Lee Speaks About Music… #141

At The Edge Of Light – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Released precisely a year ago now At The Edge Of Light is Steve Hackett’s 25th and latest studio album to date. It’s an album that continues very much in the same light as his previous two albums Wolflight & The Night Siren but perhaps more like the latter of the two with its diversity and the way that it was recorded mostly at his own home in Teddington. Once again, he has brought in some other additional musicians as well as retaining the ones that have been with him for quite a while and a few who appeared on his previous album. 

In many respects you could say that these days Steve Hackett is going down the same road of Peter Gabriel regarding World Music. I would also say that this particular album is also verging more into the popular music side of things with its diversity and its wider range of musical styles. At The Edge Of Light may have PROGMATIC! and ROCK! elements about it, but he’s also introducing pop, blues and even gospel into the mix here along with the CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS! 

There is no doubt that through playing and visiting many other countries that Steve Hackett has broadened his musical palette so to speak and is presenting you something a bit different each time to keep things fresh. In many ways he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. But is this new direction really working? Well it certainly appears to be and before I go any deeper into how it is let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like his previous two album releases both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Digipak Mediabook which is the same material used to make a hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right of the inner panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 28-page fixed booklet with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some high-resolution pictures that are associated with the albums tracks. I very much like the presentation the Mediabook presents and these things are the kings of Digipaks when it comes to genuine top quality. 

The album was released in 4 media formats the cheapest of them being the Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP. A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & DVD. The Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for £14.69 saving a few quid over its retail price. A Limited-Edition Double LP pressed that came with the CD was also released giving you the choice of black, white, blue, red and clear vinyl. 

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Artwork.

The artwork for the albums front cover and the photos for the Mediabook were done once again both Maurizio & Angéla Vicedomini. Much of the photos were used to represent each track on the album and were taken from many different countries. The layout and design were done by Thomas Ewerhard. The album cover represents the dark and light that pertains to the subject matter of the material written for the album and looks quite striking but nevertheless it does not quite grab me like some of Hackett’s earlier solo albums such as the artwork that was done for Voyage Of Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch and Highly Strung for example. 

At The Edge Of Light Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light was released on the 25th January 2019. The album contains 10 tracks that span over and overall playing time of 53 minutes, 21 seconds and Hackett himself described the album as a companion to his previous album The Night Siren. It also shared the same success as his previous album also by reaching number 28 in the UK charts and once again did better in Germany and peaked at number 13 in the official German album charts. 

2019 was a good year for Steve Hackett and a couple of months after the release of his new album in March of the same year he was awarded the best guitarist award by the Classic Rock Society. I am sure he was humbly honoured by the award and good on him to get it too, simply because there is no doubt, he is a very good guitarist and one of the many GREATS! out there. 

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Speaking off his guitar playing I have always admired his work on the nylon and acoustic guitar more so than his playing on the electric, but he can without doubt play some GREAT! solos on the electric. Much of his better solo work on the electric does come for the past more than the present. For example, the solo he played on the Genesis song “Firth Of Fifth” I am sure many people will never forget but in reality he never played a great deal of guitar solos with Genesis. Sure, he played some fine lead lines on the electric for the band but that particular song is the only guitar solo that stands out. 

A lot more of his electric stand out solos can be found on his earlier solo albums and the guitar solo he played on “Spectral Mornings” would certainly be another GREAT! stand out guitar solo. But more recently on his last couple of albums Wolflight and The Night Siren I have been paying attention to his solo work and it does appear to be standing out a bit once again. But on this latest album At The Edge Of Light is where I personally feel his guitar solo work has come out a lot more and is starting to shine once again and he really has put some GREAT! guitar work into this album. 

Steve Hackett had no old material left and everything was written new from scratch for this album. The same methods were used to record and mix the album and was mostly done at his own house in Teddington with the other musicians recording their parts at their own homes or studios and sending them to Hackett for Roger King to mix. Most of the core musicians who have appeared on his previous albums are here along with a few others such as bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Simon Phillips to name a couple. There is also a real sitar player on the album and McBroom sisters who are more known for their harmonic backing vocals with Pink Floyd also make an appearance. 

The DVD.

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I am not entirely sure why Hackett decided to use a DVD rather than a Blu Ray for the Mediabook like he had done with the two previous releases but I do not think you are really losing out on anything regarding the audio and even the picture of the albums cover looks a lot sharper and brighter than the album cover itself. I like how they used the whole of the picture too unlike the way they did the menu for The Night Siren. The stars in the sky also twinkle besides seeing the lighting flash every now and then.

Speaking of the menus they have been done differently in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren and instead of using drop down menus for the options which are “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” it does have to load to another screen to show you the further options as you can see in the picture below.

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By clicking on any of the “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” options from the main menu it loads to another screen that gives you 3 further options of “Play Album”. “Track Select” and “Audio Select”. It’s certainly most unusual for the “Play Album” option not to be included on the main menu and you do have to navigate a bit more than the way they done things for Wolflight and The Night Siren and I felt the way they had gone about the layout and navigation for those two albums were a bit better.

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By clicking on the “Track Select” option another menu drops down displaying the albums tracks for you to choose from and the options to go “Back” to the previous menu or to the “Main menu” are also included as you can see from the picture above. Pretty much the same for the “Audio Select” as you can see in the picture below.

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks and by clicking on “Stereo” (not seen on this display picture) it will playback in stereo. The other 2 surround mixes can be seen in the display picture above and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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Unlike both Wolflight and The Night Siren whilst listening to the album it displays the albums front cover for every track and the only thing that changes is the title of each track as it goes along. I have no idea why they never chose to follow suit by displaying a different picture for every track especially as the pictures in the Mediabook were designated to represent each track on the album. 

The bonus material seems to be getting shorter too and the only bonus feature is the behind the scenes documentary entitled “Somewhere at The Edge of Light” well that’s at least how it is refereed to twice in the Mediabook but on the disc itself they call it a making of documentary. But basically, you get a 20-and-a-half-minute video shot and directed by Paul Gosling showing you how they went about recording the album and speaking about what it’s all about. The audio is in 48k 16 bit which is well adequate for this purpose and it provides some useful informative information. 

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again, the 5.1 mix is all good and Roger King has done another very good job of it without going to overboard. There maybe a few places where he may of gone over the top for the effect on “The Eye of the Sun” for example, but overall he has done well with the placement and threw in some well good panned out parts across all the channels which do add to more of an exciting mix. Another example of that would be Hackett’s lead guitar solo on “Beasts of our Time“. I quite like how he’s panned the intro played on the dobro guitar on “Underground Railroad” in the rear left channel, and on that track, he has made well good use of separating the instrumentation throughout.  

The 5.1 mix works wonders for much of the orchestration too in particular on “Beasts of our Time” and “Those Golden Wings“. The 5.1 mix does bring out much more than the stereo mix and once again like the 5.1 mix he did for The Night Siren album it’s a very satisfying and enjoyable mix and well worth of a rating of 8 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

2018 © Tina Korhonen/ www.tina-k.com

All tracks Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King (except track 8 Produced by Steve Hackett & Benedict Fenner). All tracks Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Siren (Except track 8 Recorded & Mixed by Benedict Fenner at The Paddock. Additional Engineering by Tamas Barabas (Track1). Johann Asmundsson (Track 3). Mark Hornsby (Track 5) and Benedict Fenner (Track 7).

All compositions written by Steve Hackett (except Tracks 2, 4 & 5 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 3, 6 & 10 by Steve & Jo Hackett. Tracks 1 & 9 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Mastered by Roger King at Siren. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini for Iconphoto. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Vocals – Electric, Acoustic, 12 String & Dobro Guitars – Bass Guitar – Harmonica.
Roger King: Keyboards – Programming & Orchestral Arrangements (except on track 8).
Rob Townsend: Tenor Sax – Flute – Dudek – Bass Clarinet (Tracks 2 & 3).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7 & 10).

Additional Musicians.

John Hackett: Flute (Tracks 2, 3, 5 & 9).
Jonas Reingold: Bass (Tracks 2, 3 & 7).
Dick Driver: Double Bass (Tracks 3 & 5).                                                                         Benedict Fenner: Keyboards & Programming (Tracks 7 & 8).
Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Track 5).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Track 1).
Gulli Briem: Drums & Percussion (Track 3).
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums (Track 5).
Simon Phillips: Drums (Track 7).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 1).
Paul Stillwell: Didgeridoo (Track 3).
Sheema Mukherjee: Sitar (Track 6).
Durga McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).
Lorelei McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

One of the things that still remains in putting the album together is the synthetic aspect side of things. For example, even though there are 4 GREAT! drummers on the album they only get to play on one track each. So, most of the tracks the drums have very much been programmed. The orchestral arrangements are also still present for the dramatic side of things however, the fact that there is less of them I do feel this album works better for it especially in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren. 

Regarding the orchestral arrangements I really felt sorry for Christine Townsend simply because her violin & viola was being mixed and blended in with the other orchestral arrangements that Roger King had done with his keyboards. If you read my last review of The Night Siren I did note that the orchestral arrangements were not like listening to Jethro Tull where you can hear the orchestral elements played with real instruments, rather than having everything far too blown up to the grandeur scale of things for you to hear her parts stand out and say that she is even on the album. 

Watching her playing her parts in the short documentaries that have come with the last 3 albums you can clearly hear the whole resonance that the violin and viola produce and it sounds way better than the end product where they have been mixed with synthetics. I can understand to a degree that they are trying to replicate a full blown out orchestra rather than a string quartet for example, but it does without doubt ruin the fine qualities the real instrument can produce and it no longer speaks the same language. 

As a musician you want to be heard and I am sure if people bumped into Christine and said “you’re that person who played on Steve Hackett’s albums” she would most likely reply “Oh yes I am on there somewhere” :)))))). Strangely enough she does only appear on the one track on this album. 

The other thing I feel works better on this album is that Steve Hackett is mainly sticking to his main instrument the guitar and he does utilise all of them to a great extent including the Dobro on one of the tracks. 

Although At The Edge Of Light is not a concept album it very much starts off and ends off like one with how the material was written for some of the tracks to tailspin and link up with one another so let’s now take a look at the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Fallen Walls and Pedestals. 

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The album opens up in GREAT! style with an instrumental piece that is done in a way of an introduction to the dramatic piece that it is to follow it. This opening piece is the shortest track on the album and features Malik Mansurov on Tar who also played the instrument on the previous two albums only here the instrument is only used at the very beginning for all of about 7 seconds. It’s also one of the 4 tracks on the album that real drums have been used and features Hackett’s long time drummer Gary O’Tool who retired from playing with Hackett’s band back in October 2018 due to wanting to spend more time with his family and concentrate more on the school of music he set up in Denmark Street, London to teach others to play various instruments.

The title suggests something along the lines of the battle of Jericho and O’Tool’s drum ignite the spark for the piece to explode into action. Hackett plays some blustering solo on his electric guitar which reflects the power of the battle and the falling walls and Roger King provides the backdrop for him to run his lead lines over with the orchestral strings that have an eastern flavour and add to the dramatics. It really does get the album off to a flying start and it very nicely tailspins into the next track.

Track 2. Beasts in Our Time.

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The first of the vocal tracks on the album is quite an epic piece of drama that sort of pertains to the beasts of today stepping into new shoes of those from the past and reflects on the horror that still exists sort of thing. The song is put across in stages and is sort of like a horror story or nightmare and in a way like “The Wheels Turning” from his Wolflight album. It’s like going from a pleasant dream into a nightmare sort of thing as in the official video that made to promote the album.

Steve Hackett handles all the vocals and harmonies himself and also utilises his acoustic guitar very well into the opening verses of the song which is how the basis of the song was constructed. The song contains some fine progression and transitional changes and features a blistering sax solo from Rob Townsend besides some GREAT! solo work on the electric guitar by Hackett.

There is also some really GREAT! interplay between Rob Townsend on the bass clarinet and John Hackett on flute in sections too. Roger King handles all the orchestral duties and also and also provides some haunting vibes on the keys and it also features Jonas Reingold on bass. The “Beasts in Our Time” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Under the Eye of the Sun.

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For this next song they drop most of the dramatics and orchestration and Roger King gets to play some synth work for a change. There is a string section in it and it features both Jonas Reingold and Dick Driver on bass though the latter of the two is playing the double bass with a bow which adds to the string section more in the way of a cello. It also features Gulli Briem on drums and percussion that drives it along very well and at some pace. Both Hackett and Amanda Lehmann are on vocal duties and the combination of their harmonies give it a bit of Yes presence, it reminds me a bit like “Into The Lens” from their 1980 album Drama blended in with a bit of GTR sort of thing.

It has quite a mystic come down section in the middle and features Paul Stillwell on didgeridoo to which Rob Townsend plays the dudek. He also contributes bass clarinet and sax too whilst John Hackett’s echoing flute brings us back into the light and the song bursts back into the action with Hackett flying along on his electric guitar and it gets rounded off nicely enough with another string section. Overall, it’s quite a good song and good to get a break from all the overblown orchestration all the time.

Track 4. Underground Railroad.

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Another of the songs on the album that gives us a bit more variation and lyrically it runs along the same lines as “Black Thunder” from his Wolflight album in that the lyrics are pertaining to the freedom of slavery and back in the days of pre-Civil War in America many of the slaves who were digging the tunnels for the underground railroad did get to escape. Musically the song runs along the lines of blues, gospel and rock and Hackett does a well tasty job on the Dobro guitar as well as the electric and acoustic. He also plays the old Gob Iron (harmonica and bass on it too and both Durga and Lorelei McBroom (more notorious for working with Pink Floyd) add the gospel touch to the song with their GREAT! vocals and harmonies. 

The “Underground Railroad” is a really GREAT! track the way it’s been put together and how everything works its way into it. I also personally think it’s better than “Black Thunder” with how well everything slots into place like a glove. It’s another contender for albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and I do feel it’s one of the albums stronger tracks and it works particularly well in providing the album with some variety. 

Track 5. Those Golden Wings.

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The CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS! are back in BIG STYLE! and this is the longest track on the album weighing in at some 11 minutes 19 seconds. It’s an epic love song that means a lot to Hackett as its about his wife and it reflects what he himself describes as her personal journey to get to where they are in their relationship. The song itself goes through some twists and turns and captivates the romantic side of things and the dangerous voyage and quest it took to get there. 

The way the song opens up with the orchestral side of things is like being at the movies watching something like “Gone with the Wind” or “My Fair Lady” sort of thing, but thankfully it’s only a short introduction and the 12 string comes into play to bring in the opening verse. Personally the 12 string and nylon work that Hackett plays on this song are my favourite parts about it. 

The melody line he plays on the electric that first comes into play around the 3:18 mark and gets repeated in other parts of the song. For some strange reason has me singing the words “In a most delightful way” to it, which are the very last sentence of the chorus for “A Spoonful of Sugar” that Julie Andrews wrote for the film Mary Poppins. I am sure it’s nothing like that song but for the life of me I cannot get it out of my head every time I hear it :)))))). 

The orchestra and choral sections project the grandeur scheme of things in BIGGING IT UP! sort of thing and once again Christine Townsend’s violin and viola and Dick Driver’s double bass lend support to the orchestration Roger King has provided for the piece. It works pretty well and Hackett rocks it up on his electric guitar which does lend a hand in breaking it up in sections, but there is quite a bit of repetitiveness that goes into stretching this one out. It also features Nick D’Virgilio on drums and John Hackett once again on flute. 

I think for many they would see “Those Golden Wings” as the highlighted track of the album and their personal favourite. For me personally there are certain aspects I can like and dislike about it and there are times I can enjoy listening to it and others where I think it’s too overblown sort of thing. I do see it has a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! regardless because quite a lot has been put into it. 

Track 6. Shadow and Flame.

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This next song gives us another touch of an eastern flavour like we have seen on the past couple of Hackett’s albums only this time it features Sheema Mukherjee playing a real sitar. It was inspired by India and depicts the strong contrast of light and dark on the River Ganges, where life and death interplay within and at the water’s edge according to Hackett. Apart from the vocal side of things Hackett’s only other part in the song comes into play towards the end with his electric guitar and Roger King takes pretty much care of the rest.

The opening intro puts me in mind of Peter Gabriel’sExposure” but it soon goes off down another road and builds into a raga. Sheema Mukherjee does do a very good job on the sitar and there is a lot of heavy percussion thrown into the pot here. This sort of eastern music is not in particular to my taste but luckily enough it has not been dragged out and is only a 4-minute track.

Track 7. Hungry Years.

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The pop song of the album and this is quite a light and airy song and it sort of takes me back to 1981 with his 5th album Cured. The melody line in the verse section also is a bit along the same lines as the self-titled track from Camel’s 1978 album Breathless. It’s also a song where Amanda Lehmann gets to utilise her voice a lot more and it does work very well alongside with Hackett’s in particular with the harmonies too. It also features Simon Phillips on drums and Jonas Reingold on bass to which is bass line does stand out well during Hackett’s lead break on the guitar at the end. Overall “Hungary Years” is a very fine song and Benedict Fenner also gets to contribute some keyboards with Roger King on the track. 

Track 8. Decent.

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Descent” is the first part of a sort of 3-piece suite that work in conjunction with one another to round off the album. The first couple of parts are instrumental pieces and this particular piece is something that Hackett did with Benedict Fenner and was originally intended as a bonus track for the album. Steve Hackett got his inspiration for the piece from Ravel’sBolero“. However, it also sounds like a combination between Holst’sMars the Bringer of War” from the Planets and “Apocalypse 9/8” from “Suppers Ready” by Genesis. 

Track 9. Conflict.

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Spiralling out of the darkness of fear, the 2nd part of the suite represents a battle and sounds like something that you would associate with a spy or James Bond movie. It features Steve Hackett and Roger King and according to the credit notes John Hackett contributes flute to this piece also. Though you would be lucky to pick him out amongst the orchestration that King has provided. The piece winds itself down nicely to allow King to start the final part of the suite on the piano.

Track 10. Peace.

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A song of hope ends off the final part of the suite and the album very well and Amanda Lehmann returns to support Hackett on vocal duties and apart from his guitar on the track the rest is very much handled by Roger King. The chorus section of the song reminds me of Neil Young’sSouthern Man” and Hackett even has a bit of Brian May touch with the sound to it on the solo. “Peace” puts the album to bed very well and all 3 parts of the suite very well slot into one another and work very well to round off the album.

Summary…

In summary Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light I do feel it offers slightly more variety with the material that was written for it. The acoustic side things is also more present here in relation to his previous album The Night Siren. Though perhaps not quite as present with his 23rd album Wolflight. You could say that his last 3 albums have been moulded together in the same way, especially regarding the synthetic aspects with orchestral side of things. Though what wins this album over for me personally is that it does have less of the fuller blown out orchestration and the wider variety it offers like I mentioned. 

The bonus material is very much on the slim side of things and I can only presume that the official video that was made for “Beasts in Our Time” would have been made after the DVD was finalized and rendered. But it was good to see that it was included on the Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra live release. But the bonus content does appear to be getting shorter and shorter and they could have perhaps included the couple of bonus tracks that the Japanese release got. But I cannot really have any complaint as it does come with a very good 5.1 mix and that is the real bonus for me personally. 

Conclusion…

To round up my review of At The Edge Of Light by Steve Hackett and regarding if he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. I personally think regarding the PROGMATIC! side of things nothing has really changed and even by going along with more of a CINEMATIC! approach like he has over his last 3 albums could be seen as a newer approach to how he’s going about making his music these days. 

But in all honesty Hackett has always had a certain amount of dramatization within his music since the day he started his solo career. His approach to writing has never really changed either and the one thing that has never changed is his own formidable style and approach to his music and that is what I have always admired about him. He’s very much stuck to his gun’s and give his fans from day one what they want and he’s still very much doing that with this GREAT! album despite some of the synthetic aspects that have been thrown into the pot along the way.  

The Mediabook is well worth its price point and for surround FREAKS! like myself it’s well worth getting for the 5.1 mix. The bonus material is on the slim side but the documentary does give you some informative incite and is useful. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Beasts in Our Time“. “Underground Railroad“. and “Those Golden Wings“. 

Journeys Of The Dancing Fool Underneath The Merciless Moon…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Fallen Walls and Pedestals. 2:17.
02. Beasts in Our Time. 6:30.
03. Under the Eye of the Sun. 7:06.
04. Underground Railroad. 6:22.
05. Those Golden Wings. 11:19.
06. Shadow and Flame. 4:24.
07. Hungry Years. 4:34.
08. Descent. 4:20.
09. Conflict. 2:36.
10. Peace. 5:03.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 3/10.

The Album Rating Score. 8./10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #140

The Night Siren – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Steve Hackett continues down the same road of his previous album Wolflight by bringing in yet more musicians and instrumentation from World Music to spark up his creative juices and get them flowing for his 24th studio album The Night Siren. From the many countries he visits he seems to bringing back instruments from them to add to his arsenal and try and get a bit more creative with them. 20 people including himself is what it took to put this album together. Much of the regular and additional musicians who played with him on his previous album Wolflight are here along with a few others, and some of the written material that was used for the album came from what he had left over on that 23rd studio album of his as well. 

The Night Siren is the first album he actually felt like a vocalist and he cited the style of American singer Tim Rose as an influence. Hackett had been working on his voice since around 1981 and even I have noticed he’s improving over the years although that could be perhaps down to double tracking and adding more multi-part harmonies. The Night Siren is said to be a rock album, it’s also said to have some influences from the Beatles‘ psychedelia phase and classic science fiction and the latter of that might reflect on the artwork that was chosen for the albums front cover. But before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Mediabook which is the same material used to make a hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 28-page fixed booklet with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some informative information and some high-resolution pictures that are associated with the albums tracks and overall, it’s a very well-made high-quality package. 

The album was released in 4 media formats that come in the form of a Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP. A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & Blu Ray. Being a Surround FREAK! the Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for £13.95 saving around £3 off its retail price. A Limited-Edition Double LP pressed onto green & black coloured vinyl that also came with the CD.

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Artwork.

Once again both Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini took a lot of photos that Hackett liked and used in particular for the Mediabook. Much of the photos were used to represent each track on the album and many of them were taken in Iceland, such as the one that shows a couple of rocks with the Northern Lights illuminating in the background that was used for the albums front cover.

Hackett said that the two rocks give a sense of several things. The choice between two ways, the point of no return and the dangers through which we pass in life. The image as a whole is both awe inspiring and thought provoking. The design and layout were done by Thomas Ewerhard. Overall, I feel the rocks and backdrop are a bit like something from a science fiction movie which may look cool but it’s also on the dark and dreary side of things and does not do a lot for myself.

The Night Siren Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 24th studio album The Night Siren was released on the 24th March 2017. The album comes with 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 40 seconds. Because of the popularity he was gaining from his Genesis Revisited tours the album broke into the top 30 of the UK album charts and peaked at number 28. It also done slightly better in Germany and well in most European countries. 

Since moving home Hackett does most of his recording in his own home in Teddington London and other parts are recorded by the other musicians in various other places across the world and sent to him for Roger King to mix. It’s not much different to how many musicians (including myself) would go about recording an album these days and saves a lot of cost in hiring a studio. But of course, having a good recording engineer onboard is something most people do not have. 

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The album was also mastered by Roger King at the same place but to make sure everything is all well and good Hackett then pops over to a friend he met through Chris Squire known as Charlie Dodd of Crooked Hand Productions for a final mastering process as seen in the video below.

Most of the tracks for the album were recorded between the spring and the summer of 2016 and they also made a start on the album as early as February in that same year. The Blu Ray that comes accompanied with the CD contains the 5.1 mix of the album and a short film of which this short video clip was taken from. So, let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu displays the albums artwork twice and may have been better without including the smaller picture of it and to have gone with just the one. It also has some words floating around in the sky that are appear between the lines of a sort of compass chart and I have seen this before on one of my Gentle Giant Blu Ray’s. Ray Schulman of that band does the Authorizing for most DVD’s and Blu Ray’s some of his ideas are bound to get reused, but it makes a very cool effect.

The menu itself presents you with 4 options “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select” and the 4th option is the bonus documentary. It’s easy to navigate and because the albums artwork does have more of a dark and dreary landscape, it does not look as sharp or pristine as the artwork for his previous album Wolflight with how it presents itself to you.

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I like how both the “Track Select” and “Audio Select” have pop-up drop-down menus when you click on them rather than having to wait for the disc to load to another screen as you can see in the picture above and below. 

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks 2 of which are surround mixes and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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It displays one of the associated pictures for each track and the title of the track on the screen whilst listening to album. Once again, the decision to use a smaller image within the albums main artwork is not as effective as it was on the Wolflight Blu Ray and it would have been better just to show the complete picture. 

There is only one bonus feature on the disc and that is a 23 minute, 27 second documentary titled “In Deepest Darkest Teddington – The Recording of the Night Siren” filmed and directed by Paul Gosling. It’s quite good and shows you Steve Hackett working with Roger King in one of the rooms in his new house showing you the process of how they recorded the album. 

You also get to see a few of the other musicians who popped over to be recorded in the same room and others recording the parts at their own houses and studios. Plus, Steve Hackett popping over to Charlie Dodd of Crooked Hand Productions for a final mastering process. The audio is in 48k 16 bit. 

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix was done once again by Roger King and thankfully I am glad to see that this time there were no faults with it like the surround mix he did for the previous album Wolflight to which was pointless and a waste of space putting on a Blu Ray disc. I am quite impressed by this 5.1 mix too and it’s not what I would call an all-round exciting mix, however it does have some quite exciting moments in parts but overall, I would say that it’s a very satisfying mix that bring out very good detail with the dynamics.

It works extremely well for the separation of the orchestral parts and I like how he chose to put most of the orchestral sections to separate them from the band by placing them in the rear channels. This works very well on most tracks and for opening track “Behind the Smoke” it gives it a more of a broader scope and field and works very well. I think the placement of the backing vocals, harmonies and some spoken parts benefit for being placed in the rears too and so does some of the ambient sounds. The guitars are panned across all channels to good effect on some tracks and “El Niño” is a good example of that and I like how the stamping feet on “In the Skeleton Gallery” also work out well to that effect. 

I would not say all the tracks have been done so well but the biggest majority of them have been and I do think Roger King has done a really good job here. I am well pleased with the result of the surround mix and it’s well worthy of a score of 8 out of 10. It’s even more of a shame now that the 5.1 mix for Wolflight was faulty and was never rectified for us to hear because King does have what it takes to do a 5.1 mix which is something a lot of engineers don’t have at all.

Musicians & Credits…

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

Tracks 1 – 10 Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. Track 11 Produced by Steve Hackett & Benedict Fenner. All compositions by Steve & Jo Hackett (except tracks 2 & 4 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Track 1 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Track 3 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Amanda Lehmann. Track 8 by Steve Hackett / Jo HackettRoger King / Troy Donockley. Track 11 by Leslie-Miriam Bennet / Benedict Fenner. Track 6 by Steve Hackett).

Tracks 1 – 10 Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Siren. Track 11 Recorded & Mixed by Benedict Fenner at The Paddock. Mastered by Roger King. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Vocals – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Oud – Charango – Sitar Guitar – Harmonica.
Roger King: Keyboards & Programming (except on track 11).
Rob Townsend: Baritone & Soprano Sax – Flute – Flageolet – Quena – Dudek – Bass Clarinet (Tracks 1, 4, 7 & 9).
Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 & 10).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10).
Dick Driver: Double Bass (Tracks 3, 4, 5 & 7).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Tracks 3, 4, & 10).

Additional Musicians.

John Hackett: Flute (Tracks 2 & 10).
Gulli Briem: Drums – Cajon – Percussion (Tracks 7 & 9).
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums (Track 2).
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes (Track 8).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 1).
Sara Kovács: Didgeridoo (Track 3).
Ferenc Kovács: Trumpet (Track 3).
Benedict Fenner: Keyboards & Programming (Track11).
Leslie-Miriam Bennett: Keyboards (Track 11).
Nad Sylvan: Vocals (Track 7).
Jo Hackett: Vocals (Track 10).
Mira Awad: Vocals (Track 10).
Kobi Farhi: Vocals (Track 10).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The idea that Hackett sees behind the The Night Siren is that it’s a wakeup call to all the things that are presently happening in the world and how we tend to be moving into another dark age with some of the not so good decisions world leaders are making. By him gathering up musicians from all over the world is a cry out for peace in the sense that we can all get on with each other musically and this is how it should be rather than being at war with one another. It’s his response to the far-right ideas currently dominating the political landscape. 

I think beside the political landscape Hackett has also been drawing ideas from the landscapes of many of the countries he has visited. I would also say he’s been drawing from visualisations and in a way that he has also been incorporating more along the lines of a Cinematic approach into his music and this is something he has been doing on his previous couple of albums Beyond the Shrouded Horizon and Wolflight. 

Like both of those albums The Night Siren tends to have the feel of an album that has been made out of material that was written for an album that contains a collection of songs, and an album that is more along the lines of a soundtrack album that was written for a movie. The orchestration in particular is built along the lines of the sort of modelling that goes into making soundtrack material and besides the real instrumentation there is also synthetic aspects that goes into the making of the music. So, let snow take a deeper look into the album and as we go through the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Behind The Smoke.

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The albums kicks off with quite a powerful very well built up song that has a touch of the east, some dramatization that fits in with the subject matter of the lyrics are based around, it also contains a well good lead solo from Hackett. It’s a song that gradually builds its way along and is done in that way to portray and dramatize the seriousness of the subject matter the lyrics are pertaining to which are around conflicts of civil war in the Middle East, and the turmoil that the civilians are caught up in being stuck in the middle of it all trying to find a safe haven from their homes that are being destroyed. 

Considering there is an array of musicians who appear on this album most of the music for this opening track is done by Roger King. He’s very much done all the orchestral arrangements and played them on his keyboards, he’s also programmed the drums. The only other musician on the track is Malik Mansurov who contributes to the eastern sound on the tar, to which he has done quite a GRAND! job of too. Rob Townsend is also somewhere on here but he may only be playing a bit of percussion on the dudek or using his sax to add a bit of humph. 

Steve Hackett handles most of the vocals and Amanda Lehmann contributes to some of the chants on this particular track. In some ways because of how the vocal line is delivered in a dark manner and more or less at a spoken pace it kind of reminds me of Johnny Cash only instead of singing country he’s singing about another country and one that is in the far east. I like how Hackett does express the vocal line on the second verse that comes into play at around the 2:08 mark though I have to confess I am not a fan of Lehmann’s cat wailing :))))). 

Overall “Behind the Smoke” gets across the message with its lyrical content and the whole eastern vibe is well fitting in with the lyrical side of things. Though I have to confess I myself am not a fan of eastern music and the orchestral section is perhaps too blown up but nevertheless adds very well to all the drama and might even fit in with an adaptation of the Arabian Knights for a Walt Disney production, although I am sure they done a similar animated adaptation with of Aladdin. It also contains some well tasty solo work from Hackett.

Track 2. Martian Sea. 

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A touch of India is associated with this track and perhaps a bit of George Harrison’s vibe he gave to the Beatles with his association with Ravi Shankar and that country with the use of the sitar that is heavily utilised on this song. Steve Hackett does play Sitar Guitar on the track though I would also say that there are samples of the real instrument that have also been thrown in here. Though once again Hackett’s guitar work on this track is really good. The orchestral section that comes in at the 2:34 mark that Roger King has done also contributes to the BEATLE ESC! vibe and feel too. 

Spock’s Beard’s drummer Nick D’Virgilio plays drums on this one and Steve’s brother John Hackett contributes flute to it also, whilst Amanda Lehmann’s vocals are utilised every now and then to blend in with Hackett’s vocals has, we have seen in the past. The lyrics pertain to the alienation in a relationship that has gone wrong and become more of a one-sided affair sort of thing. Overall, it’s a very good song that throws in some psychedelic colour along the way and quite a lot has been put into it. It’s also perhaps more rocked up than what the Beatles did to some extent. 

Track 3. Fifty Miles From The North Pole.

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This next song was inspired by his trip to Iceland in 2015 when he performed with the band Todmobile and one of the places he visited was literally 50 miles from the north pole and it was freezing over there. It’s the longest track on the album and goes through some good transitional changes along its path. Once again Hackett’s solo work on the electric guitar is excellent and he even incorporates a bit of a James Bond theme into the track on the guitar too. 

More of the other musicians are involved on this track too which does help it and the string section works well with Christine Townsend’s violin & viola and Dick Driver’s double bass is used more like a cello in parts too where he’s using a bow on it. I do feel that Roger King might also be enhancing the orchestral parts with his keyboards too but it works quite well. 

It also features Sara Kovács on didgeridoo which the drone from the instrument is utilised in parts and her father Ferenc Kovács on trumpet which pierces its way into the song very well with its high pitch. Gary O’Tool is outstanding as ever on the drum kit and Amanda Lehmann’s voice gets utilised more prominently in a short gothic choral satanic like section that’s like something out of a horror film :))))). 

Overall “Fifty Miles from The North Pole” is both PROGMATIC! and CINEMATIC! and the combination of blending the two together works better than the opening track on the album I feel. There is quite a bit of diversity throughout this album that works and some do not I feel, however this is one of the better tracks on the album and a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 4. El Niño.

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Another arrangement or perhaps more of a orchestral arrangement of “Please Don’t Touch” which Hackett originally wrote the instrumental piece for his second album of the same title back in 1978. Since then the piece has most likely been arranged 20 times and has appeared on many of his albums under different titles such a “Hackett To Bits” for example. This version works very well and the orchestration takes it to other places. 

I have to admit when I first seen the title I was confused because it sounds like something associated with Spain or Mexico but it is in fact associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. It features all 6 musicians in the musician’s line up section and they all do a GRAND! job here and it’s another really GREAT! track and contender for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it may be embarking on material from the past. 

