Lee Speaks About Music…#220

The Edge Of Times – Heartscore

Introduction…

For the past four years and around the last couple of months of the year, we have seen a new release from Dirk Radloff’s project Heartscore and sure enough, things followed suit at the end of last year. The Edge Of Times is the 9th studio album to appear in the Heartscore discography and the 4th album to feature Giacomo Rossi on vocals. It’s very much Rossi’s powerful voice that has very much put the harder edge into Radloff’s music and steered it along with more of a METAL! aspect in relation to the PROGMATIC! side of things that was applied to his earlier albums such as Straight To The Brain and Many Directions. Being more of a PROGHEAD! myself, those particular albums are the ones that still appeal to me the most though I’ve always been partial to rock and the heavier side of rock music.

Having Rossi onboard puts me in mind of when Ritchie Blackmore had Ronnie James Dio onboard with him for the first three Rainbow albums. It was also Dio’s voice that gave the harder edge to Blackmore’s music something that I felt that was truly missed when he left the band. The good thing is that Rossi is still around for a fourth Heartscore album and even though Radloff’s music is more influenced by Heavy and Thrash Metal these days his voice fits perfectly with his project.

Like the previous album, Medusas Head Radlloff chose to write his own lyrics for the new set of songs rather than go along with his previous format of using the words from latter-day American poets such as the likes of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, Stephen Crane for example. To be perfectly honest since having Rossi on board I would have expected it to attract more interest to the music of Heartscore and that album I certainly felt delivered the goods. Though I will say these days the popularity tends to be waning although it’s always going to be difficult to get your music about without going out there and performing it live. It’s also a challenge when you take in the vast amount of music that is out there.

The latest album The Edge Of Times has more of a straightforward heavy rock/metal approach however whether it will gather more attention and listeners to the Haertscore camp remains to be seen. But before I dig any deeper into the album let’s take a look at how it arrives.

The Packaging & Artwork…

The album is more or less geared up as a Digital Download however there is a physical CD release of the album though it is extremely LIMITED! and only 25 copies have been made available. As you can see by my copy above it comes very neatly presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve/Digifile with a Die-Cut pocket to hold the disc firmly in place. Although it does not come with a booklet or any informative information, the inside panels of the sleeve have been very well utilised to contain all the lyrics and the usual liner/credit notes are printed on the back. Both the CD and Digital Download can be obtained on Bandcamp priced at €12 (Euro) and €7 (Euro) respectively from the link right here: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/the-edge-of-times

Artwork.
The artwork and design for the CD of the album were done by Radloff himself with the use of a photograph that was snapped through the use of a space telescope that was created by James Webb and launched into space via NASA. One of the galaxies Webb saw emerged from a fledgling universe, only 235 million years after the Big Bang, making it the oldest galaxy we’ve ever laid eyes on.

The background colouring of the image puts me in mind of John Martyn’s 7th studio album Inside Out, it also has me thinking along the lines of Deep Purple’s 5th studio album Fireball and there is obviously something explosive going on here. However, this was not the first idea that Radloff had in mind for the album’s title and artwork as you can see from the picture below.

To be perfectly honest I actually prefer his original idea and the title of Highway Killer and the artwork puts me more in mind with Judas Priest. Though it may have been too close on that score which is most likely why he decided to change it. It may also have been down to the chap on the bike having more of a Godly characteristic about his face and being more like a gentle giant in relation to somebody who is going to mow you down, so I guess he made the right decision in the end.

The Album In Review…

The Edge Of Times by Heartscore was released on the 15th of December 2022. The album comes with a total of 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 34 minutes and 44 seconds which is perhaps more fitting for vinyl purposes and also a very comfortable timeslot for one to easily digest. Though I do have to admit that much of the material on the album took me a couple of spins to get more accustomed to it and for it to sink in a bit more. To be honest I was quite surprised, especially seeing how the material is made up of short tracks with not even one of the songs on the album clocking in at 5 minutes so to speak.

All the material Radloff wrote this year and as with all material he writes, it’s very much written on the musical staff first before he’s played a note hence the name of his project being called Heartscore. I guess he started work on the material more or less in the spring of this year and it was in May that he released this single release from the album to perhaps showcase or give you an example of what was to come.

Looking at the cover art that final hug was some hug and perhaps squeezed the life out of that person though he’s a bit like myself on that score and likes the dark sinister or the shock horror side of things and it fits in well with the metal genre that is associated with his music. There is actually a lot more to the lyrical content behind “The Final Hug” which I will reveal later on in the track section of my review.

For the latter part of the year, he must have been extremely busy with other things and working on the rest of the album as his Youtube channel does appear to have taken a back seat more recently. As a norm, he generally liked to keep it flowing with some of the other projects he works on such as Led Zeppelin covers and other sorts. Speaking of sorts it appears that “Shorts” are becoming the IN-THING! on the Tube these days and it was indeed a short clip that he put out last back in August.

As a musician, Radloff is quite an accomplished violinist and guitarist and has studied music right from the offset in that it is written first on the musical stave. He is also a very good arranger as you can hear for yourself in this string quartet arrangement of “Voice Of The Soul” by the death metal band Death that featured on the bands 1998 final album The Sound of Perseverance.

Things are not moving that much quicker with the other band Rossi is part of either and since the release of Philosophy Of Evil’s debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things back in 2019, no new material has surfaced. Granted they have released an acoustic version of one of the album tracks from their debut album and a cover song was put out last year. This year they are back with another cover song and what’s even more confusing is that Rossi is not even on it.

The bands latest video premiered on the 23rd of December and is a cover of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from the Tim Burton movie The Nightmare Before Christmas which was penned by Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Paul Reubens. Taking care of the lead vocal duties is Vanessa Saliman and the bands bass player Francis Gebirge also contributes vocals to the song.

As you can see they have totally ROCKED! up their version of the song and not only did a TOP JOB! on the song but also with the video, it also fits in with the name of the band as well. I am pretty sure that it might be the case that Rossi was not required for this particular song rather than him no longer being part of the band.  However, I do think it’s about time they wrote some new material of their own and put out another album.

Just as much as Rossi’s voice fits in with P.O.E. it also does the same job for Radloff’s music and musically they both have that metallic structure that provides the right amount of power for Rossi’s voice to fit in comfortably.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs and lyrics were written, composed and arranged by Dirk Radloff. Recorded in Germany and Italy sometime between March – November 2022. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff. Cover Design & layout by Dirk Radloff. Space Telescope Photograph by James Webb.

Musicians:
Dirk Radloff: All Instruments.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Edge Of Times is very much an album that is stripped back musically to the basic elements that are required for rock music such as guitar, bass and drums and no other instrumentation has been used. Although it mentions in the credits that all instruments are credited to Radloff the drums are pretty much programmed. I expect some of the bass lines may also be programmed and even though he does play drums and bass he’s perhaps not an accomplished player of those particular instruments as he is with the guitar and violin. To be perfectly honest I am pretty sure the bass was hardly utilised at all on this album and to what extent it has been used I certainly don’t hear any bass lines that stand out as I have done with previous albums of his in the past.

If anything the album is more metal guitar riff based with the odd burst of lead guitar now and then and is more like a collection of rock songs in relation to there being any concept behind it and it tackles different subject matter regarding the lyrical content. It’s perhaps more along the lines of commercial 80’s rock music so let’s now dive into it and take a closer look and see how it all pans out.

Track 1. The Final Hug.

The album kicks off in GREAT! style and this song pretty much follows the same suit as the previous album in that musically it is not only power chord driven but contains a bit of a blistering lead break on the guitar. One of the key points I picked up regarding the subject matter behind the lyrical content is that although Radloff wrote the lyrics he’s still gone back to latter-day American history to source the material only instead of the poet society he’s now turned his attention to serial killers. To be honest I am not sure he is actually aware of it but it does look as if this period of American history fascinates him enough to take a particular interest in it.

The serial killer in question here is Jane Toppan perhaps better known by her nickname of “Jolly Jane” who used to give her victims a final hug before administering them a lethal injection. She worked as a nurse from around 1885 to 1902 and her victims consisted of her patients and their family members. Although she confessed to 31 murders only 12 were ever confirmed and she spent the rest of he life in a lunatic asylum even though she claimed she knew what she was doing she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

To coincide with the single release back in May Radloff also made an animated video presentation of the song that was released at the same time. I personally feel that “The Final Hug” is the standout track on the album and should appeal to most listeners’ tastes, it’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Highway Killer.

This is a track that really motors along at a heavy speed much faster than the robber of the highway Dick Turpin and more like the killing machine that Judas Priest would have preferred to use along the highway. There have been many serial killers on the highways and freeways over the years and I am not really sure if Radloff’s inspiration for the lyrics came from one of those. They may have been inspired by a movie or even a song and there have been enough of them put out over the years too.

It’s a song that is straight to the point and wastes no time in putting it all across with its blistering pace. In some respects, it is perhaps too familiar with the commercial rock/metal that Priest was churning out in the early 80’s or even late 70’s for that matter with that particular band. As with most songs Giacomo Rossi handles the vocal side of things with ease and I quite like the way his voice ends off this song which has me thinking more along the lines of the opening of “Highway Star” by Deep Purple.

Track 3. The Coastline.

This next song actually starts off with the bass and is perhaps one of the songs where the bass is actually utilised to my ears I would also say that it is not programmed either and played though I could be wrong. Musically the song is driven along like a march into battle sort of thing only instead of marching into battle they are fleeing from it though quite often is the case that their road to freedom can also be their demise as far as the subject matter behind the lyrical content is concerned.

“The Coastline” is a song that tackles or criticises the refugees-policy of the European Union and even right now in this very day in my own country, it is being closely watched to control the number of illegal immigrants and refugees that flee countries to their so-called promised land so to speak. Radloff’s lyrics are quite often short but always straight to the point as they are here, I think he may have also given a little nod to Brian May with the TASTY! lead break too.

Track 4. Spit It Out.

Next up we have the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes and 37 seconds, there are hardly any lyrics at all to this song and they are perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, though Rossi has no problem spitting the words out so to speak. The song is upbeat from the off and has quite a bounce to it, musically it perhaps says more than the actual words though you can’t help but notice them, it also contains another short BLISTERING! lead break and it sort of puts me in mind of something Alice Cooper would do though I am sure he would have written more lyrics.

Track 5. My Name Is Nobody.

It’s time to get on your Trojan horse and ROCK! things out a bit more and musically this song has a Rainbow feel about it and has the same sort of drive and adrenalin as songs such as “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Kill The King“. The title of the song put me in mind of the spaghetti western film of the same title starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda, the music to that film was also scored by Ennio Morricone who Radloff has been inspired by in the past although it does appear that he’s gone down the road of Greek Mythology to come up with the subject matter behind the lyrical content we have here.

Like Ronnie James Dio and other rock singers who can belt it out, Rossi’s voice has all the right attributes and requirements to deliver the goods here and this song has to be a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Stay In The Dark.

The metal engine is still well-oiled and firing on all cylinders for this song and the crunching metallic grinding riff we have here puts me in mind of the Jake E Lee period when he played for Ozzy Osbourne on albums such as Bark At The Moon and Ultimate Sin albums. To be honest I am not sure what the inspiration was behind the lyrical content but it has the same dark evil presence that fits in with Osbourne’s music and could pertain to vampires, or some evil crime along the lines of Jack The Ripper, Jekyll & Hyde sort of thing and this is another of the better songs on the album and another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Expendable Civilians.

This is perhaps the KILLER! track on the album and the lyrical content spares no mercy in that regard as often in war everyone is expendable including your grandmother and although “The Evil That Men Do” by Iron Maiden springs to mind it is only the evil pretence that bares any relation and not that particular song. The lyrical content we have here is perhaps more common with Rap and the way the words are delivered is perhaps something more along the lines of the Beastie Boys or rap artists in the way that the words are answering back. To put it in a nutshell the words are some serious well offensive heavy shit that would not sit very well with your grandmother so to speak.

Musically this song has a very powerful solid technical structure, that much so that it might even make that Iron Maiden song seems like a doddle to play in some respects. It’s also another song where the bass is utilised and it perhaps plays more of a role in this song however it is the guitar structure that impresses me the most particularly with how the chords change shape the lead lines are quite TASTY!

This could easily be my favourite track on the album down to how it is structured you really do get the sense of war here and not only is it marching along but the guitars are like heavy machine guns pumping out bullets. It has to be another strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT! and is well worthy of giving it a BLAST!

Track 8. It’s Raining Insects.

Another song that motors its way along and this is like an express train, it also must have been extremely difficult and quite a challenge to get all of the words out properly with how it is sung at this high speed, I have to say that Rossi does exceptionally well and does not miss a single word. The song’s title could easily be associated with climate change however the subject matter behind these lyrics is a product known as Glyphosate that the chemist Monsanto brought to market for agricultural use back in the early seventies that farmers quickly adopted for agricultural weed control.

Monsanto’s product “Roundup” was widely used in the United States and was sold in boxes that look like washing powder only it’s a weed killer and like all herbicides and insecticides, there is a certain amount of risk and effectively can be harmful to not only animals but humans. In 2018 the German company Bayer acquired the product which is now mostly sold in the form of a spray. Glyphosate is still used worldwide today even though it was meant to be phased out, in some countries such as France it’s banned because of its high risk of cancer.

