reality, and the comic you get for your seven and half bucks you could easily fit into one issue of the Beano or Dandy. Although I will say that both the musical and lyrical content do help stretch it out more so let’s delve into it a bit deeper as I go through album tracks.

Disc One.

Tracks 1 – 6. Fatum Horrificum: (a) “Graveyard”. (b) “1884”. (c) “Daniel And Abby”. (d) “Fatum”. (e) “Why?!”.

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The opening track is the longest on the album weighing in at 10 minutes, 21 seconds although this is far from one track like “The Day That The World Breaks Down” from the previous album The Source and is a suite made up of bite size snippets. The biggest majority of this 6-part opening track is instrumental and mainly features keyboards and orchestration and it kicks off in the graveyard in gothic style and features the Hellscore Choir directed by Noa Gruman chanting words in latin.

The second part the narrator Tom Baker enters the equation and 1884 is where the story is set and I have to say he does a brilliant job of pulling you into the story. To hear the story properly behind Transitus the album is the way to go and all the comic book will give you is a mere snippet of it. You can read it in less than what this 2 minute, 17 second snippet will take to play and the comic book is more of a graphical presentation more than anything else.

The story is one of those that starts at the end and goes back a year earlier to show you who done it and how it all came about sort of thing. I am not going to go into the details of the story though there is a lot of death in it and it’s centred around two characters namely Daniel and Abby who loved each other to death 😁😁😁. The song “Everybody Dies” on his previous album The Source springs to mind as a spoiler alert 😁😁😁.

The third part or snippet very much has a Pink Floyd feel about it and it features some nice slide and guitar work from Arjen it is only very short though and it then falls back into the gothic chanting from the Hellscore Choir which is the fourth part. The fifth part is the shortest snippet to which features the first of the vocalists Tommy Karevik who plays the main character role of Daniel. He enters into the equation by screaming his way through it for a short burst and is followed by a short burst of orchestration that beefs up the dramatics.

The final part of the suite is a short song that features Cammie Gilbert another of the main characters in the story who plays the part of Abby. Also, on vocals is Johanne James who plays the part of Abby’s father Abraham. Musically this chugs its way along with its driving rhythm and most of the main instrumentalists feature in the whole of the 6-part suite.

Overall, the opening suite is the most PROGMATIC! track on the whole of the double album and it features some tasty keyboard work from Joost van den Broek and Arjen himself. It is perhaps that side of the instrumentation that makes it more PROGMATIC! than anything else in reality. I suppose in a way it would have to be a contender for the albums TOP SPOT! Though the way it’s been split into small snippets and how it’s all been put together does not completely GEL! especially the final part which is the song.

Track 7. Daniel’s Descent Into Transitus.

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Many of the songs along the album are also bite size snippets and this next track features Tommy Karevik solely on vocals and we also get some more narration by Tom Baker at the very beginning. Musically it’s quite powerful and the orchestrated keyboards, guitars and drums provide the right amount of power for Karevik to express the role of his character very well. It also features some GREAT! work by Ben Mathot on violin and Jurriaan Westerveld on cello.

Track 8. Listen to My Story.

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This next track starts off once again with some fine narration by Tom Baker and in reality, he is the only one who is holding the story up and together because musically there is no doubt, they are BIGGING! things up. However, it sounds more like something out of Batman rather than anything from a horror or ghost story. Most of the songs on the album are power chord driven and are more structured like metal to which I can find very boring at times because it does not have anywhere else to go.

Most of the time the guitars and keyboards are more or less playing the same thing and they offer nothing in the way of lead work. The only thing that remotely stands out in the way lead work on this track is Thomas Cochrane’s trumpet & trombone and they add the POW! & ZAP! and are the holy smokes Batman 😁😁😁.

It’s on this song they also inject a bit of comedy into it with the opening words “Well hello there” delivered by Simone Simons who plays The Angel of Death and this is a zillion light year away from Transitus. The song is done in the way of duet with both Simons and Karevik on main vocals with both the other Fury’s Marcela Bovio and Caroline Westendorp backing them up to which they all do a fine job.

Track 9. Two Worlds Now One.

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This is one of the better songs on the album and once again it’s got quite a FLOYD-ESC! feel to it and features some GREAT! guitar work from Arjen. It even has a little touch of Jethro Tull from Jeroen Goossens on the flute. Both Karevik & Gilbert share the lead vocals again with Bovio & Westendorp on backing vocals and they all do a GRAND! job and this is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. Talk of the Town.

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Things do start to pick up a bit from from here and this next song features Paul Manzi, Tommy Karevik and Cammie Gilbert taking care of the vocal duties with the main core of the band Joost van den Broek, Juan van Emmerloot and Arjen himself who play on all tracks. Patty Gurdy on Hurdy Gurdy makes her first contribution on the album and both Jeroen Goossens on flutes and Ben Mathot’s violin are also well utilised here.

Arjen did put out four videos of the songs from the album on his Youtube channel before it was released and this one, I felt was the best of them. Paul Manzi is a GREAT! singer and I am sure Arena will miss him. I also see the band have replaced him now with Damian Wilson who appeared on many Ayreon albums and its perhaps unusual not to see him on this one.

The “Talk of the Town” is a GREAT! song that has quite a medieval and Celtic touch to it and reminds me of some of the material that was written for The Theory Of Everything back in 2011. It’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Tracks 11 & 12. Old Friend / Dumb Piece of Rock.

