Lee Speaks About Music… #194

For King And Country – Cyan

Introduction…

Robert Reed is no stranger when it comes to working on other projects he has in fact been involved in many over the years and with this new release, it appears that he’s rejuvenating his very first project from many moons ago. Cyan was his very first project and For King And Country he wrote whilst still in his teens at school and if you think along the lines of printer ink cartridges you can see how his second project Magenta came out of it. To be honest that is only my own observation as to why he decided to choose colours and I have no idea why he chose those names. But somehow I cannot see Magenta changing to Yellow at some point simply because the name has already been taken.

I am sure those who have followed Reed’s career over the years will be aware of this early project of his and I first stumbled upon it afterwards when I got into Magenta. I also have 4 albums of Cyan though only in the form of mp3 digital downloads because the CD’s are extremely hard to obtain at a reasonable price and like many albums that go out of print you can wind up paying silly money for them.

The original version of For King And Country was very much a one-man project album to which Reed made entirely on his own with the use of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards & synths and a drum machine. He also sang on the original album although he was never happy with his own voice which is why later on he brought in other vocalists to do that side of things for him.

Now he’s decided to record the album all over again only this time with a band behind him and brought in some excellent musicians to which he has worked with before over the years. I am sure for those who never heard the original album this will be a real treat. But for those like myself who have had the album for quite a while, it may very well be harder to accept and not everything is going to be a bed of roses so to speak.

One thing that has most certainly improved is the albums cover but is the album an overall improvement? Before I go any further and answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Unlike the original album that came in a standard plastic Jewel Case, it now comes very nicely presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve with die-cut pockets to hold the discs and the booklet. The 12-page booklet does not come with any detailed informative information but does come with the lyrics and pictures and the sleeve contains all the linear production notes and credits as you can see in the picture below.

Overall it’s a very neatly presented package and I pre-ordered my copy from Tigermoth Records for £12 plus £1.90 p+p making a grand total of £13.90 which is quite a bargain for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix.

Artwork.

The original artwork was done by Willebrord Elsing with Reed himself and although I think it’s quite eye-catching and a very cool cover presentation, there has been some vast improvements on this new version of it. As you can see by the two album covers below it’s a bit like playing spot the difference only the differences stand out a mile so it does not present you with much of a challenge on that score.

The original cover is more like a cartoon whereas the newer version has a couple of additions plus some changes to the rendering coming off the brickwork and it looks more like how modern games have improved over the years with the graphics and presents you with more of a virtual lifelike presentation.

The new artwork and makeover was done by Azim Akberali and I have to say he deserves a good pat on the back and personally I have always thought this was the best album cover of not only Cyan releases but also Magenta and his solo albums and now it looks even more spectacular.

The Album In Review

The new 2021 release of For King And Country by Cyan was officially released on the 24th of September though my copy surprisingly turned up 15 days beforehand on the 9th of September. The album contains the same 8 tracks as the original though due to being remade completely from scratch it is some 14 minutes, 40 seconds longer and comes with a total playing time of 67 minutes, 9 seconds. Although some of the songs on the album and the project go back to the early 80’s, the original album was not released until 1993 and it’s quite fascinating how Cyan originally evolved.

Cyan was originally a band that Reed put together with his brother Steven and a few close friends whilst he was still at school. His brother was in fact the lead singer of the band and although they only played a few gigs before knocking it all on the head, out of it came a demo of four of the songs we have here that were recorded on a cassette to which was passed onto various other people at the time.

Reed was quite a fan of the neo-prog band Pendragon and used to watch them play live a few times which is perhaps how one of the demo tapes got passed onto the founder of that band Nick Barrett. A good few years later in 1991, Reed received a letter from a record company in the Netherlands (who had received the demo from Barrett) offering him a contract and wanting him to write a few more songs and make an album.. Without a band, he decides to re-record the songs from the original demo tape and write a few more songs all of which he did by himself playing all the instruments.

In 1993 For King And Country got released on Silly Insect Records who were a division of the Dutch prog rock record label SI Music which was very active in the 90s. This short interview of Reed was most likely done around the same time and the rest is history.

To be honest he did not look much older than that when I met him at the Robin 2 a few years ago 😊😊😊. Though I am sure he had makeup on and he was also playing with Luke Machin that night in a new project band they had put together that went by the name of KIAMA.

Machin’s guitar skills were more than enough to convince Reed that he would be the right man to have on board in putting back Cyan as a band. He did not have to look far for the other musicians either and Dan Nelson’s capability on the bass was convincing enough for him to choose to play in Magenta. Another talented musician he has signed up to one of his other record labels White Knight Records which is a division of Tigermoth Records is Pete Jones. Jones has quite an incredible vocal range which is why he also plays in many other projects.

One of the strangest things I did find looking at the new line-up of Cyan is that they do not appear to have a drummer and only Reed, Machin, Jones and Nelson’s names appear on the front cover. It appears that Tim Robinson who plays drums on this album is only a session player, yet he played the drums for both Cyan and Magenta.

However, I did find an explainable reason for this in an interview with Reed and Jones and the idea of reinventing Cyan goes back 10 or 12 years whilst Robinson was still in Magenta and it was back then that Reed was tinkering about with the old Cyan material and got him to throw some drums on it.

Reed will often work on several projects at a time and it’s obvious that remaking Cyan’s debut album had been in the pipeline for some time and it was around 2018 that he was looking for a vocalist when sound engineer Chris Jones suggested Pete Jones even though he was extremely busy at the time working with Camel and other projects. However, Jones obliged and when Reed got the tapes back with his voice on he was well impressed and knew he had found the right vocalist for the rebirth of the project.

It was around the same time that Reed was working with KIAMA he got Machin to throw some lead guitar on the album and it was perhaps not long after Nelson joined Magenta a few years later he knew he never had to look far for a bass player. The album was completed in 2018 though Reed wanted to make a video to promote the album and had to wait for the right time to get everybody together which is why it took until now to release the album.

To be honest I found the interview with Reed and Jones more resourceful than the interview on the DVD. Speaking of the DVD let’s now take a quick look at it.

DVD.

The DVD’s main menu is the only menu and it’s boxed standard and as basic as you could get. Nevertheless, everything is in one place making it easy to get at everything. Though I have to say when you have such a GREAT! album cover like this it would have been nice to have it on the main menu so we can see it in even more detail on our big screen TV’s.

Personally, you cannot beat an album cover being displayed in 1080p HD or 4K and it looks even better than a vinyl album cover, especially on my 50″ TV. You might be thinking that this is a DVD and not a Blu Ray but you would be surprised how sharp and pristine pictures can look on a DVD when played in a Blu Ray Player with good upscaling. I have several that you would not even notice the difference between the picture quality of a DVD and Blu Ray.

The main feature is the 5.1 mix of the album and as you can see you have the choice of two surround audio formats of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both come with sample rates of 24/48 and my personal choice is the DTS mix which comes at a higher quality rate of 1.5 Mbps instead of the lower rate of 428Kbps that Dolby Digital gives you.

The video content is the bonus material and I do believe that Rob has put all of this content on his Tube channel. Though it’s good to have it all in one place here and the video of “The Sorceror” is GREAT! to have.

The 5.1 Mix.

I’ve always been quite impressed by Rob Reed’s ability to do a good 5.1 mix and this one is no exception and is a very satisfying surround mix. I think some engineers can be a bit too subtle and be a bit too scared to be adventurous at times. Personally, I feel this one is more of a pleasant mix that is not over the top and will give you a good immersive experience.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Mixed by Robert Reed. Music by Rob Reed (except tracks 1, 2, 5, 8) Done with Carl Smith. Lyrics by Robert Reed (except track 3) Lyrics by Steven Reed. Artwork by Azim Akberali. 5.1 Mix by Robert Reed.

Musicians:
Robert Reed: Keyboards – Guitars – Backing Vocals.
Luke Machin: Lead Guitars.
Peter Jones: Lead Vocals – Saxophone – Whistles.
Dan Nelson: Bass.

Additional Musicians:
Tim Robinson: Drums.
Angharad Brinn: Backing Vocals.
Tesni Jones: Backing Vocals. (Track 6)

The Album Tracks In Review…

I very much find covering any song is one of the hardest things to do and there have only been a minute number of covers that have been better than the original. Judging by some of the other artists who have tried to remake their earlier albums from scratch in the past I find it hard to compete with the original especially after hearing it for all those years. In general, it’s usually in the live performance where you get to hear some of your favourite songs sound a bit different and that is the best place for them rather than try and re-create an album all over again in the studio.

I can perhaps understand why some artists would want to do so with how technology has moved on and them wanting a better overall sound and production. But even by doing that, it does not necessarily mean you as the listener are going to enjoy the new version better at all.

A couple of prime examples who have done such a thing are Camel who remade their iconic 1975 album The Snow Goose back in 2013 and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash who back in 2005 re-recorded the bands 1972 iconic album Argus. In my own personal opinion, both of those remakes were a waste of money and I still play the original albums and not those things.

The only person I know of who has made their album sound better by doing such a thing is Mike Oldfield with his remake of Tubular Bells back in 2003. I play that version more than the original and it’s one of my personal favourite 5.1 mixes and sounds totally AMAZING! What Oldfield did is very hard to achieve though it’s really down to you as the listener and I dare say for many they might even prefer the original 1973 version of his iconic album.

At the end of the day, it would be nice if you could enjoy both versions and take something from them both as with Tubular Bells. You don’t want to wind up with an album you cannot play as I did with The Snow Goose and Argus and in all honesty, in Andy Latimer’s case, I thought it was a bit disrespectful to Peter Bardens who certainly contributed most of the writing to that iconic album. I don’t know what Latimer was trying to prove by doing such a thing and I would have loved to have seen a new Camel album rather than him waste his time like that. Especially after his long illness that put him out of action for a decade.

So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the new 2021 remake of For King And Country and see if it’s turned out for the better or worse. I am pretty sure it’s going to be a bit of a hit and miss but let’s see.

Track 1. The Sorceror.

If like myself you saw the video of this song prior to the release of the album there can be no doubt that it was the very thing that would have enticed you to purchase the album in the first place. Just looking at the skills it takes to play a song like this is very impressive and it is a very impressive video presentation that captures all the members playing their parts with precision. Though in reality, a presentation is precisely what you are seeing here and not a true live performance but something that has been made to appear that way using the studio recorded track, cameras and editing.

Even though they are miming they have done it very well and you could also say with precision and take it from me this bunch of musicians are more than capable of pulling off a live performance like this. What makes it more spectacular are the camera angles of how it’s been captured and edited.

You will also notice that Jon Griffiths is on the drums in the video and not Tim Robinson. Reed did originally ask Robinson if he fancied playing live again as he intends to do some live shows with the band but he was not up for it and spends his time teaching drums these days.

I’m gonna be perfectly honest and it’s plain to see that Reed’s voice is not his strongest point when listening to the original song which is why he brought in both Nigel Voyle and Christina Booth for the subsequent albums that followed. To be honest I was not sure that Pete Jones voice would fit a song like this. But he has the perfect voice for it in my opinion. It’s also been BEAUTIFULLY! accompanied by Angharad Brinn’s backing vocals and they fit in like a glove here too.

I would also say this new version has a bit more of a Celtic touch to it with the use of Brinn’s vocals although with the WIZARDRY! interplay between the keyboards, guitars, bass and drums, it still like the original, gives it that PROGMATIC! feel to it all.

I think another of Reed’s weakness’s back then was his guitar playing and it’s nowhere near the ability he has on the instrument these days. However, I should also point out that it is on this track only that I felt his guitar playing was weak and not the other tracks. The original version is much more keyboard orientated and you certainly will not even hear bass and guitar lines as we have on this newer version and I am pretty sure Reed even played the bass on a synth on the original. Both Dan Nelson and Luke Machin have really done the BIZZO! along with the rest on this new version.

What Reed has done here is completely rework the song and kept the main melody lines. It’s also near enough 4 minutes longer and personally, I think this is a lot better than than the original song. Though I have to confess that I still prefer the intro on the original in comparison to the orchestrated intro we have on the new version. Though I will say that the orchestration on the intro is well apt for the video and very much gives the picture that Cinematic look and feel you would get with a motion picture.

Track 2. Call Me.

This song has a slight extension to the original but perhaps the most notable thing is that it now has lyrics. To be honest I have no idea who wrote the lyrics either and there appears to be either one or two asterisk‘s missing on the booklet. Though I will stick my neck out and say they were written by Steven Reed being as the original was an instrumental piece. The music is also credited to Robert Reed and Carl Smith who was one of the original members of the band.

Personally, I think the instrumental version is a bit more PROGMATIC! and is a bit like what Tony Banks was doing on his second solo album The Fugitive back in the 80’s. Though it is perhaps an instrumental piece that is quite easy to see how the lyrics would have sat in with the original version and not much of the musical structure has been changed and it’s more of the arrangement and vocal side of things that makes the difference here.

With lyrics and Jones’s voice, it does tend to make it sound more like a pop ballad of a song and I think the lyrical side of things is also pertaining to the popular side of music too. The biggest difference between both versions is really the ending, and on this newer version, it is perhaps the only thing that leans towards the PROGMATIC! side of things and Reed even contributes some fine acoustic guitar to it as well.

One of the other notable things about both versions is that it does sound as if Reed has lifted part of John Barry’s theme to the “Midnight Cowboy“. However, It is perhaps more clearly noticeable on the original version though it’s still quite evident enough here too if you listen close enough. To be honest I still prefer the original but do I love how they ended off this newer version.

Track 3. I Defy The Sun.

It’s when listening to the original and the new version of this song that you get to realize just how bad Reed’s voice really was and Jones has really knocked this song out of the ballpark. The beautiful voice of Brinn also lends a hand here and this is another song that S. Reed penned the lyrics to and I think both versions lean more towards popular music than to PROG! despite the Genesis feel also given towards the very end which is more evident in the new version especially with the 12 string and HACKETT ESC! guitar phasing swells. The ending has also notably been extended.

There is also a slight touch of Mike Oldfield with the sweet lead guitar section that comes into play around the 3:12 mark after Brinn’s solo on the vocals. In the official video, you do see Machin play both the lead and counter melody to which I thought was both Machin and Reed playing. It still might be the case that Reed is playing the counter melody because it does have that Oldfield touch.

Overall I think there is no question as to which version is the better of the two and this latest version is a clear winner in my book and they all have done a very TASTEFUL! job on it.

Track 4. Don’t Turn Away.

There is quite a major difference been done to the new version of this song and strangely enough, the newer version is more keyboard orientated than the original to which Reed did do a lot better job on the lead guitar than on the opening track on the album back then. He also penned the lyrics to this one and both versions are quite PROGMATIC! The major difference is in the vocal section and that is perhaps where the newer version is a bit more keyboard orientated in relation to the original. Some of the flutey sounds even put me in mind of Tangerine Dream back in the 80’s with albums like Le Parc and Shy People.

It’s very much a song that has a long intro to get to the vocal section and one that goes through a good few transitions along its journey. The very opening intro has a medieval touch about it and sort of reminds me of the music they put to the game Tombraider which came out much later. Oddly enough on the original version when Reed comes in on the vocals it reminds me of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy.

There is no doubt the newer version has a better production but it’s one of those songs where I could take something from both versions and I could not pick a winner out of the two because they both have their merits and are enjoyable to listen to.

Track 5. Snowbound.

“Snowbound” is very PROGMATIC! and an instrumental piece that likes to fly. The original version is more along the lines of what Camel did on albums such as Mirage and Moonmadness and it’s very much keyboard-driven though Reed did also incorporate some fine lead guitar work into the piece as well. It’s quite Moog DELICIOUS! although I am pretty sure he never had a Moog back then and the keyboards used on the original album were the Ensoniq SQ1, Korg M1, Emu MPS and an Akai S100 sampler.

This newer version has kept the Moog sound for the main theme and it incorporates a lot more guitar into the piece and gives Machin the chance to fly. Even Jones gets to fly with the fine job he does on the whistles and it also sounds much better with real drums and Nelson’s bass work.

The middle section has been completely reworked and they have incorporated a bit of Genesis into it which sounds like the comedown section of Eleventh Earl of Mar from their Wind and Wuthering album. It even has me singing the words:

“Time to go to bed now
Never seems too keen
To be a guest now
In a house of dreams”

Personally I think both versions are excellent and will give you tremendous pleasure. Though you do get an extra 1 minute and 42 seconds with the newer version and I quite like the added Genesis touch they have given to it.

Track 6. Man Amongst Men.

The second-longest track on the album and they really have gone to town on this newer version and I have to say it sounds much better for it. The original version started with the piano whereas this version it’s been replaced with an acoustic guitar and has a longer intro before the vocals come into play. It features Tesni Jones on backing vocals and along with Jones’s voice the vocals are totally GOLDEN! on this song whereas Reed’s voice on the original is what really let it down but not only that so much has been done to this newer version to make it the clear winner of the two.

The interplay between the keyboards and guitar are quite outstanding and once again there is a touch of Genesis and on the original, around the 5:57 mark you will hear the same sound that Tony Banks used on the self-titled track “Abacab” played along to what sounds like the intro to “Watcher of the Skies“. That latter intro can also be heard around the 7:20 mark on the newer version to which is over 2 minutes longer than the original track, it’s also along this section that Reed plays some DELIGHTFUL! nylon guitar and they all do a TOP JOB! on the song.

Track 7. Nightflight.

Like “Snowbound” this is another very well crafted instrumental piece that goes through some very TASTY! transitions and is very much another excellent PROGMATIC! track with bags of progression along its path. It’s also quite a dramatic piece and reminds me a bit like Marillion’sShe Chameleon” with how it opens up on the pipe organ although it does fly in many other directions and once again there are some slight other influences from Camel, Tony Banks and a few others.

Regarding both versions, it is mostly the instrumental and musical arrangement that makes the difference rather than any real structured changes to the piece. You could say that the original version was both keyboard and guitar-driven and it does lean more decisively towards the PROGMATIC! side of things. Whereas this newer version gives it a newer and perhaps more of a lighthearted approach by incorporating a Latin or Mexican vibe with the nylon guitar, a touch of jazz with the use of the saxophone and even a touch of folk with the use of the whistles.

Although I personally think the original version is the most PROGMATIC! and has the edge of the two. I do think you can take something from them both and get pleasure out of them both.

Track 8. For King And Country.

The albums self-titled track has been given a revamp and personally, I think it needed one because the original version had me thinking of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy once again and the chorus had me thinking of some other pop song that I cannot quite get off the tip of my tongue. I think the only thing that impressed me with the original version was Reed’s guitar work and considering it was chosen as the albums self-titled track I thought it was amongst the weaker songs on the album.

To be perfectly honest I don’t think the newer version is the best thing since sliced bread so to speak however I do feel it has been improved in particular with how the vocal line has been newly constructed to allow Jones to give it a different impression and expression. The way things have been revamped even has me thinking of John MilesMusic” in parts and I can certainly enjoy this song now whereas before I couldn’t. I even think that it now puts the album to bed very well and overall I am quite impressed at what has been done to the album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up the 2021 remake of Cyan’s debut album For King And Country. In many respects, the original album reminds me of what the keyboard player Clive Nolan was doing back in the 80’s and although they may have been quite impressive albums back in their day they do tend to wear off over the years, so I can perhaps see why Reed chose to try and do something new with it in the way of giving the album a new breath of life sort of thing.

There is no doubt that the album sounds better with what has been done here too although I think there is always going to be a bit of hit and miss if like myself you had the original album beforehand. But for those who never I can see this version appealing to them more. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “The Sorceror“. “Snowbound” and “Man Amongst Men“.

To be honest, looking back at the 3 albums Cyan did back in the 90’s there is quite a bit of good material that Reed wrote back then that is worth doing something with and this may very well be the best way to revive the project with what they are doing here. As to if this project continues we will have to wait and see but another bonus here is that at least you can now buy a physical copy of the album easily enough and it even comes with a very good 5.1 mix which is perhaps something that could not have been done with the original album due to contractual reasons.

To conclude my review I am going to start by answering a couple of questions and in answer to my original question in the introduction of is this newer release in relation to the original release an overall improvement?. I personally don’t think it’s a complete overall improvement in the sense of the word and in musical terms regarding the structure of the music. Though no doubt some tracks do sound much better having other GREAT! musicians onboard and for being reworked.

The biggest improvement is in the vocal department and I would say by changing the vocalist to do a remake of an album is the hardest thing for many to accept. For example, could you imagine Marillion remaking their debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear with Steve Hogarth instead of Fish? The thought alone makes me CRINGE! and I am not knocking Hogarth’s voice because he is a very good singer although his voice is very different and perhaps too different for it to work.

There is no doubt that Reed’s voice is not the best however if like myself you’ve had the original album for some time one can still get accustomed to it regardless of how much better the other vocalist you have brought in to replace the original singer. Although in this case I do find that the voice of Peter Jones does raise the game and his voice fits in like a glove. It’s as if the material was written for his voice and hearing him sing these songs does kinda show how bad Reed’s voice was in the first place. The backing vocals and harmonies of Angharad Brinn & Tesni Jones fit in perfectly with Pete’s voice too.

The new production standards are much higher on this newer version which is also to be expected and although I do not quite think that he quite achieved the level of standards that Mike Oldfield achieved by remaking Tubular Bells back in 2003, I do however feel you can take something from both versions and my money has not been wasted like it was with the remakes of The Snow Goose and Argus.

Overall For King And Country 2021 is not quite a solid album but quite an enjoyable new version and at its price point of £13.90 for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix you are onto a winner and I highly recommend it.

A Wizardry Production…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Sorceror. 15:10.
02. Call Me. 5:27.
03. I Defy The Sun. 5:28.
04. Don’t Turn Away. 7:44.
05. Snowbound. 6:22.
06. Man Amongst Men. 11:47.
07. Nightflight. 7:45.
08. For King And Country. 7:26.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #193

Surrender Of Silence (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Steve Hackett

Introduction…

This year yet again sees another new album release by Steve Hackett and Surrender of Silence is his 27th Studio album release to date. I have to admit I was in two minds whether to buy this release when I first clapped my eyes on it and was put off by its more expensive price tag. At the time I saw it pop up for pre-order it was not available on Amazon and most other online stores were charging around £29.99 for the CD/Blu Ray Limited Edition I was after. A few days later I noticed it was available for pre-order on Amazon and even though it was priced at a cheaper price of £23.99 I still thought it was way over the odds especially as most other artists and bands generally charge between £17.99 – £19.99 for the same sort of package.

One of the other things that put me off was that I was getting a bit tired of all the orchestral sounds Roger King tends to play more of on his keyboards these days, and for me personally, if you want to make a progrock album you really need to strip things back to a band and throw the orchestra out of the window.

Hammond Organs, Mellotrons, Moog synths and even a piano are the basic ingredients and all one really needs as a keyboard player for that genre of music rather than try and blow the whole thing up with more of a CINEMATIC! approach to which I was getting tired of hearing. We’ve had the same thing for the last decade now with this orchestrated MALARKEY! and it started with his 21st studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon that was released in 2011.

However, I decided to pre-order it from Amazon and the package was quite deceiving from the many pictures I saw of it and it looked like the discs came in a Digipak with a cardboard slipcase as you can see in the picture above. Deceiving it was indeed and it was only when it arrived that I actually saw why it was priced a lot higher than any of his previous albums as you will find out as we take an extensive look at the packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

As you can see it comes in a slipcase but instead of a Digipak it comes in the form of a hardback book just like the splendid packages Jethro Tull and Marillion have been re-releasing their back catalogue with and I am all up for this and don’t mind paying the extra simply because this form of packaging is what I personally consider to be the best way you can present a box set.

However, it’s perhaps an expensive way to put out an album when it only comes with 2 discs and considering this thing costs 30 bucks in most outlets I do think it’s overpriced. Especially in comparison to the latest Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s 2nd studio album Fugazi I have just reviewed which comes with 3 CD’s and a Blu Ray and only cost £21.99. Surely the Slipcase is not worth the extra 8 bucks.

Thankfully he never did what Fish did and charged you 50 bucks plus p+p and he must think the Slipcase is worth a bomb 😊😊😊. Because Weltschmerz was packaged in the same way as this thing no way was I buying that. Quite frankly he was taking the PISS! and it would not surprise me if he still has plenty left cluttering up his garage.

Unlike Fish at least Hackett had the sense to also put it on Amazon where Prime members like myself can save on the p+p and can often get a better deal. I think the price of £23.99 I paid for it was still a bit expensive but because of the packaging, I can also see where the money is spent and there can be no doubt that this kind of packaging is quality and will cost you more to put out like this. But nowhere near what Fish is asking and that I see as pure GREED! and I refuse to support it I am afraid.

Ideally, this packaging is more suited for what Jethro Tull and Marillion are doing and they give you more discs and an array of extra bonus content. They treat it like a box set and give you plenty for your money and you get your monies worth and even a bit more. A box set should be sold at a bargain price and offer you good value. The trouble is these days many artists tend to think that the packaging is worth more than the music content and charge way above the odds of what it’s worth.