As with many products that are put onto the market safety measures are not always met and the dollar will always take preference before life itself, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there is a killer of a profit to be made. This is another of the shorter tracks on the album and the use of illicit words fits the bill here for sure.

Track 9. Daily Heroes.

The longest track on the album weighing in at just under 5 minutes and like many songs on the album they tend to fly straight into the action, it’s very much a song that gives praise to the emergency services such as firemen, nurses, doctors and policemen who are underpaid and those are the heroes in question here. It’s very much a song that has a strong chorus like the first track on the album and in a way the musical direction is perhaps like a cross between Iron Maiden and Rainbow.

Track 10. The Edge Of Times.

The pace is brought down a few notches for the closing track on the album which happens to be the album’s self-titled track, it drives itself along at a steady pace that has more of a dramatic approach which was most likely done in this way to tie in with the subject matter of the lyrical content. The way the song opens up puts me in the mind of “In The Flesh” by Pink Floyd though it’s nothing like that song and I only get that from the very first chord which is also how that song of theirs opens up. The bass also supports this song very well even if it does not really stand out, I am pretty sure it’s not programmed either.

The lyrical content could pertain to a dozen or more things though they all tend to point to one direction so to speak and the word “Oblivian” certainly springs to mind. In this present day with how things are with the rise of food and energy prices many could be living on the edge of times and it would not surprise me if suicide has also risen, wars and even climate change could easily apply just as those who gaze into space through telescopes to what other threats can bring an end to it all as the album cover suggests. It might lack the adrenalin in relation to the other tracks on the album but nevertheless puts the album to bed very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Edge Of Times by Heartscore. I would say that the album is very much on par with the previous album Medusas Head and if anything it is driven along with more power and at high speed, especially how the first 9 tracks run along. The tracks on this album really fly out of the gate with no real time-to-stop sort of thing, it’s very much an album that continuously ROCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF! in particular with the placement of the tracks which has been very well thought out. Both musically and lyrically it’s quite a strong body of work and for those who like their music to rock hard, I can see no reason why this album would not appeal to them.

Like most albums, you are bound to hear many influences fly out of the woodwork and this album has no exception on that score. However, what makes Dirk Radloff’s music stand out differently from the rest is the way he can be quite articulate with his lead lines and even though the solos on a rock/metal album such as this are only really short bursts in relation to his previous work in the PROGMATIC! field they still provide the dividing line in many respects.

The production standards are as good as ever though you will hear a humming noise throughout most of the tracks caused by a new plugin that Radloff had used. However, it does not impede or hinder enough to take away ones listening pleasure or enjoyment of the album. I did confront him over this issue and he did explain to me why he left it in, he actually quite liked that bit of noise being there and I suppose with him being more of a vinyl collector and down to the fact that he is used to surface noise that comes with vinyl records it was not really an issue.

However, the humming noise even though it was nowhere near the intensity took me back to my very first HiFi stereo amplifier made by Wharfedale back in the seventies which would produce a far greater humming noise when the two phono cables plugged into the back of the amp touched each other. To be honest it was the only amp I ever had that issue with and it was most likely down to the company not putting the inputs on the back of the amp far enough apart from each other. I had to roll up a piece of cardboard to wedge in between the two phono cables to prevent it from happening.

Those were the days and I do have some fond memories of that particular amplifier, one would be that I have still to this day never heard the triple live album YESSONGS by Yes sound as good. The reason for that is over the years amplification has been cleaned up like the rest of technology and the fact that live concert was never very well recorded in the first place the cleansing process has not really done it any favours over the years and it shows that concert really needed a better production.

It was the noise on this album that took me down memory lane and that is a good thing in my book although The Edge Of Times is perhaps an album that will musically take you down that route in a good way too. It is an album I would personally highly recommend and well worth giving it the time of day so to speak. My personal highlights are as follows: “The Final Hug“, “My Name Is Nobody“, “Stay In The Dark” and “Expendable Civilians“.

As to if the popularity of the Heartscore camp does pick back up still remains to be seen though I certainly do not see it being put down to the change of musical direction and in many respects, Radloff & Rossi are quite a dynamic duo and everything they have thrown into this project I personally feel works 100%.

After the release of this album, it is good to see Radloff continuing on with his other projects as well and I can see why much of his time was taken up with what has been put into this new album. My advice is to SUCK IT AND SEE! You never know like myself, it might have you coming back for more.

Something To Rock Your Sock Off Too…

The album tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Final Hug. 4:14.
02. Highway Killer. 2:46.
03. The Coastline. 3:26.
04. Spit It Out. 2:47.
05. My Name Is Nobody. 3:36.
06. Stay In The Dark. 3:52.
07. Expendable Civilians. 3:41.
08. It’s Raining Insects. 2:37.
09. Daily Heroes. 4:53.
10. The Edge Of Times. 3:02.

Package Rating 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#219

Live From The Astroturf (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Alice Cooper

Introduction…

This is not, in particular, a new release but an updated re-release and another I was not aware of and thanks to Phil Ashton of the Now Spinning Magazine for putting me in the picture so to speak. It was via watching Phil’s Youtube channel that I learned of the new release of Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9 and I have to admit that since losing my wife to cancer at the end of last year I have been out of touch with a lot of things that are out there of late.

To be honest, I’ve always relied on the regular emails I get from the Burning Shed along with the odd recommendations I get now and then from Amazon. Another useful source to get information on new releases is Facebook though just lately I am hardly on it these days. Phil’s Youtube channel is a viable source of information on not only new but also older releases, what I like about it the most is that he also reviews the products he buys.

It was his review of Ozzy’s latest album that got me wondering if Alice Cooper had a new release out to which I did pose the question to him in my reply. Although I perhaps should have been a bit more specific in my reply because this release was not exactly what I was looking for or what I would call a new album in that it was not a studio album. But as Amazon had just sent me an offer of £7 off to try their Click & Collect service I took advantage of it and picked up both for 20 bucks.

It’s perhaps strange to me reviewing this live release before doing a review for his last studio album Detroit Stories, especially as that came out over a year ago and this new updated release of Live From The Astroturf that now comes with a Blu Ray was released this year. Although looking at this release it is perhaps right to do this review first simply because this was the beginning of what was to come from Alice getting back together with the original band which was originally called Alice Cooper.

One of the reasons why I have not yet reviewed Detroit Stories is because (as you can see above) it’s still in its unopened box that I have had since the day of its release back in early 2021. There are quite a few reasons that put me off opening up this box set all of which I reveal why when I finally get around to it. However, the only reason that is holding me back right now from opening it is that I want to make a special video about box sets and I shall do an unboxing of this Boxset and a review of it at some point.

I do have the download of this album and have played it to death, and in all honesty, in my personal opinion, it blows the live album I am about to review here out of water. However, there is something about this release that does not sit very well with me and that might be the very reason why I feel that way about it. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

The discs are stored very neatly in a 3-panel Digipak and comes with a 20-page booklet that is stored on the left-hand side in a slipcase on the side of the panel rather than in a die-cut pocket. The booklet not only contains the usual liner notes and credits but also a coupled of informative essays written by the band’s original bass player Dennis Dunaway and the producer Chris Penn.

Overall the package is very well made and with the discount I managed to pick up my copy from Amazon UK for £12. It does however retail for around £16 and even though it comes with a CD & Blu Ray I personally think it’s well overpriced and this release should have really been put out as a CHEAPO! release.

Artwork.
The new design and layout for the new reissue were done by Alexander Mertsch and Corey Booth which mainly uses photographs like most live album covers. The photos were provided by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson. I quite like the design though the colour pink might be on the feminine side of things though it might tie in with the band’s debut album thinking of it.

Live From The Astroturf In Review…

This particular new edition of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band was released on the 30th of September 2022 and is known as the Worldwide release that was put out by Ear-Music. Prior to this release, the album was originally released on vinyl through Good Records on record store day on the 23rd of November 2018. A two-track vinyl single was also released on record store day a couple of years earlier in 2016 all of which were Limited Editions. Though considering the vinyl album was reissued 26 times in 2018 alone they might not be as LIMITED! as one might think.

The 2018 vinyl releases were in fact limited to around 3,000 copies each but there were a good few reissues as I mentioned and not only was there an array of different coloured vinyl but the labels had different pictures of the individual members of the band. For serious vinyl collectors who like to have everything, it would have cost a small fortune to collect all 26 issues.

Oddly enough the 2022 vinyl release also came with choices to choose from though they did cut these issues down to 4 as you can see below. Unlike the CD release, they are all accompanied with a DVD instead of a Blu Ray which might seem like a bit of cheek when you consider that vinyl is more expensive though personally, I don’t think you are missing out regarding the audio and film footage quality.

I should also stress that it is perhaps the film footage that might be the enticing factor to buy this release again unless like myself you never brought it back then. The live album was also released on Cassette and 8-Track Cartridge back in 2018 and these are perhaps amongst the rarest as only 100 copies of each were ever released.

According to Wikipedia Live from the Astroturf is the 12th live album by the rock group that used to be known as Alice Cooper. I have no idea how they arrived at this conclusion and they obviously never did their research very well because, in reality, this is the second live album that has ever been officially released to feature the Alice Cooper Band and even one of those was unauthorized and did not surface much later till 1982. Even the man himself Vincent Furnier who took on the band’s name back in 1975 has only ever released 6 live albums including the one we have here.

What you do get with this release is Alice reuniting with the original band minus guitarist Glen Buxton who sadly passed away back in 1997. Over the past decade, Cooper has worked on and off with his old band as well as his touring band and it was most likely getting back together that may have sparked or ignited the flame for him to use them on his last studio album Detroit Stories, though I should also point out that the band were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame back in 2011.

Although the members of the band were born in Detroit it was in Phoenix, Arizona where the band originated and where they originally took off so to speak. The concert we have in question here was also recorded there, it’s perhaps a little confusing however at least what is left of the original band is in a good STATE! pardon my pun.

One of the things that sparked off this one-off event was down to the band’s bass player Dennis Dunnaway who had written a book (as seen above) about his adventures in the Alice Cooper band which he titled Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! Although it was Chris Penn a lifetime superfan who happened to own a record store by the name of Good Records who was the guy that managed to reunite the band, his store not only provided Dunnaway with a Q&A/book signing at his store but the venue to stage the event. No expense was spared by Penn making his dream come true including making alterations to his record store, he also managed to get the band to play their longest set since their last ever show in Brazil in 1974.

To be honest the set that is included on both the CD and Blu Ray is not very long and perhaps one of the reasons why I suggested that this release should have been put out as a CHEAPO! So let’s now dive into the package and take a closer look.

The CD.
One of the surprising things about the CD that comes in this package is that I actually prefer it in relation to the Blu Ray and that is most unusual because in general live concerts that come with a CD/DVD or CD/Blu Ray I would never bother playing the CD at all. Basically, this is because I prefer to watch the concert rather than just listen to it in audio only. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time this particular concert has been released on CD.

The disc comes with a total of 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 38 minutes, and 43 seconds which appears to be a very reasonable time slot, however, 8 of the tracks are merely the bantering that went on between the songs and in reality, the song setlist is only 29 minutes, 55 seconds so you basically have a half-hour show. It’s actually less than that because it includes an instrumental bonus track that came from the rehearsal the night before.

The Blu Ray.
The video footage of the live concert is done in the way of a documentary film where it goes off in between the songs showing various clips of the band members talking about certain songs, some of the footage is also taken from the Questions & Answers Featurette that is included in the extras menu. The concert documentary footage does run longer and has an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 19 seconds, it obviously includes a lot more banter than the content on the CD and I guess that’s the reason why I prefer the CD in relation to the Blu Ray.

The other drawback is that the audio content is only LPCM 48/16 and is more or less CD quality and not uncompressed audio that is more fitting to Blu Ray. You could have put the content you get here on a DVD and still got the same quality which makes the blu ray a bit of a waste, it’s as if they have used it to squeeze more money out of you.

The main menu of the blu ray is very simple to navigate and there are only two options here to choose from, by default it’s set to the man feature and the pink highlighted colour is what confirms your choice. It displays a series of old and new pictures of the band set to the background music of “Desperado”.

The extras menu (as seen above) is a pop-up one making the navigation fast and smooth without having to load to a different menu. The couple of music videos are taken from the actual concert so it’s not as if they are really extras at all, however it does look like they have been shot from a different camera angle though I could be wrong with my observation.

The Q&A Featurette is perhaps the more interesting bonus feature and here you get 45 minutes with three of the original band members namely Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith talking about their old days with the band and comparing notes with one another about the stories that Dunnaway wrote in his book. The audience also gets the chance to throw in a few questions.

Picture & Sound Quality.

The music side of things I’ve already touched on how it does not really measure up to the quality purposes for blu ray, however, the concert has been very well recorded and the recording engineer David R. Wilson had the sense to do a multitrack recording. It was also mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin and they have really captured the live sound true to life here and it sounds excellent.

The picture quality is also very good and no doubt has been captured by the use of HD video cameras by a team that Chris Penn assembled at the time to record the whole event that was originally intended for his own purpose. The film content had been lying dormant for a couple of years and when he showed it to Steven Gaddis he felt it was good enough to make a movie with and did the editing to shape it into the documentary film we have here. Patrick Cone was also involved in filming some of the interview footage both of which fail to get a mention in the credits in this package.

