Lee Speaks About Music…#215

The Dark Side Of The Moon (Immersion Box Set) – Pink Floyd

Introduction…

When it comes to Box Sets I generally stay well clear of the more expensive ones and in general stick to below the £100 price point. When it comes to value for money regarding any of these kinds of packages, I personally do not think the Jethro Tull Mediabook box sets can be beaten and they are sold at an honest price point and give you much more informative information and in some cases a lot more discs than what comes in box sets like the one I am about to review.

Not only that these Tull packages (as seen above) are a lot easier to store along with your DVD’s and Blu-Rays and you could most likely buy five of these packages for the original retail price of the package we have here.

When it comes to the big guns Pink Floyd has always been up there with the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and their box sets in general can cost you a lot more than an arm and a leg when it comes to the extortionate prices they can charge for them. Some of you would most likely have to sell a kidney to obtain them and they can run into the hundreds of pounds.

Back in 2020, I got lucky with the Wish You Were Here Immersion box set and managed to pick it up brand new on Amazon UK for £48. That’s around the same price the SACD of that album is selling for on the black market second hand and I saved over a hundred pounds on its original retail price tag. Since then I have had my eyes peeled on The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion box set waiting for what I would call the right price or at least a more respectable price point.

It was back at the beginning of April this year that I noticed Amazon UK were still wanting £137 for the box set and I also came across another online store selling it for £99. Though that was still more than I was willing to pay for it and slightly more than what I thought it was actually worth.

Being a surround FREAK! my main interest in this box set is the blu ray not for the 5.1 mix either because I already have that on SACD. The Quadrophonic mix is the most important thing to me as for most of the extra SWAG! that comes with these things it is only put in there to bump up the price of the box set and nothing more. I will however say that the booklets that come with them are quite good but as in most cases lack any real informative information.

It was on the 8th of April that I noticed the box set on another online retailer called Fishpond priced at £76.96. It’s very much an online store I have never used before I do believe their main base is in New Zealand and as with any store I have never used before I always check out reviews on places like Trust Pilot for safety purposes. The shipping price of £2.99 was very reasonable too and still to this day I have never seen this box set any cheaper so I took the plunge and purchased it.

At its price of £79.95 including shipping, it is the most expensive box set I have ever brought. It is also more than what I wanted to pay for it but personally for me this is the bands most iconic album and one that I would place in one of the four corners of the universe. It is most likely one of the most perfect albums that has ever been made which is why I shelled out the extra bucks for it.

However, having shelled out the bucks for it I was not expecting the nightmare that came along with it. If you’ve ever seen the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit you may be aware of the saying “this is pissing me off roger“. That literally was the case with this box set and I shall reveal more later in my review of it. But first, let’s take a look at how it comes.

Packaging & Artwork…

The actual packaging for The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion boxset is the same as how they later went on to do the Wish You Were Here boxset in that it’s made of cardboard, the size of a 12-inch vinyl album and very chunky. If you read my review of that Immersion box set you would have noticed how much more difficult it is to find the space to store them, especially if like myself you are not a vinyl collector.

I was left with no alternative but to get another media cabinet to accommodate them. As you can see I don’t have that many but at least now I have plenty of space to add more to it when the time comes, plus I have freed up more space for the more regular media items I buy. I also have another box set on pre-order that will be arriving in October. You could say it’s a bit of an Animal 😊😊😊.

Artwork.
The new design and artwork for the Immersion box were done at StormStudios with photography by Tony May, Storm Thorgerson & Rupert Truman. The graphics were done by Peter Curzon and the retouching up was done by Lee Baker. Personally, for me the new design they did for the front cover of the box set is not as impressive as what they did with the Wish You Were Here Immersion box and it looks as if they have been juggling around with spectrums and triangles. However, I do like some of the designs they have done in the booklet that comes with the package.

The Packaging Contents…

As with the Wish You Were Here Immersion Box this thing comes with pretty much the same items of swag ranging from scarfs, coasters, posters, memorabilia items and a bag of marbles. Many of these items are not really fit for the purpose they were made for such as the coasters and the scarf for example. I do however quite like the marbles and at least they printed the album’s artwork onto them, unlike the clear glass marbles that came with the WYWH Immersion Box.

You also get three booklets with this box set, a small 12-page credit one that gives you all the information that’s on the 6 discs. A quality 36-page booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson that contains the album liner production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some high-quality photos of various memorabilia and is very impressive. Plus you get a 20-page photo booklet which is also of very good quality.

One of the major flaws regarding the design of a box set like this is that not all the discs are stored in the same place or way. For example four of the discs are stored in the base of the box itself which means that you have to go through all that palaver of removing all the other content to get at them.

The other two discs come in single sleeves like a mini replica of a single-sleeved vinyl album. I suppose you could take them out and store them with your other media on a shelf, though unlike DigiPaks and DigiSleeves they are way too thin and you would have trouble finding them. Besides that, if you going to make a box set you really need everything to be in one place.

The Immersion Media In Review…

Pink Floyd’s Immersion Box Set of The Dark Side Of The Moon was released on the 27th of September 2011. The music media content that comes in the box set is spread over 6 discs 3 CDs, 2 DVDs and a Blu-Ray which very much makes this a box set where you are getting the same thing two or three times over. It’s also quite strange how they have actually numbered the discs for example you would expect the 3 CDs to be numbered from one to three but that is not the case here.

However, things like that are perhaps minuscule in relation to the nightmare that this box set presented to me when it arrived. To be honest, I never did my research very well when I reviewed the Wish You Were Here Immersion Box and I was under the impression that seeing how these box sets are still widely available they were still reissuing them, unlike a limited edition release.

It is however quite clear that is not the case and I perhaps should have taken the advice that my good friend Dirk Radloff mentioned about them being mostly aimed at serious record collectors and the biggest majority would not shell out the money for such an item which is perhaps why many of them are still around til this day.

I have no idea how many box sets were made back in 2011 but for those who live in Europe like myself, this box set comes with a major problem, especially for surround FREAKS! like myself. Simply because all the box sets that were made in Europe come with a faulty Blu-Ray that will not play at all. I was absolutely livid when I found this out and immediately repackaged the box set up to send it back to Fishpond for a refund and went to their website to file the return.

As I was not sending it back until the next day I spent a bit of time doing a bit of research, it was then that I discovered that it was only box sets that were made in Europe that had the faulty disc and they all displayed the word “False” (as seen above) when inserting them into your player. I also discovered that you could get the disc replaced and this is where the nightmare really began.

Originally you had to send the disc back to get it replaced but as time went by you could get it replaced by sending in proof of your purchase. To get your disc replaced you had to send in your proof via email to mail@aecreate.com to which you instantly get an automatic reply as seen below.

“The email account is only for issues relating to The Dark Side of The Moon Blu-ray contained within the Immersion Box Set, released in 2011. We can confirm new stock is in transit and will send out replacement Blu-ray’s within the next 2 weeks. Please provide evidence of proof of purchase and a post address”.

A month had passed by and I had not heard a dickie bird from them so I sent them a reminder and all I got was the same auto reply as above. So I decided to do a bit more research and found the company’s Facebook page and messaged them there. All I got back was “Thanks”. After 6 weeks this was really pissing me off and it was then I received an email from Fishpond wanting to know what was going on with my return to which I emailed them and explained the situation.

It was also at this point that I also sent in some pictures of me holding the box set beside the proof of purchase I had sent at the beginning. I not only emailed them but also sent them via Facebook Messenger. I was beginning to think that AeCreate.com was Snail.com and the person behind the company who is one Andy Evans came from the planet IGNORAMUS! 😊😊😊.

As to if Fishpond got in touch with them I could not tell you but about a week afterwards I finally received an email from them saying that they had sent out the replacement disc and I should get it in the next few days. Another 2 weeks went by and I still had not received it so I emailed them again. It finally arrived after some 3 months of complaining to them so you can imagine why it pissed me off so much.

Having to wait all that time also held back my review here although I do still have a few box sets that I purchased well over a year ago now that I still have not gotten round to reviewing. One of them still sits on my shelf unopened which arrived on the day of its release back in March last year.

I also have another box set that I purchased a month earlier in February 2021 and one more recently this year although this Alice Cooper box set of Detroit Stories is the only one that remains unopened. Hopefully, I shall get around to opening and reviewing it later this year but for now, let’s take a look at the content that comes with this box set starting with the CD’s.

The CD Content

CD 1. The first disc contains the original 10 album tracks remastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante back in 2011. The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that has been reissued near enough 1,200 times over the years since its release, I dare say the original master tapes have also gone through a few generations as well. However, considering the album has been reissued up to the hilt it has only been remastered 8 times and this is actually the second time that Guthrie and Plante had remastered the album which the first time was back in 2003 on its 30th Anniversary.

I do believe the reason why they decided to remaster the album again was that some people were complaining about the compression that was used on the 2003 remaster though, to be honest, there was no sign of brick walling on that edition. I also think they may have used the 20th Anniversary Edition remaster done by Doug Sax to work with as that was regarded as one of the best-sounding remasters which is why he also gets thanks in the credits.

To be honest, being the surround FREAK! that I am it’s very rare I will play the stereo mix and even though I purchased the 2003 SACD near enough some two decades ago I have never once played the stereo remaster. However, for this review, I played the 2003 and 2011 remasters back to back and I can honestly say that 2003 remaster in my opinion is absolute SHITE! in comparison to this 2011 remaster.

The 2011 remaster speaks to me more like I remember the vinyl album from the 70’s though regarding most remasters you are perhaps better off sticking with the original album. No remaster in my opinion will ever be as good as a remix simply because all you can really do is try and enhance a two-channel stereo recording. Whereas with a remix you have access to all the multi-tracks of the recording giving you much more to play with to achieve a better mix or result.

This is really why I am a surround FREAK! and I prefer a multichannel mix or remix in relation to any remaster. In most cases, multichannel recordings will offer you the best results including the 2003 5.1 mix which is an entirely different kettle of fish in relation to how bad that 2003 stereo remaster turned out.

CD 2. The second disc contains the albums 10 tracks live and these live recordings were taken from two of the three nights they played at the Londons Empire Pool during their British winter tour back in 1974. The band played at the venue from the 14th – 16th of November that year and was recorded by the BBC on the 15th & 16th. These live recordings of the album only were later broadcast on the Alan Freeman Show on BBC Radio 1 on the 11th of January 1975.

Other numbers that were played at these shows were an early version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as very early versions of “Sheep” and “Dogs” under different titles of “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” which were used for the Wish You Were Here Immersion box set. They also ended off these shows with an encore of “Echoes” which was released later in 2016 on the 7th Volume entitled Continu/ation of the Early Years box set.

These recordings are all previously unreleased and are of excellent sound quality and are most welcome to find in the box set. Though of course they also released a 2 CD Experience Edition (as seen below) which also comes with these recordings on the second disc at a more respectable price. Pretty sure no double vinyl Experience Edition was released due to vinyl being out of circulation at the time.

No doubt since these live recordings were finally put out unofficial releases were bound to fly out of the woodwork such as this 3 LP vinyl set released in 2019 by Jules Records. You also get the whole of the set with this release although the recordings like we have here were taken from two of the three nights they played at the venue. 

One of the things I like about these live recordings that come on the second disc is that many of the album tracks have been extended and this live version of The Dark Side Of The Moon runs for 55 minutes and you can literally hear every word. The mix was done by Andy Jackson & Damon Iddins and they really have done a GRAND! job here.

The other thing is that the band are only accompanied by Dick Parry’s saxophone and a couple of backing singers Vanetta Fields and Carlena Williams unlike the array of other musicians they had with them later on to perform their songs. In many respects, this sounds more like a proper live performance unlike later on where they polished things up. It just goes to show how well the band could perform without all those other musicians on the stage with them as well.

CD 3. The final CD is actually numbered Disc 6 and comes in a cardboard slipcase instead of with the other two CD’s that are stored in the base of the box. I did mention that it is a bit strange as to why they did this and the only reason that I can see is perhaps down to the fact that they could only fit four discs in the base of the box and kept things in unison by the putting the first two CD’s with the two DVD’s.

This disc contains 16 previously unreleased tracks spread over a playing time of 67 minutes, 17 seconds. The first 9 tracks contain the early 1972 mix of The Dark Side Of The Moon which is quite interesting in parts simply because various things had not been put into the final mix of the album at this stage. For example, the heartbeat on the intro written by Nick Mason entitled “Speak” was not written at this stage hence why the album only has 9 tracks instead of 10.

“The Great Gig In The Sky” is perhaps the most interesting track here has it does not contain the magic voice of Clare Torry, instead we get the words that were spoken by Gene Cernan who was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon.

The remaining 7 tracks you get are early studio demos and live recordings and once again the live recordings were mixed by Andy Jackson & Damon Iddins in 2010. The first of these extras “The Hard Way (From ‘Household Objects’)” is perhaps the odd one out simply because it was part of the Wish You Were Here album so I am not really sure why this was included here. Although down to the fact that it does have footsteps in it like “The Travel Sequence” (which is also included here) it could be seen as a precursor to “On The Run”.

You also get a longer live version of “The Travel Sequence” along with “The Mortality Sequence” and “Any Colour You Like” which were recorded live in Brighton back in 1972. “The Mortality Sequence” is “The Great Gig In The Sky” and in this version, it contains snippets of speeches by Malcolm Muggeridge, a British writer known for his conservative religious views reciting words from the bible.

Also included amongst the extra tracks are a Richard Wright piano demo of “Us And Them” and an acoustic demo of “Money” played and sung by Roger Waters. Overall this is another worthy inclusion to the box set and you had to buy the box set to get your hands on it as there was no individual release. Though I dare say it s plastered all over Youtube these days.

The DVD Content.

DVD 1. The first of the two DVD’s contains Audio content only and includes the 5.1 mix of the album tracks only that was done back in 2003 by James Guthrie with the assistant engineer Joel Plante. It also offers you the choice of 448kbps and 640kbps to choose from although the downside is that they are in Dolby Digital only. You also get the same choices for the original Quadrophonic mix which was done by Alan Parsons back in 1973 also included here is the original stereo mix from the same year which does offer you a better quality of LPCM 48KHz/24 bit.

DVD 2. The second DVD contains the bonus content which is mostly visual content and first up you get a couple of songs the band performed live at the Brighton Dome in England back on the 29th of June 1972. Both of these songs have no relevance to the album in question and it’s no surprise to see they are “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun” which they literally played to death back then 😊😊😊. The audio was remastered by Andy Jackson in 2011 and sounds quite good even though it comes with a lower format of LPCM Stereo 48KHz/16 bit.

Also included is the 2003 25-minute documentary of the making of The Dark Side Of The Moon that was made for the 30th Anniversary of the album. I quite like this feature and remember seeing it on the TV around the time it came out too. The only real drawback to this documentary is that it’s relatively a lot shorter than the biggest majority of the same making of album documentaries that many other artists have put out. Once again the audio has been remastered in 2011 by Jackson and as with most of the bonus features, they are presented with the same audio format.

The final of the extra features you get here is the concert screen films from the British and French tours in 1974 and the North American tour in 1975. This is the longest feature and runs for approximately 59 minutes, 14 seconds and the visual content improves as it runs along. You also get the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 48K/24 and LPCM Stereo 48KHz/16 bit.  

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray contains the same content that is on the two DVD’s though in terms of picture and sound quality I consider this to be the most important item that comes in the whole of this box set. To be perfectly honest there is no way I would have even considered buying this box set unless it came with a Blu Ray, the DVD’s are way inferior in comparison to it. Although I am of course mainly speaking in terms of the audio and not so much the picture quality as most of the visual content apart from the main menu is much older footage and is not in HD.

Blu Ray Main Menu

DVD Main Menu

Although it’s perhaps not as noticeable here with the snaps I took with my phone of both menus there is actually a major difference between the image quality of these menus. For example, the Blu Ray is very much sharp and pristine whereas the DVD is a bit like comparing a JPEG to GIF and looks blotchy sometimes it’s that blotchy that the yellow triangle looks like a square.

Both menus however are animated and various particles float around the screen and the white triangle circles its way around the blu triangle in the middle of the screen. They also have slightly different layouts in the way the material is presented. The DVD also uses an older navigation system where you have to wait for the next page to load when you click on the options on the menu.

The blu ray interface and layout as a much faster navigation system and rather than having to load to another page the option choices simply drop down and appear as you click on them. The Audio side of the menu (as seen in the screenshots above) contains the main feature which is the album and from here you can play the album, select a track to play and set up your choice of audio.

The audio side of things is really where the Blu Ray has the biggest advantage over the DVD and it offers uncompressed LPCM 24/96Khz across the board for the 5.1, Stereo and Quadrophonic mixes. In my opinion, the blu ray is very much the king of all audio and visual formats and it is the media that will give you the best result out of them all. Though I will say the SACD is about the closest audio format to it. 

The final option in the Audio menu is the system setup and both the Blu-Ray and DVD come with a surround setup. Although you can just as easily do that on your AV Reciever and I myself prefer to do so and often find the ones put onto discs like this are only there to make it look like you got another added bonus.

The Visual content is where all the bonus material is kept and even though it’s on blu ray here it’s perhaps not really going to give you any better quality than the DVD and the audio quality is the same as that on the DVD which is to be expected for the type of footage you get here.

The only real downside regarding the blu ray is that just like they did with the WYWH Immersion box all you get is a blank screen when playing back the audio content. When you consider all of the different artwork Storm & Co had done for the album you would have thought they would have utilised it here and put it to good use.

Stereo & Surround Mixes.

When it comes to the advantages that the blu ray will give you in this box set I personally think that both the Stereo and Quad mixes are the key points and not so much the 5.1 mix because that was released on SACD back in 2003. Many will say that the 5.1 mix on the blu ray will give you a better result than the SACD and I have found in some cases that to be the case. Though I personally don’t think there is any real sonic difference between the both here and if there is I certainly cannot hear it.

Back in 2003 James Guthrie’s 5.1 mix, in my opinion, was the best way you could ever hear this album and I personally don’t think that has changed. However, what this box set gives you is also Alan Parsons original Quadrophonic mix that gives you another alternative way to listen to the album in surround and it was this mix that tempted me to get this box set in the first place.

I can honestly say I am not disappointed either and even though Persons stated in an interview that he rushed the Quad mix I personally think it is much better than Guthrie’s 5.1 mix. The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that I have always considered to have a muddy mix in parts no matter what version you have and it is mainly on the vocals on the chorus sections of “Brain Damage” which have never been very clear. The only way you could ever understand what the hell they are saying in this chorus is to read the lyric sheet.

Although Parson’s quad mix is not gonna entirely gonna clear things up on the chorus sections of that song, it is however much better and not only that I can hear more things in his quad mix than Guthries 5.1 mix. The way that Parsons placed the instrumentation in his quad mix is also much better than Guthrie and he’s paid a lot more attention to how the instruments can be separated even down to how more effective they can work.

The chimes of the bells and everything about “Time” sounds a hundred times better on the quad mix in my opinion. Not only that the voices can be heard much more clearly, especially at the beginning and end of the album whereas Guthrie for some reason has turned them down which in my opinion was a stupid thing to do. 

At the end of the day, both the 5.1 and Quad mixes will give you a very good immersive experience. You will also hear more things in both of these mixes in relation to any stereo mix. The Quad mix is well worthy of 10 out of 10 in my book whereas for the 5.1 mix I would give 8 out of 10.

The other good thing is that you do get Parsons original stereo mix and the mix you get here I personally think is better than Guthrie’s 2011 stereo remaster, although it is high res and uncompressed in relation to the CD. As I mentioned the Stereo and Quad mixes that come on the blu ray are the key points in relation to the 2003 SACD and are the only real reason to get this box set. Though I will stress it is an expensive price to pay to get your hands on them and there is no real reason why one should not be happy enough with the 5.1 mix that came on that SACD back in 2003.

The Album In Review…

Released on the 1st of March 1973 Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album The Dark Side Of The Moon is the very album that launched the band into an international success that much so that they could have easily retired with the wealth of money it made them. It is without a doubt in my opinion their most iconic album and the result came from the back of a lot of hard work from touring prior to the making and release of the album. Much of its idea came from the fact that the band had already worked on and made a longer piece with “Echoes” from their 1971 album Meddle which was an album you could say where the band had started to find their feet.

Due to its sales of more than 95 million copies worldwide, it is the bands most commercial-selling album reaching platinum status 15 times in both the UK and the US yet in reality it had way less promotion than their 1979 double album The Wall. Although the album hit the number 1 spot in many other countries on its release it failed to do that in the UK where it peaked at number 2. It did however hit number 1 in the US but only held that position for one week and it was due to the record company releasing “Money” as a single (in the US only) that it managed to do so.

In the UK it took two decades for the album to drop out of the top 100 albums chart and in the US it remained on the Billboard 200 albums chart for 736 nonconsecutive weeks (from 17 March 1973 to 16 July 1988). With its many reissues and remasters it has even managed to climb back into the top 100 and in some countries hit number one again. In 2012, the album was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. 

There can be no doubt that The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that not only made a mark but a statement and that was partially down to the conceptional ideas and lyrics that Roger Waters wrote for it. It is one of the greatest albums of all time and its themes embark on life itself and the day-to-day pressures that are thrown upon us as we go through it. It deals with conflict, greed, time, death and even mental illness it’s no wonder the album appeals to so many.

The 10 tracks that make up the album have been skillfully stitched together to weave their way along its journey and are spread over an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 50 seconds which may not be perfect for vinyl due to restrictions. Though I will say the way things have been done here makes this one of the most perfect and not just one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Recorded mostly in Abbey Roads Studio 3 between June 1972 and January 1973 like The Beatles the band had always been into experimentation even to the point of using household objects. You could say that the money that Roger Waters had flipped into a ceramic bowl in his garden shed went on to make all four members of the band shed loads of the stuff. Though of course a lot more than that went into the development of this album and not only included the input from the other three members of the band but also the road crew and engineers.

We must also not forget Alan Parsons who incidentally started his career as a tape operator at Abbey Road Studios and worked on the Beatles albums Abbey Road and Let It Be. It was working on The Dark Side Of The Moon that also inspired him to make a successful career as an artist in his own right and that may have been down to see the members of the band become instant millionaires whereas he and the others involved in the making of the record got paid the standard rate for their services.

Besides the household objects, the band had started to experiment with loops and the use of the EMS Synthi AKS and EMS VC3 played quite a major role in putting the album together and was utilised by Waters, Gilmour and Wright. They also continued to use the analogue synth sequencer on the album that followed it Wish You Were Here.

EMS Synthi AKS & EMS VCS3

The AKS Synthi and VCS3 was created by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company back in 1969 and was very popular with progressive rock bands back in its day Parsons himself even used it on his project album I Robot later in 1977. Even rock bands such as The Who used it and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin used it on “Four Sticks” on the bands fourth untitled studio album back in 1971.

Like much of the bands music it was often aired and performed live under a different title well before the album release. In the case of the material that was written for The Dark Side Of The Moon they performed all 10 tracks in the same order under the title of “A Piece for Assorted Lunatics” at London’s Rainbow Theatre on the 17th of February 1972 a good year before it was released.

Though of course, the album was nowhere near as developed as we know it and differences included the lack of synthesisers in tracks such as “On the Run” and Clare Torry’s vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky” being replaced by readings from the Bible. I do believe that they even named the tour they did back then The Eclipse Tour. Many bootlegs of the recording are still widely available today though I am sure if they were of reasonable enough quality the band would have included them in this box set.

To be honest it is amazing just how many things get leaked out and bootlegged and some people even go to the extremes of obtaining all sorts of information including this interview that Waters conducted with Roger “The Hat” one of the bands roadies.

Many of the bands road crew and engineers were interviewed and recorded on tape by Waters during the making of the album and asked all sorts of questions, he even interviewed Paul McCartney who was working in the studio on the Wings album Red Rose Speedway at the time. By the sound of this interview, he may have even provided the weed 😊😊😊. To be honest I don’t like publishing bootlegged material but I found this extremely funny.

Musicians & Credits…

All Tracks Written & Produced by Pink Floyd. All Lyrics by Roger Waters. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios London, England between June 1972 – January 1973. Engineered by Alan Parsons. Assistant Engineer Peter James. Quadrophonic Mix by Alan Parsons. 5.1 Mix by James Guthrie. Mastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante at Das Boot Recording 2011. Graphics & Artwork by George Hardie. Pyramid Photography by Hipgnosis. Immersion Design by StormStudios.

Musicians.
David Gilmour: Vocals – Guitars – EMS Synthi AKS.
Roger Waters: Vocals – Bass Guitar – EMS VCS 3 – Tape Effects.
Richard Wright: Vocals – Hammond & Farfisa Organs – Piano & Electric Piano (Wurlitzer/Rhodes) – EMS VCS 3 – EMS Synthi AKS.
Nick Mason: Drums – Percussion – Tape Effects.

Additional Musicians.
Dick Parry: Saxophone (Us and Them and “Money”).
Clare Torry: Vocals (The Great Gig in the Sky).
Leslie Duncan, Liza Strike, Barry St. John & Doris Troy: Backing Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The material that makes up The Dark Side Of The Moon was put together as two sides of a continuous piece of music that reflects upon the various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat. Roger Waters sums it up with one word “empathy” and no doubt it’s very fitting to the “BRILLIANT! lyrics and the subject matter they are pertaining to that he wrote for this album. The very fact that the band had already worked on longer pieces such as “Echoes” and the concept album appeared to be the IN-THING! around the time would have certainly provided the inspiration for this masterpiece of work.

Although I would not say that the collection of songs that were written for the album was one continuous song as “Echoes” was. However, they are very well amalgamated with how they have been skillfully woven together. So let’s now dive in a take a closer look as I go through the album tracks.

Track 1. Speak To Me.

The opening track and short introduction to the album is credited to Nick Mason though I am not entirely sure Mason composed everything you are hearing here or even if his bass drum provides the beating of the heart. I am not entirely sure it’s his voice we are hearing here either however it was not unusual for Mason to do voices for the band to which he also provided the voice on “One Of These Days”.

The instrumental piece is very much constructed with a collage of sound effects much of which is taken from various other tracks throughout the album including Clair Torry’s scream (Great Gig in the Sky). The manic laughter of the bands English road manager Peter Watts (Brain Damage) and various other sounds such as clicking clocks and helicopters (On The Run) down to the cash register (Money).

According to both Wright and Waters, the credit was a gift to him to give him some publishing income and I am pretty sure they also would have been involved with the EMS VCS 3 you are hearing here too. If anything “Speak To Me” is a short glimpse into the events that are about to unfold and even the reversed piano chord that was thrown in takes us nicely into the first song on the album.

Track 2. Breathe (In The Air). 