Here is a prime example of where I am coming from and this only costs £3.99. But take a look at what you are getting for your money and in all honesty, this has to be the most ridiculous single release I have ever seen. You don’t even get a B-Side and yet it’s packaged up to the hilt to try and entice you to buy it. The records worth 99p and the other £3 you are paying for is the packaging 😊😊😊.

When people do this it’s no wonder the biggest majority are buying downloads and streaming music on streaming services. This is doing ZILCH! to support the physical product and is a complete RIP-OFF! No way would I buy it or support it.

Now I am not suggesting that the package we have here is a rip-off and it does give the album a very nice presentation. The problem is for what you are getting it’s still an expensive presentation and personally I think if you are going to use a package like this you would be better off doing what Jethro Tull and Marillion are doing with them by giving you a lot more informative information to make the book look more like a book and provide a lot more music media content to make it more worthwhile.

To be honest it does come with a 52-page book that does give you some detailed information about each track. It also comes with lyrics and the usual linear credits plus plenty of photographs. But it is the space that the photos take up that perhaps let it down for it to make a good read like a book and on that score that is where the Jethro Tull packages are by far the best you can get that have been put out in a Mediabook like we have here.

Hackett did notice himself that there was quite a stir as to why this new Limited Edition was more expensive and the original pictures of the package were deceiving as I mentioned. Four days after the release he got the record company to put out a video displaying the package as you can see here.

As you can see it’s exactly how I described it and as Javier De Las Heras pointed out in his comment there is no more content here than what we saw with his last 3 releases At The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight to which cost way less than this package. I am pretty sure I even got two of these CD/Blu Ray Editions for the same price I paid for this package.

At the end of the day, it is the music that should be the selling point and not the packaging. After all, that is what you are trying to get out there to be heard and if you are going to present it in a premium package like this then you are going to have to put a lot more in the package to entice people to buy it. My incentive has always been for the 5.1 mix and as much as I like this form of packaging I would be damned if I would want to pay this price for an album all the time and if I had to pay the price most outlets are charging I very much doubt I would have brought it.

Artwork.

The artwork is another thing that can entice a person to buy an album. Though I have to confess Hackett’s choice of artwork for many years now has been boring, to say the least, and this artwork is no exception. Even though we have some form of fire on this album cover it’s not going to exactly set the world on fire that’s for sure.

I remember how he used to give praise to Kim Poor for the artwork she did for the 1973 Genesis album Selling England By The Pound who he eventually married. During the 26 years they were together she done many covers for his solo albums including Voyage of the Acolyte and Please Don’t Touch! That was artwork that gave you something to look at and was eye-catching enough to entice one to buy the album unlike we have here.

What we do have here is designed by Thomas Ewerhard who has done the album artwork for countless bands and artists over the years as you can see by a few examples below of his excellent artwork.

However, his work on this album, unfortunately, is only the design and the front cover was done by Amanda Lehmann and I have to say it’s completely boring, disappointing and does nothing for me. Sorry, Amanda but I have to shoot you down in flames for this one 😊😊😊.

Other Release Editions…

As far as I am aware of there is no Digital Download of the album and personally, I am all for that because it does support the physical product. That is not to say I would like to see the Digital Download disappear because for many unknown artists that is the viable format of getting their music out there and generally offers the cheapest option. The cheapest option for this release is the single CD release.

As you can see in the picture above it comes in a standard Jewel Case instead of a Digipak and you can obtain it from places like Amazon for as little as £10.99. I do believe you can still get a signed copy from Hackett’s website for £12.99 plus p+p which would probably work out to be around £16.

For vinyl lovers, the cheapest option is the black vinyl release and this can be had for around £25.56 on Amazon and once again with all these releases you have the option of paying more for a signed copy from Hackett’s website. All the vinyl releases come with a free CD and I am pretty sure being as nowhere appears to be bragging about the weight of the vinyl it could be that it’s been pressed onto 2 X 140gram LP’s to which side Side 4 has been etched on all releases and comes in a Gatefold Sleeve.

The Limited Edtions that come in various colours and have been pressed onto 180gram vinyl though you will genrally pay more for these. To give you an example the black vinyl is priced at £26.99 were as the red & black Nebula effect vinyl is priced at £34.99 on Hackett’s website. I am pretty sure that all the coloured vinyl were limited to 1,000 copies each and other colours are sky blu and has you can see exclusive to HMV it was pressed onto orange vinyl. I do believe a Transparent Sun Yellow colour was released in Germany though it was limited to 300 copies.

The Album In Review

Surrender of Silence by Steve Hackett was released on the 10th of September 2021. The album comes with 11 tracks spread over and an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 36 seconds and that perhaps explains why the vinyl release only comes with 3 sides and the 4th side is etched. They don’t make albums as they did years ago and when it comes to putting something like this onto vinyl it’s an expensive game because you need 2 LP’s to fit it on even though it’s not a double albums worth of material.

It’s no wonder there is a shortage of vinyl and the way I see it is that it is a format that was revived from the dead to exploit more money out of people because before it disappeared a good few decades ago the CD was the more expensive out of the two formats. The price of a CD has never really changed whereas the price of vinyl has shot through the roof.

Surrender of Silence is the second studio album he has put out this year and it was only at the beginning of the year that he put out Under A Mediterranean Sky which was the first acoustic album he has put out in quite a while. I did notice when he released it that it never came with a 5.1 mix which is most likely why I still have not brought it but I am sure I will eventually get around to it at some point. Being a surround FREAK! I do tend to spend my money on such releases like this than buy CD’s and it’s very rare I will even play a CD that comes in a package like this.

No doubt the pandemic has given him more time to write and he’s been making good use of the lockdown situation though he is finally back out on tour now and once again playing material from his solo career and his former band Genesis.

Speaking of Genesis I see they are also back out playing live and I must admit having watched some of the documentary of them rehearsing that was posted on the Tube I was not sure how it was going to work. Especially hearing Phil Collins struggle to sing. Having seen a few recent posts of them performing live it’s obvious that he has put a lot of work into it to get his voice back in shape and although that side of Genesis is not to my particular taste it’s good to see them still doing something and I wish them all the best.

Looking back in particular at his albums At The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight it’s obvious that much of his inspiration is coming from travelling the world which is enticing him to bring in more World instrumentation to craft his music. It’s also obvious that Roger King is being utilised more like an orchestra instead of a keyboard player and just like Neal Morse things are starting to sound a bit too sterile and too much of the same thing.

I would aso say that this album is no exception and runs along the same path as those albums and even though Hackett’s formidible style and his writing still stands out and is still present, plus the fact that some of these albums I even gave a rating of 8 out of 10 for that reason. These albums for me will never be GOTO! albums in relation to how he worked more in the way of a band before his 20th studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon. His first four albums plus Highly Strung and To Watch the Storms are very much my GOTO! albums from his solo career.

Being as it is only since Wolflight that Hackett started to accompany his more recent studio albums with a Blu Ray or DVD with a 5.1 mix. You would think they would entice me to play the albums more being the surround FREAK! that I am. However, because of the CINEMATIC! orchestral approach I can find them a bit like doing the washing up where you don’t mind doing so once you have your hands in the water sort of thing. It perhaps does not say a lot about the music but I do find that when I do play them I can still enjoy them and take something from them. So let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray.

Blu Ray. 

The Blu Ray’s main menu displays a nicely animated picture of the albums front cover and as expected it looks sharp and pristine. The navigation is plain and simple and everything is accessed from the main menu without having to go anywhere else. As you can see you can in the picture above you can select any track, choose your choice of audio and play the bonus videos.

The main feature on the disc is the album which presents you with the choice of three audio formats all of which are lossless and come with a sample rate of 24/48. By default, it’s set to LPCM Stereo. It also gives you the choice of two 5.1 Surround mixes DTS-Master Audio and also a generous LPCM 5.1 mix in replace of the standard Dolby Digital format and it’s good to see more engineers doing away with the weaker format.

The bonus feature on the disc gives you a couple of videos that were made for his previous album Under A Mediterranean Sky. Both the videos are very picturesque in the locations they were filmed at though the audio is only in LPCM 48/16 which is still good enough quality. In total, you get an extra 11 minutes, 26 seconds and it was nice to see them included.

Another nice touch is that it displays the picture that is associated with each track in the Mediabook whilst listening to the album and the pictures look even better on the blu ray than in the book especially on my 50″ UHD TV.

5.1 Mix.

There is no doubt that Roger King is capable of doing a good and satisfying immersive surround mix and the 5.1 mix we have is no exception. However, I do feel there is room for improvement when it comes to making more of an exciting 5.1 mix sometimes you have to be a bit adventurous and daring which is what I will often find with 5.1 mixes done in the past by Hackett’s other engineer Benedict Fenner.

There is no doubt that King will give you more of an immersive experience by utilising all of the channels most of the time whereas with Fenner you do have to wait for things on certain tracks to pop out of the woods so to speak and there are times where the rear channels are doing nothing. However, when they do pop out they do give you more of an exciting experience and in general, Fenner will be more adventurous with the panning of the instrumentation to give you that exciting effect.

I often find that King will mainly utilise the rear channels for the orchestration and will leave Hackett’s guitars in the front channels and that is what he has done mostly with this mix. The other thing he quite often uses is reflections from the front put into the rears and this is where I am not that keen on any engineer using reflections and they really need to focus more on certain instruments and backing vocals that are better placed in the rear channels and use the channels for seperation for the instruments to stand out more clearly in the mix.

A prime example on this album is track 7 “Shanghai To Samarkand” and this is a piece that uses an array of world instrumentation such as an Oriental Zither, Charango, Tar, Dutar. But if you pay particular attention to the percussion department you will hear Tabla’s and a Bodhrán or something of that sort and these instruments would have been better placed in the rear. King has placed them in the rear but also in the front and louder in volume in the front than the rear so he’s merely reflecting them from the front into the rear which in my book is a very silly thing to do and they would have been far more effective placed in the rear alone.

Overall, King’s 5.1 mix will give you an immersive experience and mostly a satisfactory one. It is a good mix but I feel more attentive attention needs to be applied to the placement of the instrumentation and reflections need to be knocked on the head. I think it’s worthy of 8 out of 10 and I suggest he listens more closely to 5.1 mixing engineers such as Steve Wilson, Elliot Scheiner, Bob Clearmountain and Chuck Ainsley who are very much amongst the best there is in this field of mixing.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. All compositions by Steve Hackett (except tracks 2, 7, 9 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 1, 5 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 4,10 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett. Recorded Mixed & Mastered by Roger King at Siren. Additional Engineers Tamas Barabas, Shawn Dealey, Will McPhaul & Steve Rawles. Assistant Engineer Rachel Leonard. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Front Cover Artwork by Amanda Lehmann. Photography by Lee Millward, Erick Anderson, Michael Amos. Juraboy Shavatovich, Mitchie Turpin, Tina Korhonen & Victor Lehmann. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King.

Musicians.
Steve Hackett:
Electric & Acoustic Guitars, 12 String Guitar, Charango, Oriental Zither, Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals.
Roger King:
Keyboards, Programming & Orchestral Arrangements.
Jonas Reingold:
Bass.
(Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
Rob Townsend:
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Dizi. (Tracks 5, 7, 9)
Christine Townsend:
Violin, Viola.
(Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10)
Amanda Lehmann:
Vocals.
(Tracks 2, 4, 6, 9, 10)

Additional Musicians.
Craig Blundell: Drums. (Tracks 5, 6, 10)
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums. (Tracks 3, 8)
Phil Ehart: Drums. (Track 7)
Malik Mansurov: Tar. (Track 7)
Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev: Dutar. (Track 7)
Nad Sylvan: Vocals (Track 5)
Durga & Lorelei McBroom: Vocals (Track 4)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Surrender of Silence is an album that capitulates some of the darker sides of things going on in the world and you could say the silence one is surrendering to is the fear of not voicing their opinions sort of thing. Hackett will often draw from some of the fears from his childhood memories as he describes in the Mediabook and with the material he wrote for this specific album it does tend to be based around many of the things that are being ignored. Such as global warming, starvation and even how people are repressed by communism. They are all issues that need to be addressed.

As far as I can make out Hackett started work on this new album around the beginning of the year and completed the album in June. The album was produced by himself and as always with Roger King at his side. I dare say King recorded most of the musicians who live in the location of London at Hackett’s house, whilst others further away and in other countries recorded their parts at their own studios and sent the stems over for King to mix.

I think you will find most of the usual lineup of musicians over the past years are still very much present looking at the list above. So let’s now see how it all turns out as I go through all 11 of its tracks so to speak.

Track 1. The Obliterati.

The album opens up in fine style with a short but powerful and quite menacing instrumental piece. You could say that the album is bookended with short instrumental pieces however this opening piece was done in the way of an overture for the first 3 tracks on the album that tailspin into one another and is sort of like a mini-suite. It’s got his formidable style written all over it as he runs through a series of finger-tapping and builds it up into an electrifying frenzy backed up by heavy percussion and the orchestration at the end that sort of waltzes and marches its way into the next track.

Track 2. Natalia.

Apart from the bold orchestration, you could easily associate this song with some of Hackett’s earlier material. However, that is perhaps down to the way his voice is harmonised and blended in with other voices like it was years ago and with Amanda Lehmann’s voice behind him it still works that way today. One of the other good things about this song is the lyrics and once again they remind me of how well Hackett wrote songs back in his early days and this set of lyrics he wrote with his wife though I would say that he had the most input judging by how poetic they are.

The story behind the woman or “everywoman” in this song is set in Russia and it’s a very sad story that pertains to how communistic ways back then destroyed the free spirit and even the art of dance and music. As Hackett puts it himself “It’s extraordinary to think that the country which produced some of the most amazing musical magicians, as always been a hotbed of repression”. It is without doubt one of the stronger tracks on the album.

Track 3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy).

The second of 4 instrumental tracks on the album and as the wild title suggests it gives Hackett the chance to go into a bit of a frenzy on the guitar. To be honest it is perhaps not so much of a frenzy as the opening track on the album and regarding the relaxation, it comes in the form of bubbling water and light vibes on the intro and outro. The piece is dramatically driven along by Roger King’s chasing orchestration and Nick D’Virgilio’s drums drives the pace along very well with Jonas Reingold on the bass and it gives Hackett the chance to fly his way along once again in GREAT! style.

Track 4. Wingbeats.

This is another Fine song and to be honest, I am not so much into the jungle vibe of things however the beat of the African jungle works very well here and as no drummer features on this track, I can only presume that the beat was programmed by King. Lehmann’s voice is in fine unison with Hackett’s and we also have the Gospel vocals of Durga & Lorelei McBroom to lend fine support too. Hackett’s lead guitar lines are well TASTY! on this fine song too although I personally would not say it was one of the highlights on the album like many others have. However, it’s not a bad song at all and a fine one at that.

Track 5. The Devil’s Cathedral.

The second-longest track on the album is one of the more adventurous and PROGMATIC! songs on the album and features Nad Sylvan on lead vocals, it’s also the first track that both wind player Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell make an appearance and both are doing a GRAND! job with the rest here. This is a song that takes me back to his 2003 album To Watch the Storms and basically it’s down to King doing away with most of the orchestration MALARKEY! and he does an excellent job on the pipe organ.

Hackett and the band really rock things up on this one and around the 2:57 mark it very much sounds like he’s borrowed an old tune from his days with Steve Howe in GTR and you get to hear a bit of my favourite track from their one-off self-titled album “Imagining“. It’s very much another of the stronger tracks on the album and one of my favourite highlights from the 11 tracks we have here.

Track 6. Held In The Shadows.

This is a song that utilises both acoustic and electric guitars and is quite a powerful song and although it’s clear that Hackett is singing the verses and Lehmann also contributes to supporting him as always. It is also quite evident that there is another male voice singing in the chorus. Although no other singer is listed in the credits I can only presume the other voice belongs to Reingold. This is also the second of the three tracks that Blundell plays the drums on and once again this is quite good and they are all doing a GRAND! job here.

Track 7. Shanghai To Samarkand.

This is the longest track on the album and although it has a few words it is mostly an oriental musical journey that features an array of world orchestration instruments. At the heart of the orchestration is Roger king and I have to admit the orchestration does work really well on this song so does Christine Townsend’s delightful job on the viola and violin in the introduction. Also adding to the oriental sounds are Rob Townsend on the Dizy which is a Chinese flute plus Hackett on the oriental Zither.

It also features the virtuoso Dutar player Sadirkhon Ubaidulloev from Tajikistan and Malik Mansurov on Tar who both do an outstanding job and keeping everything on time we have the Kansas drummer Phil Ehart who also played on his second solo album Please Don’t Touch. “Shanghai To Samarkand” is another of my personal favourite tracks and highlights on the album it really is quite a magical journey and they all do a terrific job on it.

Track 8. Fox’s Tango.

This is another powerful song on the album and once again features Nick D’Virgilio on drums and it would not surprise me if he’s also singing the lead vocals because it certainly does not sound like Hackett’s voice. The song totally ROCKS! and that is down to there being no orchestration and the power is coming from the guitars, bass and drums. Hackett really lets it rip on the solo too as you will hear on the Visualizer Video that was put on the record labels TV channel on the Tube and this has to be another of the album’s highlights and is a really GREAT! song.

Track 9. Day Of The Dead.

This is another PROGMATIC! track that goes through a few twists and turns with its transitions and was inspired by the horror movie the Mexican Day of the Dead. Well according to the booklet Hackett does seem to think it’s a movie and describes it as the Zombie Apocalypse though I have never heard or seen a movie with that title. However, there is a Mexican day of the dead and oddly enough it’s actually two days instead of one and it’s a two day holiday on the 1st and 2nd of November where family and friends gather to pay respects and to remember friends and family members who have died.

It is quite an interesting song with its twists and turns and the way it opens up with Christine Townsend’s violin sort of reminds me of the animated little fella playing the violin on the Pixar short movie entitled One Man Band. If you have not seen that I highly recommend it and it has me laughing in hysterics 😊😊😊.

Like I mentioned it does go through a few transitions and the first part with the singing is mostly backed up by orchestration and perhaps has more of an eastern vibe than Mexican. Around the 2 minute mark it has quite a heavy SABBATH ESC! feel with the guitars and Hackett gets to fly along with some fine lead work as well. It also features Rob Townsend who also does an excellent job. The final section contains heavy drums and percussion and once again there is no drummer and King has programmed them.

I personally don’t think it’s one of the highlights of the album but nevertheless, it’s quite an interesting enough album track to which they all do a GRAND! job on.

Track 10. Scorched Earth.

I am pretty sure that I read somewhere that Hackett wrote this song a while back though I could be wrong. As songs go it’s quite a meaningful one and Hackett describes it as a lament for our struggling planet. It also has quite a strong chorus to which both he and Lehmann sing very well together and it also has some BEAUTIFUL! solo work by Hackett to which the first solo is reminiscent of something I have heard in the past that I cannot quite put my finger on. It really is a GREAT! song and another of my personal highlights from the album.

Track 11. Esperanza.

The album is BEAUTIFULLY” put to bed by a one-minute little ditty on the nylon string guitar to which is backed up by some stringed orchestration by King. Its title is written in Spanish and in English translates to “Hope” and Hackett thought it would be a good idea to round the album off with a bit of hope after all the doom and gloom that is focused on most of the darker side of the material that was written for the album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Surrender of Silence by Steve Hackett. As an album, it very much follows on from the consistency we have seen from the albums The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight and if you like those albums there is no reason not to like what we have here. I personally don’t think there is a bad track on the album and I certainly would not call it the best of his solo albums but it has plenty to offer and still maintains the formidable style that has stuck with him for the past 46 years of his solo career.

I am not the only one by far who thinks that Hackett needs to change things though like some I certainly don’t think it’s the present line-up of musicians who have been with him for the past decade or so. I certainly don’t think getting rid of Roger King is the answer either and to be honest, I find it hard to believe that some are even suggesting such a thing because as a keyboard player he is a solid rock and as good as any keyboard player.

However, I would like to see the synthetic orchestration thrown out of the window and things stripped down to real keyboards instead of all this CINEMATIC MALARKEY! You can hear how well that works on songs like “The Devil’s Cathedral” and “Fox’s Tango” and those two tracks along with “Natalia“, “Shanghai To Samarkand“, “Scorched Earth” and “Esperanza” are my personal highlights of the album.

Overall it’s quite a good album and like I mentioned earlier once you dip your toe in the water (or put your hands in the washing up bowl to wash up) its not like hard work at all and becomes more of an enjoyable experience and you can reap quite a bit of satisfaction from the rewards of doing so. It also comes with a good immersive 5.1 mix which I am sure will delight surround FREAKS! and the couple of bonus videos on the blu ray are quite good as well. If I had any real complaints here it would be down to its more expensive price point of the package and not the material on the album.

A Feeding Frenzy Production Worthy Of Dipping Your Toe In The Water…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Obliterati. 2:16.
02. Natalia. 6:17.
03. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy). 4:36.
04. Wingbeats. 5:19.
05. The Devil’s Cathedral. 6:30.
06. Held In The Shadows. 6:20.
07. Shanghai To Samarkand. 8:27.
08. Fox’s Tango. 4:21.
09. Day Of The Dead. 6:24.
10. Scorched Earth. 6:02.
11. Esperanza. 1:04.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #192

Fugazi (Deluxe Edition) – Marillion

Introduction…

Marillion’s second studio album Fugazi I am pretty sure is the final of the albums in the Fish era of the band to get released in these Deluxe Edition hardback books and I must admit I have been waiting in great anticipation for it. To be honest I have no idea how many albums the band intend to release in these splendid packages but I am pretty sure it is only those they made from the time the band were signed to EMI. Although my only personal interest is in the Fish era of the band and the day he left Marillion so did I so to speak.

One of the particular reasons as to why I have been waiting for this new release of the album is for the 5.1 mix. Simply because even though both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh done a superb new stereo mix for the bands debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear they do appear to be abysmal at doing 5.1 mixes and that is exactly how I would describe the 5.1 mixes they done for the Deluxe Editions of the bands debut album and their fourth studio album Clutching At Straws.

However, according to Mike Viera’s Life In Surround Tube Channel (I always watch) he did inform me that the engineers have improved and done a very good job on the 5.1 mix for Fish’s double album Weltschmerz that got released last year and was expecting them to do a lot better with this latest Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s. He was also surprised that I never brought the Weltschmerz Deluxe Edition especially as I have all of Fish’s albums.

Though I do draw the line when artists charge extortionate prices for their product and I see it as GREED! Everything about the way Fish put out that release was a complete rip-off in my book and although the Scotts can be known for being “Tight” quite frankly I think he was taking the PISS! 😊😊😊.The Deluxe Edition of Weltschmerz (as seen above) is very much packaged in the same way Marillion’s Deluxe Editions have been put out. The only difference is that it comes housed in a cardboard slipcase. The other notable difference is that it also comes with less discs yet he’s charging more than twice the price for his package. Furthermore, he refused to put it on Amazon (where people like myself who are Prime members can save on the postage and packaging) and released it on his own website only which meant that this thing was near enough £60 to buy which is near enough 3 times the price of the package I am about to review here.

I was gonna get the CD instead which he did put on Amazon. Only when I saw the price of £23.99 for a double CD to which most artists only charge around £14 I simply refused to buy the album. I have heard the album on the Tube and in comparison to the last album he put out A Feast of Consequences back in 2013 I can honestly say it’s not in the same league and does not speak to me very well at all. It’s certainly not worth shelling out the ridiculous price he’s charging for it and it’s no wonder more people are buying downloads or streaming music when artists do things like this. He’s doing nothing at all to support physical media and killing it.

Thankfully the other members in the band were not Scottish 😊😊😊 and can see the importance of the physical product to support it and give you value for the buck and that is what you get with all these splendid packages both Marillion and Jethro Tull have put out over the past few years or so. Any box set should offer you value for the money and be put out at a bargain price and not seen as a way to exploit their fans by charging ridiculous prices for them.

The one thing that is noticeable about the Fugazi Deluxe Edition is that it comes with one less CD in relation to the other three Deluxe Editions I have. As far as I can tell there is also no unreleased material however just like the Deluxe Edition of Script For A Jesters Tear the blu ray certainly looks like you are getting your money’s worth and is once again rammed with some goodies. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

Packaging & Artwork…

As ever the 4 discs are stored inside a quality hardback book and because we only have 4 discs there was no need for any extra slip pockets and the discs are stored in plastic trays at the front and back of the book. The book itself comes with 62-pages and contains all the usual linear production credits along with the lyrics, photos and some very good useful informative information.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 8th of July and by pre-ordering it early I managed to get it at the bargain price of £21.99. It also arrived on the day of its release. It’s still widely available at a bargain price and packages don’t come better than this and they are easy to store along with your DVD collection.

Artwork.

Once again the artwork was done by Mark Wilkinson and I have to say it looks STUNNING! It’s got scattered references to the songs on the album to which are placed in a highrise hotel room. It continues from the bands debut album in which the references were scattered around a bedsit and in a way of showing how the band have moved on since they first started. The pictures on the wall in the illustration were added by Julie Hazelwood and although Fish is not credited for the album artwork and sleeve design. There is no doubt he worked closely with Wilkinson and had some input with the ideas he wanted to be put into it.