The film premiered at the Phoenix Film Festival between the 4th – 14th of April back in 2019 and picked up an award for the best short documentary. It was also a winner at both the Dallas International Film and Northeast Mountain Film Festivals in the same year and picked up other accolades along the way.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Chris Penn. Executive Producers Chris Penn & Shep Gordon. Recorded at Good Records, Dallas, TX on the 6th of October 2015. Recording Engineer David R. Wilson. Mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin at Anarchy Studios Nashville, TN. Mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound New York. Original Design by Jonathon Kimbrell. Reissue Design by Alexander Mertsch & Corey Booth. Photography by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson.

Musicians.
Alice Cooper: Lead Vocals.
Michael Bruce: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Lead Vocals (Caught In A Dream).
Dennis Dunnaway: Bass – Backing Vocals.
Neal Smith: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Ryan Roxie: Guitar – Background Vocals.
Chuck Garric: Harmonica (Schools Out).

The Concert In Review…

The short concert you get here was recorded on the 6th of October 2015, at Good Records in Dallas, Texas. As for the name they gave to the venue it was a pink-coloured piece of Astroturf they had used to cover the stage. So if like myself you were wondering where the hell is ASTROTURF?! they were standing on it. I have to admit looking at the record store it’s hardly the place one would expect to put on a concert though solo artists such as Richard Thompson and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) have performed in a bookstore before now.

It’s also not unusual for certain artists to hire themselves out for private gigs in your own house providing you have the money to pay for it of course, though you would have to have a big house and a lot more dosh to hire a band. Being the proprietor of a record store Chris Penn is very business minded and has his own record label under the same name as the store so he was able to recuperate some of the losses staging an event such as the one we have here.

As with any event it also has to be planned and a lot went into the preparation to put on the show including knowing when Alice was going to be touring in the state with his own band and knowing what days he had off to be able to put in an appearance. His appearance was also going to be a surprise for the fans and to make that happen he had to knock down part of the building to get him in there without being seen.

As with any band that gets back together for a one-off event such as this you can expect nothing but hits so the band’s first two albums Pretties For You and Easy Action were never gonna get a look in so to speak. After a short introduction, three of the band members take to the stage (excluding Alice) and roll out “Caught in a Dream” which was the opening song on the band’s third album Love It To Death. It was also penned solely by Michael Bruce who gets to take on the lead vocals this time and does a really good job of it.

They then turn their attention to the band’s 4th album Killer and this is where Alice makes his entrance along with his longtime lead guitarist from his own band Ryan Roxie who is standing in for the late Glen Buxton and they roll out “Be My Lover“. It’s pretty much this 5 piece lineup that rolls out the rest of the hits including their number #1 hit single “I’m Eighteen” that got the ball rolling for the band and established them.

They then proceed to roll out “Is It My Body“, “No More Mr. Nice Guy“, “Under My Wheels” and “School’s Out” to which the latter of those Chuck Garric contribute a bit of harmonica too. The only other album that does not get a look in that came out of the original Alice Cooper Band discography is the band’s 7th studio album Muscle of Love. The band then exit the stage and return for an encore and rock out “Elected” which ends off the show in fine style and puts an end to it all. Although the CD is not quite over as it also includes an instrumental version of “Desperado” which was recorded the night before as a soundcheck by the original three band members which was not included in the 2018 release.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band. What you are getting here is a short or mini concert of the original lineup’s greatest hits performed more or less by the original Alice Cooper band and I feel that would be enough alone to entice many to buy this package. However, I personally feel that the package is more grandeur than it appears to be and the Blu Ray that comes accompanied with the CD should have come free. I do however feel it’s a very well-put-together package but I cannot help feeling that it’s well overpriced and should have been put out as a CHEAPO!

That’s not to say that the concert has not been well recorded and produced because I feel they have not only captured the true sound of the live performance but the venue itself and it is without a doubt a very good recording and the production is fine. The CD is the winner in this package and given the fact that you are getting less than half an hour of real music content is what defines why it should have been put out as CHEAPO! I do feel the inclusion of blu ray is what has bumped up the price and if it was to be released on CD alone it should have retailed around £8 in relation to the price of a conventional album that sells at £12.

Although the main and extra features on the blu ray have been very well filmed, all the video content looks like it was made for Television in relation to a live concert filmed at a larger venue with all the lighting and stage props. However one must remember that what you are really getting here is a documented event which is why it would not make a blind bit of difference if you have this on Blu Ray or DVD regarding the quality of the content. This is also the reason why I feel that this package is overpriced and it should have retailed for £12 and not £16.99 or more in places.

I guess at the end of the day in relation to anything really new the package we have here takes you more or less on a trip down memory lane. It’s a very good one I might add but down to its pricing structure, I could not really recommend it.

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Eighth Wonder of the World… (Intro). 0:59.
02. Caught in a Dream. 3:19.
03. Be My Lover. 3:30.
04. Whatever He’s Doing It’s Illegal (Banter). 0:27.
05. I’m Eighteen. 3:33.
06. We Haven’t Done This One in About, What, 40 Years? (Banter). 0:25.
07. Is It My Body. 2:40.
08. Threatened for a Month (Banter). 0:39.
09. No More Mr. Nice Guy. 3:08.
10. I Guess Things Are Getting Better for You (Banter). 0:59.
11. Under My Wheels. 3:00.
12. It’s a Dangerous Place to Be (Banter). 1:15.
13. School’s Out. 3:19.
14. More Fun Than It’s Supposed to Be (Banter). 3:17.
15. Elected. 3:59.
16. School’s Not over Until You Vote (Outro). 0:53.
17. Desperado (Instrumental Bonus-Track). 3:37.

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 5/10.
Picture & Sound Quality Rating Score. 8/10.
Bonus Material Rating Score. 5/10.
Overall Concert Rating. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#218

Patient Number 9 – Ozzy Osbourne

Introduction…

Well, it was only a couple of years ago that Ozzy Osbourne made quite a stir with the release of his 12th studio album Ordinary Man which was his first studio album release in a decade. Given his age and in particular his health condition I personally thought that it might just be his last studio album. However, it appears that the prince of darkness is not ready to bow out on us just yet and he’s back with yet another studio album and one that is just as promising. Even at the age of 73, Ozzy can still deliver the goods and sounds as well as he did back in his heyday in some respects.

To be honest the same could be said for Alice Cooper who is a year older and although both singers were never in the same league as Robert Plant and Ian Gillan when it comes to the greatest voices of rock music, both Ozzy and Alice have come out of the ageing process with their voices unscathed and still intact in their ripe old age which is more than I could ever say about the other two whose voices have dropped a few notes over the years. The ageing process affects the biggest majority of singers over the years and there are not many singers who can still sound like they did back in their heyday especially as well as these two.

Although both Plant and Gillan can still very much perform today like Elton John, they have had to adapt their voices by transposing the music to be able to carry on as well as they do. Though none of them could sing their older songs and make them sound as well as they were in their heyday so to speak. However, they are still worth seeing which is more than I could say for Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who perhaps should have given up years ago.

Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9 comes across as even more powerful and is steered once again by his collaboration with the young producer Andrew Watt. His work with Ozzy more or less continues from where they left off with the previous album and much of the same crew is still very much on board. Although they also threw in a couple of legendary guitarists and two guitarists from Ozzy’s longtime career into the melting pot and there can be no doubt this album certainly delivers the goods.

Packaging & Artwork…

The disc comes in a plastic jewel case and the fact that it does is a bit disappointing especially as his last release came in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve (Digifile). There is however another alternative Limited Edition package that the CD was also released in which I will go into more detail about in the Release Edition section of my review. It was however good to see that the jewel case came with only two placeholders to hold the booklet instead of three which can make it a nightmare to retrieve the booklet.

Speaking of the booklet this one comes with 16-pages and although there is no formative content it does come with the lyrics and the usual production liner notes. I managed to pick up my copy for £9 from Amazon UK by taking advantage of a one-off Click & Collect promotion they were offering at the time.

Artwork.
The artwork, design and layout were done by Jeff Schulz who also was the same chap who did the design for Ordinary Man. The cover art was done by I Love Dust who are based in the UK and also do work for Sony Music Entertainment. Taking care of the photography was Ross Halfin whose photos have appeared in countless magazines, posters, tour programs and just about anything you could name.

Release Editions…

As with many new releases, there is always an array of various physical formats to suit your pocket, it’s also good to see that the physical format is on the up in relation to download and streaming these days. I personally think it makes sense especially when you can pick up the CD for more or less the same price as a Digital Download, and the CD package below is the cheapest way of obtaining the album. It’s also my preferred choice and can be had for around £12.

There is also an alternative CD Edition that is limited and comes in a 3-panel cardboard Oversized Softpack (as seen below) and there were a couple of things that put me off this release the first of which is that it is oversized. Honestly designers these days must come with the brains of a rocking horse and the flaw with this design being oversized is that in most media storage cabinets there is no way you will be able to store it along with your other Ozzy albums.

The second thing that put me off was its ridiculous price point and the cheapest I saw this for was £16 and in most places, you can pay anywhere from £18 – £22. The booklet even has fewer pages and you only get 12-pages with this release. It does however come with a poster which might come in handy should you run out of toilet paper 😊😊😊.

One of the other older formats that is making a comeback these days is the Cassette and the very fact that it is gives the music industry another opportunity to rip you off. In all honesty, I consider the price of vinyl these days a rip-off but this really takes the biscuit or in plain English terms the piss.

I’ve always seen the Cassette as the lowest of the low when it comes to physical formats and these things can easily get mangled no matter how well you maintain your Cassette player. Speaking of players or decks you really need an older one in relation to the ones that are sold new on the market today. The fact that they stopped making them for a long period of time very much reflects how poorly built they are these days. The other thing that is missing from Cassettes you buy these days is Dolby Noise Reduction so you will have to make do with all the hiss.

Back in the days when Cassettes were more popular, the pre-recorded album sold slightly cheaper than a vinyl album and I was absolutely both shocked and stunned to see that these days they are selling between £18 – £28. These are absolutely rip-off prices in my book and the recording company is taking people for a right MUG! They must think we are all LOONIES! 😊😊😊.

For vinyl lovers, there is a wide choice of colours to choose from most of which are limited to around 500 copies. There are actually more colours than I have on display here and some even come with a comic book. Unlike the previous release of Ordinary Man, it has been pressed onto 2 X 180gram LP’s.

There is also a picture disc and prices range from around £28 – £32 for the coloured vinyl and around £38 for the picture disc. Surprisingly the 2 LP’s come in a single sleeve instead of a Gatefold and they really are cutting corners with this release.

The Album In Review…

Ozzy Osbourne’s 13th studio album Patient Number 9 was released on the 9th of September 2022. To tie in with the number of the release it comes with 13 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 61 minutes, 10 seconds. It is perhaps on the lengthy side and quite a bit to digest, though not really a double album’s worth of material and the fact that they have had to use two LP’s to squeeze it on makes it even more expensive for vinyl lovers.

The album was received very well upon its release and did better than his previous album reaching number 1′ on the US Billboard charts and number 2′ on the UK’s official album charts. It also hit the number-one spot in Canada, Sweden and Czechoslovakia and the music press had plenty of good things to say about it. Metal Hammer gave it a raving review stating the following:

“Despite everything you may have heard about Ozzy being on his last legs, Patient Number 9 unequivocally does not sound like the work of a man living on borrowed time. Instead, it sounds like the Prince of fucking Darkness having an absolutely smashing time, with a bunch of his mates and, weirdly, a newfound sense of artistic ambition”.

Speaking of mates both guitarists Zakk Wylde and his former bandmate Tony Iommi appear on the album. The latter of the two also appeared with him on stage in August this year performing “Paranoid” at the closing of the Commonwealth Games which was held n my home town of Birmingham.

It was Ozzy’s first live performance in nearly three years and his first since undergoing a major operation on his neck in the summer of this year. Ozzy has certainly been in the wars over the years regarding his health and is still fighting an ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease. He has also scheduled a tour for next year and so far has announced 19 dates between May and June across Europe and the UK.

More recently on the 8th of September Ozzy put in another short live performance at the SoFi Stadium in California for the opening of the match between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills. In both of these live performances, you can clearly see and hear that Ozzy has not lost one single shred of his voice.

He still even looks the part though no doubt the makeup contributes a lot to that, even so I very much doubt that no makeup artist could make Keith Richards look any younger he may even be proof of the living dead 😊😊😊. Joking apart I do think as well as Ozzy looks in these live performances they are only short appearances in relation to going out and touring and playing a whole show. It would not surprise me if many of the scheduled tour dates get cancelled due to his health issues.

Speaking of other guitarists the other two legendary guitar players that make a contribution to the album are Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready also so gets to feature on a track and just like his last album, there are an array of musicians that have been brought in. No expense has been spared and fingers crossed that he is able to fulfil these tour dates to pay for it all.

As with the previous album, most of the material was recorded at Andrew Watt’s own studios Gold Tooth Music in Beverly Hills. He along with Osbourne contributed to most of the writing along with the other musicians who make up the main core of the band such as Metalica’s bassist Robert Trujillo and drummer Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and the Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins also get writing credits and it appears that almost everyone who played on the album got a writing credit. Although the singer-songwriter Ali Tamposi does not appear on the album, she also contributes to the writing of most of the songs and even Iommi is credited to one of them.