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The next couple of tracks are tied together and “Old Friend” is a short ballad of a song that once again features Tommy Karevik solely on vocals and he’s supported by a fine melody played on the piano by Joost van den Broek who does play some GREAT! piano work throughout the album. Jurriaan Westerveld’s cello also wonderfully supports this fine song.

Dumb Piece of Rock” is perhaps the stand out track on the album and features Micheal Mills on vocals who has appeared on some of the more recent Ayreon albums and he does do a terrific job not only on the main vocals but with his QUEEN-ESC! harmonies.

It’s a very powerful rock song that gives Juan van Emmerloot a chance to bang out his sticks on the drum kit and along Arjen’s heavy metal guitar and all the other musicians they drive it along very well. It’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 13. Get Out! Now!.

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Get Out! Now!” is another powerful rock song and even though this one is mostly sung by Dee Snider apart from a verse sung by Tommy Karevik. Oddly enough it does sound a bit like an Arena song. Both Marcela Bovio & Caroline Westendorp are on backing vocals and it also features a lead solo shredded by Joe Satriani who does quite a blistering job on it.

The video above is another of the four songs Arjen posted on his Youtube channel before the album was released and this song ROCKS! enough to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 14. Seven Days, Seven Nights.

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The final track on the first disc “Seven Days, Seven Nights” gets ended off with another fine short ballad sung by Simone Simons once again backed up on the piano by Joost van den Broek and some fine harmonies by Marcela Bovio & Caroline Westendorp.

Disc 2.

Track 1. Condemned Without a Trial.

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Things start to hot up and rock up again back on earth and this track is metal driven by Arjen’s guitars, Juan van Emmerloot‘s drums and Jeroen Goossens adds a fine touch of Jethro Tull to it on the flute. The vocal duties are handled by Dan J. Pierson, Jan Willem Ketelaers, Lisette van den Berg, Marjan Welman, Will Shaw who play the part of the villagers and Paul Manzi who all do a GRAND! job.

Track 2. Daniel’s Funeral.

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The pipe organ and bells are called for and Joost van den Broek provides them on its sombre opening, though there is perhaps more to the musical side of things of a funeral for a friend here. This is a song that gets built up with other elements such as the cello and violin, driven guitars, drums and expressive vocals by Amanda Sommerville & Paul Manzi.

Track 3. Hopelessly Slipping Away.

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One of the better songs on the 2nd disc and its structured around a bass synth, along with the melody lines played on the guitar. Both of these two elements of its musical structure remind me of something from Alan Parson’s 1999 album The Time Machine. Ben Mathot’s violin also lends very well to giving this more of melodic structure.

This is another fine duet sung by Cammie Gilbert & Tommy Karevik and was another of the songs Arjen posted on his Tube Channel before the album was released and it ends off nicely with a nice bit of acoustic guitar.

Track 4. This Human Equation.

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Musically this next track is a bit like a rocked-up version of the “Doctor Who Theme” with its backbeat and as ever Tom Baker is doing a GRAND! job throughout all the tracks with his narration. This is the final of the four songs that a video was made for and the vocals are provided by Simone Simons, Marcela Bovio, and Caroline Westendorp who provide the theatrical dramatics along with the music and do also do a NICE! job of it.

Tracks 5 & 6. Henry’s Plot / Message from Beyond.

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Paul Manzi & Amanda Somerville share the vocal duties on this short haunting piece played on the keys by Joost van den Broek. It’s good to see Manzi getting more of a role in the story. The bass line on “Message from Beyond” is a bit like something from Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds. Both Amanda Somerville & Cammie Gilbert are on vocal duties and it features a rather nice guitar solo towards the end played by Marty Friedman of Megadeth and all do quite a fine job here.

Tracks 7 – 9. Daniel’s Vision / She is Innocent / Lavinia’s Confession.

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Daniel’s Vision” is the shortest track on the second disc that features the voice of Tom Baker some expressive words delivered by Tommy Karevik set to some atmospheric keyboards from Joost van den Broek. Many of the shorter tracks on the album are merely used for part of the storey and “She is Innocent” is another short track that perhaps has a rush of adrenalin with how the guitars and drums beef it up. Karevik provides the main vocals and is backed up by Somerville.

The tension is hotting up in the story and the rush of adrenalin and power continues on “Lavinia’s Confession” this time with Amanda Somerville and Johanne James on vocals. I quite like the bass guitar on this track and it’s got quite a springy punctuation to it as if its picking up the rattle of the strings so to speak.

Track 10. Inferno.

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The story is reaching its dramatic climax and the Hellscore Choir are back chanting more Latin words of doom as more are going to be engulfed in the flames of hell.  Johanne James is the one caught in the thick of it all calling out in desperation, adding to the dramatics are the well-orchestrated keyboards, guitars and drums pounding their way along in marching style.

 Track 11. Your Story Is Over!.

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The Angel and her Fury’s or Batman and Robin are back for a bit more POW! and ZAP! and “Your Story Is Over!” is the same song as “Listen to My Story” and here it gets reprised with a slight change to the lyrics. The same female crew are taking on the vocal duties and it is the end of the story. Well almost 😁😁😁.

Track 12 & 13. Abby In Transitus / The Great Beyond.

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The final couple of short tracks are the stories epilogue and the first of them “Abby In Transitus” musically has another FLOYD-ESC! feel about it and that is basically because the intro part of it is a reprise of “Two Worlds Now One“. However, the second part of it also has an “Echoes” feel to it with Joost van den Broek’s keyboards and I quite like the atmospheric sound of Juan van Emmerloot’s drums too. Cammie Gilbert sings this one solely.