Fugazi Deluxe Release Editions…

Like the Deluxe Edition of their debut album that got released last year once again, the band decided to stick to two formats for the release and no Digital Download of the release has been made available as far as I can make out. Besides the Limited 3 CD/Blu Ray Edition it was also released with a Vinyl Box Set.

The Vinyl Box Set comes with 4 X 180gram LP’s in 2 Gatefold Sleeves plus a booklet stored in a cardboard slipcase. The 4 albums contain the new 2021 remixes and live concert of the band playing at The Spectrum, Montreal, Canada that was recorded in 1984. It’s currently still available to purchase and on Amazon UK it’s priced at £60.

Fugazi (Deluxe Edition) In Review…

Marillion’s second studio album Fugazi was originally released on the 12th of March 1984. The album contained 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 56 seconds. It was an album that was written at a difficult time and presented them with many problems due to the sacking of the bands previous drummer Mick Pointer. You could say they had a Spinal Tap moment looking for the right replacement with the many drummers they auditioned. They even used 10 studios to record and mix the album was never happy with the final production and how it was put out with them not quite being finished with it.

It was a very expensive album to make to which the band had blown most of their budget on drink and intoxicating substances, part of it even went on a stage prop for their live shows. It also never helped having a dealer close by to Mountain rehearsal and recording studios in South Wales to which they treated as a busman’s holiday and got nothing done. Basically, the band had well overspent and it cost over £120,000 to make the album and a further £70,000 was spent making a video for one of the singles that got released from the album. With a huge debt hanging around their neck it left the band no alternative but to record a live album and put it out at a budget price to pay for the debt.

Although many drummers had auditioned to play for the band it was Camel’s drummer Andy Ward who was the first to replace Pointer. All the band were into Camel and knew that Ward was a well-experienced drummer who was well capable of doing the job. However, they were not aware of his mental health issues at the time that had resurfaced which led to them having to cancel the band’s first American tour midway through it. Ward appeared in the video of the hit single “Garden Party” from their debut album and also can be seen performing “Forgotten Sons” live with the band on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

John Marter of Mr Big was the next drummer to take the stool when the band got the opportunity to support Rush on their American tour. Though his stint with the band was short-lived down to his “you don’t wanna do it like that” attitude. Jonathan Mover was the next drummer to take the stool having auditioned for the job in London a few days before the band were off to Germany to play a gig. According to form he got the role on a Wednesday, flew to Germany on Thursday, and without rehearsals, performed on Friday with the band.

Apart from Fish, the rest of the band got on with him very well and liked his technical skills and approach to the drum kit. After the gig in Germany, they headed straight to Rockfield Studios in Wales to write and record material for their second studio album and it was here that they managed to actually get something done and completed “Punch and Judy” to which Mover was even given a writing credit. However, due to conflict with Fish, it was not long before Mover moved on and once again the band were without a drummer.

Ian Mosley was brought in as a session player to help the band with the rest of the material they were working on at Rockfield Studios, he had been previously linked with the band when they were auditioning for drummers but on that day he could not make it prior to another engagement. Mosley had previously played for Darryl Way’s Wolf, Gordon Giltrap and Steve Hackett so he came with the right credentials and it did not take long for him to get on with all the members of the band including Fish who was perhaps the hardest one to please.

Some of the other studios they used to make the album were The Manor Studio in Oxfordshire, England where Mike Oldfield’s iconic album Tubular Bells was born. Sarm East Studios, Ian Anderson’s Maison Rouge Studios and Eel Pie Studios located in The Boathouse, Twickenham, London on the banks of the River Thames.

EEL PIE STUDIOS

Formerly known as Oceanic Studios, Eel Pie Recording Studios was owned by Pete Townsend and was originally a 1960s boathouse to which Townsend used to commute there by boat, having lost his driving licence. He brought the Boathouse in 1975 and used it initially for the purposes of his band The Who. It became known as Eel Pie Studios in September 1981 when they were rebuilt and run as a commercial operation. Other artists such as A-ha, Rachel Fuller, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Thin Lizzy recorded some of their albums at the studios.

Marillion managed to complete the recording of “Incubus” at the studios and it was later mixed at Abbey Road Studios. In 1989, part of the upstairs of the building was taken over by Cocteau Twins and set up as September Sound studios. Townsend sold the studios in 2008 and the building was converted into a private residence.

The Package Contents.

The Deluxe Edition of Fugazi was released on the 10th September 2021 and although this release comes with one less CD in relation to the other three Marillion packages I brought. What I do find more interesting about this new release is the 62-page book to which does give you more informative content in relation to the other Deluxe Editions. It also took me slightly longer to read and unlike the Deluxe Edition of SFAJT. I never read it in a couple of minutes whilst sitting on the toilet taking a dump 😊😊😊. It also contains some of Mark Wilkinson’s STUNNING! artwork and some GREAT! photos of the band and its members along with the lyrics and linear credit notes.

CD 1.
The first CD contains the albums 7 tracks newly remixed by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh and no other bonus tracks are included. As many will know the original mixes perhaps sound a bit outdated and the band were never happy with the final production as the album was rushed out by the record company. Just like the outstanding job Bradfield & Mackintosh did with the stereo mixes of SFAJT and CAS they have very much done the same here and breathed new life into the album.

CD’s 2 & 3.
The other couple of CD’s contains a live concert of the band playing at The Spectrum in Montreal, Canada on the 20th of June 1984. Although it does not mention on the package I am fairly sure that this concert (in the form that is in as the whole show) has never been released before. However some of the live tracks (if not all) from this concert may have surfaced over the years and I know for a fact that  “Assassing“, “Incubus“, “Cinderella Search” and “Emerald Lies” from this show were included on the live Reel To Reel album released in 1984.

Blu Ray.
The Blu Ray is what I really buy these packages for and it not only replicates all the content that is on the 3 CD’s but comes with a load of other goodies besides and this is where the real value of the package lies. My main incentive to buy albums like this all over again and the packages they come in are mostly for the Surround Mixes. However, even given that so far I have been extremely disappointed with the 5.1 mixes done by this pair of jokers in the past I was not disappointed with the other array of extras you get and my money was well spent.

The Blu Ray’s main menu is sharp and pristine as ever and has the feel of quality about it. It’s also well animated and all the key objects that relate to every track on the album in Mark Wilkinson’s artwork are floating around and fading in and out of view sort of thing. You do get the sense that the menu is “Totally Fucked Up” with how everything is segmented and evolves around the centre picture and you could say they were aiming to make it look Fugazi. I would also say they have done an excellent job of it as well, though some might not quite get it and not like it.

As you can see there are quite a few extras you get on the blu ray and you get a total of 7 features to choose from and by default, it’s set the main feature which is the album itself. As you select each of the 7 options to choose from it highlights the title in white. It’s a very fast and responsive menu as you will see in the picture below.

The navigation is straightforward and by clicking on a highlighted option a box pops up displaying all the options including the track selection and choice of audio. To be honest it’s the first time I have ever seen a menu done this way and it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into it.

The other thing (though it’s not quite a first) is like Steve Wilson did on the new mixes for Jethro Tull’s recent re-release of the 1980 album “A”. They have done away with the standard Dolby Digital format. Everything in the Audio Department is high-resolution quality all the way offering two LPCM 96/24 in Stereo and 5.1 plus a DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix again with a resolution of 96/24.

The other nice touch is that whilst listening to the album tracks it displays a different picture for each track which is also animated and they have used the key objects that represent each track that you will find on Wilkinson’s artwork. To be honest I would have liked to have seen the albums full cover used for the main menu. But you do get to see it when you play the 3rd track “Jigsaw” as seen in the picture above.

They really have done a GREAT! job with the animation and you get to see the picture being built up piece by piece and disassembled piece by piece a few times whilst listening to the song. That’s about it for the main menu so let’s take a look at the rest of the features and see what other goodies they have included.

The second feature is the live concert which they played at The Spectrum in Montreal, Canada that is also on CD’s 2 & 3 only here it comes with a high-res stereo mix of LPCM 96/24. It does sound a lot better than the CD’s and was GREAT! to see it included. Like the main feature, the pop-up box displays all the options to choose from and they really have gone to town on this menu system.

One of the things that are included on the Blu Ray unlike the CD’s are bonus tracks. Although I am pretty sure none of these are unreleased and have surfaced on various remasters of their albums before over the years. In total, you get 7 tracks of which 5 of them are the original Demos. The audio is only 48/16 CD quality and the tracklisting is as follows:

1. “Cinderella Search (Extended Single)”. 5:31. 2. “Assassing (Alternate Mix)”. 7:40. 3. “Three Boats Down From The Candy”. 3:59. 4. “Punch & Judy (Demo)”. 3:50. 5. “She Chameleon (Demo)”. 6:34. 6. “Emerald Lies (Demo)”. 5:31. 7. “Incubus (Demo)”. 8:10.

You also get two documentaries and the main one “The Story Of Fugazi” runs for 72 minutes, 36 seconds and here all 5 members of the band go back in time and talk about the many things they can remember about the making of their second studio album. Each member was captured on film individually in their own homes and it also includes some old film footage and photos of the band including the producer of the album Nick Tauber.

The second documentary “The Story Of The Songs” has a total running time of 35 minutes and once again the individual members of the band have been captured in their homes only this time they are discussing the songs lyrics and the meaning behind most of them.

They have also included the promotional video they made for “Assassing” and as you can see in the picture above it gives you a couple of audio choices to choose from. You can either watch the video footage with the original remastered audio that comes with a sample rate of 48/24. Or the 2021 mix in a high-res sample rate of 96/24.

Also included is a live concert from 1984 that was filmed and broadcast by Swiss TV. I am pretty sure this has never been released before and I could not even find it on the tube. But obviously, they must have obtained the licence to include it here and even though it’s old video footage with a 4:3 Aspect Ratio and the audio sample rate is 48/16 it’s still quite good to watch.

As you can see by the song setlist they roll out some GREAT! numbers here and you get to see the band being interviewed in the dressing room before the show. It comes with a total playing time of 49 minutes, 47 seconds and it’s another GREAT! extra.

Overall the bonus content on the Blu Ray is excellent and you certainly get an array of it for the money. The picture quality of both documentaries looks like it’s been shot in 4K and I was quite blown away by how STUNNING! the picture quality is. They are also interesting and worth watching however I did read the book first and found that the documentary was running over the same ground.

The 5.1 Mix.

Having already experienced how bad the 5.1 mixes Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh did for Clutching At Straws and a Script For A Jesters Tear I honestly had no hope for this new release of seeing any improvement. Especially having seen them both being interviewed by Mike Viera not long after they did the mixes for the CAS album. Mike did throw a few pointers their way to try and help them improve the 5.1 mix for SFAJT they were about to work on at that time. However, the end result was more of a move backwards than forwards and it was dreadful.

When it comes to doing stereo mixes I would say that these pair have almost got Steve Wilson’s ears and like Wilson they can breathe new life into them without a doubt. The problem is doing a 5.1 mix presents a major problem for most engineers in this world and their 5.1 mixes are no exception considering the biggest majority of 5.1 mixes that have flooded the market are bad mixes. To be honest, even though Mike said they had improved with the 5.1 mix they did for Weltschmerz last year I never had any great expectations for this release.

However, they have surprised me and this 5.1 mix is quite a major improvement in relation to their previous mixes on the two Marillion albums. I think they may have raised Fish’s vocals a bit much in the mix especially in the centre channel, but that can be fixed easy enough by simply turning down the volume of the centre channel a couple of notches. They have paid more attention to utilising some of the other instrumentation and backing vocals in the rear channels instead of reflecting too much of the same thing into them as they did with the CAS 5.1 mix. They have also made good use of the panning in parts and paid attention to where they have placed them as well and overall I quite like this mix and I think it’s well worthy of 7.5 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Nick Tauber. All music written and arranged by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly (Except “Punch and Judy) written by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark KellyIan Mosley, Jonathan Mover. “Incubus”, “Fugazi” and “Cinderella Search” written by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly, Ian Moseley. All lyrics written by Fish.

Recorded & Mixed by Simon Hanhart between November 1983 – February 1984 at Various Studios. Mastered by Arun. New Stereo & 5.1 2021 Mixes by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh. Illustrations & Design Layout by Mark Wilkinson. Artwork Pictures (on the wall) by Julie Hazelwood. Linear Notes by Rich Wilson. Photography by Brian Aris, Gered Mankowitz, Mark Drake, Mike Black, and Stuart James. Guitar, Photography by Steve Rothery.

Musicians.
Fish: Vocals.
Steve Rothery: Guitars.
Pete Trewavas: Bass.
Mark Kelly: Keyboards.
Ian Mosley: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Chris Karen: Additional Percussion.
Linda Pyke: Backing Vocal (On “Incubus”).

The Album Tracks In Review…

Marillion’s second album Fugazi done quite well upon its release though only in Europe. The album managed to reach number 5 in the UK and spent a good 20 weeks there, in the following year was certified Gold selling over 100, 000 copies. Although the band were never happy with the production you could say that it had more of a polished production in relation to the bands debut album. It also managed to reach two places higher than their debut in the album charts though in terms of sales Script For A Jesters Tear sold 3 times as much and went Platinum and it even produced a Top 20 single release with “Garden Party“.

The material that was written for Fugazi was built on top of their debut album and in terms of how it all sounds I would say it’s the nearest thing to it especially in relation to their 3rd and 4th album they did with Fish. Although there is no mistaking Marillion’s formidable style that was injected into their first 4 albums. But when it comes to balls and grit I certainly think their first two albums had a lot more of it which is perhaps why I tend to play them the most. So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the 7 original tracks that were placed on the album.

Track 1. Assassing.

The opening track on the album is amongst some of the earlier songs the band had worked on and they had most likely started work on it whilst Andy Ward was in the band. They even further polished it with drummer Jonathan Mover though it was not completed till Ian Mosley came in though he was not given a writing credit. Fish has always had a good head on his shoulders to come up with such GREAT! lyrics and could not only speak in tongues but in metaphors and this song is full of them.

To be perfectly honest I think it is the lyrics that carry this song and they have been more cleverly constructed than the music. Though you do have to delve deep into them to really cypher them and listen to the narrator-character describing himself as an assassin sort of thing. According to the documentary on the blu ray Fish directed the lyrics at the bands first bass player Diz Minnitt and they were not in reference to some of the verbal arguments he had with former drummer Pointer as many would believe.

Assassing” was the second single to be released from the album and almost broke into the Top 20 Singles Chart here in the UK peaking at number 22. Surprisingly the band decided on a much more uptempo and brighter song they had also written for the B-Side entitled “Cinderella Search“. Personally. I think they would have had a better result if they released it as the A-Side and I was also surprised they decided to leave it off the album. Both songs were shorter edited versions for the single release. The edited version was also used for the video that was made for the song which may have helped it reach its position in the singles chart.

Looking at it now I think it’s plain to see that you never got a lot for your money back then and to even think this thing cost 70 Grand to make goes to show how expensive making records was back then. There are hardly any special effects here either and I dread to think how much it cost Peter Gabriel to make the video for his smash hit “Sledgehammer“.

Musically it does have a bit of an eastern vibe going on in the intro and it also utilises the skills of Chris Karen who plays the tablas and I have to say he does a TOP JOB! on them as well. Karen is an Australian jazz drummer and percussionist of Greek descent and has played for almost everyone you could think of including The Beatles. He toured and recorded with Dudley Moore for many years and became the drummer in the Dudley Moore Trio back in 1962.

Track 2. Punch & Judy.

The first single to be released from the album and unlike the previous song, it was released before the album on the 30th of January 1984. Also unlike the previous song, they never made a video for it and it is the only single released from the EMI years that they never either. It did not do quite as well as “Assassing” and peaked just inside the Top 30 UK Singles Charts at number 29. The first completed demo of the song was done whilst Jonathan Mover was working with the band and he was even given a writing credit.

Originally the band had planned to use “Emerald Lies” as the B-Side but they decided to use the freshly new re-recordings of “Market Square Heroes” and “Three Boats Down from the Candy” that they recorded with John Marter instead.

These two songs were the only tracks they recorded with the drummer and his name was erroneously credited as John Martyr. Both of these newer versions of the songs also appeared on the B’Sides Themselves compilation album that got released in 1988. As for “Emerald Lies” it wound up on the album instead.

Personally, I think this song has strong lyrics pertaining to the in and outs and doos and don’ts of married life accompanied by a better musical structure than the opening track on the album though both went down very well at their live shows. It’s got quite a strong chorus line and I particularly like how Pete Trewavas works his punctuating bass lines into it all.

Track 3. Jigsaw.

This is the ballad track on the album and I quite like the refined sweetness in Fish’s voice with how he delivers this song and I personally think this is a much better ballad of a song than “Kayleigh” which was the single from their next album that launched them into more commercial success. Musically the song is perhaps more keyboard orientated but nevertheless, Steve Rothery manages to squeeze in a fine guitar solo.

The lyrical content pertains to how one does not really see things properly or everything till the last piece of the jigsaw is put in place sort of thing. Besides the sweet side of Fish’s voice, you also get the fiery angst that gives it that bit more grit and edge in the chorus of the song. It’s a song that he could not sing today and found more difficult to sing as the years went by as he explains in the documentary. Just like Peter Gabriel back in the early years of Genesis the band members never really gave any thought to what key would be more comfortable for their singer to deliver the song.

Track 4. Emerald Lies.

One of the two songs on the album that the band felt needed further developing and were not happy when the album got rushed out by the record company before they had time to finish it properly. It’s very much a song about a relationship being destroyed by a lack of trust and the emerald’s green colour pertains to the jealousy side of things in the relationship. Some of the musical transitions in the song do put me in mind of early Genesis and even though you can hear how further developed the song had been done in relation to the earlier demo I do get the feeling that it needed a bit more work done on it.

Track 5. She Chameleon.

This is a song that goes back further than any of the other songs on the album though most of the lyrics for many of the songs on this album were written well before the music. It’s also the other song on the album that the band never thought was ready and wanted to further develop it. It was very much part of the bands live set before they even put out their debut album. Mark Kelly played the main backing track on a church organ which was recorded at another of the many studios they used and it was the bands producer Nick Tauber who suggested they used the Angel Studios that was situated in Islington, London.

The lyrical content does tend to come across that the song is about prostitution and many have drawn similar conclusions with their interpretations of them. They are not that far off either because the inspiration for the words “Was it just a fuck, just another fuck?” came from a drunk conversation between Fish and Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes backstage at the Friars, Aylesbury. Where some female groupies wanted autographs and a snog.

Some of the members of the band were disappointed with the outcome Pete Trewavas in particular was very negative about the song and stated “no remix of any sort could redeem this song” he also went on to say it was a waste of space. Personally, I think it’s much better than the previous song though I will stress that it’s not on par with anything off their debut album.

Track 6. Incubus.

The final two songs on the album are perhaps what I would call the backbone and strongest points that hold the album up. They have certainly been given the works in terms of their musical structure and when comparing this particular song to the original demo you can easily hear how much more was put into its development. Lyrically I personally could not fault any of the songs on this album and they are a fortress by themself. The words “I’ve played this scene before” might even suggest that he has done before with the classic song “Chelsea Monday” in the way it’s set for the silver screen sort of thing and the performance has once again begun. When it comes to classics this is another one for sure.

It’s a song that was put together in stages in different studios but it was perhaps the Manor in Oxfordshire where it started to develop further. It also uses some of the eastern or Islamic influence heard in “Assassingand no doubt Chris Karen is once again is being very well utilised in the percussion department. It also features Linda Pyke who contributes backing vocals to the song.

According to Fish, it’s his favourite song that he did with Marillion. I personally find it hard to choose between this song and the self-titled track on the album though both are what I consider to be the major highlights of the album. It also contains an excellent guitar solo from Steve Rothery who thought at this stage of his career he had nailed what he was intending to do.

Though I personally think “Chelsea Monday” contains his best solo work. But nevertheless, if you want to hear GREAT! guitar and keyboard solos you do have to go back to this early period of Marillion’s career. With Steve Hogarth they very much diluted things right down and never spoke the same language for my personal taste.

Track 7. Fugazi.

Another sure-fire classic song and its title was a word that Fish had come across in the book Dispatches written by Michael Herr. As for the word itself, no one is really sure of its origin but it does have an Italian ring about to me and could have been used by the Mafia many moons ago. According to form it’s a slang word that refers to something that is fake or damaged beyond repair. In other words, it’s how Fish describes it as “totally fucked up” which is another way of putting it.

Looking at the lyrics you will notice references to the Vietnam war that Herr’s novel was based on but there are a ton of other references, wordplay and metaphors throughout and these words are pretty complex and like travelling through his intoxicated mind on London’s underground. Though I do like the inspiration that Fish got out of London’s underground and I remember getting stranded in Barking with a friend on the night we went to see Jean-Michel Jarre live at the Docklands.

The following morning we managed to get on the tube to Euston and we both stood on the platform for an hour observing all the people going to work. Honestly, it was the maddest thing I have ever seen. The tube trains run every minute of the day and yet everybody was in a mad rush to get on them and quite often they were squashed like sardines in a can when they did get on them. People were literally legging it down escalators just to get on them. I thought the world had gone Fugazi looking at that lot 😊😊😊.

Once again this is a song that has GREAT! musical structure and lots of progression throughout the build and transitions. It starts off subtly on the piano to which is supposedly the same piano Freddie Mercury played “Bohemian Rhapsody” on according to Mark Kelly. “Fugazi” has it all and along with “Incubus” it jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Marillion’s Deluxe Edition of Fugazi. Like the Deluxe Edition of a Script For A Jester’s Tear, I do feel you are getting more for your money and I would say both of these Deluxe Editions give the most for the buck in relation to the Deluxe Editions of Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws. The added bonus with this edition is that it comes with a better 5.1 mix and I would even go as far as to say it’s the best 5.1 mix of the 4 Deluxe Editions I have. It’s just a shame that Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh had not had more experience working with a surround mix before they did the mixes for CAS and SFAJT.

However, regardless of the surround mix even the stereo mix completely breathes new life into the album and I can honestly say that the album Fugazi sounds much better for it. I do find with a lot of albums that came out of the 80’s they do start to sound outdated after a while and as good as the songs are on their albums they can gather dust over the years. The new mixes have very much rejuvenated them and make you want to go back down this road once again and no doubt Marillion were on fire at this point in their career. My personal highlights from the album are “Incubus“, “Fugazi” and “Jigsaw“.

As an album, I don’t think that the material written for Fugazi quite capitulated their debut album though it’s quite a solid album in some respects. I also find that the material we have here is the closest to their debut album and the two studio albums that followed were more or less aimed at the more commercial side of the market especially with songs like “Kayleigh” and “Sugar Mice“. Though you cannot blame them for heading in that direction because back in the 80’s if you wanted to stay signed to a major record label you had to keep them happy. It was not like the early 70’s were record labels such as Atlantic let you do your own thing. However, I thought their 4th studio Clutching At Straws was also a very good album.

Overall, the Fugazi Deluxe Edition gives you plenty for the buck and could even be seen as a steal at its bargain price. Besides its main feature, you get an array of GREAT! extras and you would be totally Fuzazi not to take advantage of its excellent price point and let it slip by.

You’ve Played This Scene Before…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

Disc One: Fugazi (New 2021 Re-mix)
01. Assassing. 7:02.
02. Punch & Judy. 3:22
03. Jigsaw. 6:49.
04. Emerald Lies. 5:08.
05. She Chameleon. 6:53.
06. Incubus. 8:30.
07. Fugazi. 8:04.
Disc Two: Live At The Spectrum. Montreal, Canada (20/6/1984 Pt 1)
01. Assassing. 7:46.
02. Punch & Judy. 3:25.
03. Jigsaw. 6:34.
04. Script For A Jester’s Tear. 9:08.
05. Chelsea Monday. 8:06.
06. Emerald Lies. 5:24.
07. Cinderella Search. 5:52.
08. Incubus. 9:09.
Disc Three: Live At The Spectrum. Montreal, Canada (20/6/1984 Pt 2)
01. Charting The Single. 7:20.
02. He Knows You Know. 5:56.
03. Fugazi. 9:31.
04. Forgotton Sons. 10:42.
05. Garden Party. 6:35.
06. Market Square Heroes. 10:48.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10.
The Stereo Re-Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7.5/10.
The Original Album Rating Score. 8.5/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #191

Arik’s Journey – Ian Hill

Introduction…

Not so long back I received an email in my inbox from a fellow musician asking me if I would write a review for his debut album. I do get the odd email now and then from musicians asking me to write reviews for their albums and the biggest majority of the time I do have to turn them away simply because I generally only review the albums I buy and that takes up enough of my time. However, I always listen to the music in question they want me to review and if I hear something a bit special that genuinely appeals to my taste I generally end up buying it and giving it a review.

The guy in question who sent me the email was a chap who goes by the name of Ian Hill. I am sure many are already thinking WHO? However, one of the fascinating things about his debut album entitled Arik’s Journey is that it’s been 40 plus years in the making.

Hill was born in Manchester, England and took an interest in the guitar at the early age of 11. By the time he was 16, he formed the band Moonchild with some of his schoolmates and got to play his first gig playing cover songs of well-known rock bands such as Free, Deep Purple and Status Quo.