Various other studios were also utilised and used by some of the guest guitarists such as Beck, Clapton and Iommi who would have recorded their parts at their own studios and sent the stems to Watt to be mixed into the final mixing process by mixing engineer Alan Moulder. The album was mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis studios in London, England where even that can be done online these days.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Andrew Watt. Recorded at Gold Tooth Music Studios Beverly Hills, US. Additional Studio’s Mill House, The Black Vatican & Tone Hall. Engineered by Paul LaMalfa. Additional Engineering by Marco Sonzini & Mike Exeter. Mixing Engineer Alan Moulder. Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis, London. Artwork Design by Jeff Schulz. Cover Art by iLove Dust. Photography by Ross Halfin.

Musicians.
Ozzy Osbourne: Lead Vocals – Harmonica (Tracks 10 & 13).
Andrew Watt: Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12) – Bass Guitar (Tracks 4, 6, 7, 9, 12) – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12) – Piano (Tracks 3, 6, 12) – Drums (Tracks 11,& 12) – Backing Vocals.
Zakk Wylde: Guitar (Tracks 1, 3, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12) – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5, 7, 8, 9).
Robert Trujillo: Bass (Tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Chad Smith: Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Additional Musicians.
Jeff Beck: Guitar (Tracks 1 & 6).
Tony Iommi: Guitar (Tracks 4 & 10).
Eric Clapton: Guitar (Track 5).
Mike McCready: Guitar (Track 2)
Josh Homme: Guitar (Track 12).
Robert Trujillo: Bass (Tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Duff McKagan: Bass (Tracks 2 & 5).
Chris Chaney: Bass (Track 8).
Taylor Hawkins: Drums (Tracks 3, 7, 12).
James Poyser: Organ (Track 5).

String Arrangments by David Campbell. Violin Players: Charlie Bisharat, Roberto Cani, Mario DeLeon, Nina Evtuhov, Songa Lee, Natalie Leggett, Philipp Levy, Alyssa Park, Michele Richards, Neil Samples, Jennifer Takamatsu, Kerenza Peackock & Sara Parkins. Viola Players: Andrew Duckles, Zachary Dellinger & David Walther. Cello Players: Jacob Braun, Paula Hochhalter & Ross Gasworth.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Ozzy’s new album Patient Number 9 has received so many favourable reviews that it has been nominated for Best Rock Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards. It’s a very powerful album and so heavy that it’s verging more towards heavy metal than rock in parts, though that particular genre has always played a part in his career since his days with Black Sabbath which many have cited as the band that started it all off. I would personally go along with that myself simply because when Sabbath released their debut album back in 1970 I cannot recall any other band sounding as heavy as they were.

Over the years many other forms or genres of metal have appeared including thrash, grunge and all sorts many of which are not to my personal taste especially those with singers that growl in relation to singing. Over the years Ozzy’s style of music has never really changed and I have yet to hear a really bad album amongst the twelve that were put out before the one we have here. Granted some are better than others and no doubt everyone will have their GOTO! albums that they will more often go to out of the dozen albums that have surfaced since his solo career took off back in 1980.

When you look at the biggest majority of artists, you will find most classic songs come from their earlier albums in relation to the many that come along after. Personally, I’ve never found that to be the case with Ozzy and over the years many of his albums have churned out some really GREAT! classic songs. I could also say the same for the time he spent with Sabbath and that band churned out many classics between 1970 – 1976. So let’s now delve into his latest album and see if we can find any more.

Track 1. Patient Number 9.

The album kicks off in fine style and speaking of styles the intro in particular borders around Alice Cooper’s style, so too does the lyrical content that evolves around the subject matter of being locked up in a loony bin so to speak. Even the BEATLE-ESC! come-down section that comes into play around the 4-minute and 35-second mark has a resemblance musically to Cooper’s 1975 album Welcome To My Nightmare. Though regardless of the similarities and comparisons there can be no doubt that this is 100% Ozzy Osbourne and he is back to his very best.

“Patient Number 9” is a song that’s fueled on heavy distortion and I must admit when I first heard this particular track Ozzy’s voice was not exactly projecting to me as I have come to know it over all these years. However, on the second listen it soon became quite apparent that this is the voice of Ozzy back in his heyday and his voice has never changed over all those years. The way his voice cuts through all the distortion tells me that this is a very good mix even if the distortion does make it feel like there is a lot of mud flying around.

It’s the longest track on the album weighing in at 7-minutes, 22-seconds and the way the song diverts its direction could be seen as verging on the PROGMATIC! side of things, though perhaps not as much as “Revelation (Mother Earth)” from his debut album. It’s also one of two tracks on the album to feature Jeff Beck on guitar, although his distinguishing guitar style does not resonate with me here and if somebody had told me that Beck was playing the guitar on this track I would most likely say “you’ve got to be kidding me”.

The more I got to hear this song, the more I got to like it and it has a very catchy chorus that is that strong it will have you singing along with it in no time at all. It takes a good song to do that and it’s easy to see how the album’s self-titled track (which was the first single release) reached number one on the American Billboard Hot Hard Rock Songs chart on the 22nd of June. It is without a doubt one of the many standout tracks on this album and could even be seen as a classic. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and picks up the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Immortal.

One of the shorter songs on the album and this is a song about vampires and not Keith Richards to which some would presume he is immortal. The song features Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready and is driven along by a simple riff that makes the song very familiar with some of Ozzy’s earlier songs from his first 4 albums. You could say that Ozzy is barking at the moon once again and once again this is like hearing the man himself back in his heyday.

Track 3. Parasite.

One of the four songs on the album to feature Ozzy’s longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde who does some blistering lead work on this one. It’s a very hard-driven song where the riff is verging towards a Sabbath riff and oddly enough Ozzy’s vocal line in the verse sections as me thinking of “Gypsies Tramps & Thieves” by Sonny & Cher, although the grinding metal and lyrical content are completely different. Apparently, Ozzy likes worms and the ones eating him inside in this haunting tale is that of his father who appears to be clinging to him like a leech so to speak.

Track 4. No Escape from Now.

There are no escaping Tony Iommi’s guitar riffs just as sure as there is no escaping the absurdity in the world and the lyrical content we have here could easily be referring to the political madness that exists in the world today along with all the other mayhem that goes with it. With Iommi’s presence, we are instantly reminded of Sabbath with the musical side of things and the intro and outro will have you thinking along the lines of “Planet Caravan” from the band’s second studio album Paranoid in particular with the Leslie speaker that Ozzy used to create the vocal effect.

Like the opening track, this is a song that goes through some diverse changes and even Iommi’s lead break that comes into play at the 4:46 mark will put you in mind of Sabbath. It perhaps is not as catchy as the opening track but I personally think the lyrical side of things we have here is very cleverly written and they hold this song up as much as the musical side of things.

Track 5. One Of Those Days. 

Anger and depression spring to mind with the subject matter behind the lyrical content of this song and I’m sure we hall have had one of those days when we don’t believe in Jesus or God for that matter, especially when one loses a loved one. Although these days with all the corruption, insanity and mayhem that is going on throughout the world that also could equate to having one of these days. Unlike the previous song, I personally think the lyrical side of things could have been done better and even though they do get to the point one could perhaps derive something else from them than how I see it.

It’s a song that features yet another legendary guitarist Eric Clapton and unlike the albums self-titled track that features Jeff Beck, you can instantly identify Clapton’s formidable style. Ozzy specifically pointed out that he wanted Clapton to play WAH! on the track as he recalled from his days with Cream all those years ago, there is no denying that Clapton did precisely what was required and his playing on this instantly reminds me of “White Room” from all those years ago as you will hear in the official video release of the song.

Despite the weak lyrics, I do feel the musical side of things holds this song up very well and along with the opening track, it’s very much another one of the stand-out tracks on the album and in contention for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. A Thousand Shades.

The second of the two tracks to feature Jeff Beck and this one is perhaps more suited for his particular style to resonate more than the albums opening track. Oddly enough it also has a BEATLE-ESC! feel about it and Beck does an excellent job to make his presence known on the solo. The subject matter behind the lyrics may very well be pointing out how nothing ever really changes and the more they do they remain the same.

It’s very much another quality well-written song that utilises a strong string section conducted and arranged by David Campbell. It is also another of the album’s stand-out tracks and one I am sure will be a firm favourite with many.

Track 7. Mr. Darkness.

It appears that the prince of darkness is either writing letters to the devil or somebody is writing to the man himself. However, the lyrical content could also be pointing to a desperate cry for help and the fact that no reply is coming is a means to end it all. Whatever the lyrical side of things is related to in this song there is a sense of desperation, loss and loneliness. Musically the song has some powerful transitions that raise the game to rock it out a bit more and give it a bit more edge, and Wylde’s lead lines are quite blistering.

Track 8. Nothing Feels Right.

Like the previous song, the lyrical content is derived around wanting to put an end to it all perhaps a bit like “Suicide Solution” in this case as far as the lyrics are concerned. It also features some fine lead work by Zakk Wylde as with the previous song and has perhaps a bit more melodic structure to it. There are some GREAT! melodies that pop out on quite a few tracks on the album and this is easily another stand-out track on the album and one that should sit with many methinks.

Track 9. Evil Shuffle.

The heavy tones are back and this is Wylde’s final contribution to the album to which he is supported very well by Robert Trujillo’s bass. Although it’s not “Evil Woman” or even “Dirty Women” for that matter, there is a Sabbath vibe with the weight of the metal on this song. One could also say that darkness looms into the realms of madness regarding the lyrical content here and one could say that Ozzy is dancing with the devil.

Track 10. Degradation Rules.

The second of the tracks to feature Tony Iommi and he also gets a writing credit on this one. Ozzy’s harmonica may have you thinking along the lines of “The Wizard” though it’s far removed from that Sabbath song and drives along at a faster pace. It’s a song about masturbation and there are not a lot of lyrics in the song though what makes it work more than anything is how Ozzy phrases the words.

Track 11. Dead and Gone.

There is no doubt that Andrew Watt had listened to Ozzy’s back catalogue when putting some of these songs together and the bass line on this particular song harks back to the self-titled track from Ozzy’s fourth album Ultimate Sin. This song also sounds like it had a different production in relation to the rest of the songs on the album and it also makes use of Campbell’s section to drive it along in parts.

Track 12. God Only Knows.

This is another song that harks back to Ozzy’s past and this song has an even stronger resemblance to his earlier material and is like a cross between “I Don’t Know” and “No More Tears” to some degree, especially with how Ozzy phrases his words. I am sure there are other things thrown in the pot here that hark back to his earlier days. This could easily be seen as another stand-out track on the album and the chorus line is so strong it will have you singing along to it. However, the similarities are perhaps a bit too obvious for my liking.

Track 13. Darkside Blues.

The album ends off with a bit of blues and this short little ditty of a song was most likely left over from the previous album and was used as a bonus track on the Japanese release of Ordinary Man. It was written by Osbourne and Watt and it is only the two of them who are playing on this one and both are having a good bit of fun with the blues by the sound of things. It’s perhaps unusual for Ozzy to play the blues and it puts the album to bed quite well methinks.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Patient Number 9 by Ozzy Osbourne, I very much think that this is very much an album that is up there with the best of them and in terms of ranking Ozzy’s studio albums, this would easily sit in my top five of his albums along with Blizzard Of Ozz, Diary Of A Madman, No More Tears and Ozzmosis. Although the album is on the lengthy side and may have worked better by trimming it down by 10 or 15 minutes, I do feel there are quite a good few standout tracks to keep one more attentive towards the album.

I would not say that it’s a solid album by any means but then again I don’t personally think there is a bad track among the 13 you get here it is quite a strong body of work and the material holds up very well. I would also say considering Ozzy’s age and his recent health issues this is quite a remarkable achievement. Although I am not into the musician side of Andrew Watt I have to give praise to his production skills and his attention to detail towards Osbourne’s music in particular plays a pivotal point in how well the material on this album stands out so well.

From recent interviews, I have seen of Ozzy a lot of how his voice still sounds like it did back in his heyday comes from the way he double-tracks his vocals though it would not surprise me if some tweaking as been done in the studio process. But then again his voice has never really changed over the years and even when I saw him live with Black Sabbath back in 1999 he sang those songs like he did on the studio albums and never struggled with a single note and sang them with ease.

Listening to Ozzy on this album there is no way you could call him an old fart and he is without a doubt back to his very best. Patient Numer 9 is an album that will rock your socks off in a good way and an album I would consider a must for all Ozzy fans and rockers alike. This could very well be Ozzy’s final album but if it is I certainly think he’s gone out on a high and an album I would highly recommend. It has so many stand-out tracks it’s almost like a Greatist Hits album my personal highlights are as follows: “Patient Number 9“, “No Escape From Now“, “One Of Those Days“, “A Thousand Shades“, “Nothing Feels Right” and “God Only Knows“.

A Positive Album To Go Out On…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:
01. Patient Number 9. 7:22.
02. Immortal. 3:03.
03. Parasite.4:05.
04. No Escape From Now. 6:46.
05. One Of Those Days. 4:40.
06. A Thousand Shades. 4:26.
07. Mr. Darkness. 5:35.
08. Nothing Feels Right. 5:35.
09. Evil Shuffle. 4:10.
10. Degradation Rules. 4:10.
11. Dead And Gone. 4:32.
12. God Only Knows. 5:00.
13. Darkside Blues. 1:49.