The musical side of this song was penned by Gilmore & Wright and I love the way this song smoothly glides its way along to which Gilmore’s job on the lap steel coupled with Wright’s keyboards very much play a major role in making that happen. As with much of the vocal duties on this album they are handled by Gilmore and his voice on this song also works smoothly and has a certain amount of calmness which is well apt for the GREAT! words Waters penned for it.

The lyrical content embarks on the importance of living one’s own life and the short amount of time we have to live it so to speak. “Breath” is very much a thematic piece and its strong theme evokes it enough for it to reappear later on, even with its slower pace it is one of the stronger songs on the album. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. On The Run.

The second of three instrumental tracks on the album and quite an effective piece that was constructed and put together by Gilmour and Waters. Both the EMS Synthi AKS and EMS VCS 3 were put to very good use and most of its sequence was created on the EMS Synthi whilst the VCS 3 was used to make the sounds of a vehicle passing by and an aeroplane exploding.  David Gilmour gives a good demonstration of how the original Synthi sequence was punched in and speeded up in the documentary of the making of the album.

Other things such as airport announcements, reversed guitar effects and even footsteps from the assistant engineer Peter James were utilised which most likely inspired the title. Roger “The Hat” is in here too and when you look at how everything has been shaped for the album to continuously flow and run into the following track it’s perhaps like an album that has two parts one on each side rather than an album with 10 tracks.

Track 4. Time.

At just under 7 minutes “Time” is the longest track on the first side of the album and even though it’s titled as one track or song it is actually made up of three tracks or parts. Its rather long 2 minute and 18 second intro is perhaps the most effective piece on the entire album and is made up of ticking clocks, alarm clocks and chimes from Grandfather and Godfather clocks all of which were originally recorded in an antique store and made as a quadrophonic test by engineer Alan Parsons. They were also not specifically meant for the album but having heard the tape of them Gilmore suggested they should use them though the initial idea was Parsons and no doubt they were well apt for the title of the track.

Running through all the bells and chimes Waters adds to the ticking sound via the use of a couple of muted strings on his bass guitar and we get a SUPERB! drum solo by Mason played on rototoms and his solo very well makes up the musical side of things here. This whole introduction is purely MAGICAL! and it’s brought even more to life with Alan Parsons original Quad mix. 

Then we get the song itself which is more uptempo with its raunchy rock style and in terms of pace it is most likely the fastest track on the album. It also contains a fine set of lyrics that tie in and continue on from the previous song. The lyrics to this particular song sum up how short our lifespan on earth really is with what little time we have to get things done and how some of it is wasted. These are just some of the sentences I picked out from the song that pertains to what I said about it.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

Shorter of breath and on day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time

The lyrics that Waters wrote for this song are most likely my favourite set of lyrics on the whole album. The last sentence of the song really does show how life can be all over before we know it and I have to say that Waters did exceptionally well with all the lyrics he wrote for the whole of the album. The other good thing about this song is that the vocal duties are shared by Gilmour and Wright a combination that has always worked very well in the past.

The song also does have something more to say as it blends in very nicely with a reprise of the albums second song “Breathe” with more comforting lyrics to suit its relaxed style. “Breathe (Reprise)” works very much as a recurring theme and apart from the heartbeat that starts and ends the album, it is the only theme on the album to reoccur which is most likely why it’s my favourite track.

Track 5. The Great Gig In The Sky.

This next track is most likely as popular as any song on the album and it originally started out as “The Mortality Sequence” or “The Religion Song” accompanied by spoken-word samples from the Bible and snippets of speeches by Malcolm Muggeridge. It was also first developed by Richard Wright on organ and played on the organ with the sound of Muggeridge’s voice accompanying it at some of the bands live shows in 1972. He later then switched from organ to piano and it was really the magic vocal cords of Clare Torry that really brought it to life and made it more popular. Although it was never released as a single it got plenty of airplay not only on the radio but found its way into films and even TV Commercials.

Having previously worked with Torry it was Parsons who recommended her and she very much started her career as a vocalist and backing vocalist doing covers of well-known chart hits by various artists. If you are as old as I am and from the UK I am sure many will remember the series of Top of the Pops albums that run between 1968 – 1982. Basically, these were CHEAPO! vinyl albums where the songs were performed by other musicians and singers and sold at a lot cheaper price.

Even after the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, she went on to do covers and it’s her voice that you can hear singing Dolly Parton’s single “Love Is Like a Butterfly” on the BBC TV Series Butterflies that starred Wendy Craig that ran on British television between 1978 – 1983. Although her voice on “The Great Gig In The Sky” is used more like an instrument which is very much why it’s still classed as an instrumental piece.

It was also down to the fact that her voice worked like an instrument that led to a lawsuit being filed against Wright who up until 2005 the piece was solely credited to him. To be honest, having done the session, Torry did not think they would use it and was surprised herself when she saw her name on the album credits. I guess it was down to seeing how popular it had become that later on, she felt her contribution was worth more than the £30 she had been paid for the session and quite rightly so. None of the band members made a fuss and settled up out of court.

However, you look at “The Great Gig In The Sky” it does sound more like a song than an instrumental piece and that is down to Torry’s voice. In reality, the whole of this first side of the album could easily contend for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! especially when you can come up with something as GREAT! as this masterpiece.

Track 6. Money.

Even more popular than the previous song “Money” became the bands most commercially successful track, and has been covered by several artists over the years. The lyrical content can be seen as a mockery against greed although when you look at half of the materialistic items that are mentioned in the song many of the band members certainly had enough of the stuff to buy such items afterwards. Nick Mason and his collection of sports cars is perhaps a prime example of having too much of the stuff. Though it also pertains to politics, in particular, how when it comes to seeing it as the root of all evil. My favourite line in the song is “but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away” it’s also very true.

The effective loop that Waters made for the intro with the use of clinking coins, a ringing cash register and tearing paper tells you what it’s all about and is well fitting to the piece. It’s even more effective on the quad mix and creates a walk-around room effect. Gilmore’s guitar solos along with the sax solos played by Dick Parry are also very impressive and to achieve the high piercing notes on the final chorus with the guitar he used a custom-made Lewis guitar with twenty-four frets that allowed a full four-octave range.

Like many of the songs on this album “Money” is an absolute classic and its single release in America broke them into the American market. I would suspect that it’s also most people’s favourite track on the album and it is, without doubt, a very high contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 7. Us and Them.

Besides conflict, the word segregation springs to mind with the lyrics that Waters wrote for this song and this is another one of the albums smoother tracks. Like the previous song, it was also released as a single in America though it peaked much lower at 72 on the Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart most likely because it was released a year after the release of the album. It’s the longest track on the album and the musical side of things was written by Wright on the piano back in 1969. Back then it went under the title of “The Violent Sequence” and was one of the many pieces that got rejected by the film director Michelangelo Antonioni that were originally intended for the film Zabriskie Point.

It’s another GREAT! song and one that is easily in contention with the best tracks on the album it could also be a personal favourite for many as well. The song itself has quite a jazzy flavour to it which is once again well suited for Parry’s sax to which he gets the opportunity to play a couple of solos on this one. The harmonies of Wright’s voice fit in well with Gilmour’s lead vocals and as with many of the songs the backing singers do a fine job. Roger “The Hats” manifold can also be heard in the song just before the second of the sax solos.

Track 8. Any Colour You Like. 

The final of the instrumental tracks on the album could be seen as a funked-up version of “Breathe Reprise” in particular with its backline of bass and drums. It also uses the same chord structure and could be seen as where the theme reoccurs yet again. It is however more synthesized but also features some fine lead work from Gilmour who used a couple of guitars to create the Uni-Vibe guitar effect. It’s very much a piece that keeps the album continuously flowing and its ending makes way for it to flow into the next track perfectly and effortlessly.

Track 9. Brain Damage.

The lyrics that Waters wrote for this song are very much tongue in cheek and were inspired by his former bandmate Syd Barrett who very much suffered from mental illness though most likely self-inflicted. Once again the band’s road manager back then Peter Watts’s manic laughter can be heard and it’s thanks to the multitrack recordings that you can also hear the tubular bells that Mason played in the song. The lunatics in this song could also apply to those in power and there are enough of them.

Track 10. Eclipse.

The final track on the album transcends from the previous track and being as they are both relatively short tracks they are quite often played together. Both tracks were also penned and sung by Waters, although on this final track everyone joins in. Within the context of the lyrics, he uses the sun and moon as symbols of dark and light, good and bad and that is what everything under the sun is pertaining to.

The final words at the end “There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun” were spoken by the doorman of Abbey Road Studios at the time Gerry O’Driscoll. You can also hear faintly in the background an orchestral version of The Beatles smash hit song “Ticket To Ride” that was being recorded in the next studio at the time by Hollybridge Strings.

If anything “Eclipse” puts the album to bed very well and summarises very much of the concept behind it all perfectly even if for some it’s quite puzzling. Once again the way the second side of the album has been stitched together is very much like one continuous piece with how it all flows.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Box by Pink Floyd. Firstly I would like to point out that no matter how much you love this iconic album there is no way I could ever consider this box set as a must for Floyd fans, especially at its original retail price point of over a hundred English pounds sterling. In reality, a box set like this is worth no more than £60 and even that is a considerably high price point to pay for the small amount of music media content it has to offer that you cannot get your hands on a lot cheaper outside of the box.

My only genuine interest in getting this box set was for the blu ray because it contained Alan Parsons original Quadrophonic mix. That and the music media content that is on CD 6 are the only things in this box that you cannot lay your hands on (though of course the Quad mix can be obtained easily enough on vinyl). However, setting up a system like that is gonna cost you a lot more than an arm and a leg to play it and getting a copy still in mint condition today is highly unlikely.

Regarding the content that comes on the 6th disc. Although it is interesting it’s only really demo content and this is the sort of material you used to get for free as bonus tracks on reissues of albums years ago some even give you an extra disc for free. Even though it is unreleased content it does not have any real genuine value and is certainly not enough to entice one to spend money like this on a box set.

The Dark Side Of The Moon may very well be a perfect album but unfortunately, its recording was far away from that and even though first-generation original master tapes were used on the content that is contained in this box set the album never had what one would call a reference point recording. The downside is that the album was only ever recorded on 16 tracks to which they shoved way too much information onto them to make the album what it is.

No matter what pressing or version you have of the album it will always sound like mud in parts such as I mentioned on “Brain Damage” in the stereo & surround mixes of my review. There are of course other parts on the album that are not so clear as well and no matter how good the mixing engineer is it is impossible to clean those parts up.

However, the album contains nowhere near the muddy mix that Brian Humphries gave to the bands 1977 album Animals which was recorded on 24 tracks. You could say that James Guthrie had a much easier task of cleaning up that album up, not only was it recorded with 8 extra tracks it also had less information shoved onto them.

I am sure many of you will already know that Guthrie’s 2018 mix of Animals finally got released this month. It’s also quite an interesting mix but I shall leave that for another day and another review.

I personally don’t think there will ever be a definitive version of TDSOTM unlike the Definitive Editions of the Yes albums that Steve Wilson mixed. I certainly don’t think Guthrie has Wilson’s ears either but for my ears, the best mixes of this album were done by Parsons and as I mentioned both the Stereo and Quad mixes are the real key points of this release.

In my own opinion, the best possible way to listen to the album is with the Quad mix it is, without doubt, more definitive and defines more than the 2003 5.1 mix that Gutrhie did. Though as I mentioned there is no real reason why any surround FREAK! should not be content and happy enough with that 5.1 mix and I certainly would not recommend laying out 80 bucks or more to get your hands on the quad mix as I did.

Box sets like this are really more of a vanity item that one can look at and put on display, they are a million miles away from an honest package that costs less and offers you more for your money (as the Jethro Tull packages do), especially regarding the actual music content that comes inside them. Here you are paying more for the SWAG! that comes in them more than anything else to which the biggest majority of it is not fit for the purpose it was made for in the first place.

That is my genuine honest viewpoint regarding both Immersion box sets that have been released so far of Pink Floyd. It’s also the reason why I could never recommend them though I dare say others might not quite see it like I do. However, if for some reason you feel the need to obtain this box set and come across it cheap enough brand new. I certainly would try and avoid the European releases of it unless you want to go through the same rigmarole as I did getting the blu ray replaced 😊😊😊.

Quad Mix Heaven For A High Price…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1. (2011 Remaster)
01. Speak To Me. 1:07.
02. Breathe. 2:49.
03. On The Run. 3:45.
04. Time. 6:53.
05. The Great Gig In The Sky. 4:44.
06. Money. 6:23.
07. Us And Them. 7:49.
08. Any Colour You Like. 3:26.
09. Brain Damage. 3:46.
10. Eclipse. 2:12.

CD 2. (Live At Wembley 1974)
01. Speak To Me. 2:45.
02. Breathe. 2:50.
03. On The Run. 5:08.
04. Time. 6:31.
05. The Great Gig In The Sky. 6:50.
06. Money. 8:40.
07. Us And Them. 8:09.
08. Any Colour You Like. 8:10.
09. Brain Damage. 3:43.
10. Eclipse. 2:18.

CD 6. (1972 Mix & Previously Unreleased Tracks)
01. Breathe. 3:10.
02. On The Run. 3:30.
03. Time. 6:56.
04. The Great Gig In The Sky. 4:11.
05. Money. 6:52.
06. Us And Them. 7:15.
07. Any Colour You Like. 3:25.
08. Brain Damage. 3:50.
09. Eclipse. 1:36.
10. The Hard Way (from the ‘Household Objects’ project). 3:09.
11. Us And Them (Richard Wright demo). 5:39.
12. The Travel Sequence (Live In Brighton 1972). 4:36.
13. The Mortality Sequence (Live In Brighton 1972). 3:24.
14. Any Colour You Like (Live In Brighton 1972). 4:44.
15. The Travel Sequence (previously unreleased studio recording). 2:21.
16. Money (Roger Waters demo). 2:37.

The Packaging Rating Score. 5/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 5/10.
The Quad Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #214

Magnified As Giants – Caligonaut

Introduction…

Ever since I bumped into the Norwegian band Wobbler a few years ago I have been amazed by their consistent quality output of music over the years and it very much speaks to me like progrock did many moons ago back in those dark distant days of the early 70’s. To be honest, there are not many bands in this world who can craft music as they do and the biggest majority of neo-prog outfits that are out there I tend to describe as PROGMATIC! in relation to PROGROCK! and you will see that word pop up in many of my reviews.

Progrock has always been my personal favourite genre of music and when it comes to listening to music I still mostly live in the 70’s. I also tend to spend most of my money on reissues of albums that came out of that decade and the incentive for me to buy music all over again is for multichannel surround purposes more than anything else. I guess these days I am more of a surround FREAK! though I still buy CD’s and very much prefer the physical product in relation to any Digital Download of an album.

With any physical product, you can see where your money has been spent. Buying a Digital Download has no real value at all, it’s not as if you can look at it with pride or even hold it in your hands and you certainly would not be able to re-sell it like a physical product. This is why I personally think that no Digital Download of an album is worth any more than £3.

A prime example of just what the physical product means to me can be seen in my review of another new band I stumbled across last year which was the German band Argos. Their latest album The Other Life impressed me so much that I would have brought the bands back catalogue. The only problem was that all physical copies of their five previous albums were out of print so I never bothered.

You can of course obtain some of them on the black market second-hand, though I have not stumbled across any of them as of yet at a reasonable enough price. I may stretch my budget further for multichannel recordings but I certainly would not pay over the odds for a CD no matter how good the band or artist is.

Luckily for me, Caligonaut is a relatively new band or project and the debut album Magnified As Giants was released last year and is still very much in print. I suppose I have to thank Dan Lockart for drawing this album to my attention when he posted a track from the album in the Progrock group on Facebrook. The very thing that immediately caught my eye was that he had posted it under a picture of the Dwellers of the Deep album by Wobbler.

Unknowingly to Dan at the time there is an actual connection. It’s also easy to see where the confusion lies as I soon discovered when I Googled images of the album’s artwork as seen below.

Caligonaut is actually the work of a one-man project and the chap behind it all also comes from Norway, his name is Ole Michael Bjørndal. There is also a strong connection with the band Wobbler when he put this album together which I will go into more detail about later on in this review. But before I do so let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a standard plastic jewel case which is perhaps not the best way to present your album these days in relation to the DigiPak or DigiSleeve/File which I personally think have a lot more style to them and give your album a much better presentation. It does, however, protect the disc adequately enough although quite often when ordered from online stores they can arrive cracked or split as this one did. It’s very much a packaging that I regard that went out with the Dodos these days.

It also comes with a 12-page booklet that contains all the liner production notes plus lyrics. It is however a nightmare to retrieve from the jewel case as it’s one of those that has three placeholders to keep it firmly in place. Quite often you will end up creasing or even damaging the booklet if not careful and this is another reason why I hate this form of packaging.

I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £13.65 which is on the pricey side for a CD especially one that comes in a standard jewel case. Though as it’s imported the price is to be expected. Apart from the packaging, I have no real complaints here.

Vinyl Editions.

For vinyl lovers, the album was put out in standard black vinyl and a couple of Limited Edition coloured vinyl both of which were limited to 250 copies. The white-coloured vinyl may be much harder to obtain and was released last year. The album was reissued this year on yellow vinyl and all vinyl copies retailed around the £22 mark. As I cannot find any details regarding the weight of the actual vinyl I can only presume they were pressed onto 140-gram vinyl which might also reflect the cheaper price point.

I no longer collect vinyl and have not for over the past couple of decades now. Although recently I have started to purchase some iconic albums on vinyl for other purposes as you can see in this WHACKY! video I made showcasing the 50th Anniversary reissue of Jethro Tull’s classic album Thick As A Brick.

Artwork.
The illustration and artwork were done by Ole’s sister Marte Bjørndal, and it gives me the impression of modern art with how things have been scribbled and noodled around here. Overall I think it looks OK! though it’s not the sort of thing I would hang on my wall so to speak. The back cover artwork was done by Anne-Marie Forker who also helped out with words. It pretty much runs along the same lines with the scribbling and noodling though it fits in with the rest very well.

The Album In Review…

Magnified As Giants by Caligonaut was released on the 21 of February 2021. The album itself contains 4 tracks that spread over an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 38 seconds, which is a reasonable enough time slot though not really suited for vinyl due to its restrictions. Although it was not unusual for many bands and artists to overstep the mark by trying to squeeze too much information onto the format, perhaps more so in the latter part of the 70’s. However, for quality purposes, you were better off sticking to the 30 – 40 minute mark and that is another reason why I gave up on the format more than a couple of decades ago.

The one thing I will say about this album though is that the fifty minutes you get here are very well utilised and not a single drop or second of it has been wasted. The way the music has been crafted very much puts me in mind of the band Wobbler and the strong connection with that band just may very well be the reason why this album turned out as well as it did.

For those like myself who have never heard of Ole Michael Bjørndal, from what I can gather he plays in the Norwegian band called Oak. This particular band have produced a couple of albums to date starting with their debut album Lighthouse back in 2013 and False Memory Archive in 2018. I did take the liberty to listen to a couple of tracks from both albums on the Tube and I can honestly say they are a different kettle of fish to the album we have here.

Magnified As Giants might very well come under the name of Caligonaut (that incidentally translates to “traveller of the mist”) but it could also be seen as a solo album under his own name in that he wrote the biggest majority of the material for it. Bjørndal is a guitarist who also comes with a voice, though you would not think that in the band he is playing with because they already have a lead singer and he only contributes backing vocals to that band now and then.

This is an album that truly brings out this guy’s full potential and just like the band Wobbler it puts Norway on the map of being one of the finest countries in this day and age for progrock. I do mean PROGROCK! as well and not the PROGMATIC! music that the band Oak is making. I do also believe that this was only possible because of the three musicians from Wobbler he has onboard with him here, two of which are very much vital to how this album sounds and has turned out that way.

I am of course speaking of the bands bass player Kristian Karl Hultgren and keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie who literally go to the extremes when it comes to making music sound like it did back in those dark distant days of the 70’s. The latter of those two also mixed and co-engineered the recording of this album which I personally think is also why it turned out as it did.

There are of course other musicians who have been brought in to lend a hand with the album and over the years Bjørndal has appeared on many other albums (as seen below). Many of which I dare say he came into contact with through his connection with lead guitarist Bjorn Riis who is the main songwriter and one of the founding members of the highly successful Norwegian band Airbag.

Although Bjørndal plays the guitar and appears on the albums above, there are some, where his name has been uncredited to them. The Pymlico album On this Day for example is one of Arild Brøter’s projects who not only plays the drums on a couple of tracks but also co-engineered the album.

NST

Bjørndal also uses (NST) New Standard Tuning for the guitar which was developed and used by the guitarist Robert Fripp back in 1985. It’s basically an all-fifths tuning method that is typically used for mandolins, cellos, violas, and violins. Fripp has used the tuning ever since until more recently when I noticed that he has reverted back to standard tuning for the work he is doing for his wife Toyah Wilcox’s new album.

Much of the basic structure of material for the album was written around 2014 – 2018. The album tracks were recorded at various home studios belonging to some of the musicians who lent a hand including Ole’s vocals. According to an interview I watched of him on Youtube he also originally intended to release the album on his birthday a year earlier. No doubt a lot of time, thought and effort has been put into the making of the album and I am sure the wait was worth it.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Ole Michael Bjørndal. Co-Producers Arild Brøter, Lars Fredrik Frøislie & Kristian Karl Hultgren. Vocals Co-Produced by Andreas W.S. Prestimo. Words & Music by Ole Michael Bjørndal except “Lighter Than Air” music by Ole Michael Bjørndal & Kristian Karl Hultgren.

Recorded in Norway at the following home studios: Double Decker, Vilthagen, LFF and Helgrud Kirke. Engineered by Arild Brøter, Andreas W.S. Prestimo & Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Mixed by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo at Dude Ranch studio. Illustration & Artwork by Marte Bjørndal. Graphic Design by Thomas Hagen Kaldhol. Back Cover Photo by Anne Marie-Forker.

Musicians.
Ole Michael Bjørndal: Lead Vocals – Electric Guitars – 12 String & Acoustic Guitars.
Kristian Karl Hultgren: Bass Guitars.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Hammond Organ – Mellotron – Grand Piano – Synths & Keyboards.
Andreas W.S. Prestimo: Backing Vocals.
Arild Brøter: Drums & Percussion (Tracks 2 & 4).
Henrik Fossum: Drums (Track 1).
Åsa Ree: Violin & Backing Vocals (Tracks 1 & 2).
Stephan Hvinden: Rhythm Guitar (Track 2).
Iver Kleive: Church Organ (Track 2).

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although there is a strong connection with the musicians from Wobbler that went into the making of Magnified As Giants, the musical style is quite different. Both use a lot of folk influences but they are poles apart. For example, Wobbler is a band that will quite often throw in some medieval and renaissance folk influences much of which can be heard on the bands second album Afterglow which is perhaps more inspired by the medieval progrock band Gryphon.

Just like that style of folk music the music on this album also has a very strong folk presence that can not only be dark but also light and airy. Although Ole’s voice is nothing like Cat Stevens it can reflect at times on that particular style of folk music Stevens wrote. I suppose in a way it’s a bit like a singer-songwriter approach though it is amalgamated with other influences thrown in for good measure. For my ears, it’s a bit like throwing Stevens, early Genesis (Anthony Phillips) and the band Magna Carta into one big melting pot.

No doubt other influences will pop out of the woodwork every now and then and even though the album very much has a progrock 70’s feel to it, it also comes across fresh if that makes any sense. So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the album tracks.

Track 1. Emperor.

The album opens up quite hauntingly with the piano and bells though it soon launches its power upon us with the guitars, bass and drums and this opening section really does kick some ass. It is, without doubt, the most powerful track on the album and during this section, the drums, bass and guitar get to individually make their own statement in that they all have a leading role. It’s the second longest track on the album weighing in at some 14 minutes, 35 seconds and one that goes through many transitional changes along its path. It’s also a song that will take you on an epic journey like many of the songs on this album.

Musically it’s not all about power and it also reflects grace, passion as well as anger that tie in very well with the subject matter of the lyrical content that pertains to politics and their rulers. The word IDIOCRACY! springs to mind for those that follow and worship false hope and I suppose in a way the demise of Donald Trump’s empire could be seen as the fall of the Roman Empire.

The quality of musicianship on this album is second to none and Kristian Hultgren’s bass plays as much of a lead role as Bjørndal‘s guitar throughout this album. His work on this album is outstanding and it’s very much a dominant feature here. The drummer Henrik Fossum kicks total ass on this track and the work done by Lars Frøislieis on the keys is also very impressive and lives up to its expectancy.

The vocal duties are also handled very well and I do believe it was Andreas Prestimo (who does most of the vocal harmonies) that recorded Bjørndal‘s voice and gave him a few ideas and tips. You can perhaps hear the presence of Wobbler with Prestimo’s harmonies on this track and there is no mistaking his voice.

Åsa Ree not only contributes violin to the track but also backing vocals. I am pretty sure she has guested on a couple of Wobbler albums and her input here is also valid. Originally Bjørndal had the idea to end the song off with the violin but was open to suggestions to which Ree stepped in and arranged the choir to end it off instead.

Everything about the “Emperor” is very well balanced down to the acoustic and electrifying side of things. It’s very much a song that has the right shape with how everything has been placed to play its part throughout each transition including the nice touch with the BEATLE-ESC! like transition that comes into play around the 9:12 mark on the piano which you can hear for yourself here.

There is never a dull moment over its fourteen and half minutes it’s also quite an accessible track and easy enough to take in on your first listen even for NON-PROGHEADS! That may very well be down to the folk presence and the way Bjørndal‘s voice cuts through cleanly and clinically in the mix. In some ways, it is like a breath of fresh air and very welcoming to hear in this day and age.

Magnified As Giants is a very difficult album for me to pick a personal favourite track out of the four you get here. If I was going for power I would personally pick this one but for now, it’s my joint favourite and shares the TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Hushed.

It’s quite evident and clear that Bjørndal likes to paint images and landscapes with his words and music and he has skillfully crafted out a Twilight World with this GORGEOUS! song. “Hushed” is a song that is perhaps more acoustically driven in relation to the opening track, though it still has those other elements thrown into the equation to drive it along like a force of nature so to speak. Once again the transitional changes have been very well thought-out and pop out of the woodwork in all the right places.

It’s one of the two tracks on the album that features Arild Brøter from Pymlico on drums & percussion also Stephan Hvinden from the same band plays a minor part on rhythm guitar. The Norwegian church organist and composer Iver Kleive also contributes organ to the track and Ree’s violin once again also adds a nice touch here.