Track 5. Other Side of the Wall.

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Apart from the previous instrumental album track this is the first of the songs that has more of a Hackett feel and presence about it, and its most likely down to that it’s the first song on the album he gets on the acoustic. The “Other Side of the Wall” is a song where you do not need the Cinematics and Dramatics to be adventurous and this a truly BEAUTIFUL! well written song and it ventures along the lines of stories like “The Secret Garden” and was inspired by the garden or grounds at the back of a house in Wimbledon, London he returned to with his wife. 

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It’s a two-part song with how the song changes from the opening couple of verses and along with his acoustic guitars Hackett handles all the vocals & harmonies on this track and does a GREAT! job. Both Roger King and Christine Townsend combine the strings together and Dick Driver adds a touch of bass on the track too. In a way the song also reminds me a bit like a combination of two eras of Genesis music and the first section with the nylon guitar sort of harks back to the album Wind and Wuthering whilst the second section with the 12-string guitar takes me back to the album Nursery Cryme. It’s very much another one of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 6. Anything But Love.

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This song features less musicians and starts off very well with the acoustic intro which features Hackett playing some Spanish Flamenco style on his acoustic to which he’s backed up with the use of his guitar for the percussion by slapping it. Once the bass and drums kick in (which are programmed) it takes the direction of a song and he brings in the electric guitar which does rock it up more towards the end and he also plays a solo on the harmonica too. Amanda Lehmann is back to contribute some backing vocals. 

Personally, I like the intro more than the actual song and I do think the programmed drums are on the weak side of things here, especially in relation to how well Roger King has programmed the bass line. If anything, the bass line on this track is more dominant than any other track on the album. It does not do Dick Driver any favours either but I suppose he might not have been available at the time and Hackett wanted to get the album finished on time. 

Track 7. Inca Terra.

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This song was inspired by the trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru that Hackett and his wife went on and is quite a piece of work that crosses styles and continents. It’s a song that does have some Hackett ESC! familiarities about it especially with the vocal harmonies on the first verses. But it also has some more like Yes harmonies in it as well and he is going on quite a roundabout here :)))). Besides the vocal harmonies the music also has some familiarities and the way it opens up reminds me of the arrangement that was done for “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” by Simon & Garfunkel. The charango that Hackett also plays on this album was the very Peruvian instrument that gave that song it’s unique sound to which you can very much hear on this song.

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Steve Hackett has acquired quite a few new instruments on his travels and most likely also plays the Oud at the end of the song as well has his acoustic and electric guitars. Another of the Peruvian instruments that also features on the song “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” is the Quena to which Rob Townsend accompanies Hackett very nicely with.

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Besides the usual suspects Roger King, Christine Townsend and Amanda Lehmann doing their parts very well here Dick Driver returns for the final time on the album and his bass is quite dominant and oddly enough sounds more like an electric bass rather than a double bass. The Icelandic drummer and percussionist Gulli Briem make an appearance and this is the first of two tracks he plays on, and besides the drums the cajon he also plays is very much associated with the percussion side of Peruvian instrumentation. Nad Sylvan also contributes some backing vocals on this one track too. 

Inca Terra” is quite a PROGMATIC! track that crosses ravines, borders and many styles along its journey, it combines folk with rock with the use of the instrumentation and you may start out the journey in Peru and wind up in somewhere more eastern like India or Pakistan with how the piece transports itself along with its progression and transitional changes. It’s another fine piece of work and contender for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Track 8. In Another Life.

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A song that starts out and ends off like a folk song and gets rocked up with its middle section with the electric guitar which is perhaps the only part of the song that has any real HACKETT ESC! resemblance. It’s a story about some unsung hero in the highlands of Scotland and most likely harks back to the Battle of Culloden in 1775 with the notorious Redcoats who were ordered to root out and destroy Jacobite. I am not entirely sure if that is what it is embarking on and and I am no historian but it sounds a bit like Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Rainbow sort of thing and is quite different for Hackett I will say.

This mostly features Hackett & King and Lehmann joins in on the vocals as ever, but it does also feature Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes to which is an instrument I do like to hear. The only trouble is they are only used right at the end and it does not feature them enough to make more of a statement which is a bit of a shame. They do however project and stand out more so in the 5.1 mix though.

Track 9. In The Skeleton Gallery.

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Next up is my personal favourite track on the album and “In the Skeleton Gallery” is song that has two halves and a bit in the middle with how it changes and contains some really GREAT! progression and is quite a tasty one for prog rockers. Hackett’s voice really suits this song and I can understand why he did say it was the first time he felt like a singer. Amanda Lehmann’s supporting vocals are also very well blended in here too.

The song has quite a mystic Egyptian feel on the intro with the strings provided by Roger King and Christine Townsend and the first 1 minute and 45 seconds are dedicated to the singing section and this is the second of two tracks on the album that features Gulli Briem on drums. Lyrically the song is pertaining to the night terrors from childhood like in a nightmare or really bad dream and draws on that. There are some nice reverse guitar effects in the first section too.

The song comes down and Rob Townsend provides some haunting notes on his sax backed up once again by the strings and keyboard and some stomping marching feet and spoken words on this middle section and then at the 3:03 mark it launches into the battle with heavy guitars, and Rob Townsend plays quite a blistering solo on the sax and Hackett joins in for a bit on the guitar afterwards.

The song was used to launch and promote the album and was put on Inside Out Records YouTube channel. It’s unfortunate that no visual video was made like the picture above suggests that pertains to the song’s lyrics and the nightmare. “In the Skeleton Gallery” is an excellent track and is my personal choice to merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and sounds excellent in 5.1 too. 

Track 10. West to East.

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This is a song that cries out for peace and could be seen as an anthem for peace in the way that it rallies over the chorus of the song. Besides Hackett & Lehmann on vocals there is also his wife Jo plus Mira Awad & Kobi Farhi. Both John Hackett on flute & Gary O’Tool on drums return and holding up the keyboards and strings are Roger King & Christine Townsend. It’s a fine ballad like song that’s sung with heart and contains some fine acoustic and electric guitar from Hackett.

Track 11. The Gift.

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The final track on the album is an instrumental piece that’s very well-orchestrated on the keyboards by Steve Hackett’s sound engineer Benedict Fenner and it also features Leslie-Miriam Bennett on keyboards too who both provide the backdrop for Hackett to play a BEAUTIFUL! sustained ambient solo on an electric guitar. The guitar he is using was previously owned by the guitarist Gary Moore who no doubt is missed. It’s the shortest track on the album and the only track that Hackett had no involvement in the writing and was written by both Fenner & Bennett and is a very tasty soothing way to put the album to bed.

Summary…

To sum up The Night Siren by Steve Hackett I would say that its quite a strong album but also one that contains some synthetic aspects that work in a way and not so much in other ways sort of thing. Like I mentioned earlier in my review with how Hackett tends to be going into a more of a CINEMATIC! approach to paint pictures with his music. It’s the same approach that is applied to soundtracks for motion movies and many of those who work in that field use many virtual orchestral sounds and samples to make the music to which is called “Modelling”. Once they have the “Model” of the music they then present it to a real orchestra to play it. Only here it’s not at all and that is where it does tend to fall short. 

For example, most of the music is very much done and mixed by Roger King. As a keyboard player and musician King is in every inch as good as Hackett himself, he’s also got more of a head on his shoulders in many respects too. We also have one very capable string player in Christine Townsend and she is another excellent musician who plays both violin and viola very well. The problem is that they are making her part sound larger than life in the mix and her violin & viola is being mixed in with strings that King is also playing so it’s very hard to distinguish the real instruments from the synthetic aspects. 

Another example, is if you listen to Jethro Tull you will hear real violins, violas and cellos. On this album you will also find it hard to distinguish the double bass that Dick Driver is playing on a few of the tracks, and his double bass sounds more like an electric bass on most of the tracks he is playing on. The whole orchestral presentation is way too blown up to make the bigger picture.

For me personally keyboards are about piano’s, hammond organs, mellotrons and synthesizers and not replicating a full blown out orchestra and the fact that you also have some of the real instruments like the violin & viola and even the double bass that can be used like a cello. They are being mixed in with the virtual orchestration from the keyboards and the sound of the real instruments is being swept under the rug with the mix to some extent.

Thankfully the 5.1 mix does let you get to hear some of the real instrumentation which is more than I could say for the stereo mix. Actually, the orchestral parts work exceptionally well on the 5.1 mix and Roger King has done a very good job of it. 

I am not saying this new road Hackett has been going down more recently by incorporating film music into his music is by any means bad, and there is a ton of instruments thrown into the pot for King to mix which he has done a GREAT! job of mixing. His past 3 studio albums have been quite good but if I was to go back the 3 studio albums To Watch the Storms, Wild Orchids and Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth he made before them. I personally feel those albums are better because they contain less synthetic aspects sort of thing.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Steve Hackett’s 24th studio album The Night Siren. It’s an album that offers quite a wide variety of styles. It’s not a solid album by any means but there is nothing remotely bad here either and it is quite a good album. It does not contain a lot of Hackett’s acoustic side like his previous album Wolflght does and I would say that his previous album is more of a winner on the acoustic side of things. There is a couple of good acoustic tracks and you will have to wait some 22 minutes to get to the first one which would be my personal favourite of them. But nevertheless, the album does have some well good written material and enough to make it marginally a bit better than his previous album Wolflight I feel. 

The Mediabook is well worth its price point and for surround FREAKS! like myself it’s well worth getting for the 5.1 mix. The bonus material is on the slim side but the documentary does give you some informative incite and is useful. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “In the Skeleton Gallery“. “Other Side of the Wall“. “Fifty Miles from the North Pole“. “Inca Terra” and “El Niño“. 

The Puppeteer’s Not Your Friend…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Behind the Smoke. 6:57.
02. Martian Sea. 4:40.
03. Fifty Miles from the North Pole. 7:08.
04. El Niño. 3:51.
05. Other Side of the Wall. 4:00.
06. Anything But Love. 5:56.
07. Inca Terra. 5:53.
08. In Another Life. 6:07.
09. In the Skeleton Gallery. 5:09.
10. West to East. 5:14.
11. The Gift. 2:45.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 5/10.

The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #139

Wolflight – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

I have always been into Steve Hackett’s music since I got into Genesis back in the 70’s and many would say that his first 4 albums are amongst his best work to which I would say the first 3 certainly had more of a solid body of material that was written for them and I do also like his 4th album Defector. But over the years of buying his albums I have got something from every one of them and it was back in 2011 after buying his 21st studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon I sort of lost track of him. I did buy the second Genesis Revisited album he put out in 2012 and even though that is classed as his 22nd studio album I see that has more of a compilation of Genesis material and not so much the music from his own solo career.

I blame Soundcloud for losing track of many artists material because I spent much more of my time making music of my own and collaborating with many others on it during 2011 – 2016/17. I did however still buy his live concerts he released on DVD & Blu Ray and I always like to watch a live concert and having more recently been back into my record collection and updating it over the past couple of years and the fact that I did see that he was releasing  Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall last October to which I have just reviewed, made me check out the last 3 studio albums he had released between 2015 – 2019.

I also purchased all 3 of his last studio albums back in October that I never had and was very well surprised to see that Hackett was now entering into the 5.1 surround market and for a surround FREAK! like myself this was much more of an enticing reason for me to buy them. The other thing that is also very good about them is the way they have been presented with high quality packaging and no expense has been spared here at all. However, there is something very disappointing about Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight, but before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Mediabook which is the same material used to make an hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 20-page fixed booklet and is a very neat and attractive quality package. The book comes with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics, it also comes with 10 high resolution photographs that are associated with the 10 tracks that was written for the album. The only down side is that the book does mostly consist of photographs and hardly includes any informative information.

The album was released in 4 media formats that come in the form of a Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP + CD Limited package (now out of print). A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & Blu Ray. Being a Surround FREAK! the Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for a bargain price of £11.30 and at that price it’s a steal for a quality package like this. It does normally retail at around the £17 mark.

Artwork.

The design and layout were done by Harry Pearce and the photographic artwork was done by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini. The interesting thing about the albums front cover is that it shows Steve Hackett crouched down with a pack of wolves and most people would probably think the photograph had been done in Photoshop.

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But the photograph is genuine and Hackett (apart from the light of day which was altered) did have his photograph taken with real wolves and spent a good bit of time with the wolves for them to get used to his scent for the photo shoot to be taken. Like much of the photography and artwork in the mediabook it’s quite stunning and looks even more impressive on the Blu Ray disc itself.

Wolflight Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight was released on the 30th March 2015 in the UK and on the 7th April in the US. The album contains 12 tracks (counting a couple of bonus tracks) spanned over an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 56 seconds and his is first original solo studio album since Beyond The Shrouded Horizon in 2011. It’s a album that Hackett got quite excited about and called it his best album, though I am sure many artists would say the same thing about their latest albums they had produced at the time.

The one thing I will say about Hackett’s music is that since he got together with his other half Jo his music does tend to have more of a film soundtrack feel about it and I think a lot of the inspiration for his music comes from the exotic places he goes to visit with her all over the world. He’s also introducing more of World Music into his style by using different instrumentation, though that is not that unusual for him and in the past on his 3rd album Spectral Mornings for example he did add some oriental flavour with the use of the koto. On this particular album he also played some instruments he had never used and played before such as the Oud and the Tiple and brought in other musicians with other instrumentation.

The one thing Hackett as always retained is his own style though I would say there is also a different approach to some of his song writing these days and this is an album that does contain some very well written songs upon it, and some maybe heading in more of a popular direction and approach in how he has gone about things.

Much of the material for the album was written and recorded between 2012 – 2014 and the album was put together in sections on paper like a plan or like storyboarding a film. It was also made whilst Hackett was selling his house and studio and 11 of the tracks were recorded and mixed by his long-time keyboard player Roger King at Map Studios in London. King also mastered the album there too.

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To be perfectly honest I am not 100% sure this is the right studio but it is the only recording studio that goes under the name of “Map Studio” though it is also known as Map Studio Cafe because there is also a cafe in the premises too and is situated in Kentish Town, London. It also has live recording rooms as well and the studio was founded in 1990 and over the years has played host to artists such as Skip Mcdonald, Roots Manuva, Miss Dynamite, Dawn Penn and others and I cannot say I have heard of any of them :))))).

If this is not the recording studio, they used the only other logical thing I can think of is that Steve Hackett’s own home studio was also called Map Studios. The final bonus track on the album was recorded and mixed by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson in Hungary and some of the instrumentation from a couple of the musicians were also recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas down to Hackett’s connections with the band Djabe he has collaborated with.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu looks pristine and stunning and a lot better than the artwork on the vinyl album and CD and some HD film footage of the clouds in the background add a GREAT” touch to it. It’s a lot better than the pictures I took of it too and looks more lifelike especially on my 50″ UHD 4K TV. The menu itself presents you with 4 options “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select” and “Interviews.

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Navigating through the menu options is simple enough and by clicking on the “Track Select” a menu drops down displaying all the tracks without having to load to another menu screen as you can see in the picture above.

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks 2 of which are surround mixes and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. Only the main 10 tracks that make up the original album have the option of all 3 audio soundtracks and the 2 bonus tracks are in Stereo only. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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The “Interview” section contains the extra bonus material and all 3 interviews are of Steve Hackett talking about the making of the album. The first of which is a 7-minute interview of him discussing the recording of the album. The 2nd is of him discussing the artwork and comes with a running time of 7 minutes, 18 seconds. The final interview is the longest and he discusses each track on the album and it has a running time of 31 minutes, 24 seconds.

All the interviews were filmed by Paul Green of Film 24 Productions and are very useful for informative information especially has the 20-page booklet did not provide hardly any at all and was mostly pictures.

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Whilst the music is playing it displays a different hi resolution picture for each track. These are the same images that are also in the Mediabook and once again they look pristine and much better on the Blu Ray. The Blu Ray authoring was done by Ray Schulman and he’s done a TOP JOB! on the menus.

The 5.1 Mix.

So far everything about this whole package is of pristine high quality and it’s such a shame that something has to let it down especially for somebody like myself who is a surround FREAK! The 5.1 mix is the biggest reason for me buying most music these days and it does entice me to buy these types of packages a lot more than any other format. Since I have been into surround from 1994 onwards, I have come across many really bad 5.1 mixes. But I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever encountered one as bad as this for what it actually does to the album.

To be perfectly honest whenever I buy a package like this that comes with a Blu Ray or DVD and is accompanied by a CD in the same package. It’s very rare I will ever play the CD. I do rip them onto my hard drive so I can listen to them on my computer when I am working away on it, and on rare occasions I may play the CD to test it out for a review I am doing of the album, especially if the CD is the only thing that contains the new mixes. But I will always play the 5.1 mix first most of the time.

Now both the stereo and surround mixes were done by Roger King and I think this was his very first attempt to do a 5.1 surround mix and as a rule Benedict Fenner does the surround mixes on most of Hackett’s live Blu Ray & DVD releases and apart from the surround mixes Steve Wilson done of Hackett’s first 4 studio albums I do not recall any other of Hackett’s studio albums being given a 5.1 mix until the release of Wolflight and the 2 studio albums that followed it.

Having put the Blu Ray in my player and playing the 5.1 mix I experienced one of the most abysmal experiences I think I have ever encountered. There was hardly anything coming out the rear channels and whatever was coming out of the front channels made the album sound like the most boring thing I have ever encountered before. At one stage I was going to send it back for a refund because the album did not do one single thing for me or say one single Dickie Bird to me and it was completely BORING!

The following day I decided to play it again and I got exactly the same thing and it sounded like there was a ton of things missing from the mix. I even put on other 5.1 content to check my system out to make sure there was nothing wrong my end. It was then that I decided to play the stereo mix and as soon as I did, I started to enjoy the album straight away. Like I said I have come across some really bad surround mixes before but I can honestly say I have never come across one like this where it sounds like half of the tracks are missing and it made it sound boring and diabolical.

I have no idea what Roger King was trying to achieve here but he’s completely COCKED-UP! the surround mix and its unplayable. You would have to be completely stoned out of your head or stick a needle in your arm to enjoy the surround mix because it makes the album sound nothing like it supposed too. There is no way I could even give him 1 out of 10 for the job he has done here and it is by far the most diabolical mix I have ever heard in my life LOL…

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. All compositions by Steve Hackett (except tracks 2, 7 & 8 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett. Tracks 4 & 5 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Track 9 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Track 12 by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson / Steve Hackett). All tracks Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Map Studios between 2012 – 2014 except (Track 12 Recorded & Mixed by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson. Malok Mansurov & Sarah Kovács recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas. Mastered by Roger King at Map Studios. Blu Ray Mastering by Peter Van’t Riet at Fine Tune. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King. Design by Harry Pearce. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Guitars – Lead / Harmony & Backing Vocals (Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 & 10). Oud (Tracks 5 & 9). Tiple (Track 7). Banjo (Track 8). Harmonica (Tracks 4 & 8). Percussion (Tracks 1, 4 & 7).
Roger King: Keyboards & Programming.
Nick Beggs: Bass (All tracks except 3). Chapman Stick (Track 8).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 3 4, 5 & 8).
Rob Townsend: Saxophone (Tracks 4 & 8). Dudek (Track 5).

Additional Musicians.

Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Tracks 1 2, 3, 4 & 8).
Chris Squire: Bass (Track 3).
Hugo Degenhardt: Drums (Tracks 9 & 10).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 2, 3, 4 & 8).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 2).
Sara Kovács: Didgeridoo (Track 2).
Jo Hackett: Vocals (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Wolflight is an album where everything merges and collides and breaks down barriers between cultures, human and animal worlds according to Steve Hackett. Much of the concept was inspired by the 20 countries he had visited. The album’s title reflects the hour before dawn which is when the wolves hunt and according to himself much of the album was written in the wolf light.

I think since the release of Beyond the Shrouded Horizon back in 2011 Hackett has gone down more of a Cinematic road and approach with his music and that is where some musical aspects have changed slightly. But there is an element of rock that also cuts through all the dramatization with his electric guitar that hardens up some of the smoother edges. Some of the material along the album also puts me in mind of his 2009 album Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and even Chris Squire who featured on a couple of tracks on that album gets to play on one here. Sadly, it was only a couple of months after the release of this album that he died.

The album flows along like a concept album with how most of the track’s tailspin into one another and much of his regular long-time band are with him. It’s now become a writing team of 3 since he married Jo and she does a good job in contributing to many of the lyrics just like David Gilmour’s other half Polly Samson does for him. Roger King has contributed to the writing for many years and plays a major role in putting Hackett’s albums together more so these days. So now let’s take a look at all the individual tracks on the album as well as the couple of bonus tracks.

Track 1. Out of the Body.

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The album opens up with an instrumental track that Steve Hackett wrote and it’s also the shortest track on the album. Right at the start of the intro the wolves are howling hauntingly and the drums and other instrumentation kick in and takes you along in a hurried pace to represent following them along like in dream in the way of a chase. Both Christine Townsend (no relation to Rob) and Roger King take care of the orchestration side of things very well whilst Gary O’Tool and Nick Beggs provide the driving force and pace. Steve Hackett provides the power with his driving rhythm and lead work on his electric guitars, he is also contributing towards the percussion too and it gets the album off to a GREAT! flying start.

Track 2. Wolflight.

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The albums self-titled track is one of the 4 lengthier tracks on the album and opens up with Sara Kovács on the didgeridoo and Malik Mansurov playing a tar to which the both musicians were recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas the main composer and bass player from the band Djabe. Hackett had seen Mansurov play the instrument whilst he was playing in Budapest and was impressed by the fast speed, he could play it and likened him to a cross between John McLaughlin and Ravi Shankar.

The tar is an instrument that originally originated in Persia in the middle of the 18th century and is associated and shared by many cultures and countries including Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and others near the Caucasus region.

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Tar

The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb-skin covering the top. The fingerboard has twenty-five to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and there are three double courses of strings. Its range is about two and one-half octaves, and it is played with a small brass plectrum. Though they can also come with less and even more strings and a different shape depending on the different countries that play them. For example, the Azerbaijani tar has 11 strings and is a slightly different shape from the Persian Tar and was developed from the Persian tar around 1870 by Sadigjan.

The intro takes up all of 33 seconds of the 8 minutes you get here here and then goes into an acoustic section with Hackett on his nylon stringed guitar accompanied by Christine Townsend on violin & viola, Roger King throws in some other orchestration and glistening bells on his keyboards which beautifully take you along for another 20 seconds. Hackett then switches to a 12-string guitar and the vocals come into play and although Amanda Lehmann’s voice is mixed in here in parts her voice is only really lending a bit of support and Hackett does take on all the lead vocals throughout the album apart from one of the bonus tracks.

Wolflight” is a song that utilises the 12 string, nylon and electric guitar in individual sections of it and Hackett excels on them all and it is also heavily backed up by the drums. percussion and orchestra and are built on GREAT! progression and strong themes throughout. The vocal section in particular reminds me of some of the material we seen on albums like Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and Wild Orchids which are also quite strong well written Hackett albums and this track is up with the material on those albums and is an excellent piece of work.

The song is credited to both Steve & Jo Hackett and I know his wife contributes to the lyrics though it would not surprise me if Steve himself had an hand in some of these lyrics also because he is excellent with lyrics himself and these are excellent and pertain to the wolves fight for freedom in how their land and their light can be taken up by mankind. It really is GREAT! song and is my personal favourite track and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Love Song to a Vampire.

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It’s not unusual for Steve Hackett to do songs about vampires and songs like “Vampyre with a Healthy Appetite” from his 1993 album Guitar Noir and some dark tracks like “Darktown” and “The Devil Is an Englishman” on other albums can have that haunting sense of horror about them too. However, this is perhaps a different appraoch in that it’s a love song to a vampire and was inspired from the film series of The Twilight Saga which was an American romantic fantasy film based on Stephenie Meyer’s 2005 novel of the same name. So, this do have a sweeter way at looking at things especially over the most part of the song and the darker dramatics play more towards the end of the song and Hackett wrote both the music and the lyrics for this one.

It’s the longest track on the album and weighs in at 9 minutes, 17 seconds and starts off very well with the nylon string guitar accompanied by the orchestration provided once again by Christine Townsend and Roger King whilst Hackett and Amanda Lehmann handle the vocal side of things. Hackett also plays a couple of GREAT! lead guitar solos on his electric and the first one is a bit reminiscent to Snowy White’s lead solo work. The second solo is more fat and aggressive and comes into play in the more rocked up section that comes into play after the orchestral dramatized section around the 7:47 mark. It’s also only in that final guitar solo section and during the first guitar solo that Chris Squire’s bass can be really heard more so, and he features on this one track on the album.

Overall a “Love Song to a Vampire” is a fine piece of work that contains some strong themes and is very well dramatized with the orchestral work and it contains some GREAT! lead solo work from Hackett and is a qite a good album track.

Track 4. The Wheels Turning.

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It’s all the fun of the fare next and I like these type of songs where you get the good old pipe organ music that is associated with most fairground rides and the fun fare and tracks such as “Carry on up The Vicarage” from his Please Don’t Touch album and the “Circus of Becoming” from To Watch Storms are classics of his. Steve Hackett oddly enough used to work at the fun fare in Battersea in London many moons ago before he became a professional musician, and used to be in charge of the one arm bandit machines in the arcade walking around with his bag of change for those who needed change for the machines. He’s always seen the funfair as a potential danger and would not go on some of the rides such as the high-flying rockets & roller coasters and preferred to keep his feet on the ground.

Mr & Mrs Hackett & Roger king penned this song and the lyrics reflect around the disaster that happened in the early 1970’s when the fairground suffered a major fire killing 5 children and injuring others. I suppose the wheels that are turning here starts the film and rewinds it back to the nightmares he has of the incident and the place.

The Wheels Turning” has every inch of Hackett’s GREAT! style about it and although it does not remind me of the first of those other two classics songs of his I mentioned it does a bit of the second one and the opening verse in particular has me thinking of “Camino Royale” from his 1983 album Highly Strung and there are other bits of his older material it reminds me of too. His wife gets to add a bit of vocal on this track and this is one of the 3 tracks that his long-time sax and woodwind player Rob Townsend play sax on. Hackett also plays the old Gob Iron (harmonica) at the end of the song too and its very much one of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it’s already been grabbed. It really is a GREAT! track.

Track 5. Corycian Fire.

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This next track was inspired Hackett’s trip to Greece and the Corycian cave is supposedly the most important spiritual cave in mainland Greece for the ancients. Some called it ‘the golden cave’ because of the way it looked lit by hundreds of torches and there is a ton of other mythical history that has been buried in the place but I won’t go into all that malarkey. The song has a touch of the east and sounds more Egyptian or Arabic but also has a Gothic touch about it too and uses heavy percussion and chanting choir like vocals. Rob Townsend is also on this track and plays the dudek, it’s the first time he’s ever played it and Hackett gets to use the Oud he just brought on the track too.

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Oud

The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses. It’s commonly used predominantly in the music of the ancient Arabia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Israel and many other places including Turkey and Greece. It looks like they went a bit too far with the neck bending though :))))).

Roger King does all the orchestration on his keyboards on this track and just like the previous one has a part in the writing credits with Steve & Jo. The intro starts with the Hackett on the oud and King accompanies him by playing the harp on the keyboards, he’s also programmed in some eastern stringed sounds which are quite familiar to some of the bowed stringed instruments some of the musicians Peter Gabriel uses for his soundtrack albums and this one does have the mystic eastern vibe that you will hear on Gabriel’s soundtrack album Passion for example.

After the intro the songs opening verse is more Hackett reminiscent and has it progresses along the eastern mystic vibe very much creeps back more so and takes over and the less Hackett like the song gets apart from a bit of a solo he does on the electric guitar to which he also plays a solo on the oud and it’s like they are having a battle with each other and fighting for priority. King also joins in the little battle on the keyboards and then the song goes more gothic to end it all off and is perhaps something more like a scene from the Omen rather than the music that Peter Gabriel did for The Last Temptation of Christ.

Track 6. Earthshine.

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A beautiful guitar solo instrumental piece is up next and these days rather than make an albums worth of them he does tend to throw the odd solo into his prog albums and they really light up the album in most cases and this piece certainly does shine and is quite a GEM!. Hackett’s nylon string and acoustic work is really where he gets to show his ability as a guitarist and it brings out the best of him and this is another track on the album, I would put in contention for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Loving Sea.

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Another acoustic song written by Hackett and it was his trip to Mexico that inspired him to write the song. It’s one of those more light hearted relaxed songs like we got to see with some of the material Hackett wrote for his 5th studio album Cured back in 1981. He had also spent a bit of time having some vocal training and he uses 5 part harmonies to sing this one though in all honesty the vocals sound like many of his vocal tracks with the effect he has applied to the vocals and were much the same even back in 1981 on that Cured album. He also plays a Tiple on this track which is another member of the guitar family as you can see below in the picture.

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The first mention of the tiple comes from musicologist Pablo Minguet e Irol in 1752. Although many variations of the instrument exist, the tiple is mostly associated with Colombia, and is considered the national instrument of that country. It’s about 18% smaller than a standard classical guitar. The typical fretboard scale is about 530 mm (just under 21 inches) and the neck joins the body at the 12th fret. It looks very much like a smaller version of a 12-string guitar to me. He also uses his electric guitar for some of effects that give the impression of the sea’s waves washing over you.

Track 8. Black Thunder.

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Black Thunder” is another one of the longer tracks and the lyrics are based around the subject matter of black slavery in West Virginia. It’s very much a rock blues song and Hackett also plays banjo and harmonica besides his electric guitar. Both Christine and Rob Townsend return to lend support with the sax and strings which helps to bring in some of the dramatics that come into play later on as the song develops along, and Nick Beggs gets on the Chapman Stick for this one. It’s another of the better powerful tracks on the album and Gary O’Tool injects quite a lot of the power on the drums along with Hackett’s well driven guitar and GREAT! solo work. I like the jazzy ending too that Rob Townsend gives to the piece on the sax too.

Track 9. Dust and Dreams.

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Another of the tracks written by Hackett & King and the title very much depicts the desert and this instrumental piece was inspired by the desert in Morocco which is the place where Hackett happened to spot a couple of musicians playing the oud and made him go out and buy one himself.

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Both this and next track it leads into features Hugo Degenhardt on the drums and Nick Beggs is playing more of a dominant role on the bass which provides the backbone for Hackett to work his guitar around and for Roger King to fill in the orchestration of the desert flavour on his keyboards. I qutie like this one and Hackett’s solo work is quite tasty in that it does sort of sing to you.

Track 10. Heart Song.

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The final of the songs that was written for the album is a love song that Hackett wrote for his wife. It effectively works as a Segway in transporting you from the desert onto the beach and besides singing some loving words he also throws some lovely guitar solos and it winds off the album very well.

Track 11. Pneuma.

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The first of the bonus tracks is another delightful instrumental piece played by Hackett on the nylon guitar. Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for “breath” although this is perhaps more associated with Spain with how he’s playing here and it really is another little GEM! and excellent bonus track to have. It’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it was not really written for the album.

Track 12. Midnight Sun.

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The final bonus track was written by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson & Steve Hackett and was done with the Icelandic band Todmobile. Thorvaldsson is the real name of the bands guitarist who goes under the sudo name Þorvaldur B. Þorvaldsson. This is the only track on the album that Hackett does not sing on and the bands main singer Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson takes on the vocals. He bumped into the band when he went to see them live playing songs by the Yes with the original singer of that band Jon Anderson in the previous year in 2014 and that’s how he got to do this song with them.

It’s quite a good song and parts of the vocal melody line remind me of the Blind Faith song “Can’t Find My Way Back Home“. Although it perhaps could even sound like a bit of a cross between GTR & Asia in some respects too in that it has a bit more of a popular feel about it.

Summary…

To sum up Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight, I think overall it’s a very good album but not by any means a solid one but then again solid albums are more of the rarer breed perhaps, but if you enjoyed albums like Wild Orchids, Out Of The Tunnels Mouth and Beyond The Shrouded Horizon I cannot see why you would not like this album even if I do not think it’s quite on par with those 3 albums I mentioned.

I do get the feeling that Hackett is heading in more of a dramatic direction with his music and also introducing more orchestral and other world music instrumentation to try and give you something a bit different. But his formidable style is still very much reminiscent and manages to breath freely and cut through it all.

To be honest I myself I am not so keen on a lot of world music and I’m not that keen on some of its instrumentation either, especially with how certain instruments sound such as tar’s and sitars for example. But they are OK! in small doses and I do think they can help to be a bit more creative in some respects too.

Thankfully they are only used in small doses and the one thing that helps this album a lot is that you do get a good dollop of Hackett’s acoustic playing throughout the album and that is where he does really excel and shine. The combination of both acoustic and electric guitars works extremely well on this album too. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Wolflight“. “Earthshine“. “The Wheels Turning“. “Out of the Body“. “Dust and Dreams” and I would also include the bonus track “Pneuma“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion Wolflight is quite a good body of work with the material that was written for it. There are bags of acoustic work throughout the album that does help it a lot and its self-titled track is a personal BIG! fave of mine and one of Steve Hackett top songs and up there with his strongest body of work. Both the instrumental tracks “Earthshine” and “Pneuma” are pure GEMS! and I personally cannot say there is a bad track on the whole album either.

The biggest let down for me was the 5.1 mix on the Blu Ray and from the many reviews I have read there is supposed to be a fault with the 5.1 mix and a couple I noticed said that they were aware of the fault and would at some point fix it. Obviously, nothing has been done to rectify the fault as many also pointed out and it’s a real shame especially has that was one of my main reasons that enticed me to buy the album.