More themes reoccur for the closing track of the album “The Great Beyond” and it appears that there is a happy ending after all as Daniel and Abby are reunited. Both Cammie Gilbert and Tommy Karevik express the final words to the story and it all gets nicely put to bed with the Hells Choir breathing down their necks 😁😁😁.

Summary…

To sum up Transitus by Ayreon. I could honestly say that in terms of the written materials musical structure and how it was all put together could easily be the weakest album in the Ayreon catalogue. There is not really anything in the way of a real good standout track over the whole double album. To be honest I was disappointed how The Source turned out overall, but it did have some strength and “The Day That The World Breaks Down” and “Everybody Dies” were very good standout tracks.

I would also say that 90% of the time the music is not really fitting with the story and the way it’s been delivered by the singers is no different to any other Ayreon album. What we have here is more fitting with a Rock Opera like Tommy was and not really a film like The Who’s other album Quadrophenia. It’s perhaps more suited to the comic book presentation its already been given 😁😁😁.

However, I would also say that the biggest majority of Ayreon albums do not have standout tracks and they are not all like The Source and Into The Electric Castle and have been glued together to shape and fit into the storyline behind them more than anything. For example, I cannot think of a standout track on The Theory Of Everything though the way that album was put together with its songs and musical structure is way ahead of Transitus. It’s very much more along the lines of progrock and not snippets of pop and rock songs like we have here.

What really holds Transitus together is that it has a narrator and just like War Of The Worlds had a very good one with Richard Burton so does this with Tom Baker. He very much has the right voice to deliver the story and when paired up with the many singers Arjen has always had to express the words like they are acting out their parts. That is what really makes this work more so than its musical structure.

I can understand why Arjen was not sure this was going to be an Ayreon album in the first place just by the musical structure being very different. It would not have been until he added the words to the story, the narrator and all the singers that it started to sound like an Ayreon album that’s why it really fits in with the Ayreon catalogue.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the latest Ayreon album Transitus. The real core behind the album is its story and how its delivered and that should be enough to draw in most Ayreon fans alike including myself. This is not an album that contains blistering guitar and keyboards solos and its musical structure does not really allow the space for them either.

I would not say it’s the best story Arjen Lucassen has come up with either but least its more down to earth like the stories we seen on The Human Equation and The Theory Of Everything and that is what personally appeals more to my taste and why I can enjoy listening to this album and think it’s quite a good album. I think the 5.1 mix works very well for it too and Arjen gets a BIG THUMBS UP! for it 👍👍👍.

I certainly would not call it the PROG! album of the year either. However, I do feel that it deserved to reach the number one spot in the album charts in his own country and many countries. My highlights from the album are as follows: “Fatum Horrificum: (a) “Graveyard”. (b) “1884”. (c) “Daniel And Abby”. (d) “Fatum”. (e) “Why?!”. (f) “Guilty“. “Two Worlds Now One“. “Talk of the Town“. “Dumb Piece of Rock“and “Get Out! Now!“.

Overall, Transitus might not be the album that will sit with a good few PROGSTERS! out there I would expect, but nevertheless it still has that Ayreon feel about it which should appeal to the biggest majority and still should not disappoint. Please note that my price point rating score below is based on the price on the price from the Ayreon Webstore and not from other outlets.

A Bit More Than A Dumb Piece Of Rock…

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. Fatum Horrificum: Graveyard. 1:20.
02. Fatum Horrificum: 1884. 2:17.
03. Fatum Horrificum: Daniel And Abby. 1:32.
04. Fatum Horrificum: Fatum. 1:29.
05. Fatum Horrificum: Why?!. 1:08.
06. Fatum Horrificum: Guilty. 2:35.
07. Daniel’s Descent into Transitus. 2:40.
08. Listen to My Story. 4:02.
09. Two Worlds Now One. 4:05.
10. Talk of the Town. 5:21.
11. Old Friend. 1:40.
12. Dumb Piece of Rock. 4:13.
13. Get Out! Now!. 5:02.
14. Seven Days, Seven Nights. 1:26.

Disc 2.
01. Condemned Without A Trial. 3:49.
02. Daniel’s Funeral. 4:58.
03. Hopelessly Slipping Away. 4:28.
04. This Human Equation. 4:19.
05. Henry’s Plot. 2:19.
06. Message from Beyond. 5:21.
07. Daniel’s Vision. 1:44.
08. She is Innocent. 2:09.
09. Lavinia’s Confession. 1:52.
10. Inferno. 2:17.
11. Your Story Is Over!. 2:41.
12. Abby In Transitus. 3:01.
13. The Great Beyond. 2:48.

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Price Point Rating Score. 6/10.

5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Bonus Material Rating Score. 6/10.

Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #166

Sculptures – Heartscore

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Introduction…

The latest release from Dirk Radloff’s project of Heartscore could be seen as either a way of reinventing oneself or perhaps he’s taken onboard what many of the older mainstream artists are doing these days by putting out newer mixes of their older albums. However, you look at it, this is not really a new album but a remake of his debut album Sculptures he originally released back in 2002.

To be perfectly honest this is not the kind of thing I personally do not like to see and you would have to do something quite spectacular to convince me that a remake of an album is better than the original. I am even dead set against artists putting overdubs on albums later on and you will soon see how disappointed I was when reviewed the Expanded Deluxe Edition of Barclay James Harvest’s classic album Everyone Is Everybody Else here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/lee-speaks-about-music-16/  

The only album I ever thought that was improved upon by doing such a thing was what Mike Oldfield did with his remake of Tubular Bells back in 2003. He himself had good reasons for re-recording some of the instrumental sections of the original 1973 album and they were down to much of those sections being muddy in the mix. As much as I myself love the original album I was never happy with the mix myself because it was muddy in parts.