The latter of those bands perhaps had the biggest influence on him as you can see by this video of him playing live at the Manchester Academy with the tribute band he put together called Status Of Quo. Hill is the baldy fellow playing the part of Francis Rossi who was the original bands main leader and frontman.

As you can see by the video they put on quite a show. Though I will say there is more to Hill’s taste in music with the many other artists and bands that have influenced him over the years. There is also more to his talent as a songwriter and musician.

However, there is also no way I would buy an album by Status Quo either and there is much more to his debut album Arik’s Journey that is suited to my personal taste and it sits in very well with my favourite genre of music progressive rock. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case and although it might seem a little outdated these days in relation to cardboard Digipaks (which I personally think gives an album a better presentation) it’s still a packaging that is widely used and offers good protection for the disc. It comes with a gatefold (4-page) booklet that contains a gatefold picture of the album cover on the inside and some very good informative information printed on the back.

The album is priced at £9.99 and I ordered my copy from Bandcamp and it arrived super fast within a couple of days. It never even cost me any postage and packaging or any tax on top and it may have been one of those weekends where Bandcamp waved their fees. I shall provide the link at the end of my review.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by Hill himself and he did the paintings whilst he was still at school many moons ago. The spires of rock were the key element to the original story he wrote back in 1980 to which he originally intended to accompany the music. The artwork production was done by his brother David Hill who’s line of work for many years has been in graphics and printing which no doubt came in handy.

Basically, he formatted Ian’s artwork so it matched the specifications required by the CD Replication company. It sort of reminds me of something out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and no doubt Azrik’s Journey looks like a very challenging one as you can see from the picture that is printed on the inside of the booklet.

The Album In Review…

Arik’s Journey by Ian Hill was released on the 5th of September 2021. The album itself contains 3 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 48 minutes, 55 seconds. Unlike what Hill does in rock tribute bands it’s very much a PROGMATIC! affair and journey influenced by the likes of Mike Oldfield, Genesis, Yes, Steve Hackett and Vangelis. I would even throw Gordon Giltrap into the pot of influences we have here and it is quite a magical journey over its three parts.

Besides playing in his Status Quo tribute band he also helps out occasionally another tribute band that goes by the name of MotorHeadache who are obviously a Motorhead tribute band. To be honest, when I mentioned I would not buy a Quo album that is not to be in any way disrespectful to the band and they are a very good band and a GREAT! live act as I remember from the time I saw them headline the party in the park back in the late 80’s or early 90’s at Sutton Coldfield in my own town of Birmingham. It was a free concert put on by BRMB Radio if I remember rightly and I quite enjoyed their performance that evening.

Many moons before that I even had a Cassette of their 1973 album Piledriver given me to which I quite liked and I can even remember doing a cover of “Roadhouse Blues” with my own band in the late 90’s to which we fused Quo’s version with The Doors. I think we may have even thrown in a bit of Jeff Healey into it as well. I did also buy the single release of “What You’re Proposing” for my Mrs back in 1980. But one of the reasons I have never brought any of their albums or even ACDC’s albums for that matter, is that they can be very repetitive with the 12 bar blues and sound too much of the same thing for my personal taste.

Arik’s Journey is a million miles away from the 3 chord-trick and 12 bar blues, like most progressive rock music, can take you somewhere else and that is what I personally love about progressive rock and why it appeals to my taste more than any other music genre. This has been very much one hell of a long journey for Hill to complete and I have to say it’s all fascinating how it came about and how he’s even documented it over the past 40 years or so.

Most of the music for the album he composed way back between 1977 – 1980 though most of his ideas were only recorded on a basic cassette deck. Although in 1980 he had access to a “Sound on Sound” Tape Recorder which allowed him to overdub a few parts and allowed him to develop a few more ideas. It’s a project that has very much been shelved many times over its development and could be seen as a labour of love with how it’s stuck with him over all these years.

In February 1983 he received an Arts Grant courtesy of the Princes Trust which allowed him to book 3 days at Waterloo Studios, in Stockport. The studio had 8-Track recording facilities that allowed him for the first time to record his ideas onto multitrack tape. 

The picture above (though not very clear) was taken at the studios and as you can see he even had hair back then. It reminds me a bit of how Mike Oldfield laid out his instruments and posed for the camera shoot back in the good old days and I think the inspiration may very well of come from that.

Up until 1996, Arik’s Journey remained as a studio demo and a short story and it was at this time Hill had further developed his own studio at home with 16-track recording facilities. Having just split from a rock band he formed earlier he decided to get back to work on the album and after several months completed a new extended demo that was more cohesive. Although it was much better than the 1983 demo once again it got pushed aside as other music projects took precedence.

Hill has spent most of his life thrashing out chords on numerous guitars and although he is a multi-instrumentalist he is perhaps predominantly a guitarist as you can see by his array of guitars in the picture below.

Over the years Hill also incorporated the keyboards into his studio setup and originally played most of the keyboards parts on his guitar with the use of a Roland GR55 Guitar Synth. But since learning to play the keyboard he very much replaced some of the parts with a real keyboard for the final result of the album’s completion.

Speaking of the album’s completion I guess that it’s one of the better things that have come out of this dreaded pandemic of Covid 19 to which has even been a nightmare for most musicians preventing them from going out and playing live. However, it did give Hill the time to finally finish his album after some 44 years and now it’s available for us all to hear and he can finally sit back and hopefully reap the benefit of all the hard work that has been put into it.

RedSky Studio

Like many musicians who make their own music at home, they like to give their own little studios a name and Hill is no exception. The name he gave to his home studio is named after one of the many bands he has either formed himself or has been involved in over the years and that name is RedSky.

Musicians & Credits…

All music Composed, Produced & Arranged by Ian Hill. Recorded at RedSky Studios. Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Ian Hill. Cover Art by Ian Hill. Artwork Production by David Hill.

Musicians:
Ian Hill: Acoustic & Electric Guitars – Bass Guitar – Keyboards – Drum Programming.
Alison Hill: Additional Vocal Phrases.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most of the inspiration for Arik’s Journey was brought on by Mike Oldfield’s 1973 debut album Tubular Bells and it was really the idea of making an album by playing all the instruments yourself that inspired him the most. Although the actual title of his album came from another inspiration because around the time he decided to work on the album and write his own story for it, he happened to be reading Michael Moorcock’s fantasy SciFi novel Stormbringer.

Having done a bit of research on the novel myself, I see its main character goes by the name of Elric and his journey is to call Stormbringer back to him and rescue Moonglum. It could be that Hill decided to change Elric to Arik for the short story he wrote to put to his music and I did confront Hill himself to which he did confirm that the inspiration for the title did come from Moorcock’s novel.

To be perfectly honest when I first clapped my eyes on the album I did not read the title correctly and thought it was entitled Ark’s Journey and hearing the storm on the intro led me to believe that was the album’s title till I looked at it properly. However, whoever’s journey it is, it’s quite a musical one so let’s now dive deeper into the album’s tracks.

Track 1. Arik’s Journey Part 1.

The opening track is the longest part of the 3 though only marginally by seconds. It opens up quite pleasantly with the sound of birds chirping cheerfully away, the buzzing of a fly and the church bell ringing giving you the impression of being in a nice peaceful village sort of thing. It also puts me in mind of the intro to Roger WatersGranchester Meadows” that found its way onto Pink Floyd’s 1969 double album Ummagumma. Although things soon change as a storm breaks loose and around the one-minute twenty eight-second mark the instrumentation comes into play to set us off nicely on the journey.

Speaking of the journey as you may have noticed by Hill’s artwork (and the name he gave to the chap whose journey we are going on) he had in mind more of a Gothic adventure perhaps like the SciFi fantasy that Michael Moorcock portrayed in his novel. Personally, I don’t get that impression from the music however it does plant a vision in my mind that one is going on a journey of endurance and has a quest in mind. But the good thing about music is just like lyrics you can make your own interpretation and even put yourself in the picture so to speak.

There is no doubt that Hill is painting a musical landscape with the music he is presenting here and he’s very skillfully combined and blended in the electric and acoustic guitars with the keyboards to paint the picture. The main theme that runs along this opening terrain puts me in mind of Gordon Giltrap’s 1977 album Perilous Journey. However, around the 5:50 mark for a few seconds, it’s as if Arik stops to replenish himself and we get some refreshing glimpses of Mike Oldfield with the keys.

It’s very much a piece that goes through quite a few transitional changes and by doing so it keeps you attentive to what’s going on throughout the journey and it draws you into it all. It contains some lovely melodic structure that can be quite HACKETT ESC! in parts touching on early Genesis sort of thing. Its main theme reoccurs every now and then and the way it comes back in at the 7:38 mark once again puts me in mind of Giltrap.

The comedown section between 8:47 – 9:59 does give perhaps more of a Gothic representation and this is very much a choral section soundscape and it puts me in mind of Rick Wakeman’s 1974 album Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. This leads us into the most powerful section of the piece to which Hill gets to flesh out some very tasty punctuating bass lines on his Rickenbacker and some GREAT! lead synth and guitar lines on his Fender Strat.

The piano section that comes into play around the 12:29 mark reintroduces some of the choral side of things only this time it’s built up with some punctuating drums and some lead lines on the guitar. It then falls into a lovely acoustic section that trickles its way into play around the 13:40 mark and once again Oldfield springs to mind here. He then drives the piece home by electrifying and embellishing the same lines on his electric guitar accompanied by drums, bass and keys and it effectively puts an end to the first part very well indeed.

Track 2. Arik’s Journey Part 2.

The second part opens up quite beautifully with a fine melody played on the piano and as it progresses and builds its way along it gets nicely accompanied and layered with some fine synth and keyboard textures adding more colour to it. This opening section is quite keyboard orientated and takes up the first four minutes and seventeen seconds. It even has a touch of the orient and no doubt Arik is travelling through many countries on his enduring journey to get to his destination.

The next section that runs between 4:17 – 7:41 sort of springs into action and we get a slight touch of an eastern flavour and things start to get a bit jiggy at first a bit like a celebration dance sort of thing. The heat is turned up a notch or two as the guitar joins in the celebration with some fine lead lines from Hill. The piano simmers things down for a bit and more gothic synth choral textures soon accompany it and the next section that runs between 8:33 – 12:40 is where things really burst into action and the heat gets intensified.

Strangely enough during this intensified section reminds me a bit like Oldfield’s “Crises“. It’s also as if the lead lines on the guitar are playing Jon Anderson’s vocal lines to “The Friends of Mr. Cairo” that he did with Vangelis. This section also features Hill’s other half Alison Hill who contributes some additional vocal phrases and the whole section pounds and really flies its way along.

Then around the 12:38 mark, we get another lovely acoustic section and here Hill utilises his Alvarez electro-classical guitar to which he purchased at the end of last year to put some finishing touches to the album. As with the first part, the acoustic section gets once again embellished with the electric guitar taking on its fine melody lines only this time it falls back into another piano section to round it all nicely off.

Track 3. Arik’s Journey Part 3.

The third and final part is the shortest though you still get a good thirteen and half minutes here. It starts off with the acoustic guitar and puts me in mind of the chorus line from Mike Oldfield’s “On Horseback” from his 3rd studio album Ommadawn. As it builds along and more instruments come into play you get the feeling that it’s making a statement as a Grand Finale sort of thing with how some of the themes from the first two parts reoccur. Though they have been given a different instrument arrangement and more of an orchestral arrangement to make a bolder statement sort of thing. Even the birds chirping cheerfully away come back out of the woods so to speak.

You also get the feeling that Arik has completed his quest in a joyful way and most of the music in this final section is quite uplifting and the final section once again puts me in mind Gordon Giltrap’s Perilous Journey even though it’s Arik’s journey. Although with how everything has been very well constructed and put together you could even make your own journey and all you have to do is let your imagination run wild and paint its own picture to the music.

Parts 1 & 2, I feel are a perfect marriage and complement one another whereas this final part with how it’s been done in a way of grand finale to it all may very well be the way he decided to extend the original piece and the way it’s been done with the reoccurring themes gives it more or less the perfect ending and puts the album to bed very well leaving you wanting more.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Arik’s Journey by Ian Hill. I personally think its very much a solid body of work that has finally been given a definitive version by Hill after some 44 years in the making. It’s a piece of work that is not only influenced by many other artists but has his own blood injected into it and a piece of work he should be proud of. It’s a highly captivating album that instantly grabs your immediate attention. That much so that I stuck it on a few times whilst writing my review and had to stop doing so simply because I was not getting any work done and I could not do anything but stop to listen to the album.

If you are into the likes of Mike Oldfield, Gordon Giltrap, Genesis, Camel, Sky and instrumental albums that take you on a magical journey. I cannot see why this album would not float or even rock your boat so to speak. I found many GREAT! highlighted sections throughout all 3 parts which made it very difficult for me to choose a personal favourite track. Even though all 3 parts are quite lengthy they seemed to fly by in no time at all and I can only put that down to how satisfactory the music presents itself to you and it is a very satisfying album that will have you coming back for more.

The 3-minute Preview sampler video (above) that Hill put out on the Tube gives you a good glimpse of a few of the highlights from the album. Though I found it was just as easy to listen to the opening track on Bandcamp where you can even listen to the whole album for free. Or you can do what I did and purchase the album and give the artist some support for all his hard work.

I am sure Arik’s Journey will appeal to most PROGSTERS! alike and it’s an album that I highly recommend you taking on its MAGICAL! Journey and be sure to check it out on the link I’ve provided below.

https://musicianhill.bandcamp.com/album/ariks-journey

A Journey Well Worth Taking On…

The CD Tracklist is as follows:

Track 1. Arik’s Journey Part 1. 17:47.
Track 2. Arik’s Journey Part 2. 17:31.
Track 3. Arik’s Journey Part 3. 13:37.

Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
Album Rating Score. 7.5/10.

 

Lee Speaks About Music… #190

Innocence & Danger (Limited Edition) – NMB

Introduction…

I have to admit that since purchasing Neal Morse’s last solo album Sola Gratia that was released last year I had gone off him and my disappointment with that album even put me off buying the latest Transatlantic album The Absolute Universe that was released earlier this year. Things for some time now had started to sound like too much of the same thing and even the way that Transatlantic put out the album in three different versions I personally thought was a silly idea and caused much confusion of which version to buy. Being a Surround FREAK! if it was any other band I most likely would have got the standalone Blu Ray, but knowing from past experience how this band and its engineer does not have a clue about how to do a 5.1 mix I certainly would not waste my money on it 😊😊😊.

Innocence & Danger is the 4th studio album to be released under the name of the Neal Morse Band and for this release, they abbreviated the name down to NMB and followed the suit of bands such as the Electric Light Orchestra, Bachman Turner-Overdrive, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, ELP and so on.

I do actually have all the NMB albums and many of Morse’s solo albums along with all the ones he did with Spock’s Beard. There was a time when I considered him to be one of the finest progrock writers in that field of music still keeping PROG! alive today. But as I mentioned over the past decade or so things started to sound too much of the same thing whether he was with his band, Transatlantic or even with his solo albums. I think the last time Neal caught my proper attention would have been back in 2007 when he released Sola Scriptura and that is by far more of a PROGMATIC! album in relation to anything that came after it.

You might very well be thinking as to why I brought this latest album and to be honest Innocence & Danger is perhaps even less of a PROGMATIC! affair and some of the material we have here does also lean towards more popular music. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see I purchased the Limited Edition that comes with 2 CD’s and a DVD. The packaging is very much the same as all NMB albums in that the discs come in a 4-panel cardboard Digipak that has plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place. It also comes with a 24-page well put together booklet that contains the usual linear credit notes, lyrics and high definition glossary snaps of the band. It stores neatly away in the left-hand side of the sleeve and it’s one the best quality made booklets I have seen in a while and overall it’s a very neat quality package.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 18th of August and it arrived on the day of its release. It cost £19.99 which is perhaps at the highest end of its price point for a package that comes with 2 CD’s & DVD and have no real complaints here at all. You can also get the 2 CD Edition that they are calling a (DUO) box and I believe the discs come in a standard jewel case with a cardboard sleeve to store them in. It’s most likely what they call over here a Hardshell Digipak and is reasonably priced at around £13.99.

For vinyl lovers, it’s also released on 3 X 180gram LP’s accompanied by 2 CD’s in a box set. The LP’s are stored in a Gatefold and Single sleeve with the booklet included in the slipcase. I am pretty sure it was released on both Black and Grey vinyl and the black vinyl box set can be had for around £40 on Amazon UK.

Artwork.
The artwork for the album cover design was done by the German graphic designer Thomas Ewerhard who done the artwork for many of the early Spock’s Beard and Neal Morse albums, plus many for the likes of Klaus Schulze and Ayreon. He also did the artwork for many other prog artists and bands such as the likes of Steve Howe, The Flower Kings, Asia, Kaipa, Transatlantic and so on.

The bands photo’s were taken by John Zocco and the lyrics were proofed by Pamela George. Overall. I quite like Ewerhard’s artwork and he always does a GREAT! job for many bands and artists. It sort of gives me the impression that the Academy Awards have been left behind in the sands of time although it’s also fitting to the album’s title and reflects innocence and danger.

The Album In Review…

Innocence & Danger by The Neal Morse Band was released on the 27th of August 2021. It’s very much a double album’s worth of material spread over two discs and the first CD contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 48 minutes, 43 seconds. The second CD contains only 2 tracks though they are very much longer like most of the epic tracks are and it comes with a playing time of 50 minutes, 52 seconds.

I quite like the way they have restrained from trying to ram even more material on each album and kept it down to what a double album was many moons ago. It does make it easier to digest and I often think the biggest majority of prog bands these days can go over the top with all the material they try and cram onto an album. Some even cram a double album’s worth of material onto one disc and don’t even give you chance to make a cup of tea in between. I am sure they think we all live in prison cells and have nothing better to do with our time 😊😊😊.

Although they did originally plan to do a single album being as the last two albums were double albums but ended up writing more material than originally planned. Looking at how the second disc only has two tracks it does put you in mind of a bonus disc as they did with their first album The Grand Experiment. However, because it’s longer than the first disc that was most likely why they decided to call it a double album.

As far as I can make out the rehearsal and recording sessions for the new album took place at the beginning of the year between January to March at Neal Morse’s home studio. As ever the tapes were then passed on to Rich Mouser to do the final mix and mastering. For this album, Morse decided to do things differently and came to the rehearsal and recording sessions with a blank canvas by not writing any demos beforehand. He wanted to make it more of a collaborative affair and let the other members of the band have more input into the writing.

I think the other reason he wanted to work this way was to make an album that was different to its predecessors and make it sound different. The other four members of the band brought in demos and most of the material evolved from their demos. However, you could also say the end result was perhaps MORSEIFIDE!

The only thing that makes this edition Limited is that it comes with a DVD with the making of the album and this is something you get with most of Neal’s releases. I do enjoy watching them work on the album which is why I opted to purchase this edition. So Let’s take a quick look at the DVD.

The DVD.

The DVD’s main menu is sharp and as pristine as Blu Ray when played on a Blu Ray player with good upscaling and Thomas Ewerhard’s artwork looks even better than a vinyl album on my 50″ UHD TV. The main feature is the making of the album and here you get a 1-hour documentary where you get to see all the band members working on certain tracks from the album and discussing it all. It is perhaps on the short side when comparing it to some of the documentaries on his previous albums to which some can go on for hours 😊😊😊.

A 4-minute trailer of the documentary was uploaded to the band’s record label Inside Out Youtube TV channel back in July and here you can see part of it for yourself. Though looking at it on the Tube it looks nowhere as pristine as the DVD played on a Blu Ray player and the band have been captured using high definition cameras.

The other special feature on the DVD shows you Bill Hubauer, Eric Gillette and Randy George individually showing you all their instruments and gear in their home studios. It’s quite an interesting watch and this section has a total running time is 14 minutes, 22 seconds. Overall, the DVD content is quite good and is also a useful source for those like myself who like to write reviews.

One of the downsides the DVD does not contain is the promotional videos they made and I have to admit they have gone to town on them. Though I guess they were done afterwards but it would have been nice to have included them here.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by NMB. All Songs Written & Arranged by NMB (Except Disc 1-Track 6) Written by Neal Morse & Disc 1-Track 8. Written by Paul Simon). Recorded between January – March 2021 @ Morse Studios Nashville, Tennessee USA. Mixed & Mastered by Rich Mouser @ The Mousehouse Studio Los Angeles USA. Additional Engineering by Thomas Cucé. Drum Engineering by Jerry Guidroz. Additional Digital Editing by Bouchra Azizy. Artwork Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Band Photos by John Zocco. Lyrics Proofed by Pamela George.

Musicians:
Neal Morse: Keyboards – Guitars – Vocals.
Eric Gillette: Guitar – Vocals.
Randy George: Fretted & Fretless Bass.
Bill Hubauer: Piano – Organ – Synthesizers – Vocals.
Mike Portnoy: Drums – Percussion – Vocals.

Additional Musicians:
Gideon Klein: Viola – Cello – String Bass.
Josee Weyland: Violin.
Amy Pippin, Julie Harrison & April Zachary: Backround Vocals (Disc 1-Track 8).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The documentary of the making of the album on the DVD does give you a good insight into how the album was put together and it’s quite evident that the biggest amount of material came from Bill Hubauer’s and Randy George’s demos. However, Neal Morse was not completely out of the picture and got up early on most mornings to work on some ideas and write some music. All five members of the band very much contributed to the output of the music and felt it was one of their better collaborative projects and were well pleased with the outcome.

I think the way Mike Portnoy described the album with how the album’s title reflects the difference between the two albums that come in this package is about right. Simply because the written material on both albums is very much different and the first album reflects the innocence with its lighter approach to the popular side of things and the danger leans more towards the darker and so-called epic PROGMATIC! side. One of the other things that is distinctive about the album is that they chose not to go with a concept this time. So let’s now dive into the tracks and see how it all pans out.

CD 1.

Track 1. Do It All Again.

The opening track originally came from one of Bill Hubauer’s demos and it’s quite evident that he has borrowed some influences from Genesis in particular with “Dance on a Volcano” from their 1976 album Trick Of The Tail. I am even hearing some influences from one of their earlier songs “The Fountain Of Salmacis” in particular in the comedown sections where the mellotron is put to good use. It is one of the more PROGMATIC! songs and longest track on the first album weighing in at 8 minutes, 53 seconds and like many of the songs on the album is credited to the whole band.

I think the idea of not choosing to go with a concept and go with a collection of songs works very well and what I like in particular about the album is that Morse is no longer bashing us with the bible so to speak. The lyrics we have here pertain to the struggles, pain and strife as we journey through life itself. Both Morse and Hubauer mainly take on the lead vocals on this song and do a good job of expressing the words as you can see from the official promo video that was put out on the bands record label Tube TV.

Even though the song started out as one of Hubauer’s demos you can instantly tell it’s been MORSEIFIDE! with the familiar themes that get injected into the song. I have to admit that when I saw the promo video of this song before the release of the album it did not entice me to buy the album simply because once again I am hearing too much of the same thing.

However, having brought the album and hearing it a few more times I have got to like it and I do think it is one of the contenders for the best tracks on the album. Eric Gillette’s guitar shredding is excellently executed, he also does contribute a bit to the lead vocal here too and they all do a TOP JOB!

Track 2. Bird On A Wire.

This next song is more rock driven and both Morse and Gillette take on the lead vocals and it’s another of the longer tracks on the first album. I have to admit I am not that keen on this song and I find the lyrics too much on the repetitive side for my liking. It does, however, remind me of how Morse wrote some of the songs way back when he was in Spock’s Beard. I do however enjoy the interplay between the guitar and keyboards in the long break section towards the end of the song and they do let FLY!.

Track 3. Your Place in the Sun.

One of the shorter tracks on the album and one that is very much a pop song and is even a bit BEATLE ESC! in parts. Strangely enough, considering I don’t have one song of The Beatles in my record collection this is the song that enticed me to buy the album because it is somewhat different to the norm I generally hear with this band. It’s a very well put together constructed song and perhaps one of the more memorable songs on the album. Even the official video has been very well thought-out and cleverly put together as you can see here.

It just goes to show that you do not have to write 20 to 30 minutes songs for them to be EPIC! You don’t have to have shredding guitars and flying keyboard solos either and everything about how well this song has been put together is so precise and fits perfectly into place including the vocals and harmonies.

Speaking of the vocals all five band members have a lead role and I quite like how Mike Portnoy’s voice sat in perfectly too and the bit of humour he added to the song. The song came out of one of Randy George’s demos and this is very much my personal favourite track on the album and merits the TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 4. Another Story to Tell.

Another of the shorter pop songs on the album and Morse gets to solely take on the lead vocals for this one. Musically it’s got a sort of a 10cc vibe going on with the vamping swing to it and no doubt was composed on the keys. It’s also a bit reminiscent of what he did with Spock’s Beard many moons ago too and not a bad little number at all. They all do a GRAND JOB! on it as well.

Track 5. The Way It Had to Be.