I have no idea what Roger King done to the surround mix but just like I said in the 5.1 section of my review, this is the most extraordinary mix I have ever encountered and it makes the album sound completely diabolical and so BORING! It could be a case that he had some of the tracks muted when he done the mix-down because it does sound like tracks are missing and he must have put quite a few in the rear channels. The fact that you can hardly hear bugger all coming out of the rear channels makes me think that he did put a good few of the tracks in the rears. It’s that bad I cannot even give it anything more than 0 out of 10 and it does nothing for the album at all listening to it like this and is a complete waste of space on the Blu Ray disc.

Thankfully all is not lost and the stereo mix is very good even the 24-bit master stereo mix on the Blu Ray is very good too. The interviews on the Blu Ray are also quite informative and I would also say the bonus tracks are a worthy addition so it is worth getting the Mediabook over the CD especially if you can get it at the price, I paid for it or no more than around £12. These Mediabooks are of far more superior quality than the DigiPaks and DigiSleeves which is why a package like this gets the top marks and at that price point it’s still a bargain despite the disappointment of the 5.1 mix. There is still GREAT! value to be had here and it’s quite a good album.

Out Of The Body And Into The Dream…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Out of the Body. 2:29.
02. Wolflight. 8:00.
03. Love Song to a Vampire. 9:17.
04. The Wheels Turning. 7:23.
05. Corycian Fire. 5:46.
06. Earthshine. 3:20.
07. Loving Sea. 3:22.
08. Black Thunder. 7:32.
09. Dust and Dreams. 5:33.
10. Heart Song. 2:50.
11. Pneuma #. 2:53
12. Midnight Sun #. 4:31.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 0/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.

The Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #138

Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live At The Royal Festival Hall – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Another concert release which is nothing unusual these days to see from Steve Hackett though he does still continue to make his own solo studio albums. Speaking of which I did purchase his last 3 studio albums along with this new release this year and still have them to review though as I am behind with my reviews it will have to be in the new year when I get around to doing them.

This is actually the third in a series of Genesis Revisited Live concerts Hackett has released since he originally released a couple of studio albums in the same series that started back in 1996 with Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited. Though in reality you could also count his last couple of live releases The Total Experience Live in Liverpool and Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham simply because both of those concerts also feature material from his solo career as well as material from his formative band Genesis.

For many people having all of this live material could be like having too much of the same thing, but every concert is different and the difference we have with Live at the Royal Festival Hall is that the band is accompanied by an orchestra. But does the orchestra really make a major difference one might ask? In reality it should do and, in this review, I hope to unveil just how much of a difference it makes and to see if this concert is worthy of purchasing. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The 3 discs come in a cardboard well put together 4-panel DigiPak that has plastic trays to firmly hold the discs in place and it also has a handy pocket to store the booklet. The 12-page booklet consists mostly of pictures from the concert and contains no informative information but does contain all the production linear notes and credits. The cover design was done by Thomas Ewerhard with the use of photographs by Howard Rankin, Lee Millward and Mick Bannister.

The concert was released in 2 formats only which offered you the choice of either a 2 X CD & DVD or 2 X CD & Blu Ray package. Out of the 2 packages it is only the Blu Ray release that comes with extra bonus material and I myself purchased the 2 X CD & Blu Ray package from Amazon for £15.88 which was a very reasonable and respective price.

Live At The Festival Hall In Review…

Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall was released on the 25th October 2019 and captures Steve Hackett plus band and orchestra performing live at The Royal Festival Hall, London on the 4th October 2018. Speaking of his band it was not long after this concert and towards the end of the same month that the drummer Gary O’Tool announced his departure from the band to which he had been playing with for near enough the last 20 years. So, this could be the last Steve Hackett live release we get to see him on and that is sad news because he was not only a BRILLIANT! drummer but he also came with a GREAT! voice.

Since Steve Hackett decided to do a series of live concerts under the title of Genesis Revisited which kicked off at the Hammersmith Apollo in London back on the 10th May 2013. It has very much put him back in the limelight and he has certainly become more popular and once again able to play more bigger venues just like we seen when he took the band to The Royal Albert Hall later on in that same year on the 24th October 2013. Concert ticket prices to see him live have risen tremendously and gone are the days where you could see him live at smaller venues for the price of a Genesis tribute band such has The Watch and The Musical Box who also do quite an incredible job performing the Genesis back catalogue of songs.

No doubt it is not cheap to hire the bigger venues which does account for the higher ticket price and when you are dragging along a 41-piece orchestra as well as top class musicians it becomes even more of a gamble to make any money at all from putting on such a show. It can also go entirely wrong and end up costing you more money and leaving you out of pocket. But so far things have gone very well for him and I am glad to see he is doing well and still bringing good entertainment to his fans and even for those like myself who cannot afford the price of a ticket can still get to enjoy the show at home at a very respective and reasonable price point. Which is a lot more than I can say for Camel’s latest concert they have just released on Blu Ray and are charging £30 for it and it does not even come with any CD’s FFS :))))).

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The one thing I can say about Steve Hackett is that he does give you genuine value for the buck and I only paid £30 from Amazon for the Deluxe Edition of Live At The Albert Hall and it comes with 2 CD’s, 2 DVD’s & 1 Blu Ray in a 11¼” x 11¼” 44 page art-book with liner notes, photos and bonus interview features. You can still buy it on Amazon for £33 so how on earth Camel can justify the price of £30 for 1 single Blu Ray in a standard plastic case is beyond belief and well overpriced.

The CD’s.

The concert has been split of over the 2 CD’s that come with the package however, it excludes all the talking in between the songs so you do not quite get the whole show here, but you do get all the songs that were played at the concert. The first CD contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 53 minutes, 18 seconds. The second CD comes with 6 tracks and has an overall playing time of 61 minutes 6 seconds.

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray gives you more of the total experience and I always prefer to watch a show rather than just listen to it in audio only. Although no recording is ever gonna capture the genuine feel and atmosphere of a live concert, but it can in most cases let you see a lot more of the band than you would have done at the concert itself depending on your seating arrangement that is, especially if you are right at the back and the band on stage are smaller than action men figures. I actually prefer to watch football on the TV rather than waste my money watching it live where you simply have not got a chance of seeing everything that is happening on the pitch.

To be perfectly honest I am really disappointed with many of the new neo prog bands these days who are under the impression that they have to whack everything up loud so that they can get a decent recording of the concert. Having seen both Transatlantic and Frost* live I can honestly say I would not waste my money on travelling to see them again never mind wasting my money on the price of the concert ticket. Those live shows were completely dreadful and amongst the worst concert experience I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Bands in my local pub sounded way better than those idiots and their sound engineers were total idiots to even think that in the first place. Have they never heard of a recording level meter or know how to use one FFS!

All concerts are loud but there is no need to play the levels of Wembley Stadium in the small venues they played at. I did see Gryphon play the same venue that Frost* played at the Robin 2 twice and they sounded awesome. I even seen The Watch at the same venue and they sounded GREAT! too. Transatlantic’s Whirlwind Tour at the Shepherds Bush Empire I seen them at never made the live DVD they put out sound any better for playing at those ridiculous levels. But least I could hear the concert finally on that DVD to which the sound was bouncing off all the walls in the venue making them all sound out of tune with each other at the concert itself. It was a complete waste of my money and completely spoilt my day. These days you might be better off with the DVD or Blu Ray if this is what they do live.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu presents you with a looping bit of HD video footage from the show and displays individual mirrored pictures of the band set to the backing music of “Shadow of the Hierophant” from the show. It also presents you with 5 options to choose from which are “Play Concert”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select”. “Documentary” and “Videos” and everything is easy to navigate and the picture looks nice and pristine being of Blu Ray quality. The Blu Ray authoring was done by Ray Schulman and he’s done a very neat and tidy job on the menus.

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I like the way how everything functions on the one screen and by clicking on any of the options it does not have to load another screen and simply displays it on the Blu Ray’s main menu in a drop-down menu as you can see from the picture above where I have clicked on “Track Select” and it simply displays all the tracks of the concert.

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The “Audio Select” (as shown above) gives you the choice of 2 audio soundtracks and both the LPCM Stereo and 5.1 DTS Master surround mixes are in formats of 48/24. You will notice that each of the drop-down menus when you click on them hide the other options below and you have to close the drop-down menu to see them.

The other 2 bonus features which are the “Documentary” and “Videos” are included on the Blu Ray edition only and are not on the DVD edition. The documentary has an overall running time of 42 minutes 9 seconds and shows you behind the scenes footage and interviews with Steve Hackett and the other members of the band and various others from the orchestra talking about the concert and is mostly filmed around the complex of the Royal Festival Hall. It’s quite interesting and a good extra feature to have and the audio is in 48/24 LPCM stereo.

The final bonus feature is that it includes 3 videos that was made for 3 of the songs for his latest album At The Edge Of Light which was released at the beginning of the year in January. They are “Under The Sun“. “Beasts In Our Time” and “Peace” and come with a standard stereo audio format of 48/16. The drop-down menu gives you the choice of playing them all or playing them individually and overall the bonus features you get on the Blu Ray are very good to have.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The concert was filmed, edited and produced by Film 24 Productions who specialise in high-definition multi-camera filming and have filmed many other well-known artists. The company is run by Paul Green who also directed and done the editing and post production and overall, he and his team have done a GREAT! job of capturing the band and orchestra and the show has been very well edited. He also filmed the behind the scenes documentary too. The picture quality is very good and you can tell that the concert footage was shot in HD and not with SD cameras.

The 5.1 Surround & Stereo Mixes.

Both the stereo and surround mixes were done by Steve Hackett’s long-time live recording engineer Benedict Fenner of Front of House Sound. The 5.1 surround mix does give you more than the stereo mix however, the 6 channels have not been utilised in the way they should have been and this 5.1 mix offers nothing in the exciting department and the rear channels in particular are their mainly for the audience and the odd reflection of sound rather than any of the instrumentation being placed in the rear. This does help give the mix a lot more body and depth but does very little for the band and especially the orchestra to which more channels could of been utilised to give more separation to the instrumentation for it to stand out more.

Most 5.1 mixes of live concerts can be disappointing however not all of them are and I have some excellent ones that have been given the right treatment with more qualified engineers who have more of a vision to work in this field. Unfortunately, Benedict Fenner is not one of those engineers who has the right vision for how a 5.1 mix should be treated but has done better 5.1 mixes in the past. For example, both Somewhere In South America: Live In Buenos Aires and Hungarian Horizons: Live In Budapest he mixed back in the early 2000’s and I regard them as his best 5.1 mixes and are better than what he is doing today. Although the 5.1 mix he done for Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham was very good too.

But overall with how he has gone about things here there is no denying it does add more width, depth and space and the sound does project a lot better than the stereo mix. You are also better off listening to the concert with the 5.1 mix over the stereo mix although the stereo mix perhaps benefits more to the use of headphones.

Musicians & Credits…

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Directed & Produced by Paul Green. Conductor Bradley Thachuk. Musical Arrangements by Bradley Thachuk, Steve Thachuk, & Thorvaldur Bjarni.  Concert Sound Recording by Martin Knight. Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Benedict Fenner. Editing & Post production by Paul Green. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photography by Howard Rankin, Lee Millward & Mick Bannister. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Schulman.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Roger King: Keyboards.
Rob Townsend: Saxophone/Woodwind/Percussion/Vocals/Keyboards/Bass Pedals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedals/Variax/Twelve String Guitar/Vocals.
Gary O’Tool: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Nad Sylvan: Vocals/Tambourine.

Special Guests.

Amanda LehMann: Vocals/Guitar.
John Hackett: Flute.

The Concert In Review…

Unlike the CD’s the Blu Ray gives you the whole concert which has a total running time of 2 hours, 1 minute and 22 seconds it’s also the best way to experience it as well I personally think. The concert is played in two sets which allows the musicians to have a break in between and both set-lists feature both Genesis and Steve Hackett’s solo material and this concert is no different to The Total Experience Live in Liverpool and Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham in the way both sets of material run along. For example, they have not split the show up into a set of Genesis and Hackett songs and have combined them both together. The only difference between this concert and his other concerts is the 41-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra he has on stage with him conducted by Bradley Thachuk.

The concert was performed at the Royal Festival hall which is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, England on 4th October 2018. This particular venue is used these days for concerts, dance and talks and has a seating capacity of around 2,900 seats. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are resident in the hall and it was originally built as part of the Festival of Britain for London County Council, and was officially opened on 3 May 1951. The building is built like a complex and includes several reception rooms, bars and restaurants. It’s also known as the Southbank Centre.

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The Festival Hall was one of the first concert halls in the world to be built using the application of scientific principles, both theoretical and experimental. The building underwent a substantial renovation between 2005 and 2007 aimed at improving the poor acoustics and building layout. The refurbishment was estimated to have cost in the region of £91 million and a film documenting the refurbishment, entitled “This Is Tomorrow” was also made. Many well-known artists have played live at the Festival hall and continue to do so today.

Steve Hackett took the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra and his band on a short UK Tour with him during October in 2018. Besides playing at the Royal Festival Hall on the 4th of that month he also played at 7 other venues starting at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on the 1st. Bridgewater Hall Manchester on the 3rd. The Birmingham Symphony Hall on the 5th. The Sage 1 in Gateshead on the 7th. The Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on the 8th. The Regent in Ipswich on the 10th and ended up at the London Palladium on the 11th. It was a bit of gamble and only 3 of the shows were sell outs which were this one at Royal Festival Hall and the shows in Manchester and Birmingham.

The band Steve Hackett had with him is more or less the same band line-up (including the special guests) that was with him for the tour of the Wind and Wuthering album shows earlier in the same year and who appeared on the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray/DVD apart from the bass player. Nick Beggs may have been busy touring with Steve Wilson or working on another album and was replaced by the Flower Kings bassist Jonas Reingold.

On With The Show…

The show kicks off the first set-list with a Genesis number which was the opening track on the Trick Of The Tail album “Dancing On A Volcano” to which they perform very well. But what I do find is the band can be too overpowering for the orchestra to be heard dynamically enough and you can hear the odd fart coming from the brass section in parts and more of a fine blend of the orchestra bleeding through later on in parts of the song. “Out Of The Body” is up next and here the orchestra can be clearly heard a lot more and I do find that the orchestra does have more of a say and the dynamics work better on Hackett’s own material more so than that of the Genesis material in some respects and “The Steppes” that follows this also works out very well for the band and orchestra.

The Genesis classic “Firth of Fifth” is one of the Genesis songs where the orchestra can be heard more clearly and the orchestra does help lift the song up and more space has perhaps been given to the orchestra. The band have perhaps gone less heavy with the bass pedals and not so overpowering like they were on the opening song. “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” also works out quite well with orchestra and they add a bit more power to the song. Although I had to laugh when the camera was focused on some woman in the brass section blowing into her instrument and you could not hear bugger all coming out of it, and I find this with a lot of live shows that have not been recorded so well.

Blood on the Rooftops” is up next and I was so glad that Gary O’Tool was still with the band to sing it and he does a GRAND! job singing it too. Hackett plays a short 19 second intro on his nylon guitar before going into the song and for some reason they have counted it as an extra track on the CD. To be honest I do not think the orchestra really adds anything that much to this song simply because Tony Banks always orchestrated it so well on the original album with his keyboards. I also think that by Rob Townsend playing his sax in the middle section does not really help the orchestra to say anything more, although I like his contribution that ends the song off and they give it a bit more of a jazzy flavour to the ending.

The first of the special guests Amanda LehMann gets introduced to sing the next song “Shadow of the Hierophant” which ends off the first set. I think she does an OK! job but she does not possess the operatic qualities that Sally Oldfield has in her voice to pull it off like she does on the original album. It’s very much one of Hackett’s classics and even though the orchestra is more effective in the powerful ending of the song the dynamics are washed away by the either the recording or too much going on with the band and orchestra at the same time. In many respects you would have had to have been at the concert itself to get the best out of it though the singing section has been captured very well.

The second set kicks off with a couple of tracks once again from the Wind and Wuthering album and both “In That Quiet Earth” and “Afterglow” were on his last live release Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham and even though we have an orchestra here it’s perhaps too much of the same thing. Although the orchestra does inject a bit of power to first of these tracks the latter of the two is about as effective as the orchestra lent to “Blood on the Rooftops” and the only real difference is a bit at the end. I could think of many earlier Genesis songs that would have worked much better for the orchestra to play “Seven Stones” and “Stagnation” for example.

Hackett then proceeds with a couple of his own numbers “Serpentine Song” and “El Niño” and for the first of them he reintroduces Amanda LehMann back to the stage who contributes some backing vocals and guitar to the song. I am pretty sure she does only feature on a couple of the songs. He also brings on his brother John Hackett and once again he only gets to appear on one of the songs which is this one. Both John Hackett and Rob Townsend play more of integral part on this song than what the orchestra really lends to it.

I think the problem is with this song is that once again it’s more keyboard orientated and most of the orchestration is played on the keyboards by Roger King which does not offer a lot of scope for the orchestras strings to say anything different and apart from the guitar the best orchestration is played by both John Hackett and Rob Townsend on the flute and sax respectively. The second of these two pieces “El Niño” is where the orchestra does get to work much more just like we seen on “Out Of The Body” in the first set and on this the orchestra does get its own short section on its own and for me personally this is best piece out of the lot that utilises the orchestra the best.

Up next we have the epic “Suppers Ready” which for many including myself is the classic of all Genesis songs and here you get 28 minutes of it. Jonas Reingold plays guitar all the way through this song, he does on a couple of other songs and the bass is played on the bass pedals. This song and the instrumental piece “Out of the Body” are the only two tracks out of everything here that was not played at the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham. The orchestra is effective in some parts and does inject a bit of power to the ending of it.

At the end of “Suppers ReadyHackett introduces the band and the conductor and orchestra and they leave the stage and come back to play the final encore which is “The Musical Box” and another old Genesis classic song. The orchestra only add slightly to this song and for most of it I am pretty sure that even though they are on the stage with the band, it’s the band that is playing the biggest part of it and if anything the orchestra adds more to the powerful ending of it. It winds up the show good enough though and at the end the special guests are come back onto the stage and they all bow gracefully to the audience in appreciation.

Summary…

To sum up Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall by Steve Hackett and my original question in the introduction regarding of does the orchestra really make a major difference one might ask? Personally, I do not think it makes a major difference at all basically because the orchestral arrangements and the orchestra are too in line with the band and effectively the orchestra is merely following the band. Unlike the arrangements that was given to the couple of Genesis Revisited studio albums which were of a major difference and did make the songs sound and feel different, the live material here is more or less playing the songs how the original band played them in the first place, only you have an orchestra following along in the same path which is not enough to make the songs sound that much different at all.

That’s not to say that it’s not an enjoyable concert to watch, but if there were any real major differences here they have not been captured by the recording and you would have had to have been at the venue itself to hear the orchestra work more effectively. The only piece out of the whole set that is of a GREAT! difference is “El Niño” and the only other piece I would say the orchestra works extremely well on is “Out of the Body“. Both of which are of Hackett’s own solo material. The orchestra does work well in some other parts of the other songs but for most the concert the orchestra and band are more or less playing at the same levels and that does affect the overall dynamics of the orchestra being able to push their way through at times.

The 5.1 mix is better than the stereo mix but it’s nothing to write home about and is quite poor for Benedict Fenner’s standards and sound quality wise the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray is a lot better. Both shows were recorded by the same recording engineer Martin Knight and the only logical thing I can think of why this concert was not recorded that well is down to them all playing too loud and they had not quite got the balance between the orchestra and the band sorted out. The overall sound is far from a disaster but something does seem amiss here and it should of been mixed a lot better I personally feel and my personal highlights from the show are “Firth of Fifth“. “Suppers Ready“. “The Musical Box“. “El Niño“. “Serpentine Song” and “Shadow of the Hierophant“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the concert I would say that at its price point you cannot really lose here. However, even a concert like this can seem like you are getting too much of the same thing especially with how the material that was chosen is far too close to the set-list you got on the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray. To be perfectly honest I much prefer Steve Hackett’s earlier concerts he put out where he plays his own material and only the odd Genesis song rather than a concert like this and if you are going to do a Genesis Revisited concert he should stick to that material alone and not mix it up like he has done here and with his other more recent concerts with his own material.

I do admire Steve Hackett for keeping the spirit of Genesis going and I love the early Genesis material more so than his own solo material. But even though he was very much part of that band many moons ago and he perhaps does have more rights to play the old Genesis songs. to be honest I could not buy a concert done by a tribute band even if I can enjoy watching them. So, in a way Hackett does have an advantage over a tribute band even if he is playing a tribute to their music, but you cannot beat the original band. I think I will always miss Peter Gabriel’s voice and even Phil Collins to some degree especially with how he sang “Suppers Ready” on the double live Seconds Out album.

I think Nad Sylvan does do quite a good job and his voice is fairly close to Gabriel’s but nowhere near as close as Simone Rossetti of The Watch who is perhaps the nearest, I have ever heard to Gabriel’s voice. But then again, it’s not about having a sound alike otherwise it would be even more of a tribute band like Yes have become and I cannot buy them since they went down that road either. I guess that is why I like Gary O’Tool singing “Blood On The Rooftops” and the best performance of that I have heard him do can be found on the DVD of Somewhere In South America: Live In Buenos Aires where he was near enough 20 years younger.

To be honest I enjoy those earlier concerts more so than the ones he has put out more recently and can play them a lot more. Even the Steve Hackett Live concert that was released on VHS Video back in 1992 is a superb concert to have and he plays all his own material on that that one and it was recorded in the TV Studios in Nottingham. An edited down version of that same concert was also put out on DVD under the title of Live Legends and it’s well worth sorting out either of those releases. Although the VHS version will most likely not be in good condition and I completely wore my tape out with the amount of times I have played it.

Overall, I do think there was better Genesis material that could have been chosen to suit the orchestra and it would have been better to have more of a different set-list. But you cannot have everything and we are all different with how we see things and for many others this concert might be the bee’s knees. The bonus material I do think is very good and well worth getting the Blu ray over the DVD and at its price point it’s a worthy enough purchase.

On A Finale Note…

I would like to thank all my readers who have taken an interest in my reviews and wish everyone a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. I would also like to say that I am behind in my reviews of the albums I have had given me or purchased this year. So, my annual awards 2019 will be delayed till the end of January due to still having 4 albums to review.

The Pied Piper Takes His Children Underground…

The 2 CD Track List is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. Dance on a Volcano. 6:36.
02. Out of the Body. 2:30.
03. The Steppes. 7:15.
04. Firth of Fifth. 10:44.
05. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. 8:33.
06. Acoustic guitar solo. 0:19.
07. Blood on the Rooftops. 5:53.
08. Shadow Of The Hierophant. 11:27.

Disc 2.
01. In that Quiet Earth. 5:19.
02. Afterglow. 4:24.
03. Serpentine Song. 7:10.
04. El Niño. 4:04.
05. Supper’s Ready. 28:01.
06. The Musical Box. 12:08.

Lee’s Overall Package Rating…

The Price Point Rating. 10/10.

The Picture Quality Rating Score. 9/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10.

The Stereo Mix. 7/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.

The Overall Concert Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #137

Every Move You Make – The Studio Recordings (Box Set) – The Police

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Introduction…

Well it’s been a good while since I’ve heard The Police and I have to confess that even though I considered them a really good band and liked their albums enough to buy all 5 of them on vinyl has each one came out many moons ago, they are not the type of band I would play these days and their music can even sound on the outdated side of things. The fact that my turntable has been stuck in my loft along with my vinyl records since the late 90’s also would play a part in as to why I would not play them these days and even though I did buy most of Stings solo albums on CD, I never did buy any of The Police albums on CD.

I doubt very much if I still have the albums on vinyl simply because when I did relegate my turntable to the loft, I did end up selling the biggest majority of them and only kept a few. Over the many years of buying records I have most likely sold just as many albums on vinyl and CD than what I have left in my collection now, in fact possibly a lot more. I have even brought many albums all over again some many times over and the pride and joy that sits on my shelves these days is mostly of surround mixes and they mean more to me than anything you can put on a CD or a vinyl record. Unlike those conventional stereo formats, they also hold their value and can fetch a lot more than what you paid for them as well.

But in all formats, there is generally something of a collector’s item you will pay a lot more money for, but in general CD’s and Vinyl albums can be had on the second hand market for PEANUTS! Which also happens to the be the title of one of the songs on the bands debut album and the very reason I brought this box set in the first place. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork first.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The albums come in a Clamshell Box and in total you get 6 albums on 6 CD’s and I was well surprised to see that all 6 CD’s come in Gatefold DigiSleeves and not just the single cardboard wallets you get in most of these type of cheap box sets. The one thing the box set does not include is a booklet though the linear credits and production notes have been included on the CD’s but it does not include lyrics or any informative information about the band. But overall no expense has been spared here and this box set offers you amazing value for the money and has been very well presented. I pre-ordered it from Amazon and got it for £16.66 which is around the same price I paid for the bands 5 albums on vinyl many moons ago.

The same box set was released on Vinyl last year to mark the bands 40th Anniversary and it does include a booklet but it also comes with a very hefty price tag of around £119 on Amazon. For the life of me I am sorry to say that I fail to see where there is any real value here in relation to the CD box set apart from the booklet. It’s ridiculously well overpriced and I thank my lucky stars I no longer collect vinyl.

Vinyl

Every Move You Make – The Studio Recordings Vinyl Edition

Although no doubt there are many vinyl lovers out there who would argue that it’s the best quality recording you can get. But in reality, the vinyl record has always suffered with its restrictions of what you can fit onto its format and is nowhere near as robust as the CD and is very fragile in relation to it. It also suffers from surface noise which does not help and regarding recording quality the CD is very much the real winner I am afraid. Where the vinyl album really wins is with the size of the artwork. But in reality, these days even DigiPaks cost more to make than a vinyl album cover which is also where I fail to see why a vinyl album should cost more money.

I gave up on the vinyl format 2 decades ago and can honestly say I do not regret it, because it is inferior in today’s world especially in relation to the more immersive experience 5.1 surround has to offer. SACD/DVD & Blu Ray are more superior formats and, in all honesty, this little poem I wrote I have entitled “Just For The Record” speaks the true reality of the vinyl record and I dare anybody to question the reality of it all simply because it speaks the truth.

Viny L your plastic pal the plastic all round mover
Whenever he took a needle he became a bit of groover
His surface was nice and shiny and needed a lot of attention
Otherwise he would snap crackle and pop which very few would mention
He attracted static and even scratched although he could not rust
Not even his anti static bag could keep away the dust
And if the needle got clogged up and stuck he would start to stutter
Viny L could even warp and was made to wow and flutter

But of course, for many the vinyl record has that nostalgic vibe and feel about it that many people cannot let go of. It is without doubt still a great format that still offers a good enough decent recording quality that is all well and acceptable and I have nothing against those who still prefer it. But as for how its price has shot up since the format came back from the dead from 2017 onwards. There is no way on this earth that it should cost any more than a CD and I do feel people are being ripped off.

The Police In Brief History…

The Police burst onto the scene at the same time Punk Rock had exploded here in the UK. The band even tried and make out they was a punk rock band with their first record “Fall Out” although it was merely a plan of action to try and gain a bit of reignition and get themselves noticed and they had no intention of being a punk rock band at all. They never did like that record they made either and even excluded it from this release. Although the fact that it was not included in this box set may not have even had anything to do with any of the band members at all, and this box set may very well have been compiled by the record company.

The Police were originally formed in January 1977 by American drummer Stewart Copeland and the English singer/bassist Sting (so nicknamed due to his habit of wearing a black-and-yellow striped sweater mirroring a wasp) the pair had originally bumped into each other in 1976 and exchanged phone numbers. Copeland was playing with the prog rock band Curved Air at the time and he originally worked as road manager for the band back in 1974 on their reunion tour and then as drummer for the band during 1975 and 1976. Having made two studio albums with the band they then decided to call it a day and the band broke up.

Sting on the other hand was a former schoolteacher and was playing in a jazz-rock fusion band called Last Exit in his home city of Newcastle and had been since 1974. It was in the beginning of 1977 that the band relocated to London but after a few gigs half of the band returned to Newcastle though Sting decided to stay and look for other work and sought out Copeland for a jam session. Having got together they decided to put a band together and brought in Corsican guitarist Henry Padovani to complete the line-up and spent some time playing mainly as s support act in various pubs around London.

It was this first incarnation of The Police that made the bands first record “Fall Out” to which was recorded at Pathway Studios in Islington, North London on 12 February 1977 with a budget of £150, was released in May 1977 by Illegal Records. Later on, in that same year they added a 4th member to the band the English guitarist Andy Summers who was a decade older than the other members. Summers started his musical career as guitarist for the British rhythm and blues band Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band in the mid-sixties. He also had stints with many bands and artists from the mid 60’s into the 70’s including the likes of Soft Machine, The Animals, Kevin Coyne, Jon Lord, Joan Armatrading, David Essex, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayers. In October 1975 he participated in an orchestral rendition of Mike Oldfield’s seminal “Tubular Bells“.

Summers first introduction to both Sting and Copeland came through Gong’s ex-bass player Mike Howlett who had quit the band and was putting a band together called Strontium 90 to which all 4 became a part of for a very short period of time. It was during this short period that the band had recorded some demos and one of them was “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” a song that was to later appear on The Police’s 4th album Ghost In The Machine. The foursome also performed at a London club as ‘The Elevators‘ in July 1977.

As a 4-piece band The Police only ever performed live twice in 1977 and Summers was never happy with the band as a 4-piece outfit and delivered an ultimatum to the band and Padovani was dismissed. The Police’s power trio line-up of Copeland, Sting, and Summers performed for the first time on 18 August 1977 in my home town at Rebecca’s club in Birmingham. What was to happen next very much became history though it was not until 1979 that they really made an impact and exploded onto the scene.

The Albums In Review…

Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings) box set by The Police was released on CD on the 15th November 2019. Just like the vinyl release that got released in 2018 it comes with 6 CD’s. Because this is a box set and there is a lot to get through, I am only going to focus on the highlights of the albums and not go into great depth of all the individual album tracks like I do on most reviews. I shall also review each album as they were originally released in chronological order. So now without any further ado, let’s get down to the album reviews.

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The bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour was released on the 2nd November 1978. The album contained 10 tracks all written by Sting (bar a couple which he co-wrote with the other two members of the band) and comes with an overall playing time of 38 minutes 11 seconds. The album never got the band off to a flying start and initially performed poorly due to low exposure and an unfavourable reaction from the BBC to its first two singles, “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Roxanne” (about suicide and prostitution, respectively). The BBC even banned both the songs from air play and they never even dented the charts.  The reason they had a problem with ‘Can’t Stand Losing You‘ was because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck, waiting for the ice to melt.

If it was not for Stewart Copeland’s brother Miles the album would have never got made because it was, he who decided to manage the band and put up the money to make the album. It was also him who had seen something in both “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Roxanne” to release them as singles from the album. But all was not lost because the potential he did see in those records did pay off in the end when they got re-released a year later in 1979 and both became major hits and smashed into the top 20 of the UK Singles Charts. By 1984 the album had also sold over a million copies and went platinum.

The bands first 2 albums were recorded at Surrey Sound Studios which was a studio that a former doctor namely Nigel Gray had set up in 1974 and functioned as a recording studio between 1975 – 1987. Gray was a qualified medical doctor who followed his passion into music and was able to use his kindly bedside manner to coax three extraordinarily successful records from a band operating at the time on the tiniest of shoestring budgets. The first two albums were recorded in his converted studio above a dairy in Leatherhead in Surrey.

Surrey Studios

At the time the bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour was recorded in 1978 it was only recorded on 16 tracks and it was not until the following year that it got upgraded to a 24-track studio. Nigel Gray sold the studio in 1987 and retired in Cornwall. But during his time at the studio he got to record quite a few albums for other bands and artists such as Wishbone AshGodley & Creme, Hazel O’Connor, Siouxsie and the Banshees and more. He died in 2016 and all 3 members of the band paid tribute to him and said they could not have done it without him.

Most of the reviews for the album were unfavourable although the one it got from Tom Carson of the Rolling Stone magazine I did find interesting as he gave it some high praise for its technical abilities of all three band members, but was relentlessly disparaging of their attempt to tackle sophisticated rock and reggae while posturing as punks.

Personally, I myself thought it was quite a good album but far from solid and no doubt when The Police first came out they were posturing as punks like he stated, but that was really down to the Punk Invasion still being popular in England around that time. Where I give more praise to The Police more than anything is that they did create a style that was quite unique to anything that had come before it by fusing reggae with pop and rock and that is what really made me take notice of them in the first place.

I myself could never stand reggae music and I still detest it today just like punk rock. But they did something better with it by not making it so boring. Andy Summers was far too good of a guitarist to just stand there and look like a cardboard cut-out doing the reggae chop on his guitar and to me being a guitarist in a reggae band has to be the most boring job any guitarist on the planet could have :))))). I am not saying there is not an art to it but in all honesty, it just bores the life out of me and says the same TING! TING! thing with its rhythm and beat. If The Police were either punk or reggae there is no way on this earth I would brought them in the first place.

However, no matter how I look at The Police they have always come across to me as more of a pop band rather than any hard hitting rock band and though I quite like them and enough to buy them, they were never amongst my personal favourite bands I have in my record collection and no doubt it is their hit making potential that made them and not so much the other tracks that was on their albums. You could effectively say they were more of a singles band than an albums band and that is the difference between popular music and rock and prog rock music that came out earlier on.