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

 

Lee Speaks About Music…#217

Seconds Out & More – Steve Hackett

Introduction…

Another live release by Steve Hackett and I guess many will be left thinking just how many live albums does one really need? Over the past decade, Hackett does tend to put out more than other artists and his live releases are more or less being put out at the same rate as his studio albums. I have to admit that even I was a bit susceptible to getting this one and I never pre-ordered it and brought it after its release. A couple of things spurred me on in the end to purchase it, the first of which would have been the review on the Classic Album Review on the Tube a month ago and the final temptation was via many of the recommendations that pop up in my email from Amazon.

One of the things I took note of in particular about Barry’s review was really how well he described the sound and recording of the live show, he even went on to say that it sounded better than the original double live album that Genesis had put out themselves all those years ago down to today’s technology. Though I have to admit I took that with a pinch of salt simply because the double live album Seconds Out that was released back in 1977 was a very good recording so too was the bands Live album that was put out in 1973. The latter of those two live albums still gets more spins even today than any of these Genesis Revisited tribute albums that Hackett is churning out.

To be perfectly honest there are many reasons I could think of not to purchase yet another live album from Hackett many of which I described in my review of his 2020 live release of Selling England By The Pound & Spectral Mornings Live At Hammersmith found here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/10/17/lee-speaks-about-music-165/ The question is am I really getting anything different and was it worth it? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

The discs come in a cardboard 3-panel Digipak much like the usual way Hackett puts out his live albums though I will say the cardboard this time around is a bit on the thinner side. Unlike most of the packages, he puts out this one comes in a cardboard slipcase that is normally described as a hardshell case when used with standard jewel cases. Although with the material being on the thinner side I would hardly describe it like that at all and they have cut down on cost a bit here by the looks of things.

It does not come with a booklet and all the liner, production notes and photos are printed on the inside of the packaging itself and you will have to remove the discs to get at them. It also has a brief write-up about the album by Hackett himself printed on one of the outer panels and I suppose in a way that it’s a blessing to see more information in relation to photographs that can tend to be the norm with how his albums are packaged.

Overall the packaging is well neat and tidy and does the job. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £17.99 which I consider a respectable enough price point considering you are getting two CD’s and a Blu Ray and I have no real complaints here.

Artwork.
The package design was done by Thomas Ewerhard and like many live concerts was done with the use of photographs taken at the concert that were provided and taken by Lee Millward, David Clay, Chris Simmons and Jason Gilchrist.

Release Editions.
As far as I am aware Hackett’s latest live album was released in the form of three physical formats with both the 2 CD/DVD and 2 CD/Blu Ray packages around the same price and there may only be a couple of pounds difference between the both. I do believe both of these packages are also Limited Editions.

It’s also released on Vinyl for all those that prefer that format. It’s priced at around £40 on Amazon UK which is not too bad at all considering you get 4 X 180gram LP’s plus a couple of CD’s thrown in to boot. Makes you wonder how some artists charge between £20 – £30 for a single LP and there certainly cannot be a shortage of vinyl especially when the biggest majority of PROG! albums are put out on more than one LP.

Seconds Out & More In Review…

Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out & More by Steve Hackett was released on the 2nd of September 2022. It’s very much a concert that captures Hackett and his band performing the whole of the original setlist from that live album that he played many moons ago with his former band Genesis. The “More” side of things consists of some of his own solo material both new and old. Regarding the band lineup, it’s pretty much the same band that featured with him on his last tour minus his brother John Hackett.

In many ways going to see Steve Hackett live these days is a bit like going to see Roger Waters in that both artists tend to play more of the music from their former bands than their own solo material. Though I will say the ticket prices to see Waters live will cost a lot more than an arm and a leg though he does tend to put on the bigger shows and they cost a hell of a lot more to put them on which is why they can run into hundreds of pounds. I would also say that it is very much the music from their former bands that is the main attraction and bring in the crowds at their concerts.

To be honest I have no idea how much it was to see Hackett last year but looking at the price of the tickets for the same venue he is playing again this year they are quite reasonable and range from around £45 – £65. Though of course, the size of the venue will also reflect in the price of the ticket. These days I tend to stick with the price of the blu ray and I remember seeing him back in his heyday for not much more than the price of an album. Some artists I got to see for less than that price which would have cost around £3 back then unlike the price of vinyl today.

The one thing I will say about both of these artists is that as old as they are in their ripe old age, both are still able and capable of giving you your money’s worth at their shows and are still worthy of going to see live unlike some who should have perhaps retired years ago. They both appear to have weathered well in their old age as well. I would also suspect that if both were to play just their own solo material live ticket prices would be a lot cheaper and even I could afford to go and see them these days 😊😊😊.

To be honest, you would think as one gets older they might take things a bit easier but Hackett put on quite an extensive world tour for this event touring all over the world travelling to places as far as New Zealand and Australia. Right off the back of it, he’s even put on another tour to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Genesis album Foxtrot and still has some rescheduled dates from the Seconds Out tour to do at the same time. How he’s going to work both sets I have no idea and by the looks of things this guy won’t stop til he drops 😊😊😊.

I daresay there will be another live release next year and I will most likely end up buying and reviewing that, though I will say these things are very reasonably priced and are not going to break your bank account or even empty your wallet. You do get quality for the buck with these live releases and I like the fact that Hackett puts out his concerts on Blu Ray offering you the highest quality. So let’s now take a look at what you get for your money with package contents.

CD’s 1 & 2.

The couple of CD’s that come in the package contains the concert audio. The first disc comes with a total playing time of 70 minutes, 21 seconds and the second disc is slightly shorter at 68 minutes, 4 seconds. It’s over a two-hour show and I’m pretty sure that all of the songs that are on the setlist of the blu ray are here and the only thing missing is some of the talking in between the songs.

To be honest as a rule I don’t bother with the CD’s and I don’t see the point especially as the package comes with a DVD or Blu Ray so you can actually watch the show. It’s not as if Blu Ray Players are expensive to buy these days and there are some excellent budget players that are more than capable of giving you high-end quality, Sony makes some very good ones. I did however pop one of the CD’s into my player just to check that the sound quality was OK and it’s very good. 

Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray that comes in these packages is where my money is spent and this one comes with a straightforward main menu where you can easily pick your preference of watching the concert with Stereo or Surround without having to go into an Audio Setup menu. Both are 48K/24Bit and it’s good to see that no Dolby Digital low-end formats have been used here. The Stereo mix is in LPCM and you also get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix for the surround.

The “Song Menu” (as you can see above) is split over two screens and from here you can simply select any of the 18 tracks in the setlist. It does not take long for each screen to load either unlike some menus and you get to see and hear different segments of the live concert on each menu.  

The Final “Bonus Menus” contains the extra content and here you get a 26-minute documentary with all the band members speaking about the live tour and how it’s going sort of thing. It’s very much like the short documentaries that have come with his previous live releases.

You also get four promo videos and I am pretty sure you will find these on various other albums that Hackett has put out in the past and there is nothing really new here. To be honest these are not the best of quality either in comparison to the ones I already have and the audio jumps on all four of them at the beginning of each one. Apart from the documentary, there is very little to take from the extras here. 

Picture, Editing & Audio.

As with the previous concert, the concert footage was directed and produced by Paul M Green of Film 24 Productions he also did the film editing. The concert itself was captured by a 10-man crew of camera operators and was captured with HD cameras. The picture quality is quite sharp and pristine as expected although I did notice a few camera shakes during some parts of the show and somebody obviously had the jitters 😊😊😊. However, overall there is nothing to really complain about here regarding the picture and the editing.

Both stereo and surround mixes were done by Roger King and when it comes to the 5.1 mix he’s perhaps not in the same league as Steve Wilson however as I have mentioned many times he is getting better and improving all the time. I think with most of King’s live surround mixes it’s only certain instruments that will fly out of the woodwork every now and then rather than completely utilise the 5 channels all of the time. The biggest majority of the time he tends to utilise the rear channels for crowd noise and his keyboards.

One of the notable things with this surround mix is that he’s also utilised some of the percussion played by Rob Townsend on electric drum pads in the rear channels. Though he has placed them in the centre whereas I personally think they would have been better placed to one of the sides to give them that bit more of an effect as you will hear on Fleetwood Mac’s live concert The Dance and Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles that were both mixed by Elliot Scheiner.

It would have also been nice to have placed Townsend’s sax in the rear to give the sound more of a piercing effect as this instrument can project. Though overall King has done quite a very good job here and the only thing I could really criticise is that the volume needed to be turned up where Hackett is speaking to the audience and this is a bit annoying having to do that yourself to hear what the hell he is saying. However, regardless of that, the sound quality of both stereo and surround mixes are very good and the 5.1 mix is perhaps worthy of an 8 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

Directed & Produced by Paul M Green of Film 24 Productions. Concert Sound Recording by Will Shapland & James Deacon. Recording Engineer Benedict Fenner of Front House Sound. Editing & Authoring by Paul M Green. Camera Operators Chris Flemming, Anthony Graham, James Fox, Stephen Lay, Gwyn Hemmings, Zak Laflamme, Claudia Moss, Kate Harvest, Gareth Taylor & Alfie Warnham. Camera Assistant Paul Pentland. Behind the scenes filmed by James Fox. Stereo & Surround Mixes by Roger King. Cover Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photography by Lee Millward, David Clay, Chris Simmons and Jason Gilchrist.

Musicians.
Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Roger King: Keyboards.
Rob Townsend: Saxophone/Woodwind/Percussion/Vocals/Keyboards/Bass Pedals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedals/Variax/Twelve String Guitar/Vocals.
Craig Blundell: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Nad Sylvan: Vocals/Tambourine.

Special Guest.
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals/Guitar.

The Concert In Review…

Steve Hackett kicked off his Seconds Out & More world tour on the 10th of September 2021 in the UK playing 31 shows at 28 different venues. He then played a further 20 shows in the rest of Europe before heading off to America to play a further 32 shows before playing a one-off show in New Zealand, 5 shows in Australia and 3 shows in Japan before heading back to Europe to play a further 11 shows finishing it off at the Cropredy Festival back in the UK on the 12th of August 2022.  

He’s back out on the road now doing the Foxtrot At 50 + Hackett Highlights tour and for the last couple of months of this year, he will be jetting back off to the US and Canada to complete some of the cancellations from his previous tour. I daresay next he will be doing a Hackett In His 70’s tour and a Don’t Stop Til You Drop tour. However, all jokes aside it’s good to see that he is very sensible in planning out his tours by scheduling breaks at certain points to take a well-earned rest.

The show that was captured on film here is from the first leg of the UK Tour at the O2 Manchester Apollo on 24th September 2021. To be honest you would have thought they would have filmed the show at the London Palladium because that was the only venue they played at more than once and played 3 nights there. Though I daresay if they had done the concert footage would be stitched together like most live concerts and the good thing here is that at least you are getting an honest performance with warts and all filmed on the night.

Like many venues in the UK, the name attached to them these days such as the O2 Apollo was given to them around 2010 basically because they are sponsored by the UK mobile network company O2. Although this particular venue has always had the name Apollo attached to it and was originally opened by the actress Margret Lockwood on the 29th of August 1938. Like many old buildings, it was originally a cinema and variety theatre and was called the Manchester Apollo.

The art deco-style building was designed by three architects Peter Cummings, Alex Irvine, and R. Gillespie Williams and in the 70’s it stopped functioning as a cinema house and was used solely for music. It originally had a seating capacity of 1,750 people these days it has doubled that and now holds around 3,500.

Many bands and artists have played at the venues such as ACDC, Queen, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Who, The Arctic Monkeys, Johnny Marr and Morrissey just to name a few. The Beatles even played there back in the ’60’s so to did the Stones.

It’s a very popular venue to play at in Manchester and besides musical acts, many comedians have also used the venue. It’s smaller venues like this that also help to keep down ticket prices and it’s good to see that they are still being utilised.

On With The Show…

The show is split into two sets and has an overall playing time of 2 hours and 27 minutes. The first set consists of Hackett’s solo material both old and new and is relatively short and lasts around 40 minutes, this is down to the Genesis Seconds Out setlist being quite a long set to perform. I personally do not think there are any real highlights in this first set and that would be down to the familiar ground in particular with the older songs he chose to do.

Though that’s not to take anything away from the performance but apart from “Clocks” which they kick off the show with, there is not a lot of any real difference in relation to other performances and it’s only really the odd cuckoo and chimes on the intro of this instrumental piece that adds something different to it. I would have liked to have seen a bit more improvisation thrown in, especially with these older numbers that appear to pop up at more or less every Hackett concert.

Up next we have one of two tracks that he chose to play from his latest studio album Surrender Of Silence. It’s also on this song “Held In The Shadows” that we get our first glimpse of Nad Sylvan who lends a hand with some backing vocals and shakes the tambourine now and then. With what little he has to do on this song I am not really sure he was needed. However, as another song from his third album, Spectral Mornings follows “Every Day” is perhaps a song with a band chorus where all hands are needed on deck so to speak.