This is my second favourite song on the album and one that shares the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! Even though it’s some five minutes shorter than the opening track it still has just as much to say and the lyrical content has very much been skillfully put into context to tie in with the twilight world. It’s very much a song that weaves its way along like magic even down to the beautiful guitar solo around the 4:35 mark.

Track 3. Magnified As Giants.

Next up we have the album’s self-titled track and this is the shortest track on the album although, to be honest, you would not think that with the wonderful transitions that transcend along its path. It’s very much an acoustic song that has that early Genesis ring to it in particular with the twelve-string guitar and its melody lines. It has me thinking of the album Trespass which was the Anthony Phillips era of the band. Both Phillips and Michael Rutherford were also quite diverse when it came to using strange guitar tunings some of them were even forgotten by themselves. They may have even developed the “C” standard tuning before Fripp did for all we know.

Bjørndal has a way of writing words that will leave many to make their own interpretations out of them, they are far from straightforward and quite poetic. Sort of like the way Don Mclean wrote the words to his classic hit “American Pie” back in 1972 though I very much doubt they would sell for 1.2 Million dollars as those lyrics did. However, like all the lyrical content on this album just as much thought has been put into them as the music and this set of lyrics embarks on the memory of falling in love for the first time and displays just how BIG! and powerful it can be sort of thing.

If anything “Magnified As Giants” displays Bjørndal‘s ability as a fine songwriter who knows how to craft well-worked-out songs, songs like this don’t just appear out of the blue and take time to develop and structure. This is very much a song that could also easily share the TOP SPOT AWARD! with the two opening tracks on the album.

It’s a song that mostly features Bjørndal by himself and the only other instrument besides guitar you will hear is the Mellotron that Frøislie added to it which lends support to it very well. Prestimo also lends a slight touch of backing vocals to it as you can hear on the official video that was put out to promote the album.

The word BEAUTIFICATION! springs to mind with this song and Anne Marie-Forker who did the back cover photo for the album is also worthy of a mention for the splendid job she has done with the video here.

Track 4. Lighter Than Air.

The longest track and journey on the album weighs in at just under 19 minutes and I have to admit upon my first listening to this track it did not speak to me instantly like the other three tracks on the album. One of the reasons for that is that although it is longer it has nowhere near the transitional changes that have been applied to the opening two tracks. What I tend to find with this particular song is that it tends to hang too long onto a theme or melody to stretch its way along rather than put more substance into it. However, after a few spins, things do start to sink in a bit more and it starts to grow on you enough to appreciate and like it.

This is actually Bjørndal‘s favourite track on the album and it was the first of the four songs that he originally worked on back in 2012. It’s also the song that has the newest parts and it was developed between 2012 – 2020. Unlike the other three songs on the album, this is the only track on the album where the musical side of things was co-written by Bjørndal and Wobblers bass player Kristian Hultgren.

Bjørndal bumped into Hultgren back in 2010 and have been close friends ever since. It was back in 2012 that the two of them formed a band called Most Above Many although the project never really got off the ground and was scrapped. It’s not so surprising why most of the band Wobbler appear on this album and why Hultgren got a special thank you in the liner notes. As I mentioned earlier without those guys I most certainly think this album would have never turned out as well as it did.

“Lighter Than Air” is a song that you really have to take the rough with the smooth and I would say over its years of development it does have its rough edges regarding how the transitions have been stitched together. Unlike the first two longer tracks on the album, it feels like more than one song and the only thing that holds it all together is the way it comes back together at the end. It is actually the way that it does that which got me to appreciate and like it more though personally for me this is my least favourite track of the four on the album.

The way the song opens up and ends are very smooth that some have described it as meditative, but there is way too much going on in this song for that to be the case. I would liken its intro and outro to something like a cross between Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons and Camel. To be honest there are a ton of influences that fly out of the woodwork during the course of this song even down to BOWIE-ESC! vocals and a WAKEMAN-ESC! synth solo.

What I will say though is that the interplay between the musicians is very good even if they do tend to hang onto some of the transitions a bit longer. The other thing I would say about this song is that it is different in that it lacks the folk presence of the other three songs. Although that’s not to say that it does not fit in with the rest of the material on the album and it does wind up the album quite well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Magnified As Giants by Caligonaut. If I would have stumbled upon this album last year I would have most likely given it the prog album of the year award. As albums go this is highly addictive and an album I cannot stop playing, I may have already played it to death and I still cannot stop playing it. This is very much an album that has all the essence that progrock had back in its day yet it feels like a breath of fresh air.

To be honest, when I look at how long it took to make this album it amazes me how bands like Yes and Genesis could turn out an album every year and in some cases two albums in a year. Not even the likes of Wobbler can work at that rate and it just goes to show how much harder it is today to come up with something that sounds remotely like it came from those dark distant days of the early 70’s.

Though of course, without the likes of Kristian Karl Hultgren and Lars Fredrik Frøislie from that band, I personally don’t feel it would have been possible to have shaped this album to make it sound like it came from that decade. Although at the same time I cannot take anything away from Ole Michael Bjørndal‘s writing and I am sure he’s dead proud of how this album has turned out and truly grateful to all the musicians that helped him make it happen.

The only downside I can really see is that this is very much a home studio project and one that most likely will not be taken on the road so to speak. In this day and age, you need to be out playing live to earn a lot more recognition and gather a following. Though to be fair in terms of sales of the album he’s doing quite well and it’s no surprise either when you can churn out something as good as this.

Magnified As Giants is an album that should appeal to most PROGHEADS! including those who are serious about PROG! It’s albums like this that keep progrock alive and even a 62-year-old fart like myself would identify this album with the music we had all those years ago. Albums like this don’t drop on your lap or fall out of the sky, they are skillfully nurtured and constructed and you can see that a lot of time, thought and effort has been put into the making of it.

So what’s up next for Ole Michael Bjørndal? Well I know he’s working with Oak on a new album and he’s also co-written a new song (that can be heard on Bandcamp) which does run along with the same folkie vibe and presence that can be heard on three of the tracks on this album. However, having heard it a couple of times I can honestly say that it does not register to me like the sound of this album and the sound is the vital ingredient that makes it sound like it did all those years ago.

The only thing I can put it down to is that he chose to go with a different keyboard player and without Lars Fredrik Frøislie, I don’t think even this album would have sounded like the progrock we had many moons ago. He is, without doubt, the master when it comes to the sound of the progrock we had back in that seventies decade and is truly missed I am sorry to say.

The very reason why Wobbler are so consistent is down to that guy he is not only a GREAT! keyboard player but the bands recording and mixing engineer. In my opinion, he is the very guy that put Norway on the map for progrock and it’s that bands albums and this album that are very worthy contenders of the music we had all those years ago. As I mentioned in my introduction, I still live in the seventies and without that sound, you simply have not got progrock.

Magnified As Giants is a truly remarkable album and very much one I would suggest you get down your lugholes so to speak. The placement of the tracks on the album is very well thought out and you can listen to the entire album for free on the link I have provided below. I do highly suggest you at least give it a spin to hear it for yourself.

https://caligonaut.bandcamp.com/album/magnified-as-giants

Progrock With Fresh Air…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Emperor. 14:35.
02. Hushed. 10:43.
03. Magnified As Giants. 5:46.
04. Lighter Than Air. 19:34.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #213

Live 2019 – Red Bazar

Introduction…

Having not been blown away or that impressed by the Red Bazar albums Tales From The Bookcase and Things As They Appear, I can tell you that things are definitely not how they appear when it comes to the bands live DVD. To be honest I was going to include my review of this DVD in my previous review of the bands 4th studio album but things got even more BIZARRE! as I delved deeper into this release it gave me, even more, to speak about though unfortunately more bad than good so to speak.

Although I should also stress that the bad points are mainly aimed at the product itself and not the actual concert which I will go into more detail about in this review. But before I do so I thought it would be a good idea to finish off the final part of the bands history in this final part of this three-part mini-series of reviews of the band.

With keyboardist Gary Marsh now out of the frame, the band went on to make a 5th studio album. However, it’s not exactly what you call a new album and for some reason, they decided to do a remake of the bands instrumental debut album Connections.

                                                                                          2021

To be honest I have never heard the album and instrumental albums made up of tracks are not really my bag at all hence the reason why I decided not to purchase these albums of theirs. I am not saying I completely dislike instrumental albums but I generally stick to those that have some concept behind them such as Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield or The Snow Goose by Camel.

Speaking of Camel I remember Andy Latimer doing a remake of that iconic classic album of theirs right after a spell of illness he had for a decade. I actually thought it was a stupid idea and I would have preferred to have seen a new album, you simply cannot better a classic like that by remaking it and poor ole! Peter Barden’s must have been turning in his grave.

As you can see, I have that classic album on display on my wall and no way on this earth would I put the 2013 remake there, it simply does not speak to me in the same vane. The only other instrumental album that was not made in the same way as those albums I mentioned and is made up of individual tracks I can think of that I like would have to be Surfing With The Alien by Joe Satriani.

I am sure there are others as well but it’s very rare that an instrumental album that is made up that way is going to rock my boat so to speak. As to if the new version of Connections is better than the original I am sure most purists will not see it being better though I am not one of them either and I actually prefer Oldfield’s 2003 remake of Tubular Bells to the original. But that would be down to the recording more than anything else plus the 5.1 mix.

I did however take a bit of time to listen to both versions of “The Meet” to compare the differences between them and what I will say is that the original sounds very BLAND! to me and lacks life in the recording department. It does also have keyboards though I can see why Mick Wilson wanted to bring in another keyboard player and the keyboard on the original sounds like a cheap Casio and is not the best at all.

The video above shows you the band playing the newer version of the track to promote Connections 2021 and it’s quite evident that the keyboards have more of a role, it’s also quite evident that here they are played by a PRO! and not someone who likes to have a tinkle on them every now and then. There is no doubt to my ears that the newer version has been given more emphasis and breathes life into the track.

Getting back to the bands live concert DVD it does appear that I got more than I bargained for with this release, although the extras turned out to be more of a nightmare in relation to anything good about the product. So let’s now take a look at how it comes.

Packaging & Artwork…

The DVD is very much homemade and to be honest, its price point of £12 is well over the odds of what one would expect to pay for a DVDR. It’s not the best packaging and even the quality of the picture they used for the cover is not the best either.

I can understand that Red Bazar is a band that’s far from in the limelight and like many bands will struggle to make a buck to survive. But if you are going to be selling a product at this price point it really needs a better presentation than the amateur job that has been done here.

Red Bazar Live In Review.

As far as I can make out the bands one and only Live Concert DVD entitled Red Bazar Live was released on the 4th of December 2019. It captures the now new 4 piece band at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer in the Netherlands. It’s a popular venue with both Pete Jones and the band and they have played there several times. As a matter of fact, the live CD/DVD release of A Visit to Zoetermeer by Tiger Moth Tales was captured at the same venue and at the same time as the DVD we have here.

However, when it comes to quality and value with how both packages are presented, I am sorry to say that the Red Bazar Live DVD is a bit of a RIP-OFF! and no way is it worth its price point of £12.

To be honest the band do not exactly go out of their way for you to find their live DVD and the only way I could find it was to google it. The Digital Download of the live concert (Audio Only) is on their store page with the rest of their discography, it even tells you that you can get the digital download free if you purchase the live DVD but no link to the DVD is on there.

It is however on their merchandise page along with the T-Shirts they sell which is perhaps a silly place to put it in my opinion. The reason why I stated that the DVD is a bit of a rip-off is down to it being homemade (as you can see in the pictures below) it looks totally unprofessional in relation to how Jones put out the package of his concert for the same price. Not only that his package comes with a CD and not some poxy digital download 😊😊😊.

You can plainly see that it’s a DVDR by the purple-coloured tinting coated on the surface of the disc and they could not even be bothered to spend a bit more money on a silver-coated disc to at least try and make it look a bit more professional. From my own personal experience, these types of discs do not last long and you will find that after a few years you will be lucky if the disc plays at all. No way is this product worth £12 and it should be sold for about a FIVER! (£5) at the most.

So far I have only touched on the negative points about the DVD’s presentation and no doubt things were done on the cheap, especially in relation to the quality product Pete Jones gives you for the same money. Anybody would think that Red Bazar was the support act at the venue and the way they have gone about this presentation is like chalk and cheese when you weigh up the two acts.

However, there is a plus side regarding the actual quality of the video footage you get here and that is that it was filmed and edited by the same crew. Although I did get the GREMLINS! with this product that much that I was frightened to play it again after my first experience with it. I will go into more about that later but first, let’s take a look at the DVD or in this case the DVDR.

The DVD.

Just like the Tiger Moth Tales DVD the disc only comes with a single menu and is very basic and simple to navigate your way along. The picture they have used for the background is also a damn sight better than the one they chose for the DVD case and is of much better quality.

Picture & Sound Quality.

The picture quality and editing side of things are where the real quality shines on this product and that is perhaps to be expected because the concert was filmed and edited by the same Dutch crew. The concert was very much captured with HD Cameras and this team I did give high praise to in my review of A Visit to Zoetermeer which you can check out here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/lee-speaks-about-music-149/

Just like that Pete Jones concert the sound quality comes with one audio track which is Dolby Digital 2.0/48K. It’s perhaps not the best of stereo formats in relation to uncompressed LPCM but nevertheless is quite good and well acceptable.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs were written by Red Bazar. Recorded live at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer in the Netherlands on the 26th of January 2019. Camera Operators John Vis, Meriam Verkleij and Geert Schoonbeek. Editing by VideOmega.nl.

Musicians.
Peter Jones: Vocals & Keyboards.
Andy Wilson: Guitars.
Mick Wilson: Bass & Backing Vocals.
Paul Comerie: Drums.

The Concert In Review…

The concert was captured at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer in the Netherlands on the 26th of January 2019. It’s a much smaller venue than the 013 in Tilburg but like that venue, it does have a couple of rooms you can hire to put on a live show. You can find out a lot more about the venue in my review of A Visit to Zoetermeer by Tiger Moth Tales in the link provided above in the Picture & Sound Quality section. As I mentioned both concerts were filmed on the same day and Red Bazar was billed as the main act though you were clearly getting two acts for the price of one regarding the price of the ticket.

No doubt you were getting value for the buck regarding the concert itself, the same could be said of the live package Pete Jones put out with the CD & DVD of his concert. However, this concert on DVDR cost me a lot more in the long run and completely gave me the WILLIES! when I first played it in my 4K Blu-Ray Player. That much that I was too frightened to play it with that player again.

The Gremlins.

Before I go into the concert itself I thought I would include the experience I encountered when playing this DVDR. I should also explain that the DVDR is most likely not to blame and it may very well have been a coincidence that this nightmare of events happened. The disc may not come with any bonus features although in my case it may have come with some hazardous creatures known as the GREMLINS! 😊😊😊.

On the day the DVD arrived, I did not play it til the evening and had been watching my 50-inch Samsung UHD 4K TV for most of that day. I’ve had the TV for 3 years and purchased it in a sale from John Lewis back in 2019. The reason why it had come down in price so much was that this particular model originally came out the year before in 2018 but even so you do not expect a TV made by a reputable company to break down in such a short time period. Luckily for me, it also came with a free 5-year extended warranty otherwise it would have cost me a lot more to replace it.

Having inserted the DVD into my blu ray player I started to watch the concert and was quite enjoying it up till the halfway point when all of a sudden lines started to roll down the screen of my TV like the horizontal hold needed adjusting. My first reaction was to stop the disc and restart it but the same thing was happening. It was also at this point that I thought it must be a faulty DVD however, having turned off the blu ray player I noticed the same thing was now happening whilst watching the TV channels.

I then started to suspect that one of the HDMI cables might be on its way out and maybe causing the problem. I do have two of them running from my TV one for the Blu-Ray player and another for my AV Reciever and I did not want to spend too much time piddling about trying to fathom out which one was causing the problem and instead popped onto Amazon and ordered two new ones and they arrived the next day.

Having spent £20 on the cables and replacing them both it was then I discovered that I wasted my money because the same problem still existed and it did not provide a fix. It was at this point that I phoned up John Lewis to tell them the problem and was quite surprised when they told me they would send out an engineer on the same day. But it would not be till after 6:30pm as that was when the engineer was on his way home and as it happened he had to pass through my neck of the woods to get home which was perhaps why they were on the ball so quickly.

A couple of engineers arrived around 6:50pm and having inspected the TV they told me they would have to take it away for repair. I asked them how long it would take and they said around 10 days. I also asked them what was wrong with it and they told me it needed a new panel.

It was whilst the TV was away for repair that I started to look online at new TVs to see how much they had come down over the last 3 years and I happened to notice a 50-inch Samsung QLED TV on Amazon for £395. To be honest, when I brought my TV 3 years ago there was no way I could have afforded a QLED and you were looking at over a GRAND! for one easily. I also noticed that all other outlets were charging £550 for the same TV and the reason it was so cheap was down to it being a 2021 model.

I have to admit that at that price the TV was a bit of a tempting turkey and low and behold 5 days later John Lewis phoned me up to tell me that they could not fix the TV. They offered me a new 50-inch Panasonic to the value of £350 from their store or the same equivalent in cash back. At first, I thought it was a bit of cheek as I originally paid them £460 for my TV back in 2019 but they explained that they took off the rest for wear and tear over the years. Just goes to show you need to look at the small print that comes with any so-called extended guarantee.

I of course took the cash and put the extra £45 towards it and got the QLED from Amazon. Considering I ended up spending an extra £65 which may or may not have been down to this DVDR I can honestly say I was onto a winner and am over the moon with my new TV. It may have never happened if it was not for this Red Bazar release either. Whatever caused the fault you can be sure the GREMLINS! were at work. However, it turned out to be a good thing in the end.

I am however not going to risk fate twice and I am literally too scared to play this DVDR not only in my 4K Blu-Ray player but also in my other Blu-Ray and HD DVD Players. No way am I putting the new TV at risk even though I do have it covered with an extended guarantee. I shall stick to my computer to play this disc and that is how I was able to complete my review so let’s now get on with the show so to speak.

On With The Show…

The concert you get here is just over 89 minutes long and showcases many of the tracks from the bands 4th studio album Things As They Appear which happened to be released on the very same day this concert took place. Out of the eleven songs they play, six of them are actually from their new album at the time and they do take up the biggest majority of the show which may have been strange for their audience hearing them for the first time.

Although it’s not unusual when pre-ordering an album to receive it before the release date and they may very well have made sure that those in the Netherlands got them before the actual release date.

It’s nothing unusual for any artist or band to play new material at their live shows and they have done so for many years. Though most usually throw in one or two and not as many as we have here and this sort of takes me back to bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd with albums like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Animals. I have to confess that I myself may very well of been well pissed off if I was one of those that went to see Genesis in America hearing the Lamb for the first time. That album was that strange it took me over a decade to get into.

Thankfully the songs on Things As They Appear are more straightforward and accessible I would even say a lot more than their previous album Tales From The Bookcase which I personally found quite a chore to get through. Both albums have some pretty good tracks, to be honest, and thankfully this live concert does showcase more of the better tracks from both albums.

As the band enter the stage for the second time on that day the show begins with a short intro. It’s also obvious that Pete Jones still has his usual good sense of humour still with him as they roll out or roll up for the circus show that is contained in the opening track “Queen Of The Night (Part 1)” which happens to be one of the better songs from Tales From The Bookcase.

The band then proceed by rolling out three numbers from the new album at the time and the first of them is also one of the stronger numbers on the album entitled “Temple“. Although the band are very much doing an amicable job of performing the songs live, what I do tend to find is that they have left no room for improvisation and they are more or less playing them spot on to the studio tracks.

They do however put in a slight change to “Spiral” which is up next and this is a song I personally felt was put together with the wrong pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. To be honest, the way it opens up here no longer has that Genesis feel to it. I also noticed where the transitional change comes in with Andy Wilson’s guitar they have cut it down to half the time and Jones even throws in a bit of a counter melody on the piano to break up some of the monotony which is different. He also manages Gary Marsh’s original keyboard solo with ease and although the band pull off a fine performance I still feel this song is somewhat disjointed.

The band then roll out “Liar” and although I would not say that this song was a particular highlight of the show I do feel it’s one that is better suited to them. Throughout the whole of this concert, Jones’s voice is in fine form and some of the other things I quite like is how well John Vis and his crew have captured the bands drummer Paul Comerie in the right places.

It’s back to the bands third album next and “City And The Stars” is what I would call one of the highlights of the show and it happens to be my personal favourite track from the album. I would also say that it is one of the better PROGMATIC! songs that they do.

Although this performance (in the video below) is not taken from this live concert on the DVD it does show how well the band have performed it. It was also this very performance that did persuade me to buy Tales From The Bookcase.

The performance we have here was captured much earlier back in 2017 by the same camera crew more or less and was also in the Neverlands at a festival. It was also most likely a Tiger Moth Tales concert seeing how Jones still has his guitar on the stage with him and Gary Marsh was not present. One of the more notable things about the performance on the DVD is that Jones’s voice has more reverb applied to it. He may have also found the last words a bit more excruciating to get out in relation to the live performance a couple of years earlier than we have here.

Next up the band turn their attention away from their 3rd and 4th albums and roll-out the opening instrumental track from their debut album “The Meet“. The performance is pretty much like the promotional video I posted in my introduction and it shows that the band must have been working on the remake of their debut album at this stage. I quite like how they have placed it in the middle of the set they play here too and it works as a nice breaking point.

The band soothe things down with “Sunset For A New World” and then rolls out another three tracks from Things As They Appear starting with my personal favourite track from the album “The Parting” which is another of my personal highlights of the show. “Nothing Left” I described as one of the mediocre tracks on the album in my review of it. Though I will say seeing it performed live speaks to me differently even though there does not appear to be anything really different.

Pete Jones then announces the final song of the evening “We Will Find You” to which once again they do an amicable job with this performance. But the show is not quite over as they come back on for an encore and roll out “Calling Her On” which is perhaps not the song I would have chosen to end off the show but nevertheless, it seems to work well enough.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Red Bazar Live 2019. Overall it’s not a bad concert and the musicians are more than comfortable pulling off the very good live performance you get here. It’s also been captured very well on film or video with HD cameras. The fact that this concert does showcase some of the better tracks from the albums Tales From The Bookcase and Things As They Appear makes this concert much more enjoyable to watch.

However, the downside has to be the presentation and it beats the hell out of me why a band would spend that sort of money on making a live concert video only to present it on the cheap like this. Totally LUDRICOUS! is the word that springs to mind here and no way could I really recommend it, especially at its price point of £12 which is way over the odds for a DVDR.

When it comes to value your money is much better spent on A Visit To Zoetermeer Live by Tiger Moth Tales. That not only gives you genuine quality for the buck but comes at a bargain price. To be honest I prefer the music of that Pete Jones project in relation to this band and I personally feel his live concerts have that extra bit of magic seeing him play two instruments at the same time.

That is not however taking anything away from Red Bazar and these guys really can play and still put on a good show. By having both concerts you do have the complete two performances that took place on the same day at the venue. It is only the presentation that really lets it down.

May Come With Gremlins…

The Live Set-List is as follows:

01. Intro.
02. Queen Of The Night (Part 1).
03. Temple.
04. Spiral.
05. Liar.
06. City And The Stars.
07. The Meet.
08. Sunset For A New World.
09. The Parting.
10. Nothing Left.
11. We Will Find You.
12. Calling Her On. 

The Packaging Rating Score. 1/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 1/10.
The Picture & Editing Quality Rating Score. 10/10.
The Sound Quality Rating Score. 8/10.
The Concert Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #212

Things As They Appear – Red Bazar

Introduction…

The second part of this two-part mini-series of reviews of the music of Red Bazar focuses on the bands 4th studio album Things As They Appear. As I mentioned in my previous review it would not be long before Pete Jones’s role in the band would stretch to more than just being a singer, although the bands keyboard player Gary Marsh had not quite left the band at this stage. However, his role was now having to make some comprises and that is perhaps why this was the final album he appeared on.

To be honest it’s unclear just what Marsh’s role is on this album according to the album credits he’s not even a member of the band. Red Bazar is a band that doesn’t exactly make things easy when it comes down to researching information about them. They are not a band that keeps up to date with things such as photo shoots and although Facebook is about the most resourceful place for information on the band, there are times when you have to make your own observations, making it hard for reviewers like myself to go into any great detail about them.

I was originally going to make this a two-part series of the bands music and include their Live Concert DVD in this review partially because of not having that much to write or speak about. But in the end, I decided to turn it into a three-part series and felt it needed its own space. That’s not to say that the bands music does not speak to me and this particular album speaks to me a damn sight more than their previous effort. If anything Things As They Appear is an album where the band developed a style that I personally think is better suited to them. But before I go any further let’s take a look at how it comes.

Packaging & Artwork…

This is the bands second album to be released on White Knight Records and just like their previous album Tales From The Bookcase, they have gone along with the same Digipak idea that comes with a die-cut pocket to store the booklet. Speaking of the booklet this one comes with a 12-page one that contains all the liner, production notes and lyrics but does not provide any informative information.

Unlike their previous album, it can still be obtained from the White Knight Records store and I managed to pick it up my copy from there for a bargain price of £9.00 plus £1.80 p+p. Overall it’s a very neat package and for the best price, I would recommend you purchase it from the store in relation to other outlets.

Artwork.

The cover design and artwork were done by the bands keyboard player Gary Marsh. As I could not find any reference to Sawtooth Design who did the design for their previous album. That may have also been done by Marsh. I quite like the album cover and the hooded chap on front of it makes me think of the Neal Morse album Sola Scriptura although he’s perhaps taking a break from sweeping up the courtyard.

The Album In Review…

The bands 4th studio album Things As They Appear by Red Bazar was released on the 26th of January 2019. The album itself contains 8 vocal tracks that spread over an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 14 seconds. It’s perhaps too long to squeeze onto a single vinyl LP but nevertheless, unlike their previous album, I don’t find it a chore to get through in one sitting.

Upon listening to the material on this album it does appear that the band are heading in a new direction and the particular style of that direction is more rock driven which I feel is better suited to this band. I would also say that some of the material we have here is more in line with what I heard with their latest single “State Of Grace” which led me to check out this band in the first place.

I think the fact that this album is more rock driven is one of the main reasons why this album appeals to me more. It’s perhaps really down to how the bass player Mick Wilson and guitarist Andy Wilson’s contrasting styles can clash in particular when it comes to trying to play and do something more along the lines of progrock.

For example, there is no doubt in my mind that they have a PROGMATIC! bassist, whereas the guitarist has too much of a metal background and his lead solos can be at times less attractive and lack ideas for them to fit in with the PROGMATIC! and even CLASSIC ROCK! side of things.