The original album also never benefited from the 5.1 mix either and if anything, it made it worse than do it any real justice. Whereas the 5.1 mix of Tubular Bells 2003 is simply to die for and one of the best recordings I have in my entire collection. It’s totally GORGEOUS! and very much now a surround FREAKS! paradise and blows the 1973 mix out of the window by miles 😁😁😁. Which is a damn site more that I could ever say for the remakes of both Wishbone Ash’s Argus and Camel’s Snow Goose albums that I also picked up on in that BJH review.

Being in closer contact with Dirk and having more or less near enough his entire back catalogue of music. I do know that he does have his own personal reasons to want to do a remake of this older album of his. The original album is also one of my personal favourite albums of his, and this remake is certainly going to present me with a real challenge to review.

The question is have I just wasted my money in purchasing Sculptures 2020? Before I answer that question and delve deeper into the new release, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

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The album has been released in 2 formats (if you count the physical extremely Limited Vinyl Edition) the cheapest option is the Digital Download and its just as well I no longer collect vinyl 😁😁😁. However, to a certain degree I can understand the amount of pride one will get by having their album pressed onto vinyl even just to display it on a shelf.

Thankfully he has seen sense once again to stick with the Digital Download being more of the priority release and not wasted his money on having a load of CD’s made to clutter up his garage. The Digital Download will not break your bank account either and is reasonably priced at €7 (Euro).

Limited Vinyl Edition.

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Like I mentioned the vinyl release is extremely limited and only 3 copies have been made available to purchase. Dirk is not an artist who sells albums by the bucket load which is why he no longer has a couple of hundred CD’s knocked up and is perfectly understandable.

With any physical format the more copies you have pressed the cheaper and more viable it is to sell them at a respectable and reasonable price. Having any physical product knocked out in small runs is going to cost you an arm and a leg and in the case of vinyl it will often work out to costing more money than its actually worth and in this case, he is even selling it for less than it cost himself.

Just as well he’s only got 3 of them for sale otherwise this might very well be one of most foolhardy decisions, he has ever made 😁😁😁. Hopefully he can generate enough money back from the sales of the Digital Download to compensate towards some of the loss. Though at the end of the day the money side of things has never been of any great importance to him in relation to getting his music out there. Most vinyl lovers will often pay more money for vinyl and its higher price tag might even seem a fair price for an extremely limited edition.

The extremely Limited Edition is pressed onto 180-gram Clear vinyl and is priced at €45 (Euro). It also omits 2 tracks from the album due to vinyl restrictions. Though it does also come with a free digital download of the album so you are not entirely missing out on the extra couple of tracks.

Artwork.

The cover design for the album cover was done by Dirk Radloff himself using photos and a background that he’s pieced together. He’s gone with something entirely different for the new release in comparison to his original idea as you can see in the artwork that was done for both the original and new remake of the album side by side below.

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I can understand to a certain degree as to why the need for a change in relation to how he’s brought the music more up to date by remaking it to fit in with the metal genre side of things. However, regarding the albums actual title of “Sculptures” this new cover design looks like something out of Star Wars in relation to the picture of Stonehenge which happens to be a sculpture 😁😁😁.

Personally, I would of thought something more along the lines of the Stonehenge sculpture being made out of metal instead of stone would have been more fitting. The other thing I thought to be rather strange is that both albums have exactly the same title and I personally felt that it would have been better to title the new version “Sculptures 2020”.

However, I did confront him about the title and it was something he did think about, but as he explained that most bands don’t rename a reissue, even if radical changes have been made. He gave me Ozzy Osbourne‘s remake of Blizzard of Oz as an example that had newly recorded bass and drums on the 2002 reissue of the album. Which was really down to both Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake suing him for writing credit royalties.

To be honest I was not aware of it and brought the album on vinyl upon its release back in 1980. I also later brought it on CD later on in the 90’s. The new reissue would not have any interest to me either and personally just because other bands and artists give exactly the same titles to remakes of their albums would not alter my way of thinking either. Simply because when it comes to music there are no rules.

The Album In Review…

Sculptures by Heartscore was released on the 3rd October 2020. The album just like the original debut album of the same title contains 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 24 seconds and is almost a minute longer than the original. Although there is a logical explanation as to why the new version of the album is a tad bit longer and that is because this new version has been remade completely from scratch.

A lot of things have changed over the years in the Heartscore camp in particular with how the vocal side of things are now handled. Since the release of the self-titled album Heartscore back in 2016, Radloff’s project has very much become a 2-man outfit simply because he himself no longer feels confident enough to take on the vocal duties by himself like he did for his first 4 albums that were released between 2002 – 2009.

As a matter of fact, since the release of Black Riders (Part 2) he has relinquished himself from all vocal duties including his QUEEN-ESC! harmonies. However, the 2-man operation thing may very well have been what he wanted from the very beginning because on the original debut album Sculptures it did also feature Oliver Harstack singing lead vocals and contributing some dramatic vocals on 4 of the songs.

To be perfectly honest Dirk Radloff has never really had what one would call a rock voice and I quite often seen his voice as more along the lines of somebody like Kevin Rowland the lead singer of Dexys Midnight Runners who sang pop songs such as “Come on Eileen” for example.