It’s back to the new album once again and “The Devil’s Cathedral” is where Sylvan’s voice is more utilised as he sings the lead vocals on this song though I will stress that the newer material does not exactly light my fire in relation to the old classics he chose for this opening set. But once again the band pull off another fine performance and Sylvan exits the stage after it and does only appear on three of the five songs in this opening set. The final song in the first setlist “Shadow of the Hierophant” comes as no surprise and this song from Hackett’s debut album Voyage of the Acolyte does tend to get played to death with this lineup.

I expect the reason for that is that it gives Amanda Lehmann the chance to sing lead vocals and she does play on all five songs in this opening setlist. It is without a doubt a classic song but it’s about time Hackett got her to sing something else perhaps “Hoping Love Will Last” from his second album to give us something different for a change. It is perhaps understandable for wanting to play the new songs but I do feel it’s about time he mixed things up a bit more with the older material and something from Highly Strung and Till We Have Faces would not have gone amiss here.

The second set will be for many the attraction here in that the band (excluding Amanda Lehmann) perform the whole of the setlist that Genesis played back in 1976 and 1977 that went to make up the double live album Seconds Out that was released back in 1977. They also roll out all the numbers that made up that album in the same order. The good thing about this concert is that all the songs are performances from one show, unlike the original album which consisted of songs played at various live performances from two different venues.

The show gets off to a flying start with “Squonk” and this is one of three numbers from the band’s 1976 album Trick Of The Tail which they would have been promoting at the time. There is no doubt Hackett and his band are in fine form as seen by the official video release that was put out by the record label. Though it’s hardly surprising seeing as he and his band have performed 99.9% of the songs in this setlist before, the very fact that they have might also be one of the drawbacks of this particular live concert especially if you have the many live releases that Hackett has released. Though to be fair it is a very strong setlist and no performance is ever really the same.

One of the things notable from this opening song is that the bassist Jonas Reingold is also playing the guitar which he does quite often for quite a few of the songs in this setlist. It’s also notable that the biggest majority of the bass pedals are actually played by the band’s woodwind player Rob Townsend who incidentally plays a variety of instruments in this setlist including keyboards and percussion.

Another fine job is done with the lovely “Carpet Crawlers” and following this, we have “Robbery Assault and Battery” which is the only song in the entire set that Hackett and his band have never performed live before. I suppose in a way it could be seen as one of the highlights of the show and they really do pull this song off well with another excellent performance. To be honest I quite like this song unlike some who tend to write it off when speaking about the Trick Of The Tail album.

Although much of the material for the album Wind and Wuthering was written around the same time as the Trick Of The Tail album it took a while to develop it hence perhaps the reason why only one of the songs got to be played in this setlist. Personally, I think “Afterglow” is one of a couple of weaker songs on that album though they do a good convincing job of it here. It’s also the first song where you get to see that they have replicated more or less the original white lighting that was used on the original shows that genesis played back in 1976/77.

A song that is played at many of their shows “Firth of Fifth” will always be considered one of the highlights of the show and it is, without doubt, one of the finest songs the band ever wrote and one that Hackett himself has more of a role in with his guitar solo. When you look back at the older Genesis material Tony Banks never left enough space for guitar solos and many of the solos were played by himself on the keyboards, though the guitars did play an integral role to some degree.

One of the other drawbacks to this show is the lack of improvisation and even though no live performance is ever the same the very fact that this lineup has played these songs that many times before you do get a certain sense of it becoming a groundhog day sort of thing. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” is one of the two songs in this set where they do tend to do things a bit differently, though I will say it’s not the first time I have seen them do something like this with it by adding a bit of fun in the middle section. Here they also start the song off differently and effectively I suppose how it is done is like participating with the audience and it gives Townsend in particular a chance to party with the audience on his sax.

If I had one gripe with this concert it would be on the next couple of songs that follow and although the performance of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” is certainly very well executed (as you can see in the other official release from the concert) the very fact that they play it out with an ending before going into the closing section of “The Musical Box” is where this does not really GEL! at all.

Genesis was very much a band that knew precisely how to make a medley out of their songs and on the original Seconds Out live album the way they transcend the Lamb into the closing section of Musical Box is to perfection and if you are only going to do part of a song it needs to be done this way for it to work. Bringing the lamb to an end as they did was entirely the wrong thing to do because the only way you would ever make it work would be to play the whole of the Musical Box and not just the closing section as they did here. Doing what they did here makes the Musical Box totally out of context and I’m afraid it does not work at all for me.

No matter how you look at “Suppers Ready” it has to be another highlight and even though this long epic gets featured at many of Hackett’s more recent shows I cannot say I am tired of hearing them do it here either. Just like “Firth of Fifth” it’s very much the creme de la creme of all Genesis songs. Sadly it’s also the only time Hackett gets to play on the acoustic guitar which is really a feature that is missing from many of his more recent live shows. He’s also playing a most beautiful looking 12 string guitar too.

Another sure-fire classic is “The Cinema Show” and they play it in its entirety by including “Aisle of Plenty” I must say that Nad Sylvan handles the closing stages of the song very well and the words are a lot harder to fit in than you think. The musicians Hackett has onboard are all very well capable of pulling off these GREAT! songs and Roger King as a keyboardist is very much a perfectionist with all of Banks’s intricate keyboard work that he put into the original songs.

The band then exits the stage and comes back to play the final two songs which are both from the trick Of The Tail album to which they do a very fine job of “Dance On A Volcano” and the show gets closed off in fine style and this is once again where the white lighting returns and we also get a bit more improvisation with how “Slogans” from Hackett’s 4th album solo album Defector gets blended in very nicely into “Los Endos“. We also get a nice drum solo from Craig Blundell sandwiched in between these final two numbers who really has come on a lot since playing these old Genesis classics.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out & More by Steve Hackett. It is one of the better recent concert shows and I think what holds this together more than anything is the Genesis setlist rather than the short span of time that was given to Hackett’s solo material. Seconds Out was always a strong double live album when it was released all those years ago it also showed that Phil Collins could not only cope with the newer material but the older material that was originally sung by Peter Gabriel. It comes from an era when Genesis was still Genesis in the PROG! sense of the word before they went off into the land of confusion and became more of a pop band sort of thing.

Regarding my original two-part question in my introduction, I would not personally say you were getting anything that much different in relation to many of the recent live concerts Hackett has put out. I think a lot of Hackett’s recent shows lack the right amount of improvisation to make them any different, the other factor is that he tends to stay away from acoustic sets in his more recent shows and that is perhaps why his older concerts are more of my GOTO! ones.

However, I do feel that this particular concert is worth it because of its strong Genesis setlist and this is perhaps more of a Genesis concert in relation to his own solo material. Even though it’s not what I would call a GOTO! concert I do feel I could play this one more than many of his other recent live concerts. It’s been very well produced and comes with excellent picture and sound quality. The bonus material is not up to much but at its price point, I do think it holds good value for the money even if the bonus material is not up to much.

SECONDS OUT ROUND TWO…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Apollo Intro. 1:02.
02. Clocks (The Angel Of Mons). 4:17.
03. Held In The Shadows. 7:09.
04. Every Day. 6:12.
05. The Devil’s Cathedral. 5:56.
06. Shadow Of The Hierophant. 10:49.
07. Squonk. 6:29.
08. The Carpet Crawlers. 5:50.
09. Robbery, Assault And Battery. 5:57.
10. Afterglow. 3:51.
11. Firth Of Fifth. 9:58.

CD 2.
01. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe). 8:20.
02. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. 5:10.
03. The Musical Box (Closing Section). 2:51.
04. Supper’s Ready. 24:49.
05. The Cinema Show. 10:35.
06. Aisle Of Plenty. 2:03.
07. Dance On A Volcano. 04:24.
08. Los Endos. 06:35.

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Picture Quality Rating Score. 9/10.
The Stereo Mix rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 2/10.
The Overall Concert Rating. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#216

Animals 2018 Remix (Blu Ray Edition) – Pink Floyd

Introduction…

Animals by Pink Floyd has always been amongst my personal favourites of Floyd albums along with Meddle, The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. I would also say that Animals is most likely the bands most PROGIEST! album (if there is such a word) and basically it came out of a time when the band had found their feet and were on a roll. If there ever was a downside to the album it was only ever down to its mix and production which is why like many I have had my eagers eyes on this new release since it was mentioned it was coming out back in 2018.

Finally, after four years and all the bickering and squabbling between David Gilmour and Roger Waters, it has finally arrived in the shape of various formats. Although for some even that is not enough and one of the many complaints is that it never got the same treatment as the TDSOTM and WYWH by releasing them in an Immersion Box Set. Having just reviewed the Immersion Box of TDSOTM all I have to say to that is thank GOD! are you people out of your mind 😊😊😊.

To be perfectly honest this is the first time Pink Floyd has finally seen sense by releasing the Blu Ray in a standalone package outside of the box giving surround FREAKS! like myself the chance of getting our hands on the 5.1 mix without having to sell a kidney. I have the most utter respect for them doing this and I certainly don’t see any real value in all the SWAG! that comes in those things that are only put there to bump up the cost and look like you are getting something extra for your money.

Even though I don’t collect vinyl I did pre-order the Deluxe Boxset on Amazon a good while back, the reason for this was to fill up some of the empty space I have in the new media cabinet I brought. Unlike most Floyd box sets it was more reasonably priced at £57. However, as it was being released a month later than the blu ray I could not wait to get my hands on the new mix.

Having done so I cancelled my pre-order for the Deluxe Boxset even though I was deeply disappointed with how they packaged the blu ray. But in Roger Waters’s own words from one of the songs on his 1992 album Amused To Death, you could say that it all made “Perfect Sense”. To be perfectly honest the way things were done for this release nothing seems to make sense but before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

When it comes down to the packaging of the various release editions for the new mix of the album I can honestly say that the blu ray drew the short straw and lacks the presentation that the other packages got. It’s as if they said OK! we will put out an individual release but we’re going to make it look SHIT! 😊😊😊.

I am of course being a bit too harsh and it’s not the first time I have seen this type of packaging and to be honest, the presentation is quite good. However, in relation to the new artwork that has been used for all the other releases, I was disappointed that it was not used for this release.

The biggest gripe I have with this release is the flaw in the design of the package itself (as seen above) and if you can retrieve the disc with your mitts without getting any fingerprints on it you will be doing exceptionally well. Perhaps the designer intended it to come with some soft padded tweezers 😊😊😊.

All jokes aside the disc that does come in this package will certainly give you a lot more than any of the other releases and at its much cheaper price point of £16.94 I paid for it, I would consider it a steal. It also comes with a 16-page booklet that contains the liner notes, credits plus lyrics and as usual, comes with an array of photos instead of more useful informative information.


The very fact that all Floyd releases come with no informative information was also one of the killing factors for me not to purchase the Deluxe Boxset Edition and had Gilmour not been pigheaded about including the informative liner notes that Waters wanted to be included I may have had second thoughts regarding cancelling my pre-order of it. Though in all honesty being the surround FREAK! that I am the blu ray would have been the only thing that would have interested me in that package.

Artwork.
The original concept design for the album cover was done by Roger Waters with coordination and photography done by the team at Hipgnosis. Just like the new remix of the album things have been reworked and reimagined and many things have changed since Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson tried to capture an inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station back in 1977.

The new artwork was photographed by Rupert Truman and Powell and basically, they took snaps from different locations around the power station to get the new artwork. The photo that was shot across the railway lines (as seen above) was used on all releases except the blu ray to which they used a colour photo that was taken across the river Thames. No pigs were inflated or harmed for the snap this time around and were put into the photo afterwards.

Being in colour the photo that was used for the blu ray looks more like the original album cover and I must admit that I originally thought that the water had been superimposed like they did with the new artwork for the standalone blu ray edition of Pulse that was released earlier this year. The pig however had to be superimposed on the original album cover in the end due to it escaping on the day of the first photo shoot and they did not like the lighting on the day of the second photo shoot.

I do prefer the photo of the view across the railway lines and the fact that they made it Monochrome (or Greyscale if you like) brings out much more detail. Although I was disappointed that the blu ray never got this photo all is not lost as you will later see when I go into the blu ray section of my review.

Release Editions…

All editions apart from the Deluxe Edition Boxset were released in September and the new remix of Animals gives you plenty of options to choose from to suit your pocket. I daresay there is also a Digital Download of the album though I doubt you will be saving any money in relation to the cheapest physical format option so why even bother especially as you can pick up the CD (as seen below) on Amazon for as little as £10.99.

The standalone Blu Ray (as seen below) is Amazon’s best seller out of all the physical formats and it’s not surprising with not only its high-end quality but also down to the fact that it gives you a lot more than any of the other formats when it comes to the musical side of things. It can also still be picked up from Amazon for the same price I paid for it £16.94.


For Vinyl lovers, the new remix of the album has been pressed onto 180gram vinyl and considering the price of vinyl these days it’s also sold at a reasonable price and can still be picked up for around £22.99 on places like Amazon.

The Deluxe Boxset was released almost a month later on the 7th of October and with this release, you get all four physical formats CD, LP, DVD and Blu Ray hence its higher price tag of £57.95. To be honest, the boxset does offer value and is priced a lot cheaper than I expected it, but this is only really for those who want all formats and the question is does one really need the same thing four times over?