That’s not to say that Andy Wilson is not a good guitarist and that is far from the case, though his lines can be more along the lines of shred and shrill which is perhaps more common in today’s music in relation to the many classic guitar solos that mostly came out of the rock world many moons ago. When it comes to guitar solos I rather think that Pete Jones has more ideas though they can be quite often borrowed from the likes of Steve Hackett and Gary Moore.

As I mentioned in my introduction it is unclear what Gary Marsh’s role is on this album and that really comes across to me via looking at how things have been worded in the booklet. For example, on the back page of the booklet (as seen below), you can clearly see that he is no longer a member of the band and special thanks have been given to him for keyboard arrangments for 7 of the 8 tracks that are on the album.

However, when taking a look at the inside of the booklet you can plainly see that his role extends to more than just keyboard arrangments especially when you take a look at the credits that have been given to him on those 7 tracks. You may have to use the zoom on your web browser to read the credits (I have outlined them with a red marker as seen below) but as you can see he also plays keyboards on 7 of the tracks although most of the keyboard solos are played by Jones.

Gary Marsh’s departure from the band came about well before the album was released, most likely a good 10 months before so they had obviously been working on the album for quite a while. Judging by this photo that was posted on the bands Facebook page on the 1st of May 2018 he most likely left the band back in April 2018.

Although the band never posted anything about why he left the band I am sure there is an amicable reason and they parted on good terms. It stands to reason that there was no need for two keyboard players and it would have added to further costs when touring and downsizing the band would have been the sensible option.

Oddly enough in terms of sales Things As They Appear did not attract the attention as their previous album Tales From The Bookcase. Though I must stress that my observation is a guesstimation and is based on the amount of feedback on their store or Bandcamp page that they have incorporated into their website and not from the sales of other outlets.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Red Bazar. All Songs Written by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Jones. Keyboard Arrangements on tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7 & 8 by Gary Marsh. Recording Engineer Mick Wilson. Mastering by 7Gate Media, Cover Art & Design by Gary Marsh.

Musicians.
Andy Wilson: Guitar.
Mick Wilson: Bass.
Pete Jones: Vocals – Keyboards.
Paul Comerie: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Gary Marsh: Keyboards & Arrangements.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Things As They Appear is not really what I would call a concept album however there does seem to be a theme going on regarding the lyrical content with how it generally tends to focus on one particular subject. Musically the album does tend to run along like a collection of songs in the way that none of the tracks run seamlessly into each other sort of thing.

I personally think this is where the band became a bit more cohesive and found their feet, and even though it still contains mostly lengthy tracks around the 6 to 7-minute mark, I do feel they have trimmed things down better and there is less overcooking in relation to their previous album.

Track 1. Temple.

The album gets off to a flying start with its opening track and launches its way in style and at quite a fast pace. Just like I felt the albums cover had a bit of Neal Morse touch to it so does this particular song in parts. Though I am sure there are many other influences flying out of the woodwork including once again the likes of Frost* who are a band that started off very well with their debut album and sort of lost the plot by applying too many modern gadgets and reverse effects to their music for my taste.

Thankfully this band have not gone quite that far and what we have here is a track that is perhaps a bit more on the PROGMATIC! side of things with its transitional changes though it does in many ways feel more ROCK! driven. I suppose the best way I could describe it is that it’s more like what the band Yes did with Trevor Rabin on albums like 90125 and Big Generator in relation to what the band did back in the early 70’s which was progrock.

Despite the influences, the “Temple” is, without a doubt, one of the stronger tracks on the album. The lyrical content pertains to cults and those who think they are above everything and It features some excellent guitar work from Andy Wilson including a BLISTERING! solo. The bass and drums hold it up very well and even though Pete jones is only singing on this track, he very much puts his “ORE” into it with how he uses different vocal characteristics to deliver it.

Track 2. Nothing Left.

Quite a comedown from the previous track and this is a song that lyrically deals with emotions that are tied around a broken-down relationship. It’s perhaps a song that has too much to say about the subject matter over the near enough 8 minutes you get here. Though I will say the words are put very well into context. Musically the song has very little to say and not even the lengthy keyboard solo played by Jones at the end adds enough to the tank. Overall it’s not a bad song but rather a mediocre effort methinks.

Track 3. Liar.

This next song is most likely aimed at politicians (as in the picture I chose) if anything it perhaps portrays the truth about politics. The song itself has more of a direct rock approach to it which I think suits the bands style very well if I’m being truthful myself. It also incorporates a nice little bridge that features some quite nice pumping bass work from M. Wilson and another BLISTERING! lead guitar solo from A. Wilson that adds an extension to it all.

Overall “Liar” is one of those songs that tends to run across the familiar ground of many popular rock songs and its more popular approach might not sit that well with fans of their previous album. However, the 6.5 minutes you get here I feel is very well utilised and is not overcooked. It also feels like it’s over in 4 minutes so the band must be doing something right.

Track 4. Rocky Bone Runway.

The longest track on the album is up next and regarding the lyrical content, there does generally tend to be a theme going on regarding false hope, leaders and dictators throughout the album. This is also the only track on the album that Gary Marsh took no part in and it was most likely written after he had left. Considering the song is just under 8.5 minutes it does tend to have too many words and perhaps says too much for its own good in some respects.

However, that’s not to say it’s a bad song though I do feel more thought could have been applied to the musical direction, especially over this distance and at times it does tend to be saying the same thing for too much of the time so to speak.

Track 5. Spiral.

There are times when I get the feeling that when it comes to writing and putting songs together the band tend to run out of ideas, especially when trying to do something a bit more PROGMATIC! and “Spiral” is a prime example. Musically the song starts off a bit like “Entangled” by Genesis with its melody line, however the vocal line sort of blends something else into it that gives me the impression of something that would suit a female singer for a Bond Movie sort of thing. At this point, the song is running more along the lines of a pop song and with its duration being some 7 minutes and 39 seconds long it even has me wondering where on earth are they going to be taking it.

The first thing they try to do is beef the song up a bit by injecting a bit of power into it that comes into play with A. Wilson’s guitar around the 3:09 mark. To be honest I am not really sure that this transitional change works and the very fact that it drags on for 40 seconds gives me the impression that the band are hanging around in limbo and have no idea where to go next.

The next few verses stay in the beefed-up mode and the vocal line injects a bit more aggression into it all which is all very well but once again I get the feeling that it is out of character with how the song started. The song then gets rounded off with a 2-minute 47 seconds keyboard solo played by Marsh that adds a bit more excitement to it but leaves me thinking that everything is out of context and was put together with the wrong pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Track 6. Future Song.

The “Future Song” is another near-enough 7-minute song that tends to have too much going on in the lyric department once again. However, that may very well be down to the song’s chorus which is very repetitive in the way that it never changes the words and is utilised three times in the song. It does however feature a couple of nice solos from Jones and A. Wilson that at least break up some of the monotony of the chorus.

The lyrical content itself is verging on striving for better times and possibilities for the future and the only way that can really happen is when those in power give peace a real chance which it is more or less pointing out so to speak.

Track 7. The Parting.

The shortest track on the album happens to be my personal favourite and that’s most likely down to the band putting more into this just under five-minute song than any other track on the album. This is a track where the band really work to their full potential and the bass player, in particular, comes right out of his shell and does an excellent job plucking the hell out of the strings. It’s very much a song that kicks ass and the main riff is very heavy and a bit like “Into The Lens” by Yes. Only it has a lot more power and energy to drive it along.

The lyrical content portrays the dividing line in a broken-down relationship and inflicts all the anger and pain that goes along with it. Once again the words are very well put into context and Jones does an admiral job of delivering them. The whole band are on fire here and is firing on all cylinders. It’s also more fitting to Andy Wilson’s guitar style and in all honesty, I personally feel that this rock side of things is better suited to this band. You can listen to the song here:

It just goes to prove that you don’t have to make songs 9 to 15 minutes long to try and make them PROGMATIC! Especially when you can throw in just as much or even more into a 4 or 5-minute song like this. You also have to be just as skilful to pull off a rock song like this too and this song easily merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 8. We Will Find You.

The final track on the album is quite dark, sinister and different and certainly different to the more humorous side of things I chose with the picture. In many respects, it is something of a new approach or the sort of angle with what they have done with “State Of Grace” especially the lyrical content in that it’s about censorship that is sort of forced upon by the government. In many ways, it’s like being put under surveillance by them and Big Brother is watching you and is like something out of a spy film which is also the way the band dramatise it with the musical side of things too.

I personally don’t think this song will be lighting any fires with their fans and it perhaps lacks the vocal characteristics that were given to the song from their new album that is to come. However, what I do admire is that they are heading into a newer direction musical-wise and one that I personally think is better suited to the band. I don’t dislike this track by any means and it rounds off the album very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Things As They Appear by Red Bazar. I would say that it’s an album that gives me the impression that the band are heading in a new direction or approach to their music and are coming at it from another angle so to speak. It’s also an album where I do feel I got more for my money even if like their previous album it’s far from what I would call a solid album and once again only a half-decent one.

To be perfectly honest I feel this new direction is much better suited to the band simply because I personally feel that this is a band that needs to stick to shorter songs. The reason for my reasoning this way is that with the longer material I do feel that not enough space is given to the musical direction and they over utilise it by throwing in too many lyrics most of the time.

I did mention in my previous review that I felt there were better things to come from Red Bazar and upon my first spin of this album it really felt that way, especially with this new rockier approach they were applying to their music. The bands latest song release “State Of Grace” does appear to be continuing with this new direction which I like. Although as to if the rest of their forthcoming album Inverted Reality lives up to it we shall have to wait and see.

If it doesn’t I am afraid it will leave me no choice but to knock this band on the head, simply because I see no point in spending money on half-decent albums all the time and you would be better off buying tracks rather than the album. That is something I personally hate to see in this day being that I am more of an avid collector of the physical product myself. My personal highlights from the album are “Temple“, “Liar” and “The Parting“.

Things Might Not Be As They Appear At Times…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Temple. 6:55.
02. Nothing Left. 7:58.
03. Liar. 6:29.
04. Rocky Bone Runway. 8:26.
05. Spiral. 7:39.
06. Future Song. 6:56.
07. The Parting. 4:53.
08. We Will Find You. 5:58.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #211

Tales From The Bookcase – Red Bazar

Introduction…

Red Bazar is a band I have known about for quite a while now although I will say that I had never heard of them until I came across the music of Pete Jones and his Tiger Moth Tales project. Jones very much uses the three members of this band as his backing band when he plays live sometimes and has been doing so for quite a while now. He has been involved in many projects since he started his own project back in 2014 though I have to confess I do draw the line when it comes to following offshoots and most of the time that would be down to cost.

To be perfectly honest in the past from what little I had heard of Red Bazar’s music it did not really float my boat and certainly never enticed me enough to buy any of their music or follow them. The only thing that sparked any real interest in them came about more recently when they released “State Of Grace” from their forthcoming album Inverted Reality as you can see and hear in the video below.

It was watching this video that persuaded me to take a closer look at the band and enticed me to purchase a couple of their albums and a live DVD. All of which I shall be reviewing over this month hopefully.

Tales From The Bookcase might not be the best place to start talking about the bands music, though it is the first album that Pete Jones first became involved with the band even to the point of writing the lyrics and the concept behind it. It was actually the album cover that inspired me to purchase this album. However, one should never really judge a book by its cover and you might want to take a closer look at its contents before diving in so to speak.

I did not however walk entirely blindfolded into this particular album and I did get to hear a live version of one of the tracks that also enticed me to purchase it. There was another reason as to why I ended up buying it which I will reveal at the end of my review. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see the CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak that has a die-cut pocket to store the booklet. The 8-page booklet contains all the liner, production notes and lyrics but does not provide any informative information. Overall, it’s a neat quality package and I purchased my copy new from Caerlly’s Music on eBay for £12.50 including p+p at a very reasonable price point.

Artwork.

The album cover was done by Sawtooth Design whoever the Dickens they might be and being as I cannot find any resourceful information about them I can only presume that it may have been done by one of the band members. There is perhaps a bit more of a Dickens going on with the characters on the front cover though they tie in very well with the concept which was inspired by some of Jones’s favourite books.

Red Bazar In Brief History…

Originally formed in Nottingham, England back in 2007 by electric and bass guitarists Andy & Mick Wilson along with drummer Paul Comerie. Red Bazar was originally a three-piece band or outfit that primarily played instrumental music. That also very much reflects on their first couple of albums Connections and Differential Being and a three-track EP they also put out entitled After The Ice Storm.

By 2013 the band expanded their sound a bit by adding keyboards for the material they wrote for their three-track EP After The Storm, and although Mick Wilson played them it was becoming a bit much for him whilst playing live. So towards the end of 2013, they recruited keyboardist, Gary Marsh.

This video shows you how well the band could function and perform as a three-piece outfit and here they are doing quite an impressive job of Billy Cobham’sStratus“. I should also stress that the band as a rule write their own material and is not noted for doing covers by other artists.

By 2015 the band expanded once again and decided to add words and a voice to their music and added the singer and multi-instrumentalist, Peter Jones to the pot. I am pretty sure that this worked out pretty well for Jones because he was now able to perform his own music live with a band behind him and it pretty much worked out like you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours sort of thing.

That just about brings us up to the point of their career where they are with the album I am about to review now and I will go further into the bands latter part of their career in this short two-part mini-series of their latter albums.

The Album In Review…

Tales From The Bookcase by Red Bazar was released on the 15th of March 2016. The album contains 8-tracks spread over a very lengthy timeslot of 72 minutes, 43 seconds. It’s perhaps a double album in relation to how albums were made many moons ago and apart from one track the album is made up of very lengthy material making it a lot harder to digest and a chore to get through in one sitting.

Though I certainly would not say that discouraged people from buying it. I would also say with the addition of Pete Jones to the bands lineup may very well have boosted the bands popularity, especially in terms of its sales in relation to that of their previous output. The album was even voted runner-up in the Classic Rock Society album of the year awards 2016 and the band played a large number of gigs throughout 2016/17 to further promote the album and further develop their live performance.

As far as I can make out in my research the bands 4th studio album Tales From The Bookcase took a couple of years in the making and it came about via Jones seeing the band play at a gig in Nottingham and suggesting to them that he could add vocals to their music. It was back in early 2014 that the band sent him a new piece of music to see what he would come up with and they were not only impressed by his voice but also the lyrics he had written for it.

There is no doubt that the musicians in Red Bazar are all very well-accomplished players of their instruments. I can certainly see why Jones took an interest in the band in the first place with the talent that they have and would have easily seen how they would fit in with his own music. Personally, I feel it worked out very well for them both.

I cannot be sure that the bands particular style of music had changed vastly with having the other two members on board at this point. Although the structured layout of the music to incorporate lyrics and a voice would have certainly changed things, especially in relation to the instrumental material they were playing beforehand. I do also feel that the material on this album tries to be more PROGMATIC! Though I must stress and emphasize that the word “Tries” is perhaps all it does and I do feel that this particular band have more of a rock approach to their style than anything else.

I think as time went on it was fairly obvious that with the many talents that Pete Jones possesses his role in the band would stretch to more than just being a singer and a lyric writer and at some point, somebody had to go. One of the other things that Jones did bring to the table was the record label and this was the bands first album to be released on White Knight Records.

Musicians & Credits…

All Songs Produced, Arranged & Performed by Red Bazar. All Songs Written by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Jones, except tracks 3 & 5 Written by Wilson, Comerie, Marsh, Wilson, Jones. Track 1 by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson and track 6 by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Harrison. Recording Engineer Mick Wilson. Cover Art & Design by Sawtooth.

Musicians.
Andy Wilson: Guitar.
Mick Wilson: Bass.
Pete Jones: Vocals.
Gary Marsh: Keyboards.
Paul Comerie: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Tales From The Bookcase could very be seen as a concept album in the sense of the whole of the thing, especially with how Pete Jones in particular decided to base the lyrics around some of his favourite stories. It’s nothing unusual to see Jones being influenced and working in this way when you look at a lot of the material that he has written for his own project of Tiger Moth Tales.

However, the stories he has chosen here have perhaps more of a serious side to them and are a far cry from the whimsical way he goes about things via the use of children’s literature and nursery rhymes with his own project. His inspiration for this album was drawn from authors such as the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Alistair McClean, Jean Raspail, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell.

To be honest it perhaps brings something a bit different to the table especially when many other bands in the world of progrock tend to want to write about mythical fantasies, Greek mythology, foes fables and legends all the time. It even touches on a certain subject with the song that drew my attention to the album in the first place. So let’s now delve deeper into the album as I take you through the tracks.

Track 1. In The Beginning.

The album gets off to a very promising start and being as it is an instrumental piece you could say more or less the band has started where they left off so to speak. This is also the shortest track on the album and features some very tasty lead guitar from Andy Wilson. It also features some nice synth work from Gary Marsh whilst the bass and drums keep their steady pace in order and ticking over very nicely indeed.

It also works very well as an introductory or even prologue in this case (or should I dare say bookcase) for what’s to come so to speak. I feel that the band are in the right frame of mood or mode and it has the right dynamics and dramatics to send and drive the album very nicely on its way sort of thing and is one of the better tracks on the album.

Track 2. Queen Of The Night (Part 1).

It’s at this point of the album that you will be taking on one long journey after another and this particular track comes in two parts and you could say that both parts work as a bookend between the beginning and end of the album. Lyrically it does seem that all the fun of the circus has come to town. However, that is not quite the case and the story behind this tale is perhaps more of a tragic one where the events perhaps unveil themselves more so in the second part. Whereas the lyrical content in this first part perhaps ties in more with the artwork on the album’s front cover and this circus story comes from one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories entitled “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” that he wrote for the many cases of the fictional detective he created widely known as Sherlock Holmes.

Musically the song very much ROCKS! it’s way along very well allowing Pete Jones to emphasise and express the words like he’s telling a story. He also uses different vocal characteristics to put the words across to try and put you in the picture so to speak. The words have also been put very well into context with Doyle’s original story. However, if do not know anything about the original story you may very well be left thinking what the bloody hell is he going on about 😊😊😊.

I have to confess that when I first heard this song I had not got a clue what the hell it was all about and it was not really speaking to me very well at all. If the music had more of a PROGMATIC! feel to it I doubt if the lyrics would have made a blind bit of difference because in general when it comes to progrock it is the musical side of things that will often speak to me the most especially if the music has the ability to take you somewhere else and go in other directions.

The song does, however, have power even if it does not have any solos. It also has the ability to come down smoothly in parts, the keyboard sound in particular in those sections puts me in mind of pop songs such as Tina Charles’sI Love To Love” or some of Stevie Wonder’s songs though I will stress that it is the sound that has me thinking along these lines.

It was only by researching other reviews that it shed a bit more light on it regarding the lyrical side of things that I got to appreciate this song more on that score. I do think many of the songs on this album take more than a few spins to really sink in especially when they go over a distance like this and say too much of the same thing. The good thing about this particular song is that once you have got into it, its 8 minutes and 50 seconds do tend to fly by. I would also consider it as a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Calling Her On.

I do believe this was the first song the band worked on with Jones and the melodic lines of its rhythm played on the guitar, plus the shimmering vocals on the intro put me in mind of the band Frost*. According to my research, the lyrical content of this song is more original and from what I can gather Jones made them up thinking along the lines of what happened to the wife of Major Tom from David Bowie’s smash hit “Space Oddity“. Perhaps a bizarre (or even BAZAR!) way of thinking and it’s very strange what is FLOATING! around people’s minds never mind tin cans in the vacuum of space.

I think the way Jones expresses the words we have here is all well and good. However, no matter how this song tries to go somewhere else it fails miserably and I find that vocally it is too busy and musically it’s not adventurous enough and is saying far too much of the same thing over its 11 minutes. Bowie put his point across in less than half this time and that’s why his song is a classic whereas this is a million miles from one I am sorry to say.

Track 4. City And The Stars. 

This next song is the one that attracted me to this particular album in the first place. What we have here is a song that has been very well structured musically and it also has a really GREAT! set of lyrics that have a lot of meaning to them. The lyrics were inspired by two famous SciFi authors namely Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell and I have to admit that the way Jones has put the words into context to fit in with our world today is perhaps a touch of BRILLIANCE! on his part.

The certain subject that drew my attention to this song at first was that it mentions 5.1 and high definition and being a Surround Freak! it was bound to catch my attention. Though I must stress that those words have little importance to the whole picture that has been put here. The song also features a nice guitar solo from Andy Wilson that is perhaps different to some of his solos that tend to be more metal structured at times. This song personally for me is my favourite track on the album and easily merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. The Lights Of Home.

Alistair Maclean’s novel HMS Ulysses is where the inspiration for the lyrical content of this song came about. It’s the longest track on the album weighing in at some 12 minutes, 22 seconds although only by 3 seconds and pretty much most songs on this album are over the 10-minute mark. It’s perhaps one of those songs where the lyrics will only really speak to you if you have read the book or watched the film and as I am not really into war films they don’t say a lot to me personally.

Musically the song itself runs along at quite a fast pace and features some pretty impressive dominant bass work from Mick Wilson and Gary gets to fly and shred his way along with some blistering guitar work. Paul Comerie also does quite GRAND! job on the drums on this track too. It is more of a rocker of a song in relation to it being on the PROGMATIC! side of things and will perhaps rock somebodies boat more than mine on that score.

Track 6. Sunset For A New World.

This is another of the better tracks on the album and oddly enough even though it has words they were not written by Jones. It’s very much something the band had written before he joined and no doubt they intended to add a singer to the band at some point. This is also another of the shorter tracks over its 7.5 minutes and it has a bit of a Steve Hackett feel to it in particular with the harmonising vocals on the chorus section.

Musically the song flows like the river in the song’s lyrics and it has a nice steady relaxed pace to it all. Besides Jones’s voice, I do feel his saxophone would have worked well on this song and both lead breaks have the space to accommodate and it would have added a nice touch to the arrangement.

Track 7. Almost Over.

Depression is the subject matter behind the lyrics of this song and Jones decided to incorporate some of his own personal previous experience with it. It’s a song that builds itself along quite well and some of the musical sides of it give me the odd glimpses of Marillion’sGoing Under” and the ending in particular has a touch of Pink Floyd with the keyboards that drive it home. I am even hearing a touch of Alice Cooper with the guitar riff.

Overall I think it’s quite a good song though I do think it said everything more or less over 8 minutes in relation to the 11 minutes you get here. In reality, the extra 3 minutes do not really say anything more and only really work in a way of dragging it out that much longer and nothing more.

Track 8. Queen Of The Night (Part 2).

The second part of the “Queen Of The Night” is even longer and the second-longest track on the album weighing in at 12 minutes, 19 seconds. Musically it perhaps tries to be a bit more PROGMATIC! in relation to the first part in that it changes direction slightly, it also injects a bit of power in the way it builds itself along and includes a guitar solo to spruce things up a bit. The lyrical content also portrays a lot more of Doyle’s story in relation to part one and unveils more of the gruesome and tragic events of Eugenia Ronder’s plot that never quite worked as she had planned.

Once again Jones does an amicable job of putting across the words, although I do prefer some of the different vocal characteristics he used in part one on that score and even though the words have been put very well into context it does tend to sound like he’s reading them from the book sort of thing.

Overall the second part does not quite grab me like the first part and there are times when I think it’s quite good and other times where I get the feeling that it drags itself out a bit too much like the 5th track on the album. However, I do feel it adds a bit more strength to the album and works very well as a bookend to put the album to bed.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Tales From The Bookcase by Red Bazar. This is perhaps one of the most difficult albums to sink your teeth into and that is really down to how many lengthy tracks follow one another. It is without doubt as I mentioned a chore to get through in one sitting and is verging on the point of overkill or being overcooked. In many respects, the way the album has been done like this puts me in mind of Tiger Moth Tales third album The Depths Of Winter.

Even though some of the material is very well written I would not say that it is really a strong body of work. There is no way on this earth I would suggest or recommend this album as a starting point to get into the bands music either. That is why I originally suggested you should never judge a book by its cover and it was the cover that attracted my attention to this album more than anything.

The other reason why I decided to get this album was that it was out of print. Although there are quite a few new copies still floating about and you can easily still obtain a copy without paying silly money for it. To be honest it’s unusual being as it’s on White Knight Records I am surprised they have not had further copies pressed. But I guess it’s down to cost and as many copies are still floating around at other outlets they perhaps don’t feel the need to have further copies pressed just yet.

To conclude my review of the bands 3rd album Tales From The Bookcase. I personally think that what this album lacks is diversity, especially in terms of progrock. It’s as if they have made the songs this long to try and be more PROGMATIC! and forgotten about transitional changes to take it somewhere else on that score. If you are going to be doing songs over this distance you need to put in a hell of a lot more to make it work and this is where many of the tracks on this album fall short.

To be honest Red Bazar does come across to me as more of a rock band, especially in relation to what Pete Jones puts into his own music with his Tiger Moth Tales project. Which I personally think is a lot more and why I prefer his music in relation to what we have on this album.

There are some good tracks on this album but not enough of them in my book and it’s only really what I would call a half-decent album if that. To be honest I am not sure I will keep it and may end up selling it on though I do like “City And The Stars“, “Queen Of The Night (Part 1)” and “Sunset For A New World“. I also like the short opening instrumental track so it might be a half-decent album after all.

I do however think there is a lot more to this band and like I mentioned they are all well-accomplished musicians and I could not take anything away from them on that score. I also think that this album may appeal to a lot more than myself on that score and just as well as you should never judge a book by its cover. You also should never judge a review of an album from one person’s own viewpoint.

As it happens I do feel there are better things to come from Red Bazar and they are only around the corner as you will find out next in my review of their 4th album Things As They Appear. I will also go into a bit more detail regarding the band and why I feel their 4th album is better suited to them.

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:
01. In The Beginning. 2:59.
02. Queen Of The Night (Part 1). 6:50.
03. Calling Her On. 11:06.
04. City And The Stars. 8:36.
05. The Lights Of Home. 12:22.
06. Sunset For A New World. 7:31.
07. Almost Over. 11:00.
08. Queen Of The Night (Part 2). 12:19.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #210

The Wall (Limited Special Edition) – Roger Waters

Introduction…

Roger Waters has always been one for putting on SPECTACULAR! shows and Us + Them that I reviewed back in 2020 was certainly one of them and well worth getting on Blu Ray. I have to confess that even though I knew this particular world tour of The Wall was done well before then and released on Blu Ray back in 2015 it never enticed me to buy it. One of the main reasons for that is not being that fond of the album.

To be honest, when it comes to The Wall I actually prefer the Alan Parker film that starred Bob Geldoff in relation to the double album that Pink Floyd released back in 1979. I’ve never been a fan of Geldoff or The Boomtown Rats either but I felt he sang some of those songs quite well and did more than an amicable job with the acting role.