This song came from one of the demos that was not used from sessions of the bands 2019 album The Great Adventure and it’s very FLOYD ESC! It’s also quite reminiscent to “Breathe” from the 1973 album The Dark Side Of The Moon. The lyrics also contain the title of the album so it could be seen as the albums self-titled track to some degree. It’s another one of the longer tracks and it features Gillette on lead vocals though I am pretty sure Hubauer sings on the bridge of the song.

It’s quite slow, laid back and smooth with how it runs along and the way it opens up on the intro it sounds like the soothing sound of a whales cry. Gillette also plays a very nice GILMOUR ESC! guitar solo and it gets wound up nicely on the keys.

Track 6. Emergence.

This is an acoustic piece that Morse wrote in the way of an intro to the song that follows it. It’s played by himself and it takes me back to Spock’s Beard’s second album Beware of Darkness with an acoustic piece he entitled “Chautauqua“. It works very well as a break and it tailspins very nicely into the next track.

Track 7. Not Afraid Pt. 1.

Another acoustic song written by Morse and this a fine ballad of a song that gets lifted up towards the end. The lyrical content is touching on his Christian beliefs and pertaining to him reaching out to the Lord and not being afraid of dying. It’s a song that uses 3-part harmonies and whilst Morse takes on most of the verses Gillette and Hubauer handle the bridge section.

Track 8. Bridge Over Troubled Water.

The final song on the first album is a cover of Paul Simon’s classic song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and just like Yes progged up one of his songs “America” many moons ago they have decided to do the same with this one. To be honest I quite like how they have done the long intro to the song but unlike Yes who completely done their own version, for some reason they decided to fall back into the original melody of the song to sing it. Personally, I don’t think it works that well by them doing it that way and it sort of spoils the original idea of how to do it different with the intro.

The arrangement was done by Morse and Hubauer and it’s those two who take on most of the vocals backed up by a trio of female vocalists namely Amy Pippin, Julie Harrison & April Zachary. With them doing it this way it all sounds a bit too lighthearted and I am sorry to say that not even all these voices can compete with Art Garfunkle and they was silly to even attempt it. To be honest it would have been better if they put this on a bonus disc like they do with many of the other well-known songs they have covered in the past.

CD 2.

Track 1. Not Afraid Pt. 2.

The second part of this song starts off acoustically like the first part only on the piano instead of the guitar and once again Morse wrote the biggest majority of the piece. Musically the song is very much different and it’s perhaps only tied to the first part with the lyrical content in the chorus. Morse also sings the biggest majority of the song and only one section of it is given to Hubauer to sing.

It’s very much one of the two longer epics to which they decided to put them both on the second album and personally, I think this is the better of the two. Though I will also say that it is typical of Morse’s style of writing and once again we are running over familiar ground. I have to admit that I had to give this at least 4 or 5 spins to even get to like it, and even after a couple more I cannot put my hand on my heart and say this is by any means a classic like some of the songs he wrote a decade or more ago.

Track 2. Beyond The Years.

The final song on the album is the bigger of the two epics weighing in at 31 minutes, 23 seconds and although the string players Gideon Klein and Josee Weyland feature on some of the other tracks on the album. It is on this song where they are utilised the most on the intro and outro in particular. The biggest majority of this final track also came from Hubauer’s demo to which was around 17 minutes long according to Portnoy (who I seen talking about each track on the album on the Tube) further sections were thrashed out by the rest of the band.

It’s a song that goes through many transitions and perhaps way too many for its own good. I also find a lack of cohesion in particular with how they have structured it into 7 parts and how they have named each part. For example, the first part sang by Hubauer titled “Far From Home” gets reprised to end off the song yet they have just titled it “Worlds Away”. To be honest I don’t think Hubauer’s voice works that well on this song either and I think it should have been left for Morse and Gillette to sing.

Although there are not many words in this song at all and the biggest majority of it is more of a musical affair with some good interplay at times and even the odd acoustic section thrown in like Morse did many moons ago with Spock’s Beard. I quite like the 3 or 4 part vocal harmony section but overall I do find a lack of cohesion with how each section comes into play and it’s far from a perfect marriage sort of thing.

Overall, I think the band had quite a ball for half an hour and I do in particular enjoy some of George’s bass work on this final song though once again this is far from the making of a memorable song and one you would want to stick on that often at all, well that’s how it speaks to me anyway though I dare say many more will enjoy it more than myself.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Innocence & Danger by The Neal Morse Band. Personally what I think we have here are two albums that are quite different to one another with how the material presents itself and the difference with the material that was written for them both. As a double album, I don’t think it really works and the 2nd disc might have been better included as a bonus disc or shelved for a later album.

To be honest I think the two so-called epics on the second album are too familiar with what has been done before and they are not stand out tracks nor are they memorable songs like some of the songs that were written for the first album. Personally, I think they should have stuck to their guns and gone with a single album because for my ears it is the songs on the first album that stand out and are different to what we have seen from this band in quite a while.

I honestly don’t see the two tracks on the second album as epics or classics and find them a bit too lacklustre especially in comparison to much of the material Morse has written in the past with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and his earlier solo albums. “The Light” and “The Doorway” from the first two Spock’s albums are what I call epics. So too are “All Of The Above” and “Stranger In Your Soul” from the first two Transatlantic albums.

Song’s don’t have to be 20 or 30 minutes long to be epics and even a short song like “We All Need Some Light” is what I would call a classic epic. These are all memorable songs that have something to say and songs that touch my heart and bring tears of joy streaming down my face. There are no songs on this album that have the ability to do that, though there are some good songs and they are on the first album.

The most memorable song on this album is the one that made me buy the album in the first place “Your Place in the Sun” and that along with “Do It All Again” and the acoustic instrumental track “Emergence” are my personal highlights from this entire double album. I have also given my overall rating of the album based on the first disc. Had I have included the second disc it would only get a 5 out of 10 I am afraid.

No doubt others might get more out of this new album than myself and I would not say I never wasted my money buying it either because I did enjoy the footage on the DVD that comes with Limited Edition and I don’t have a problem listening to the first disc. Though it’s not in league with anything Neal Morse wrote over a decade ago and it could be that his involvement with too many other projects and the way he keeps churning out material constantly all the time is affecting how the end product turns out.

A Nice Place In The Sun That Perhaps Needs More Fire…

The 2 CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Do It All Again. 8:53.
02. Bird on a Wire. 7:22.
03. Your Place in the Sun. 4:12.
04. Another Story to Tell. 4:50.
05. The Way It Had to Be. 7:14.
06. Emergence. 3:12.
07. Not Afraid Pt. 1. 4:53.
08. Bridge Over Troubled Water. 8:07.

CD 2.
01. Not Afraid Pt. 2. 19:30.
02. Beyond the Years. 31:22.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #189

Free Hand (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Gentle Giant

Introduction…

I must admit that when I heard in an interview with Steven Wilson either earlier this year or at the end of last year announce that he had done new mixes for both Gentle Giant albums Free Hand and Interview I got quite excited and waited in great anticipation for a release date. I got even more excited when I had the first of them to be released Free Hand in my hands and had given it a spin. Not just once but three times on the bounce back to back with three different surround mixes and was that blown away with the job Wilson had done on them that it simply left me no choice but to say that this reissue of the album is the most exciting release of the year.

I have no idea when the band intend to release Interview but I suspect it will either be towards the end of this year or sometime early on in the new year. But no doubt I shall be eagerly keeping my eyes peeled for a pre-order date as I do with most new releases.

This is going to be another one of my brief reviews simply because I already reviewed the album when I purchased the I Lost My Head clamshell box set back in 2018. I also briefly touched on the album again when I got my hands on both the 2012 Deluxe Editions of Free Hand & Interview that came with 4.1 mixes done by Peter Mew. You can find both of those reviews here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/lee-speaks-about-music-86/
https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/lee-speaks-about-music-128/

In this review, I shall be going into more detail about the new mixes rather than go into any great detail of the tracks on the album in the way of an annotation like I normally do. However, I think there is a lot more to discuss in this package than what meets the eye considering this is not a box set. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging.

The Packaging…

The discs come in a cardboard 3-panel Digipak and this is a lot better presentation in relation to the 2012 Deluxe Editions that came in what they call a hard-shell digipak which is basically a plastic jewel case that slips into a cardboard sleeve. It also comes with an 8-page booklet that stores neatly away in a die-cut pocket and perhaps the only disappointing thing is that it does not give you any informative information or even a short essay about the time the album was made. It does however contain the lyrics and all the usual linear production credits.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 6th of May and it arrived on the day of its release. I am pretty sure I paid around £17.99 for it after the discount refund Amazon refunded back into my bank account. Though even at a price of just under £20 it is now it’s worth every penny and it’s a very neat quality package.

The CD/Blu Ray Edition In Review…

This particular edition of Gentle Giant’s 1975 album Free Hand was released on the 25th of June 2021. The album comes with the original 7 tracks and has an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 43 seconds. Unlike the version that came with the, I Lost My Head clamshell box set it does not have any bonus tracks and the only real bonus is that it’s accompanied by a Blu Ray.

Surprisingly even though there are no bonus tracks that come with this release where this release really shines is with the number of different mixes you can choose from to listen to the album, and each mix literally does give you a different presentation of how the album comes across. It is, without doubt, one of the best mixes Steve Wilson has ever done and I did say he had gone to town with the job he did on the Jethro TullA” (LA Mode) 40th Anniversary Edition I not long reviewed. But here he may just have gone to several towns 😊😊😊.

There was also a rumour that Wilson had also mixed the bands 1980 album Civilian besides Interview though it seems that is not the case though the multitrack tapes have been found and it will also be getting a 5.1 mix at some point. These days Wilson seems to have turned his back on prog-rock and has been mixing other artists and bands pop albums instead. Hopefully, it’s just a phase he is going through and we will see him back at the helm mixing more PROG! albums in the near future.

The CD.

The CD contains the original seven album tracks only they have been newly remixed by Steve Wilson to which he did sometime last year and this year. To be honest with the new mixes Wilson does I very much think even most purists would appreciate especially with the attention to detail he can pull out of an original recording. The one thing he never does is go over the top so as not to take anything away from how the original recording sounded and he somehow has a way of bringing out more of the dynamic range and is able to bring out things you never heard before in the original mix.

To be honest the original mix was very good in the first place and although the mixing of the album was originally credited to the band with both Gary Martin and Paul Northfield at the helm of the recording. I am pretty sure that Ray Shulman was the guy behind most of the mixes for Gentle Giant’s albums. But don’t quote me on that and I gathered this information from many of the recent interviews I have been watching on the Tube with some of the band members.

Overall, I can enjoy the original mix and Wilson’s new mix and get satisfaction out of them both. However, to my ears what Wilson has managed to do is breathe some new life into the album (even if it’s an album that did not necessarily need anything done to it in the first place) and it does work very well. Dynamically and sonically Wilson’s mix does sound the better of the two. Although for my personal enjoyment all the excitement about this new release comes on the Blu Ray and not the CD so let’s now delve into that.

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Rays main menu is very neatly and nicely animated and it gives you 5 different choices and ways you can listen to the album to choose from. The first of the choices at the top of the menu is Steve Wilson’s Dolby Atmos mix and the good thing about it is if you do not have Atmos it will give you a Dolby True HD 7.1 surround mix with a sample rate of 24/48.

One of the good things about this type of menu is that it’s been compiled with Flash and therefore you don’t have to load to another screen to see the other options which make the navigation smooth and fast. As you can see from the “Track List” above you do only have the 7 original album tracks to choose from and like the CD there are no bonus tracks and that goes for all 5 different choices on the main menu.

Another good thing is that you get something to look at whilst playing the album and whilst playing the Dolby Atmos mix it displays a different picture for each track and it also displays the title of each track as it runs along. However, it is perhaps a bit odd that they did not choose the animated videos that was made for the Atmos mix and gave that priority to the 5.1 mix.

Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix comes with the choice of 3 soundtracks all of which are High Resolution and by default, it’s set to 96/24 LPCM Stereo. The other 2 are surround mixes the first of which is the 96/24 DTS-HD Master and perhaps the most surprising thing is that it does not come with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and he really has gone to town by giving you a 96/24 5.1 LPCM mix. Unlike the Atmos mix, each track comes accompanied by an animated video instead of a still photo.

Taking care of the animation that runs along with every track were Noah Shulman (Tracks 1, 4 & 7). Luis Mejia & Dinamita Animation (Track 2). Sam Chegini (Track 3). Morgan James Chadwick (Track 5) and Dan Melius (Track 6). The animation is a nice touch and is very good but perhaps not quite as good as the animation that was done for The Power And The Glory CD/Blu Ray Edition that was released in 2014.

Besides the different mixes, the other bonus content you get here is “The Instrumental Mixes”. These are also of Steve Wilson’s mix and they give you a complete instrumental version of the album. Plus for purists they have even included the “Original 1975 Album Mix” and both of the bonus features come with a Hi-Res format of 96/24 LPCM Stereo.

But we are not done yet and the final bonus feature they have given you is the “Original 1975 Quad Mix” and it comes with 2 soundtracks and by default, it’s set to the DTS-HD Master Audio. The other is a Quad 4.0 LPCM soundtrack and both come with a Hi-Res format of 96/24.

Like the 5.1 mix, you do get the animated videos running along with the music. Only they have put the footage in the picture frame on the fireplace that’s on the album cover. The cover also bounces from left to right across the screen and they really have gone to town on putting the blu ray together and it adds a nice touch. Overall, a TOP JOB! has been done with the Authoring and it really is impressive.

Picture & Surround Mixes.

Regarding the picture quality with the animation that’s been done for each track on the album, it is mostly pristine. However, because they have also used old photos of the band members from years ago in parts of the video footage can look a bit grainy but only on the pictures as with watching most SDR content on modern flat-screen TV’s.

But that’s not to say a TOP JOB! as not been done on them and even on the video that was done for the opening track where the pictures and even old video footage of the band was used, you can see how it’s not so noticeable with how the other textures have been blended in. It does also look like Noah Shulman gave it a sort of matt finish which also helps as you can see by the video that the band posted on their Tube channel.

As with the surround mixes Steve Wilson did for both Octopus and The Power and The Glory once again he has done a superb job with them but the difference with this release is that you do have more options to choose from and sonically there is even a difference between listening to the album with the 96/24 DTS-HD Master and 96/24 LPCM 5.1 mixes and his idea of doing away with standard 5.1 Dolby Digital mix just goes to show how serious he is about sound quality. For my ears, these two 5.1 mixes bring out more clarity and definition over the Atmos mix though that might also be down to them being louder in volume over the Atmos mix.

That’s not to say the Atmos mix is in any way inferior. I do not have Atmos myself but I love the fact that it offers you a 7.1 mix instead and to be honest, I am not into Atmos simply because it uses metadata rather than two extra channels and that is more of a simulation effect in relation to the real deal. I have heard Atmos on my mate’s system and although it sounds quite good it does not entice me to change my AV Reciever for the sake of it.

For my ears, a 7.1 mix is better than Atmos because it is the real deal and Atmos is perhaps more like the EAX environmental processing that Creative Labs incorporated into games years ago. You do not even need any of that sort of processing to hear things above your head in a 5.1 mix so why they want to place things there in the first place is beyond me and its more of a pinpoint system to give you that effect rather than let your AV Reciever do the job it supposed to do in the first place.

But what I like about the 7.1 mix is that it does give you another different way of hearing the album and there is quite a difference between this mix and the 5.1 mixes. I think the other reason why it does not stand out quite as well in relation to the 5.1 mixes is down to its lesser sample rate of 24/48 instead of 24/96. But I will say that Wilson has done a terrific job on all the surround mixes.

The real beauty about this release is that it also includes the original Quadrophonic mix and more recently I am more into Quad mixes these days and I am amazed at how many mixing engineers had the right heads on their shoulders back then to do such a GREAT! job of them and Ray Shulman is no exception. The thing is with 5.1 mixes is that very few engineers in this world have the know-how to do them right and there are so many disappointing 5.1 mixes out there and loads more than good ones. But it’s almost as if everyone knew how to do a Quad mix all those years ago and you perhaps did not have to have Wilson’s ears to do them either.

This Quad mix is to die for and is much better than the 4.1 adaptation of the original Quadrophonic mix Peter Mews did back in 2012 and easily gets 10 out of 10 in relation to the 8 out of 10 I gave to Mews mixes. What you have here is a reference-quality recording and as good as Wilson’s mixes. Like I mentioned earlier this album already had a good mix and it’s not as if it needed a new mix in the first place.

But that’s not to say that Ray Shulman is capable of doing a 5.1 mix and that is a different ball game completely and why more than 99% of engineers in this world do not have the know-how how to do them right. You need Wilson’s ears to work in that field and he is one of the best mixing engineers in the world.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the CD/Blu Ray Edition of Gentle Giant’s Free Hand. To put it in a nutshell the Blu Ray that comes in this package is a SURROUND FREAKS PARADISE! and the multiple choices it gives you to listen to the album I am more than happy with and the way I see it, it is a bonus in itself and no further bonus content such as bonus material and extra tracks was needed.

Free Hand is such a GREAT! album and one that comes with a comfortable time slot of under 40 minutes that it gives me no problem playing this entire album back to back three times over in one sitting. The very fact that the Atmos, 5.1 and Quad mixes do give you a different audio presentation makes me want to do such a thing and you can hear the differences quite easily between all 3 of these mixes.

They all bring out something more than the Stereo mix and much more detail is audible via the use of its extra separation. Though I will say what Steve Wilson has also done with the Stereo Mix is also an improvement over the original mix. Though for my ears even the original 1975 Quad mix sonically sheds more light and brings out more detail than even Wilson’s stereo mix and I was glad they included it with this release and it’s shame it was not included on the CD/Blu Ray Editions of Octopus and The Power and The Glory.

I suppose because the album was originally done back in 1975 you could not very well make it the PROG! Album of the year. However, I certainly think it’s the most exciting release of the year and if they were giving out awards for the best Surround Mix of the year this would literally walk away with the prize with ease. It is by far the best edition of the album to be released and what I would call the Definitive Edition.

It’s Never The Same In Multiple Mix Surround Heaven…

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
Atmos Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Quad Mix Rating Score. 10/10
Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #188

The Red Planet (CD/DVD Edition) – Rick Wakeman

Introduction…

This is going to be a short review because I have already reviewed the album last year and this is merely an update of this year’s reissue of The Red Planet by Rick Wakeman reissued by Madfish Records. I actually brought the CD Edition that Madfish Records put out on 28th of August last year and my reason for not opting to go for the CD/DVD Edition that was released on the R&D Media label on the 19th of June last year was down to it’s ridiculous price. I did also stress how disappointed I was in the way that it was put out on Rick’s Extortionate Emporium and you can find my review of the album here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/lee-speaks-about-music-161/

Granted that R&D Media release was a Limited Edition but as much as a surround FREAK! I am, I do draw the line when it comes to being ripped off and no way was I paying £35 plus postage & packing for a CD/DVD package like that. Sometimes it pays to hold on and this new reissue of the CD/DVD package by Madfish Records was released on the 21st of May this year and cost less than a third of the price. I pre-ordered it from Amazon UK a month earlier and it arrived on the day of its release and was at a much more respectable price of £11.99. To be honest that’s quite a bargain and I genuinely think that the R&D Limited Edition should have cost no more than £18.99.

The beauty about this package is that you also never had to wait several months for the DVD to arrive as you did with the R&D Limited Edition. However, all is not how it appears to be and it takes me back to how the original Limited Edition was first advertised on Rick’s Emporium. In this review I am going to focus on the DVD that comes with it but before I go any further let’s take a look at how it’s been packaged.

Packaging…

Well as you can see unlike the CD Edition that Madfish released last year this new release comes in a 3-panel cardboard Digipak instead of a standard plastic Jewel Case. The booklet however has only 16-pages instead of the 20-page booklet that came with the CD Edition but still manages to cram in most of the same informative information and pictures and contains all the usual linear production and credits notes.

The only thing this package does not come with is the popup sleeve (as seen above) that you got with the R&D Limited Edition. Though I would be damned if I would pay the extra £25 it cost for that edition and as far as I can make out that is the only difference between the edition we have here and that one. Overall, it’s a very neat and tidy package and a much better presentation in relation to the CD Edition.

Like I mentioned earlier this is only going to be a quick review as I have already reviewed the album and the only incentive for me to buy the album again was for the 5.1 mix on the DVD. So let’s now take a look at the DVD.

DVD.

The DVD’s main menu looks sharp and as pristine as blu ray when upscaled to which most blu ray players can do an excellent job of. The navigation is straightforward and simple enough and it comes with four options to choose from “Play”. “Track Selection”. “Audio Options” and “Extras”.

The “Track Selection” menu functions like most typical DVD’s where you have to load to another screen and this one is a bit on the slow side in making its transition and takes about 5 seconds. The other notable thing about this menu is that it does appear to look blurred in relation to all the other menus and this could have been down to an error by using a lesser resolution picture or it was the intention to make it look on the heated side of things.

The “Audio Options” menu gives you the choice of 3 soundtracks and by default, it’s set to 96K/24Bit PCM Stereo at 1.5Mbps. The DTS 5.1 mix also comes with the same high resolution but runs at a higher rate at 4.6Mbps. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is more of a standard resolution at 48K and runs at a much lower rate at 448Kbps.

The “Extras” menu contains the bonus material and here we have Rick talking about the recording of the Red Planet and some of the promotional films of which I will go into more detail in a bit. The bonus material comes with an overall playing time of 70 minutes, 46 seconds and the audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 48K at 192Kbps.

The good thing about the DVD is that it displays a different picture along with the title for all 8 tracks (as seen above). However in comparison to how things were done back in the early 2000’s it could be seen as a bit mediocre. But it’s nice to have something to look at whilst listening to the music and with how technology has moved on and we have HD and even 4K images to look at so I cannot complain and overall quite a good job has been done here.

All Is Not How It Appears To Be…

If you read my original review of the album you will gather at how I had a go at the original release and how everything was not how it appeared to be at first. For example within the first week that the Limited CD/DVD Edition showed up for preorder on Rick’s Emporium around March or earlier last year it was advertised that it came with a 5.1 mix of the album. A week or so later the 5.1 side of things had been removed and Rick announced on his own website that the DVD does not contain a 5.1 mix.

I know for a fact that the R&D Limited Edition CD/DVD did not come with a 5.1 mix because a mate of mine brought it and that’s how I also knew it cost £37 with the postage & packing. He also had to wait for the DVD to arrive and when it did arrive in October last year he phoned me up to tell me how disappointed he was that it never came with one. There are several things I pointed out about that release and all pointed to GREED! This is why I called it “Rick Wakeman’s Extortionate Emporium”.

I also pointed out in my earlier review how the vinyl editions of the Madfish release in August last year were pressed onto 140gram vinyl instead of 180gram and how it looked like Rick was cutting corners with the release to save on the money. However, this could also be down to the shortage of vinyl and this does happen from time to time and was the reason I gave up on vinyl years ago.

It does however make Rick look like a bit of a cheapskate and it also seems to look like he’s at it again with this new CD/DVD Edition that was released on Madfish records in May this year and like a sucker, I fell for it. Though thankfully it only cost me £11.99.

As I have already mentioned my incentive to buy music these days is for the Surround mix and that is why I will even go out of my way to buy an album like this again. However once again all is not how it appears to be especially by looking at the way this new release was advertised which follows:

“May 2021, sees Madfish releasing a new 2 disc version of the album as a CD + DVD format which will feature the original album on CD and the DVD will showcase the album in glorious 5.1 surround Sound and Hi-res stereo audio (PCM Stereo @ 24-bit 96kHz / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround @ 24-bit 48kHz / DTS 5.1 Digital Surround @ 24-bit 96kHz) plus 3 mini promo films and a 70 minute documentary of “The Making Of The Red Planet”, presented in a digipak with a 16 page colour booklet”.

To be honest with an advertisement like that it’s easy to see how one can easily get roped in and for surround FREAKS! such as myself they might even get excited about it. Even the specs regarding the 5.1 mix that I posted with the screenshots I took of the DVD very much match up to this advertisement. Yet when I played the DVD I was just as disappointed that my mate was last year.

To be perfectly honest when I played the 5.1 mix I was wondering how to give it a rating because it certainly was not leaping at me with excitement or giving me an immersive experience. I then played the high-res stereo mix and was quite blown away by that and thought it was a much better mix. It was then I started to have a read in the booklet to find out who had done the 5.1 mix and it never even mentioned it in there. But then I noticed this on the back cover.

As you can plainly see the advertisement was a complete farce and no multitrack tapes were even used to do a 5.1 mix and all you are getting is a simulated 5.1 Upmix or Psudio mix to which you could achieve the same results without software simply by playing the CD on your AV Reciever using any of the Upmix facilities such as Dolby Prologic XX, Neo 6, 7-Channel Stereo and so on.

This is not the first time that some of Rick’s albums have been advertised with surround mixes making it look like they were mixed from the original master tapes over the past decade. For example, back in 2015, I purchased the Deluxe Edition of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII because it supposedly came with a Quadrophonic mix mixed from the original multitrack tapes. To be honest I was more disappointed with that release than what we have here and no way was it a Quadrophonic mix. As one reviewer on the tube pointed out who completely analyzed the recording stated:

“This is not Quadrophonic and furthermore I don’t know what the hell it is but a complete mess” 😊😊😊.