I would also say that his choice of vocalist he chose to sing on his later albums Heartscore and Black Riders (Part 1) who he hired Courtesy of Studiopros.com namely Chris. Never had what I would call a rock voice either and was somebody that sang along the same lines of Ashley Holt who Rick Wakeman had as his vocalist for many years and had more of a deep baritone operatic voice.

The vocalist he has now and who sang on his last album Black Riders (Part 2) namely Giacomo Rossi is 100% of what I would call a rock vocalist and his vocal range can also stretch out to some of the finer operatic qualities that certainly fits in with Radloff’s music. Not only the music he has written more recently either, but could also easily fit in with his earlier material such as the material he wrote for the original Sculptures album which was more rock and pop orientated.

41760363-c52f-4665-a67b-0b4c5e8c45d9_FotorGiacomo Rossi

However, no matter what qualities any singer may possess when it comes to remaking any album, replacing the original singer will be very hard for many people to accept. There is no doubt in my mind that Rossi is by far the best singer the Heartscore project has ever seen. But even for myself remaking an album such as Sculptures with a singer of this calibre is going to present me with a real difficult challenge to be able to accept it. Especially knowing the album as well as I do over the years of having it.

If I was to look at the Heartscore catalogue the only two albums that are really out of place in my eyes are the last two Black Riders (Part 1 & 2). This is simply because it has two different singers delivering the songs from the same project and for some people this might seem rather odd. Not only that it was this project that started the change in the musical direction were Radloff decided to go down the road of metal in relation to the earlier albums that were more prog-rock, rock and pop orientated.

Black Riders (Part 1) would certainly have been my choice to redo and would have been simple enough just to replace the vocals with Rossi’s voice. Not because it was a bad album and that Chris never had a good enough voice. That was far from the case. But I do feel that Rossi’s voice is more suited to the metal genre and will fit in with it more precisely like it does on Black Riders (Part 2) which is really an album I personally felt should have attracted a lot more attention because of his voice.

I am pretty sure for any artist who only does studio work and does not go out and play their songs live on a regular basis, going back 20 years to completely remake an album from scratch would present them with quite a challenge. Especially if they were like myself who never writes anything down apart from the lyrics. It would very much be a case of having to learn to play the songs all over again.

However, in Dirk Radloff’s case he very much writes down all the music before he’s even played a note. Hence the reason for the name of his project being called Heartscore. So, he may very well still have the original musical manuscript. But the way he has gone about remaking Sculptures he may very well have had to write it all over again because this is not quite a carbon copy of the original songs on the album where everything is played exactly the same and there is a slight difference and more of a difference regarding the new production.

As to how different we shall find out later when I run through the tracks in the album tracks section of my review, but first let’s take a look at the album credits.

Musicians & Credits…

Band Pic

All music composed, arranged and produced by Dirk Radloff. Lyrics written by Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings and E.A. Robinson. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff at his home studio. Artwork and sleeve design by Dirk Radloff.

Musicians.
Dirk Radloff: Composition, Arrangement, Instruments.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

One of the things I instantly picked up on when listening to this new version of the album is that the track order has been changed. At first, I thought this may have been done down to vinyl restrictions and him rearranging the tracks to fit. However, he informed me that his reason behind this was because the songs on the first side of the original album were influenced by Yes and Led Zeppelin. Whilst the songs on the second side were more orientated on 80s Metal. By flipping the sides, he felt it would achieve a good connection to his previous album Black Riders (Part 2).

One of the things that perhaps fitted in with his previous couple of metal-based albums with the Black Riders project was the lyrical content. Radloff does not write his own lyrics and uses poems written by American poets. Stephen Crane wrote more along the lines of the darker sinister side of things which portrayed the sort of evil that can be associated with most heavy metal-based music. Whereas Sculptures uses the words from 4 different poets that are quite different and may also reflect some humour along the way.

https _www_FotorLangston Hughes

Langston Hughes was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry, and was best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the few prominent black writers to champion racial consciousness as a source of inspiration for black artists. Most of the novels he wrote depicted the history of the Negro in America. This could also reflect in some of his poetry too. Although his poetry also portrayed the struggles, joy and laughter of life and was also put to music. He was featured on the 1958 album Weary Blues by Charles Mingus & Leonard Feather reciting his poetry and also contributed lyrics to Randy Weston’s 1960 album Uhuru Afrika.

GettyImages-171135660-00819da09c0b445abb6619d289351c55_FotorEmily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson like many was one of those unfortunate people to become more on an important figure after her death. She did however manage to get 10 of her poems published during her lifetime. However, it was not until her younger sister discovered the bulk of her work after she had passed on that she became one of the most important figures in American poetry.

It’s said that she spent most of the latter years of her life as a recluse and never married. She also responded to most people via the many letters she wrote. However, through her poetry it was quite evident that she took the time to observe life around her and treated everything including animals, plants, rocks, and homes as equals.

7948ef59e8185b1ba18af2f84816370c_FotorE.E. Cummings

Often regarded as one of the most important American poets of the 20th century. E.E. Cummings wrote approximately 2,900 poems and associated with modernist free-form poetry. Much of his work has idiosyncratic syntax and uses lower case spellings for poetic expression. He was also a playwright and wrote four plays Santa Claus: A Morality perhaps the most successful one he wrote back in 1946. His first book of poems was published in 1923 entitled Tulips and Chimneys which was rather a strange title. However, many of his poems are sonnets often with a modern twist and are also often rife with satire.