I do remember seeing the concert of The Wall he did in Berlin back in the early 90’s on the TV and that thing bored me to death which is why I never bothered buying it. I am pretty sure that this concert we have here was also broadcast on Sky Arts a couple of years ago but I missed it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been humming and harring over whether to rent it on Amazon Prime.

Although the price of £3.49 might seem reasonable enough for some it’s very rare I would rent a film from there for more than £1.99. Not only that it would add even more expense to the blu ray if I liked it and it enticed me enough to buy it. However, as it happens I personally think I added even more expense by doing a silly thing and getting this limited special edition.

There are other reasons that put me off buying The Wall which I will go into in this review. I would also say the way it has been presented might sit better with Movie buffs rather than people like myself who are more into the musical side of things. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The Limited Special Edition comes with 2 Blu Rays and I have to admit that upon first looking at how the package is presented in its die-cut red cardboard slipcase it looks very neat and presentable. However, whoever designed this package should have been presented with the WALLY! of the year award because it’s extremely disappointing when you dig into it.

To be perfectly honest I have no idea who did the packaging and this package has pissed me off that much that I am not going to go out of my way by doing some research to find out who the Dickhead is. Not even they want you to know by the looks of things and furthermore, they do not want you to know anything about this concert whatsoever simply because there is not one shred of information written inside it.

No liner and production notes, no credits or informative information. It does not even tell you who the hell is playing on the damn thing. Well Roger this is one person you should have had SHOT! is all I can say about it 😊😊😊.

I should however stress that was my first impression of the package and the only reason I left it in was that it made me laugh myself to tears when reading it back. Having dug a bit deeper inside the package the second time around I did eventually come across the liner production notes and credits though I still think things could have been done a lot better.

Inside the red slipcase, the discs are stored in a 3-panel Digisleeve to which the first disc comes in a hinged pocket making it easier to retrieve. The second disc however is stored in the middle and is a lot harder to retrieve because the pocket is fixed to the panel. What also doesn’t help is that the third pocket on the right (that holds all the Nik-Naks that come with it) is a lot thicker.

The discs themselves are retrieved from the sides instead of the top like the Nik-Naks making it much more difficult to get your fingers in the pocket to retrieve the disc. You will have to be extremely careful otherwise you will wind up ripping it.

The extra Nik-Naks that come with it I don’t generally bother looking at although I did read that it came with a 34-page booklet and upon my first inspection all I could see were photos in it which is why I put it back and never noticed any written information at all. It was not until a few days later that I took the photo above of them for my review that I had a closer look at the booklet and found the liner, production and credit notes right at the back of the booklet.

As you can see above not much thought went into putting this booklet together especially when you look at how they tried to squeeze all that information on the righthand side. Why on earth they did this is beyond me especially when you have got 34 pages to play with.

The trouble today is that most designers tend to think that pictures speak volumes and they tend to dedicate the biggest majority of the booklet to those things rather than give you any real informative information about the product you are buying.

What I will say about the booklet however is that it is made of quality material. The photos are also of high quality which is a damn sight more than I can say for the photos that came in the 60-page book of the 2022 Individual release of Pink Floyd’s Pulse that I reviewed last month.

However, the quality of the pictures on the 4 photo cards that come with it is NAFF! and pointless including them. The small poster is well printed, though I would think that most like myself would only keep it stored in its pocket rather than hang it on the wall. It’s perhaps aimed at the younger folk and they would see it more as an extra than us old farts on that score 😊😊😊.

Artwork.

The packaging and design were actually done by a woman who goes by the name of Amelia Tubb. She is a creative director, photographer and filmmaker and also works in design. She has spent the last 15 plus years working across multiple industries and besides doing work for Waters she has also done work for other artists such as Prince in the past and magazines such as Vogue, Spin and BBDO. Other clients include Sony Music and LiveNation UK/USA.

Whilst I think that some of her work is of good quality apart from the actual red slipcase that comes with this package, I do tend to think she lacks a lot of thought and attention to detail. Though I should stress that she is far from the only person I could say that about and there are many I think that should stick to what they do with magazines rather than work with music media packages.

Other Format Releases…

The Wall was released in 5 formats including the Digital Download. Although I will say these days you would have to be a fool to purchase the Digital Download which costs around £12.99 on Amazon UK. As to why this is still priced that high I cannot see the logic especially when there are two physical formats that cost a lot less.

The DVD is the cheapest way to get your hands on it and is priced at £4.99 on Amazon UK. To be honest I cannot see why Amazon Prime is still charging £3.49 to rent the movie, especially after all this time. At this low price, you may as well buy the DVD.

The 2 CD package is also amazing value on Amazon UK and right now it can be had for as little as £8.99. As you can see it also comes in a neat 3-panel Digisleeve with a booklet and small poster. It also includes a free Digital Download which is another reason why you would be a mug to buy the download.

Next up we have the single Blu Ray Edition which is not limited. This is currently priced at £12.71 on Amazon UK though prices do fluctuate from time to time and I have seen it for as little as £11.17. It was actually seeing it at that price via one of the many emails they send out that spurred me to check out the 2 Blu Ray Special Limited edition.

The Special Limited Edition that comes with 2 Blu Rays I would not advise anybody to get from Amazon UK as it’s ridiculously overpriced at £127.48. I do believe that when this was originally released back in 2015 it was priced at around £22. It’s not that hard to get your hands on it today in used condition and I ended up paying £29.99 including p+p on eBay. It was not brand new but it was in mint condition. I have also seen brand new copies being sold for around £39.99.

The Special 2 Blu Ray Limited Edition was reissued in 2019 and sold exclusively on HMV. The only difference as far as I can make out is that it comes in a white cardboard slipcase instead of red. You can still buy this today from HMV for £21.99. The only reason I never opted for it was that at the time I was not sure if it came with 2 discs.

It was also released on Vinyl and with this package, you get 3 X 180gram LPs for around £35.36 on Amazon UK. It is still today the most expensive format as to why I honestly still cannot get my head around it. The single Blu Ray for £12.71 will give you way better audio quality plus something to watch. Still, I guess those who prefer all the snap crackle and pop have to pay more for it 😊😊😊.

The Wall In review…

This particular Special Limited Edition of The Wall by Roger Waters was released on the 18th of November 2015. I do believe other editions were released at the end of the previous month. Unlike the concert of The Wall that Waters did back in 1990 in Berlin, this newer version is done in the way of a Concert Movie in that it contains other film footage of him on a road trip driving across Europe documenting the history of his father to which influenced the concept story behind the original album.

The documentary footage Waters directed himself in 2014 and was added to the concert footage that was taken from two shows he performed earlier in Quebec City, Canada and Athens in Greece respectively. Waters took the concert tour of The Wall on the road for 3 years playing a total of 219 shows between September 2010 to September 2013 taking in 118 cities across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Helping out with the direction of the concert itself was the creative director Sean Evans. Unlike Alan Parker, who has been involved in many films the only films Evans has been involved in are the one we have here and Waters later concert film Us + Them. It’s perhaps hardly a résumé in relation to Parker to even be called a director. However, as I mentioned in my review of that later concert two heads are better than one and Evans does also have a keen eye for photography which would certainly help with the creative side of things.

The first leg of the North America tour (which ran from September the 15th to December the 21st of 2010) grossed over $89.5 million from 56 concerts. It was the second-highest-grossing concert tour in North America in 2010 and the third-highest-grossing concert tour worldwide as of 2013. Back in 2013, it did hold the record for being the highest-grossing tour for a solo musician, surpassing the previous record-holder, Madonna. Though of course records like that are only there for so long before they get broke and it was later eclipsed by Ed Sheeran. It is however currently the 7th highest-grossing tour of all time.

As with any tour putting a show like this one on the road, takes a lot of planning, a lot of people (hands) and a lot of money that can also run into millions of dollars. Unlike most concerts, The Wall is presented like a Movie and was distributed by Picturehouse Entertainments and released by Universal to which the rights are reserved to Universal Studios.

The film first premiered in Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2014 at which both Waters and Evans were present. It raked in around $458.6 million at the box office rising to around $533.48 million by 2021.

There can be no doubt that selling the film on like this would have helped generate some of the money that it cost to put on an extensive tour like this in the first place and careful planning had been well thought out before they went on the road with it.

The way The Wall does present itself like a Movie and is perhaps more aimed at Movie buffs rather than people like myself who buy DVD’s and Blu Ray’s to watch a live concert as I mentioned in my introduction. The very fact that most of the GREAT! features the Blu Ray had many years ago have disappeared does not really help. So let’s now take a look at the two blu rays and look at some of the pitfalls.

The Blu Ray.

I honestly get the feeling these days that the Blu Ray gets treated like shit especially when you look at what some people put on the format. My previous review of the Pink Floyd Early Years box set and individual volumes that were released back in 2016/17 is a perfect example of what gets thrown onto the format, especially regarding old film footage that has nothing to do with high quality whatsoever.

I am pretty sure that when the format was introduced back 2006/07 they had restrictions on what you could actually put on it and it was intended for high-quality purposes only. Back then it also came with many different useful features such as BD-Live, Multiple Angles and many more that have simply disappeared over the years.

BD-Live was a great feature and a very useful source to get informative information. These days it’s dead and it was actually Universal Studios who was the last to support it and they did up until last year. Although it’s been very rarely seen on any blu ray since around 2011 and dormant for years. The same can be said for Multiple Angles and that feature was first introduced with the DVD.

The Wall is a concert film that contains interspersed documentary and interview footage throughout it and one useful function that whoever done the authoring never had the hindsight to include is a skip function. In the past, this special feature was put on many DVD’s that contained interspersed film footage in between the main featured footage. These days it’s a function that has been widely incorporated into Television and is simply forgotten by many who work on authorizing DVD & Blu Ray.

Most movies can be a pain in the arse with all the rigmarole you have to go through to get to the main menu. Many of them even come with film trailers though I will say that the biggest majority do include a skip function. You can also use the “Next Chapter” button on your remote to skip them one by one but in some cases, none of those functions work and are forbidden.

Disc 1. The Main Feature.

When you insert the disc into your player I was going to say you might just as well go and make a cup of tea, but before you do it would be a good idea to choose the language from the menu that pops up after the opening screen. Then go and make a cup of tea because all the warning screens that you are going to be presented with will well and truly piss you off if you just sit there watching them.

To be honest out of the hundreds of DVD’s & Blu Rays I have in my collection I have never seen so many warning screens. You might get the odd one that will pop up at the beginning but in general, these things are put up right at the end of the closing credits. The only time you do see as many is when they have them in many other languages and those are also at the end of the closing credits.

When you finally get to the main menu you have the choice of five options to choose from as follows: “Play”, “Chapters”, “Audio”, “Subtitles” and “Bonus”. Luckily the menu is fast and responsive and everything pops up so there is no time wasted loading to another screen.

The “Chapters” section takes up 3 screens as you can see above and I suppose you could use the skip button on your remote to view only the concert footage. Although judging by how many chapters there are that might prove to be a pain in the neck too.

The “Audio” section gives you two choices to choose from and by default, it’s set to Dolby Atmos. The Atmos mix is most unusual in that it gives you a 4.0 Quadrophonic mix. For those like myself who don’t have Atmos, you get a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 24/48k mix instead. The PCM Stereo mix is 16/48K.

The “Subtitles” menu is the same as the one you are presented with when you insert the disc. As to why they give you it twice sounds a bit silly when you’ve already chosen your language. It gives you a total of 24 different languages to choose from.

The “Bonus” section contains a couple of extra features the first titled “A Visit To Frank Thompson”. Here Waters visits the grave of Thompson who was the brother of the English historian writer and socialist peace campaigner E.P. Thompson. Frank Thompson was captured by the Nazis during world war 2 in Bulgaria and was brutally tortured and murdered by them.

The next couple of extras you get on the first disc contains a speeded-up time-lapse video of the concert stages in Athens and Buenos Aires being set up. In total, you get an extra 15 minutes, 38 seconds spread over the 3 clips of footage.

Disc 2. Extra Bonus Footage.

The bonus disc contains a further four extra bits of film footage although I will stress that quite a bit of the footage you get on this disc is taken from the feature film and it also contains repeated footage. You also have to go through the same rigmarole of all the copyright warnings as on the first disc to get to them. All the extra content you get on this disc is in stereo only.

The first of the extras you get here is titled “Driving” and to be honest I am not really sure that this is an extra at all as what you get here is just some of the driving scenes and other bits of scenes taken from the actual film. There is nothing new here at all and it runs for 6 minutes and 38 seconds.

The second of the extras “Facebook” is the longest and runs for 57 minutes, 54 seconds and this is made up of 31 mostly short clips of footage that I can only presume Waters posted on his Facebook wall during the making of the film.

The final two extras “Comfortably Numb” and “Outside The Wall” were taken from the O2 in London and feature special appearances from Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason playing on those songs. Though the latter of the two only plays the tambourine. Here you get an extra 17 minutes and 9 seconds of live footage and I guess for most it would be their favourite bonus feature.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The picture quality is pristine and sharp in detail as to be expected everything has been captured with HD Cameras. Although it does say in the end credits of the film that 4K was used and it was shown in the cinemas in 4K. The blu ray itself is of 1080p HD quality only and not 4K like the Us + Them blu ray that came out much later. To be honest there are only a few minute concerts that have been put out in 4K perhaps around 1% or even less and it’s mostly used for feature films more than anything else.

The concert film footage from the two venues was captured by 27 camera operators and supervised by John Simmons according to the end credits of the film. To be honest, the end credits provide more of a vital source of information than the booklet that comes in this package and so many things have been left out of the liner and credit notes including the supervisor and the cameramen.

Much of the crew Waters had onboard later for the Us + Them live tour and film he had with him for this film documentary and Katie Mcquerrey did the editing for them both. I cannot fault the editing at all, it captures all the right angles and the musicians in the right place and no doubt she knows her job.

The Surround & Stereo Mixes.

The stereo and surround mixes were done by James Guthrie who has been both Pink Floyd and Roger Waters mixing engineer for that long he’s almost part of the furniture. As to be expected his consistency and reputation working in this field as held up strong with both camps over the many years and in general his work even in the field of surround mixes is quite good. Though I will stress he is not on my personal top list of surround mixing engineers and I do tend to find that his decision to work mostly with Dolby (especially Dolby Digital) instead of DTS is what lets him down at times.

Strangely enough, here he has gone with a Dolby Atmos 4.0 Quadrophonic mix although not having Atmos myself I could not really tell you how good it is. These days I am more impressed by Quadrophonic mixes that were done back in the 70’s and engineers well before Guthrie started out. I do also feel that many of those engineers from back then had more of the know-how to do them than many of the engineers that are out there today.

The 7.1 mix is quite good but nowhere near the quality of the surround mix that was done for Us + Them which was done by Nigel Godrich & Sam Petts-Davis. The Wall with all its gunfire and explosions I certainly feel would have benefited more from those two engineers and they would have given it more of a Cinematic approach like you get with a movie where the explosions would shake the room and make it more lifelike. This is where I feel Gutrhie has let this down slightly with not having that hindsight.

To be honest I am not sure if Waters has had a fallout with Gutrhie or if he decided that his vision for surround mixes did not quite meet his expectations which is why he dropped him. One of the things that support my way of thinking is that back in 2016 Gutrhie did a 5.1 mix of Pink Floyd’s 1971 album Meddle that was intended to be released on Volume 5 Reverber/ation of The Early Years box set. However, it had to be removed and the rumours for the reason tend to be aimed at Roger Waters not being happy with the mix.

Musicians & Credits…

Directed by Sean Evans & Roger Waters. Produced by Clare Spencer & Roger Waters. The concert footage was filmed & recorded at Les Plaines D’Abraham Québec, Canada on the 21st of July 2012 and at The Olympic Stadium Athens, Greece on the 31st of July 2013. Film Editing by Katie Mcquerrey.

Live Recording Engineer & Music Production by Nigel Godrich. Mixed in Dolby Atmos at The Michael Powell Theatre, Pinewood Studios, England. Stereo & Multi-Channel Mixing Engineer James Guthrie. Cover Design by Amelia Tubb. Photography by Sean Evans, Mark Fisher & Todd Kaplan.

Musicians.
Roger Waters: Vocals – Guitar – Bass.
Dave Kilminster: Guitars.
Snowy White: Guitars.
G.E. Smith: Guitars.
Jon Carin: Keyboards.
Harry Waters: Hammond & Piano.
Graham Bond: Drums.
Robbie Wyckoff: Vocals.
Jon Joyce, Pat, Mark & Kipp Lennon: backing Vocals.

The Film In Review…

The way The Wall has been done is a bit like how they have done many rock concert documentary films in the past where they use segments of other footage scattered throughout the concert footage that effectively takes you away from the main event itself. The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin is a prime example of such a Movie and although some are interesting there are times when you just want to get on with the show so to speak.

I often find that live concerts done in this way are not the ones you will watch over and over and in the case of The Wall, it’s very much more of a personal thing that is related to Waters himself. So the extra footage that has been added will not appeal to everyone sort of thing. This is why I personally think it would have been better if they added a skip function so you do not have to watch the extra footage all the time and can get on with the show.

So Ya Thought Ya Might Like To Go The Show?

Speaking of the show or the concert footage itself it is quite spectacular with how everything on and around the stage has been set up no doubt those who actually went to see it live would have got their money’s worth. Although even ticket prices back then ranged from around £70 to over £100 but perhaps expected when you take into consideration how much it costs to put on a show like this in the first place.

As I mentioned earlier the concert footage was taken from two venues and the first of them was out in the fields in the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, Canada. If you go back in history the fields were an actual battleground and the site it was on was where the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, took place on 13 September 1759.

It does appear that everything has to be a battle with Waters. The park or field is administered by the National Battlefields Commission and attracts millions of visitors and tourists every year for sports, relaxation, outdoor concerts, and festivals. The filming of this particular concert took place on the 21st of July 2012. It is believed that 75,000 to 100,000 people turned up to see the show.

Not so many turned up at the second venue where the concert was filmed which was at The Olympic Stadium of Athens in Greece on the 31st July 2013. The stadium can hold around 80,000 although only around 26,000 went to the show. It is a hard venue to fill and only the likes of U2, Michael Jackson and Madonna have done such a thing with sell-out shows. Pink Floyd did manage to pull in 60,000 on their Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour back in 1989.

On With The Show…

The concert movie has an overall playing time of around 2 hours and 12 minutes and it takes over 7 minutes to get to the first song on the album. You do actually get to see them roll out the first 6 songs (that made up the original first side of the double vinyl album) and he’s even added an acoustic coda to “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” entitled “The Ballad of Jean Charles de Menezes” with new lyrics referring to the murder of the person in question which adds a nice touch to the album.

However, the first quarter of the album is not entirely undisturbed and you do get a short segment of Waters in his Bentley reading the letter his mother had of his father’s death in the services during World War 2.

I don’t think there are any real highlights that stick out much during this first quarter of the concert and I was perhaps more impressed by some of the sound and visual effects such as crashing aeroplanes and gunshots so to speak. I think the kids did a good job on “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” and Waters even had himself synced up with the screen footage of Pink Floyd at Earls Court back in 1980 running in the background whilst singing “Mother“.

Both guitarists Dave Kilminster and Snowy White play the material really well and I personally don’t miss Dave Gilmour at all. The person who least impressed me was Robbie Wyckoff and his voice is perhaps a bit too airy-fairy for my liking, especially on  “Mother” though he does do much better with other songs to be fair. It’s back to Roger’s road trip for 5 or 6 minutes next before the second half of the album gets played and in this segment of film footage, he visits his grandfather’s grave with his own children.

Personally, I think the songs that were written for the second side of the album have much more about them and I’ve always loved “Goodbye Blue Sky“. Just like how he did in Berlin back in the 90’s they are building the wall higher as each song from the album gets played. Only this time the wall is much bigger and they are using some very good projections on the wall itself that make each song visually quite SPECTACULAR!

To be honest the band do an amicable job of all the songs on the second half of the album. I was even surprised how well Wyckoff’s voice suited “Young Lust” which does require a lot more grit and balls to pull it off. I do also feel that the concert starts to come more to life at this stage and they even do an extended version of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)” which is more or less an instrumental reprise of some of the songs on the album. Though once again this half of the album is not undisturbed with it taking you somewhere else and I personally feel it takes away some of the enjoyment with these distractions.

It is after a break from the show that the final song of this side of the album “Goodbye Cruel World” puts an end to the first ACT! They also put in the final brick of the wall and you get an intermission that displays photos and short bios of people lost in conflicts projected on the wall. This is also followed by another trip back on the road with Waters before the second ACT! begins.

The third side of the album does contain a couple of the stronger songs on the album such as “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb” it also has a couple of little things like “Nobody Home” and “Vera” that are not too bad either. It’s always been side four of the album that never really sat with me due to it being more like a pantomime sort of thing. It also gives me the impression that the only song on that side of the album is “Run Like Hell” and I am not too keen on that.

To be honest, it’s not so bad watching it done live here and no doubt they have done a TOP JOB! in putting it all across and a lot of the visual effects also help I feel. The other notable thing is that throughout the whole of the second ACT! there are fewer distractions with other segments of Roger’s road trip getting in the way of the performance.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Wall by Roger Waters. There is no doubt the concert footage is of high quality and looks SPECTACULAR! However, with how it has been presented in the way of a documentary film I personally feel that this is a film that you would be better off renting rather than buying. The way it has been done like this will most likely mean you will only ever watch it once unlike how most live concerts have been done.

I personally don’t think the bonus material on the second disc of this Special Limited Edition really gives you a great deal either and I certainly would not recommend buying this version just for the sake of it showing you David Gilmour play “Comfortably Numb” at the O2 in London.

Overall I think it’s quite good and I enjoyed it, but I can see myself selling this back on eBay at some point basically because it does not give me what his other two concerts In The Flesh and Us + Them have going for them. They also do not focus on one album which makes them much more interesting. When it comes to The Wall, I still prefer the Alan Parker film and I also think the 5.1 mix of that will blow your brains out more than what this thing will.

An Alternative Way Of Going To The Show…

The Blu-Ray track listing is as follows:

1 Missing Presumed Dead
2 On The Road
3 In The Flesh?
4 The Thin Ice
5 Another Brick In The Wall Part 1
6 The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
7 Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
8 Ballad Of Jean Charles De Menezes
9 Mother
10 Finding George Henry
11 Goodbye Blue Sky
12 Empty Spaces
13 What Shall We Do Now
14 Young Lust
15 One Of My Turns
16 Don’t Leave Me Now
17 Struck By Lightning
18 Refugee Flashback
19 Another Brick In The Wall Part 3
20 Last Few Bricks
21 Goodbye Cruel World
22 One For The Road
23 Hey You
24 Is There Anybody Out There?
25 Nobody Home
26 …..Ever
27 Vera
28 Bring The Boys Back Home
29 Anzio Beach
30 Comfortably Numb
31 The Show Must Go On
32 In The Flesh
33 Run Like Hell
34 Waiting For The Worms
35 Stop
36 The Trial
37 The End Of The Road
38 Outside The Wall
39 Credits

The Price Point Rating. 5/10.
The Picture Quality Rating. 10/10.
The Surround Mix Rating. 8/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Bonus Material Rating. 3/10.
The Overall Concert Film Rating. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #209

The Early Years (Individual Releases) – Pink Floyd

gefeliciteerd_Fotor

Introduction…

I am sure many will remember back towards the end of 2016 Pink Floyd released a box set entitled The Early Years 1965 – 1972. I am sure that many will also know that they are a band who have released several box sets, many of which like this particular one come at extravagant prices that the average Joe could never afford and you might just have to sell a kidney or two to be able to shell out for such an item.

EYBOX Collage_Fotor_Fotor

I am pretty sure this particular box set sold for around £400 or more upon its release and these days it can sell anywhere between £350 – £650 from other sellers trying to cash in on it. The thing is with expensive box sets like this is that they are generally overpriced and for the majority (including myself) they are beyond what one could really afford to spend their money on. I am fairly sure that this particular box set did not sell as well as expected and it was only 5 months after its release that they decided to put out all but one of the individual volumes and the 7″ vinyl that comes with it, and sell them somewhere between £34 – £40 each.

Personally, I am in favour of this because it gives us poorer folk the chance to get our hands on something we could never afford in the first place. The extra volume in the box set that was not released is really only an added bonus sort of thing like in the Genesis 1970 – 1975 box set I brought brand new a good while back for £65 from Amazon UK. The bonus disc that came in that box set is nothing special and contained the bands earlier recordings from around the time of their first album From Genesis To Revelation. To be perfectly honest I would have prefered if they threw in their 1973 Live album instead.

I have to admit that these individual volume releases completely went off my radar and avoided me. Though to be honest my real interest in Pink Floyd is the output they put out between 1971 – 1977 and the albums Meddle, The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and Animals have always been what I consider to be their finest work and best output. Most of the stuff they churned out before 1971 I can take with a pinch of salt and is either here or there.

There is some good stuff amongst their earlier albums, though I personally don’t think it lives up to the standards of those four albums I mentioned and if I am being perfectly honest even if I had the money to buy the box set the material would not have been that much of an interest to me in the first place to entice me enough to shell out some 400 odd bucks.

It was in May last year that I noticed that Floyd was releasing Live at Knebworth 1990 from their Later Years box set and I stumbled across it for pre-order on Amazon, though I had no interest in getting it. But whilst I was viewing it I stumbled across one of the individual volumes from the Early Years box set and it was volume five entitled Reverber/ation 1971.

The fact that it was also a lot cheaper than some of the other individual box sets drew my attention to it and one of the things that made my eyes pop out of my head was that it contained the original Quad mix of “Echoes“. It was priced at £23.54 at the time and in my eyes having the quad mix of that alone was worth shelling out the bucks. I would love it if they released the whole album Meddle with a 5.1 and Quadrophonic mix.

However, I did not purchase it for another week and decided to look at the other volumes and noticed that one of them was unavailable which was the very first one entitled The Early Years 1965-1967 Cambridge St/ation. I had a look on Discogs to see if it was available to buy on there and had no joy either.

I then looked on Ebay and noticed two of them for sale at £90 each but also noticed one in an auction with only a few hours left to make a bid and only 7 people had bid on it and it was up to £17. So I put it on my watch list and 10 seconds before bidding time was up it was up to £27 so I placed a bid of £37. I honestly thought I had no hope of winning but I did and got it for £34 which may very well have been the original price it sold for back in 2017.

The reason why I did try and get this volume first was because it was hard to come by at the time and buying Reverber/ation 1971 first might have tempted me to try and buy all 6 volumes. Besides if I did not like the first volume I could have easily resold it and made a bit of a profit. After winning the bid and listening to it I decided to try and round up all 6 volumes which I managed to do last year and in this review, we are going to be taking a closer look at them and see whether I wasted my money or not. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see in the picture above, each volume comes in a very tidy and neat hardback book just like we have seen with the re-issues of the Jethro Tull back catalogue. The discs are also stored the same way in sturdy plastic trays fitted on the inside and it even has a cardboard slip pocket which is used to store the memorabilia that comes with it.