Now in some respects, you might expect it from an older release but with a new release, this should never be the case. It’s easy to say that it was down to the record company and throw the blame on them. But surely Rick Wakeman would have had the sense to oversee the release and all that was being done with it. He always posts on his Youtube channel regularly these days keeping you up to date with what he is doing and never once have I seen him stick his hands up and say sorry guys the record or advertising company made a mistake.

Stereo & Surround Mixes.
The mixes were done by Erik Jordan and assisted by Toby Wood and at a guess, I would say they neither had the 5.1 software to be able to do a 5.1 mix in the first place, and they would not have a clue how to do one either. The high-res stereo mix is excellent and would easily get 10 out of 10. The so-called 5.1 mixes even though they are only Upmixes sonically sound Ok! However, it will not give you the immersive experience that a real 5.1 mix will give you so in terms of a rating it only gets 5 out of 10.

Bonus Material.
Having looked at the main feature on the DVD and being somewhat disappointed with the whole shenanigans of how things have been done in the way of false advertising and having no 5.1 mix which is why I brought the thing in the first place. I found the bonus material just as disappointing. This is so unprofessional and not what I expected at all, even the footage they used they could not even be arsed to edit it to make it look any better.

Before the album was released last year I happened to watch Rick’s Tube channel and got to see him talk about the new album and how everything was progressing along. You also got to see some of the animations that was put to the music and band members such as guitarist Dave Colquhoun and bassist Lee Pomeroy show you some of the techniques they used with their instruments and how they went about recording them in their own little studio setups at home.

There was a total of around 15 – 18 video clips that were uploaded to his channel over the few months the album was being put together too which some were less than a minute. Others could stretch out between 2 – 9 minutes and these are the same video clips that make up the extra bonus material you get here. Each clip has a short intro and they have just left it in instead of editing it out to make it look more like an interview or discussion was going on with the footage. Something better than this should have been done with it and to leave the footage as it was is just pure laziness on their part.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of this latest reissue of the CD/DVD Edition of The Red Planet released by Madfish Records earlier this year. I think it’s plain to see that not everything went to plan with how Rick Wakeman intended the album to be put out in the first place. When I look at the animation that was put to the music in the bonus section I am pretty sure that Rick may have had every intention to do the same thing he did with the 5.1 DVD release of Out There back in 2003 by accompanying the music with animated footage to run along in sequence.

Granted due to the outspread of Covid things got delayed but in reality that should have given him more time to work things out properly but instead it appears that he’s cut corners with the release of this album to get it out there. Nevertheless there is no reason why this latest reissue could not have been given a 5.1 mix but at the end of the day I suppose once again its down to cost and its a shame because it is a very good album and deserved much better treatment.

It could be that Rick left it in the hands of Madfish Records to put out this release but to go out and blatantly falsely advertise it in the way in which they did, I simply cannot ignore and it appears that Wakeman’s latest releases are like doing dodgy deals with Del Trotter of Only Fools and Horses 😊😊😊. Furthermore when you put bonus material on a DVD one would expect to see something you have not already seen and the way that section of the DVD has been compiled and unedited is so unprofessional.

However, that’s not to say everything about this new reissue is a shambles and in comparison to the so-called expanded edition that Esoteric Recordings released of Jon Anderson’s debut album Olias Of Sunhillow I reviewed last month. This is a much better recording and even though the 5.1 Upmix is not worth bothering with the high-resolution stereo mix does bring out a lot more than the CD and the so-called 5.1 mix.

At the end of the day, there is still a certain amount of quality you get with this release but it’s not for surround FREAKS! like myself. However, if you are also into high-resolution stereo mixes that is the only way I would recommend this release and with how it’s all neatly packaged and its low price point of £11.99 I still think you are getting a good deal but perhaps not a bargain after all without the 5.1 mix.

A Trotters Independent Trading Release…

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
5.1 Upmix Rating Score. 5/10.
Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Bonus Material Rating Score 2/10
Album Rating Score. 7.5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #187

Still Thick As A Brick – The Refelction Club

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Introduction…

Well, this is a turn up for the books and just like how Ian Anderson has been repackaging his back catalogue of music it comes in a book. I am sure all Jethro Tull fans will remember their 1972 iconic concept album Thick As A Brick. He even did a sequel under his own name back in 2012 with TAAB2. Well, now the saga continues with Still Thick As A Brick only not by Anderson or Tull but by an entirely new band that goes by the name of The Reflection Club. Many might very well regard this as plagiarism although I would not entirely call it that because just like what Rob Reed did for Mike Oldfield with his Sanctuary series this is all original material and I have to say done with sheer BRILLIANCE! That much that I could easily make this my favourite album of the year.

I stumbled upon this release via a review by Bryan Morey on the Progarchy website and thank him sincerely for his review and heads up for putting me onto the album. Thick As A Brick has always been my personal favourite album by Jethro Tull although I have many favourite albums by the band especially from 1969 – 1978. What you are getting here is something that very much replicates the band, Jethro Tull, down to a tee from that early period and I would even go as far as to say that this could easily be mistaken for a long lost Tull album that came out of that magic decade with how well it’s been done.

So just who are these people that make up this band? And where do they come from? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as can see in the picture above they have gone out of their way to release this album in the same formula of a book that Ian Anderson has been doing with the 40th and 50th Anniversary Editions of the back catalogue of the Jethro Tull discography. Although both are quality packages and the discs come in hardback books. There are quite a few differences and the first would be that the book we have here is slimmer than what you get with the Tull packages. The other difference is how the discs are stored as you can see below.

The discs in the JT package are stored in quality plastic trays with hubs that make it easy to retrieve the discs. Whereas this package comes with the discs stored in a die-cut slip pocket in the front and back of the book and they can be buggers to get at and try and retrieve them.

The book itself tries to throw in some humour in a similar vein to what Ian Anderson and the rest of the band did with the album cover back in 1972. There is a bit of tongue and cheek going on here, however, whereas the articles in Thick As A Brick were quite hilarious and PYTHON ESC! I find it hard to find anything remotely funny here at all. Maybe it’s a German thing 😊😊😊.

The book does however provide some detailed informative content regarding the band and how the album came about and comes with all the usual linear production notes, lyrics and other articles and photographs. To be honest the book you get here does also come with near enough as many pages as what you get with the Tull packages. But for some reason, they have duplicated the contents that make up the book twice as seen in the picture above. For example, the first 16-pages are in small print and they have used a further 70-pages to display exactly the same content in larger print. For the life of me, I cannot see why they did this and maybe once again this is a German thing 😊😊😊.

Overall it is however a very good quality package and even at its price point of under £20, you are getting good value for the buck considering it comes with a CD & DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album. I ordered my copy from Amazon and paid £19.66 for it and it’s still available around that price or slightly cheaper today.

It was also released on blue coloured 180gram vinyl in a Limited Edition package of 500 copies to which you also got the CD & DVD and the book in the form of a newspaper. Sold at a bargain price too considering all you are getting here and it was priced at €30 from the bands website.

Artwork.
Unlike all those involved in putting all the content into Jethro Tull’s Thick As Brick back in 1972 the design we have here was all done by one man Lutz Meinert, who happens to be the guy behind the project and who wrote all the material on the album. Overall, I think he has done a very good job even if there is a German thing about it 😊😊😊.

The Album In Review…

Still Thick As A Brick by The Reflection Club was released on the 3rd of March 2021. The album contains 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 38 seconds. Just like the 1972 album Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull, it runs along the lines of a concept album. The way the album has been presented in the form of a newspaper or magazine called Rellington Stone instead of the St. Cleve Chronicle also suggests certain things are being replicated. Although the story we have here is poles apart from the story that Ian Anderson wrote about the fictional character Gerald Bostock and in no way is it a continuation of that story. It’s an album that is done more in the way of a tribute to that classic album more than anything else and perhaps could be seen as a labour of love.

Everything about the album we have here is highly original written material and was conceived by the multi-instrumentalist, musician and songwriter Lutz Meinert. Although it was going to take a lot more than himself to pull off a project like this and I believe he assembled the other members that make up The Reflection Club back in 2017. Meinert himself is from Berlin, Germany and is no stranger to working on other projects and collaborating with other musicians. Back in 2011 he put together another one of his studio projects and formed the Psychedelic/Space Rock band Margin and released one album under this project name.

Psychedelic Teatime is perhaps an album that is more along the lines of Pink Floyd with the material he wrote for it. Even the PROGMATIC! band Gong springs to mind with the title he chose here. I did take the liberty to listen to this album on the Tube but it was not my cup of tea. It did not speak to me like Floyd whereas what we have with this new project of his says everything about Jethro Tull back in the early 70’s and I guess that is down to other quality musicians he has onboard with him here, especially the singer who is English and is in a Tull tribute band who go by the name of The Jethro Tull Experience.

To be honest I have never heard of this tribute band though you can see why Paul Forrest would fit in a band like this with his voice which is as close as you could get to Anderson’s voice back in the early 70’s. He also plays acoustic guitar and flute in the band which are all part of Anderson’s attributes. Although it is his voice that is more predominantly utilised for this album and taking care of the flute side of things we have American flautist Ulla Harmuth. She really can play the flute although missing are the other characteristics that Anderson applies to the flute such as vocal breathing, grunts and snarls. I would also say that it is really only those characteristics that differentiate this album from it sounding like a long lost Tull album from the 70’s.

The final musician who makes up the lineup is also from Germany and he is Nils Conrad who contributes electric guitar to the album. All the other instruments such as the keyboards, bass and drums are played by Meinert himself and there is also quite a few additional musicians and voices that also contribute to making up the album which I will go into later. There is even a whole football team that contributes to it although like many of the guests who appear on the album there does seem to be a spoof going on here 😊😊😊.

The album is very much a studio project were the main core members of the band recorded their parts at their home studio’s. Like many musicians today, they have their own little studio setups at home and its not as if they met up with each other and internationally collaborated via contact from their homes. The final mixing and mastering of stereo and 5.1 surround sound was done by Lutz Meinert at Imago-Studio, Berlin.

I will go into the album tracks on the CD later in the “Album Tracks” section of my review. But first, let’s take a look at the DVD that comes with the package which was another one of my incentives to buy the album.

The DVD.

The DVD’s main menu looks quite pristine and as sharp as a Blu Ray. Looking at the photo they have used you would think that more than somebody has had a bad day at the office 😊😊😊. The navigation runs quite smooth and it’s easy to navigate your way along with the 4 choices of “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Setup” and “Subtitles For Lyrics”.

The “Track Select” menu displays all the 11 album tracks on one page and although you do have to load a page to get to it the transition is quite quick and smooth. I quite like the way they have done things here by using a different picture for this menu.

The “Audio Setup” menu gives you a choice of three soundtracks the PCM Stereo mix has the highest resolution of 96K/24Bit at 4.5Mbps. The DTS 5.1 mix comes with a 48k/24Bit resolution at 754Kbps. Whilst the Dolby Digital mix is 48K at 448Kbps. Even though the stereo mix has been given more priority in the resolution department it is still possible to get better results with both the 5.1 mixes down to the separation.

It also comes with subtitles which is good for those who want to follow the concept story and get to know what it’s all about. The “Subtitles” menu gives the choice of five different languages English, Deutch, French, Spanish and Italian. By default is set to none.

The other good thing is that it comes with an array of pictures for you to feast your eyes on whilst listening to the album. I say an array of pictures and it would be impossible to count them but there could be at least a thousand if not more. The pictures portray the concept of the album and run along in sequence to the story, they are all high-quality HD snaps. Overall, quite an impressive job has been done putting it all together and a quality job has been done here.

Picture & Audio Quality.

Everything regarding the DVD was done by Lutz Meinert and I have to say he has done a quality job all around here. The pictures he has used are all high-quality HD pictures and when playing this DVD on a Blu Ray player you would not tell the difference between the picture quality of both formats. Although that is obviously down to the Blu Ray player upscaling the picture and many players can do a really good job of it and give DVD’s that pristine sharpness and quality that you would get with a 1080p Blu Ray.

Regarding the audio quality, I think it’s fair to say that not only does Meinert have a good vision to do the job he did so well with the video side of things, but he also has a good ear. I would even go as far as to say a very good one too because although most engineers have no problem mixing stereo. 5.1 surround mixes tend to be the hardest thing to do for many engineers and I will say that this guy also has the right ear and know how to do them well. I am not saying he’s in Steve Wilson’s league when it comes to doing surround mixes, but overall he has done quite a very good job here with both the stereo and surround mixes and I would even give the surround mix an 8.5 out of 10. It does give you a very good immersive experience.

Musicians & Credits…

All tracks were composed, arranged and produced by Lutz Meinert. Together with George Boston he also wrote all the lyrics. Published by Madvedge Records. Recorded sometime between 2017 – 2021. Mixed & Mastered by Lutz Meinert at Imago Studio Berlin, Germany. Album Design by Lutz Meinert. 5.1 Surround Mix by Lutz Meinert.

Musicians:
Lutz Meinert: Piano – Organ – Harpsichord – Vibraphone – Glockenspiel – Electric & Double Bass – Drums & Percussion & Occasional Background Vocals.
Paul Forrest: Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar – Flute (Track 2).
Nils Conrad: Electric Guitar.
Ulla Harmuth: Flute (Except Track 2).

Guest Musicians:
The Rellington Resort Orchestra, conducted by Laura Palmer.
Vanessa Wiltshire: – Solo Violin (Tracks 6 & 10).
The Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble – Sitar and Percussion.
The Bagpipe Club Willy Scotty – Bagpipes and Piccolo Flutes.
The Rellington Football Club – Shouts and Insane Noise.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The whole concept and idea behind Still Thick As A Brick was done by Lutz Meinert and to some degree, there are some similarities between his fictional story and Ian Anderson’s. For example the spoof idea of how Gerald Bostock wrote the lyrics he has used the same initials and claimed that George Boston co-wrote the lyrics with him. I would also stick my neck out and say that the “Guest Musicians” listed above is entirely a spoof and all the instrumentation and sounds in that section are all part of his own production work.

Like Anderson’s idea, the story is based around the fictional character who wrote it, only here it’s set in a fictional town called Rellington. It deals with Boston’s busy life of work, finance, women, drugs, and many of the issues we deal with in our complex modern world sort of thing. Another similarity is that the album was released on the 3rd of March as was the original album some 49 years ago. Although the album is split into 11 tracks or parts it does run along seamlessly and portrays the story very well so let’s now dive into the album.

Track 1. Part 1: Prelude.

The opening introduction sounds nothing like Tull at first and the orchestral section to my ears sounds like the orchestration was played on the keyboards with the use of modelling soft synth software. The so-called Rellington Resort Orchestra directed by Laura Palmer is a spoof and neither does the town or resort exist. As far as I can make out Laura Palmer is a fictional character from the American TV series Twin Peaks. The soundtrack from the series also has a theme of the same name. One of the other things that tell me it’s a spoof is the way it’s worded as “Directed” by her and not “Conducted”.

I have to confess that I am not that keen on this orchestrated opening and it’s not in league with some of the skilful orchestral arrangements David Palmer did for Jethro Tull that used a real orchestra. Though I will say Lutz Meinert has done a very good job and it does more or less sound like a real orchestra and to be fair it’s not as if Meinert would be in the same financial situation as Anderson to hire an orchestra so it’s perhaps understandable.

It is only a short 2-minute piece and things start to sound more like Tull around the 1.5-minute mark when he brings in the Hammond at first then the drums and bass right at the very end to tailspin into the next track. Ulla Harmuth also contributes some fine flute to it as well and those are the only two musicians on this opening piece.

Track 2. Part 2: Time Out.

As soon as this track opens up there is no doubt that the album now sounds like you are listening to a Jethro Tull album from the 70’s. It’s really down to one man and this particular track features Paul Forrest using all three of Anderson’s attributes which are his voice, acoustic guitar and this is the only track he also plays the flute on as well. It is without any doubt the best track on the album and is the main theme of the album with how it reoccurs in other parts as it runs along.

I am pretty sure that if Meinert would have released this track as a single this album would be selling like hotcakes. It’s a shame really because as it stands I don’t think the album is getting enough recognition and that would really be down to the very few who have heard it. However, you can get to hear it on Bandcamp along with the next four tracks that come after it so it gives you a good idea of how the album flows.

This song actually puts me in mind of the album Passion Play rather than Thick As A Brick which is most likely down to the melody played on the acoustic guitar. I can also imagine it being on Warchild and coming into play after the words “Would you like a cup of tea dear” on the intro of that album.

Time Out” really is a very well written and arranged song and even the string arrangement done by Meinert sits in well here. Nils Conrad also lends support to the song though he is perhaps more utilised as the album progresses along. This is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Part 3: Years on the Fast Track.

This is the first track on the album to feature all four musicians although Forrest’s voice only comes into play in the dying last few seconds for it to tailspin into the next track so this is very much more of an instrumental track. No doubt the Hammond organ puts you in mind of TAAB but I quite like how well Meinert’s bassline stands out so well on this track. Conrad gets to do more with his electric guitar and plays some fine lead lines and embellishes the main theme of the previous track towards the end. Harmuth’s flute also plays a fine contribution here too. It’s a piece that very much picks up the pace of the album and they all do a GRAND! job of it.

Track 4. Part 4: Rellington Town.

This next song is the longest track on the album and another of my personal favourite tracks on the album. Forrest is back with his Anderson voice and acoustic guitar and here he is accompanied by Harmuth on flute and all 4 musicians do another TOP JOB! here. There is some fine progression in this song with how it develops and it does put you in mind of Jethro Tull. In this part, George Boston is reflecting on some of the finer points of the fictional town he grew up in.

As Rellington Town does not exist I decided to use a picture of a town that very much exists namely Wellington Town. Even though the song is some 6 minutes, 17 seconds long it does seem to be over in no time. I guess that is really down to how good the song is and this is very much one of the highlights of the album along with “Time Out“.

Track 5. Part 5: The Club Of Hopeful Pinions.

If there is a track on this album that sounds like it’s been lifted from TAAB this is definitely it, although it has been done in their own way you do however get the feel of that classic Tull album with all that’s been done here. The combination of electric and acoustic guitars work very well throughout and Harmuth’s flute is well utilised in the lengthy solo and once again all 4 musicians are firing on all cylinders. It’s very much another highlight on the album and a GREAT ONE!

Track 6. Part 6: The Forary Of The Sharks.

This next track is one of two tracks on the album that features Vanessa Wiltshire supposedly on solo violin and once again this is a spoof and the idea of how Meinert came up with the name was most likely by seeing the top violinist Vanessa-Mae appear in the Wiltshire Gazette. A solo violin or violin solo is perhaps one of the hardest sounds to emulate with a keyboard and to be honest if there is one in this song I cannot hear it. There are some strings around the 4:24 mark though they are a combination of strings and not a solo violin on its own.

This is the only video of a full song from the album that Meinert has uploaded on the bands Tube channel and this gives you an idea of how well he has synchronised each clip to run along with the story. You will also notice that every now and then he does put clips of the instrumentation used and you can see for yourself where the so-called solo violin comes into play. Although he has also edited this video to display the album promotion in parts too.

There is even a Sitar amongst the pictures just before the string section and it’s obvious that it’s not played by The Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble which is another spoof. Though even in my research I could not find anything regarding how he come up with the name and my guess is that perhaps like Anderson Indian restaurants may have curried his brain 😊😊😊.

Track 7. Part 7: Sentimental Depreciation.

This is another fine song that utilises not just Forrest’s voice but his acoustic guitar. The other thing that is notable here is that there is indeed a solo violin and to my ears it does sound like one. There is obviously an error regarding the couple of tracks Wiltshire’s violin is alledged to be played on. To be honest with how real it sounds it even has me thinking if she is part of a spoof. However, I am still gonna stick my neck out and say that it is a spoof 😊😊😊.

This is another GREAT! track on the album to which is mostly acoustic and the reoccurring theme of “Time Out” is brought back into play once again. It also features some fine vibes and piano from Meinert and Conrad gets to fly out another fine solo on the electric at the end to round it all off.

Track 8. Part 8: Nervesoothers.

This next song ticks over at a steady relaxing pace and perhaps a soothing pace to calm the nerves as the title might suggest sort of thing. Ulla Harmuth is back in the fold with her flute and musically this song is very much acoustically driven along by the piano, vibes, double bass and drums and there was no need for Conrad’s electric guitar. Forest gets to stretch out his lungs a bit more than Anderson on this song too.

Track 9. Part 9: The Great Dance Around The Golden Calf.

The pace is brought back to the fold and this one is very much guitar-driven and Conrad’s services are very much required and things are hotting up over these next couple of tracks. I quite like Meinert’s pumping dominant bassline and he works in the keyboards and drums very well too. Harmuth also contributes some excellent flute work to and the services of the so-called Little Indian Restaurant Ensemble are also banging it out on the kettle drums. They are all pretty much cooking on gas and doing a GRAND! job.

Track 10. Part 10: Bedlam.

The bedlam in question happens to be at a football match and this is where the so-called Rellington Football Club are utilised with their shouts and insane noise. The song itself is a bit like a game of two halves with how the transition comes into play at the halfway point sort of thing. There are quite a few transitions and bags of progression throughout and this is, even more, hotter than the previous track with all that’s been put into it and they are all on fire.

There are flashes throughout that remind you of the original TAAB especially the hammond organ and I like how Meinert has combined it with the harpsichord as well. Conrad gets to fly out another TASTY! guitar solo and the so-called Vanessa Wiltshire throws in a bit of violin. This is quite a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and another of the album’s highlights.

Track 11. Part 11: Look Across The Sea.

Everything is brought down smoothly and Meinert’s piano trickles out the waves of the sea with a nice little flourish on the keys. The so-called Willy Scotty Bagpipe Club comes nicely into play with the bagpipes and piccolo flutes and I have no idea where he got the bagpipes from but they do sound 100% real to my ears and even more impressive is the military roll on the snare drum that accompanies them.

Once again the theme from the opening song “Time Out” gets nicely replenished with Conrad’s electric guitar and it all nicely fizzles out to allow Forrest to come in with his acoustic guitar in the way of a reprise of the main song and end it all off in the same style that Anderson did on the original album more or less. It’s the perfect way to put the album to bed and I have to say it’s one hell of a satisfying album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Still Thick As A Brick by The Reflection Club. What we have here is an album that has obviously taken some time to put it all together and one that has very well skillfully been woven together. It’s very much a labour of love and all four musicians have done a stellar job on it. It does without doubt sound like a long lost Jethro Tull album from the early 70’s and no doubt Paul Forrest’s voice does have Ian Anderson’s characteristics and without that this album and the way it’s been tributed to the band would not have really worked.

The material is all highly original and in no way could you really accuse it of plagiarism though no doubt some die-hard Tull fans might. In all honestly, I personally think this album is better than the last couple of Tull albums I reviewed Stormwatch and “A” with how it’s been put together and my personal highlights from the album are “Time Out“. “Rellington Town“. “The Club Of Hopeful Pinions” and “Bedlam“. Although this is really an album you will get more pleasure out of by playing it in its entirety and it’s been very well stitched seamlessly together.

In conclusion of my review of this GREAT! album I very much think this album will appeal to many Tull fans and whether you are adventuring through the mind of Gerald Bostock or George Boston I am sure you will enjoy the ride. The production standards speak for themself and it even comes with a 5.1 mix that I am sure will delight surround FREAKS! such as myself and give them a well-pleasing immersive experience. I personally think it’s the PROG! album of the year so far and one that will be very hard to beat.

It’s been very well presented with the package it comes in and is well worthy of every penny and is bang on for the buck or in this case it may even be “Book”. It will be interesting to see what Lutz Meinert is planning for his next project. Hopefully, it will be another Tull album but for now, I highly recommend you check this album out. Here is the official album trailer that was put out.

Not One You Want To Sit Out…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Part 1: Prelude. 2:00.
02. Part 2: Time Out. 4:03.
03. Part 3: Years On The Fast Track. 3:30.
04. Part 4: Rellington Town. 6:17.
05. Part 5: The Club Of Hopeful Pinions. 3:47.
06. Part 6: The Forary Of The Sharks. 5:45.
07. Part 7: Sentimental Depreciation. 5:19.
08. Part 8: Nervesoothers. 3:09.
09. Part 9: The Great Dance Around The Golden Calf. 3:36.
10. Part 10: Bedlam. 5:48.
11. Part 11: Look Across The Sea. 4:24.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8.5/10.
The Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #186

A (40th Anniversary La Mode Edition) – Jethro Tull

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Introduction…

Well, it’s been well over a year since the release of the Force 10 Edition of Stormwatch and one was not quite sure if Ian Anderson was going to continue re-releasing the Jethro Tull discography in these rather splendid Book Edition Box Sets. A lot of the delay of everything was obviously down to Covid 19 and I was well pleased when I heard back in February this year that the series was continuing and that the bands 40th Anniversary of their 13th studio album “A” was to be released in April this year. It was also even better news to hear from the words of Steven Wilson in an interview that the bands 3rd album Benefit is finally being repackaged and getting the same book treatment. Hopefully, we should see that surface sometime later in the year.