59ff95bd28368e1eea5936164c9a62d651d4048c_FotorE.A. Robinson

E.A. Robinson was one of the most prolific American poets of the early 20th Century and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on three occasions and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times. Although he described his childhood as stark and unhappy and his early struggles led to many of his poems having a dark pessimism side about them. He also hated his Christian name “Edwin” to which it took his parents 6 months to give him the name due to them wanting a girl. The name was also drawn out of a hat of boy’s names.

The album Sculptures mainly features the poetry of Langston Hughes and just by having a quick glance at the history of the four poets he used here, I would say that the dark pessimism side of E.A. Robinson‘s poetry would be perhaps more fitting to Metal genre of music. Though looking at some of the words that appeared on his 3rd album Many Directions that also included poetry from Robinson, Hughes and Dickinson they might all very well fit the bill to a certain degree. “There’s Been a Death in the Opposite House” shows how observant Emily Dickinson was.

So, let’s now take a look at it all has turned out as I take you through the individual tracks from the new version of album and see if the metal structure that has now been given to it really works.

Track 1. The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise.

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There is no doubt that placing this song as the opening track on this newer version of the album works more effectively in drawing you into the album than the original opening song “Men Treats Woman” that was more of a pop song. To be honest even though musically it might feel heavier than the original, it’s really the bass, drums and the recording that give it the extra weight and not so much the electric guitars. By adding the extra weight to how the guitars have been re-recorded does take away some of the finer nuances that could be heard on the opening riff on the original recording.

For example, the opening riff is played more or less spot on even down to how the guitars were originally panned from left to right. However, the incrementation is much wider on the original panning and you will also hear some of the nuances coming from the strings bleeding into the right channel that are no longer evident on the new recording. The guitars pretty much rocked in the first place and I do feel it’s not so much them that are behind the process of giving this song more of a metal edge, because they already had that in the first place.

The biggest change is in the vocal department and the original song was sung by Oliver Hartstack with Radloff’s harmonies supporting him in the chorus and on a few of the verses. Both are quite high and sweeter, they might also appear to be a bit light hearted for the songs potential power.

All the vocals on this newer version of the album are handled by Giacomo Rossi and are a bit more unified with the one voice. His supporting vocals work more like backing vocals and not so much like a harmony as in the chorus of the original. I always call Radloff’s harmonies QUEEN-ESC! because they do have that Queen presence about them and they are influenced by his love of that band.

There is no doubt that Rossi’s voice does have more of the right expression and weight to match the songs potential power, and when paired with the more weight that’s been added by the bass and drums and how it’s been recorded this is what really brings this newer version more in line with his previous album Black Riders (Part 2). Though for myself to say this version is better is hard to say, simply because the density that’s been given to the musical side of things does strip away some of the nuances and atmosphere the original recording had.

This is the only song on the album that features one of Emily Dickinson’s poems and “The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise” she wrote back in 1764. Like I mentioned earlier it was quite evident that she took the time to observe life around her and the words she wrote here are written in a paradox and a contrasting way that describes how the seasons change. She was very observant to notice how happily the birds could be singing away happily in the spring and no longer be there in the winter. It’s quite a haunting poem that takes in the sweeter side of life and sadness of death.

To be honest having looked more into the Dickinson’s words here I would say that the darker density that has now been given to this newer version of the song is perhaps more fitting for her words and a very good overall job has been done here.

Track 2. Judgement Day.

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Written by Langston Hughes in 1927 the subject matter we have here is very much in line with the poems of Stephen Crane that Radloff chose for his Black Riders project and like many of the poems he does tend to choose they do tend to have some dark sinister side to them. I guess that’s down his love of horror films and it’s easy to see why they would fit in with the Metal side of things.

I think the most notable thing about most of the poems he uses for his songs is in general they can be very short. Though I will say that he does not seem to have any problem getting more miles to the galleon out of a shorter set of words and will quite often stretch them out by doubling them up. Using them for both verse and chorus in some cases.

Judgement Day” is one of the couple of shorter tracks on the album and travels along at quite a rushed pace. To be honest no matter what version you listen to they both purely ROCK! Radloff may not have the rock voice Rossi possesses but his voice works well on the original song and it does sound as if it’s stretched out a bit more even though it’s not.

What does help is the reverb and I think that even works better for musical side of things and the darker density does tend to hide a good few of the finer details the original production had. There is no doubt this new production brings it up to date and in line to what he is doing today. But for me to actually say this is a better production what the original album had would be very hard especially, listening to both of these songs back to back.

Just listening to the opening guitar riff on the original version sounds like we have a wall of sound here reverberating back at you it’s a very cool effect and works extremely well. The overall spread of the sound has much more space to breath in and it has a much wider dispersion about it all. The newer version sounds more closer in proximity it’s still very good but if you are a Surround FREAK! like myself you will most likely be paying closer attention to every detail.

You can hear all the notable differences between the both versions for yourself when you listen to them back to back. I always find it helps to listen to the original version first.

I do quite like the attack on the short lead guitar solo on the new version better though and it does feel like it has more of blistering pace about it. The drums also have more of a punctuation about them as well.

Track 3. Little Julie.

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Another Langston Hughes poem and this is about a teenage delinquent and if memory serves me right the word “Delinquent” was even put in brackets at the end of the title on the original album. Quite a few of the titles on the original had extensions to their titles to which do not appear on this new remake. Though I am sure they are not necessarily needed.