The very fact that I personally DON’T! is another reason why I opted in the end not to go with this package and even though it is much better packaged those things should not be put before the musical content and I suppose in a way it’s a bit like vanity. Though I will stress that when you weigh up the prices of each format that comes in this box set you are not being ripped off like most packages like this.

Speaking of being ripped off, there is also another format the new remix was released on done by another company. When it comes to vanity I personally think they packaged it better than any of these formats. However, it does come at a PRICE! That much more that I decided to write my own personal opinion about this so-called company in the section that is coming up next.

The Audiophile Rip-Off…

Prior to the release of the new 2018 remix of Animals, I was looking at the various packages it came in and noticed that there was also an SACD release. The reason why I never included it in the “Release Edition” section was that it was made by another company and you will not find it being sold in the store on Pink Floyd’s official website. I first clapped my eyes on this release in this video on Youtube (as seen below) and it was actually this video that opened up to me a completely new can of worms with what is going on in the audiophile world today.

The company involved in the release of the SACD Edition of Animals is Acoustic Sounds which makes Analogue Productions yet here they are advertising a Digital release. How much analogue actually goes into their productions even has me wondering, though I am not going to go into a war over the difference between analogue and digital, it would also be pointless for me to do so simply because you are always going to get two sides of the coin. However, in this section, I will point out some of the ripoff products that have been put on the market in both worlds.

Now I am not suggesting that the package we have here in question is a ripoff or that it’s an unofficial release because it has been sanctioned by the bands record company EMI, though it is not endorsed by Pink Floyd which is why it does not appear in their record store. However, the product is well overpriced and here in the UK, it can cost you as much as the Deluxe Edition Boxset and the cheapest I saw it for was £48.

That is more than twice the price one would expect to pay for an SACD here in the UK and is more like the price you would pay for one that has gone out of print and sold second-hand on the black market. Granted the package is made of quality material in that they have used thick cardboard, I also personally believe it is better packaged than the Blu Ray and all the other packages.

The thing I like the most about it is that the booklet has been fixed inside, this is where I personally think this package wins over all other releases. This is by far not the first time I have come across this quality packaging and no way on this earth does it cost that much more to make it in relation to other packages that use thinner material. I have several of them by other artists made of exactly the same quality and not one of them cost me more than £20. Some I even got for as little as £12.

As much as I like the SACD format there is no way I would throw my money at this thing with its extortionate price tag. They say a fool and his money are soon departed and in this case, I honestly believe that only fools would buy it simply because the Blu Ray will give a lot more than the SACD has to offer and at its price of just under £17 it has to be the real winner of them all in my book.

Acoustic Sounds is a company that believes everything that they are selling to you is of the highest standards and best quality, that is why their price point for their products is much higher than everyone else. In the case of the SACD, I certainly do not think that is the case and one would be fooled to fall into their trap.

It was through watching this video that led me onto some of the other products they sell and in the case of vinyl this is where things got even more shocking and here I honestly do believe you are being totally ripped off. As I already mentioned I am not going to into a war between analogue and digital however I will point out the way things have changed over the years especially when it comes down to the actual price of Vinyl and CD’s in particular and a few other things.

When I first started collecting vinyl back in the early seventies here in the UK the price of an album was around £3. As we moved into the early eighties the price had gone up to £5 and by the mid-eighties with the birth of the CD Player and the Compact Disc, it rose again to £8 then after a short while to £10.

Back in those days, the CD was the most expensive format of the two and cost £12. The increasing popularity of the CD eventually caused vinyl to go out of circulation and by the late nineties, it was practically nonexistent. By then I had given up on vinyl and I had my reasons for it. One of the major reasons back then was not just because vinyl had gone out of circulation but because I had got into multichannel recordings although I do not need to go into that to explain why I had given up on vinyl.

Believe it or not vinyl has always been an inferior format (not in its sound quality) but in that, it has its limitations of what you can squeeze onto it. The very fact that technology had moved on in the digital realm meant that recording studios had more tracks to play with and other formats such as CD’s, DVD-Audio, SACD & Blu Ray had more capacity to squeeze the information onto. This enabled less mud and far more clarity in a recording.

Though of course, many analogue purists and audiophiles would argue that this took away the bass response or the warmth of a recording which I personally feel is complete nonsense. Over the years I have played on analogue and digital keyboards and many will argue that a digital keyboard cannot produce the same bass or in keyboard terms FAT! as an old analogue synth. All I have to say to that is BOLLOX! because it really is not the case at all.

Speaking of mud that can be found in many older recordings the original recording of Animals was wallowing in the stuff. Although in the case of that album I personally do not see it as a bad thing and some albums are better off with it than without it. Sometimes it does serve as a purpose and is there for a reason and I truly do believe that to be the case with this particular album.

One of the things I find hard to comprehend is that ever since the resurgence of vinyl that was starting to flood the market once again from 2017 onwards is how much more expensive it is. The vinyl album these days has shot way up in price and they expect you to pay anywhere from £18 – £30 whilst the CD has never changed its price and in most cases can be had for less at £10.

I know there are way fewer printing presses than what we had years ago but that should only reflect on how much longer it takes to get your album pressed and not the price. The stories floating around about how there is a shortage of vinyl I honestly find ridiculous especially when they are using more of the stuff these days on one album by making 45rpm albums and having to use two or more vinyl albums just to fit what an artist put out as one album on a CD.

The biggest majority of recordings that are put onto vinyl these days and for many years are digital so I would like to know where these analogue purists and audiophiles are coming from. In my personal opinion, there is no way on this earth that a vinyl album should cost any more than a CD. But now thanks to Acoustic Sounds you can pay a lot more than the price of a box set for one vinyl album or two LP’s in some cases where they have been pressed at the speed of 45rpm and by the looks of things you are paying even more money for the packaging.

Yes, today folks, we have what’s known as (UHQR) which stands for Ultra High-Quality Records and by the looks of things in this video I stumbled upon, this guy is spinning you a right yarn and web of deceit.

This set of Steeley Dan albums comes at the price of £220 a pop for each album here in the UK and has to be one of the biggest ripoffs I have ever come across regarding the price of an album. The album even comes boxed like a box set and will take up a lot more storage space. CAN’T Buy A THRILL! I’m not surprised at these prices and when it comes to THE ROYAL SCAM! This is a complete SCAM! and this guy is taking you for a right MUG!

At the end of the day, he is a businessman and I am not saying he is there to rip you off because he believes in what he is doing and has put a lot of time and investment to try and give you the best possible quality. But at the price, he is selling these records I don’t see the logic never mind the PRETZEL LOGIC! and when it comes to diminishing returns I fail to see any here at all especially how well the original albums had such a good quality sound and production in the first place.

Having just done a bit of research to see what Acoustic Sounds are all about and the way they are doing things with their plant it looks very impressive however certain things don’t add up. For example, the way the guy talks about his company gives me the impression that he likes to reproduce good-quality and even reference point recordings and make the albums that had exceptional quality in the first place sound better. If this is the case why on earth did he choose to do Jethro Tull’s Aqualung which was never very well produced or did it have a real quality recording in the first place.

That album needed a remix and thanks to Steven Wilson it got a very good one, in many ways he resurrected that album and brought it back to life. If you want to throw your bucks away on the UHQR Vinyl release of that album you have to be a fool because I guarantee you that no way will it beat Wilson’s remix. You would get a much better result by spending £10 on the CD of Wilson’s remix you don’t even need vinyl to be onto a winner in the case of that album. But at the end of the day, I suppose you will never stop people from throwing their money away, especially those who have it.

Though I am used to it in the audiophile community and nothing surprises me anymore, scams such as this have always been around especially when it comes to accessories. They don’t just exist in the analogue audiophile world either and this next video shows you how they can also appear in the digital realm of things.

I have always found this guy’s Youtube channel very interesting and when it comes to logic he tends to make a lot of sense of it, he also has an honest point of view and will give you his honest opinion of the products he reviews. The device he is reviewing here is clearly a SCAM! and one that most likely will give you the same result as UHQR Vinyl when it comes down to diminishing returns.

The Album In Review…

The 2018 remix of Animals by Pink Floyd was released on the 16th of September 2022, just like the original version of the album that was released on the 27th of January 1977 it comes with 5 tracks spread over and an overall playing time of 41 minutes and 40 seconds. No matter what edition (including the Deluxe Boxset) you decide to purchase it does not come with any bonus material. The album comes from a time when the band were doing very little apart from touring at bigger stadiums and due to most of their audience not paying attention to their music they even got sick of that. Even to the point that Roger Waters eventually spat at one over-excited fan on the final night of their live tour.

The biggest majority of the material that made up Animals was written back in 1974 and the early live versions of songs such as “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” were included in the Wish You Were Here Immersion Boxset. Those songs were originally intended to be for that album but Waters had other ideas for them and held them back. You could say by this point that Waters was “Pink” and had taken over not only the lion’s share of the writing but the control of the band and the only other member to get a co-credit to one of the tracks on this album was David Gilmour.

Animals was the first Floyd album to leave Richard Wright out of the writing credits which very much caused conflict between band members whose royalties were earned on a per-song basis and not equally divided by all four members. The conflict between Wright and Waters was only to get worse and came to a head-on collision a couple of years later when Waters presented The Wall to the band which was another album that left very little for the other members to contribute any writing to.

Animals would be the final album (of this four-piece band lineup) that Wright played on as an official band member and by 1979 he had enough of Waters’s ego trips of how he was keeping the band going which eventually led to him being fired. You could say that the album Animals was the starting point of where much of the cohesion and collaboration side of things regarding the writing had gone out of the window and Waters was not only doing the lion’s share of the writing but was also taking the lion’s share of the profits regarding royalties.

There is no doubt that Waters was the ideas man behind the band and when you look back at how the album cover and stage props (such as all the inflatables) that were made for the following live tour to promote the album, they were all his ideas. The control he had over the band was the very thing that forced him out of it in the end.

Besides the pig designed by Gerald Scarfe, Waters had designed a nuclear family to which other inflatables such as a car and fridge were added for their North American leg of the tour. These were designed by Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park and pretty much all of these designers were used for the album that was to follow it The Wall. It was the sense of alienation that Waters had on the tour with the audience that inspired him to write that album.

With no single release from the album, the Animals Tour (or In The Flesh Tour as it was later called) more or less went on the road to promote the album in the same week it was released. It was during this period that things were not going that well with the band and Waters isolated himself from the other members at the shows by turning up alone and leaving immediately after each performance. At one stage during the tour Wright jumped on a plane back to England threatening to leave.

However, things were not quite as patchy in making the band’s 10th studio album though there were some teething problems. In 1975 the band purchased a three-storey building at 35 Britannia Row in Islington, London and set up their own recording studio on the ground floor. The second floor was used to store all their stage equipment which (like the ground floor studio) they hired out to other bands and made another business out of it to keep the skills of their road crew together. The third floor was used for their offices.

Much of that year and into the following year was spent on constructing everything and between April to December of 1976, the band got down to recording the material that was to make up the album Animals. It was also in the same year that the band took a break from touring.

Much of the material for the album had already been written (as I mentioned earlier) but by now the concept idea that was loosely adapted to George Orwell’s Animal Farm had come to Waters so he reworked the lyrics and titles to fit in with the concept. The only new material that was written for the album “Pigs On The Wing” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” was also written by him to tie in with the rest of the theme.

The band decided to use recording engineer Brian Humphries who had worked on their previous album (WYWH) and as with most new built studios that are built with state-of-the-art new technology teething problems were bound to arise such as things breaking down and not going to plan. Things even got erased as we will later learn in the album tracks section of my review.

Part of their next album The Wall was also recorded at 35 Britannia Row. Nick Mason eventually assumed full ownership of the studio and in the 90’s he sold the business to Kate Koumi, who had been managing it since the mid-1980s. Mason retained the original building in 2012 and in 2016 it was converted into flats.

Upon its release, even though the album peaked at number 2 in the UK and 3 in the US it did not do as well as their previous couple of albums and took much longer to circulate its way around most likely down to its lack of promotion. It’s perhaps an album that sits well with the US market where it eventually went on to go 4 X Platinum selling over 4 million copies in relation to the Gold status of a hundred thousand copies it sold in the UK.

The Blu Ray…

The standalone Blu Ray is effectively like the Deluxe Edition Boxset in that it gives you the album a good few times over only not in different formats but in the way of mixes. This is where this format wins by a huge margin and the fact that it can do this at a much lower price point literally blows that well-overpriced Analogue Productions SACD out of the water. The blu ray is without a shred of a doubt the king of all formats down to its capacity and the amount of high-end quality information you can squeeze onto it and you could say it reigns in SUPREMACY!

The blu ray’s main menu is crisp, sharp and pristine as to be expected and here you get to see the new artwork in its full glory and as large as life on your TV. The very fact that the image can be displayed in high-quality HD resolution will even make the artwork on the vinyl album look inferior to this and that is down to the fact that it is practically near enough impossible to print HD without degradation.

Its navigation is nice and simple giving you the choice of three options “Play The Album”, “Song Selection” and “Audio Selection” to choose from. The other advantage is that the interface is most likely made with Flash making it smoother and faster to work your way around as we can see in the next menu.