The album Outlandos d’Amour is more or less driven by the 3 tracks that were put out as singles to which are “Can’t Stand Losing You“. “Roxanne” and “So Lonely” and I would also say they were by far the better written songs on the album. But that’s not to say that some of its album tracks do not have something to say and overall their debut album is quite an energetic album that is driven along at high speed in parts.

The album also kicks off at a high speed with its opening energetic song “Next To You” which drives along like a bullet. Although I do not think personally that this is such a good song and is really only driving along at this high speed to try and rock things out and like many punk rock bands who also done the same sort of thing at this high pace only did so to try and make it rock. But potentially it just does not work I am afraid and will never rock like the music many rock bands did such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin for example. It’s not a bad song but it does have a false pretence about it and fails to carry a lot of weight.

I could also say the same thing about “Truth Hits Everybody” and if I was looking for another track on this album that does stand out as a really good album track, that would certainly go to “Hole In My Life” which I do feel is up there with the potential the 3 singles had from the album and is a really good song. I quite like “Born In The 50’s” and that might be down to me being born in the 50’s and both “Peanuts” and “Be My Girl – Sally” are fun songs and are OK. The final track on the album “Masoko Tanga” is the longest track of them all and is perhaps more of a gap filler though it’s got some good rhythm to it and it is more reggae based, though I can take it in small doses.

Overall the bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour is far from a solid album and it’s not my favourite album of the bands either. It does however contain a few classics and my personal favourites from the album are “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” and I find it hard to separate them to make one more of a favourite than the other. I would not say it’s a bad album either and I have no problem putting it on and listening to the whole album without having to skip a track. But like most of the bands albums these days they very rarely get played and if I was to pull out an album of theirs to play this would not be my first choice.

Oddly enough the Rolling Stone magazine rated the album much later on as one of the best debut albums and in their poll, it reached number 38 out 100 of the best debut albums. In all honesty I have quite often found that magazine ridiculous and this album is nowhere near solid enough to even be considered as one of the best debut albums. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Roxanne“. “Can’t Stand Losing You“. “Hole In My Life” and “Born In The 50’s“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police. All songs written by Sting (except track 5. by Sting & Copeland and track 9 by Sting & Summers). Recorded between January – June 1978 at Surrey Sound Studios London, England. Recording Engineers Nigel & Chris Gray. Originally Mastered by Tony bridge. Art Direction by Michael Ross. Photography by Janette Beckman.

Musicians.

Sting: lead & Backing Vocals/Bass guitar. Harmonica (Track 2) & Butt Piano (Track 3)
Andy Summers: Guitar/Backing Vocals. Spoken Word & Piano (Track 9)
Stewart Copeland: Drums/Percussion/Backing Vocals.

Additional Musicians.

Joe Sinclair: Piano (Tracks 4 & 10)

I See You’ve Sent My Letters Back And My L.P. Records And They’re All Scratched…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Next To You. 2:52. 2. So Lonely. 4:49. 3. Roxanne. 3:13. 4. Hole In My Life. 4:49. 5. Peanuts. 3:55. 6. Can’t Stand Losing You. 2:59. 7. Truth Hits Everybody. 2:54. 8. Born In The 50’s. 3:41. 9. Be My Girl – Sally. 3:19. 10. Masoko Tanga. 5:40.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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The bands second album Reggatta de Blanc was released on the 2nd October 1979 and contained 11 tracks span over and overall playing time of 41 minutes, 50 seconds. The other members of the band had more on an input into the writing especially Stewart Copeland. However, the bands hit making potential always came from its main writer Sting who really was the brains of the outfit. It was also the hits off this album that Sting wrote that had catapulted the band into the limelight so to speak. However, it could also be said that the re-release of “Roxanne” earlier in the same year did draw a lot more attention to the band and certainly helped to increase the sales of their debut album.

Once again, the band decided to record the album at Surrey Sound Studios despite their record company A&M wanting to equip the promising band with a bigger studio and more famous producer. I am sure the band made the right choice too especially in that the small budget (between £6,000 and £9,000) was easily covered by the profits of their previous album, Outlandos d’Amour, further ensuring that the record label would have no control over the actual creation of the band’s music. This also relieved a lot of the pressure on the band.

The band recorded the new material for their second album from scratch and it only took around 4 weeks over a period of several months. However, during the recording sessions they did find themselves short on having enough new material to make the album, they even considered re-recording “Fall Out” at one point. Both Sting and Copeland had to dig through old songs they had previously written in their former bands and used other elements to create new songs with some of them. For example, a lot of the lyrics to “Bring On the Night” were recycled from Sting’s Last Exit song “Carrion Prince (O Ye of Little Hope)” and “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” similarly started as a Last Exit tune. They were that short for songs for the new album that they even used the B’ Side of the single “So Lonely” they wrote in the previous year which was “No Time This Time” as a gap filler to complete the album.

Despite the problems they had to come up with new and existing material to put their 2nd album together, Reggatta de Blanc was an instant smash upon its release and not only did the album hit number 1 in the UK Album charts but it also spurned out a couple of number 1 singles in the UK’s charts. The album proved both more popular and successful than its predecessor Outlandos d’Amour and in the following year of 1980 the albums self-titled track earned the band their first Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

The album’s title of Reggatta de Blanc is a pseudo-French translation of “white reggae”. There is no doubt that the music The Police were making was certainly a different breed of reggae in relation to where the music originated from. What this band were doing was giving it far more structure to the music by fusing elements of rock and pop into it. Even the chord structure of their songs was far more sophisticated than most of the 2-chord crap that was associated with 90% of the reggae music that surfaced from across the shores here in England in the early to mid 70’s.

The easiest way to cover any song is by doing a reggae version of it and you could do practically any song in 2 chords by doing so. This is why I despised reggae music so much and why it bored my pants off. To be honest the only way most reggae bands could play the smash number 1 hit that came off this album “Message In A Bottle” is by doing it in 2 chords and most would struggle like hell to play it how they play it. It’s quite sophisticated and a very well written structured song and it happens to be my all-time favourite song by The Police.

Message In A Bottle” was my first real introduction to The Police and the first time I ever really took any notice of them, the moment I heard the second single “Walking On The Moon” which also hit number 1 here in the UK it very much made my mind up to go out and buy the album. To be honest I vaguely recall hearing “Can’t Stand Losing You” beforehand in the charts and although I quite liked it, it did not convince me to go out and buy their previous album at the time. I think if I had of heard “Roxanne” besides, it would have enticed me to buy Outlandos d’Amour but somehow that record completely avoided me hearing it on the radio.

By the time of the release of their 2nd album Reggatta de Blanc in 1979 The Police had ditched the punk rock scene and any ties they had with it. Gone were the 100 miles per hour songs that I thought did not do their debut album any real justice to make way for some better structured material. Although I would not say this album was solid by any means either and the couple of songs I feel that let it down are the inclusion of the last two tracks on the album “No Time This Time” and “Does Everyone Stare“. I would also say that “Deathwish” which was one of the two written songs by the band is not exactly anything to write home about either and is more of a filler. But apart from those I do feel this album does work more like an album with the material that was written for it.

Band album 2_Fotor

Like I mentioned earlier I have always seen The Police as more of a singles band rather than an albums band and it is without doubt Sting’s writing that contributes to bands hits. But being an albums man myself I have never really seen an album of hits make a good album and that is why I stay clear of compilations and Greatest Hits albums.

Hit records are all well and good and no doubt in most cases they are best songs you will find on an album. But they can also be the songs you can get tired of hearing all the time and force you to skip them on the album so you can listen to something you do not hear as much. What makes the album Reggatta de Blanc work more like an album is the fact that other band members also had as much input in the writing as Sting and out of all 5 albums The Police made, this is the only album were the other members had something more to say.

Stewart Copeland’s contributions in particular make this album work more like an album and it contains some of the best material he has ever written for the band. “Contact” is an excellent song he wrote and more of a rocker than most of the bands songs and “On Any Other Day” is more of a fun song but nevertheless very well written. “It’s Alright for You” is more of your standard rocking song that he co-wrote with Sting but it works pretty well and sits well on the album. The albums self-titled track “Reggatta de Blanc” which was written by the band is a really GREAT! track and Copeland even chose it has the best Police record in the Modern Drummer magazine.

The other couple of songs that Sting wrote are very well written and “Bring On The Night” is up there with the couple of number 1 hits he wrote from the album and was in fact released as a single in the US, Germany and France. Though it was only in France that it made a dent and peaked at number 6 in the charts. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” is perhaps one of the nearest songs The Police have been to reggae and in terms of a reggae song this is purely a classic and I personally think it’s a damn site better than anything that Bob Marley ever wrote in his life.

Overall, I do feel that the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc is only slightly marginally better than their debut album and it does tend to flow and run along and work more like an album in some respects. However, as an album it’s still not my go too album of theirs but it does contain my all-time favourite record of theirs and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Message In A Bottle“. “Walking On The Moon“. “Bring on the Night“. and “Contact“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police & Nigel Gray. All songs written by Sting (except tracks 7, 9 & 10. by Copeland. Tracks 2 & 5 by Summers, Sting, Copeland and track 3 by Sting & Copeland). Recorded at Surrey Sound Studios London, England between February – August 1979 (except track 11 recorded in 1978) Recording Engineer Nigel Gray. Originally Mastered by Tony bridge. Art Direction & design by Michael Ross. Photography by Janette Beckman (back cover) and James Wedge (front cover).

Musicians.

Sting: Lead Vocals (except tracks 2 & 7)/Bass & Double Bass/Backing Vocals & Bass Synth (Track 9).
Andy Summers: Guitar/Synthesizer (Tracks 1,6,9 & Piano Track 10)
Stewart Copeland: Drums//Backing Vocals/Lead Vocals (Tracks 7, 10 & Guitar Track 3).

Only Hope Can Keep It Together…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Message In A Bottle. 4:51. 2. Reggatta de Blanc. 3:06. 3. It’s Alright For You. 3:13. 4. Bring On The Night. 4:16. 5. Deathwish. 4:14. 6. Walking On The Moon. 5:02. 7. On Any Other Day. 2:57. 8. The Beds Too Big Without You. 4:27. 9. Contact. 2:38. 10. Does Everyone Stare. 3:46. 11. No Time This Time. 3:20.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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The bands 3rd album Zenyatta Mondatta was released on the 3rd October 1980. The album contains 11 tracks spanned over and overall playing time of 38 minutes 22 seconds and once again the album hit number 1 in the UK Album charts and it produced another number 1 and a top 10 hit in the UK Singles charts. I have to say that with how music was changing by now with the new wave, romantics and electric retro hitting the scene it was good to see that The Police were still just as strong as ever without having to change their style to fit in and stay in the limelight so to speak.

Mind you they were not the only band to still fit in with how much music was changing when we hit the 80’s and Dire Straits were in every inch just as popular and in my opinion a much better band than The Police too and were more suited to my particular taste. Dire Straits also created music that had a lot more longevity about it and I can still play them a lot today, were as The Police made records that can easily wear out and appear to sound a bit more on the outdated side of things today.

Although the album was once again co-produced by The Police & Nigel Gray for tax reasons, they could not record the album at Surrey Sound Studios even though they would of liked to have done. So, they decided to drag Nigel Gray along with them to the Netherlands so they could record the album there. This cost them more money to make than their previous two albums did combined together and was made for around £35,000. However, that figure was still exceptionally cheap for someone who by now were well established stars.

The Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, Netherlands was officially opened on 19th January 1978 by Prince Claus who was the husband of husband of Queen Beatrix and the Prince Consort of the Netherlands from Beatrix’s ascension in 1980 until his death from Parkinson’s disease and heart and respiratory ailments in 2002. The studios were founded by electronics company Philips, to enable their PolyGram artists to record in a professional environment. Initially there were three studios, nowadays there are four and a lot more has been developed and added to it.

Dutch Coolage S

In the early days the studios were mainly used by Dutch artists. Later, international musicians such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Scorpions, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tina Turner, U2 and many more have used the facilities. The studio is still running strong today and in 2010 it did close for a refurbishment and a major refit and these days it is much more than just a studio and it even has a writing campus.

The album is noted as being the last of the bands era regarding it’s style of fusing reggae and punk along with other musical elements though to be honest I don’t think the band ever really changed their style by any great margin at all. The material they wrote quickly too and would have been written whilst they were on their second live tour, much of it was recorded in 4 weeks. The band members have often expressed disappointment over it and it was down to them not being able to use the same studio and how they could only get to use the studios to do a couple of a songs at a time in between being on the road doing their live shows.

The bands third album Zenyatta Mondatta as always been my GOTO! album out all the 5 studio albums the band ever made. I think there are reasons for that too, and the first would be that even though most of the material was written by the bands potential hit writer Sting, most of the material he did write for the album was less commercial. The second reason is really down to the fact that a lot of the songs are way less commercial it makes the album work more like an album and more so than its first couple of predecessors. No doubt both “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” are the stronger written songs that stand out like hits, but the thing I like about the other songs Sting wrote is that they are not hit making material but still very well written songs that can say just as much in some respects.

Zenyatta Mondatta is the nearest album The Police ever got to be an albums band at this point in their career and it was more than a hit potential singles band and that is perhaps why it is my GOTO! album out of the bunch. What makes a good album is not the hits, those are the things you are most likely to skip because you have heard them more than the rest of the album tracks like I have mentioned before. Elton John’s Greatest Hits is never gonna be as good as his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road for example. Simply because there are far better tracks on that album than the 4 singles that was released from it. I could say the same for Queen and many other artists and that’s why I do find most compilation albums boring.

However, when it comes to making very good albums personally I do not think The Police got it quite right like those artists I mentioned and many others. But this album is perhaps the nearest that they ever did. Besides the two hits Sting wrote for the album songs like “Driven To Tears” and “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” are really very good album tracks the first of those was one of the first politically themed songs The Police released, and the first that Sting wrote. But one of my particular favourites of his he wrote for this album is “Canary in a Coalmine“.

I also like “Man In A Suitcase” and that’s perhaps because I loved the TV Series from the 70’s starring Richard Bradford. Although the song does not pertain to that TV series. However, both “Voices In My Head” and “Shadows In The Rain” he also wrote are amongst my least favourable tracks on the album. The latter of those I thought he did much better on his first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

I personally do not think the couple of songs Stewart Copeland wrote were as good as the material he wrote for the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc. “Bombs Away” is another politically themed song that pertained to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan it was also recorded on a tape that Nigel Gray had just used with Siouxsie and the Banshees. “The Other Way Of Stopping” is an instrumental track and they are both not bad contributions and I prefer them to those couple of songs that Sting wrote.

I also quite like the instrumental track “Behind My Camel” which is the only writing contribution Andy Summers gave to the album. I think it would make a good theme for a TV series too and Sting hated the piece enough to even refuse to play the bass on it to which Summers had to play himself. It’s also said that whilst they were recording the album that Sting found the tape of it lying around and took it and buried it in the garden. Copeland was not that keen on the piece either but it was the first piece he had composed solely by himself during his career at the time and it even won a Grammy Award in 1982 for the Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Overall, I would not say the bands third album Zenyatta Mondatta is any stronger than their second album Reggatta de Blanc regarding the written material that is upon both albums and the one thing The Police never did make in my personal opinion is a solid album. But there is just something about this album that draws me towards it more than their other albums, and it may be down to it sounding less commercial. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me“. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da“. “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around“. “Canary In A Coalmine” and “Man In A Suitcase“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police & Nigel Gray. All songs written by Sting (except tracks 6, & 11. by Stewart Copeland and track 8 by Andy Summers). Recorded at Wisseloord Studio Hilversum, Netherlands between July & August 1980. Recording Engineer Nigel Gray. Originally Mastered by Marv Bornstein and Frank DeLuna at A&M Studios (Hollywood, CA). Art Direction by Michael Ross. Design by Michael Ross and Simon Ryan. Photography by Janette Beckman (front cover). Watal Asanuma, Miles Copeland and Danny Quatrochi (back cover).

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals (except track 8)/Bass/Synthesizer.
Andy Summers: Guitar/Backing Vocals/Synthesizer & Bass (Track 8) Piano Track 4)
Stewart Copeland: Drums//Backing Vocals.

Strong Words In The Staff Room The Accusations Fly…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me. 4:04. 2. Driven To Tears. 3:20. 3. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around. 3:38. 4. Canary In A Coalmine. 2:26. 5. Voices In My Head. 3:53. 6. Bombs Away. 3:09. 7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. 4:09. 8. Behind My Camel. 2:54. 9. Man In A Suitcase. 2:19. 10. Shadows In The Rain. 5:02. 11. The Other Way Of Stopping. 3:28.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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The bands 4th album Ghost in the Machine was released on the 2nd October 1981 and contained 11 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 15 seconds. The album done very well and spurned out 3 UK top 10 singles one of which hit the number 1 spot. The album also done very well hitting number 1 in the UK Album charts and it went on to go into multi-platinum sales in the US selling over 3 million copies. Once again it was down to the bands successful writer Sting who wrote most of the material and for the bands fourth album, they decided to make a few changes.

By now the band were looking to get a different sound and decided to no longer go along with the budget idea of making the album and it was also by now Hugh Padgham was one of the producers making quite a name for himself and one of the hottest producers around at that time in the 80’s. I have to confess that these days 90% or more of the production work Padgham did for many major artists and bands back in those days does sound today mostly outdated and that outdated that I can no longer play it.

He was credited for creating the gated reverb drum sound that was so prominently used on Phil Collins‘ single “In the Air Tonight“, to which became the template for much of the recorded pop drum sound of the 1980s. He had this idea that because the drums sound so deafening when close up to them being played that the drums should sound larger than life on the record. Every single production he did for both Collins and Genesis back in those days was what made them unplayable today. To even think this guy won several awards for his production skills is beyond belief. Although in all fairness his production work did work for some artists and I do think he done quite a good job on this particular album.

The new material for the album was recorded between January and September 1981 and the band recorded all but one of the tracks for the album at Air Studios located on the Caribbean island Montserrat. Montserrat is nicknamed “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” and producer George Martin fell in love with the island and decided to build the ultimate, get-away-from-it-all recording studio. AIR Studios Montserrat opened in 1979 and offered all of the technical facilities of its London counterpart, but with the advantages of an exotic location.

Air Studio Collage

Many well-known artists used the studio and during the decade it ran for over 70 albums were made at Air Studios in Montserrat. The Police even recorded their final album Synchronicity at the studio. Dire Straits recorded their famous album Brothers In Arms at the studio too and Elton John used it to make 3 of his albums, the first of them being Too Low For Zero to which produced a couple of his hits “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and  “I’m Still Standing“. However, it was unfortunate that a decade later in 1989 whilst the Rolling Stones had just finished their Steel Wheels album that disaster struck and Hurricane Hugo devastated the island and the Montserrat facility was severely damaged and was forced to close.

Damage Collage

Other artists who made their albums their included the likes of Ultravox, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye, Gerry Rafferty, Rush, Black Sabbath, Midge Ure, Little River Band, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton and more. Hurricane Hugo destroyed 90% of its structures. The building and its equipment were irreparably damaged. The buildings are still standing but their roofs are failing, leading to extensive damage to the floors of the accommodation area and inner part of the studio complex making them unsafe to walk on. The facility is now a modern ruin, and is closed to the public.

The band had touched on political themes with a couple of their songs from their previous album Zenyatta Mondatta and they were to touch on it more with the material that was wrote for Ghost In The Machine. Sting was inspired by the Hungarian British author and journalist Arthur Koestler and the title of the album was the title of one of his non-fictional books he wrote back in 1967.

One of the other interesting things I have just found out some near enough 40 years later about this album is to do with the albums artwork which was designed by Mick Haggerty. The front cover displays a 16 segment as seen below.

Display

Ever since I brought the album on its release back in 1981, I had always seen the digits on the albums cover to be that of a display from a LED Calculator that had gone wrong or had been damaged. The fact that it had gone wrong very much reflected the albums title of “Ghost In The Machine” in the way of a Gremlin or Ghost getting into it causing it to malfunction. I would also say that my observation of how I seen the albums front cover was the most logical explanation as to what it represents.

I have to say the whole concept of what this 16-segment display was intended for is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. It’s said to represent the hair styles of the 3 band members and the band was unable to decide on a photograph to use for the cover at the time and settled for this graphic display of their hairdos. Sting’s hairdo is in the middle as he was the one with spiky hair. The album’s cover is ranked at No. 45 in VH1’s 50 Greatest Album Covers.

In all honesty I am pretty sure I could find 50 album covers done by Roger Dean that would absolutely wipe the floor with this album cover and to find out some 38 years later that the digits were supposed to be hairdos has me rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter LOL.. It has to be the stupidest thing I have ever come across :)))))).

As daft as a brush that the idea the band came up for the albums front cover artwork might sound, the album does sound a hell of a lot better and this is an album that I first noted for its bass drive and I very much used to use this as a reference album to test out the bass in my room when positioning the speakers for my HiFi back in those days. I have always nicknamed it the DUB album way before that genre came to light much later on and the bass on this album has more of a mass than any other album I have ever brought, and I have brought quite a few in my lifetime.

The bass drive on this album is to die for and it was not until 8 years later when Elton John released his 22nd album Sleeping With The Past in 1989 that I ever got to hear this same bass drive again and it was only ever on the 1st track of that album on a song titled “Durban Deep“. Still to this day no other album I have ever heard has this bass intensity as what this album and that track of Elton’s does. It’s so well controlled too in a way that it does not overdrive or override your HiFi system. I dare say there are other albums that have it and they most likely would come from reggae music which to me is more drum and bass and the fact that I do not like most forms of reggae music is why I have no other albums in my collection that have this intensive mass of a bass drive on them.

What used to draw me to play this album quite a lot back in those days was the bass more than anything, however once again this is an album where the 3 singles that got released off it are once again the best of the material on the album. The album also kicks off with all 3 of them which do give you the feeling that you are in for a good album. But the album does change its mood after those 3 opening hits and the right feel of how the album started off does not really return to the final 3 tracks on the album.

Invisible Sun” was the first of the 3 singles to be released and it broke into the top 10 in the UK charts and only just missed the number 1 spot and reached number 2. “Spirits In The Material World” was the 3rd single to be released from the album and although it did not quite make the top 10 it did reach number 12 in the UK’s charts. Sting wrote the song on a Casio keyboard whilst he was in the back of a van and it’s also said the it was the first time; he had ever played a synthesizer before in his life. Well if that was the case, I rather find it strange that he was also credited for playing the synthesiser on the bands previous album that was released in the previous year. So, someone has their wires crossed.

The number 1 UK hit was the second single to be released from the album “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and this was the only track on the album that was not recorded in the Caribbean at Air Studios and was recorded at Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada. Considering it’s the only song on the album that does have more of a Caribbean vibe and feel about, I find it strange why they went to Canada to record it. The song was originally a demo that Sting wrote back in 1976 and its notable for featuring a pianist (uncommon in Police songs) and the piano and keyboard arrangements were done by  Jean Alain Roussel who was noted as a session player for many artists during the 70’s and 80’s and was perhaps more notable for his work with Cat Stevens.

The following 5 tracks “Hungary For You“. “Demolition Man“. “Too Much Information“. “Rehumanize Yourself” and “One World (Not Three)” are perhaps more reggae based than their norm in the way they generally fused it with other elements on their first 3 albums. Sting also contributes saxophone on these tracks too, although the sax is used more like an horn section than anything else.

Hungary For You” he mostly sings in French and it’s quite a good track.  “Demolition Man” is the longest track weighing in at some near enough 6 minutes and I personally prefer the version that Sting later went on to do or even the version Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did over this version. I know Grace Jones also covered the song and it was used in the film of the same title starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes that was released in 1993 and it became a hit in that year too. “Too Much Information” is none too clever and “Rehumanize Yourself” penned by Sting & Copeland is something more along the lines of Bad Manners in some respects, and “One World (Not Three)” is perhaps the most REGGAEFIED! track on the album though it’s not too bad.

The final 3 tracks on the album are the better album tracks in my opinion and production and sound wise they are more fitting with the opening 3 tracks on the album. “Secret Journey” is the final song Sting wrote for the album is a very good song and was even released as a single in the US & Canada though not in Europe. Stewart Copeland’sDarkness” was used as the B’-Side and is quite a good song too and so too is the only contribution Andy Summers contributed to the writing with “Ωmegaman” which is perhaps the rocker of the album. It was actually chosen by A&M to be the first single from the album, but Sting refused to allow its release in single form.

Overall, the bands 4th studio album Ghost in the Machine could have been the best album of material they ever put together. However, where it falls down is in the way the album actually flows and changes direction with the atmospheric sound to make it sound like all the tracks marry up and belong on the same album. It’s very much jarred by the way overall sound does sound completely different on tracks 4, 5 6, 7 & 8 in relation to tracks 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 & 11. The bass drive is the actual thing that holds it all together in the way that it does work and that effectively is the best thing about this album. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Spirits In The Material World“. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic“. “Invisible Sun“. “Secret Journey” and “Ωmegaman“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by The Police & Hugh Padgham. All songs written by Sting (except track 7 by Sting & Stewart Copeland. Track 9 by Andy Summers and track 11 by Stewart Copeland). All songs recorded between Janury – September 1981 at at Air Studios, Montserrat except track 2 recorded at Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec Canada. Recording Engineer Hugh Padgham. Originally LP Mastering by Ted Jensen. Remastered by Dave Collins & Bob Ludwig. Art Direction & design by Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff, Mick Haggerty, Vartan. Photography by Duane Michals.

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals – Bass & Double Bass – Keyboards – Saxaphone.
Andy Summers: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Keyboards.
Stewart Copeland: Drums – Percussion – Keyboards – Backing Vocals (Tracks 5 & 11).

Additional Musicians.

Jean Alain Roussel: Piano – Synthesizers (Track 2).

It’s A Big Enough Umbrella But It’s Always Me That Ends Up Getting Wet…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Spirits In The Material World. 3:00. 2. Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic. 4:21. 3. Invisible Sun. 3:44. 4. Hungary For You. 2:53. 5. Demolition Man. 5:58. 6. Too Much Information. 3:43. 7. Rehumanize Yourself. 3:10. 8. One World (Not Three). 4:47. 9. Omegaman. 2:48. 10. Secret Journey. 3:34. 11. Darkness. 3:17.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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synchronicity

The bands final studio album Synchronicity was released on the 17th June 1983. The original vinyl album came with 10 tracks and had an overall running time of 39 minutes, 49 seconds. However, both the Cassette and CD releases included the extra track “Murder By Numbers” to which is also not included on the CD in this box set. But they have included it on the bonus disc you get.  The album was nominated for a total of 5 Grammy Awards in 1984 and won 3 of them including the album of the year. It was the bands most successful album selling over 8 million copies in the US and once again was produced by the band and Hugh Padgham.

Once again, the album was recorded at Air Studios Montserrat and all the overdubs were done at Le Studio in Quebec, Canada and the title of the album and much of the material Sting wrote for the album was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s book The Roots of Coincidence. The album was recorded between December 1982 – February 1983.

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Le Studio was a residential recording studio set in the Laurentian Mountains near the town of Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada built in 1972 by recording engineer and producer André Perry, Nick Blagona and Yaël Brandeis (who was Perry’s wife) and was later renamed Studio Morin Heights. André Perry gained fame as a recording engineer working for John Lennon. Along with the Olive Company he went on to develop one of the first recording consoles with motorized faders feeding two 24 track Studer’s synchronized to provide 48 tracks. He moved to Morin Heights, where he owned a lake, and built his studio there. The idea was to give recording artists a venue where they could record and live in a creative atmosphere, near the Laurentian Mountains.

The Canadian band Rush made most of their 70’s albums at the studio. Other notable artists to use it was David Bowie, Cat Stevens, The Bee Gees, Chicago and many others. Perry sold the studios in 1988 and in 2008 the studio had gone out of business, and as of 2015 the property was up for sale. In 2017 the building was partially destroyed by a suspicious fire and the residential area of the studio was completely destroyed.

As an album Synchronicity is without doubt the most solid album the band ever made and it’s also more like a proper album regarding the material that was written for it. By now The Police had ditched most of the traces of reggae that was associated with the 4 albums that came before it and even though the album produced 4 hit singles the rest of tracks are more like album tracks and are mostly very well written and very good. Even though this is not my GOTO! album of the band I do think it’s the best album they ever made, and “Every Breath You Take” is amongst the best hit songs Sting every wrote and is up there with “Roxanne” and “Message In A Bottle“.

Both “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” are also excellent well written hits and the 4th single release “Synchronicity II” is another really great song. But the other GREAT! thing about this album are also some of the album tracks and “Walking In Your Footsteps“. “O My God” and “Tea In The Sahara” are certainly amongst the best of them. The opening track “Synchronicity I” is also quite good and Sting’s writing on this album is pretty much solid. The weakest tracks on the album are the ones written by the other 2 band members though “Mother” penned by Andy Summers is quite funny and Stewart Copeland’sMiss Gradenko” isn’t that bad either and there is not really anything remotely that bad on this album at all.

Overall, the album Synchronicity contains the strongest body of work that as ever been put on any of the bands albums it’s easy to see why they gained so much success and where at the ultimate height of their career when this album was released. It came as quite a shock when Sting decided to put an end to The Police whilst they were on top of the world and dominating the pop charts. The Police were one of the most successful pop bands of all time and very much went out on a high. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Every Breath You Take“. “Wrapped Around Your Finger“. “King Of Pain“. “Tea In The Sahara“. “Synchronicity II“. “Walking In Your Footsteps” and “O My God“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by The Police & Hugh Padgham. All songs written by Sting (except track 4 by Andy Summers and track 5 by Stewart Copeland). All songs recorded between December 1982 – February 1983 at at Air Studios, Montserrat & Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec Canada. Recording Engineer Hugh Padgham. Mastering by Dave Collins & Bob Ludwig. Art Direction & design by Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff &Norman Moore. Photography by Duane Michals.

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals – Bass & Double Bass – Keyboards – Drum machine & Sequencing (Track 1) – Saxophone (Track 3) – Oboe (Track 4).
Andy Summers: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Keyboards – Lead Vocals (track 4).
Stewart Copeland: Drums – Percussion – Marimba – Co-Lead Vocals (track 5).

Additional Musicians.

Tessa Niles: Backing Vocals.

I’ll Be Watching You…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Synchronicity I. 3:23. 2. Walking In Your Footsteps. 3:36. 3. O My God. 4:03. 4. Mother. 3:05. 5. Miss Gradenko. 1:59. 6. Synchronicity II. 5:03. 7. Every Breath You Take. 4:13. 8. King Of Pain. 4:58. 9. Wrapped Around Your Finger. 5:13. 10. Tea In The Sahara. 4:17.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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The bonus disc Flexible Strategies is an album that was included in both the vinyl and CD box sets of Every Move You Make. It’s also seen unofficial releases mainly from Russia since the vinyl box set was released back in 2018. Effectively it’s just a bonus album that features Non-Album B-Sides and the album consists of 12 tracks over an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 33 seconds. “Flexible Strategies” to which they have decided for the title of this extra album was the instrumental track that appeared on the B’-Side “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” from the bands 4th album Ghosts In The Machine from 1981 and much of the material here goes back way further than that too and is an album were all 3 members of the band had more of an input in the writing rather than being mostly an album of tracks written mostly by Sting.

To be honest since having the box set I myself tend to play this album more than the others basically because I never had most of the material what you get here so it is all quite new to me even if it was made many years ago. I would not say the material was up to the heights in relation to the material that wound up on their albums but it certainly is an interesting album and well worthy of digging out and playing.

Some of the tracks on the album are very explicit and contain foul language and the album kicks off with “Dead End Job” which was co-wrote by Sting & Copeland. This song was performed live by the band before Andy Summers had joined them, however this recorded version was recorded when Summers had joined and Henry Padovani was no longer in the band. The original studio recording of the song was done when The Police were a 4-piece outfit in 1977. The version they included here was 40 seconds longer and recorded in January 1978 and was used for the B’-Side of “Can’t Stand Losing You“. It’s quite a raw powered and driven song and I love the banter at the end by Sting & Summers which is the explicit side of things.

Landlord” was another song that was originally performed live before Summers had joined the band. This version however was recorded much later and is credited to all 3 members of the band and was used for the B’-Side of “Message In A Bottle“. it’s one of those songs that runs along at 100mph. “Visions Of The Night” was written by Sting back in 1977 and although this song was used for the B’-Side of “Walking On The Moon” it’s the only studio song which features all four members of The Police including Henry Padovani’s rhythm guitar. “Friends” was the B’-Side of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and was written by Andy Summers. He got the inspiration for the song from Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land. It reminds me a lot of Ian Dury with how Summers puts it across with his speaking voice, it also has Sting chanting along in it like he does on “Synchronicity II“.

A Sermon” was written by Copeland and was originally written for the band debut album Outlandos d’Amour but was left off the album. Eventually it found its way on the B’-Side of “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” in the UK and was also used for the B’-Side of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in the US. The instrumental track “Shambelle” was written by Summers and was used for the B’-Side of “Invisible Sun“. Like I already mentioned “Flexible Strategies” was the B’-Side of “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and that was credited to all 3 members of the band. It’s quite a funky little number too.

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Low Life” is a really GREAT! song and was written by Sting and he wrote the song in Hamburg whilst they were working on the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc. It’s my favourite song on this album and should have been an A’-Side in my opinion or included on the album at least. However, in the end it wounded up on the B’-Side of “Spirits in the Material World“. It also features Olaf Kübler on saxophone who can play the instrument a damn site better than Sting. “Murder By Numbers” was the B’-Side of “Every Breath You Take” it was also included on the Cassette release of the album Synchronicity and later on the CD release of the album, although it was omitted from the original vinyl release. The song was co-written by Sting & Summers.