This is another song that Radloff gave to Oliver Hartstack to sing on the original album and I much prefer his own voice to his. Rossi’s vocals give this song a much better attack and are much better suited to the song and I prefer this newer version to the original. It also ROCKS! harder with everything that has been done here.

Track 4. What If a Much of a Which of a Wind.

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The forces of nature and the evil force of mankind are taken onboard in this poem written by E.E. Cummings. Destruction is the menace whether it comes in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes or atomic nuclear power and the music has the right driving force and energy to portray the menacing destruction we have here and it drives along at quite a blistering pace.

Even though both versions musically have been played more or less spot on even down to the twin guitars and solo. The song itself I find can have a totally different feel to it with how Radloff and Rossi deliver the words. For some reason the way the original song sounds with Radloff’s voice puts me in mind of “Stand and Deliver” by Adam & The Ants. Musically it does also sound like there is a duel going on and I get this visualisation of him riding on horse at high speed speaking the words through a megaphone in a way of heeding every one of the dangers that lies ahead.

The newer version with Rossi’s voice makes it sound like more of a full blown out rock song and his voice I do find has more of the power to deliver the words to marry up with the music. Though I quite like both versions and there is some really GREAT! guitar from Radloff on this song.

Track 5. John Evereldown.

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This next song is my favourite track on the album and it’s very much one of the two more PROGMATIC! tracks on the album. The story behind the poem that E.A. Robinson wrote pertains to lust for women and the way the character he wrote about sneaks about like a thief in the night trying to keep out of sight, might even have you thinking of something along the lines of Jack The Ripper. Whatever he was up to was mischievous and no good.

To be honest I am surprised more Folkies have not picked up on his poem because it does have that sort of folklore element about its story. It’s also quite fitting to the subject matter that bands such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span would present in the way of a English traditional folk song and it’s story does tend to have more of an English trait about it.

This is another song that features some GREAT! guitar work from Radloff and I’ve always liked it for its progression. His voice on the original version is without doubt excruciatingly high and easy to see why he no longer sings on his albums today. Rossi’s voice on this new version handles it with ease and it gives the song a bit more aggression. There is no doubt he is clearly the winner out of the two though both versions do not give me a problem listening to them.

The newer version does sound like it’s slightly running along at a faster pace and it is actually 14 seconds shorter than the original version. Though to be honest it’s quite hard to notice even playing them both back to back. There is however a slight difference with how the lead solo was played but once again it’s quite hard to notice because it does run over the same lines more or less.

Track 6. Blue Bayou.

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The title and the subject matter behind it may very well suggest something like this picture I chose above. However, the words in this poem by Langston Hughes are pertaining to a lynching and the sun really has gone down on more than one occasion here. I’ve always seen this one as more of a commercial rock song despite the brutality behind its story.

Like the previous song there is a notable difference in the timing and once again the newer version is played at a slightly faster pace and is 13 seconds shorter than the original song. There is also more of a notable difference on this song and the newer backline of the bass and drums very much give it more of a groove which enables Radloff to play both the guitar riff and the lead work slightly different almost giving it more of a funky feel to it.

There is no doubt the original recording does once again have more of that wider space in the field for everything to breath in. However, this newer version is much better because Radloff’s voice on the original did tend to make it sound like it was dragging the song out too much, were as the slightly faster pace and Rossi’s voice has much sharper attack to give the song more of the right edge.

Track 7. All I Want Is You.

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The words in the title of this one is taken from the Langston Hughes poem “Madam and Her Might-Have-Been“. They were in brackets like thus: “All I Want Is You (Madam And Her Might-Have-Been)” on the original version. Hughes wrote a series of these poems to convey the delicate conflict between a wealthy white woman and the black woman that portray and the struggle and plight many black women had back then.

Musically this song has a bluesy Led Zeppelin vibe about it and the only difference between both versions is the vocals and the darker density that has been given to this new recorded version. Even though once again Radloff’s voice is excruciatingly high I would still go with the original version myself, because I like the presence of the atmospheric space the recording has to offer.

Track 8. Men Treats Woman.

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Just like the previous song the title is taken from a sentence contained in the Langston Hughes poem “Lover’s Return” he wrote back in 1931. I can see why he chose the sentence for the title and it does have a bit of satire side to it with how some men are seen to be treating women like an old pair of shoes and kick em’ around a bit.

Oliver Hartstack sings the lead vocals on the original version and his voice does suit this particular song and Rossi also does an admiral job on the vocals on this version. Musically the song follows suit regarding its structure and the way it was originally played.

The notable differences are with how guitar sounds on the verses and the on the original version they do have more of a plucky vibe sort of like what Hank Marvin gave to some of The Shadows tunes or perhaps something along the lines of what you would find on surfing songs.

This version takes that feel away from it even though the plucky vibe is still present. I do prefer how more punctuating the bass and drums are on this new version and would give this version the slight edge over the original.

Track 9. When Sue Wears Red.

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The words in this love poem by Hughes reflect beauty and how it stands out so clearly with its fiery colour. This is another song that features some excellent guitar work from Radloff and it has some GREAT! progression along its path too. It’s the second of the shorter tracks on the album and no matter what version you listen to they both very much ROCK!

Track 10. Aunt Sue’s Stories.

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This poem of Hughes dictates black slavery and the aunt’s stories in this case are real ones rather than children’s fairy stories so to speak. Both this track and “John Evereldown” are the longest tracks on the album weighing in over 6 minutes. They have always been my personal favourite tracks on the album and this newer version is some 20 seconds longer than the original. Though were the extra 20 seconds come from it’s hard to tell even listening to the both versions back to back. My guess is somewhere along the long instrumental section.