I myself have been collecting these book editions ever since it all started with Thick As A Brick back in 2012 and have them all. That particular package only came with a CD and DVD unlike the other Book Editions that followed the series and like many of these splendid editions, they have gone out of circulation or out of print and are selling for silly money. These days it’s no surprise to see that particular first edition in the series selling for over £400. Like all the editions in the series I pre-order them as soon as I hear they are coming out months in advance from Amazon and have saved quite a fortune by doing so. Three of them cost me no more than £14 including that very first edition.

The good news is that the Jethro Tull Discography is continuing to be re-released in the form of these Book Anniversary Editions. However, the sad news is that Steven Wilson is no longer going to be doing the new mixes and this is the final one he has been involved in. I have no idea who will be mixing the next album Broadsword and the Beast but I do know that it will be coming with 8 Discs. Many of the editions in the series come with an array of extra bonus material and the biggest bonus for myself are the 5.1 surround mixes, and without Wilson, at the helm of the mixes I am going to be missing him tremendously because he has done a superb job on this series and for many other artists and bands in the past.

Just like the previous album Stormwatch which was the last album to feature the classic band line-up. “A” was an album that was never my cup of tea when it got released back in 1980. I thought the written material was quite weak on both albums and Ian Anderson was writing about different subject matters which never really sat in with his earlier writing on those albums from This Was to Heavy Horses.

Personally, for me it was not the changing of the band line-up that really mattered, it was more down to his writing and both of these albums regarding their material have very little to say to me. 40 years later the album Stormwatch still says very little to me and it was the Associated Recordings that really won me over with that box set and the book of course to which I love to read about what was going on back then. The books in all editions are certainly very interesting and play an integral part in why these packages really stand out in relation to many other box sets.

So after 41 years how does the album “A” speak to me today? I am pretty sure it was an album that the biggest majority of Tull fans never had the time of day for and it was never very well received upon its release. However, before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

As with all these packages, the discs come stored in a hardbound book and everything about these Book Editions is pure quality. Personally, this way of packaging a box set cannot be beaten and neither can its price point with what you get with these Tull Editions. They are also easy to store on the shelf along with your DVD’s and do not take up a ton of space like many other box sets do. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 17th of February and it arrived on the day of its release. It always pays to pre-order these things early and you will generally find you will save a bit of money too. This one I got for £31.49 which is excellent value for the buck.

The Artwork.
The albums cover concept was by Ian Anderson under the direction of Peter Wagg of Chrysalis Records. The band set off to Kidlington airport near Oxford in England with photographer John Shaw and Martyn Goddard. Additional photos including in this new edition were taken by Martyn Goddard, Brian Cooke, Carsten Bergmann, Martin Webb, Heather Woodruff and Lasse Hoile.

It appears that the band dressed up for the occasion and I have to admit that after all these years I never realised they were all inside an Airport Control Tower. The albums cover always gave me the impression that they were in a spaceship and they were trying to replicate something along the lines of Star Trek especially with the design of the “A” logo that was on their white boiler suits.

A (40th Anniversary A La Mode Edition) In Review…

The original album “A” by Jethro Tull was released on the 29th of August 1980 and contained 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of just over 43 minutes. Although the album did manage to break into the Top 30 of the UK Album Charts and peaked at Number 25, it was met by a lot of criticism regarding the bands new line-up and how musically it sounded like a departure from the bands familiar style with its heavy use of synthesizers. It was perhaps nothing unusual for the 80’s because the biggest majority of bands were now churning out keyboard orientated music in that decade and was the new trend. It’s also perhaps the very reason that I myself detested that decade and did not take to this album at all.

The album “A” was released at a time when I myself had lost interest in Jethro Tull and that was really down to how disappointed I was with Stormwatch released in the previous year. I never even bothered buying the album at the time and it was my oldest brother who had brought it upon its release and having heard it I honestly thought they had lost the plot.

It was not until Crest Of A Knave was released in 1987 that I eventually got back into the band and that was an album that sparked up my interest in them once again. It was also the time I had brought a CD Player and started to replace my vinyl collection with CD’s and I did then buy “A” along with the rest of the Tull catalogue. Having played the album again back then I very much ranked the album as the worst Tull album ever. I still think it is in all honesty and it has to be the least played album in my Tull collection.

The album was originally intended to be an Ian Anderson solo album hence the title of “A” for Anderson. It was the record company that pushed for the album to be released under the name of Jethro Tull to which caused much of the controversy over the years regarding the breaking up of the previous band line-up. Many believed that it was Anderson who fired its previous members John Evan, David Palmer, and Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow but it was nothing of the sort and Anderson merely compiled a different bunch of musicians to work with him on his solo project. Barlow left on his own accord due to depression over the death of bassist John Glascock.

Much of the controversy was down to the press the Melody Maker, in particular, jumping the gun as usual and not exactly reporting the actual truth of the matter. Many of the band members were hurt by it including Anderson himself who immediately wrote to the members of the band explaining that this was a one-off thing and he had no intentions of splitting up the band. He even gave his own version of the truth in the press himself so you cannot really blame Anderson. However, he did admit that he should have stuck to his guns regarding it being a solo album and not have let his record company release the album under the bands name.

Regarding how good any musicians are in a band at the end of the day it’s really down to the songwriting and putting all the best musicians in the world in a band will not make a blind bit of difference unless you have something good to say with the written material.

Ian Anderson was very much at the core of the biggest majority of the material that is written for Jethro Tull and as with the previous album the lyrical content was diverting away from fantasy folklore and was taking in other subject matter such as the cold war. I think that was part of the reason why the folk trilogy of albums never worked and the latter of the three was well out of context. So let’s now take a look at the contents and see if they are in context and marry up to make something more out of this package.

The Package Contents…

Jethro Tull A 3D Packshot

A (A La Mode) by Jethro Tull was released on the 16th April 2021 and because of the current pandemic, it was released a year later than its actual 40th Anniversary. My copy arrived on the day of its release and as with all of these Book Edition Box Sets they come with an array of bonus features and this one I personally do not think disappoints one bit in that department.

This one like the previous package comes with 6 discs although instead of 4 CD’s and 2 DVD’s we have 3 CD’s and 3 DVD’s. It also comes with a 104-page book that is rammed with information of around the time that album was made. The “La Mode” is perhaps more associated with the song “Aqualung” but did feature in the Slipstream video that came with the Deluxe Edition of the album back in 2004. So let’s now dive in a take a GANDER! at the content.

The Book.
In the book, you get an extensive article by Engineer Martin Webb on the recording and touring of the album, with contributions from Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and Eddie Jobson. Lyrics for the album plus a track by track annotation by Ian Anderson. Mark Craney interviewed in 1989 by Doane Perry. Interviews with Steven Wilson on the mixing and the art director and Slipstream executive producer Peter Wragg. A recording and touring chronology and rare photos and memorabilia.

CD 1.
The first CD comes with the original 10 album tracks plus 5 Associated tracks that were recorded around the same time the album was made. All 15 tracks have been newly mixed by Steven Wilson and it comes with an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 58 seconds. The original album tracks I will go into deeper later on in my review and I will just focus on the extra bonus tracks we get here for now.

To be honest there is very little here with the bonus content and this is nothing in comparison to the array of extra tracks that came with the Force 10 Edition of Stormwatch and many other Editions in this series of re-issues from the Tull back catalogue of their discography.

The other thing about the 5 extra tracks you get here is that they offer very little in the way of unreleased material even though the first 4 of them are unreleased. For example, you get an extended version of “Crossfire” that has been extended by 34 seconds. The song is only really 15 seconds longer and that is the guitar and drum intro that was either added or cut from the final mix. The remaining 19 seconds are really down to this version being slightly slower.

You get a Take 4 Demo of “Working John, Working Joe” and the difference here is that Eddie Jobson’s keyboards are not on it and they never got put on till Take 5. You also get all 39 seconds of an instrumental version of “Cheerio” to which Anderson later wrote a few words for it and included it on The Broadsword And The Beast album.

Also included here is the instrumental introduction that Eddie Jobson wrote for the Slipstream video and the only real unreleased track you perhaps have never heard is another instrumental piece written by Anderson entitled “Coruisk“. This is perhaps the best out of the bunch here and was inspired by Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Sky which was close to where Anderson was living and working at that time.

CD’s 2 & 3.
The other two CD’s captures the band in support of the album Live At The LA Sports Arena to which they ended off their North American leg of the tour by playing two concerts at the venue on the 11th & 12th of November 1980. The band played a total of 35 concerts on that tour to which Whitesnake was the support act at a good few of them including both nights that were captured here.

The band returned to England to play 2 nights at The Royal Albert Hall, London on the 20th & 21st of November and then embarked on their European Tour in the following year playing a further 20 shows.

The two CD’s pretty much capture the whole concert and in total both discs combined have a running time of 1 hour 48 minutes and you get a total of 20 tracks of which 18 of them came from the second show they played at the arena. Both “Protect And Survive” and “Bungle In The Jungle” on the 2nd CD was taken from the first show played at the arena on the 11th of November.

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena

The LA Sports Arena is also known as the LA Memorial Sports Arena was opened by Vice President Richard Nixon on July the 4th 1959 and was not only the home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team but others as well. Over the years it’s held many other sports events and many artists and bands have played at the venue including the likes of Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Micahel Jackson, The Grateful Dead, Madonna and so on. The venue itself no longer exists and was demolished in 2016 and Springsteen was the last artist to play there and performed three sell-out concerts earlier in the same year it was demolished.

Once again Steve Wilson is at the helm of the mix and considering this is the final job he’s doing for Ian Anderson in the series of the Tull discography he has really gone to town on it. No doubt bootlegs of this concert exist out there and have done for many years but those would be way inferior to the quality job done here on the concert.

The concert itself does feature 7 out of the 10 songs from the album along with other Tull classics mixed in the set-list and even though I am not so much of a fan of material from “A” I do think they do a bit more justice to the tracks live and this is quite an enjoyable concert to listen to and can be further enjoyed on one of the DVD’s in this package as Wilson also did a 5.1 mix of it. So let’s now take a look at the DVD content.

DVD 1.

The first DVD is dedicated to the studio album “A” and it comes with quite a stylish main menu that even looks pristine on DVD. It’s easy to navigate your way along and it works on a flash system whereby clicking on any of the options will simply present you with a transitional wipe to display the content. It’s quite fast and smooth too even though another screen displays the content.

The album is the main feature and as you can see they are all Steven Wilson 2020 remixes. You can simply hit “Play” to play the album or can select any track from the album by hitting “Track Select” on the main menu and as you can also see on the screen above you do only get the album tracks in this section and none of the associated recordings.

You may also want to select the “Audio Select” before hitting “Play” and here we have a choice of 3 audio soundtracks and by default, it’s set to the high-res LPCM Stereo mix of 96k/24bit. The DTS 5.1 Surround mix also comes with the same high resolution and is my prefered choice. Whilst the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is perhaps inferior to the other two options in that it’s 48k and runs along at 448kbps instead of 1.5Mbps. But nevertheless, it might give you more detail than the stereo mix due to its separation.

The second feature on the DVD is the Associated Recordings which are the same 5 bonus tracks you get on the first CD. Only here you have a better audio option although only 3 of the tracks have been given the 5.1 treatment by Steve Wilson though as with the main album feature you do have the same high-res options. The final bonus feature on the DVD is that it includes the original stereo mix of the album presented in the form of a flat transfer with once again a high-res format of LPCM 96k/24bit.

The other good thing about the DVD is that it displays some of the pictures that were taken at the time the album was made and they run along in the form of a Slideshow as you listen to the music. It also displays the track title as it runs along and overall, a good professional quality job has been done with the DVD presentation and its authoring and I certainly have no complaints here.

DVD 2.

The second DVD contains the Live At The LA Sports Arena concert from 1980 that is also on CD’s 2 & 3 and it is unfortunate that the concert is also in audio-only and there is no actual video footage of the concert. The live show was videotaped and some have expressed their own concern and disappointment into why it was not included. My guess is that like most video footage filmed on video camera’s back then it did not have the quality of 35mm film and putting it onto a DVD would only make it look worse and more nostalgic than anything else.

However, all is not lost here because once again Steve Wilson is at the helm of remixing the audio in Stereo and 5.1 and it also comes with the same audio options as the first DVD (as seen below). The DVD’s main menu is also quite stylish and pristine and functions in the same way and you also get a Slideshow of some of the pictures from the concert to look at whilst listening to the music.

One of the notable things about the audio menu above is that unlike the second and third CD’s which contains two songs (“Protect And Survive” and “Bungle In The Jungle“) recorded from the first night played at the venue. The DVD clearly shows that all the songs were recorded on the second and final night at the venue. This of course could very well be an error that was made when compiling the DVD and I don’t recall reading anything about it in the book.

Speaking of the book Steve Wilson does explain why he used those two songs from the first night and this following quote from the man himself in the book does tend to clarify that an error was made on this menu. “There were two consecutive nights recorded at LA, but with only two exceptions Ian selected the second-night performances, so in some places, I was able to lift parts from the first night to repair issues with the second”.

The two “Select Track” menus above show you the complete setlist of the live show and here you can see how they have weaved in the new material with some of the more familiar classic songs. There is no doubt the new lineup of the band was well in shape and into the swing of things by the time they got to play at the arena and like I mentioned earlier it is quite an enjoyable concert. Although I am not too keen on how they arranged or missed out on the intro of “Locomotive Breath” to suit Eric Jobson’s modern synth approach. However, he does fit in very well with his violin on “Heavy Horses” and it was nice to see “Bungle In The Jungle” in the setlist here.

DVD 3.

The final DVD in the package is entitled Slipstream and basically, this is a 57-minute Videogram that was put together by the Chrysalis Group and was originally released on VHS Video back in 1981. It was also released on DVD in and included in the 2004 Deluxe Edition reissue of “A” as I mentioned earlier. The video footage itself includes film shots from various locations in the studio, outside on the cliffs of The Seven Sisters in between Newhaven and Brighton in England and also quite a bit of the live footage from the concert they played at the LA Sports Arena. It was also filmed on video and film and put together with animation, special effects and library footage.

To be honest the only thing I have ever seen from this video before was the video they made of “Too Old To Rock ‘N’ Roll and Too Young To Die” to which the band members all dressed as old men and were miming to the original record. Basically, this was because like I mentioned earlier that this was put out at a time that I had lost interest in the band, and having seen it now I am quite blown away by what has been done here.

As you can see from the setlist menu above most of the Tull classics were chosen and it only includes a couple of songs from “A” and the best song from StormwatchDun Ringill” which is a delight to see here filmed on the cliffs of The Seven Sisters. Anderson puts on his acting skills and plays the part of the tramp that was written about in the classic song “Aqualung” and I have to say this has all been put together extremely well.

The picture quality is also quite good even though it’s only in 4:3 aspect ratio and I have to say considering this was made years ago it still holds up well today and this is very much my favourite inclusion in this package and I have watched it countless times now.

The other thing that makes me watch this video so many times is the 5.1 Surround Mix and I have no idea if the 2004 Deluxe Edition was given that treatment, but even if it did it would be nothing in comparison to the quality job Steve Wilson has done with it here and once again you get the choices of DTS 96k/24bit and Dolby Digital 48k/448kbps. It also comes with a Stereo mix that is 48k/24bit.

The Stereo & Surround Mixes.

Like I’ve already mentioned of how Steven Wilson has gone to town on the mixes in this package and he has done new Stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes on all three DVD’s that come with it. I would also say that the job he has done on all 3 DVD’s is outstanding and entice you to play them all more often. Although the album “A” has never really been my cup of tea there is no doubt that this mix is way superior and not only gives you a full immersive experience but has brought the album back to life.

Wilson was not keen on doing a 5.1 mix for the live concert at the LA Sports Arena and would rather work with studio albums. The thing that put him off is that the biggest majority of 5.1 mixes for live albums only really use reflections for use of capturing the atmosphere and put the audience in the rear speakers to give it that live experience. I know for a fact that many live 5.1 mixes can be disappointing by doing the same thing. However, for this mix, Wilson has broken the rules and decided to place some of the instrumentation in the rears to try and give the live recording more of an immersive experience and I have to say he’s done it bang on and it very much does give you an immersive experience and makes it much more enjoyable to listen to.

As for the Slipstream video, I think I may have already expressed how good that is and Wilson really has done TOP NOTCH! work on all the Stereo and Surround mixes in this package and I would even go as far as to say that if like myself “A” was not your cup of tea with all you have in this edition I certainly would not think twice about buying it.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs were written by Ian Anderson with additional music material from Eddie Jobson, Arranged by Jethro Tull. Recorded between the 16th of May to the 9th of June 1980 at Maison Rouge Studios Fulham. London and at Ian Anderson’s home with the use of the Maison Rouge Mobile. Originally Produced by Ian Anderson & Robin Black (this edition by Ian Anderson). Sound Engineers Robin Black & Leigh Mantle. Cover Concept by Ian Anderson. Art Direction by Peter Wagg. Original Photography by John Shaw (this edition with additional photos by Martyn Goddard, Brian Cooke, Carsten Bergmann, Martin Webb, Heather Woodruff and Lasse Hoile. New Surround & Stereo Mixes by Steven Wilson. Research & Project Co-Ordination by Tim Chacksfield. Sleeve Notes & Additional Research by Martin Webb. Audio Research & Assitance by Don Needham. CD Master & DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at Isonic.

Musicians.
Ian Anderson: Vocals – Flute.
Martin Barre: Guitar.
Dave Pegg: Bass – Mandolin.
Mark Craney: Drums.

Special Guest.
Eddie Jobson: Keyboards – Electric Violin.

The Original Album Tracks Review…

The bands 13th studio album was recorded between the 16th of May to the 9th of June 1980 and once again at Maison Rouge Studios Fulham, London and at Ian Anderson’s home with the use of the Maison Rouge Mobile. The only existing band member besides Anderson from the previous lineup was Martin Barre although Dave Pegg had already played with the band on their tour of the Stormwatch album and was very much brought in due to the death of John Glascock in the previous year. Eddie Jobson only appeared on the album as a guest basically because having left the band UK he wanted to concentrate on working on his own solo career and did not want to be tied to a band, it was also he who brought in Mark Craney to complete the new band lineup.

I have to admit that when I look at the material that was written for this album and several other albums to come from the band I am well surprised that Dave Pegg stuck it out for so long with the band. I can almost picture his face in shock horror and disbelief with the material he was presented to play on this album and it is completely different to what he played with Fairport Convention. I bet he wished they were doing something more along the lines of the material that was written for Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses which was more or less the same folk-rock style Fairport had been playing way before Tull in the first place.

Although there is one track on the album that may have been tailor-made for Pegg although much of it is very much synth-driven and you could say it personifies what the 80’s was all about with its keyboard orientated music. But let’s take a closer look at the album tracks now to see how it all pans out.

Track 1. Crossfire.

This was very much a song that was inspired by the events that took place at the same time the band were recording the album and it was when the S.A.S. sieged in on the Iranian Embassy in London who were holding hostages in the place. The event was broadcast live on TV as it was happening and it was Anderson’s wife Shona who dashed into the studio at the time to tell them all to watch the TV.

There is no doubt that Anderson put the lyrics we have here very well into context regarding the events that happened at the siege and perhaps used the viewpoint of Police Constable Trevor Lock who was a Diplomatic Protection Group officer assigned to the embassy, who was overpowered by the gunmen and held with the other hostages. Even to the point of describing the high powered 9mm pistol that was made by John Moses Browning and issued to the S.A.S. Although I have to confess that I myself knew absolutely nothing about the words to this song till I did some research for this review.

I have to confess that it’s very rare I will take notice of the lyrics that were written for most PROG! songs and in general it is only singer-songwriter songs where the lyrics are more meaningful for me to take notice of. I would not say that this is a prog-rock song or a singer-songwriter song and the words were only put into context to try and describe this one event in a sort of an action way that you might see in a TV series like The Professionals as Anderson describes in the annotation of the lyrics you get in the book.

Perhaps one of the most confusing things for me about this song from years back is that I used to have a habit of placing the album cover where I could see it in full view whilst listening to the songs. To me, the album cover looks completely out of context with the song we have here and it’s more like something out of Star Trek as I mentioned earlier. However, you certainly do not have a problem hearing the lyrics with this new mix that Wilson has done and they do stand out more than back then.

Musically the song pumps its way along quite well with Dave Pegg’s dominant bassline and he really is a solid bass player who is capable of handling any genre of music methinks. With the way, everything else tends to revolve around the bassline it would not surprise me if Anderson wrote the song with the bass. The bass does appear to even add a bit of funk to how the song is driven along and Martin Barre’s guitar adds a touch of the rock element to it all.

Eddie Jobson’s synth is not so much overpowering here either and he puts in some nice touches on the piano too. Whilst Mark Craney’s drums hold everything together quite well and he adds some nice percussive fills here and there and Anderson’s delivery of the lyrics perhaps give it a bit of a folk edge to it. His flute also works quite well on this song too.

Overall, “Crossfire” is not a bad song and it is perhaps more of a verse and chorus rock song and one that tries to maintain some of the bands folk roots in one way or another. I certainly don’t think it’s got a patch on what the band were doing in the 70’s and it’s far from a Tull classic.

Track 2. Fylingdale Flyer.

Jobson is more involved in this next song and it is more synth driven and it perhaps has a sort of of Sci-Fi appraoch to it all which is most likely down to the subject matter which is based on Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Fylingdales Moor in Yorkshire which were set up in the 60’s during the cold war. You could say it was the source of Britain’s “four minute warning” of impending nuclear attack. I cannot say I am keen on the subject matter here or the song either.

Track 3. Working John, Working Joe.

This is a song that Anderson had in the can for a good few years and an earlier version of it was also included in the 40th Anniversary Edition of Songs From The Wood. The song was completely re-recorded for this album and some of the lyrics were revised for it. To be honest I think Anderson expresses the words better on the version we have here and this is another song on the album that is not synth-driven and allows the other instrumentation to work its way into the song.

I would also say that this song does have a slight touch of some of the folk traits that were given to their earlier period and this would be down to the use of the acoustic guitar and mandolin. However, as good as it is it’s not a song that is about to set the world on fire that’s for sure no matter what version you listen to.

Track 4. Black Sunday.

In terms of how the band rock things out “Black Sunday” is very much the most powerful track on the album and I would have suspected it to be most peoples favourite track on the album. It’s a song that Anderson wrote the words just before he was going away on tour and the lyrical content pertains to going out to work and upon returning wondering if one will find things the way they left them. He also does mention that it’s very rare he writes songs about his own reactions and feelings.

Trying to decipher the lyrics myself it does give me the impression that he was writing about how his marriage to Jennie Franks had broken up back in 1974. Whoever he was writing about the person had buggered off 😊😊😊. There are certainly enough words in the song and they are quite a mouthful to get out and express which is something that Anderson does do particularly very well on this song. I doubt he could do it today either.

The song is synth-driven though it’s not in the way keyboard orientated songs in the 80’s pop charts were done and much in the way that most rock and progrock songs are done with other members of the band having their say as well. To be honest, there were only two tracks on this album that I thought was any good years ago and I am not the kind of person who buys an album for two songs or really plays a few tracks from an album and in general, I always like to play the whole album. That is why this album gathered dust in the first place and I never rated it.

Black Sunday” is both strong musically and lyrically and is one of the two highlights on this album. It was certainly one of the more powerful songs that Anderson wrote back then and I suppose you would have to jump ahead to 1999 when they put out the Dot Com album to get something more powerful. “Minstrel In The Gallery” was perhaps their most powerful song before the song we have here though in terms of classic songs from the Tull discography that song from 1975 is one hell of a classic and so was the album of the same title.

Track 5. Protect and Survive.

Another song written about current affairs at the time and back then the government were handing out leaflets with some information on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. There is not a lot you can do really and you might as well put a bag over your head 😊😊😊. But as Anderson describes in his annotation of the lyrics it was better than doing nothing. This is Martin Barre’s favourite track on the album and I can perhaps see why because it’s another song that is not synth-driven and I have to admit with this new mix by Wilson you can hear all the instrumentation far more clearly and it sounds way better for it.

Pegg’s bass work on this one is quite outstanding and I like how Jobson is matching Anderson’s flute note for note on the violin in the intro, break and outro sections. There are synths also in the song and they are even more evident with the transitional change that comes into play between the 2:10 – 2:40 mark. Even a vocoder is used too and it is this change I personally feel is a bit weird and not fitting to the song which is why it’s not my cup of tea so to speak.

Track 6. Batteries Not Included.

The next song is heavily keyboard orientated and the subject matter is perhaps commonly associated with children and their toys at Christmas time. It’s quite an uptempo song that has a certain amount of adrenalin throughout it and it also features Anderson young son at the time James wondering where the batteries are to play with his toys. I think the lyrical content is quite good and there is even a dark sinister side to the ending of the story Anderson wrote here. However, this is another song that is not my cup of tea.

Track 7. Uniform.