However, unlike the Tull Mediabooks, there are only a few pages and they contain photos of the band rather than any real informative content. It’s a shame really because they could have done a lot more regarding informative information and the only written content you do get are the usual liner and credit notes plus the time and places of where the photos were taken.

Artwork.
The packaging design was done by a firm called Pentagram and John Whiteley who did the so-called 1960s psychedelic paper design on the front of each package. I cannot say I am impressed at all and this chap must have been sitting in his mother’s bedroom back in the late sixties and no doubt Storm Thorgerson is well missed.

However, I am sure the intent behind the design was to make them look like archives stored in an office as the original box set did also come with an office box (perhaps more like a shoebox) to store the volumes in. Just as much as the book has nothing to say neither does the artwork and it looks like some school kid has been covering his school books with bedroom wallpaper 😊😊😊.

The Early Years 1965 -1972 (Individual Releases) In Review…

Pink Floyd certainly was not hanging around when they decided to release six of the seven volumes from their Early Years box set and all six volumes were released on the same day on the 24th of March 2017. As I mentioned earlier each volume was priced differently according to how many discs were in each package and they retailed between £34 – £40 each which would have meant that you could have picked up all 6 volumes for a lot less price of the box set. They are all still widely available although I have noticed that the price of them appears to have doubled since last year.

With this review, I am not going to go into any great length and depth about the details of the tracks on the discs but rather try and focus on the good and bad points of all six volumes and give you an inclination of just what you are getting for the buck sort of thing. There is quite a bit of content to get through and best start from the beginning.

91JB7O7LplL_FotorThe Early Years 1965-1967 Cambridge St/ation

The first volume covers the Syd Barrett years from 1965 – 1967 and with this particular volume, you get four discs two of which are CD’s and they are accompanied by a DVD & Blu Ray. It is one of the more expensive volumes and would have retailed at around $54.99 (US) equivalent to £40.30 here in the UK. It can be at times one of the hardest volumes to get hold of though I have seen it recently on Amazon UK priced at around £65.

The question is it is worth forking out the extra bucks or even its retail price? I suppose that really depends on how much of a die-hard fan you are of this early period of the bands career. The other question is does this volume give you enough unreleased material to even warrant its original price tag? Well to find out let’s have a closer inspection of the package and its contents.

The package itself is quality like I mentioned earlier and its only real downfall is that lack of reading content which you would find more in most booklets that come with CD’s and other media e.t.c. This volume does come with 14 pages of which 10 are dedicated to photographs and the remaining 4 to the liner and credit notes. The 14th page is also wrongly numbered 17 in error, although errors were even made with the 2016 box set of The Early Years and there were quite a few cock-ups made with other volumes which I will point out when I get to them.

Pic Book 1

The only reading content you do get besides the liner and credit notes is for where the pictures were taken as you can see in the picture above. You would have thought they would have included an essay and the fact that they don’t make it much harder for reviewers like myself to have to research things all the time. It’s quite clear to me how much more could have been put into a package like this and that they were trying to make a quick buck and they never gave any consideration to their fans at all.

However, I must withdraw from what I told you in that last paragraph because upon further inspection I did manage to find some informative information stored in the slipcase with all the other Nik-Nak nostalgic replicas of concert tickets, flyers and posters. To be honest I don’t usually bother looking at this stuff as I have no real interest in it.

Upon first glance, I thought that this 12-page leaflet that is stored inside the slip pocket only contained the liner and credit notes and was just replicating what was already printed inside of the book. But upon further inspection, it does contain some very useful informative information that comes in a 3-page essay written by Mark Blake. Each box set comes with its own leaflet and it’s a shame that they never had the hindsight to include this information in the book itself than the willy-nilly way they have gone about things here.

Pink Floyd was formed in 1965 and started out as an experimental underground band in London and was one of the first British psychedelic groups who were renowned and distinguished for their extended compositions and sonic experimentation.

However, I think that description more or less sums up the bands earlier live performances and not so much the studio side of things which in my opinion was a damn sight better and proves that Syd Barrett could actually write GREAT! pop songs when he wanted to. The couple of CD’s that come in this package very much portray both the studio and live output of the Barrett era of the band so let’s now take a closer look at CD content.

CD 1.

The first of the CD’s focuses on the studio side of things and is more my cup of tea. Speaking of tea the first 6 songs on the first disc were recorded as “The Tea Set” around Christmas time back in 1964 and quite a few of the songs on this disc I have never heard before though I expect many have as there are only 3 tracks that are previously unreleased. The disc itself comes with a total of 16 tracks (11 of which are mono recordings) spread over an overall playing time of 52 minutes, 32 seconds.

The first 6 songs are the earliest recordings and although they are marked down as 1965 recordings in the booklet it is believed the songs were recorded around Christmas time back in 1964 when the band were known as The Tea Set. This early incarnation of the band also had another guitarist who was the bands lead guitarist namely Rado Klose. All six songs were released on an EP back in 2015 entitled 1965: Their First Recordings.

1965: Their First Recordings

Listening to these early recordings it’s fairly obvious that Syd Barrett was influenced by other bands and artists around that period in time and perhaps the only song that does have any sort of feel to the songs he later wrote when they were known as Pink Floyd is “Butterfly“.

He did pen four of these early recordings and the other three he wrote here are “Lucy Leave“, “Double O Bo” and “Remember Me” the latter of those songs has a Screaming Lord Sutch influence about it. The other songs including the Slim Harpo cover of “I’m a King Bee” all have quite a Rolling Stones influence about them and “Double O Bo” in particular sounds like a cross between “Hand Jive” and “Not Fade Away“.

Walk with Me Sydney” was written by Roger Waters to which he also sings the lead vocals and is accompanied by Barrett and Richard Wright’s first wife Juliette Gale. It sort of reminds me of a swinging version of Bernie Bresslaw doing “You Need Feet” for some reason, maybe it’s the lyrics but anyway as fascinating as it is to hear these songs they are far from essential and do not say anything different in relation to what their influences were putting out back then. To be perfectly honest they do not measure up to their standards either.

Listening to the early recordings you would think you were listening to another band in many respects. But then again I could say the same thing about The Moody Blues back in 1965 when they had a hit with “Go Now” in relation to how they sounded when Justin Hayward joined the band.

The rest of the songs on the first disc are recordings from 1966 -1967 and these are the more familiar Barrett songs that even I myself am familiar with and are as follows: “Arnold Layne“, “See Emily Play“, “Apples and Oranges“, “Candy and a Currant Bun“, “Paintbox“.

There is also an alternative version of “Matilda Mother” and “Jugband Blues” which is the last song that Barrett recorded and wound up on their second album A Saucerful of Secrets. The latter two songs are stereo recordings like the remaining three songs we shall look at in a bit, but first, let’s me sidetrack a bit to explain how or what introduced me to these earlier recordings of Barrett’s in the first place.

Dark Side Of The Moon would have been my introduction to Pink Floyd back in the 70’s and as a rule, when I get into most artists I backtrack on their back catalogue and buy them as well. However, for some reason, I only backtracked to their 1969 double album Ummagumma with Floyd and although there is some good stuff on that album, there is also some experimental material that is not to my taste and that is the reason I never went back any further.

As a rule I am also not into compilation albums but it was indeed a compilation album that introduced me to these songs and the short Barrett era of Floyd. I also ended up buying the 1971 compilation album Relics twice. The only reason I picked the album up again was due to the fact that some very skilful artist had coloured the album cover beautifully with many different pastel colours.

PINK_FLOYD_RELICS+-+1ST+-+VG-579521Relics

In the shop, I brought it from it was right next to a brand new copy which was priced at around £2.25 to which the cover had more of a glossy finish than the Starline release which would have prevented you from colouring it in like some chap had so skillfully done. It only cost me £1 and the record was in mint condition. I brought it from my favourite record store I used to use a lot back in the 70’s.

DiskeryThe Diskery

The Diskery in my home town of Birmingham is still going today and is the oldest record store in Birmingham. I brought hundreds of albums on vinyl back in that decade from this store and it brings back some fond memories. They were also very reasonably priced and the couple of chaps that run it back then were very helpful and had a vast knowledge about the records they sold and the artists upon them.

The final three songs “In the Beechwoods“, “Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream” are the only unreleased material you get on the first disc and like the other 1966/67 recordings were mixed in 2010. These were songs Barrett wrote during the recorded sessions for their debut album Pipers at the Gates Of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets.

The first of these three tracks is an instrumental that is quite THEMATIC! The latter two have typical humorous lyrics and “Scream Thy Last Scream” features Nick Mason on lead vocals and was scheduled to be the band’s next single after “See Emily Play” with “Vegetable Man” has the B-Side. However, it was vetoed by the band’s record company, EMI.

CD 2.

The second disc contains a total of 17 tracks (all of which are previously unreleased) spread over an overall playing time of 78 minutes, 54 seconds. The first 8 tracks capture one of the earliest known recordings of Pink Floyd in concert with its founder member Syd Barrett. It captures them playing at a one-off gig they played at the Gyllene Circelem Jazz Club in Stockholm, Sweden in 1967.

The concert itself lasts for 48 minutes, 28 seconds and the band knock out some of their more known songs such as “See Emily Play“, “Matilda Mother“, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun“, “Interstellar Overdrive” and even “Scream Thy Last Scream” which the band wanted to release as a single.

They actually kick off the show with an instrumental piece entitled “Reaction in G” which apparently was a regular number they used to kick off all their live shows back in those days. A snippet of the piece was also used as a bumper for news broadcasts back then too. They even recorded it live for the BBC radio show “Top Gear” back in 1966 and it’s thought to be the only live soundboard recording that exists from the Barrett era. Although it’s still not been released.

Another mostly instrumental piece (apart from a few voices) they play here is “Pow R. Toc H.” and the band do tend to drag these particular numbers out like a jamming session. However, the downside really to this concert is that everything sounds like an instrumental piece because the vocals are barely audible.

The remaining nine tracks are all experimental instrumental pieces or improvisations and these are spread over an overall playing time of 30 minutes, 26 seconds. To be honest I am not sure if these are all different takes of them working on the middle section of “Interstellar Overdrive” because all 9 tracks are marked down as versions and they are all part of the John Latham recordings that were recorded at the De Lane Lea studios London, on the 20th October 1967.

All nine tracks have been stitched together to make it sound like one 30 minute piece and it sounds like the cat is out of the bag and playing havoc 😊😊😊.

Upon further research of has to why these recordings were made in the first place, it appears that the band had a stab at making a soundtrack for Latham’s short 11-minute animated film entitled “Speak”. A recording was completed and submitted to Latham but he rejected it. Effectively it’s perhaps interesting and others I dare say will be more into it than myself, all it does for me is send me to sleep 😊😊😊.

DVD & Blu Ray.

Vol 1 Blu Ray_Fotor
Blu Ray

Vol 1 DVD_Fotor
DVD

The main menus of both the Blu Ray and DVD are pretty much identical apart from the layout of the wording, they also change colours to give it that liquid lather lamp effect and psychedelic appeal. The same menu layout is used for all 6 volumes and in regards to picture quality it is only the menus I am afraid that have that look of quality simply because most of the film footage would have most likely been captured on 8 and 16-millimetre film.

Even though some restoration has been done to some of the old footage it beats the life out of me why anybody would want to put this footage on Blu Ray in the first place. It’s obvious that the only reason they did so was to charge you more money for the package and nothing else. I would also say that, unlike a feature film that comes with a Blu Ray and DVD to which they only charge you a couple of quid more, these jokers are charging you the full price for both discs.

Most, if not all of the film clips you do get have been floating around on Youtube for years and there is nothing here that is unreleased. Most of the footage is licensed from various television sources from many different parts of Europe and it’s a good idea to turn on the subtitles because in most cases where the band members were being interviewed it’s quite often in places like Germany and France.

It always tickles me how in many of these documentaries and interviews how they always refer to the bands name as “The Pink Floyd“. Somehow it just does not ring out and sit that well as it does with “The Beatles” and “The Rolling Stones” for example and sounds totally pathetic. Unlike those other two bands Pink Floyd has never had the word “The” in front of their name so why on earth are these idiots addressing them that way 😊😊😊.

Despite all the negative points I have so far pointed out the good thing is that you have all the film clips here in one place and even though it’s old footage it’s still very much watchable and provides a fascinating and nostalgic look into the bands past. Like The Beatles, Floyd also put film footage to some of their hits and “Arnold Lane“, “Apples & Oranges” and “The Scarecrow” are always good fun to watch.

Altogether you get 13 pieces of film footage capturing Syd Barrett and the band back in 1966/67 spread over a total playing time of 58 minutes. The other good thing is the sound quality and to be honest, even though it comes with a 48Khz/24bit PCM Stereo soundtrack. I was not expecting it to sound that good and was quite taken by surprise by how good it is.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall, I am quite pleased with the biggest majority of the content you get in this first volume of the early years and even though it does not come with any surround mixes (which would entice me more to buy something like this in the first place) I personally don’t think I wasted my money.

However, the £34 I paid for it is more than what a package like this should cost but being as it’s now quite hard to get your hands on it at a reasonable price I personally think I paid a good price for it. I certainly don’t think it’s worth any more and in reality, a package like this should have retailed for about £25 when it came out and no more.

So in answer to my question “Is it worth forking out the extra bucks or even its original retail price?”. The answer would have to be No! The answer to my other question “Does this volume give you enough unreleased material to even warrant its original price tag? Well, it does however apart from the four unreleased tracks on the first CD it does not give you that much more to write home about I’m afraid.

The downside of this particular volume is really the unreleased material that comes on the second CD and this is where the biggest majority of the unreleased material lies. The live concert in Stockholm is only bootleg quality and the fact that the vocals can hardly be heard makes it nothing more than a Karaoke backing track for you to sing along too 😊😊😊.

As for the John Latham studio recordings, I can see why he rejected the music they made for his short animated film and even though all the tracks have been stitched together to try and make one piece. It’s quite evident they are nothing more than individual takes.

The first CD and the video content are what make this volume worthy of getting and both come with excellent sound quality. However, why on earth they included a Blu Ray with this volume is pointless in my opinion and because of the old film footage it’s not going to give you any better picture and sound quality over the DVD apart from the main menu itself.

The only possible reason why they did include one was to bump the price of the package up and nothing more. My personal highlights are all from the first CD and are as follows: “Arnold Layne“, “See Emily Play” “Apples and Oranges“, “Candy and a Currant Bun” “Paintbox”Matilda Mother“, “Jugband Blues” and “Scream Thy Last Scream“.

The songs on the first CD in particular are perhaps more of a representation of Barrett’s work than the material that went to make up the compilation album Relics. However, I still feel that the compilation album gives you a better presentation of Floyd’s early years because its made up of the best material from it and it also includes Roger Waters and Richard Wright’s written material and in reality, it will give you the best of the first two volumes of the early year’s box set at a fraction of the price.

But of course, packages like this are really aimed at collectors and those who want everything about the band. I am perhaps more interested in multichannel recordings these days and even though this volume does not contain any I am still quite pleased with my purchase.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. 1. Lucy Leave. 2:57. 2. Double O Bo. 2:57. 3. Remember Me. 2:46. 4. Walk With Me Sydney. 3:11. 5. Butterfly. 3:00. 6. I’m a King Bee. 3:13. 7. Arnold Layne. 2:57. 8. See Emily Play. 2:55. 9. Apples and Oranges. 3:05. 10. Candy and a Currant Bun. 2:45. 11. Paintbox. 3:48. 12. Matilda Mother (alternate version). 4:01. 13. Jugband Blues. 3:01. 14. In the Beechwoods. 4:43. 15. Vegetable Man. 2:32. 16. Scream Thy Last Scream. 4:43.

CD 2. 1. Introduction. 0:25. 2. Reaction in G’. 7:18. 3. Matilda Mother. 5:34. 4. Pow R. Toc H. 11:56. 5. Scream Thy Last Scream. 4:00. 6. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. 7:17. 7. See Emily Play. 3:16. 8. Interstellar Overdrive. 8:57. 9. John Latham Version 1. 4:32. 10. John Latham Version 2. 5:06. 11. John Latham Version 3. 3:45. 12. John Latham Version 4. 2:59. 13. John Latham Version 5. 2:48. 14. John Latham Version 6. 3:17. 15. John Latham Version 7. 2:36. 16. John Latham Version 8. 2:49. 17. John Latham Version 9. 2:38.

Original Price Point Rating 6/10.
CD Content Rating 6/10.
Video Content Rating 8/10.
Overall Package Rating 7/10.


V 2_FotorThe Early Years 1968 Germin/ation

The second volume of the early years series continues on from the previous box set and captures the band in 1968. I have to admit that being as it does only capture the one year and at glancing at its contents before I brought it, it did look like it was more or less going over the same old ground with its content and I was in two minds of whether to purchase it. One of the other things that put me off was considering it only came with 3 discs most outlets were wanting £40 and over for it including Amazon UK.

I have to confess that I was in no hurry to complete this 6 part series of Pink Floyd’s early years and bided my time and brought each box set when I saw they had come down to a reasonable enough price.

I kept tabs on the prices each week and they all pretty much fluctuated however this particular box set did not appear to budge. It does pay to bide your time and not rush in so to speak and this was the last but one box set I brought and I managed to pick it up for £25.17 including p&p from a third partie on Amazon known as Momox UK.

Although Momox is based in the UK you do have to wait a couple weeks for the goods to arrive and this is basically because they are getting them themselves from other countries such as America, France and Germany. I got most of these box sets from them and as you can see in this picture below this one looks as if it came from France.

Germin/ation is one of the cheaper volumes due to the fact that it comes with only 3 discs and it originally retailed for $45.99 which is equivalent to £33.69 here in the UK so I did quite well with the price I paid for it and saved myself a few quid. Like the first volume, it also comes with 14-pages of photographs of the band and once again a printing error has been made and they have numbered the 14th page as 13 so you have two 13th pages.

Right at the beginning of 1968 was the time that David Gilmour joined the band and this would have been around the time that Syd Barrett became problematic and impossible to work with due to frying his brain with illicit substances. Both Gilmour and Barrett were childhood friends and grew up in Cambridge, England before joining the band Gilmour was the singer and guitarist for Jokers Wild or Bullitt and Flowers they also went on to call themselves.

Plans had been made for Barrett to give up performing and become the bands behind-the-scenes songwriter. But when that also became problematic the band decided to continue without him. It was also from here onwards that the band sought out new management and it was their booking agents the Bryan Morrison Agency that took on the management role with Steve O’ Rourke representing them at the time. He eventually became the bands, official manager, in the following year and had been so right up until his death in 2003.

With Barrett out of the frame Waters and Wright took up the lion’s share of the writing and at first, they wrote a couple of more single releases. Although they never made an impact or managed to break into the charts so they slowly started to drift away from that idea and work on longer material some of which would end up on their second album A Saucerful of Secrets. However, the band were still gathering in the crowds by performing live at places like Mothers in my own town of Birmingham and at the UFO club in London.

A Saucerful of Secrets

The other notable thing about Pink Floyd’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets is that it was the first of many of their album covers to be designed by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis. Both Thorgerson and Aubrey Powel who put Hipgnosis together were friends of the band and Floyd was the second group to be allowed by EMI to hire outside designers for an album jacket. The first band to do so was The Beatles. Although what we have here is a compilation album that features a lot more that was put on that album so let’s now take a look at the CD.

CD.

The CD you get in this package contains 13 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 59 minutes, 7 seconds. Out of the 13 tracks, 9 of them are unreleased although they are mostly songs they did live at the BBC Radio station taken from a couple of sessions they did at the radio station in 1968 with John Peel who always supported the underground breaking bands back then. All tracks were remastered and mixed in 2016.

The one thing it never mentioned in the liner notes unlike in the previous volume is whether these recordings are mono or stereo and to my ears, all 13 tracks are in mono. Not the best recording for surround FREAKS! like myself and to me mono went out with the Dodos many moons ago 😊😊😊.

The first four tracks on the disc feature the A & B sides of a couple of singles they put out to which neither of them managed to make a dent in the charts. Strangely enough, it was only the B’s sides of both of these singles that made it onto their 1971 compilation album Relics. “Point Me at the Sky” become one of the rarest of all officially released Pink Floyd recordings and it was down to the fact that it was only recorded in mono that they never put it on an album. It was however included on the bonus disc that came with the Shine On box set they released in 1992.

The song was penned by Waters and Gilmour and it’s very much along the lines of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles with how it flows along. It was released on the 17th of December 1968 in the UK and some other parts of Europe. It was not released in the US though it was released in other international countries such as Japan and Canada and was also the last single that the band put out until “Money” five years later in 1973 though that was released in the US and not in the UK.

Wright’s penned song “It Would Be So Nice” was the first record that was written and recorded after the departure of Barrett. It was also the first studio recording with the band that Gilmour played on and was the bands 4th single release and was released on the 12th of April 1968.

It’s perhaps a bit reminiscent of what the Hollies were doing at the time. It was written at a time when the record company were demanding more singles from the band and because of the BBC’s strict no-advertising policy they refused to play the original recording because it mentioned the newspaper the Evening Standard. So Wright had to record his vocals again and changed the line to “Daily Standard”.

The song was heavily criticised by both Waters and Mason and to be honest when I look at how well Wright wrote the lyrics to this song they are on par with Barrett’s writing and it’s a pretty darn good pop song in my book.

I personally think it’s way better than the B’ side “Julia Dream” which was penned by Waters. Though I will say the band written instrumental track “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” which was the B’ side of “Point Me at the Sky” was more or less the first real change in direction the band were heading in away from the pop scene and is my favourite out of this bunch.

The next two tracks “Song 1” and “Roger’s Boogie” was recorded at the Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, US on the 22nd of August 1968 the first of them is a short instrumental piece credited to the band and I personally think is the better of the two. The second is more of a chanting song that was penned by Waters.

The next four tracks are the first of two live sessions that were recorded at the BBC Studios for the DJ John Peel. This session was recorded on the 25th of June 1968 and is introduced by Peel. The first of them is a shorter version of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” to which they gave it the title of “Murderotic Woman“.

The next two tracks were included on their second album A Saucerful of Secrets and once again they have done a bit of name changing “The Massed Gadgets of Hercules” is a shorter version of the albums self-titled track. They also play the opening track from that album “Let There Be More Light” and round off the session nicely with “Julia Dream” which I prefer to the single version.

The final three tracks “Point Me at the Sky“, “Embryo” and “Interstellar Overdrive” are once again introduced by Peel and were recorded sessions for the BBC on the 2nd of December 1968. Perhaps the interesting one here is “Embryo” which became a concert staple for the band later during 1970/71 and it does appear on some of the later volumes in this series as well.

PicnicA Breath of Fresh Air

A studio version did appear in 1970 on a Harvest compilation album along with two other of the bands songs entitled PicnicA Breath of Fresh Air. It also later appeared on other compilation albums and box sets Floyd later released. So that’s the CD out of the way and let’s now take a look at what video content you get.

DVD & Blu Ray.

As I mentioned in my review of the first volume of the bands early years why they include a Blu Ray in some of these packages, especially considering there is very little surround content on any of them and the video footage is that old it does seem pointless. However, they have worked on quite a lot of the footage and each frame was flat scanned to 2K making it possible to deliver true high-definition in some cases.

Though even so, the upscaling facilities that come with most Blu Ray players can make footage put onto DVD look HD and even as pristine and sharp as a blu ray in some cases. This is why I do feel that it was unnecessary to include a blu ray with the volumes that have no multitrack recordings on them. Not only that being as the film footage only has an aspect ratio of 4:3 and mostly only a mono sound source it’s hardly fitting and even out of place to put it on a blu ray which is supposed to be meant for high-end quality and I would not call the film footage on all 6 volumes that.

As I mentioned I did quite enjoy the video side of things on the first volume however most of the footage on that first volume was in stereo, whereas here it is mostly a mono soundtrack, especially regarding some of the live footage they have included. Although the first seven songs “Astronomy Domine“, “The Scarecrow“, “Corporal Clegg“, “Paintbox“, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun“, “See Emily Play” and “Bike” were lifted from the Belgian Dutch-language pop music television programme Tienerklanken are all in stereo.

You will also notice that four of those songs were penned by Syd Barrett and the footage associated with these opening tracks is mostly of the remaining four members making a video to the songs. They even redid some of the videos they originally did with Barrett such as “The Scarecrow“.

The other film footage you get contains mostly live material although most of it is not really live at all and if it is the music is out of sequence with the film footage most of the time. You also get a couple of short interviews with Roger Waters and once again these videos are all floating around Youtube. They have even included a restored promo video of “Point Me At The Sky” and the video comes with an overall playing time of 84 minutes, 14 seconds.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall, I am not that impressed by the second volume in this series of the bands early years and neither do I think it’s worth the price of £25 I paid for it never mind its original price tag of £33. I think the biggest problem is for a surround FREAK! like myself is that most of the material is in mono and even the CD is disappointing down to that fact. Mono recordings can sometimes sound brash or harsh and do not have the air to breathe or the depth that a stereo recording can present to you, and that is the type of quality you are getting on most of the songs on the CD. I was even disappointed that they never included “Bike” on the CD.

As for the video content on the DVD & Blu Ray, I was pleased to hear the first 7 songs had been done in stereo but the rest of the footage was once again only in mono and unlike the sound quality you got on the first volume it never really lived up to it. It was however an interesting watch all the same but this volume never really had enough to excite me. Though I dare say it might be a little treasure to some die-hard Pink Floyd fans.

It does however give you an insight into how the band still managed to be creative and further develop their songwriting skills without their main songwriter, even if they did not quite produce a hit record. But it was at this stage that the band were moving further away from the conventional pop song market and concentrating on the album side of things which gave them more freedom to do their own thing as many other acts did back then.

My personal highlights from this release are “Careful With That Axe, Eugene“, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Embryo“. Though perhaps my biggest highlight from this release was seeing Richard Wright perform “Paintbox“.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
1. Point Me at the Sky. 3:40. 2. It Would Be So Nice. 3:46. 3. Julia Dream. 2:34. 4. Careful With That Axe, Eugene [Single Version]. 5:46. 5. Song 1. 3:18. 6. Roger’s Boogie. 4:35. 7. Murderotic Woman. 3:38. 8. The Massed Gadgets of Hercules. 7:18. 9. Let There Be More Light. 4:32. 10. Julia Dream. 2:50. 11. Point Me at the Sky. 4:25. 12. Embryo. 3:13. 13. Interstellar Overdrive. 9:37.