The song itself has been structured around a dominant bass line and its heavy guitar riff and they are the main driving force behind it, though it also has an organ to fall back on also for support. The keyboard is one of the easily noticeable changes because on the newer version the organ has been replaced by an electric piano. The other major change is right at the beginning where the opening guitar riff is no longer supported by the bass.

This is another song that featured Oliver Hartstack on the lead vocals and his voice is quite expressive enough on this one to deliver the words very well. The same can be said for Giacomo Rossi on this new version.

However, if I was to say there was anything any better with this newer version, I would say it was how more punctuating the bass and drums sound and that is perhaps not enough to make me choose this over the original. Though it’s always going to be hard to beat any original unless it was completely bad in the first place.

Summary…

To sum up the new 2020 version of Sculptures by Heartscore. Like I mentioned in the introduction of my review this was always going to be a difficult album for me to review. What we have here is an album that has been given two productions and I could not honestly put my hand on my heart and say this new production is better than the original. However, there is no doubt that this newer production brings things in line with what Dirk Radloff is doing today and he has very much achieved what he was aiming to do in the first place.

The chances are that its most likely that unlike myself nobody as even heard the original and if you were to hear his last album Black Riders (Part 2) you would easily identify it with what Heartscore is about today and it would not sound out of place either.

The fact of the matter is that both versions of the album have been very well produced and I can take good and bad points from them both. I certainly think that most people would prefer Giacomo Rossi’s vocals too and in the past Radloff has been heavily criticized for using his own voice on his albums. Which is why he originally stopped making music for a while and decided to get in others to take on the vocal duties.

Personally, I never had a problem with his own voice and his harmonies in particular I have always seen as very cleverly constructed. However, listening to both of these albums back to back it is quite evident that Rossi’s voice is way more controlled and is not overstretching the boundaries. Whereas Radloff’s voice can at times sound excruciatingly high which might have been off putting for some of those earlier critics.

There are many singers in this world who are not the best and one does at times have to get more accustomed to accept and be able to appreciate them. For example, many people could not listen to Steve Howe of Yes sing. Personally, I do not have that much of a problem with his voice even though it’s not the best at times at all. But I would rather listen to him than Bob Dylan any day of the week 😁😁😁. But we are all different of course and all have different acquired tastes.

The one thing I certainly do not see anybody being able to do is criticize Giacomo Rossi’s voice. He is by far the best singer I have ever heard on any Heartscore album and to be honest I am surprised that Radloff’s music is not enticing more people to take more notice of it.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Judgement Day“. “John Evereldown” and “Aunt Sue’s Stories“. I would also include both “Little Julie” and “Blue Bayou” because I do feel those are the two tracks that have been improved upon over the original versions.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Sculptures 2020 by Heartscore. There is no doubt that a lot of hard work has been put in to remake the album from scratch. However, as to why Radloff decided to do this in the first place is perhaps a bit beyond my comprehension. To a degree I can see that some of the tracks on the original album had an 80’s metal structure to them, but that is far from the grinding metal that you will hear on Black Riders (Parts 1 & 2).

The material on the original album Sculptures is more rock based than anything else it has a few PROGMATIC! moments but nowhere near as much as his second two albums that followed it Straight To The Brain and Many Directions. Granted this newer version does bring it in line with what he is doing today though I would not entirely say it had the same grinding metal that we heard on his last two albums to which metal is more of the direction he heading in today.

The album Sculptures is not what I would call a solid album but nevertheless it is one of my favourite albums (though not his best) because it does have the right amount of power to rock on many of the songs upon it. There are also certain PROGMATIC! aspects that make the album float my boat more so than the biggest majority of metal albums that are out there that are not to my personal taste.

Some people may very well prefer what Judas Priest were doing in the way of metal from the 80’s onwards but that does not appeal to my taste in relation to what the band was doing in the 70’s with the album Sad Wings Of Destiny. For me what they went on to do later in the 80’s lacked a lot of the variety that album had and they became too sterile like Status Quo churning out the same thing all the time.

The album Sculptures does not lack variety and I can say that about the music Heartscore has always presented to me throughout the years I stumbled across Dirk Radloff and his project. Remaking the album I personally do not feel makes it any better than what it originally was and like I mentioned earlier if there was an album that needed to be redone. It would have to be Black Riders (Part 1). Simply because it makes no sense having two different vocalists on the same project.

However, there are some improvements on a couple of songs like I mentioned and getting back to my original question in the introduction as to if I have waisted my money in purchasing Sculptures 2020? The answer has to be No! Simply because its cheap enough to purchase for the Digital Download of the album and I can still get some pleasure out of hearing it done this way. It’s also given me much to talk about in my review here too.

You can listen to the album for free or purchase the album here @ Bandcamp: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/ It’s also available to purchase from other outlets such as Amazon, Apple Music etc.

Newly Re-Sculptured To Fit In Today…

The track listing of the album is as follows:

01. The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise. 5:23.
02. Judgement Day. 2:51.
03. Little Julie. 3:10.
04. What If a Much of a Which of a Wind. 4:55.
05. John Evereldown. 6:34.
06. Blue Bayou. 4:15.
07. All I Want Is You. 5:02.
08. Men Treats Woman. 4:06.
09. When Sue Wears Red. 2:40.
10. Aunt Sue’s Stories. 6:28.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6.5/10.