The much slower version of the song from their debut album Outlandos d’AmourTruth Hits Everybody (Remix)” was re-recorded during the sessions for their Synchronicity album in 1983. It’s a song the band toyed around with a lot and this version originally featured on the B’-Side of the maxi-single release of “Every Breath You Take” in the UK only. “Someone To Talk To” was written by Andy Summers and was used for the B’-Side of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and the final track on the album “Once Upon A Daydream” was co-written by Sting & Summers and was the B’-Side of “Synchronicity II“.

Overall the bonus disc Flexible Strategies is a very welcoming inclusion to the box set and gives you a glances into some of the more earlier recordings the band did as well as some other songs that they recorded during the sessions they had putting all the material together for their 5 studio albums. For those like myself who were more album collectors this will feel like having a new album worth of material and even though the songs have been placed on the album in chronological order it still makes quite an enjoyable listen hearing them all put together like this.

It’s not a solid album by any means and after all this is a body of work of songs they were never really considered to put on an album in the first place and were mostly songs they wrote for the B-sides of their hit singles. But there is some really good songs here and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Low Life“. “Friends” “Dead End Job“. “Visions Of The Night“. “Murder By Numbers“. “Flexible Strategies” and “Someone To Talk To“.

No Rewards For Your Infatuation…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Dead End Job. 3:35. 2. Landlord. 3:02. 3. Visions Of The Night. 3:06. 4. Friends. 3:36. 5. A Sermon. 2:32. 6. Shambelle. 5:10. 7. Flexible Strategies. 3:42. 8. Low Life. 3:45. 9. Murder By Numbers. 4:43. 10. Truth Hits Everybody (Remix). 3:47. 11. Someone To Talk To. 3:05. 12. Once Upon A Daydream. 3:34.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings) by The Police. I would say that it is a box set that gives you the chance to rediscover and capture the magic of this band all over again and its super low price point of around £16 – £18 gives you the perfect opportunity to do so. However, if you already have all their albums and even the Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings 4 Disc box set that was released back in 1993 this box set is not going to give you anything new apart from all the tracks being more up to date with the remasters.

Regarding the remasters which would of been done in 2018 I do feel they do sound quite good, although from what I can gather in many reviews for a better overall sound quality you might be better off sorting out the individual releases of the albums that was released on CD back in 2003. I would also say that the cardboard Digipaks that came with those earlier remasters were of better quality than the ones the albums come in this box set which are more on the thinner side of things with how they have been constructed and the print quality would of also have been much better.

I personally do not think these new remasters are better than the quality of the original vinyl albums I had when they came out and there has been some slight compression used on these new remasters though it’s not really over the top. I certainly would not lash out the extra bucks for the vinyl edition of this box set and they would have been remastered the same and you would be better off with earlier remasters or the original vinyl albums that got released when they originally came out. But once again for the price point of the CD box set you cannot really complain and the quality is certainly good enough and represents good value for the buck.

The Police were without doubt a truly GREAT! pop band that had their own unique sound which was much different to many pop bands and it was down to fusing reggae with pop and rock that gave them that distinctive style that stood out a mile from the rest. It was also Sting’s voice that also had those unique distinctive characteristics and his writing that made the band what they were and why he still continued to be just as popular and successful with his own solo career. They churned out many hits and they was without doubt more of singles chart-topping band rather than a band that made good solid albums with good album material on them apart from their final album Synchronicity.

They captured the limelight and was never ever really out of it and disbanded at the highest peak of their career. They made their mark and put their stamp on musical history and will never be forgotten. However the music they did write may have been more appreciated back in its day rather than how it stands in the longevity stakes certainly personally for myself and it was the fact that they was more of an hits band is why I personally could not play these albums as much today and it is perhaps down to that rather than their music sounding on the outdated side of things.

But I did enjoy revisiting the band again and this box set gave a bit more with the bonus album Flexible Strategies that was included in that most of the material on that I had never heard before. And at this price point its certainly worthy of every penny.

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #136

One Of A Kind To Me (Expanded & Remixed CD/DVD) – Bill Bruford

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Introduction…

Another individual release put out last month from the Seems Like A Life Time Ago Limited-Edition Box Set that Bill Bruford released back in 2017. Bruford’s second solo album One Of A Kind very much features the same line-up of musicians that appeared on his debut album (minus the singer) and followed along quickly in succession after his decision to quit the band UK after both John Wetton & Eddie Jobson fired guitarist Allan Holdsworth down to musical differences who Bruford had originally brought in to complete the bands line-up. He also took some of his own written material that was intended for UK’s second album to which wound up on this particular album. 

Now some 40 years later the album comes expanded and remixed. Although I would hardly say that one previously unreleased bonus track to which is only an out-take is much of a way of an extension or expansion, but nevertheless you do get that little extra thing on this re-issued release. The other thing you do also get is a DVD with a 5.1 mix and the original flat transfer of the album but before we take a closer look lets first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The packaging is very much the same as they were in the original box set and the both discs are stored in a 2-panel cardboard gatefold DigiSleeve that is a miniature replica of a double vinyl album.  It also comes with a 12-page booklet which also slots into one of the sides and it contains some informative information and comes with an essay written by Sid Smith along with the usual credit and linear notes. 

Just like the individual release of Feels Good To Me it also comes with black cardboard sleeves that the discs slot into (as seen below) and they might not of been included in the way they came in the box set and could of been added for the individual releases only. But not having the box set I could not tell you. I would also suggest you do store them upright and not how I have displayed them here which was done for display purpose only. unless you want your discs to drop out and end up damaging them. 

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Artwork.

The album cover was made up of photos by photographer John Shaw who done the photography for many artists albums during the 70’s and early 80’s including the likes of Jethro Tull, Wings, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and even for UK’s live album Night After Night. Whatever the object is that Bill Bruford has his hands around reflects the albums title and it could be a Globe of light or a Cymbal with a light burst around it. It could also be Hell’s Bells for all I know :))))) and its sort of OK! Though perhaps something more like a one-off mythical creature or fiend might have also worked. The Art & Design for the 2017 layout was done by Martin Cook. 

One Of A Kind Album In Review…

The original album was released sometime back in June 1979 and contained 10 instrumental tracks (apart from some narration) spread over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 28 seconds and just like his previous album was recorded at Trident Studios in London, England and recorded by the same studio engineer Stephen W. Tayler who also assisted Bruford in producing the album. 

Bruford was glad to get back to working on his next album after quitting UK and if the truth be told so was Alan Holdsworth who did not get along with both John Wetton and Eddie Jobson. But then again Holdsworth did find it hard to get along with most musicians and later on in many interviews expressed that he was not happy with the music UK was making and was glad to get out of it. 

The new Expanded and Remixed Edition of One Of A Kind was released on the 8th November 2019 and comes with 1 extra bonus track and in total has 11 tracks that span over and overall playing time of 52 minutes, 3 seconds. Once again it comes with new stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Jakko Jakszyk assisted by Bill Bruford. The CD features an extra previously unreleased bonus track which is an out-take of the 6th track on the album “Five G“. It was also not included in the 2017 Seems Like a Lifetime Ago box set. Most likely included to entice those who did purchase the box set to buy this individual release as well. 

Just like the individual release of Feels Good To Me that I previously reviewed it is only the CD in the package that does contain the new stereo mixes which were done by Jakko Jakszyk under the guidance and approval of Bill Bruford. Where I felt that Jakszyk had done quite a good job of the new mixes he did for Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me I cannot really say I am impressed with what he’s done on this release. It does seem to be on the lightweight side of things and the bass sounds too thin in the mix. It also does not really in any way present to you with what many new remixes will give you and sounds more like it’s been remastered rather than newly mixed. 

I certainly do not think it’s an improvement over the original mix on the DVD or the CD I brought back in the 90’s and you might be better off sticking with whatever other release you had before. To be honest the bonus track which is the out-take of “Five G” dynamically sounds much better than any of the other tracks on the CD. It is very much quite different too and only Bruford, Berlin and Stewart are playing on it so the bass is more dominant in the mix. So, with the CD out of the way let’s see if we can salvage anything out of this package as we take a look at the DVD that comes with it. 

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very basic and simplistic and presents you with the choice of either playing the new 2017 surround mix or the original 1979 album mix. Only 1 audio track has been assigned to each of the mixes and the surround mix comes with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with an audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a DTS or Stereo mix. To listen to the new stereo mixes you will have to play the CD.

The original 1979 album comes with a stereo audio track with a basic audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a Hi-Res 24-bit format. It’s unfortunate that everything about the way things have been done and presented here are so BOX STANDARD! I very much think that for all those surround FREAKS! who forked out the money for the Box Set just to get their hands on the 5.1 mix must have been hugely disappointed and it does suffer for not having a DTS audio track here.

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By clicking on any one of the 2 choices offered to you from the main menu it presents you with the albums playlist as shown in the picture above. Here you can simply choose a track to play or play all if you want to listen the whole album. The surround mix does not include the previously unreleased bonus track “Five G Outtake” but they have included it on the original album mix. 

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Whilst playing the album it presents you with the title of the track that is playing as shown in the picture above. It does not have any pictures in the way of a slideshow and the only other visual effect it does have is that at the end of each track the title fades out and fades in the name of the next track. Overall everything about how they put together the DVD is as basic as you can get and is presented in the same way that they done with the debut album.

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again, I do feel that this is one of Jakko Jakszyk’s better 5.1 mixes. I would also say that because the new stereo mixes he done do sound like more of a remaster and do not do anything sonically to make any improvement over the original mix, that even though there is no DTS track here you will get more from the 5.1 mix even with its lower format of standard Dolby Digital. He really has done well with placement of the instruments across the 6 channels and it’s a very well balanced and quite an exciting mix in some respects and will give you a GREAT! immersive experience. 

I think regarding both the 5.1 mixes he’s done for this album and Bruford’s debut album you are better off playing them on a day when you have not played anything else first to get the benefit and the most out of them, simply because of the fact that he has used the lowest of the low 5.1 formats. The 5.1 mix is by far the best thing in this package where as it was the CD with the new stereo mixes that were the best thing in the Feels Good To Me package and that is basically down the fact that he has not used DTS to make it sound sonically better. Because of that this 5.1 mix still only scores 7 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

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All compositions by Bill Bruford except for tracks 6 & 11 by Berlin Stewart, Bruford. Track 1 Stewart & Gowen. Track 3 Bruford & Stewart. Track 7 Holdworth. Track 9 Bruford & Jobson. Produced by Bill Bruford. Assistant Producer Stephen W. Tayler. Recorded between January & February 1979 at Trident Studios London. Recording Engineer. Stephen W. Tayler. Original Sleeve Photography by John Shaw. 2017 Art & Design by Martin Cook. New Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Jakko Jakszyk & Bill Bruford. Mastering & DVD Authoring by Ben Darlow.

Musicians.

Bill Bruford: Drums/Cymbals/Marimba/Voice.
Dave Stewart: Keyboards.
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar.
Jeff Berlin: Bass.

Additional Musicians.

Eddie Jobson: Violin (Tracks 8)
Sam Alder: Narration (Track 5)
Anthea Norman-Taylor: Voice (Track 5)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Bruford’s second album One Of A Kind is seen by many has his best output from his solo career and many of the GREAT! reviews have pointed to that too. I myself find it quite hard to separate it from his debut album in terms of a rating basically because the material that was written for both albums is very strong. Musically the album could be said to be more mechanical in some respects and the other band members also had more of an input into the writing side of it as well. I would also say that this album is more rocked up to give it more of a PROGMATIC! side over the fusion and the production side of things is not so much like Brand X and has its own style about it. 

The other notable thing about this album is that unlike his debut album Feels Good To Me which was put out under his full name as a solo album. Bruford decided that this album was going to be more like a band and this was something he did discuss with the other musicians and he wanted them to be more involved in it like a band. Hence why the rest of his albums in this project was put out under his sir name only. However, this was to be Allan Holdsworth’s final album he did with Bruford and he left to go on to do other things just before the tour of the album and was replaced by John Clark. So’ let’s now take a closer look at the album as I go through the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Hells Bells.

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The album kicks off in a very promising energetic exciting and vibrant way and in all respects that is exactly how his debut album kicked off too. It’s a piece that mostly written by the keyboard player Dave Stewart (not be confused with the guitarist from the Eurythmics) who also has the same name.  However, he did borrow a couple of bars in the melody line from his fellow band mate Alan Gowen to which they both was part of the Canterbury Scene and in a jazz fusion band who went by the name of National Health. The band also actually managed to churn out a couple of their own albums in the same year that Bill Bruford was putting his second solo album together. He also got the bass player Neil Murray from the same band to help him out on his debut album.
 

Hells Bells” is very much a piece that is built around the main structure of the opening lead moog synth lines and it is the synth that carries the main melody to allow both Bruford and Berlin to play around. As the piece transcends along it gets further developed with a couple of transnational changes, the first to allow Holdsworth to fly some lead lines over it on his guitar and the second to make way for a bass solo and piano before falling back into its main melody back on the synths. It’s a very well worked out short piece and favourite with many, it’s also more of a prog rock piece and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 2. One of a Kind (Part 1)

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The albums self-titled track comes in two parts to which the first part is the shorter of the two, the first part also runs along the lines of prog rock and it’s only really Holdsworth’s jazzy guitar lines that do add to the fusion here more than anything. Once again this is another heavy synth-based track like many on the album and this is perhaps where this album does differ slightly from the debut album Feels Good To Me. But even though it is a heavy synth-based album it does also offer bags of room for Holdsworth’s guitar and his guitar does feature more so on this album in relation to Bruford’s debut album. 

Once again there is some GREAT! melodies that are constructed from the synths which do make the piece have quite a statement so does Holdsworth on the guitar and the way they have incorporated it into the 2nd part is by simply bringing everything down to allow a smooth transition into it. 

Track 3. One of a Kind (Part 2)

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The 2nd part is more of the jazz fused section and with Stewart switching onto the Rhodes we get that Eumir Deodato feel like we got on the 2nd part of “Seems Like A Lifetime Ago” from his debut album. This also allows Berlin, Bruford and Holdsworth to work their way into it all to which they do exceptionally well. The first part was written by Bruford whereas this 2nd part he co-wrote with Stewart and you can see how Stewart had more of a part in how this 2nd part is constructed around the keys. 

As the piece runs along it builds its way back into the 1st part again eventually and it contains some really GREAT! interplay between all 4 musicians. This has to be another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and is a very TASTY! piece of work indeed. 

Track 4. Travels With Myself – And Someone Else.

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Time to dim the lights and simmer things down to a smoother mood and feel and this piece certainly does that superbly and in style. Its title could be seen as one sentence but is split into two parts for some reason and it does give the appearance that there are two tracks all rolled up into one here, although this is one piece that has been very well constructed and was penned by Bruford. I would also say that Holdsworth is more restrained on this piece and plays the odd subtle lush ambient chords on his guitar and the only lead lines he plays are more or less at the end where it fades out. 

It’s a piece that showcases some fine keyboard work from Stewart in particular with the melody lines and he even incorporate a bit of nice theme into it as well. Bruford does a lovely more subtle job on the kit whilst Berlin works in some GREAT! bass lines and gets to throw in a bass solo along the way too. It really is another excellent track on the album like they all are I feel too. 

Track 5. Fainting in Coils.

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Another piece penned by Bruford and besides the drums he also throws in a bit of narration along with Sam Alder and Anthea Norman-Taylor who happened to be Brian Eno’s wife at the time. Fainting in coils is taken from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland he wrote back in 1865 under the pseudonym name of Lewis Caroll.  It is also considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre and the sentence “fainting in coils” is spoken by the Mock Turtle in the story and in this case by Bruford whilst Alder does the most of the narration and Norman-Taylor does the voice of Alice.

Fainting In Coils” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 6 minutes 53 seconds it’s also the most PROGMATIC! track on the album and goes through quite a few really GREAT! transitional changes incorporating different themes and melody lines from Stewart’s keyboards and Holdsworth’s guitars. All 4 musicians do an excellent job on the piece. I’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Five G.

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This next piece was written by Berlin, Bruford and Stewart and is a piece that would have been constructed around Berlin’s bass line and he does work his butt off on this track too and does an excellent job on the slap bass. Holdsworth flies over this track and is on fire too and it’s another excellent track that interoperates jazz funk into prog rock and is another firm favourite with many and is another stand out track on the album in contention for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Track 7. The Abingdon Chasp.

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This piece was written by Holdsworth and he plays both electric and acoustic guitar on this piece and constructs not only some fine melody lines but stronger themes with how he’s overdubbed his guitars into the piece. The piece was not intended to be for Bruford’s album and Holdsworth was asked to write and record a demo track for Virgin Records and he was joined in the recording session by Bill Bruford, keyboardist Jeff Young (later Steely Dan, Sting, etc), French bassist Francis Moze (Gong), and alto saxophonist Ray Warleigh (a long-time jazz partner who had “discovered” Allan back in Bradford). It was one of the rare occasions that Holdsworth wrote a piece without having a title for it first and it was sitting around for quite a while before he came up with one.

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Holdsworth also like the odd pint of beer or two and liked to travel to places that served fine ales and it was whilst he was in Abingdon in Oxfordshire England that he came across a fine pub which exclusively serves ale from the Morland brewery, and after a few pints with his mates the English word “chaps” got to be pronounced “chasp” and that’s how he came up with the title.

After doing the demo for Virgin they didn’t follow through and said the music was too ‘eccentric’ for their tastes. So, Bruford suggested that they could record it again and use it for this album and Holdsworth did a very TASTY! job of replacing Ray Warleigh’s sax with his guitar and I rather think that this is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 8. Forever Until Sunday.

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I love the way this track opens up and it reminds me of a bit of “Small Hours” from John Martyn’s 1978 album One World in some respects though it soon goes down a few other roads on that score. It features Eddie Jobson on violin who was originally uncredited on the original album. Although it was penned by Bruford this piece was actually performed live by UK prior to it appearing on this album. Jobson’s violin plays a beautiful melody which is then later replicated by Holdsworth’s guitar and they both do a sensational job on the piece.

Track 9. The Sahara of Snow (Part 1)

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The final piece on the album is split into two parts and the first part was written by Bruford. The opening ambient section portrays the title very well and it’s spiced or vamped up by Stewart’s hypnotic 7/8 piano rhythm to which allows Bruford & Berlin to get into the 7/8 groove of things and the second part of the vamped piano is backed up very well by the marimba and allows Holdsworth to work his way into the piece on the guitar and the first part is certainly the more interesting part of the two here. It’s also the longer of the 2-part piece.

Track 10. The Sahara of Snow (Part 2)

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The 2nd part of the piece was co-written by Bruford & Jobson and both parts were played live by UK on the last tour that both Bruford and Holdsworth played with them. It’s a bit more straight forward with both the piano and the bass vamping along and with the addition of the claps its perhaps a small party piece that would work well live for the audience to join in on the claps. Holdsworth’s lead guitar lines work closely with the groove harmony and even though its perhaps a less interesting piece it rounds off the album well enough. 

Summary…

To sum up Bill Bruford’s second album One Of A Kind just like my previous review of Feels Good To Me in this section I am mainly going to focus my attention on this new EXPANDED & REMIXED! Edition that was originally done back in 2017 and included in the Seems Like A Lifetime Ago box set. By having both new individual releases of these albums they do have some of the same drawbacks and some differences with how they have been mixed.  

For example, the same things I am seeing on both of these releases from the box set is the shoddy workmanship of not including a DTS Soundtrack for the 5.1 mix and their incompetence not to remove the unnecessary long pauses in between some of the tracks on the album. The only real major difference between them both is how Jakko Jakszyk has done the new stereo mixes, and where I felt he had done a good job on the debut album I honestly cannot say the same with how he’s done the new stereo mix for One Of A Kind and it is quite disappointing and not what I would expect to get from a new mix.  

In all honesty the CD that comes in this package may very well be the worst mix the album has ever received out of all the revisions and remasters that came before it, and it is simply not good enough. The best thing in this package is the bonus track and that may not have been remixed at all and the 5.1 mix. But even that could and should have been done better by including a DTS Soundtrack. That is really the only thing that lets the 5.1 mixes down on both albums because I do feel they have been done very well by Jakszyk. 

Conclusion…

In conclusion One Of A Kind by Bill Bruford or in the terms of a band sense Bruford is another quite solid album with the material that was written for it. It’s an album I have always enjoyed just as much as his debut album and terms of a rating I personally could not separate the first two albums and they are in every inch as good as each other. 

If anything, I would say that the album One Of A Kind does tend to be more prog rock based and does not have some of the more refined jazz elements that we got on the album Feels Good To Me. In many ways his debut album does have more finesse and a bit more in variety department. But both are very enjoyable albums that you can instantly like and feel at home with and they also have the longevity to stay with you. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Hell’s Bells“. “One Of A Kind (Parts 1 & 2)“. “Fainting In Coils“. “Five G” and “The Abingdon Chasp“. 

Overall regarding both of the new individual releases from the box set. I was glad to see them finally get released and the price point of £12.99 each does give you something but I may have returned them for a refund if they were priced any more. Simply because a lot more could have been done to present these albums with the quality, they both deserved to have. It’s such a shame with how they have gone about things here and the standards are low in comparison to the many other artists who are presenting their back catalogue of music by giving them a new lease of life with new stereo and 5.1 mixes by doing things properly and also giving the respect their albums deserve. 

Drawing, Sketching And Fainting In Coils

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Hell’s Bells. 3:47.
02. One Of A Kind (Part 1). 2:20.
03. One Of A Kind (Part 2). 4:01.
04. Travels With Myself/And Someone Else. 6:15.
05. Fainting In Coils. 6:53.
06. Five G. 4:46.
07. The Abingdon Chasp. 4:51.
08. Forever Until Sunday. 5:47.
09. The Sahara Of Snow (Part 1). 5:21.
10. The Sahara Of Snow (Part 2). 3:24.
11. Five G (Outake). 4:38.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 5/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 9/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #135

Feels Good To Me (Remixed CD/DVD Edition) – Bill Bruford

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Introduction…

Since the breakup of King Crimson back in 1974 Bill Bruford went on to doing various other things with the likes of artists such as Gong, Roy Harper, Pavlov’s Dog, Genesis, Steve Howe and Chris Squire till he decided what he wanted to do. I guess the inspiration came from seeing how his old band mates from Yes was working on their own solo projects and it was at the beginning of 1977 that he decided it was time to work on his own solo career and put together an album. He had a couple of pieces of music he had been working on for it and he called upon keyboardist David Stewart to help out on a few of the tracks.

I have to confess that I myself much preferred him back in the days with Yes and thought he was absolutely BONKERS! to leave at such a pivotal moment and time to join King Crimson. But I guess it was his love for jazz that was deep rooted into his soul that made the decision in the end and I have always liked how his own distinctive style stands out well enough for one to instantly recognise who it is behind the drum kit.

I think many of the bands and projects Bruford has been involved in over his musical career have always been interesting and have something to say, some more than others. I quite liked most of them apart from Earthworks which was perhaps a bit too much straight jazz for my particular taste, but have always highly regarded the 3 solo albums he made between 1978 – 1980. In many ways the jazz fusion that is contained on his solo material is very close to the same style that the UK band Brand X did and contains aspects of FUNK! only its perhaps got a bit more finesses to it and is not too flamboyant. It does also incorporate some straight jazz into it but overall the balance between fusion and jazz does work very well and is very well refined.

Perhaps “refined” was more of the word I was looking for when comparing Bruford’s solo work with Brand X and interestingly enough there is also a Brand X connection in particular with his debut album in that it was co-produced by Robin Lumley and Bill Bruford, and as well as having the bands keyboard player at the time lending an hand on the production, the bands guitarist John Goodsall also features on one of the tracks. Although unlike the guitarist Alan Holdsworth he roped in who he barely knew at the time, he had already done a few stints with Brand X.

It was having heard what the American bassist Jeff Berlin had done on Patrick Moraz’s debut album The Story Of I that made Bruford want to work with him and having already worked with the singer Annette Peacock back in 1975 was the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle to assemble his debut album Feels Good To Me. Now the album comes with a new stereo and 5.1 surround mix and that would certainly feel good to me as a rule. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork first.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Released last month the new REMIXED version of the album comes in a cardboard 2-panel DigiSleeve that represents a miniature version of a gatefold double vinyl LP. Both the discs are stored in the same way of a double vinyl album and are housed in the both sides of the DigiSleeve. It also comes with a 12-page booklet which also slots into one of the sides and it contains some very informative information and comes with an essay written by Sid Smith along with the original sleeve notes by Richard Williams and all the usual credits, linear notes and lyrics.

The discs are also stored in black cardboard sleeves that slot into the sides of the DigiSleeve as seen below. Though I would suggest you do store them upright and not how I have displayed them here which was done for display purpose only.

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Overall, it’s a very tidy neat package and presentation and I pre-ordered it from Amazon UK and it arrived on the day of its release. It also came at a very respectable price of £12.99 and as his 2nd album One Of A Kind was also being released on the same day. I pre-ordered both and got them both at the same price each.

Artwork.

The albums front cover is a photograph that was taken by Gered Mankowitz who Bruford had last posed for on the sleeve of King Crimson’s album Red. The original sleeve design was done by David Larkham whose sleeve design company was called Cream and was located in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Art & Design for the 2017 layout was done by Martin Cook.

Feels Good To Me Album In Review…

Feels Good To Me by Bill Bruford was originally released sometime in January 1978. The album contained 10 tracks to which are mostly instrumental and it comes with a playing time of 48 minutes 16 seconds. This particular new REMIXED edition of the album was released last month on the 8th November 2019 and contains the same 10 tracks over the same time slot and no bonus tracks are included. It was previously released in in a box set entitled Seems Like A Lifetime Ago along with the other 2 studio albums and live album he made, plus another live concert and some demos that were previously unreleased.

It was back in 2017 Bill Bruford did release the 8 disc Box Set made up of 6 CD’s & 2 DVD’s to which he limited to 2,000 copies only. I am pretty sure a few more copies had to be made as well to cater for all those who had pre-ordered it and it was only made available to order from his own website and priced at around £88 here in the UK.

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I was aware at the time that the box set was being released but like many box sets they do tend to be well overpriced which is why I never bothered pre-ordering it. In all honesty this particular box set should of retailed for around £35 – £40 and not the £88 price tag he was asking for it. I was glad a couple of years later he had seen sense to release his first two solo albums individually, because they were the only things in it of real interest to me simply because they were the only ones that came with the DVD’s with the 5.1 mixes on. You can also see that they came in the same DigiSleeves as well.

There is no doubt that Bill Bruford kept himself busy after his departure from King Crimson in 1974 and the time he spent between 1977 – 1979 he was not only working on his own solo project but also both Bruford & Holdsworth joined up with John Wetton and Eddie Jobson to form the supergroup UK. Bruford spent around 6 months in 1977 from January – June writing the music and then spent 3 weeks rehearsing it before going into the studio in August to record and mix the album.

The rest of the year was spent working on the UK album and both albums were recorded and mixed in the same studio by the same engineer Stephen William Tayler at Trident Studios. The both albums were released in the following year as well and even though the UK album was released a couple of months after it did sort of overshadow the release of his debut album Feels Good To Me. To be honest I was not even aware that Bruford had even started his own solo career until a couple of decades later but I did buy the UK album on its release.

Trident Studios was located at 17 St Anne’s Court in London’s Soho district between 1968 and 1981. It was constructed in 1967 by Norman Sheffield who was the drummer of the 1960s group the Hunters, and his brother Barry. It was Manfred Mann’s successful 1968 hit song “My Name is Jack” that helped launch the studio’s reputation and later in the same year the Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” and part of their double album known as the White Album.

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Other well-known albums and songs recorded at Trident include Elton John’sCandle in the Wind“, David Bowie’s the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Harry Nilsson’sWithout You” and Queen’s first 3 albums Queen, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack. If it was not for the Sheffield brothers Queen may never have been noticed today it was them that managed the band and took a gamble in launching their debut album having struggled to find any companies to release it.

Trident also gained a reputation for the sound of its piano, which can be heard on the Beatles‘ “Hey Jude“, Elton John’sYour Song“, Queen’sKiller Queen” and many other tracks. It was a handmade C. Bechstein concert-sized instrument that was over one hundred years old.

Over the 13 years the Sheffield brother ran the studio many more well-known artists used it and albums and singles came out of it including Bee Gees, Carly Simon, Chris de Burgh, Frank Zappa, Genesis, Brand X, James Taylor, Joan Armatrading, Joe Cocker, Kiss, Tygers of Pan Tang, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Marc Almond, Marc and the Mambas, Soft Cell, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Tina Turner, T-Rex, Van der Graaf Generator, Yes. John Entwistle, Supertramp and many more.

Trident Studios was sold in December 1981 and Trident Sound Studios Ltd, opened in 1993 and specialises in voiceover and ADR work. Although not related to the original Trident Studios, it was named in recognition of the original facility.

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On 15 June 2017, a British Plaque Trust permanent blue plaque was unveiled outside the building at 17 St Anne’s Court, London in the recognition of the multiple David Bowie albums recorded there. Today the building is quite popular with tourists and no doubt it does hold a lot of fascinating musical history.

The new stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by Jakko Jakszyk & Bill Bruford who I feel have done quite a good job of both the stereo and 5.1 mixes. However regarding the 5.1 mix of this album there is a down side to it, and I rather think because of the lack of intelligence not to include something and the negligence not to remove something puts me more in the frame of mind that it was done by amateurs rather than professionals who knew what they was doing.

I shall go into what should have been removed later on in my review and it’s perhaps only a little niggly gripe I have that is down to laziness more than anything else that does effect both the stereo and 5.1 mixes. But on the whole the DVD that is included in this package is not up the standards of many other artists and is perhaps more of a SHABBY! presentation with how they have gone about things here. So, let’s now take a look at the DVD.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very basic and simplistic and presents you with the choice of either playing the new 2017 surround mix or the original 1978 album mix. Only 1 audio track has been assigned to each of the mixes and the surround mix comes with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with an audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a DTS or Stereo mix. To listen to the new stereo mixes you will have to play the CD.

The original 1978 album comes with a stereo audio track with a basic audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a Hi-Res 24 bit format. It’s unfortunate that everything about the way things have been done and presented here are so BOX STANDARD! I very much think that for all those surround FREAKS! who forked out the money for the Box Set just to get their hands on the 5.1 mix must have been hugely disappointed and although I do feel the surround mix is quite good. It does suffer for not having a DTS audio track here, making the new mixes on the CD sonically sound better than anything on the DVD.

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By clicking on any one of the 2 choices offered to you from the main menu it presents you with the albums play list. Here you can simply choose a track to play or play all if you want to listen the whole album. Both the surround and stereo mixes have the same number of tracks and no bonus tracks have been included.

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Whilst playing the album it presents you with the title of the track that is playing as shown in the picture above. It does not have any pictures in the way of a slideshow and the only other visual effect it does have is that at the end of each track the title fades out and fades in the name of the next track. Overall everything about how they put together the DVD is as basic as you can get and personally I feel a child would of done a better job.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Jakko Jakszyk & Bill Bruford are very good and it’s only the fact that they have not included a DTS 5.1 mix that really lets the surround mix down. To be honest the way everything has been panned out across the 6 channels it does sound like one of the better mixes Jakszyk has been involved in. I cannot fault the stereo mix on the CD at all and both sonically and dynamically it does sound better than the 5.1 mix.

But I blame the both of them here and in all honesty the whole presentation of the DVD does look like it was done by someone with no real experience at all and they were doing it for the first time. This is the sort of job you would expect back in the mid 90’s not in 2017 and really should of been done with more hindsight and done a lot better. You could not get more BASIC! if you tried lol…

In terms of a rating I do feel if they would have included a DTS 5.1 mix it would have had the potential to score somewhere between an 8 – 10. But as it stands, I will give it a 7 out of 10 down to the fact that at least they got a good overall balance and placement across the 6 channels and it still will give the immersive experience even though sonically the CD sounds better. Regarding the inclusion of the original stereo mix that is included on the DVD. They might just as well of put it on a CD and I am sure they were playing cowboys when they worked on the DVD :)))))).

Musicians & Credits…

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All compositions by Bill Bruford except for tracks 5, 8 & 9 by Bruford & Stewart. Track 10 music by Bruford words by Peacock. Produced by Robin Lumley. Recorded & Mixed in August 1977 at Trident Studios London. Recording Engineer. Stephen W. Tayler. Original Sleeve Design by Cream. Original Sleeve Photography by Gered Mankowitz. 2017 Art & Design by Martin Cook. New Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Jakko Jakszyk & Bill Bruford. Mastering & DVD Authoring by Ben Darlow.

Musicians.

Bill Bruford: Tuned & Untuned Percussion/Kit Drums/Tunes & Final Say.
Dave Stewart: Keyboards/Reasonably Advanced Harmonic Advice.
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar.
Jeff Berlin: Bass.
Annette Peacock: Vocals (Tracks 2 3 & 10).

Additional Musicians.

Kenny Wheeler: Flugelhorn (Tracks 3. 7 & 9)
John Goodsall: Additional Guitar (Track 6)
Neil Murray: A bass player when I needed one.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Bill Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me as been regarded by many as his personal best output from his solo career and to a certain degree I might go along with that myself. I did buy all 3 of his studio albums and his live album back in the 90’s and can honestly say I like them all and they are all pretty much quite solid albums. To be honest I have never really paid too much attention to his Earthworks project or brought any of those albums. I am not saying I do not like straight jazz but its perhaps a bit too much brass for my liking and more like big band music in some respects. To which there is nothing wrong with that either and I love to death Frank Zappa’s 1972 album The Grand Wazoo but there is a hell of a lot more going on in that.