Clicking on the “Song Selection” menu the album’s tracklist simply pops up rather than having to load to another menu cutting out a lot of time and making it fast and efficient. Here you can see there is no bonus material and all you get is the album’s five tracks which might be a bit disappointing. However, there are multiple ways you can listen to them as we can see in the next set of menus.

The “Audio Selection” menu offers you an array of options to listen to the album (as you can see in the screenshots above) and they are all high-end hi-resolution audio formats. It’s also good to see that once again the inferior Dolby Digital format has been thrown out of the window. You have the choice of “Uncompressed Audio” (LPCM) or “DTS Master Audio” both come with 24/96 5.1 mixes and 24/192 Stereo mixes.

The other good thing is that they have not only included the new surround and stereo mixes but also the original album which is something you do not get with the SACD. They really have gone to town with this release.

Also included in the audio section is a surround setup guide which provides some useful information over several screens to help calibrate your 5.1 setup. You used to get these guides on many music and film releases on DVD back in the 90’s when AV Systems first hit the market and is very rare to see them included these days. Pink Floyd always include them with their releases and even though they are useful I prefer to set up my system via the operating manual that comes with your AV Reciever.

One of the good things that have been included with this release is that you get something to look at whilst listening to the album and these are just a few examples as it literally goes through night and day with the snaps that were taken for the new album’s artwork. The authorising was done by Joel Plante and overall even though it comes with no extra bonus content least they had the sense to include some photos, unlike the Immersion Boxsets which I found very disappointing for not doing so, especially with all the artwork that was done for TDSOTM and WYWH.

The Stereo & Surround Mixes.
As I already mentioned earlier there is no doubt that the original mix done by Brian Humphries back in 1977 was murky and muddy and in many respects, it could easily have been seen as the worst mix any Floyd album got back then. Both the new stereo and surround mixes were done by James Guthrie and you could say that he has done a very good job of cleaning things up here. If anything the new mix of Animals makes it sound like it was mixed today and not all those years ago and for those like myself who brought the album on its release some may very well prefer the original mix.

You will get to hear more things pop out of the woodwork with the 5.1 mix in relation to the stereo mix though I would not say that this is an exciting surround mix in relation to others I have or would it rank as high as those either.

What we have here is perhaps best described as a clinical mix in that it brings out far more detail in the instrumentation making the instruments more true to life and defined. Even though the surround mix is not an exciting one it will give you a very good immersive experience and with the outstanding work Guthrie has done here I am left with no other alternative but to give it top marks and it is well worthy of 10 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Pink Floyd. All Music & Lyrics by Roger Waters except track 2 Music by David Gilmour & Roger Waters. Recorded & Mixed at Britannia Row Studios, London between April – December 1976. Engineered by Brian Humphries. 2018 Stereo & 5.1 Remix by James Guthrie. Assistant Engineer Joel Plante. Mastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante at das boot recording. Blu Ray Authored by Joel Plante. 1977 & 2022 Front Cover Design by Roger Waters. Album Cover Coordination by Aubrey Powell. Graphic Design by Peter Curzon. Photography by Rupert Truman & Aubrey Powell.

Musicians.
David Gilmour: Lead Vocals (Track 2) – Guitars – Bass (Tracks 2, 3 & 4) – Keyboards.
Roger Waters: Lead Vocals – Bass – Guitar – Harmony Vocals (Tracks 2 & 3)
Richard Wright: Keyboards – Harmony Vocals (Track2).
Nick Mason: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although the ideas are loosely based around Orwell’s Animal Farm the concept behind the bands 10th studio album Animals very much sat in with the times back here in England in the late seventies with the country going through a recession. The very fact that the country is going through one right now, you could say that it makes it the perfect time to put out this new remix of the album. Although the political side of things has never really changed which is why Waters has played many of these tracks live at his shows over the years.

The darker density and weight of the atmosphere are much heavier on this album than any other Floyd album also reflects upon the things that were going on at the time. It’s also most likely why Humphries’s original mix contained a murky muddiness to it and it does seem to fit in with those times.

The album was recorded at a time when Richard Wright was dealing with divorce proceedings and David Gilmore was having to deal with the birth of his first child which is most likely why most of the written material was left to Roger Waters. Although it was made at a time when Waters was more or less taking control of everything at this stage of the band’s career.

Ever since Waters left the band Animals is very much an album that Gilmour shunned away from and none of its material was ever played at post-Waters Pink Floyd concerts or his own solo concerts which is a real shame because it’s such a good album. However, if like myself you are still in both camps you are not really missing out. So let’s now delve into the album a bit deeper and for the purpose of this review, I shall also make comparisons between the original and new mixes of the album.

Track 1. Pigs On The Wing (Part One).

The album’s opening track is the first of two parts that work as bookends for the beginning and end of the album. Though it was never intended to be that way in the first place and it was originally recorded as one song and contained a lead solo played by David Gilmour sandwiched in between the two parts. However, Gilmour’s original solo got accidentally erased in the studio and in the end, Snowy White got to play the lead solo who had happened to turn up at the studio to discuss playing with the band on their live tour at the time.

The original version also got released but only on 8-Track Cartridge at the time (as seen below) White also got to play it at their live shows in the same year of its release. Pink Floyd has never released the song in any other format although White did include the full version on his 1995 Goldtop compilation album.

As you can see by the 8-Track Cartridge the original version of the album only intended to have 4 tracks. I guess it was down to Gilmour’s solo being erased that they only felt it right to leave it off the main release and make the song into two parts to work as bookends.  For the purpose of this review, I have included the original song.

The song is potentially a love song that he wrote for his wife although the words can also pertain to caring for one another and equality in the terms of political, social and economic values. The version that made the original album features solely Roger Waters on guitar and vocals and the only thing that has changed regarding the new mix is really the vocals.

All James Gutrhie has done here regarding the mix is remove the reverb from the vocals and by doing so it sounds more intimate as if Waters is in the room with you rather than in a studio singing the song through a microphone. In many ways, it sounds more flat or dull in comparison to the original mix and it takes a bit of getting used to.

Track 2. Dogs.

Weighing in at just over 17 minutes “Dogs” is my personal favourite track on the album though I will say out of the three major tracks on the album it is really hard to pick a real winner. The dogs in this case are high-powered businessmen and it’s the only track on the album that was co-written by Gilmour & Waters. Oddly enough it’s also the only track on the album that Waters plays bass on as Gilmour plays the bass on the other two main album tracks and perhaps even more surprising is that it’s the only song on the album where you get to hear Gilmour’s voice and even the vocal duties on this song are shared with Waters. It’s also the only song on the album where you will get to hear Richard Wright’s voice harmonising with Waters in places.

I must admit that the murkiness and muddiness that was in the original mix does sound like it was there for a reason and the fog-like density of it very much reflected the weight that was put on the shoulders of the businessman. However, this is far from lost in the new mix even though there is much more clarity in the mix the bass and the weight of the kick drum in particular in the middle come-down section still very much reflect the weight that was put on the businessman’s shoulders.

All the instrumentation is clearly much more defined in the surround mix and even the way they have placed the Rhodes in the rear channels really makes this instrument true to life which it was never on the original mix. But even more impressive is how they placed the kick drum in the rear in that middle come-down section and it literally pounds above your head and it just goes to show that one does not need Dolby Atmos to hear things above their head.

The one thing I am glad they never did on the new mix is to take away the reverb and echo that was applied to the vocals and there is much more detail to everything in this new mix. The sound of the dogs was fed through a vocoder and played like an instrument and the moaning dog that sounds like a wolf came from an earlier recording of the dog “Seamus” that was on the 1971 album Meddle.

Track 3. Pigs (Three Different Ones).

This is a song that could equally be my favourite track on the album along with “Dogs” the lyrical content also continues to pertain to the high-powered businessman and those who are at the top of the social ladder such as the ones with wealth and power. The other couple of different pigs Waters was referring to in the song at the time were Margaret Thatcher and the morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse and with the surname of the latter of those two, it’s easy to see how it would fit in with the powermongers in America today.

With the new mix you can clearly hear the excellent work Gilmour did on the bass guitar in this song in which he used a fretless bass with a pick. He also makes use of the Heil talkbox on his guitar solo to mimic the sound of the pigs. The song was extended for the live tour and Gilmour got to play two guitar solos though he never used the talkbox and it was substituted with Wright’s Minimoog.

Bob Heil invented the first high-powered talkbox back in 1973 for Joe Walsh who put it to good use on his song “Rocky Mountain Way” in the same year. It is perhaps one of the finest examples along with “Show Me The Way” by Peter Frampton in 1976. Another fine example of it being put to good use is Dean Parks solo on “Haitian Divorce” by Steely Dan also in 1976. A year earlier in 1975, Davey Johnstone made excellent use of it on “Dan Dare (Pilot Of The Future)” which can be found on the Elton John album Rock of The Westies.

Although no singles were released from the album to promote it, an edited-down 4-minute version of the song was released in Brazil (as seen above). It was pressed onto 7″ vinyl running at a speed of 33 1/3 rpm the same song was pressed on both sides of the record. It was most likely a promotional single that was sent to radio stations to gain further airplay in the country.

Track 4. Sheep.

The sheep can be seen as the mindless herd that follows what they are being told and this is another really good song that starts off with some wonderful playing by Wright on the Fender Rhodes. When it comes down to the mixes I still prefer the original over the new stereo mix and my reasons for this are mainly to do with the Rhodes on the intro of the song. On the original stereo mix, the Rhodes presents itself to you like a surround mix in the way it reflects across the room from the front to the rear. I often wonder at times if my rear speakers are turned on. The new mix tries to do this and sort of gets there and drops out every now and then.

However, when it comes to the surround mix this is where the Rhodes really comes to life because it’s been placed in the rear speakers and it really brings out the full glory of this instrument. It’s perhaps one of Wright’s finest examples of playing the Rhodes and I’m surprised he never got a writing credit because there is no way I can see Waters playing this intro and I would suspect that it was Wright who composed the intro.

After the intro, the song really rocks itself out and like all major songs on the album, they have the tendency to come down in the middle. It’s also in this come-down section that you get brief glimpses of “One Of These Days” and the “Doctor Who Theme)” with the bassline and sound effects. Although the song is solely sung by Waters you will also get to hear Gilmour’s voice echoing the word “Stone” which is taken from “Dogs” and placed into the track most likely to work as a recurring theme as done with most concept albums. It does also work to good effect.

Track 5. Pigs On The Wing (Part Two).

The album ends off calmly as it opened up with the second part and bookend of “Pigs On The Wing” and the words Waters wrote for this part are there as a reminder that no matter what humans find ways to stick together amidst all the turmoil that gets thrown at us in this capitalist world. The difference with the new mix is the same as the first part where the reverb has been lifted from the vocals. It puts an end to what can only be described as another promising Pink Floyd album that is up there with the best of them.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the new 2018 remix of Animals by Pink Floyd. I would say that what we have here is a new mix in every sense of the word with how the original album has been cleaned up and in many ways it makes this album sound new and more up-to-date, especially regarding how technology has moved on. In many respects listening to the new remix is literally like the album was made today and not all those years ago and in some aspects, it has sort of lost that magic feel of an album that came out of that golden decade of the 70’s which is where I mostly live regarding the music I listen to.

I think many who like myself who brought this album on its original release back in 1977 might very well prefer the original mix having been used to it for all these years. I am sort of in two camps here regarding the new mix of liking it and not liking it if that makes any sense. Personally, I would have prefered it if Steve Wilson had done the mix because he would not have deviated too far away from how the original album sounded and still brought everything out of the woodwork so to speak.

Though in all fairness I certainly cannot take anything away from James Guthrie’s remix of the album and no way could I give his remix anything less than top marks. Simply because he has done quite an outstanding job of cleaning up the album and bringing out things that could not only never be heard before but the detail of the instrumentation is more true to life.

This new mix is perhaps something you have to get accustomed to and the more times I played it the more I got to like it, there can be no doubt that some major improvements have been done here over Brian Humphries’s original mix. I also think the album sounds much better for the new mix and even though the surround mix is not what I would call an exciting one it is really good and should sit well with the biggest majority of surround FREAKS!

It would have been nice if the band had documented the album with some film footage when they made it or even made an up-to-date documentary with the surviving members of the band and included it. Oddly enough the band’s Youtube channel has been showing various clips of film footage (new and old) since its release. Though I certainly do not think they have enough of it for them to have made an Immersion Boxset out of the album. However, I am sure they could have squeezed this 11-minute bit of footage onto the blu ray.

No matter how you look and listen to Animals for me personally it’s always been one of the band’s better albums, not only is it a very strong body of work but the material holds up well even today regardless of what mix you are listening to. I would not say the new mix is a must for Floyd fans simply because there are those who will still prefer the original mix. However, what the blu ray gives you is the best of the old and new mixes which is why I would still highly recommend this package. Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong at its cheap price point and it really is a STEAL!

An Excellent Cleaning Up Job…

The Blu Ray Tracklisting is as follows:

1. Pigs on the Wing (Part One)
2. Dogs
3. Pigs (Three Different Ones)
4. Sheep
5. Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)

Blu-Ray Audio Mixes
2018 Remix – Stereo: 24-bit/192kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.
2018 Remix – 5.1 Surround: 24-bit/96kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.
1977 Original Stereo: 24-bit/192kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Original Stereo Mix Rating Score. 6/10.
The New Stereo Mix
Rating Score. 8/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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.