Original Price Point Rating 4/10.
CD Content Rating 4/10.
Video Content Rating 5/10.
Overall Package Rating 4/10.


71pnDLUl+mL_FotorThe Early Years 1969 Dramatis/ation

The third volume in the early years series Dramatis/ation comes with 4 discs and was originally retailed at around $49.99 (US) and £36.63 (UK). I managed to pick up a new copy once again from Momox UK via Amazon UK for £23.89 back in June last year which was quite a bargain. Unlike the 14-page booklet on the first two volumes the number of the pages is printed correctly and I quite like the colour photos that come with this edition.

1969 was the year that Pink Floyd started to move away from the Syd Barrett era of the band and it was quite a busy year with them producing two albums that year. The first of them was a soundtrack album for the French art-house movie which is most likely why they titled this box set Dramatis/ation.

More (Soundtrack)

The soundtrack album More was released on the 13th of July 1969 and considering it was made for some French art-house movie it did very well and managed to just scrape inside the top ten in the album charts in the UK. It’s an album I never had and as I mentioned earlier when I got into Pink Floyd I went as far back as Ummagumma which was the other album the band released later on in the same year on the 7th of November.

As a matter of a fact, the only two tracks I have ever heard off the album More were “Cirrus Minor” and “The Nile Song” that was put on the compilation album Relics. The latter of those two songs was even released as a single but only in France, Japan and New Zealand.

Unlike volume two of the Early Years, you do get a couple of CD’s along with the usual DVD & Blu Ray. Much of these volumes follow suit in that they contain both studio and live material and quite often you are also getting material from the previous years. So to say they are entirely focusing on the one year it might not be the case apart from the live material being performed a year or two later that is.

Much of the material that found its way onto the albums More and Ummagumma came from two musical suites The Man and The Journey that the band had performed earlier in the same year. It was first performed at London’s Royal Festival Hall in April 1969 under the name of The Massed Gadgets Of Auximines. It was a time that the band were breaking boundaries in relation to the conventional pop concert. The show itself featured electronic instrumentals, taped sound effects with some of the band members drinking cups of tea on stage.

Later on, in June of that year, they took it one step further by performing the same two suites under the name of The Final Lunacy at the Royal Albert Hall in London to which some of the footage of these performances are included on the DVD & Blu Ray. But first, let’s take a look at the CD content.

CD 1.

The first disc comes with a total of 14 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 78 minutes, 46 seconds and they have almost utilised the whole of the disc space and squeezed a double album’s worth of material onto it. All apart from one of the tracks are said to be previously unreleased and thankfully all the tracks are in stereo. 1969 was around the time that they had started to phase out mono recordings in the UK and in the US they had done away with them in the previous year apart from some pressings for radio stations that continued up until 1973.

The first of the four tracks focus on the More soundtrack album and basically, these are tracks that never made it onto the album and alternative versions. They are all instrumental pieces and the non-album tracks are “Hollywood” and “Seabird” to which the first of the two is a very short piece that sort of says “Hi” and fades out and disappears into the sunset.

The latter of the two is really an alternative version of “Quicksilver” and is more interesting, it reminds me of a piece of electronic music they would use for some of the scenes in an old Sci-Fi television series such as UFO for example. To be honest it depicts that scenario more so than any seabird at the sea.

The other thing I find interesting is that they are using gongs, vibes and guitar effects to create the sound and not keyboards as in electronic music. Though I would still describe it as electronic music.

The alternative tracks are “Theme” and “More Blues” to which the first is what they have called a “Beat” version and it’s slightly longer than the original version by about 9 seconds. The latter of the two is really an extended version and is not in any way an alternative to the original track on the album and is extended by 1 minute, 37 seconds.

Up next we have the only track that was not previously unreleased and this is the studio version of “Embryo” that found its way on the 1970 Harvest compilation album PicnicA Breath of Fresh Air and other compilation albums and box sets Floyd later went on to release.

Tracks 6 – 10 are all part of another live session played at the BBC Studios and you do tend to get a lot of these sessions popping up throughout the volumes of the Early Years and this particular session was recorded on the 12th of May 1969. Here the band play a couple of tracks from both albums More and Ummagumma and they were very much airing the songs out before the albums were released.

To be honest the band do quite an amicable job of “Grantchester Meadows“, “Cymbaline“, “The Narrow Way” and Green Is the Colourand I often wonder if there is a bit of jiggery-pokery going on regarding how they sound more like studio tracks than live recordings. They end off the set with Careful with That Axe, Eugenewhich is almost unrecognisable with the way they do this version.

The final four tracks are live recordings and were taken from Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam to which they played on the 9th of August 1969. Here they play a complete instrumental set which goes on for near enough 40 minutes and features some of their lengthier material and roll out “Interstellar Overdrive“, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun“, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “A Saucerful of Secrets“. To be honest with what little lyrics had been applied to all of these tracks they were all more or less instrumental pieces in the first place 😊😊😊.

CD 2.

The second disc contains a live concert once again from Amsterdam only this time it was performed at The Royal Concertgebouw on the 17th of September 1969 to which they had been touring the material that made up The Man and The Journey. You get a total of 15 tracks over an overall playing time of 76 minutes, 29 seconds and all the tracks are previously unreleased. The concert was recorded for broadcast by VPRO Radio in the Netherlands and is of excellent quality.

The Concertgebouw was completed in 1886 however it did not open its doors until a couple of years later in 1888 due to certain difficulties surrounding the building such as filling in a small canal, paving the access roads and installing street lights. It actually opened on the 11th of April 1888 with an inaugural concert, in which an orchestra of 120 musicians and a chorus of 500 singers participated, performing works of Wagner, Handel, Bach, and Beethoven.

The Dutch term “Concertgebouw” translates into English as “concert building” and like many town halls, it was built with acoustics in mind. The concert itself is split into two sets and the first part of the suite has been simply titled The Man. Much of the tracklist was also given different titles in relation to what they are which was nothing unusual for the band even later on.

The first part of the set or suite takes up 38 minutes and contains 7 of the tracks and they kick off with a slightly extended version of “Grantchester Meadows” which they have titled “Daybreak“. To be honest this live performance makes me want to take back the jiggery-pokery I thought that might have been going on with BBC Sessions.

It’s time for a cup of tea and some wood sawing next as the band play a bit of theatrics and even the title of “Works” is appropriate for it. The next track titled “Afternoon” is “Biding My Time” and the studio version of this song eventually ended up being released in 1971 on the album Relics as I mentioned earlier.

The following track “Doing It” features some really GREAT! drumming from Nick Mason whilst “Sleeping” and “Nightmare” are alternate names they gave to “Quicksilver” and “Cymbaline“. The first set gets wound up by the sound of a ticking clock and “Labyrinth” is the shortest track on the disc.

The final eight tracks make up the second part of the suite The Journey and this takes up the final 38.5 minutes of the show. The opening couple of tracks of this set “The Beginning” and “Beset by Creatures of the Deep” were often played live together and these are “Green Is the Colour” and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene“.

I should also stress that like the first suite they perform all the tracks continuously with no pauses and they follow these up very well with “The Narrow Way, Part 3” which strangely enough has not been given another title like most of the tracks in this set.

The next couple of tracks “The Pink Jungle” and “The Labyrinths of Auximines” are quite interesting in that the way Roger Waters uses his voice to make certain noises you clearly hear how he may well have gone on to develop “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” that found its way on the Ummagumma album in the same year. Only the first of these tracks has been given another name which is “Pow R. Toc H.” originally from the bands debut album.

The band leave the stage for “Footsteps / Doors” and this might have been the case also with “Work” in the first suite. These are recorded sound effects that were played to the audience and in the case of the one we have here quite often, it was played to them in Quadrophonic.

Quite often multichannel recordings were used in some theatres and in Cinema houses since the 50’s way before a system was developed to be able to hear them in your own home like they did with the introduction of Quadrophonic on Vinyl and 8-Track Cartridge in the early 70’s.

David Gilmour gets to smoothly thrash things out on his guitar on “Behold the Temple of Light” and Richard Wright does a GRAND! job on the Concertgebouw’s pipe organ to finish off the show with “The End of the Beginning” which is “A Saucerful of Secrets (Part IV – Celestial Voices)

The pipe organ was built in 1890 by the organ builder Michael Maarschalkerweerd who came from Utrecht which is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands. As you can see in the picture above the organ is massive in comparison to Wright’s Farfisa organ that was on the stage with him and what a BEAST! it is. I even think this makes the pipe organ in the Royal Festival Hall that Wright played earlier look puny 😊😊😊 which you do get to see in the film footage. So let’s now delve into that.

DVD & Blu Ray.

The film footage on the DVD & Blu Ray is split into four segments and comes with an overall playing time of 1 hour 35 minutes, 38 seconds. As with all the footage, there is nothing really previously unreleased and you will find it easily on Youtube. It’s not as if Pink Floyd owned the rights to it anyway and they would have had to have got permission to bring what we have here to you on disc.

There is however some restoration done to the film footage although like I have mentioned many times it’s hardly up to the standards that warrant putting it on Blu Ray and this is where they are really milking you regarding the price point of most of these packages.

The first segment of film footage is around 20 minutes and captures the band at the Forum Musiques, Paris, France, on the 22nd of January 1969. Here you get to see them perform “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “A Saucerful of Secrets“. You also get a short interview with David Gilmour in between them. The actual venue is very small and there are about twenty to thirty people there at the most who are most likely students.

The second segment of the footage is roughly around 14 minutes and captures the band rehearsing some of the numbers that make up both suites of The Man and The Journey at the Royal Festival Hall, London on the 14th of April 1969. Here you get to see them partially play bits of “Biding My Time“, “Green Is the Colour“, “Cymbaline” “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “A Saucerful of Secrets“.

To be honest it’s perhaps not the sort of footage one would want to put out and show and most people would hold it back for private viewing sort of thing. However, it’s not unusual for many bands to show you any old thing and people like Neal Morse would film literally everything and put it out there.

One of the things I did notice during this rehearsal is how even back then Roger Waters tends to want to control things by saying how many verses they should play and when to take the music up and down sort of thing. The only other thing I thought that was interesting was watching Richard Wright play the ending of “A Saucerful of Secrets” on the pipe organ on his own and a bit on the trombone on “Cymbaline”.

The third segment takes up 20 minutes and captures the band playing “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” at the Pop & Blues Festival in Essen Germany on the 11th of October 1969. The final segment sees them role out more of the same numbers at the Festival Actuel in Belgium where they played on the 25th of October in the same year. This concert footage is also in colour unlike the rest of the footage which is very much in black and white it’s also the longest and you get a good 38 minutes of the show.

The interesting thing here is the final number of the set “Interstellar Overdrive” to which they have Frank Zappa playing lead guitar for them. “Green Is the Colour“, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” are the other numbers they perform at the festival.

Summary & Conclusion…

I very much think the third volume of the Pink Floyd’s early years is a lot better than the previous volume though once again has to if it’s worth the price of the £23.89 I paid for it I would say that is questionable and most likely not. I cannot say I am that intrigued with the video content and that’s most likely down to it having too much of the same material shoved onto it. Granted the live performances are different as to be expected but it’s perhaps on the verge of having a Groundhog Day in some respects.

The winner of this volume is the CD content and the second disc that contains the live concert of The Man and The Journey at The Royal Concertgebouw in the Netherlands is perhaps what makes this volume worthy of getting hold of more than anything and it is my personal highlight of the package. Although as I mentioned even the price I paid is questionable and quite expensive for the CD content alone.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. 1. Hollywood (non-album track). 1:21. 2. Theme (beat version). 5:38. 3. More Blues (alternative version). 3:49. 4. Seabirds (non-album track). 4:20. 5. Embryo. 4:43. 6. Grantchester Meadows. 3:46. 7. Cymbaline. 3:38. 8. The Narrow Way. 4:48. 9. Green Is the Colour. 3:21. 10. Careful with That Axe, Eugene. 3:26. 11. Interstellar Overdrive. 4:20. 12. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. 12:25. 13. Careful with That Axe, Eugene. 10:09. 14. A Saucerful of Secrets. 13:03.

CD 2. 1. Daybreak (Grantchester Meadows). 8:14. 2. Work. 4:12. 3. Afternoon (Biding My Time). 6:39. 4. Doing It. 3:54. 5. Sleeping. 4:38. 6. Nightmare (Cymbaline). 9:15. 7. Labyrinth. 1:10. 8. The Beginning (Green Is The Colour). 3:25. 9. Beset by Creatures of the Deep (Careful with That Axe, Eugene). 6:27. 10. The Narrow Way, Part 3. 5:11. 11. The Pink Jungle (Pow R. Toc H). 4:56. 12. The Labyrinths of Auximines. 3:20. 13. Footsteps / Doors. 3:12. 14. Behold the Temple of Light. 5:32. 15. The End of the Beginning (A Saucerful of Secrets. 6:31.

Original Price Point Rating 7/10.
CD Content Rating 8/10.
Video Content Rating 5/10.
Overall Package Rating 5/10.


71D9BPaz3gL_FotorThe Early Years 1970 Devi/Ation

The fourth volume Devi/Ation in this series is where things start to pick up, especially for Surround FREAKS! like myself because at least you do get some multichannel content. It’s also the most expensive volume because it comes with 5 Discs and it originally retailed at around $54.99 (US) which is equivalent to £40.30 in the UK. I managed to pick it up a year ago in May 2021 from Amazon UK for £32.87 and these days it’s doubled its price and is around £65.

The title Devi/Ation reflects on the time when the band had started to deviate or move away from the psychedelic era of the 60’s and perhaps focus their attention on the melancholic side of things although they still very much kept the experimental side of things afloat as well and even ventured in the realm of Avante Garde.

Music was changing its direction in the 70’s and even the PROGMATIC! band Yes brought in an orchestra for their new album Time and a Word. It was nothing unusual for bands to experiment and try other ideas and prior to that both The Moody Blues and Deep Purple had done the same thing in the late 60’s.

Pink Floyd on the other hand decided to bring in something more like the Salvation Army with a brass band and choir to work on a new epic lengthy piece of work that they first gave the title of “The Amazing Pudding” and performed twice under that title at a festival in Bath and a party in London’s Hyde Park in July 1970. Though it was nothing unusual for them to air their new material under different titles beforehand it was something they had been doing for years and many years after as well.

Atom Heart Mother

David Gilmour referred to the piece as the “Theme from an Imaginary Western” and I should imagine that it was sometime after they had finished recording their new album at Abbey Road Studios in July that it got the title “Atom Heart Mother” and was the albums self-titled track.

To help out with the orchestral side of things they brought in Ron Geesin who Roger Waters had also collaborated with in the same year during work on the new album and the pair of them came up with a soundtrack album for Roy Battersby’s 1970 documentary film “The Body”.

Music from The Body by Ron Geesin & Roger Waters was released on the 28th of November 1970. The final track on the album “Give Birth to a Smile” featured all four members of Pink Floyd for which they were uncredited. To be honest I actually think this album is better than the album the band were working on and is well worth checking out if you have never heard it.

It was quite a busy year for the band and besides, working on the material for the new album they spent the latter part of 1969 working on material for Michelangelo Antonioni’s culture drama movie Zabriskie Point.

However too much disappointment a lot of it was rejected and only three of their songs were used in the final production of the movie. Music from other artists and bands were brought in such as The Youngbloods, Kaleidoscope, Jerry Garcia, Patti Page, Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and John Fahey & Roy Orbison wrote and sang the theme song “So Young (Love Theme From “Zabriskie Point)”.

This fourth volume in the early years series focuses on both the material for their new album at the time and the material that never made it and the beauty of it is that the biggest majority of the material you get here is previously unreleased. The package comes with 2 CD’s, 2 DVD’s and a Blu Ray and as you can see in the photo below they had had to make an extension to accommodate them.

To be honest, I am quite surprised they never made an extra cardboard slipcase to accommodate the extra disc but they went with the 4-panel Digipak idea instead. The 14-page booklet contains some very good colour and black and white shots of the band and its members and once again it has printing errors regarding the numbered pages and this one has two page 11’s. So let’s now dive in and take a closer look at its contents starting with the CD’s.

CD 1.

The first disc contains 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 78 minutes, 5 seconds and all the material here is previously unreleased. Though it is live content only to which all bar one track was taken from the BBC Radio Sessions it also kicks off with that track and it captures the band performing “Atom Heart Mother” without an orchestra at the Casino de Montreux, Switzerland on the 21st of November 1970.

To be honest without the brass band and Ron Geesin’s arrangement they do a very good job on this band only version. I would even say that much of how the piece was constructed in the first place came from Richard Wright’s Hammond organ and I would say he was the key element (no pun intended) behind the composition.

The band also perform the song with choir, cello & brass ensemble on the live BBC Radio Sessions presented by John Peel that was recorded earlier on the 16th of July 1970 again before the release of the new album. They also perform a couple more songs from the album “Fat Old Sun” and “If” and both of these are my personal favourites from that album. The first of them I personally think is better than the version that ended up on the studio album because David Gilmour uses clean lead lines at the ending rather than using distortion like he did on the studio version.

Also during these sessions, they roll out a good 10-minute version of “Embryo” which is really good and “Green Is the Colour” which is once again followed by “Careful with That Axe, Eugene“. You can really hear how well the band have found their feet in these live sessions and I love the fact that they have included some of their finer melancholic songs.

CD 2.

The second disc comes with 17 tracks of which 16 are the pieces they wrote for the film Zabriskie Point and never got used and have been locked away forever since. Considering the biggest majority of them are really short and just over a minute long, I am surprised it comes with an overall playing time of 67 minutes but it’s the extra unassociated track that makes up the biggest majority of the time. Once again all the material here is previously unreleased.

Some of the material is different takes or versions of themes and the “Love Scene” in particular takes up five of the tracks and a good 19 minutes of the playing time you get here. Four of them are more sombre pieces mainly done on the keyboards. The most interesting and best of them all is Version 7 which is a lovely acoustic guitar piece and for me one of the strongest highlights of all the tracks on the CD.

Another couple of the tracks that come with a couple of different versions is “Auto Scene” one is with acoustic guitars whilst the other is something more along the lines of Brooker T & The MG’s with the Hammond organ. To be honest some of the pieces that are on here you would not think that it was Pink Floyd at all and even the opening track “On The Highway” is more like Crosby, Stills & Nash or Creedence Clearwater Revival.

There is also a couple of versions of “Take Off” and these are quite rocky little numbers and a bit like something the James Gang would have done. “The Riot Scene” is perhaps something that most would be familiar with as this is Richard Wright playing the piano melody to what eventually became “Us & Them” later on. Though I have to confess why they called it “The Riot Scene” in the first place is beyond me and those couple of versions of “Take Off” would have been more fitting to that title methinks.

Both “Aeroplane” and “Explosion” are also rocky numbers and even though the latter of them use parts from “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” it’s only really the screaming side of things and apart from that the music is not really associated with that track at all. “Looking at Map” is more Floyd like and perhaps resembles some of the melancholy material that appeared on Obscured By Clouds.

As for “Unknown Song (Take 1)” it’s very much resemblant to “Love Scene (Part 7)” and it would not surprise me if that “Love Scene” part was really “Unknown Song (Take 2)” with the printing errors that have been made because it’s nothing like the other takes and versions of “Love Scene” at all.

The final piece that they wrote for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film is a song like the opening track and is titled “Crumbling Land (Take 1)“. This is actually the full version of the opening track “On The Highway” and it sounds even more like Crosby, Stills & Nash or Creedence Clearwater Revival 😊😊😊.

The disc is rounded off with an early studio version of “Atom Heart Mother” and once again this is a band version without the orchestra. It’s also 19 minutes and 24 seconds long which explains why this disc is so long. To be honest there is not a lot of difference between this version and the live version they played at Casino de Montreux on the first disc.

DVD & Blu Ray.

The same content that is on the couple of DVD’s that come in the package has been put onto the Blu Ray and it’s only up until this point that I felt that the blu ray had some real purpose to be used in these packages in the first place. Although I must stress it’s only for the audio side of things and not the visual content and even though they have done some restoration to the film footage to make it look like HD. You will not notice a blind bit of difference watching the visual content on the DVD or Blu Ray.

Speaking of the visual content you do get two and a half hours of it however, like the visual content on the previous volume in the series I do rather think we are heading into Groundhog Day territory once again. The film footage is broken up into around four or five segments and the first of the footage captures the band at the KQED Radio station in San Francisco USA on the 30th of April 1970.

From what I can gather during my research of the footage we have here the band was filmed at the radio station and although they played for just over an hour they only broadcast half an hour via simulcast over the airwaves at the time. They also performed “Astronomy Domine” which was broadcasted over the airwaves and is the only song from the setlist they played that is not present in the footage we have here.

Basically, the band were filmed in a room with no audience and they put the performance on TV and simply called it “An Hour with Pink Floyd”. It’s sort of like what the band Genesis did back in 1972 for Belgian TV only that was a lot better than what we have here. Though I will say that what you do get here is more or less the only bit of quality footage you do get as most of the rest of the visual content is hampered and more like bootleg quality.

The band kick off the set with “Atom Heart Mother” which back then would still have had the title of “The Amazing Pudding” and the film footage show you ariel shots of desolate fields and marshes in the San Joaquin Valley for a good 7 minutes before you even get to see one of the band members playing. Most of this track shows you more scenery than the actual band and this is an early version before they called in the Salvation Army to play on it 😊😊😊.

The other numbers they roll out over the hour are “Cymbaline“, “Grantchester Meadows“, “Green Is the Colour“, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” which are all familiar territory and I am beginning to wonder if the band knew how to play anything else than these same numbers all the time. Though I will say the sound quality is very good and that is what makes this footage by far the best thing out of all the visual content on the disc.

The next segment of the footage captures the band live in St. Tropez, France at the Pop Deux Festival and whoever filmed it decided to put it out in two parts although the whole performance was done in one day on the 8th of August 1970.

Once again the material is familiar ground such as “Cymbaline“, “Atom Heart Mother“, “Embryo“, “Green is the Colour“, “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and I know the band were touring these songs but they were performing almost all of them bar one in the previous year and most the year before that as well. It’s getting to the point where I am almost screaming “FFS put another record on will ya'” 😊😊😊.

The good thing about these live performances is that you get to see how much of a GREAT” drummer Nick Mason was back then and in all honesty, he would even give both Keith Moon and John Bonham a run for their money. Richard Wright is also an integral force of the band and without him, there is no way they could have played most of the material here.

It’s unfortunate that most of the concert footage here is hampered by low volume dropouts and distortion in places and the sound quality is not up to the same quality of the “An Hour with Pink Floyd” footage and is pretty much poor in relation to it. Why on earth anyone would want to put this on Blu Ray is beyond the JOKE! 😊😊😊.

The next few pieces of short film footage once again are from France and here the band are at the Roland Petit Ballet in Paris. Here they play three short improvisations and are perhaps going Avante Garde noodling around with the strings on the grand piano on one of the short pieces. They also play a short version of “Embryo”. Like “An Hour with Pink Floyd” both the picture and sound are very good.

The final segment of visual footage is hardly visible at all and is of the band playing “Atom Heart Mother” at Blackhill’s Garden Party in London’s Hyde Park on the 18th of July 1970. Here they are with the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and John Alldis Choir which was conducted by Aldis. The footage is well worn and looks dreadful and it was included for historic purposes.

The best thing by far that is included on both the DVD and Blu Ray is the original Quadrophonic mix of the whole album Atom Heart Mother that was done by Alan Parsons back in 1973. In all honesty, this is also the only thing that is fit for the purpose of Blu Ray and it comes with 96k 24 bit DTS Master Audio.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall I would say with what you get with the fourth volume in this early years series is well worthy of the price point of the £32.87 I paid for it and its retail price should have been around the £35 mark. It is, without doubt, the strongest package of them all when you weigh up the amount of good content you are getting for the money and the only real downside is really the visual content on the DVD and Blu Ray.

The two CD’s that come in the package are very good and I am sure the inclusion of the original Quadrophonic mix of the whole of the album Atom Heart Mother will delight Surround FREAKS! I would also say that it is one of the major incentives to get this particular volume of the early years series. Those are also my personal highlights from this package.

To be perfectly honest I have never been fond of the album’s self-titled track and I certainly do not see it as an epic either. Even later on both Roger Waters and David Gilmour were highly critical of the track. Waters described it as “rubbish” whilst Gilmour described it as “absolute crap”. I’ve always described it as “Pink Floyd meets the Salvation Army” and that’s perhaps what BRASSED! me off about it 😊😊😊.

Though I will say hearing it in Quadrophonic even entices me to play it more often without skipping the track as I often did in the past. There are some good tracks on the album and I would even say that “Fat Old Sun” is the classic track on that particular album and never in the reign of “Amazing Pudding” is the album’s self-titled track a classic in my eyes and ears.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. 1. Atom Heart Mother (Live at the Casino de Montreux, 21 November 1970). 17:58. 2. Embryo. 11:09. 3. Fat Old Sun. 5:52. 4. Green Is the Colour. 3:27. 5. Careful with That Axe, Eugene. 8:25. 6. If. 5:47. 7. Atom Heart Mother (with choir, cello & brass ensemble). 25:30.

CD 2. 1. On the Highway. 1:16. 2. Auto Scene (Version 2). 1:13. 3. Auto Scene (Version 3). 1:31. 4. Aeroplane. 2:18. 5. Explosion (Careful With That Axe, Eugene. 5:47. 6. The Riot Scene. 1:40. 7. Looking at Map. 1:57. 8. Love Scene (Version 7). 5:03. 9. Love Scene (Version 1). 3:26. 10. Take Off. 1:20. 11. Take Off (Version 2). 1:12. 12. Love Scene (Version 2). 1:56. 13. Love Scene (Take 1). 2:16. 14. Unknown Song (Take 1). 5:56. 15. Love Scene (Take 2). 6:40. 16. Crumbling Land (Take 1). 4:09.

Original Price Point Rating 7/10.
CD Content Rating 8/10.
Visual Video Content Rating 3/10.
Quad Mix 8/10
Overall Package Rating 8/10.


71Phl+lJHwL_FotorThe Early Years 1971 Reverber/ation

The fifth volume in the series through the early years of Pink Floyd’s career is where the band really started to find their feet. We had some nice glimpses of melancholy on their previous album Atom Heart Mother with songs like “Fat Old Sun” and “If” and much of that continues on their 1971 album Meddle.

Only we get something more besides an overture that contained enough brass to brass some people off. I am not saying that the self-titled track from their previous album was not that bad but it was a bit like Pink Floyd meets The Salvation Army sort of thing with all its pomp and circumstance.