Out of the other couple of musicians who I have not mentioned who feature on the album, one who does not at all is the bass player Neil Murray. He only stood in for Jeff Berlin at times during the rehearsal sessions of the album and does not actually appear on any of the album tracks, unlike Kenny Wheeler who does get to play on 3 of the tracks and does a GRAND! job too. Murray did also play bass for them live as well at times and can even be seen captured playing the bass for them when they did the live session to promote the album for the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1978 which you can still find on YouTube. So, let’s now take a look at the individual tracks of the album.

Track 1. Beelzebub.

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The album opens up in quite an exciting and menacing way and the funked fusion vibe here is more along the lines of progressive rock and familiar with the band Brand X and this is an instrumental piece that could easily be seen as the best track on the album and a firm favourite with many I would of thought. The first couple of tracks on the album “Beelzebub” and “Back To The Beginning” were amongst the first tracks that Bruford had written for the album and he did write them before he sat down to work on the album at the beginning of 1977.

It was in the late part of 1976 that Bruford had got together with both Rick Wakeman and John Wetton and they were working together on putting a project together though it never got off the ground and was aborted. But during the time they spent rehearsing as a trio they did perform both “Beelzebub” and “Back To The Beginning” and having heard how well the tracks sounded it did encourage Bruford to continue pursuing with his writing.

I have to admit that when you look at any band its very hard to visualize a drummer as a writer. But being as both the drums and piano are part of the percussion family in an orchestra it’s not unusual to see that most drummers can play the piano to some extent and Bruford does also use the piano in the way of a tool and implement to write music with, though he will also tell you that the process can be laborious and take ages.

The name Beelzebub is a mythological creature and can be associated with the Canaanite god Baal. In theological sources, predominantly Christian, Beelzebub is sometimes another name for the devil, similar to Satan. He is known in demonology as one of the seven princes of Hell. The Dictionnaire Infernal describes Beelzebub as a being capable of flying, known as the “Lord of the Flyers”, or the “Lord of the Flies”. This piece certainly does fly and goes through some well good transitions and is an excellent piece of work and I guess why this is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! But to be perfectly honest the next 4 tracks that follow it could also easily merit that award.

Track 2. Back To The Beginning.

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The first of the 3 vocal tracks on the album and I must admit Annette Peacock certainly does have a very strange and unusual voice and this album was the first time I had heard her voice as well. When I first heard it I have to admit it had me thinking WTF! at first :)))))). My initial reaction to it had me thinking this woman cannot sing for TOFFEE! but it soon grew on me and I got to see how well defined the character of her voice sat in with the music and fitted it like a glove.

The lyrics Bruford wrote for the song are very well written and pertain to how the many same mistakes we make throughout life are from our imperfections and go back to the beginning of the garden of Eden with Eve. You could say the devil had a hand in how we are caught in the circle. In some ways the way that Peacock does express the words in both a singing and talking manner sort of throws a 60’s melancholic carefree hippie presence and feel to it all even if the music does not. She also reminds me a bit like one of the female vocalists on the 1969 electronic album An Electric Storm by White Noise.

Oddly enough her career stretches back to a year before that album and in 1968 she was said to be the first person to compose music for the synthesizer and play it live. However, she did get booed off the stage and folks were not quite ready for it. In the following year of 1969, she became one of the first people to experiment with Rap. In 1972 David Bowie turned up unexpected at her studio with Mick Ronson and asked her if she would play some synthesizers on his new album, he was working on Aladdin Sane. She refused and more or less told Bowie that you’re a musician go home and learn how to play them. She was the one who also recommended the keyboard player Mike Garson to Bowie who had dome some keyboard work on her own debut album at the time, and he ended up getting the job and played live and on a few of Bowie’s albums

Most of the information I just stated came from this rare piece of footage I found on the Tube of her. I cannot vouch how much of it is true especially regarding the David Bowie side of things and her being the first to compose music for the synthesizer and play it live to which I do believe goes back a bit further than that. But I do know that Mick Ronson played guitar on one of her albums and that Mike Garson played keyboards on Peacock’s 1972 debut album I’m The One.

To be honest in some of the interviews I have also read in my research she does tend to comes across a bit too Cock-Sure of herself but having also checked out some of her music I can perhaps see why Bowie was influenced by her and she is quite unique in what she does. I am also tempted to delve a bit more into her music and perhaps buy some of it in the future.

Although this next piece of video footage I grabbed from the Tube is perhaps not as good quality wise in comparison to video I seen of them on the Old Grey Whistle Test. You can hear how Peacock’s voice does sound like it does on the studio version and this also features the original line up of the band that is on the studio album.

Back To The Beginning” is another really excellent track on the album and although it may look like Annette Peacock stole the show here it does also feature some excellent work from the other guys and some truly GREAT! guitar work from the late GREAT! Allan Holdsworth. It’s also a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 3. Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part One)

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This GORGEOUS! piece comes in two parts to which the first part is a vocal track that simmers and mellows things down a bit more. Annette Peacock’s voice is very much a lot sweeter on this one and it’s also perhaps worth noting that it’s not only her voice that does sing sweetly here either, and Kenny Wheeler’s flugelhorn also sings along BEAUTIFULLY! I think the both parts put you in the picture and would have easily sat in well in a GREAT! movie.

Once, again I am well impressed with Bruford’s lyrics and he really has thought about the words and not just written any old thing that will fit sort of thing. The lyrics do pertain to love and are quite poetic and relate to how over the years the warmth of love can dim and fade and I like how he’s likened it to how the seasons change too. It really is a GREAT! song and one that tailspins into the 2nd part which is perhaps more of an action scene that would fit in another part of a movie.

Track 4. Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (Part Two)

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Apart from a few words at the beginning this piece is very much an instrumental track and one that has some GREAT! vibes on the Rhodes from Dave Stewart whilst Jeff Berlin gets the funk back out on the bass and both Bruford and Holdsworth also get into the swing and groove of things too. This piece is very well built up and is very much like a piece that comes in 3 parts with how it changes its musical direction. For example, the first section changes the mood completely from the part one and picks things up by working around some fine punctuating melody lines from the guitar and synth and it’s like a theme from a TV Series sort of thing.

Then it comes down and goes into the vibe section on the keys which is more like something that Eumir Deodato did with Richard Strauss’sAlso Sprach Zarathustra” back in 1973 in the way of jazz funk. This is where they all get into the swing and groove of things and there is also a bit of a clapping section that works well for audience participation for live shows too. The final section falls back into the melody lines that made up the song in part one and ends it off superbly.

To be perfectly honest I find it hard to believe that Bill Bruford wrote this piece on his own and it does feel more like a band effort with how everyone is contributing and executing their parts so well. The musicianship is TOP CLASS! and they really do the DOGS BOLLOX! here.

I very much brought Deodato’s single version of Also Sprach Zarathustra” back in 1973 and the B’ Side was entitled “Spirit Of Summer” and although they are nothing alike I do feel that the first part of “Seems Like A Lifetime Ago” could be seen as the spirit of summer and the way the second part runs along could also be seen as the same sort of jazz funk in all respects to the A’ Side and the two parts as an whole have to be also very strong contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Sample And Hold.

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Another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and “Sample And Hold” is another one of the instrumental pieces that runs along the lines of prog rock and this one is a bit like a cross between Brand X and the Dutch band Focus. This is one of the 3 tracks on the album that was co-written by Bruford & Stewart and features some more lovely vibes on the keys by Stewart and some superb bass work from Berlin. Holdsworth plays some nice short very tasty lead work on this track too whilst Bruford keeps it all under control, compact and tight as ever.

Track 6. Feels Good to Me.

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The albums self-titled track is another one of the many instrumental tracks on the album and this is written around some fine melodies and themes on the keys that would suit a TV Series apart from the more tangent section where it runs along in a bit of frenzy that would also be familiar to something Brand X would of done. You can certainly tell that Robin Lumley was behind the production and this is another very fine piece of work and one where perhaps Dave Stewart has his work cut out more than most on the keys. It also features some additional guitar from Lumley’s band mate John Goodsall and another excellent player he is too.

Track 7. Either End of August.

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The second track on the album to feature Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn and another fine job he does on it and it perhaps plays one of the more finer melody lines in the piece and one that makes quite a bold statement. Stewart contributes some fine piano work on the piece and Holdworth’s lead guitar lines are perhaps more poignant towards the end of the piece. It’s quite a mysterious piece and perhaps the odd track on the album but it has some fine moments along its just over 6-minute journey.

Track 8. If You Can’t Stand the Heat…

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Another of the exciting little pieces on the album like the opening track on the album. It features great vibes and keys from Stewart and Bruford and some well tasty guitar work from Holdsworth who gets to fly along this one and so too does Berlin on the bass. It’s another of the co-written tracks by Bruford & Stewart and another really GREAT! track that once again runs along the lines of prog rock fusion and something once again familiar to the Brand X style and they cook this one up very well indeed.

Track 9. Springtime in Siberia.

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Time too sooth and simmer things down again and this is the second shortest piece on the album and once again penned by Bruford and Stewart. It’s also the last of the tracks to feature Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn and I am pretty sure its only Stewart and Wheeler who are playing on the track. It’s another BEAUTY! and the piano and flugelhorn work wonderful together.

Track 10. Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past)

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The album rounds itself up very well with the final vocal track of the album with Annette Peacock not just providing the vocals but also the lyrics. Basically the lyrics are pertaining to complexities of how hard it is to live our lives with everything bad that’s around us and how life is more precious and the only thing that is priceless enough for us to accept it for what is and release ourselves from the past and continue to live it peacefully. It would most likely be AMAZING! if everybody could and it is perhaps only love that could conquer all things if it was aloud too.

This is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 8 minutes, 41 seconds and has a real good build up to it before Peacock’s voice comes into play and it features some really GREAT! lead work from Holdsworth throughout most of the song and all the musicians do quite a SPECTACULAR! job on it. To be honest I do feel the song does not really go anywhere regarding the progression side of things especially over this distance, but nevertheless it is another really GREAT! song and puts the album to bed very well.

Summary…

To sum up Bill Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me. In this section I am mainly going to focus my attention on this new REMIXED! Edition that was originally done back in 2017 to which Bill Bruford did with having Jakko Jakszyk onboard at the helm to help out with both the new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the album. I do feel that the way both the box set and these new packages that came out of it (which have just been released) do need to be addressed regarding the quality and how they both went about it.

These days Bill Bruford has very much retired from public performance and has been since around 2009. He spends much of his time still talking about music and gives the odd lecture now and then. He also took some time to work on his autobiography and operates his record labels, Summerfold and Winterfold Records which is why we are seeing these new reissues of his back catalogue of music and have been since he started to work on them back in 2016.

I think it’s GREAT! that he is spending his time reissuing his back catalogue of music and I am truly grateful that he has seen sense to re-release in particular his first two albums that he could locate all the original multi-track tapes to do 5.1 mixes with them. However, with all the time he now has on his hands I do feel there has been a certain amount of laziness in the way things have been done.

For example, when I mentioned earlier that the lack of intelligence not to include something and the negligence not to remove something puts me more in the frame of mind that it was done by amateurs rather than professionals who knew what they was doing. I was not kidding and for most surround FREAKS! like myself this will be quite disappointing. In all honesty I am so glad I never forked out the money back in 2017 to buy the box set. But it’s not all bad though things could have, and should have been done a lot better and for any 5.1 mixing engineer not to see the sense to also include a DTS audio track certainly does not give them a good reputation as an engineer.

It’s a shame really because I did feel that Jakszyk had done one of his better jobs on the 5.1 mix and it was only the fact that he used the lowest of the low 5.1 formats is where the quality fails to impress leaving the CD the best quality item in the package. I am sure that most surround FREAKS! like myself do not buy these packages for the CD’s that come with them. To be honest it’s very rare I will even play the CD at all and I only ever really rip it onto my computer into a 320kbps MP3 format so I can listen to music with my headphones whilst I am working away on my computer.

Regarding the 5.1 mix there is no doubt that the immersive experience it will give you is still there, and it is only how it sonically presents itself to you that lets it down. So much that even by listening to a much lower quality MP3 format of the new stereo mix on headphones taken from the CD does sonically and in terms of fidelity quality sound much better. There is always going to be a difference between a new stereo mix and a 5.1 mix and as a rule both of them will bring something out a lot more for you to enjoy when done right. In all honesty I do feel that both the mixes were done right but it’s the lack thought and attention that has been given to the DVD in this package that lets it down badly and you simply could not get more BASIC! if you tried like I originally said.

The other thing I have not mentioned is the thing they never took away and once again this goes to prove just how lazy everything was done here. Now this is only a minor niggly thing and does not affect the recording but it still exists and for the life of me I do not know why, simply because I had always seen it has an error in the first place. To be honest I have never had the album on vinyl and only CD before but I am sure the very thing I am about to mention does exist on every recording of the album.

Now you could say that this very thing I am about to mention might have been left in for purists. But I rather doubt that by removing it would have any bearing on this package simply because these are new remixes. The very thing I am talking about is that for some reason 3 of the tracks on the album have much longer pauses of silence in between them. Now I could perhaps understand if it only had one longer pause in the middle of the album on the CD to make you feel that that was the point where you had to get up and turn the original vinyl album over. But why 3 of them and this as always confused me and is why I always seen them as an error. For the life of me I cannot see why they never removed them and the very fact that they never just go to show the lack of attention that was given to this whole project in the first place.

I am not surprised to read the many bad reviews the Seems Like A Lifetime Ago Box Set received since it was released back in 2017 and they do outweigh the good reviews it got by quite a long margin. Since re-issuing both Feels Good To Me and One Of A Kind individually out of the box set a month ago I have yet to find one review of them. Nothing further has been done with these re-issues and they still represent many of the disappointing things I have read about them. Although what I give praise to is the new remix of Feels Good To Me on the CD and I do think it is better than the original mix I had on the CD I had back in the 90’s and sounds better for it.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I shall focus mostly on the debut album itself and there is no doubt that the album Feels Good To Me does have a Brand X feel about it, but not all over it and there are some finer elements of a Jazz that do reflect on some of the tracks on the album. It is my favourite album out of the 3 Bill Bruford did make though I do feel pretty much all of them were quite solid and had very well written material upon them. The track placement is very well thought out and the album in many respects flows like a river that has never really dried up and outdated itself.

To put it in a nutshell this is an album you could still very much stick on today and will not regret doing so, and it will still give you plenty of satisfaction regardless of you having the new REMIXED version or not. I do like the new REMIXED version and at its price point of £12.99 I would say it was worth it. But I certainly do not think it is worth any more for this package given the poor job that has been done with most of it.

I think where this album works very well is by including a few vocal tracks to break it up a bit more and no doubt the musicianship and the participation of everyone on it is class. The lyrics are very well written too and it is a very hard album to pick a personal favourite with how well everything was done here. My highlights from the album are as follows: “Beelzebub“. “Back To The Beginning“. “Seems Like a Lifetime Ago (Parts One & Two) and “Sample And Hold“. But I could just as easily include the whole album.

Personally I have always felt that the Bill Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me as always had the longevity to make it still stand out and shine today and that is something I could not say of the album he did with UK at the time. I also think the material on this album is much stronger too. Coming up next will be my review of the new Expanded & Remixed Edition of Bill Bruford’s 2nd album One Of A Kind.

No Use Making The Same Mistakes Forever And Ever Amen

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Beelzebub. 3:33.
02. Back To The Beginning. 7:23.
03. Seems Like a Lifetime Ago (Part One). 2:32.
04. Seems Like a Lifetime Ago (Part Two). 4:33.
05. Sample And Hold. 5:20.
06. Feels Good To Me. 3:56.
07. Either End Of August. 6:05.
08. If You Can’t Stand The Heat. 3:39.
09. Springtime In Siberia. 2:44.
10. Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past). 8:41.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 8/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 9/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #134

Stormwatch (40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition) – Jethro Tull

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Introduction…

It’s that time of the year again for another re-issue from the back catalogue of Jethro Tull albums that come in the form of these rather splendid book editions and this particular edition celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the 1979 album Stormwatch to which Mr. Anderson is calling the “Force 10 Edition”. This is actually the 11th album to be given the book treatment which all started back in 2012 when the 1972 album Thick As A Brick got the treatment to which he called “The Special Collector’s Edition” which also celebrated that albums 40th Anniversary. It was only a couple of years prior to that we see for the first time 5.1 versions of the albums Stand Up and Aqualung and even though none of those releases were given the book treatment at the time.

There is no doubt that Mr. Anderson seen something more appealing about how the first book edition of Thick As A Brick was presenting itself in the form of a book that came with a CD and DVD with 5.1 version of the album, plus a book that told you everything about the albums history and it very much inspired him to even go back and re-release both Stand Up and Aqualung again in the form of a book edition and give people even more for their money by putting more discs inside them. It was however unfortunate that in 2013 that the 1970 Benefit album did not get the book treatment at all and was only ever released in a 4-panel digiPack to which he called “A Collector’s Edition”.

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So far to date Benefit is the only album not to be given the book treatment out of the first 12 albums that was released from 1968 – 1979. But the one thing I have noticed is that the albums 50th Anniversary is only around the corner and only a year away now. So just like we had the 40th Anniversary of the 1978 album Heavy Horses and the 50th Anniversary of the 1968 album This Was given the book treatment last year. We could very well see the 40th Anniversary of the 1980 album A and the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 album Benefit get released in 2020.

Besides being the 3rd part of a trilogy of folk rock albums, the album Stormwatch was the last album to feature Jethro Tull’s classic band line-up and it’s last member to join them bassist John Glascock who had joined the band in 1976 died from heart complications during the making of the album in the same year of its release. The album was not made under the best conditions and times and I personally felt it suffered for it. But before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork of this new release of the album.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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As with all these packages they are 100% quality in that everything stores away neatly into a 96-page hardback book. The 4 CD’s are held firmly in place with the plastic hub trays that are fitted in the front and back of the book and the 2 DVD’s slot away very tidily into cardboard slip pockets that are gloss coated on the inside to prevent the discs from get any marks and scratches. The 96 page book is very informative regarding the  history of the album and the time it was made, and comes with wonderful glossy pictures and all the usual linear notes, credits and the lyrics.

It’s always pays to get in early and pre-order an item like this as soon as you see it available for pre-order on Amazon. Although places like the Burning Shed are usually on the ball and will have it available for pre-order first and even there price might appear to look cheaper than Amazon’s do not pay attention to the price that is first displayed on Amazon because it will drop down as you get nearer towards the release date.

For example, I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the 22nd July and at the time it was priced up at £35.95. A couple of weeks before its release the price had dropped down to £29.98 and the good thing about Amazon is that the P+P is free. Had I have pre-ordered it from the Burning Shed with the price of the P+P they charge you on top. I would have ended up paying £37.49 or even more for it. So, it does pay to shop around but in general I have had some right bargains from pre-ordering the Jethro Tull Book Editions from Amazon and they cannot be beaten.

You can get a better look at the package in this short video presentation I made.

The Artwork.

The concept of the artwork for the albums cover is credited to Ian Anderson and was based around themes and the environment. The painting of the snowscape with a polar bear looming over a power station was done by David Jackson under the art direction of Peter Wragg. A photograph of Anderson with binoculars was used on the albums front cover to which the snow and the lightning flashes were painted in. Overall, it’s quite a good album cover and is very apt to the albums title.

Stormwatch (40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition) Review…

Jethro Tull’s 12th studio album Stormwatch was originally released in the UK and US on the 21st September 1979. The album contained 10 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 53 seconds. The album received many critical reviews upon its release and even though it peaked at 27 in the UK album charts and 22 in the US it was quite marginally disappointing in comparison to how well every album that came before it had done. I am pretty sure that at the time of its release Ian Anderson was hugely disappointed by how the album was received, that much that he spent many years defending the album at his live concerts.

I remember seeing Jethro Tull at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in the late 90’s when they were touring the DOT COM album the band had just released, and whilst he played “Dark Ages” he mentioned that Stormwatch was one of his personal favourite albums. But you cannot blame any songwriter for wanting to defend their own songs on that score. I have to confess that I myself was hugely disappointed with the album that much that I honestly would say that every one of the 11 albums that came before it was real GEMS in relation to the album. For an album that was supposed to be the third part in a series of a trilogy of folk-rock albums, it sounds more like a rock album gone wrong. The album is so out of context with its two predecessors Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses and only a few songs really speak the same language.

I think over the many years in many of my reviews of Jethro Tull I have on many other sites expressed the many downfalls that the album Stormwatch has. Having read the book that comes with this new 40th Anniversary edition I was quite surprised that not only all of the band members expressed the same feelings as myself about the album, but even Ian Anderson himself thought that “Dun Ringill” was the best thing on it and that has always been my favourite track too. Apart from another couple of tracks on the album the only real thing the album Stormwatch had about it would of been the fact that it contained the members of its last classic line-up. I would also say that at least Anderson still had his voice too, to which he did lose around 5 years after the album was made.

The 40th Anniversary of the album Stormwatch (Force 10 Edition) was supposed to be released on the 11th October but due to a distribution glitch in getting all the pre-orders out the release date got set back a month to the 15th November. It mostly affected those of us who live in the UK but in many other countries it was released on the 11th October and on the 10th October, I did get an email from Amazon confirming the new release date and also Ian Anderson announced the bad news on Facebook also on that day. I was not too happy having to wait another month but these things do happen and then 2 days before the new releases date on the 13th November Ian Anderson made another announcement that the distribution had still not been sorted out and it was now being set back to the 29th November.

I eagerly kept checking my email waiting for the announcement off Amazon and luckily for me I never got one and it did arrive on the 15th November. But it seems very odd that all those who did order it from the Jethro Tull website will have to wait till the 29th of November. The same goes for those who pre-ordered it from the Burning Shed as well and that is most likely tied to the Jethro Tull website. It’s most likely down to the fact that Ian Anderson has to sign them and you do pay more money for it by ordering from there which is why I prefer Amazon myself.

The album was recorded at Ian Anderson’s own Maison Rouge Studio in Fulham road London although a lot of it was also recorded in other various places with the use of the Maison Rouge Mobile which was Anderson’s first studio he had built back in 1975 and is also known as La Maison Rouge which was built in a Mercedes truck. The Maison Rouge studio in Fulham road he built in 1977. Ian Anderson sold the studio sometime in 1983. I am not 100% sure but I think he may have sold it to the record producer Robin Millar who had brought 3 studios in London back in those days.

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Maison Rouge Studio

Many artists were recorded during the times Ian Anderson had the studio and long after he sold it on. Even Wham’s first hit was recorded there and some of Queen’s big hits. Marrilion recorded their 2nd album Fugazi and even Genesis had recorded there. The list goes on and on. The studio was eventually sold on too developers and it was Chelsea FC who brought it as part of a re-development for their football ground and they knocked down to make way for a car park which is what it has been since around 2005.

The Package Contents…

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Like many of these Book Editions they come with an array of bonus material and besides the 96 page book that is an excellent feature on its own with all the informative information it gives you, this release comes with 6 Discs 4 CD’s & 2 DVD’s which is the most discs that any of these box sets have ever came with so far. It’s also good to see that Steven Wilson is back at the helm for this release and he’s perhaps had his work cut out here because he’s not only done new mixes and a 5.1 mix for the studio album, but has also done the same for much of the bonus material as well. So, let’s now take a closer inspection at just what you get here.

CD 1.

The 1st CD comes with the new Steve Wilson mixes of the original 10 album tracks which are spanned over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 53 seconds. I like the fact that it is only the main album you get and it does not include any other bonus tracks on it. There is no need for me to list the tracks here as I shall be reviewing them later on in the album tracks section of my review. But what I will say is like all of Wilson’s new mixes he has done an excellent job on them.

CD 2.

The 2nd CD contains is what they are calling the “Associated Recordings” and this disc contains all the recordings that were recorded around the time of making the album. In total you get 15 tracks over and overall playing time of 72 minutes, 7 seconds. 7 of the tracks are all previously unreleased material and the other 8 tracks have found their way on previous releases as bonus tracks on albums and various other box sets. The previously unreleased tracks are as follows:

Dark Ages (Early Version)“. “A Single Man (Instrumental)“. “Orion (Full Version)“. “Urban Apocalypse“. “Man Of God“. “Rock Instrumental (Unfinished Master)” and “Sweet Dream Fanfare“.

As you can see there is also a couple of alternative versions of “Dark Ages” & “Orion” that featured on the Stormwatch album. Both of these versions are also extended and longer than the original tracks. There is also 3 instrumental tracks 2 of which “A Single Man” & “Rock Instrumental” were written by Martin Barre and although they was not considered to be fitting enough for the album they did get played live at some shows back in 1979/80. The 3rd instrumental piece “Sweet Dream Fanfare” was penned by David Palmer and used as the introduction to the shows the band played on their US tours in the autumn of 1978 and the spring of 1979. These shows also opened up with “Sweet Dream” as the first number the band played.

Both the songs “Urban Apocalypse” & “Man Of God” are certainly the most interesting out of the bunch of unreleased material. The first of the two was written by David Palmer and Anderson does describe it as being more of his baby, but much of the band had an input in it including the deceased John Glascock and it does sound like a very sophisticated Jethro Tull song and is very good. It was also meant to be included on the album but was left off due to vinyl restrictions. The latter of the two songs was written by Anderson but he never considered it good enough and left it on the shelf. It’s not too bad and in reality, I personally do not think any of them would of tied in with the folk rock trilogy, but then again neither did a lot of the material that made it onto Stormwatch either :)))))).

The other 8 tracks were all written around the same time as Stormwatch apart from the live track which was written back in 1969. But apart from that the other tracks were never considered for the album though there are some really excellent songs that were written amongst this lot and certainly a couple of them that would of been a damn site more fitting regarding folk rock. The tracks are as follows:

Crossword“. “Kelpie“. “Dun Ringill (Early Version)“. “A Stitch In Time”. “Broadford Bazaar“. “King Henry’s Madrigal (Theme From “Mainstream)“. “The Lyricon Blues (Instrumental)” and “Sweet Dream (Live)“.

Let’s get the odd live track out of the way first and “Sweet Dream” is the version from the double live album Bursting Out and was included here because it was also the B’ side of the single “A Stitch In Time” that they wrote and released in 1978. The early version of “Dun Ringill” includes Martin Barre playing with Ian Anderson on the song. The version that features on the Stormwatch album only featured Anderson alone in the same way he had done “Jack In The Green” on the Songs From The Wood album.

The first of the two instrumental pieces “King Henry’s Madrigal & The Lyricon Blues (Instrumental)” was arranged by David Palmer and originally thought to have been composed by King Henry VIII and this has been played many a time live on stage by the band. It’s a piece that really sits in well with Tull’s repertoire and features Dave Pegg on bass. The second of the pieces was written by Anderson and is a blues piece that he done with a wind synthesizer or wind-controlled instrument called a Lyricon.

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Lyricon

The Lyricon was the first ever wind controller to be constructed and was invented by Bill Bernardi (and co-engineered by Roger Noble with the late Lyricon performer Chuck Greenberg. It was manufactured by Computone Inc. in Massachusetts in the early 1970s and I find that quite fascinating and something unique, especially has not even MIDI had been invented by then. None of the Lyricon’s were engineered to use MIDI either and it was only after the company went out of business in 1980 that external MIDIfication modules were produced by J.L. Cooper and STEIM. “The Lyricon Blues” was a one off and the only piece Anderson played with the instrument and he soon got bored of it and never touched it again.

The remaining 4 songs I very much consider GEMS and always have had. In reality both “Kelpie” & “Broadford Bazaar” should have made it on the album Stormwatch. They are both songs that very much have the same quality of the material that was on Songs From The Wood & Heavey Horses in that this is genuine folk rock material and very well written songs. The other two songs “Crossword” & “A Stitch In Time” have more of a resemblance to the Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll – Too Young To Die! album and really are excellent too.

To be honest looking at how most of these Book Editions sell out more or less as soon as they come out. I am surprised to see how widely available Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll – Too Young To Die! still is. I know I paid £14 for it when it was released back in 2016. But even at the price it is on Amazon UK now at £24 it’s still a bargain and I would even say as an album it was a thousand times better than Stormwatch which is really an album that does not have much to say about itself.

CD’s 3 & 4.

Discs 3 & 4 contain a previously unreleased concert of the band playing live at Congreßgebouw, Den Haag in the Netherlands on the 16th March 1980. No doubt the concert has been put out on several bootlegs over the years and it even mentions that due to the archival nature of the source material the sound quality might not be up to modern standards. There is some evident distortion in some of the more powerful tracks like “Dark Ages” and “Orion” but overall, it’s not bad enough to spoil your listening pleasure and I certainly feel that it was a worthy edition of them including it.

Obviously as you can see by the date the band played the concert that John Glascock was not present and had sadly passed on in the previous year. Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention was called in to handle the bass duties who eventually went on to join the band in the same year. Being as the band were still very much on the tour of the Stormwatch album most of the album got played in the first half of the set to which they kicked off the show off with them and rolled them out one after another. It also features many Tull classics as ever and even a couple of Dave Pegg’s own compositions are played over the two sets too.

In total you get the whole hour and 50 minute show spread over the two discs and the 3rd CD contains 13 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 26 seconds and the track list is as follows: Prelude To A Storm“. “Dark Ages“. “Home“. “Orion“. “Dun Ringill“. “Elegy“. “Old Ghosts“. “Something’s On The Move“. “Aqualung“. “Peggy’s Pub“. “Jack-In-The-Green“. “King Henry’s Madrigal/Drum Solo” and “Heavy Horses“.

The 4th CD contains 12 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 48 minutes, 49 seconds. The track listing is as follows: Flute Solo“. “Keyboard Duet“. “Songs From The Wood“. “Hunting Girl“. “Jams O’Donnel’s Jigs“. “Thick As A Brick“. “Too Old To Rock’n’roll: Too Young To Die!“. “Cross-Eyed Mary“. “Guitar Solo“. “Minstrel In The Gallery“. “Locomotive Breath” and “The Dam Busters March“.

DVD 1.

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The first of the DVD’s contains the new Steven Wilson mixes in 5.1 & Stereo plus the original 1979 Stereo mix of the album. The main menu looks very pretty with the album cover and animated snow falling making it more realistic than the album cover and this is where for me with this type of packages you are not missing out by not having the vinyl album for its larger picture of the album cover. The main menu itself presents you with 2 simple choices of what mix to play and by clicking on one of them will present you with the following screen.

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Once you’ve made your choice of which mix to play the sub menu presents you with the following 3 choices “Play Album”. “Track Select” and “Audio Select” as you can see in the picture above. From here you can simply play the album or you might want to head into the “Track Select” to select a track to play or the “Audio Select” to set up your desired audio settings. The “Track Select” will take you to the following screen.

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As you can see from the “Track Select” menu it only features the tracks from the album Stormwatch and there are no other bonus tracks on the 1st DVD. The same is for both the new Steve Wilson mixes and the original 1979 mix of the album. The following screen shows the “Audio Select” menu.

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From the “Audio Select” menu shown above you can select your choice of audio. The new Steve Wilson mixes gives you 3 choices of audio to select from and by default it’s set to 96/24 Stereo LPCM. The other 2 are 5.1 Surround Soundtracks giving you the choice of DTS 96/24 and standard Dolby Digital 48/16. The 1979 original flat transfer of the album comes with 1 Soundtrack of 96/24 LPCM Stereo.

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Whilst playing the album it presents you with the albums front cover and a slideshow of pictures of the band and individual members of the band are displayed in the lenses as shown in the picture above. It also displays the name of the track you’re playing and the animated snow falling to make it a bit more pretty. It’s a nice enough touch and overall, they have done a very good job on putting the DVD together. So now let’s take a look at the 2nd DVD.

DVD 2.

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The layout of DVD 2 is the same as the previous DVD and this disc contains the same 15 tracks that are the “Associated Recordings” on CD 2. Only here they also come with a 5.1 mix and also the original stereo mixes have been included. The Audio formats also offer you the same choice you got with the first DVD too. I very much like the fact that these tracks got the 5.1 treatment and it is unusual for them to include the bonus tracks with 5.1 mixes and Steve Wilson did have his work cut out on this album. It’s also worth noting though that only 13 of the tracks have been given the 5.1 treatment and the last couple of tracks “Sweet Dream Fanfare” & “Sweet Dream Live” are in stereo only.

The 5.1 Mixes.

Well there is no doubt that Steven Wilson is up there with the best of the 5.1 mix engineers these days and no doubt he has done another truly GREAT! job with them for both the new mixes of the original album and associated recordings. I do feel the 5.1 treatment does work well in how he’s gone about the placement of everything over the 6 channels and because Stormwatch is not a particular favourite album of mine by any means I was rather hoping that the 5.1 treatment would make the album work a bit better for me. But unfortunately, it does nothing for it basically because most of the material was just too bad to say enough in the first place. But I suppose at the least I might get to play the album a bit more now it’s had the 5.1 treatment and it does have a few good tracks.

More than anything I am so glad he did give at least 13 of the 15 tracks of the associated recordings the 5.1 treatment and in all honesty, it is these tracks and the bonus disc that are the more enjoyable thing about the package along with the book. He has done a very effective job with “Urban Apocalypse” too and I prefer the material that was written for the biggest majority of these tracks over the album Stormwatch. Overall, the 5.1 mixes of both albums are TOP NOTCH! and once again I give nothing but praise to the guy.

The Bonus Material In Review.

For me the bonus material that was written around the same time as the album Stormwatch is very good and a lot of it I would say does say more about Ian Anderson’s writing than the material that winded up on Stormwatch. But even if you were to swap and change some of the material to try and make up something that would have been more suitable to work in the way of the 3rd part of a series of folk-rock albums, you would be flogging a dead horse I am afraid. Simply because there is nothing here to really measure up to the written material that made up the albums Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses. But that is not to say that some of the bonus material is not more familiar with the band Jethro Tull.