This is another of the better tracks on the album though the lyrics can be on the repetitive side. Here Jobson’s violin skills are very well put to good use and it’s not a keyboard orientated song. Pegg’s bass is also dominant here too and they all pretty much do a GRAND! job here. I must admit I never liked this song originally and it must be down to Wilson’s mix that it speaks a bit more to me today.

Track 8. 4.W.D. (Low Ratio).

Another song that musically is not too bad though the lyrical content is about as repetitive as you can get and it is that side of things that really let it down perhaps. It does however feature some fine guitar work from Barre including a nice solo in the break section. Anderson’s flute fits very well here too and they are all doing a good job of it.

Track 9. The Pine Marten’s Jig.

I mentioned earlier that there was a piece on this album that was tailor-made for Dave Pegg and the only instrumental track on the album is more or less the same sort of thing that Pegg was doing with Fairport Convention. It’s the most complex piece on the album and it took them a lot of rehearsing to pull it off live on stage.

Speaking of live performances one of the best performances I saw them do was around 1982 – 1984 with Peter Vettese on keyboards and you could really see how complex this piece is to play on that live performance. The funny thing is that this is not a keyboard orientated song and Jobson plays mainly violin on it, yet for some reason, I prefered that live performance with Vettese.

Incidentally, a Marten is an animal a bit like a Meerkat and can be found in places like Canada in the woodlands. I suppose in some ways they can get a bit JIGGY with it and this happens to be my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. And Further On.

The final song on the album sounds much better to me today than I remember and once again it’s perhaps down to Wilson’s mix and you really can hear everything in the mix and it’s more defined and refined so to speak. It even speaks a lot more to me today than it ever did and now the album has more than a couple highlights. Although the song is keyboard-based it is very much written from the piano side of things and the other keyboards give it more of a CINEMATIC! and THEMATIC! feel and approach.

It is quite different to the other tracks on the album and is more along the lines of Scottish Celtic music and more reminiscent of the material we saw on the next album Broadsword and The Beast. Because it’s also a fine ballad of a song it puts me in mind of how the album Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! was rounded off with another fine ballad entitled “The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive)“. Unlike myself, many people do not like that album for some reason but that song is very much quality songwriting from Anderson and as concept albums go it’s done proper which is more than I could ever say for Stormwatch which was well out of context.

And Further On” does sound a bit out of place on an album like this and it might have been better utilised as the final track on the next album instead of “Cheerio“. Pegg’s bass guitar melds and bends its way into shape on this song with its delicious tone and Barre’s solo adds nicely to it all as well and it’s not a song that will set the world on fire a quality job has been done on it.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the La Mode Edition of “A” by Jethro Tull. What makes this package work so well is the extra content you get and not so much the fact that Ian Anderson still had his voice back then which I dare say may very well be the reason for people to buy this album. “A” is perhaps an album that was liked more by those who had just got into Jethro Tull in the way of an introduction rather than those like myself who had been into the bands music many years beforehand and it was an album that caused a lot of controversy upon its release.

To say that the album was completely keyboard orientated (like most bands and artists were doing at the time in the charts in the 80’s) I would not say it was and when you look back at the previous incarnation of the band they even had two keyboard players. However, despite them having two keyboard players in their previous line up the music was never synth-driven and that is the major difference between the album we have here and what was done before it.

Even though the music is written by Ian Anderson and Eddie Jobson only appears as a guest. Jobson does tend to have the most input in how many of the songs on the album run along and he does appear to have more of the driving force of the way this album flows. That is perhaps my real gripe with it and the keyboards have very much taken centre stage on a good few of the songs and gone are most of the acoustic elements that worked so well in the past.

So what do I think of “A” after 41 years? Well, the album certainly sounds a lot better thanks to Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix though my mind has not changed regarding the written material on the album and it still remains my least favourite Tull album. But on the positive side and once again thanks to Wilson. there are a couple of more songs I enjoy now and It might not gather as much dust as it did before and I might stick it on a bit more often 😊😊😊.

Though personally for me what makes this edition stand out is the extra bonus content you get on the other two DVD’s that come in the package. I enjoy both the live concert and the Slipstream video much more and that is down to them having quality written material that came from the bands earlier output. My personal highlights from the album are “Black Sunday“. “The Pine Marten’s Jig” and “And Further On“.

You don’t have to like the album “A” to get something out of this package and for those like myself who never took to the album (which I would have thought were the majority of older Tull fans back then) there is much more to this package with the book and the extra two DVD’s and I don’t think it will disappoint any Tull fan at the end of the day. This is why I highly recommend it.

Couldn’t Come Soon Enough

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1. (2020 New Mixes & Associated Recordings)
01. Crossfire. 4:05.
02. Fylingdale Flyer. 4:35.
03. Working John, Working Joe. 5:07.
04. Black Sunday. 6:42.
05. Protect And Survive. 3:37.
06. Batteries Not Included. 3:51.
07. Uniform. 3:33.
08. 4.W.D. (Low Ratio). 3:44.
09. The Pine Marten’s Jig. 3:25.
10. And Further On. 4:25.
11. Crossfire [Extended Version] #. 4:39.
12. Working John, Working Joe [Take 4] #. 5:16.
13. Cheerio [Early Version] #. 0:39.
14. Coruisk #. 6:29.
15. Slipstream Introduction #. 2:51.

CD 2. (Live At The LA Sports Arena, 1980 Part 1)
01. Slipstream Introduction. 2:59.
02. Black Sunday. 7:07.
03. Crossfire. 3:59.
04. Songs From The Wood. 4:51.
05. Hunting Girl. 6:04.
06. The Pine Marten’s Jig. 3:43.
07. Working John, Working Joe. 4:17.
08. Heavy Horses. 7:29.
09. Musicians Introductions. 1:55.
10. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day. 3:28.
11. Instrumental (inc flute solo). 6:16.

Disc 3. (Live At The LA Sports Arena, 1980 Part 2)
01. Trio Instrumental. 5:08.
02. Keyboard Solo. 7:58.
03. Batteries Not Included. 4:14.
04. Uniform (Incl. Drum Solo). 6:48.
05. Protect And Survive (Incl. Violin Solo). 6:24.
06. Bungle In The Jungle. 5:31.
07. Encore Intro (Guitar And Bass Instrumental). 3:01.
08. Aqualung. 9:48.
09. Locomotive Breath (Instrumental) / Black Sunday (Reprise). 7:02.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10
The CD Bonus Material Rating Score. 2/10
The DVD Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10
The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10
The Original Album Rating Score. 4/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #185

BTO 1 & 2 – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

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Introduction…

Well, this is another fine example of what Michael J. Dutton is doing with his Vocalion series and he has chosen another couple of fine albums to remaster and presented them together on a Hybrid SACD giving you superb value for the buck. Two albums for the price of one and not only that they also come with the original Quadrophonic mixes which I am sure will delight many Surround FREAK! enthusiasts like myself. We saw the same thing done with Deodato’s first two albums I reviewed not so long ago and you do get sheer quality at a very respectable and bargain price to which is really GREAT! to find and why I have a lot of admiration for this record company of his.

This time he is introducing us to the world of Bachman-Turner Overdrive or BTO which is the abbreviation most commonly used when talking about this fine Canadian band who very much like to ROCK! things out in their own style. There is no doubt they do have their own distinctive style and originality and this is a band I got into back in the 70’s not so long after the release of their third album Not Fragile which is perhaps regarded as their finest album and no doubt many will remember the hit single released from that album “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” that catapulted their success and made people take more notice of the band.

BTO are a band that really progressed as they went along with each album and I actually brought all their albums right up until the point that they decided to knock it all on the head around 1984. My first real introduction to the band apart from hearing that widely known hit single of theirs was with their first couple of albums and I do remember getting them from one of these music catalogues known as Britania Records and I am pretty sure I only brought the albums because they were either half price or were free when you purchase so many albums from the catalogue. I used to take care of my own business regarding how I went about building up my record collection back in those days and BTO were certainly taking care of their own business by the time they released their second album so to speak.

I would not say that BTO were one of the GREATEST! rock bands but there was a certain amount of soul that went into their own particular rock style that said enough to me to like them and give them credit where it was due. They have certainly done enough for me to want to buy all their albums and unlike most bands, they did manage to stick to their own original style that they started out with which was something I admire them for. Before I go any further about this fine Canadian band let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The SACD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which is perhaps a bit outdated these days in relation to Digpaks but nevertheless, it keeps the disc well protected. It comes with an 8-page booklet that provides you with some useful informative information in an essay written by David Zimmerman. It also comes with the usual linear and credits and a couple of pictures. I purchased my copy from the Dutton Vocalion website for £11.99 they do charge an extra £2 for postage and packing but even at £13.99 inclusive of postage it’s still excellent value.  

Artwork.
The artwork for BTO’s debut album was designed by the bands drummer Rob Bachman and the inside of the cover was done by Joe Kotleba. It also used photos taken by Tom Zamiar & Ed Caraeff and both albums were done under the Art Direction of Jim Ladwig. One of the downsides in a package like this where two albums come together is that you do not get to see much of the cover design due to both albums covers being put together.

The bands second album was designed by John Youssi with the use of photographs taken by Dave Roels. I quite like Rob Bachman’s cog design the better of the two and it was also utilised for the bands logo. It was also sculptured by Parviz Sadighian.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive In Brief History…

Bachman-Turner Overdrive was initially put together by singer/guitarist Randy Bachman after he left the psychedelic pop-rock band The Guess Who to form the band Brave Belt with singer/keyboardist Chad Allan who was also a former member of the previous band and had left a few years earlier. He also decided to rope in a couple of his brothers and make it a family affair Robbie Bachman (drums) and Gary Bachman who was merely acting as the bands manager at the time back in Winnipeg, Canada 1971.

Brave Belt

The band got a record deal with Reprise Records and even though their self-titled debut album never sold that well their record label still wanted them to go on tour. As the band never had a bassist Randy played bass on their debut album and it was Neil Young who recommended C. F. “Fred” Turner to them and he not only joined the band for the tour but also became a full-time member of the band and also became their lead singer. It was also Young who got them the deal with Reprise.

It was after the making of the bands second album and during the tour of it that Allan left the band and another of Randy’s brothers Tim Bachman was brought in as a second guitarist although their record label was far from impressed and dropped them. Brave Belt was going nowhere and the only minor success came from the single release of “Crazy Arms, Crazy Eyes” from their 1971 debut album which was penned by Randy and it managed to break into the top 40 of the Canadian charts and peaked at number 35.

Although dropped from the Reprise label, the Brave Belt II lineup of (C. F. Turner with Randy, Tim and Robbie Bachman) never gave up and recorded new demo songs for what was going to be Brave Belt’s third album. They also got a new manager and it was the manager that convinced them to change their name to which they eventually settled on the name Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

It was also this current lineup of the band that went on to make their first two albums that we have here, although much of the bands success really came from the second incarnation of the band when guitarist Blair Thornton replaced  Tim Bachman and the rest is history. Well, almost and we shall learn more about the bands history in my review of both albums we have here.

The Albums In Review…

There are a few similarities between this Vocalion release of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the Deodato release and it’s not just down to them being relatively short enough albums to fit two of them onto one SACD. The other similarities are that they both made two albums in the same year 1973 and surprisingly both albums got to have Quadrophonic mixes although they certainly were not mixed or released in 1973. However, they did surface on LP in Japan in 1975 and are extremely hard to get hold of these days. We shall learn more about how the Quad mixes came to be later but once again thanks to Michael J. Dutton we can now get to hear them in Quad to which he has remastered and released these two albums in January this year.

Because I have two albums to get through I shall briefly run through the album tracks rather than go into more detail like I do in most of my reviews, but try and keep a focus on the main points and features and include more of the bands history along the way. So let’s now jump straight into it their debut album.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Much of how Bachman-Turner Overdrive came about was really down to three people and a bit of luck was also needed for it to happen. Firstly it was their new manager Bruce Allen who not only suggested they change their name but had a company that booked almost every live venue in the city. He also went on to shepherd the careers of Canadian superstars Bryan Adams, Loverboy and Anne Murray. The bands bass player C.F. Turner was the one who came up with the new name and the word “Overdrive” was inspired by a trucker magazine of the same name he spotted in a diner during a tour stop. Randy Bachman was very much the driving force behind the band and the guy who pumped in the money from the estimated 90,000 dollars he had made from the royalties that came from the time he was with The Guess Who.

The Guess Who

Unlike Brave Belt that was really one of Randy Bachman’s failures and cost him more money paying the other members of the band and struggled to get enough or a decent gig to pay for it all. The Guess Who had much more success and Randy left the band at the most pivotal point after their album American Woman reached number 9 in the American Billboard charts. The single release of the same name from the album done even better and hit the number one spot in America. The album was their most successful album and stayed 55 weeks on the charts and went Gold status in sales.

I have just found out that Dutton Vocalion has reissued both the 1970 albums American Woman and Share the Land on a single Hybrid SACD and they too were given the Quad treatment. I shall be adding that to my collection later and Michael J. Dutton really is doing a GRAND! job at reviving such GREAT! music from the past and presenting it in quality at a bargain price.

Having emptied his own bank account to finance another set of recordings things were not going well trying to get a record label to take them on and they were turned down by A&M, Epic, Atlantic, Columbia, Asylum you name it. But this is where the bit of luck came in. They eventually landed a deal with Mercury Records one which Randy proclaimed as a pure stroke of luck. It was in April 1973, Charlie Fach of Mercury Records returned to his office after a trip to France to find a stack of unplayed demo tapes waiting on his desk. Wanting to start completely fresh, he took a trash can and slid all the tapes into it except one which missed the can and fell onto the floor.

As luck would have it was Randy’s and Fach happened to noticed Randy’s name on the can and remembered talking to him the previous year and had told him that if he ever put a demo together to send it to him. The other stroke of luck was that Mercury had just lost Uriah Heep and Rod Stewart to other record labels so they were looking for new acts to fill their books so to speak.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s debut album was released on the 17th of May 1973. The album contains 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 51 seconds the album was originally titled Brave Belt III and it was the bands new record label that insisted they changed it. Although the album was not that well-received upon its release and it did not churn out a hit single it did pick up sales from the release of their second and third album and was certified Gold in the following year 1974.

The band recorded the album at RCA Studios in Toronto, Canada between 1972/73 and virtually every artist in Canada and from many other countries used the studio including the likes of Rush, Bob Seger, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh and many, many more.

The album was produced by Randy Bachman and he had recording engineers Dave Slagter and Mark Smith at his helm. The Studio operated under the name from 1954 – 1979 and was sold onto McClear Place Studios. These days like most studios they no longer exist and the building that once stood at 225 Mutual Street was unfortunately demolished.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 4,5 & 7) Written by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 1,3 & 8) Written by CF. Turner. (Track 2) Written by Randy Bachman, Rob Bachman & Kirk Kelly. (Track 6) Written by Tim Bachman & Randy Bachman. Recorded at RCA Studios Toronto, Canada sometime between 1972/73. Recording Engineers Dave Slagter and Mark Smith. Mastered by Tom “Curly” Ruff. Cover Design & Band Logo by Rob Bachman. Inner Cover Design by Joe Kotleba. Cover Sculpture by Parviz Sadighian. Art Direction by Jim Ladwig. Photography by Ed Caraeff & Tom Zamiar. Original Quadrophonic Mix by Mark Smith in 1974 at Sound City Studios, Los Angeles, USA. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton in 2021.

Musicians.
Randy Bachman: Lead Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 5 & 7) – Backing Vocals.
Tim Bachman: Rhythm Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 5 & 6) – Backing Vocals.
CF. Turner: Bass Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 & 8) – Backing Vocals.
Robbie Bachman: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
Barry Keane: Congos (Track 3).

There is no doubt Bachman-Turner Overdrive had their own approach to rock music and even incorporated some jazzy touches to it, even the way their guitars were driven had their own unique sound that made them stand out from other rock bands. CF. Turner’s soulful voice with a gravelly edge also played its role in distinguishing them from other acts and Randy Bachman’s guitar skills were no mean feat.

Although the album never produced a hit single it was not for the want of not trying and two of the tracks from the album were released as singles. The first of which was the albums opening track “Gimme Your Money Please” which managed to reach number 45 in the Canadian charts. Although to gain further recognition they were really looking for something to spread them further afield which is something the 3rd track on the album “Blue Collar” did. Unfortunately, it only made number 68 in the American Billboard charts but done better in their own country reaching number 21. As the song was over 6 minutes it was edited down 4 minutes for the single release.

Blue Collar” is the standout track on the album and the only track on this album that incorporates some of the more familiar jazz attributes that the band went on to do a bit more often as they progressed along. The song’s title and lyrical content refer to a class of workers who couldn’t wear white collar shirts to work due to the type of labour which would soil a white shirt. It was also commonly used in referring to job positions.

Strangely enough, the second-longest song on the album “Hold Back The Water” was used for the B-Side and was edited down to near enough half of its original length this is my second favourite track on the album and like the A-Side features some superb guitar work from Randy Bachman. The first three songs on the album are my personal highlights from it though both “Little Gandy Dancer” and “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble” are quite good songs and the first of them was used for the B-Side of “Gimme Your Money Please“. The remaining tracks “Stayed Awake All Night“. “Down and Out Man” and “Thank You for the Feelin” are perhaps the mediocre side of the album though nevertheless they still have the ability to rock out in their own formidable style.

Overall, Bachman-Truner Overdrive’s debut album is a half-decent album that has the ability to drive along in a satisfying enough way, it’s even an album you could stick on in your car whilst cruising along and take some pleasure from doing so. There is nothing remotely bad here and thanks to Michael J. Dutton you can get even more pleasure out of it with the Quadrophonic mIx. My personal highlights of the album are as follows: “Gimme Your Money Please“. “Hold Back The Water“. “Blue Collar“. “Little Gandy Dancer” and “Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble“.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Gimme Your Money Please. 4:43. 2. Hold Back The Water. 5:08. 3. Blue Collar. 6:11. 4. Little Gandy Dancer. 4:24. 5. Stayed Awake All Night. 4:09. 6. Down and Out Man. 3:14. 7. Don’t Get Yourself in Trouble. 4:55. 8. Thank You for the Feelin. 4:07.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.


Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

It was not long after the release of their debut album that the band were back in the studio to record their second album it was not unusual for many bands back in those days to churn out more than one album in a year. The band travelled to the States to record the material for their second album and the recording took place at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seatle, Washington during the months of September and October 1973. The album once again consisted of 8 tracks and was spread over an overall playing time of 39 minutes and was released at the end of the year in December 1973.

Kaye-Smith Studios

Kaye-Smith Studios or Enterprises was originally founded by Lester Smith and actor Danny Kaye who decided on a joint adventure of setting up a recording studio for film and music production. It was set up in 1973 and during the 70’s it was utilised by local advertisers for television commercials and many musicians such as Steve Miller, Johnny Mathis, The O’Jays, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Heart and many more. 

In 1979 the studio changed hands to Steve and Debbie Lawson and was re-launched as Steve Lawson Productions, then in 1991 Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart brought the studio and renamed it Bad Animals after their 1987 album of the same name. They had the studio up until 1997 and many more artists recorded their albums at the studios including the likes of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Queensrÿche, Foo Fighters, Aerosmith and so on. The sisters sold it back the Lawson’s to which they renamed Studio X. 

In October 2017, the studio was purchased for $21.6 million by Skanska, which plans to build a 346-unit multifamily tower with ground-floor retail in the building. Studio X decided to move its location in October 2018 and was managed by Reed Ruddy. In the same year Alice In Chains recorded their album Rainier Fog at the new location and that was the last album recorded at the studio.

Musicians & Credits…

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

Produced by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 2 & 8) Written by Randy Bachman. (Tracks 3 & 5) Written by CF. Turner. (Track 7) Written by Tim Bachman. (Track 4) by Randy Bachman & CF. Turner. (Track 1) By Randy Bachman & Tim Bachman, (Track 6) by Randy Bachman & Rob Bachman. Recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Washington, USA sometime between September & October 1973. Recording Engineer Buzz Richmond. Assistant Engineer Mark Stirling. Mastered by Tom “Curly” Ruff. Cover Design by John Youssi. Art Direction by Jim Ladwig. Photography by Dave Roels. Original Quadrophonic Mix by Mark Smith in 1974 at Sound City Studios, Los Angeles, USA. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton in 2021.

Musicians.
Randy Bachman: Lead Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 2, 6 & 8) – Backing Vocals.
Tim Bachman: Rhythm Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 1 & 7) – Backing Vocals.
CF. Turner: Bass Guitar – Lead Vocals (Tracks 3, 4 & 5) – Backing Vocals.
Robbie Bachman: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
Norman Durkee: Piano (Track 8).

The material that was written for the bands second album continues in much of the same vein as their debut album only the couple of singles that were released from the album did do much better. “Let It Ride” for example managed to peak at number 23 in the American Billboard charts and became their first song to break it into the top 40. It also reached number 3 in the Canadian charts but it was “Takin’ Care of Business” that was to become one of BTO’s most enduring and well-known songs peaking at number 12 in the American Billboard charts and managed to stay inside the top 100 for 20 weeks which was longer than any other BTO single. Likewise, it also hit number 3 in the Canadian charts.

The song became more or less the bands anthem and it was a song that Randy had worked on back in his days with The Guess Who. The song originally had the working title of “White Collar Worker” it was whilst he was driving into Vancouver, British Columbia for a gig and listening to the radio when he heard local DJ Daryl B’s catchphrase “We’re takin’ care of business” that made him change the title and the lyrics. The song features Norman Durkee on piano who was recording commercials at the time in the next studio when sound engineer Buzz Richmond asked him if he would throw some piano on the song.

It is one of the better songs on the album though I personally don’t think it’s as good as “Blue Collar” from their debut album. Although there is another song on this album that is done in the same vein as that song with its jazzy textures and that is “Welcome Home” which is my personal favourite track on this album. This is where the band can be a bit more adventurous and diverse in relation to many other rock bands and that is what I like about this band. It’s also another song that was penned entirely by Randy.

Other fine songs on the album are the opening track “Blown” which features some GREAT! slide playing by Randy and it’s brought out even more so on the Quad mix. “Tramp” is an excellent display of songwriting and they are well in the swing of things on this one. “Stonegates“, “Give It Time” and “I Don’t Have to Hide” are perhaps on the more mediocre side of things but you can still easily rock along to them.

Overall, BTO’s second album is very much on equal par with their debut album and there is nothing remotely bad along its path. I don’t think any of these albums are on par with what was to come from the band but both albums are worthy of having in your collection. My personal highlights from the album are “Welcome Home“,”Blown“, “Takin’ Care of Business” and “Tramp“. 

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Blown. 4:20. 2. Welcome Home. 5:32. 3. Stonegates. 5:36. 4. Let It Ride. 4:25. 5. Give It Time. 5:41. 6. Tramp. 4:05. 7. I Don’t Have to Hide. 4:24. 8. Takin’ Care of Business. 4:54.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Summary & Conclusion…

Bachman-Truner Overdrive are a band that brings along another flavour to rock music by doing things their own way, their albums did get better as they went along but there is still enough on their first two albums to make them worthy of getting and their music still stands out well today. With the two albums you are getting 76 minutes, 22 seconds of good music and considering you are getting two albums for the price of one you are getting amazing value for the buck all thanks to Michael Dutton who has once again remastered both the stereo and quad mixes from the original multitrack tapes.

Speaking of the Quad mix it was not until Autumn in the following year of 1974 that both of these albums were mixed in Quadrophonic along with their third album Not Fragile to which were done at Sound City Studios and engineered by Mark Smith. It was down to the studio having just been fitted with new quadrophonic equipment that he was able to do the quad mixes for all three of their albums and he was the first engineer at the studios to use the new quad facilities and do quad mixes.

Sound City Studios was set up back in 1969 by Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter and after a rough start, the studio became known as one of the most successful in popular music. Throughout the late twentieth century, the studio became known for its signature sound, especially in recording drums and live performances of rock bands. The premises it was set up in was previously a production factory of the English musical instrument manufacturer Vox.

Many artists such as Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Slayer, Rage Against the Machine and much more have recorded at the studio. The studio was originally set up with a state of the art recording console made by the English electronics engineer Rupert Neve which cost some $75,175 to which only 4 were made. The first song recorded on the console was performed by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks who was making their only album together at the time which led to an invitation for them to join Fleetwood Mac.

Neve 8028 Recording Console

The studio closed in 2011 and much of the gear was sold off. The vintage Neve 8028 Recording Console was purchased by Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and current frontman of The Foo Fighters, who installed it in his Studio 606 in Northridge, California. In 2017 a partnership was formed between Sandy Skeeter (daughter of founder Tom Skeeter) and Olivier Chastan in order to reopen the studio. Sound City is now the home of two of just 11 surviving Helios Type 69 consoles and continues to use classic analogue recording techniques in many of its productions. While the control rooms received some upgrades, including Pro Tools, the main studio remains exactly as it was built in 1969.

They say a fool and his money are easily departed? However, you would be a fool not to part with your money in this case because this is as cheap as chips and the beauty about this release is that you can now hear the album in another light and get more of an immersive experience with the Quadrophonic mix.

Four-Wheel Quad Overdrive…

The Package Rating. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating. 10/10.
The Quad Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.