For those who are into classical or soundtrack music, I dare say it would be their cup of tea more so than mine so to speak. Some might even see it as an epic piece of work, but for me, there is one hell of an epic on the album that followed it that sure as hell floats my boat a lot more and that is the very thing I brought this volume for in the first place.

However, one of the things that are evident with this particular volume that represents the year 1971, is that the band did not write a lot of new material which is why this box set does not come with as many discs and was sold cheaper. It retailed for $45.99 in the US and even though that works out to £33.69 here in the UK you could easily end up paying £45.99 because for some reason the Americans believe the dollar is as strong as the pound. That price also excludes shipping. I got lucky with this one and ended up paying £22.39 including the p&p from Amazon UK.

Much of the music material that has gone into making up this volume does not even fit the bill and there is very little of it from 1971. It also tends to focus more on the material that came out in the previous couple of years in particular on the video footage on the DVD & Blu Ray that comes in the package. Though least the numbers of the pages are printed correctly so they got something right.

The band spent most of the year touring and although they had started work on their next album which was to become Meddle at the beginning of the year in January. It was down to their busy touring schedule that they had to find the time later on in the year to complete it. The album was eventually released in October and it was during that month that the band were busy filming the setlist they played at the Roman amphitheatre in Pompei that was eventually released in the following year under the title of Pink Floyd Live At Pompei.

Meddle

A couple of the songs from the album they played at that concert are the same two songs that are also featured on the CD that comes in this package though not the same recordings. Let’s now take a look at the contents of the package starting with the CD.

CD.

The one CD you get in this package is very good, to be honest, and does showcase more from the 1971 album Meddle even though it only really contains a couple of the tracks that were written for that album in reality. Much of the material is quite lengthy and you get a total of 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 67 minutes.

The other good thing about the CD, in particular, is that all 5 tracks are previously unreleased which is a bonus. Although it’s not exactly like you are getting any new material you do however get an early demo of “Echoes” and a short concert of them playing live at the BBC studios presented by John Peel.

The early demo of “Echoes” they have titled “Nothing (Part 14)” and basically this is one of 24 parts of the work in progress they made when putting the song together. It’s the section that comes after the effective comedown section in the middle of the song and I must say the recording is quite spectacular I love how Nick Mason’s drums project over the top of your head when listening to it with headphones.

The 24 parts of “Nothing” eventually became known as “Son of Nothing” and “The Return of The Son of Nothing” whilst the band were airing it at some of their live shows. It was not until a couple of months before the album was released during the bands first visit to Japan that it got the title “Echoes”.

Aphrodite Open Air Festival, Hakone, Japan

The following four tracks came from the BBC Radio Sessions that took place on the 30th of September 1971. The band kick off with a 15-minute version of “Fat Old Sun” and considering it’s only a five-minute song you would most likely think they are dragging it out but to be honest they do a pretty darn good job with the extended musical interlude in between the verse and chorus. Richard Wright gets to flesh things out a bit on the Hammond with his long keyboard solo.

I quite like the way how John Peel introduces each song and tells you a bit about it before the band start to play it and I just have to laugh that even in 1971 he was still calling the band “The Pink Floyd”. The show was broadcast a month prior to the release of their new album Meddle and up next we have one of the tracks from it “One of These Days” which I also see as a classic track from that album. This live version is not too bad though I do think they did it much better as they went on.

Embryo” is up next and the interesting thing here is how Peel mentions how the song has changed over the years and how the studio version that found its way onto the compilation album Picnic – A Breath of Fresh Air was only a demo and the band were disappointed that it was put on there in the first place.

Personally, I felt the studio version was a lot more than a demo and quite a good version, though you can hear how the band have developed it with all the live versions and it is more rocked up and electrified in relation to the studio version which is slower and perhaps utilises more of the acoustic guitar. The live version we have here is very good but I actually prefer the version they did on the BBC Sessions that was included in the previous volume Devi/ation to which they had a recording of a crying baby in the comedown section in the middle.

The final track the band play is a 26-minute version of the classic epic “Echoes” and this is to die for. I’ve always seen this as the bands most epic track out of everything they ever did. The band have always played this song to perfection even the band David Gilmour had with him on his On an Island Tour did so as well and the version on the Live in Gdańsk DVD even brought tears of joy to my eyes.

DVD & Blu Ray.

The film footage that makes up the DVD & Blu Ray mostly focuses on Atom Heart Mother which came out in the previous year and you will see the band play the album’s self-titled track with and without an orchestra several times throughout the 70 minutes of visual footage you get on the disc. Thankfully all bar one are only snippets and during these clips, you see the members of the band being interviewed in various places such as Germany and Australia.

The be honest the visual material you get here is mostly about interviews and you get an interview with Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell talking about the bands album covers and even an interview with the bands manager Steve O’Rourke talking about bootleg records. I am pretty sure part of this same clip was shown in the film The Song Remains The Same that Led Zeppelin put out later in the 70’s.

Other songs that are included are “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun“, “Cymbaline” and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” and thankfully once again these are only snippets. The only bit of visual footage that really says anything about 1971 is the animated video of “One of These Days” and even that was done a year later in 1972 by Ian Emes. You do however get to see a very small glimpse of the band playing “Echoes” in the studio.

All the live bits of visual film footage including the band playing a 15-minute version of “Atom Heart Mother” without an orchestra at Hakone Aphrodite Open Air Festival in Hakone, Japan, which was taken from the 6th and 7th of August 1971. The audio that has been put to them is out of sync and they have just used the film footage without the original audio that accompanied the live recording.

What I will say though is that the 15-minute bit of audio they have used is a very impressive audio recording. It’s that good that it even sounds like it is in surround even though it’s only a stereo recording. I even had to check that there was no sound coming out of my rear speakers. Obviously, this is done by certain reflections that some recordings can project and their 1977 album Animals can do the same thing.

This was also the bands first visit to Japan and it was here that they also played “Echoes” and played it under that title for the first time instead of “The Return of the Son of Nothing” that had been given to it at previous shows. Though unfortunately there is no film footage of them playing it.

Though all is not lost because the final thing that has been included on the DVD & Blu Ray is the original Quadrophonic mix of “Echoes” which was my incentive to buy this volume and also enticed me to get the rest to complete the collection. It’s a real shame that they had not included the whole album like they did on the previous volume rather than just give you one track from the album.

They did however intend to give you a new 5.1 mix of the album Meddle and it was originally advertised that one had been included on the DVD & Blu Ray before the 2016 Box Set was released. However, for some reason, it had to be removed, rumours for the reason why tend to be aimed at Roger Waters not being happy with the mix.

Although they only removed the link to access it on both discs and left the 5.1 mix on them. It’s not been left there like an easter egg either and the only way you can get access to it is by ripping it from a DVD or Blu Ray drive on your computer. Please bear in mind that mix only exists on Volume 5 of the 2016 Box Set release and was removed completely from the 2017 Individual release.

I actually managed to get a free download of the 5.1 mix from the blu ray although the person who originally ripped it did it in FLAC instead of WAVE so it is slightly compressed. It is in 96K though and even that would be better quality than the Dolby Digital mix that was put on the DVD. Having listened to it does give you a good enough immersive experience but the EQ is not quite right.

I dare say that at some point in the future it will get officially released and the mix will be rectified. Though I doubt it will be put out in an Immersive Box Set like they did with Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here and will be packaged the same way Animals has been packaged that is due to be released at some point when both Gilmour and Waters can sort out their differences. Unlike those previous two albums, I also cannot see them coming with a Quad mix either.

Unlike Atom Heart Mother the album Meddle was never mixed or released in Quadrophonic although according to rumours it was mixed in quad back in 1971 and they played “Echoes” in Quad at a press release at the Roundhouse back then. It would have been possible to playback a quad recording on a tape back then so this rumour may have been true.

The trouble with the informative information that comes with the Early Years is that it does not even mention who did the original quad mix, and although it was pretty easy to source out the information that Alan Parsons did the quad mix for the Atom Heart Mother album back in 1973 there is no mention of a quad mix for the album Meddle.

According to the original album information, four engineers are credited Peter Bown, John Leckie, Robin Black and Roger Quested. Two studios are also mentioned Abbey Road and Morgan although having done a bit of my own further research I soon discovered that three studios were used and not two. Both Brown and Leckie were engineers at Abbey Road and at that time the latter of those two was only a Tape OP and not a recording engineer.

The album Meddle was first recorded on 8-Track possibly in studio 3 at Abbey Road Studios. The recording was done by Peter Brown. The recording then had to be transferred onto 16-Track which studio 3 at Abbey Road never had the facilities so this had to be done at Abbey Roads Air Studios. At the time Air studios had just been fitted with a new Neve Mixing Console which Brown was not accustomed to and as John Leckie was young and seemed to like plugging things into everything he let Leckie do the final stage of the recording which was recording all the overdubs.

None of the mixing was done at Abbey Road and was done at Morgan Studios where both Robin Black and Roger Quested were the mixing engineers. It was here that the quad mix of “Echoes” would have been done I also think that they only ever did a quad mix of that one track and not the whole album. The quad mix was most likely done by these two engineers or by Black who certainly had more experience and had done more quad mixes out of the two.

The only other quad mix that Quested was involved in was the Cat Stevens 1974 album Buddha And The Chocolate Box which once again both mixing engineers had worked on together. There is also no telling that Quested was involved in any of the quad mixes and he most likely just sat in on them as an overseer sort of thing. Whoever did the mix I suppose in the end we should be thankful that it exists and once again the Blu Ray has been put to some good use with this package as it comes with high quality 96k 24 bit DTS Master Audio.

Summary & Conclusion…

Considering 1971 was the beginning of the band heading towards a new direction and it was the first step to the writing of one of the most prolific albums of all time that followed it a couple of years later. This volume says very little about the year and is very disappointing in that respect. Because of the lack of new material you can also see why no Immersion box set was done for the album Meddle like they did with The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here.

You would have thought with the band being busy on tour they would have had more live material to make something up. But then again it would be of the same material that has constantly plagued the last couple of Volumes of the Early Years which would make it once again feel like Groundhog Day so thankfully they never in that respect.

However, this particular 5th Volume of the series still has plenty to offer especially regarding the CD that comes with it and the original Quadrophonic mix of “Echoes” on the Blu Ray and DVD and those are my personal highlights.

It’s only really the visual content that lets it down and on that score and it does not say a lot about the year 1971. You would have thought that they would have included the “Mademoiselle Nobs” bit of footage that was recorded in December 1971 that they included on the 2002 DVD release of Live At Pompeii to try and balance things up.

At the end of the day, I would say that the fifth volume in the series Reverber/ation was worth the £22.39 I paid for it. These days it can still be had for around the £30 mark which I still feel is worth it but anything more is really paying over the odds.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. 1. Nothing, Part 14 (“Echoes” work in progress). 7:01. 2. Fat Old Sun. 15:33. 3. One of These Days. 7:19. 4. Embryo. 10:43. 5. Echoes. 26:25.

Original Price Point Rating 7/10.
CD Content Rating 10/10.
Visual Video Content Rating 4/10.
Quad Mix 8/10
Overall Package Rating 8/10.


91rXe53cBLL_FotorThe Early Years 1972 Obfusc/ation

The final individual Volume in the series Obfusc/ation originally retailed for around $49.99 (US) or £36.63 here in the UK. These days you can pick it up for around £45 though most places it can go for as much as £60. This was actually the final Volume I brought back in July last year to complete the series. It was also the most expensive and I ended up paying £36.71 for it from Momox UK which is about its retail price. 

This particular package comes with 2 CD’s plus a DVD & Blu Ray and once again there is a printing error regarding the 14-page booklet to which they have numbered the 14th page with the number 18. Though what I will say is that this is only really a minor error in comparison to the major COCKUP! what they did with this Volume in the actual box set that cost over £400.

Volume 6 Obfusc/ation (2016 Box Set Version)

Volume 6 Obfusc/ation (2017 Individual Release Version)

As you can see in the pictures above the 6th Volume that came with the original 2016 box set is missing one of the CD’s and this was down to a cockup of them putting in the wrong CD in the box set in the first place. The CD they had replaced it with was not intended to be released with the box set and because of the mistake, they included the CD that was supposed to come with the package on its own.

The picture above displays how the 2016 box set arrived after removing the lid off the box and that is not a pretty sight. The 6th Volume of the 2017 Individual release looks way better with having somewhere to store the disc. Personally, I think that all those who purchased the 2016 box set should have been sent out the 2017 Individual release for free especially having shelled out all that money for it.

1972 was the year that the band had started to work on the new material for what was to become the bands most iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon. However, it was during those recording sessions that they were contacted once again by the More director Barbet Schroeder who had commissioned the band to work on the music for a new film he was working on entitled La Vallée which is about a woman who goes on a strange and accidental voyage of self-discovery through the New Guinea bush.

To be honest I’ve never seen any of these films and I am not one for films with subtitles and would rather read a book than try and read a movie 😊😊😊. One film that did interest me though is the one the band were working on in the previous year that was put out in Cinema Houses in 1972 which was Live At Pompeii.

Though I never got to see that till it was shown on the TV later on in the 70’s. I also did get to see it in the Cinema House later on in that decade and brought it a couple of times on DVD including the Director’s Cut that was released in 2002.

This particular Volume does not offer you anything really new at all apart from new mixes that were done in 2016. The other good thing is that it also includes multichannel content that has also been newly mixed. To be honest, what they have done with this volume is more or less along the same lines of what they did with The Later Years box set by giving you new mixes instead of previously unreleased content like they have done on the other volumes of The Early Years. So let’s now dive into the contents and take a closer look at what you get in this package for the money.

CD 1.

The first disc contains the 2016 remix of Pink Floyd’s 1972 album Obscured by Clouds. The new remix was done by Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins and it comes with 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 40 minutes, and 22 seconds you do not get anything in the way of extra bonus material here and the only thing that is new about it is the actual mix.

Obscured By Clouds

Obscured by Clouds is one of those albums that tends to get forgotten whenever polls and discussions arise about the band, it’s almost like it never existed. To be perfectly honest even I myself had forgotten just how good this album was and last year was the first time I had heard it in decades. I did buy the album on vinyl back in the 70’s although I am pretty sure I never brought it on CD like many of their other albums.

Listening to this album again after all those years has brought out so many positive things about it and when I look at how strong the written material is the only thing that really separates this from their previous album is the epic long track “Echoes“. One of the things that stand out so well with the material that was written for this particular album is the lyrical content and songs like “Free Four” and the classic ballad “Stay” have a lot more meaning and purpose about them.

I could say the same for many of the songs that were written for this album including my personal favourite track “Wot’s… Uh the Deal?“. Even musically the album holds up well with rockier songs such as “Burning Bridges” and “Childhood’s End“. It even has a GREAT! instrumental track “Mudmen” and “The Gold It’s in the…” is another really GREAT! song.

Like I mentioned earlier I have never seen the film and I am wondering if any of the inspiration for the band to come up with such GREAT! lyrics came from the inspiration of what was going on in the Movie. I shall have to seek out the film and give it a watch.

The album Obscured by Clouds in my personal opinion leaves Atom Heart Mother and the albums that came before it in the dust and I find it a shame how over the years Pink Floyd and Roger Waters have chosen to ignore many of these GREAT! songs at their live shows. I think even they have forgotten the album exists 😊😊😊.

Regarding the new remix, the engineers have not gone overboard here and kept the album pretty much intact to how I remember it from all those years back. I think it sounds a lot better for the new remix as well and brings out more detail and clarity in the recording.

CD 2.

The second disc contains 2016 remixes of the live set that the band played at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy back in 1971. The new remixes were also done by Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins in the same year and here you get a total of 6 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 66 minutes, 59 seconds.

This is the disc that was not supposed to be included in the original 2016 Box Set and was put in by mistake hence the reason why they had not allocated another disc holder for it in the Volume 6 package. It was most likely scheduled for an independent CD release and you can see if you scroll down to Volume 6: 1972: Obfusc/ation of the original 2016 box set that it’s not even listed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Early_Years_1965%E2%80%931972#Volume_6:_1972:_Obfusc/ation

The CD itself contains the five songs that they played for the original film and includes an alternative take of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” as a bonus track. The other notable difference is you get the whole of “Echoes” in one piece instead of it being split into two parts. The new remix sounds excellent and once again the engineers have done a top job here.

DVD & Blu Ray.

Most of the visual content on the DVD & Blu Ray does not really offer that much though I will say that the biggest majority of the film footage has a lot more quality about it in relation to the other five volumes in this series. It’s most likely down to most of the footage being captured on 35mm film that makes the difference regarding the quality. The other good thing is that at least most of the footage you get here is from 1972 even though it perhaps says more about the previous years.

The first couple of segments of footage is of the band recording the music for Obscured By Clouds at the Château d’Hérouville in France between the 23rd–29th of February 1972. You get around 12 minutes over the two clips and the first is of photos of the band set to the backing music of “Wot’s… Uh the Deal?“. The second bit of footage is actual film footage of them at the same place set to the backing music of “Burning Bridges” and includes an interview with David Gilmour and Roger Waters.

The château was built in 1740 by “Gaudot”, an architect of the school of Rome, from the remains of an earlier 16th-century château. The composer Michel Magne purchased the chateau in 1962 and he converted the building into a residential recording studio in 1969 after a fire devastated its left wing.

Many bands and artists have recorded at the place in the 70’s including Elton John who recorded three albums back then at the studio. The first of them with its title of Honky Château was inspired by the nickname of the château and was also recorded in 1972. The place has a lot of history and the artist Vincent van Gogh is buried close by who also painted the château.

The next bit of footage captures the band live at the Brighton Dome, England on the 29th of June 1972. You get two songs and once again it’s no surprise they are “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” instead of anything from Obscured by Clouds. Although the picture and sound quality are good there is quite a bit of grain in the darker shots which is perhaps to be expected.

It’s back to France next for more news reports and various snippets from the Roland Petit Pink Floyd Ballet. These four clips were taken from Marseille in November 1972 and Paris in January 1973 and most of the footage is not the best quality apart from the last clip from 1973. The whole idea of this goes back to 1970 and they were doing some Instrumental Improvisations on the 4th Volume Devi/ation.

Only here they are playing bits of “Echoes” and “One of These Days” for ballet dancers to dance to. It also includes an interview with David Gilmore with them asking him what he thinks of ballet? To be honest I was quite surprised they did something like this but I suppose if you are being paid for it why not.

Next up you get a short bit of film footage once again from France in 1972 showing the stage gear being set up for a concert and a bit of the band and various people saying how they look forward to the concert. Overall with all the footage just mentioned you get a total playing time of 49 minutes, 36 seconds. It’s perhaps for nostalgic purposes more than anything.

The film footage is not quite over and the best is to come because they have included a re-edited version of The Directors Cut of Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii. The film footage was re-edited by Benny Trickett in 2016 and like the CD that comes in this package “Echoes” is in one part instead of two.

Unlike the original Director’s Cut from 2002 that had black borders, you get the full picture here which makes it even more fitting for Blu Ray. However, not all the footage looks impressive, especially the extra space and CGI footage though the footage of the band itself is very much HD quality.

It also comes with a high-quality 96k 24 bit DTS Master Audio new 5.1 mix that was also done by Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins and it never sounded so good either. The film including its titles runs for 59 minutes and 50 seconds and omits the extra footage such as the “Mademoiselle Nobs” and the audio studio footage that was taken from Dark Side Of The Moon. Though I thought those things were out of context with the film anyway so I don’t really miss the extras at all.

To say that Pink Floyd was actually live at Pompeii is a bit of an understatement, especially as only “Echoes“, “A Saucerful of Secrets“, and “One of These Days” was actually filmed there and even they were filmed in segments and spliced together. The other couple of songs “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” was filmed in the Studio Europasonor in Paris, France.

Regarding the biggest majority of the bands earlier material, they did before 1970. Live At Pompeii is perhaps the only time I don’t mind and can enjoy “A Saucerful of Secrets” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and that is down to the various bits of other film footage that the film director Adrian Maben had put to them.

Oddly enough neither the director nor the band was happy with the footage but due to a lack of time and money, there was no alternative left but to use it. I personally think that all the scenic footage that was put to the music was the perfect marriage and that is why I love this film so much and can never get tired of watching it.

Summary & Conclusion…

Despite there being nothing really in the way of unreleased material in this 6th Volume of the early years I do think it is yet another one of the strongest volumes and even with the new remixes, it’s well worthy of the price of the £36.71 I paid for it though I personally would not pay any more. Both the CD’s that come in the package are excellent and the 2016 new stereo mixes I do feel bring out better clarity and definition to the music and they sound much better for it.

The same can be said for the 5.1 mix of Live At Pompeii and I shall certainly be keeping an eye on Andy Jackson and Damon Iddins in the future because they have the know-how of how a 5.1 mix should be done and there are very few engineers who can do decent multi surround mixes in this world as it is. They have done a STELLER! job of the stereo and surround mixes that come in this package.

The other visual content I can mostly take with a pinch of salt but it is there for nostalgic and historic purposes and the biggest majority of it is of good picture and sound quality. The only thing I feel that does let this package down is that it’s a shame they never included a 5.1 mix of the album Obscured By Clouds. But hopefully one will surface in the future at some point.

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
CD 1. 1. Obscured by Clouds. 3:03. 2. When You’re In. 2:31. 3. Burning Bridges. 3:30. 4. The Gold It’s in the… 3:07. 5. Wot’s… Uh, the Deal?. 5:09. 6. Mudmen. 4:18. 7. Childhood’s End. 4:33. 8. Free Four. 4:16. 9. Stay. 4:06. 10. Absolutely Curtains. 5:52.

CD 2. 1. Careful With That Axe, Eugene. 6:44. 2. A Saucerful Of Secrets. 10:35. 3. One Of These Days. 5:50. 4. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. 12:49. 5. Echoes. 24:56. 6. Careful With That Axe, Eugene [Alternate Version]. 6:05.

Original Price Point Rating 9/10.
CD Content Rating 10/10.
Visual Video Content Rating 8/10.
5.1 Surround Mix 8/10
Overall Package Rating 9/10.


The Final Word…

To sum up and conclude my review of the 6 Individual Volume Releases of Pink Floyd’s Early Years, that was put out in 2017. Personally, I think you would be a fool to buy the 2016 Box Set just for the one Volume that has not been individually released. The box itself is not very sturdy from the reviews I have read and the unboxing videos I have seen of the package on the Tube. Not only that it comes as a box within a box so that box it does come in is not really going to serve any real purpose.

The 2016 Box set also comes with more COCKUPS! as pointed out in my review of the 6th Volume Obfusc/ation. Although looking at how the early years were presented I cannot say the presentation was that good in the first place even with how they did not do anything really different with the Individual releases they put out 5 months later in the following year.

For example, when looking at how the individual releases look stacked on your shelf along with your other media they do not look that good and are more like something one had made themself. To be honest, even though the 2016 box set came with a black box for them to sit in it would still give you the same appearance more or less and it’s not a pretty sight.

Personally, the individual releases would have been better if they would have done something a bit different like they have done with other individual releases that came out of box sets or at least have done something with the spine. There is a lot more they could and should have done with both the box set and the individual releases. But I guess at the end of the day they were more interested in making a quick buck.

Speaking of BUCKS! I saved a good few of them by buying the individual releases and got all 6 of them for £175.69 which is way less than half the price of the 2016 Box Set. So if you think the extra volume and the poxy shoebox it comes in is worth over £200 more fool you for buying it. Plus I never had to fork out the money all in one go and bided my time buying each volume between the months of May – July 2021 to suit my own pocket without having to sell a kidney 😊😊😊.

As with most box sets, they are aimed at collectors who want everything and although the volumes do give you a good bit of unreleased content I do tend to find that a lot of it is the same. I also find that when watching each volume one after the other (especially the visual content) it does without a doubt feel like you are going through a Groundhog Day at times.

Volumes 4, 5 & 6 are for me where my money has been well spent because they contain multichannel content and that is really what enticed me to buy them more than anything else. There is some good content on Volumes 1 & 3 and personally, I did find Volume 2 was a bit of a waste of money. Though that was perhaps down to all the mono content that was on it.

Though of course, not everyone is like myself and some may prefer mono and after all, there are very few Surround FREAKS! who like myself thinks that those recordings went out with the DODOS!😊😊😊.

But for complete surround FREAKS! I do highly recommend the final 3 Volumes that come with the early years. I also recommend the 2017 Individual releases of them and not do a stupid thing and buy the box set just cause it contains a hidden 5.1 mix of Meddle on Volume 5. Honestly, it’s not worth it.

The other thing I would recommend if you are intending to buy any of the individual releases is to bide your time with them like I did because prices do fluctuate from time to time and most of these volumes have doubled in price to what I paid for them a year ago. I personally don’t think they are worth shelling out stupid money for them and the price I paid for them is about right.

Lee Speaks About Music… #208

Designed For Disaster – Yang

Introduction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packaging & Artwork…

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

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

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

Artwork.

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

The Album In Review…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musicians & Credits…

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

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

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

The Album Tracks In Review…

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

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

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

Track 1. Descendance.

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

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

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

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

Track 2. Collision Course.

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

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

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

Track 3. Disentropy. 

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

Track 4. Interlude – Golem.

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

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

Track 5. Words.

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

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

Track 6. Flower You.

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

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

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

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

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

Track 7. Unisson.

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

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

Track 8. Interlude – Echo.

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

Track 9. Migrations.

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

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

Track 10. La Voie Du Mensonge.

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

Track 11. Interlude – Décombres.

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

Track 12. Despite Origins.

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

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

Summary & Conclusion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Disaster On The Right Collison Course…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:

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

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #207

Tokyo 1971 – Elton John

Introduction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packaging & Artwork…

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

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

Artwork.

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

The Live Album In Review…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musicians & Credits…

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

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

The Concert In Review…

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

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

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

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

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

On With The Show…

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

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

CD 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CD 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary & Conclusion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Real GEM! Of A Concert…

The 2 CD Tracklisting is as follows:

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

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

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #206

Deeper Than My Roots – The Davey Johnstone Band

Introduction…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packaging & Artwork…

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

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

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

Artwork.

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

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

The Album In Review…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musicians & Credits…

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

Musicians.

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

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

The Album Tracks In Review…

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

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

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

Track 1. Go Easy On My Heart.

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

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

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

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

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

Track 2. One Look In Your Eyes.

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

Track 3. Meh Amour.

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

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

Track 4. Walt Dizney.

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

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

Track 5. Melting Snow.

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

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

Track 6.  You Lied To Me.

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

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

Track 7. Deeper.

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

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

Track 8. Boxer In The Corner.

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

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

Track 9. Black Scotland.

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

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

Track 10. The Final Quarter.

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

Bonus Tracks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary & Conclusion…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Family Affair That Keeps Things In The Family…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

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

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