Over the many years since Jethro Tull started back in the late 60’s Ian Anderson has written many truly GREAT! songs that never made it onto any of the bands main albums they put out. Sure, they made it onto compilation albums and songs like “Witches Promise” and “Living In The Past” are very much what I would call Jethro Tull classics and that is just to name a couple of them. I think out of all the tracks that make up the associated recordings the only one that lets it down is that he decided to include the full version of “Orion“. The song is boring enough without making it longer and it’s never going to make grade like he did with the extended version of “Wondering Aloud” to which he entitled “Wondering Aloud Again“.

Overall both the associated recordings and live concert are worthy additions and John Glascock also appears on more of the tracks on the associated recordings than the album and features on 8 of the tracks. My personal highlights from the associated recordings are as follows: “Crossword“. “Kelpie“. “Dun Ringill (Early Version)“. “A Stitch In Time“. “A Single Man (Instrumental)“. “Broadford Bazaar“. “King Henry’s Madrigal“. “Urban Apocalypse“. “The Lyricon Blues (Instrumental)” and “Man Of God“.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs composed by Ian Anderson except “Elegy” by David Palmer. Recorded between August 1978 – July 1979 on the Maison Rouge Mobile and at the Maison Rouge Studios Fulham. London. Produced by Ian Anderson & Robin Black. Engineered by Robin Black. Cover Concept by Ian Anderson. Art Direction by Peter Wagg. Cover Painting by David Jackson. Surround & Stereo New Mixes by Steven Wilson. Den Haag Audio Restoration & Mastering by Nick Watson at Fluid. CD Master & DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at Isonic.

Musicians.

Ian Anderson: Vocals/Flute/Acoustic Guitar/Bass Guitar.
Martin Barre: Electric Guitar/Classical Guitar/Mandolin.
John Evan: Piano & Organ.
David Palmer: Portative Pipe Organ/Synthesizers & Orchestral Arrangements.
John Glascock: Bass Guitar (Tracks 2, 9, 10 & Disc 2 Tracks 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15)
Barriemore Barlow: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.

Dave Pegg: Bass (Disc 2 Track 14 & Discs 3 & 4)
Francis Wilson: Spoken Word (Tracks 1, 8)

The Original Album Tracks Review…

I have to confess that when Stormwatch was released back in 1979 it was the the first time I seen a dent regarding the written material that made up the album. To even say it was the third part of a folk-rock trilogy was a bit of an insult basically because the material was all over the place and never heading in the right direction. One minute you are on an oil rig in the North Sea and the next you’re in the stars and then thrust back to the dark ages. Everything about the album is so out of context there is just no way for it to work like a collection of songs that have been assembled to make up an album never mind a folk-rock album.

Unlike the previous two albums in the folk-rock trilogy where the other band members had joined in on the writing Stormwatch was mostly written by Ian Anderson solely, apart from the last instrumental track on the album penned by David Palmer. Gone are the tiny woodland elves that wondered along so pleasantly in velvet green and the one brown mouse sitting in its cage in acres wild, to make way for the news concerning oil tankers in the North Sea and to gaze at the stars. Effectively it’s a bit like making way for a bypass that’s going to be built through heritage land and piss many of its residents off who live there :)))))).

Something more FISHY! was going on and I am sure that the fact that Ian Anderson had gone into Salmon farming up in Scotland and focused his attention around that region had a bearing on how the album turned out and his mind may of been focused on other things rather than the folk rock trilogy he originally had planned. But of course, with things not going so well with John Glascock’s health would of also had a bearing and his decision to fire him (or rather let him go) did not help with the other members of the band in particular with his closest friend Barriemore Barlow who himself decided to leave after the tour.

According to the book Anderson did let him go for his own good to get himself sorted out properly and it was Glascock himself who took it on himself that he had been fired. I tend to believe that as well simply because having come out of hospital after a serious operation he simply went back to his old lifestyle instead of taking things easier. It’s an easy thing to do and I have seen so many who have done the same thing in my lifetime and they are no longer here either. But what is left here are the 3 tracks that Glascock got to play on and the remnants of what’s known as the last classic Jethro Tull line-up. So, let’s now take a closer look at how the album turned out.

Track 1. North Sea Oil.

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The albums opening track “North Sea Oil” musically does have all the familiarities that you would associate with the bands musical style, as a matter of fact it might be too close to what you have already heard on the last couple of albums in the trilogy on the musical side of things and it does have some GREAT! progression and changes over the 3 minutes and 11 seconds you get here. In many ways I would even say it ROCKED! But for me personally the lyrics certainly do not and are without doubt the very thing that let it down and make it sound so BORING!

Maybe Ian Anderson thought it would be a SLICK! idea to write a song about the longevity of how long the oil would last in the North Sea. The one thing that is certain is that it will certainly last a hell of a lot longer than this song will before it completely pisses you off :))))))))).

North Sea Oil” was the first of two singles to be released from the album to promote it and was released in the UK only on the same day as the albums release. Though like many of the bands singles they never really made the charts and were put out for radio play more than anything else. It also features the voice of the Francis Wilson who was the weather forecaster for Thames TV at the time. I personally think had a different subject matter been put to the music it might say more to me than the little it does.

Track 2. Orion.

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Orion is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology and is one of the brightest constellations due to its supergiant stars. There is no doubt the stars might be supergiant’s and the fact that they are is why Anderson most likely decided the song needed to be beefed up. The only problem is that I think it’s well over the top and is a bit like portraying Orion as some super hero or something. It just sounds ridiculous with how he’s gone about it all. It’s also the first of the 3 tracks that John Glascock contributed the bass to on the album.

I quite like the come down acoustic section of the song, but once again that is very familiar to what’s already been done and is a bit reminiscent to some of the material on the 1975 album Minstrel In The Gallery especially with how David Palmer has arranged the strings. The full-length version which is twice as long that is on the associated recordings and is how the song was originally done and was edited down for the album. It perhaps makes it a bit more tolerable by editing it down though I just find the whole thing over the top and once again on the boring side.

Track 3. Home.

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One of the better songs on the album and “Home” is one of those rare romantic ballads like “Fires At Midnight” that Anderson wrote and was inspired from the long times he was away from home on tour as he explains himself in the book. He does also state that the orchestration that David Palmer done for the song makes it sound a bit syrupier, but I personally think it works better here than the previous track and is really GORGEOUS! and sits well with the acoustic guitar and the rest of the instrumentation.  I love how well Anderson has also put the words into context.

Home” was the second single release from the album and was released a couple of months after the albums release once again the UK only. It was most likely put out to remind people that the band had a new album out and it has to be one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! especially as there is very little along the album that really stands out and it is a GREAT! well written song.

Track 4. Dark Ages.

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No doubt the heaviest and longest track on the album and is perhaps more along the lines of what they would call today prog metal and a long way off folk rock. Although not all the songs on Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses were all folk rock either and some were more along the lines of progressive rock. Ian Anderson describes it has something more along the lines of Iron Maiden’sRun To The Hills” and would of suited Bruce Dickinson’s voice and it perhaps would of as well I feel.

I think the musical structure and progression of the song is very good. However, its Anderson’s idea of pertaining the lyrics along the lines of the dark ages to come that baffles the life out of me. The dark ages are a thing of the past and even some of the organ and flute melody lines are more associated with medieval times from those days of the past. Listening to the words it’s a bit like being in an Agatha Christie WHO DONE IT! the butler or the vicar story set in the days of King Arthur and is quite comical to even think of it in those terms.

I am pretty sure how the lyrics come across to myself are not what Anderson intended at all and he is far more intelligent than myself that’s for sure, but that is literally how they do come across to me but then again I might be as THICK AS A BRICK! :)))))). Oddly enough Anderson’s bass playing sounds like Dave Pegg especially along the lead break section and Pegg is quite a distinctive bass player with how he makes it sound and how his bass lines stand out and these bass lines are very close to his. “Dark Ages” is probably the most powerful song in the Jethro Tull catalogue and it’s got some GREAT! transitional changes along its path too and for those reasons I suppose it does have to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Warm Sporran.

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The first of two instrumental tracks on the album and like many of the tracks on the album they do tend to have more of a Scottish feel about them and the bagpipes that you hear in the piece are very much not credited to any musician playing them. Over the years most reviews speculate them to being played on a keyboard but from what I can make of Anderson’s notes in the book, it does suggest that they were real bagpipes but he does not mention who played them. He does however mention how they are hard to record and get them to stay in tune and how he had to vari-speed the tape to match the pitch of the pipes.

Overall, I think “Warm Sporran” is very good piece of work that was constructed around Anderson’s bass line and like many other Jethro Tull instrumental pieces its very well arranged and uses excellent instrumentation. It was also used for the B-Side of the single and EP UK release of “Home“.

Track 6. Something’s On The Move.

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Something more of a standard rock song this one and perhaps much like the material they later went on to do with the odd tracks on albums like Rock Island and Roots To Branches only here Anderson still had his voice. The lyrical side of things is pertaining to the changes in the weather and it’s a far cry from all the shuffling madness that came before it and more of a typical run of the mill sort of thing. Overall, it’s OK but nothing more I am afraid.

Track 7. Old Ghosts.

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A song that was inspired from a graveyard that was at the bottom of the garden of where Anderson was living on the Isle of Skye at the time to which he also threw in a few childhood memories. I think it’s a haunting enough story and like he says in the book it was done more in a cheery way rather than to scare your pants off sort of thing and the ghosts here have only come out to play. It’s really the vocal line and how the voice is expressed that play the haunting factor in this song and not the music.

Musically the bass, flute and orchestration play a domineering role and once again David Palmer’s orchestral arrangement does tend to hark back to the Minstrel In The Gallery album. The song was most likely written and constructed around the bass line. It’s quite an odd piece and somewhat different to most of the material on the album. I do not think it sits that well on the album either and sometimes it’s perhaps best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Track 8. Dun Ringall.

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My personal favourite track of the album and “Dun Ringall” is much more suited to the bands previous couple of albums more than any other song on the album. Just like “Jack In The Green” from the Songs From The Wood album this is played solely by Ian Anderson but this is perhaps more stripped back to the bare bones in that it’s just him and an acoustic guitar more or less. But in saying that it does also contain the voice of the Thames TV weatherman Francis Wilson once again.

In many respects the song could be seen as the albums self-titled track in that it contains the title within the lyrics. Dun Ringill is an Iron Age hill fort on the Strathaird peninsula on the island of Skye, Scotland. Ian Anderson lived a stone’s throw away from it at the time he made the album. Many moons ago it was more fortified most likely in case of an attack by the Vikings. These days all that is left is a pile of rocks that would most likely go unnoticed. “Dun Ringall” merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 9. Flying Dutchman.

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A song about the legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever to which Anderson uses the story as a metaphor for a human character suggesting it could be you or me lost on an empty vessel according to the book. This is my personal 2nd favourite track on the album and it should perhaps win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! Simply because this is by far the best structured song on the album and it contains all the right instrumentation that one would associate with folk rock. I love the arrangement too.

There are many familiarities along the path of this song too and it’s a bit like a cross between “Thick As A Brick“. “Baker Street Muse” and the “Chequered Flag“. There is also some really excellent flute and whistle work from Anderson in this song that also puts me in mind of some of the material off the album Songs From The Wood. The “Flying Dutchman” is a real solid piece of work and a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and is the 2nd of three of the tracks to feature John Glascock on bass.

Track 10. Elegy.

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The final track on the album also features John Glascock on bass and is a nice soothing instrumental piece written by David Palmer. In English literature, an elegy is a poem of serious reflection, usually a lament for the dead. This is a bit like a baroque waltz and I don’t think it will be shaking the dead but it might make you have the last waltz with them :))))). It rounds the album off very well indeed.

Summary…

To sum up the 40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition of Stormwatch by Jethro Tull. Like all these packages they are really excellent value for the money, and on this particular release I do feel that it is the extra bonus material along with the book you get here that carries most of the weight in making the package more enjoyable and worthwhile. I myself had all of the Jethro Tull albums back in the 70’s before the release of Stormwatch back in 1979 and have always found the album a bit of a let-down in relation to everything that preceded it. It is an album that does have a few good tracks but not enough for the album to stand out and make a real statement to quite make the mark of all its predecessors. I would even say it was a better album than the one that followed it “A” to which may have come from another planet entirely :))))).

There are only a very few albums in the Jethro Tull catalogue that came after the album Heavy Horses that can live up to the standards the band produced in the first decade of its career, and I certainly think it is the material that was written over the first decade of the bands career that by far left the biggest impact. Stormwatch was an album that did have one of the many classic line-ups the band had seen over its first decade but it was the times that were changing more than anything and not so much as the musicians. Because no matter how you look at the band its always had pretty good musicians who were well capable of handling the job and Ian Anderson is no fool to pick somebody who was not capable of doing so.

Looking back at over the that first decade of the bands career its quite a remarkable achievement to produce 11 albums that were so consistent and, in all honesty, not one of them are a bad album. There are not many bands that have managed to achieve that and Ian Anderson wrote a ton of other GREAT! material that never even made the albums which could of easily have made a least a couple of more GREAT! albums. To be honest I am not one for buying singles and compilation albums but I did buy the double album Living In The Past which was a compilation album made up of existing material that had already of been written over those early years. Yet to me it sounded like a double albums worth of new material and was a really GREAT! album.

For me personally Stormwatch may have had a GREAT! line-up of musicians but it was an album that failed to keep the consistency flowing and was the very first dent I had ever seen in Ian Anderson’s writing. There is no doubt that the fact that music was changing and having just gone through an explosive invasion of punk rock and with the 80’s looming towards newer modern techniques and different musical styles had an effect on him enough to try out something new. Both the albums “A” and Under Wraps are very much a testament to it.

Although I certainly do not think any of that had a bearing on why Stormwatch never quite made the mark. That was most likely down to what was going on around Anderson and the band at the time and it would not be the first time they have made an album under stressful and other circumstances. But it was the first time it never really turned out as well. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Dun Ringill“. “Flying Dutchman“. “Home” and “Dark Ages“.

Conclusion…

Overall, I think Stormwatch is pretty much an album that is pretty much out of context regarding the folk-rock trilogy. However it is an half decent album but unfortunately when you weigh up how well all the other albums that preceded it came out, half decent does not really cut the mustard and is not enough to make the mark and that is where it perhaps falls too short to be any sort of a classic album. No doubt you can only be consistent for so long before something has to give way and in all fairness to Ian Anderson his songwriting had been way more consistent than most up until this point.

But just as disappointed as I was with the album it never stopped me from buying the rest of the bands albums. Sure, there have been many more disappointments along the way over the next 3 decades of the bands musical career which did really come to an end in 2003 regarding their catalogue of studio albums. But there has always been something you can get out of it and I would not like to see the re-issues of these book editions end here and I am hoping the rest of the albums will get the same treatment.

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As you can see from the picture above the 1970 album Benefit still has not been given the book treatment and that is one hell of a classic album in my eyes. So, no way do I want these editions to end right now and hopefully as it is the 50th Anniversary of the album next year it will get done then.

I know that just recently a book entitled The Ballad of Jethro Tull has just been released which does go into the bands entire history most likely. But for me the amount of detail that is contained about every album in these Book Editions I do feel go into a lot more depth and along with all the bonus material plus the 5.1 recordings these packages simply cannot be beaten and they do give you the best quality and value for the buck. So, I do hope that new book is not going to be the all and end of the new edition series and that “A” and Benefit get the book treatment next year.

Lines Join In Faint Discord, And The Stormwatch Brews

The CD track listing is as follows:

Disc 1.

01. North Sea Oil. 3:11.
02. Orion. 4:00.
03. Home. 2:45.
04. Dark Ages. 9:11.
05. Warm Sporran. 3:37.
06. Something’s On The Move. 4:29.
07. Old Ghosts. 4:23.
08. Dun Ringill. 2:41.
09. Flying Dutchman. 7:43.
10. Elegy. 3:33.

Disc 2. (Associated Recordings)

01. Crossword. 3:36.
02. Dark Ages (Early Version). 11:54.
03. Kelpie. 3:34.
04. Dun Ringill (Early Version). 2:43.
05. A Stitch In Time. 4:28.
06. A Single Man (Instrumental). 2:39.
07. Broadford Bazaar. 3:45.
08. King Henry’s Madrigal (Theme From Mainstream). 3:30.
09. Orion (Full Version). 9:14.
10. Urban Apocalypse. 4:45.
11. The Lyricon Blues (Instrumental). 5:13.
12. Man Of God. 6:33.
13. Rock Instrumental (Unfinished Master). 3:33.
14. Sweet Dream Fanfare. 2:29.
15. Sweet Dream (Live). 4:39.

Disc 3. (Live at the Nederlands Congresgebouw DenHaag March 16th 1980)

01. Prelude To A Storm. 1:53.
02. Dark Ages. 8:30.
03. Home. 2:52.
04. Orion. 5:02.
05. Dun Ringill. 2:40.
06. Elegy. 3:54.
07. Old Ghosts. 3:07.
08. Something’s On The Move. 4:24.
09. Aqualung. 9:54.
10. Peggy’s Pub. 2:57.
11. Jack-In-The-Green. 3:15.
12. King Henry’s Madrigal. 5:49.
13. Heavy Horses. 6:09.

Disc 4. (Live at the Nederlands Congresgebouw DenHaag March 16th 1980)

01. Flute Solo. 7:55.
02. Keyboard Duet. 1:24.
03. Songs From The Wood. 4:12.
04. Hunting Girl. 5:38.
05. Jams O’Donnel’s Jigs. 3:31.
06. Thick As A Brick. 7:29.
07. Too Old To Rock’n’roll: Too Young To Die. 3:09.
08. Cross Eyed Mary. 3:22.
09. Guitar Solo. 2:28.
10. Minstrel In The Gallery. 2:56.
11. Locomotive Breath. 4:00.
12. The Dam Busters March. 2:45.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10

The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 8/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 5/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #133

A Long Time Coming – Gary Hetherington

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Introduction…

Well this is somewhat different to the norm of the music I generally review and to be perfectly honest perhaps not the style of music I would buy these days either but would of brought the odd album and one or two singles many moons ago. Long Time Coming is the title of Gary Hetherington’s debut album and being that Hetherington has been playing for donkeys years you could very much literally say that the album took a very long time coming :))))). I would also say that style of music we have here does throw itself back to the 70’s in that it’s very much an album of romantic love songs. It’s perhaps an album more for the ladies, but then again it all depends on your particular taste in pop music and if you are into bands like The Commodores, Chicago and solo artists like Billy Joel and Lionel Ritchie. Then this album might be right up your street so to speak.

I first stumbled upon Gary’s music a few years ago on Soundcloud although I perhaps first knew of him a few years before through another musician on there who is more of a folkie and goes by the name of Karl Robbins. Traditional folk music is perhaps more to my personal taste and why I gave a lot more attention to Karl’s music than his own. I mostly knew of Gary as a producer and it was he who made all of Karl’s music sound so GREAT! I was making music myself back then I was always fascinated about production work and trying to improve my own production skills. For me the time I spent on Soundcloud was very much a learning curve and as much as I like to listen to GREAT! music, I could quite often be blown away by how well some of the many people on there could produce it, and I was impressed by Gary’s production work.

To be honest at the time I did stumble upon Karl’s music I was not even aware Gary was writing his own songs, and it was not until a few years later they formed together a band called Dancing With Ghosts that I noticed that he had also played a role in writing some of the songs which made me investigate him a bit further.

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Gary Hetherington’s own music is quite different to what he does with Karl Robbins and is more along the lines of those pop artists I mentioned and those artists made some GREAT! hits back in their day and were easy enough for me to listen to. Being a producer Hetherington is also a multi-instrumentalist who has the skills to craft out his own music. But before I go any further and get back on track with the album in question. Let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a single cardboard sleeve which replicates a mini version of a non-gatefold vinyl album. The song titles and some credits are printed on the back of the sleeve and it does not include a booklet to include the lyrics and more informative information regarding the linear notes and credits. These are the same sort of sleeves they pack CD’s in Clamshell Box Sets and other Box Sets these days and I think overall, they are OK but not as good as a gatefold DigiPak for presenting your album as more of a showcase.

The other problem this particular package will present you with, is that they are not the best for storing on the shelf with your other CD’s in that they are too thin making them harder to locate them to get out to play. But of course when you are selling your CD at a budget price of £3.49 plus free p+p it does not make sense to have your album in a DigiPak and cost wise you would most likely end up out pocket by paying more for the product than you are actually selling it for so this is the ideal budget way to go about things.

The Artwork.

The artwork used for the album is a picture of an antique spiral clock that was fished out of a river and was snapped up by David Pearson. The image is oddly enough credited to F. P. Surgeon and that is the name that Pearson gives to some of his photographs due to the fact that his profession is that of a Facial Plastic Surgeon and he does photography in his spare time. I think the image is well apt for the albums title and I can see why Hetherington chose it.

A Long Time Coming Album In Review…

A Long Time Coming by Gary Hetherington was released on the 4th November 2019. The album contains 9 tracks all of which are vocal tracks and has an overall playing time of 40 minutes which is a very comfortable time slot for an album of songs and my preferred time slot for an album. Most of the material is written by Hetherington himself apart from a couple of songs that were co-written and a song that was written by myself to which he asked me for permission (to which I granted) and decided to cover. Like many unknown artists and even some mainstream artists these days, the album was recorded at home but is very well produced.

Hetherington got into music at an early age and received his first organ at the age of 11 and by the time he was 14 he got his first real guitar. Since leaving school, he has been in a number of bands Oakwood, Pheonix, Gypsy to name a few most of which were with Karl Robins and Peter Dunk who all come from Leeds in Yorkshire, England. He is currently a member of Osmosis along with Karin Grandal-Park, Sheree Hemingway and Peter Dunk.

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The album A Long Time Coming is a collection of songs that Gary has written over the last year and put together for the new album. Most of his own solo work consists of more instrumental pieces than anything else and being a keyboard player myself I can see how easy it is to get stuck into that world of making instrumental pieces especially with the vast array of sounds you can get for a keyboard these days. The keyboard can open up a much wider world of music to you in that you can get orchestral sounds for classical music, sounds for Celtic and Folk music and just about any genre of music. It’s also the ideal instrument to work with arrangements.

I would not say all of the songs Gary wrote for the new album were written from the keyboard though and some were also written from the guitar, both instruments are very useful implements to write music with and being able to play both opens up many other roads you can go down regarding musical styles.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Gary Hetherington (except Track 5 written by Hetherington/Hemmingway, Track 7 written by Hetherington/Walton & Track 9 written by L.C. Lucas). Recorded & Produced by Gary Hetherington at The House. Album cover photo by David Pearson.

Musicians.

Gary Hetherington: Vocals/Keyboards/Guitars/Drum Programming.
Karl Robins: Acoustic Guitar (on Track 1).

The Album Tracks In Review…

A Long Time Coming is an album for the lovers and romantics and the words to the songs upon the album are a about falling in and out of love in that it deals with the subject matter based around not just its grip and strong hold it can have on us, but how deceit and cheating can also play a part when everything falls apart so to speak. When I mentioned in the introduction that this was not the style of music I would buy these days, in reality it was also not the thing I would buy for myself back in those days either and the records I did buy of this sort would of been for my wife who does have an entirely different taste in music to myself. That would also be the reason behind me stating that this is an album more for the ladies as well.

To be perfectly honest I have nothing against pop music when it comes down to the musical side of it and there are some very well constructed songs in pop music as well. John Lennon’s song “Woman” would be a perfect example of how well switching from a major to a minor chord can shift a gear and lift a song up and make it work very well. I think there is also a lot you can learn from very well written pop songs too. My only real gripe with pop music in general is the lyrical side of things, and many of them are what I call “Lovey Dovey” and can be on the monotonous side in that respect. Things like “I Love You Love” and “Like To Get To Know You Well” are never gonna cut the mustard with me, simply because it’s all the same thing, and this is generally what you will find in the biggest majority of pop songs.

To be honest I have never really classed the likes of the The Commodores, Chicago, Foreigner, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow and Lionel Ritchie as songwriters and to me your Bob Dylan’s, Neil Young’s, Don McLean’s and those types are what I associate with songwriters. Those are the guys who on their travels have picked up a hell of a lot more to write about than your typical run of the mill pop or love song. Sure, they can also incorporate some of that love and romance in their own songs, but they don’t write about it all the time and make their songs much more interesting for not doing so.

But in reality, even though I see those artists more in the way of songwriters it would be wrong for me to not include all those pop artists who write nothing but love songs. Simply because what also makes a good song is how the words have been put into context and that is part of the clever side of song writing and you still need a good head on your shoulders to be able to do that.

A Long Time Coming is an album that does contain a fine set of lyrics that pertain not only to the romantic side of things, but also the pain and hurt one can go through with its barriers and the words have been very cleverly put into context and are a far cry from “I Love You Love“. So, let’s now delve a bit deeper as I take you through the individual album tracks.

Track 1. Keep On Moving.

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The album opens up with a song that offers some very good advice. Lyrically the words are pertaining to those who have been kicked in the teeth and left on their own when a relationship breaks down. The good advice is that its best to look forward and keep on moving rather than look back at it all to see where things went wrong. I suppose another way of looking at it is to pick your feet up and get on with things. The words have very well been put into context and with how Hetherington expresses them along with the music does captivate you enough to pay attention to them. He’s also backed up the vocals very well and threw in a lovely harmony section during the short break that comes in towards the end of the song.

The song itself has a light and airy feel about it and musically it’s a bit more stripped back but allows the song to flow freely. The song was written on the acoustic guitar and that is the instrument that drives the song along with the drums. Gary roped in his old friend and fellow musician Karl Robins to play the acoustic guitar and Karl is a fine player of the instrument, although on this occasion he is strumming his way along and not doing so much of the fine picking he can do on his own songs. But overall, he is still doing a GRAND! job here and doing all that a song like this requires and not going over the top. Hetherington himself backs the song up with the piano and throws in some subtle effective little touches on the electric guitar in parts. The other notable thing he throws in is the synth, and it does have a familiarity of the type of synth you would hear in most pop songs in the 70’s. Stevie Wonder often threw the odd little melody line on the synth and it many ways it takes me back to those days.

Overall I think “Keep On Moving” is a GREAT! song and puts me in mind of the type of pop songs you would hear back in the 70’s. The acoustic side of the song has me thinking of Crosby & Nash, The Eagles and those types whilst the synth certainly gives it more of a pop vibe and has me thinking of Stevie Wonder and the likes of many others. It’s perhaps one of those songs that can make you feel good inside whilst listening to it, and in many ways that is also what the lyrics are pertaining too as well.

Track 2. Thief In The Night.

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This next song has got more soul to it and does put me in mind of bands like the The Commodores, The Temptations and many others and was written on the piano, or rather the electric piano that gives it those smooth and calm vibes. The song runs along at a very subtle slow tempo to set the right mood here and besides the piano the strings from the keyboard also play a good role in lifting the song up effectively in the right parts. There is also some nice bass work here too that is most likely done with the keyboards. The drums have the right weight for a subtle song like this and Gary has done an excellent job on the electric guitar by getting the right tone and the lead break is played very well and fits the song like a glove. His fine voice also delivers the words very well and it’s a very well-produced song.

I am pretty sure this is Gary’s favourite song on the album and he did approach me and asked if I could make a video for it. It’s something I would have done if it was not for the subject matter of the songs lyrics which pertain to a guy who is in a relationship with another woman but has to break it off because he cannot stand the thought of the leaving his wife and kids behind. It would be hard for me to find the appropriate free stock video clips to make a video and is something I would more or less need real people to act out the part. Which is why I never done a video for it.

A Thief In The Night” is not my personal favourite track on the album, however I do feel it is a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It’s a simple enough song and sometimes it is the simple things that do have the power to grab you more, and this is one of those songs I feel does very much that.

Track 3. I Think I Love You.

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The title reminds me of a hit by David Cassidy back in the days when he was in The Partridge Family in the late 60’s, and some of the titles that Hetherington chose for his songs on the album are the same as some other well-known hits. This is another of the guitar written songs and I am pretty sure Gary is playing a 12 string on this fine ballad of a song and he has nicely accompanied it with an accordion like sound from the keyboards and a bit of electric piano. The instrumentation gives it more of a folk style and the way the 12 string is nicely fingerpicked puts me in mind of Ralph McTell and its a lovely little love song that says most things about being in love.

Track 4. So Leave Me By Myself For Now.

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Another song that deals with the situation of love breaking down and, in this case, wanting to be left alone to sort things out and get them back together again. This is a song he co-wrote with Sheree Hemmingway and she contributed to the lyrics and from what Gary told me it was also the first time she had written words to a song. I have to say she done quite a remarkable job. This is also another song written on the piano and it does have a bit of Supertramp feel to it in parts. I quite like the chord progression in this song too and it’s got a GREAT! bridge that changes it up that comes into play between the 3:22 to the 3:52 mark and this is what gives me that Supertramp feel about the song more than anything.

Besides the piano and his voice, Gary also backed the song up very well with orchestral strings, guitar and bass and has done a GREAT! job all round here. Both this song and “A Thief In The Night” I do feel are the stand out tracks on the album and although it would of been too difficult to gather up the appropriate free video stock footage clips to do a video for “A Thief In The Night“. I did have a go at putting one together for this song and I used 12 video clips to make it.

So Leave Me By Myself For Now” is a GREAT! well written song. It’s most likely the chord progression and the Supertramp feel that make it my personal favourite song of the album and why it merits my TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. It Must Be Love.

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We have another familiar title for this next song and even though it might suggest that this is a song done by Labi Siffre back in 1972 and was also covered by Madness in the 80’s to which both had commercial success with the song, this is not that song and Gary rocks things up a bit here. The song does have perhaps something like a Dave Edmunds style about it in particular with how it drives along with the rock rhythm chords on the guitar. It would of also have been constructed from the guitar and it does have more of a 70’s feel about it. Although the synths can also push it a bit further on and into the 80’s but only very slightly.

There are no broken hearts in this one regarding the lyrics and they are more about the joyful and powerful feeling that love can have hold on us with its attraction and of how to pluck up enough courage to confront it. The lyrics also have a comical side to them too in that how sometimes it’s hard to get our brains in gear and come out with the right words when it confronts us. “It Must Be Love” is quite a jolly song that spices the mood of the album up and the one thing I will say is that you cannot say that Hetherington does not offer a bit of variety and diversity with the songs on the album and this song sits very well in the middle of the album.

Track 6. Love Drifts Away.

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Time to tone things down a bit and this is a BEAUTIFUL! ballad that Gary has composed on the piano and is perhaps something along the lines of Billy Joel and many others in some respects but no doubt Gary has a wonderful way of putting all these sad love songs into context regarding the lyrics and delivers the songs with the GREAT! conviction. Besides his fine voice and the GORGEOUS! melody lines on the piano that make the song, the bass stands out and supports it all very well. The guitar sound is very much played on the keyboards and it may have been better to replace it with a real guitar rather than a synthetic one. But nevertheless, it’s effective and I do feel that “Love Drifts Away” is another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Enough Is Enough.

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Gary gets the 12 string out again for this one and this is the shortest track on the album at around three and a half minutes. Part of the melody line on the guitar reminds me of “Only Woman Bleed” by Alice Cooper and yes even he can write fine ballads as well. The keyboards, bass and electric guitar also lend a hand to the arrangement and in supporting the song. Lyrically the words are pertaining to the things that happen when love has gone stale in a loving relationship and how it can be enough to put an end to it all. This is the other of the 2 songs on the album that were co-written and Emma Walton penned the lyrics for this one and another fine set of lyrics they are too.

Track 8. Such A Fool.

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Another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and this is another truly GREAT! song written on the keys by Gary and he has done a TOP JOB! with all the instrumentation around the piano in the arrangement. The songs lyrics pertain to how sometimes we do not get things that right when it comes to choosing a partner and things do not quite work out the way we expected them too. It’s very much a quality well written song and it’s one of those that seems to be over in no time at all. The song is some 4 minutes and 40 seconds long but only seems like it runs for half of the time. I often find when a song can do that it’s more of an enjoyable one and one you will want to stick back on immediately. This is very much one of those songs.

Track 9. A Picture of You.

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Well I never thought I would ever be writing a review of one of my own songs, but what I can say is that the way Gary has done it, I very much think he has made it his own. It’s a song I wrote on the guitar and it was one of four guitar tracks I had in mind for a concept album I was working on back in 2010. Like many of the tracks I had intended for it they never got finished and this was one I never even wrote any lyrics for back then and I would often pick up my guitar and just sing anything to it for many years. I very much gave up on the album and down to the fact that I still do the odd live video of myself playing in my living room, last year I decided to write some lyrics for it and stick it on YouTube.

Like many of my songs they are only really demos and it’s very rare I will do a full production to them and I have only done that to very few. Throwing in all the elements takes a lot more time to do and half the time I cannot be arsed to do that with them and am too lazy to do that to them as well. It was around the time I put the video out on the Tube last year that Gary approached me and asked if he would not mind if he done a cover of the song. Well I was quite choked that anybody would even want to cover one of my own songs and of course said GO Ahead!

It must have been a good 11 months before I heard anything off Gary and I thought he may have given up on doing a cover of it, then all of a sudden, he sent me his version of it to which he done on the piano. Well I was that STOKED! when I heard it, I ended up making a video for it, and this is the song now with a full production and I can tell you he’s done the BEES KNEES! with it.

To be honest I was even more surprised that he had included the song on his new album and I am not entirely sure the sad fictional story I wrote for the song ties in that well with the rest of the lyrical content on the album, and it may sound a bit out of place but would work more as a bonus track in some respects. I am well chuffed that he did include it though and I do think it’s one of my better songs. It’s also the first time I have ever had one of my songs on CD too :)))))).

Overall I think “A Picture Of You” works very well with the piano arrangement and I love the subtle way Gary has approached it on the beginning and how he has built it up and even threw in a sax solo. Though I think the sax may of been played on the keys unless he does also play sax. I have not asked and I perhaps should have done for this review. I cannot recall Gary playing the sax though and I am most likely right that it was played on the keyboard. But it works very well either way for my ears.

With all that Gary has done with the song I do feel that this also has to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It’s also the best compliment you could ever have when somebody else covers one of your own songs and I feel it winds up the album very well. But all credit goes to Gary here and not myself.

Summary…

To sum up the album A Long Time Coming by Gary Hetherington. I personally think that it contains a very strong collection of very well written love songs and will work for all the romantics in this world. Surprisingly I am quite flabbergasted how an album like this can grab hold of you when listening to it, and it is the lyrical content that does grab your attention that much that the songs actually make you stop whatever you are doing to listen to them. This is not an album I can put on and sit down here and write an album review. I have tried too but it does stop me in my tracks and derives all my attention towards the album. Considering these are not the type of albums I do buy these days I am quite dumbstruck the hold it does have on me.

I think it also will have that effect on the folks who are more of my own generation and not so much the younger generation where the lyrical content is more on the permissive and sexual side of things and has been since we hit the 80’s and onwards since the birth of bands like Frankie Goes To Hollywood and all the those sorts in the pop world. The fact the album is titled A Long Time Coming could also mean that it’s come a good few decades too late to have an impact. But in all honesty the songs on this album are in every inch just as well written as all those bands and artists like The Commodores, Chicago, Foreigner, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Lionel Ritchie and many others done back in the 70’s. And if that floats your boat then I see no reason why this album would not either.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Thief In The Night“. “So Leave Me By Myself For Now“. “Love Drifts Away“. “Such A Fool“. and “A Picture Of You“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I would say that A Long Time Coming by Gary Hetherington is an album that captures and captivates the hearts, the heartaches and all the emotions of love all wrapped up and rolled into quite a solid body of work that Gary Hetherington has put in over the last year. The album is very well produced and Gary is one talented musician with a fine head on his shoulders to be able to put the words into context in the way that he has. Not forgetting the lyrical contributions to a couple of songs that both Sheree Hemmingway and Emma Walton contributed to.

To be honest just thinking of the lyrical content that was written for both “Relax” and “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood I would pretty much say that Gary was a genius when I look at how poor the words to those songs really are, and in all honesty there is totally nothing to them. But then again that was the difference between 80’s music and the 70’s and why the 80’s detested me so much with the garbage that came out of it. Most of them could not write for TOFFEE! I am afraid. But of course, that is my own personal opinion.

The album comes in one little neat package and a giveaway price at its a low price point of £3.49 for a physical product and with Christmas around the corner I rather think you could bring some pleasure to someone’s heart which is why I highly recommend it. You can buy it from here: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/323969385968?fbclid=IwAR3I-JG-bQVUxPCXq0NAJcZBljCB5mO8Q8PERhE46x5iTHI2m-Q901hPJjk

Singing Good Times Or Bad, Happy Or Sad

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Keep On Moving. 3:55.
02. Thief In The Night. 5:00.
03. I Think I Love You. 3:52.
04. So Leave Me By Myself For Now. 5:01.
05. It Must Be Love. 4:18.
06. Love Drifts Away. 4:17.
07. Enough Is Enough. 3:28.
08. Such A Fool. 4:40.
09. A Picture of You. 5:29.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #132

Beer,Picks & Old Records – Gary Sunshine

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Introduction…

The latest album by Gary Sunshine was released back in September and I guess in many ways seeing how this is more of an official release it could be seen has his debut album. The albums title of Beer, Picks & Old Records perhaps comes as no surprise to myself since I stumbled across him and his many songs over the past 7 years on Soundcloud. He has always struck me has a songwriter who has travelled about a lot and his songs do reflect what he sees throughout his travels and how life can be in general. His songs can be about losers, lovers, thrillseekers, troublemakers, guitars, bars, hitchhikers crime & love, hope & disappointment, America & Rock n Roll and a few other things besides.

No doubt Sunshine has travelled about a good bit and seen many places and things during his musical career which stretches back to the early 80’s, where he first started out with a punk, new wave, power pop 4-piece outfit known as the Screaming Sneakers. In the mid 80’s to the early 90’s he was part of the 4-piece hard rock band Circus of Power to which were a more successful band where he got to visit many other countries and see more of the world. He also had a short stint with another punk outfit known as NY Loose and another short stint with the country rock band The Silos before turning his back on bands and pursing a solo career. All of which I will go into more detail in the history section of my review.

Sunshine has moved on since those days and going alone, but has plenty of experience under his belt and has taken much of that with him to be able to craft out his own songs and give himself more of his own distinctive style with how he can so skilfully carve and shape things out and deliver them. He can still very much incorporate things from those days into his writing with songs like “Sex Pistols & The Ramones (A Love Story)” and “Black Sabbath In Love“.

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Those are just a couple of his older songs he wrote that recall and reflect those old times he spent on the road with some of the bands he played with and where he got to meet many other GREAT! bands and artists who have crossed his path of his musical career.

He could even tell you about the last time he saw Dylan back then too, and on his latest record he will even tell you how sometimes he just wants to be like Jimmy Page. Those artists and many others were all part of the things that influenced him when he was young, growing up and are the very thing that made him want to go out and be a ROCK-A-ROLLER! He has even worked with such diverse artists as Guns N’ Roses, Gravity Kills and New Zealand’s Steph Casey and right now he’s back with a vengeance and 13 brand new tunes. But before we go any deeper into his career and his new songs, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a 2-panel gatefold DigiPak and has a slip pocket that houses the CD on the right-hand side on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. It does not come with a booklet but does have all the linear and production notes written on the inside and the song titles on the back of the Digipak. It’s slim sleek and looks neat and presents his new album very well. The CD can be purchased from Gary’s official website for 14 US dollars plus shipping and many other outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and so on.

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The album has also been available on vinyl for all you vinyl lovers. I do believe the vinyl release is more of a limited run and only so many have been pressed but copies are still very much available from Gary’s website and other outlets and is priced at $29 plus shipping. There is also a Deluxe CD & Vinyl Editions available that come with a separate 35-page signed booklet that contains bonus words and notes. They are priced at $49 & $69 plus shipping respectively and can be obtained from the store on Gary’s official website only.

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The album can also be purchased for less in the form of a Digital Download from most retail stores internationally. You can find out more details from the link here: https://garysunshinemusic.com/index.html

Artwork.

The albums artwork and design is made up of photographs provided by Sunshine and done by Rockmall Creative who also handled the marketing, branding art & video. Overall I think it presents Gary as a solo artist very well and is a good overall, presentation.

Gary Sunshine In Brief History…

Gary Sunshine was born in New York in the US and has spent much of his life in and out of his own city and I believe he now currently resides in Ohio. Although it was down in the south of Florida where he first burst onto the music scene and made a bit of an impact back in the early 80’s with the Screaming Sneakers. This 4-piece outfit consisted of Lisa Nash (vocals). Gary Sunshine (guitar), Bud Gangemi (bass) and Mark Evans (drums). They were very much part of the underground punk rock scene with their style to which many bands were still trying to keep that genre of music alive since it died of death by the end of the 70’s particularly in the UK.

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Screaming Sneakers

From my research I do believe they also relocated back to New York towards the latter half of the bands existence which would have run from between the years 1981 – 1985. I do know that the band got to cut a 4 track EP on vinyl back in 1982 they titled Marching Orders. The EP contained the songs “Violent Days“. “Grin And Bear“. “I Can’t Help It” and “Abnormal Reflections” and it was originally pressed onto 12-inch vinyl and is extremely hard and rare to get hold of these days. Though it has been reissued onto 7-inch vinyl EP and copies are much easier to obtain and you can get them at a more reasonable price of around 8 – 12 bucks shown in the picture below.

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I found the 4 track EP on YouTube and gave it a couple of spins and they were not a bad band at all and remind me a bit of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and were more hard rock n roll in relation to punk bands such as The Sex Pistols we had over here in the UK to which I personally could not stand. I think The Ramones had more of an hard edge rock n roll thing about them too and the Americans done things a bit differently in comparison to the English punk rock explosion we had over here in the 70’s. I don’t think they stuck safety pins in their noses and died their hair some ridiculous colour either :)))).

The EP you can find easily enough on the Tube yourself to give a blast and you could see how good Sunshine was on the electric guitar back in those days too and even back then he must have contributed to the writing even if it was just musically. It was also good to hear some old flanger effects in particular on “Abnormal Reflections” though both the songs “Violent Days” and “I Can’t Help It” very much had more the hit making potential about them. This live video I also came across on the Tube captures the band shot on a video camcorder back in 1984 and I guess this was from a venue in New York after the band had relocated themselves to there from Florida.

Like many bands they all come to an end at some point or another and my guess it was not that much longer that the Screaming Sneakers and its members disbanded and went onto to do other things. Though the band only made a very minute dent in that part of the world I am sure for those that got to see them they can still look back at those good times and no doubt Gary Sunshine will have some fond memories from those times, though he himself was to move onto bigger things and they was only around the corner.

According to my research It was sometime in 1986 (most likely the latter part of it) that Sunshine met up with the vocalist Alex Mitchell, guitarist Ricky Beck Mahler and drummer Ryan Maher and was asked to join them has they needed a bass player. Though Sunshine was no bass player and only played it like many guitarists they seemed like a good bunch of lads and has he was not doing anything at the time it seemed like a good bit of fun to do and he was glad enough of having the opportunity to do something else. I am sure he was not aware of what was around the corner at this stage and it would not have been quite like Jimmy Page joining The Yardbirds as a bass player back in the 60’s who were already a successful band and had already made a name for themselves.

It was this 4-piece outfit who were briefly called The Strangers at first quickly changing the bands name to the Circus of Power by the time they started to play at some of the more popular venues in New York during the following year in 1987. It was also around this time that the rock scene had once again raised its head and was becoming popular once again with bands like Guns N’ Roses bursting onto the scene with their latest debut album Appetite for Destruction. The rock scene was once again populating the charts at the time and more and more record companies were looking to sign up the next big thing and Circus Of Power were soon spotted and signed up to RCA Records in July 1987.

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Circus Of Power

The band released their self-titled debut album Circus Of Power in 1988. It was the bands most successful album breaking into the top 200 of the US Billboard albums charts and climbed as high as the 185 spot before disappearing. Sunshine was only ever credited as the bass player on the album although it was not long after the album was made that a 5th member Zowie had joined as the bass guitarist allowing Sunshine to switch to rhythm guitar. A couple of the tracks from the album “Motor” and “Call Of The Wild” were also released as singles though they never charted. But interestingly enough both the videos that were made for the single releases did feature Sunshine on guitar and not bass, and here is the video that was made for the first of those records.

Circus Of Power may not of hit the heights of commercial success like many of the other rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Ugly Kid Joe and many others were grabbing the limelight around the same time, but nevertheless over the near enough 10 years they were together they certainly got around and got to play many gigs and even support some of the more well-known bands such as Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains, The Ramones and many more. Their song “Machine” also from their debut album featured in the comedy film The Burbs starring Tom Hanks and they also performed both “Call Of The Wild” and “Letters Home” at the end of The Morton Downey Jr. Show featuring the Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley playing lead guitar with them. The video they made for the song “Heaven & Hell” from their final album also appeared in one of the episodes of Beavis & Butt-Head. In total the band got to make 3 albums and their second album Vices was released in 1990 followed by Magic & Madness in 1993.

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I have no idea how much Sunshine contributed to the writing of the bands material on their first couple of albums though he was credited along with all the members of the band on those particular albums. Though I do know that both he and Alex Mitchell wrote together 6 of the 12 tracks that was on their last album Magic & Madness. The band folded in 1995 and it was time once again for Gary Sunshine to move on. The Circus of Power was without doubt the nearest he ever got to the BIG TIME! and even though they were not as popular as many of the other major bands that were in the limelight, they certainly made a bit of an impact and a mark.

Having left the Circus Of Power in 1995 in the same year Sunshine went on to have a short stint with yet another punk rock band known as NY Loose that featured Brijitte West vocals/guitar, Gary Sunshine guitar, Danny Nordahl bass and John Melville drums. Sunshine preferred playing with these types of bands and from what I have heard of this outfit I would say they was more punk rock than rock n’ roll and more like the type of punk rock bands we had over here in the UK certainly musical style wise. From what I can gather it was only a short time he spent with the band though he did get to make a couple of EP’s with the band.

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Both EP’s Loosen Up and Trash Given The Chance were released in 1995 and I am not sure that Sunshine even made it to 1996 with the band before he quit, but in that same year he did get to travel over to the UK and he even played at the Flapper and Firkin Pub in my own town of Birmingham. This video caught them in the act at the venue and features them playing a song entitled “James” to which Sunshine co-wrote with West.

To be honest I am not sure which of the Flapper and Firkin Pubs they played at in Birmingham as they did have a few of them around the town. I am pretty sure they all had live music going on in them too and these days there is only one of them left. But around 1997/98 I got to play at two of them with my band which would of been called Intent To Supply back then, and we played at the one in Kings Heath which was The Hare & Hounds and also the one in Selly Oak which may have been called Scruffy Murphys if my memory serves me right.

My guess is that NY Loose decided to come over to the UK because the music they made was more like British Punk Rock and they thought they might have made it more over here than where they were in New York. The band barely made it to the following year in 1996 before it dissolved and it was time for another change for Gary Sunshine.

Sunshine’s next couple of stints was with the band The Silos who were more prominently a 3-piece band that originally formed in New York back in 1985. Their style of music is far cry from punk rock and was more of a southern rock come country folk rock style and quite something different to any other band he had played with. To be honest I am not entirely sure if he actually joined the band or did some session work for them but it was their 1998 album Heater that he did contribute to with his guitar but he may have only played on one or two tracks on the album.

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He did also play guitar on the song “Never Lost The Sunshine” from their 2011 album Florizona and it may have been the title of the song they wrote that made them call him back to play on it. I managed to locate the song on the Tube and you can hear for yourself how much different their style was and both The Silos and Circus Of Power certainly appealed more to my taste than the other couple of punk outfits Sunshine played with.

The Silos were originally formed by Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe though Rupe only stuck around for about 5 years and departed from the band after their 3rd album to which they named as their self-titled album when they got signed to RCA records in 1990. That may have been the time that Humara and Sunshine had bumped into each other though I could be completely wrong simply because I cannot make any connection with the mixing engineers and the studios both The Silos and Circus Of Power recorded there albums at.

Though it was  Humara that wrote practically all the material for the band and he often called in many other musicians to play on the bands albums and play live. This old cutting from a newspaper I found on Sunshine’s website under the heading of The Silos on the road does suggest he also went out and played live with the band.

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However, the album Florizona that The Silos put out in 2011 was to be their last album and that was more or less the same year that Gary Sunshine decided to go solo and do his own thing. His own thing I will go into further in my review of his latest album, but to conclude this section at looking back at his past I would like to leave you this very fascinating piece of history where you can hear Gary Sunshine for yourself speaking about his past in this interview that was released on podcast last year. He not only discuses all the bands he has been involved in I have gone over here, but also some of the session work he did and how he even got to play on the Gun’s N’ Roses song  “Oh My God” and his musical relationship with Axl Rose even to the point of teaching Rose how to play guitar. You can listen to it on the link I have posted here.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/theafdshow/ep-97-gary-sunshine-talks-oh-my-god-chin

Beer, Picks & Old Records The Album In Review…

Beer, Picks & Old Records by Gary Sunshine was released on the 7th September 2019. The album contains 13 songs that are spanned over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 25 seconds which is a very comfortable and respectable time slot for an album of songs. The album is also very well produced and that is really down to Sunshine’s decision to try and raise funds to have the album made in a proper studio with a good producer and a few session players rather than do everything himself like he had with a couple of self-releases back in 2012. So, a Kickstarter Project was set up to help raise the funds to make the record and I have to say the new album certainly sounds GREAT! for it and I am sure Gary is extremely grateful to all those who contributed and they were well happy enough with the end result.

To record the album Gary had to travel from Ohio to Los Angeles which is the most populous city in California. Although I am pretty sure he did not walk the 2, 280 miles like one his many classics “Might Just Walk To California” from his previous album might suggest :))))). The new album was recorded at Unison Studios which is one of the smaller and more affordable studios in LA. They also have an independent music label the Unison Music Group which was set up for artists with original talent.

UNISON Independent Label Logo

The Unison Group and Studio was set up in 2007 by Producers Bruce Witkin and Ryan Dorn and the studio offers custom, state-of-the-art recording equipment to get the job done. Sunshine’s new album Beer, Picks & Old Records was produced by Bruce Witkin & Gary Sunshine and Witkin also contributed bass & keyboards to the album. Witkin has a lifetime of experience as an artist and producer. He has recorded and toured with Adam Ant and Vanessa Paradis and has recorded countless artists including The Romantics, Joe Perry, The Blasters, LA Guns and many more. He also wrote and produced music for Martin Short’sJiminy Glick” and served as Johnny Depp’s vocal producer in Tim Burton’sSweeney Todd” for which he received a Grammy nomination in 2008.

Unison Stdios

Unison Studio

There is no doubt that the album sounds GREAT! and having a producer like Bruce Witkin onboard has done a STELLAR! job for the album that much so, that I would not advise playing Gary’s earlier self-produced album The Nerve Of Some People immediately afterwards and would let the dust settle a bit before doing so. Otherwise it will sound quite lame in comparison. But besides the production work and Witkin’s contribution of bass and keyboards, the other thing that helps the album out are the couple of other session players. Rob Klonel takes care of the drums side of things and Gary roped in his old friend Ricky Beck Mahler from his former band Circus Of Power to help him out on the lead guitar side of things on a couple of the tracks. So’ let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…

Artist section pic_Fotor

All songs written and performed by Gary Sunshine. Recorded at Unison Studios Los Angeles, California. Produced by Bruce Witkin & Gary Sunshine. Recorded & Mixed by Bruce Witkin. Mastered by Dave Schultz at D2 Mastering. Album Cover Design by Rockwell Creative.

Musicians:
Gary Sunshine: Vocals/Guitar.
Ricky Beck Mahler: Guitar.
Bruce Witkin: Bass/Keyboards.
Rob Klonel: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

I think what makes any good songwriter is the lyrics and that is where folk, rock and pop songs will always win over my particular fave of genres prog rock. Prog rock is really all about the music and most lyrics in that genre are in general either mythical fantasies based around Greek and Medieval Mythology and various other historical legendary stories and poets that do not have any real baring on reality. It’s the songwriters in this world that bring me back down to earth and its reality and Gary Sunshine is very much a guy who is down to earth regarding his song writing and his songs do have a GREAT! impact on myself as you will see in this following example.

When Gary Sunshine released his first album The Nerve Of Some People back in 2012 it was only ever in the form of a digital download. That album had quite an impact on me and when I purchased it, I could not stop playing it for weeks on end. I still very much play it frequently enough today. I myself stopped buying vinyl back in the late 90’s and I can honestly say it’s a good job I did. Simply because the amount of times I have played this album I would have had to have brought it 5 or 6 times over because that’s how many times it would have worn out at least by now.

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The Nerve Of Some People is an album that will have you instantly hooked, but unlike most albums were the material hits you in the face straight away and wears off after a month or so, Sunshine very much writes songs that will stay with you forever. He very much writes songs you can not only sing along to with the record, but will also have you singing them when you are out and about or you’ve just woken up and got out of bed. I have even used phrases of words from this album myself in general discussion with people and that’s how powerful this album is. It’s very hard for any songs these days to have that effect on me and for me personally I have found that over the last couple of decades that very few songs will do that and the biggest majority of songs that do have that effect on me are those that were written many moons ago.

A perfect example of how good this album is and as to why Sunshine’s music grabs me so much is really down to his hook and he does write songs like The Rolling Stones and I am a fan of them too. I even thought that when they made their 20th album Voodoo Lounge back in 1994, I honestly felt that was the best album the Stones had made in YONKS! But not even that album could I get out and play as much as this album of Sunshine’s. I would have to go back to albums like Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed that were made in the late 60’s to come near to how good The Nerve Of Some People really is.

I think the thing that makes Sunshine’s album stand out so well are the many classics it contains. It’s a 15-track album and I would not say it was entirely a solid album but the classic songs do hold it up easy enough for you to sit through the whole album comfortably enough. There are a few songs I could throw out but that is really down to production standards more than anything and some of the songs do suffer a bit for those reasons and it’s not been produced like the latest album and was made by Sunshine himself in his home studio at home.

Beer, Picks & Old Records is an album that benefits and shines a lot more with its production standards and in terms of quality there is no doubt it outweighs his self-produced predecessor The Nerve Of Some People from 2012. But does it contain as many classic songs to make the album shine enough and match up to that GREAT! album from 2012? To answer that question let’s take a closer look at the new albums individual tracks.

Track 1. Beer, Picks & Old Records.

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The album gets off to a GREAT! start with albums self-titled track and already we have a story that relates to a situation many have found ourselves in regarding being left in the lurch, especially regarding broken down relationships. Musically there is not a lot to it and I am pretty sure the song only contains 3 chords, but it’s what you do with them and how you deliver the song that make it what it is and work so well. Sunshine’s voice and acoustic guitar drive this along very well with the drums and his bends on the acoustic I can instantly distinguish too and they feature on most of his songs.

Beer, Picks & Old Records” is perhaps a song that is a bit more minimalistic regarding the use of the session players in relation to some of the other songs on the album where they do get to feature and stand out more. But there is enough in here to make it one of the albums contenders for the TOP SPOT! on the album and I like it a lot and also think that it makes a GREAT! title for the album. I would even say this song is very much a Sunshine classic.

Track 2. Banging On My Head.

This next song sits right in with the groove and hook of The Rolling Stones and the drum pounds it’s way effectively through the song to fit in with the title, I like the distortion that has been applied to the drum as well and it’s like it’s got quite a bounce to it and sounds almost like an African Djembe. Just like the opening track this one features mostly Sunshine on acoustic guitar and it does sound like he’s the only person on this track. Although this does also feature Bruce Witkin’s on bass and Rob Klonel on drums and you can tell the song has been re-recorded again in relation to the original demo he put out on Soundcloud.

Lyrically the song is pertaining to the pressures that can be put upon the life of a rock n roll star with his busy schedule and with all the materialistic things that’s opened up to them. That is how it comes across to me, but they also could relate to things going wrong and learning to tread through life more carefully and all sorts of trouble. Whatever they relate to they are banging it out very well and it’s quite a GREAT! little song.

Track 3. But I Got All My Feelings Hurt.

Sometimes there are things in life that hurt us that much that we can never really get over them and this what this song is pertaining to. It’s the shortest track on the album and is just under the 3-minute mark. Sunshine gets out the electric guitars for this one and along with Witkin and Klonel they get into the full swing of things on this one and do a GRAND! job here.

Like some of the songs on the album they was written quite awhile back and this one Gary wrote about 5 years ago and the original demo does have more of a bluesy feel about it especially has he was using acoustic guitars only. This version gives it more of a rock n roll feel that sits in well with the style and groove of the Stones and hearing it done this way like many of the songs on the album it does make them sound brand new.

Track 4. Love Turns.

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It often surprises me of how Sunshine’s voice can work so well with ballads and it works effectively on this really GREAT! ballad of a song to which I very much think is a classic and is also my personal favourite track on the album. “Love Turns” is not one of Sunshine’s new songs and this one goes back to 2012. It may very well of been written earlier than that but it was previously released back in 2012 on a 6 track EP he put out back then entitled Lead Me Away From This Bar.

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The original song was only 2 minutes, 23 seconds long and was more of a demo. The EP does have some GREAT! songs on it and this particular song did not stand out as well as it did on the EP like it does on this album. This new version is almost twice as long and you get 3 minutes, 58 seconds and it’s purely GOLDEN! Once again both Witkin and Klonel along with Sunshine do the BIZZO! on this song. But what also makes this song sound so GREAT! is the country feel that Ricky Beck Mahler gives to it on the lead guitar and this is the first of two tracks he appears on the album. He also uses an ebow and the sound he’s got on the guitar reminds me of the early 70’s you would get on early Rod Stewart albums like Every Picture Tells A Story and even Sandy Denny’s 2nd album she released back in 1972 entitled Sandy. I love how he makes the lead notes BITE! too. It really is a FANTASTIC! song to which Mahler has done a TOP JOB! on.

The song was written whilst Sunshine was going through the divorce of his wife at the time and the lyrics reflect that. I think many of Sunshine’s songs are almost like an autobiography of his own life and everything he has seen and experienced in life on his many travels. Gary delivers this song with perfection and every time I play this song for some reason it brings a tear of joy dwelling from my eye when he says the words “Boo Hoo” around the 1:48 mark just before the first lead break. Strange how such a sad song can even reflect happiness and this one merits the TOP SPOT AWARD! of the album.

Track 5. We Had Gold.

It’s time to ROCK! things up a bit more and Sunshine and the guys belt this one out in GREAT! style that once again has the hook that’s so familiar with the Stones. Once again he is on the electric guitar and does quite a tasty job of it and this is also quite a new song that could of possibly been written whilst Gary was putting the new album together over the past year. I am also pretty sure no demo was ever put out of it and it could of been the last song he wrote for the album.

Lyrically the song could pertain to the rise and fall of many bands and artists in that sometimes you can only be popular for so long before the next wave of bands and artists sweep you away sort of thing. Whatever the lyrics are pertaining to this song really ROCKS! and is another really GREAT! well driven song and a bit funky with it too.

Track 6. Hell.

Hell is perhaps not the way you would imagine or thought that things would be like growing up with everything that life throws at us, and that is what the words are pertaining to in this fine song that is perhaps not as hot as hell but simmers the album down a bit more. Witkin’s bass works very well on this song and it’s also one of the few tracks on the album he also contributes keyboards on as well. Sunshine has a GREAT! way with words and knows how to write GREAT! song and this is another CRACKING little number.

Track 7. Some Days (I Wanna Be Jimmy Page).

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It’s time to ROCK! things up a bit again and I am sure many guitarists would wanna be Jimmy Page and he had such an influence on many guitarists too. There are times I pick up my guitar and wanna be him myself but there is only one Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin were a GREAT! band. This song like many on the album does have more of a Stones feel about it apart from the ending, especially the way it swings with the rhythm. This is also the other track on the album that Ricky Beck Mahler contributes some lead guitar on and everyone is doing a GRAND! job on the song.

I love the subject matter Sunshine has chosen to write about here and how the story he wrote relates to a band starting out. It’s one of those songs that latches on to easy enough and will have you singing along to it, which is why I do feel that this is another song in contention for the albums TOP SPOT!.

Track 8. Your Beautiful Life.

This is perhaps more of a contender for the albums TOP SPOT! than the previous song and Gary is rolling them out one after the other here. Musically the song reminds me a bit like one of his classics “Mexico” off his 2012 album The Nerve Of Some People. I guess it’s the way the song drives along that puts me in mind of that song. It could also be that it has a beautiful thing though it might not have silver lockets and the thing of beauty here is life and how it can be easily taken away from us, yet there are still worse things in the world. The song portrays the story of Rose the Hitchhiker and it is without doubt another GREAT! song that features some GREAT! guitar work by Sunshine too..

Track 9. When The Cops Came By.

Looking at the title you would never guess that this was a song about romance and Sunshine really does have a GREAT! way of going about the subject matter with his words. Although this song is nothing like “One Tilted Rose In A Candy Jar” from his 2012 album The Nerve Of Some People I did also see this quite a romantic song and it puts me in mind of that song for those reasons. Although I personally think this is a bit better and is more along the lines of a Sunshine classic. Gary is on the acoustic for this one and it also features some fine keyboard work from Witkin and is very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. She Hates The Blues.

A GREAT! rocking’ blues number and this one is the longest track on the album weighing in at 4 minutes, 20 seconds. The song pertains to a story about those moaning assholes who wind up in a bar where the music the band is playing is not to their particular taste and do nothing but complain about it rather than going off somewhere else. The solution to the problem is to simply whack up the volume and give it to them and Sunshine and the guys certainly do in fine style.

Track 11. All Hearts Break.

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Another GREAT! song that has to be another contender for the albums TOP SPOT! “All Hearts Break” is a song about the hurt that is hard to shake off when one’s heart is broken and I am sure many of us have been there and bumped into those who have. Sunshine captures and sets the scene with the down to earth story he wrote for it and delivers the song with GREAT! conviction.

It’s really GREAT! to see how this song has progressed from the original rough demo and what’s been done with it here really does the song a lot more justice and it now ROCKS! well and truly for it. All 3 of the guys have done a GRAND! job here.

Track 12. Three Good Tires.

Another CRACKING! song that contains some really GREAT! acoustic playing from Sunshine and he also works in some GREAT! work with some fine touches on the electric guitar along the way and towards the end of it too. Lyrically the song pertains to being dragged down and being down on your luck, especially when you’re missing that one little thing that might make things run a bit smoother. Due to vinyl restrictions “Three Good Tires” is omitted from the vinyl release.

Track 13. Young (Ain’t You a Rock And Roller).

The album ends off in style and this another GREAT! little acoustic number to which features some fine keyboard work from Bruce Witkin that works extremely well with everything here. It’s quite a subtle song and once again this is another really good story Sunshine has written which pertains to being young and in love and looking back at those times and some of those musical GREATS! that influenced us and those who just play for the love of it. This is also one of Sunshine’s older songs he wrote around 6 years ago and he also wrote it in two parts, but this is the first part which is more of a ballad in relation to the second part he wrote and it wraps up another really GREAT! album.

Summary…

To sum up the album Beer, Picks & Old Records by Gary Sunshine. I very much think that what you are getting here is an album that contains 13 very well written songs that have been very skilfully placed with the right placement on the album to very much make it work and make quite a solid album. Personally, I cannot fault one track on the album and the way the songs come at you one after the other makes the album flow like a really good wine. But I would also say more of a vintage wine in that the material is very much old-school that draws from the same style of rock & blues you would of got from many other artists and bands many moons ago.

So, this is very much an album that would appeal more to people like myself and not so much to the younger generation or those looking for something more up to date and new that one would get out of today’s more modern pop music for example.

But regardless of the music being old-school and more along the lines of The Rolling Stones and many other ROCK N’ ROLLERS! There is no doubt that Gary Sunshine does also have quite his own distinctive way of delivering his songs to you which is what makes him stand out. Plus, with all he has experienced on the road as a ROCK-A-ROLLER himself, there is no doubt in my mind that he is a very good songwriter who writes songs that are down to earth and very interesting to keep you attentive enough to pay attention and listen.

In answer to my question further back of whether the album Beer, Picks & Old Records contains more classic songs than his previous album The Nerve Of Some People. Personally, I do not think it does and to give you an example these are the songs I would consider as Sunshine classics on the new album. “Beer, Picks & Old Records“. “Love Turns“. “Your Beautiful Life” and “When The Cops Came By“. And these are the ones I consider to be classics off his old album “If You See The Devil“. “A Gentleman With A Gun Strapped To His Ankle“. “Mexico“. “One Tilted Rose In A Candy Jar“. “The Nerve Of Some People“. “Cracked Guitar” and “Might Just Walk to California“.

But where the album Beer, Picks & Old Records wins and works better is certainly down to the production standards and that is what makes many of the songs stand out and why I even chose quite a good few of its tracks to be potential contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Beer, Picks & Old Records“. “Love Turns“. “Some Days (I Wanna Be Jimmy Page)“. “Your Beautiful Life“. “When The Cops Came By” and “All the Hearts Break“. But I could easily add every track on the album to that list.

Conclusion…

To wind up my review of Gary Sunshine’s latest album Beer, Picks & Old Records. I personally think this is an album that makes Gary Sunshine really SHINE! and that is very much down to the quality production behind it and right now it is without a doubt the best album you could ever possibly get of his for those reasons. I do however feel that if his self-produced debut album The Nerve Of Some People had the same production behind it, it would be the better album out of the two. But even though his latest album does consist of songs that were mostly written over the last year or two, there is no doubt Sunshine still has what it takes to write GREAT! songs and this is another of his albums that will give me tremendous pleasure for many years to come.

Beer, Picks & Old Records is an album that should appeal to many peoples tastes especially for those who are into The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Band, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Johnny Winter and many other ROCK-A-ROLLERS! It sure as hell ROCKS! my boat and I am sure it will do the same for many others. Gary Sunshine delivers the goods in style and with his own unique style too, and this is an artist and an album that is well worthy of checking out and I highly recommend you do.

You can find out more about Gary Sunshine and his album here on his website. The album is also available at many other retail stores internationally in both physical and digital formats. https://garysunshinemusic.com/index.html

There’s No Sympathy For The Devil, No More Public Enemy

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Beer, Picks & Old Records. 3:33.
02. Banging On My Head. 3:19.
03. But I Got All My Feelings Hurt. 2:53.
04. Love Turns. 3:58.
05. We Had Gold. 3:20.
06. Hell. 3:16.
07. Some Days (I Wanna Be Jimmy Page). 3:20.
08. Your Beautiful Life. 3:43.
09. When The Cops Came By. 3:04.
10. She Hates The Blues. 4:20.
11. All the Hearts Break. 4:15.
12. Three Good Tires. 4:16.
13. Young (Ain’t You a Rock And Roller). 3:08.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.